Online RPGs: Getting Back into Roleplay

iron realms atavian jester text games

 by Tony Celentano

The thing about online roleplaying games is that, once you're sucked in, it can be difficult to avoid the traps. Sometimes we become so involved, we're not roleplaying anymore. It's hard to remember that your online RPG character ≠ you. Our RPG characters can take on our own real life personalities, and we might make decisions for our RPG character based on our real life reactions to things that happen in the roleplay scheme of things. I'm not talking about an MSN squad of city defenders/raiders, though it's not my style. If you want your WUPHF account to go off whenever there's a city raid, that's up to you.

So how do you avoid the online roleplaying traps? For a bright-eyed, bushy tailed newbie, text game roleplay can be a wonderful new experience. However, the bitter old timers run the risk of treating the game  like a chatroom. Suspension of disbelief can be difficult, especially if a favourite God went suddenly inactive during a roleplaying event. Or maybe you have a huge list of text gamer buddies on your instant messenger list, and spend more time talking about the RPG than playing it - or worse, not thinking twice about using AIM information in-character.

Yes, in this age of Pastebin shrine lists and readily available curing systems, finding inspiring roleplay ideas in your favourite RPG can be difficult. Sticking with those ideas even more so. With that in mind, I think I've got what you need. A fantasy-name generator won't cut it, you need the full RPG shock treatment. While not necessarily a roleplay list article, I'd like to share some unconventional methods of finding inspiration for you to get the most out of your online text game roleplay.

1: Personality Profiles

Everyone loves to take personality quizzes, MBTI-based being the most common. Instead of answering about yourself, however, why not craft an RPG alter-ego and use the results as a guideline? You could even read forums for real people with your character's personality type. If you're looking to truly become somebody else, this is an excellent way to start. As an exciting side note, research is being done for an upcoming article that explores the links between our real life personality types and our in-game factions. I can't give away too much, but for those interested, we've found so far that Extrovert types are almost non-existent in text games!

2: Pulling Tarot Cards

One of the wilder ideas I've heard involves pulling Tarot cards to generate a background story for your RPG character. Of course, buying a 'reading' for your text game character is silly. Trust me, a live psychic won't tell you if you'll become supreme ruler of the online role-playing game world. Well, maybe for $1.99 / minute they will. This is really easy to do yourself, though, as there are a number of free online tarot decks. Remember that each individual card tells a story in itself, and craft an epic storyline for your character. This can be fun when starting a new text game character, or maybe spurring your online RPG character's development along!

3: Browsing TvTropes 

If you've never visited this site, I highly recommend giving it a look. TvTropes humorously categorizes all the cliches and character archetypes in fiction, television, RPGs and Hollywood. For example, my character fights for Good and Justice, but often grumbles about the disadvantages of the Good side. I guess he'd be a Knight in Sour Armour! Dig through this extensive Wiki and you're bound to find the inspiration you've been looking for. 

Hopefully, one of these ideas will zap a little juice back into your online RPG character and helps you to stop playing yourself. If you have your own unique and unconventional method for shaping characters, share them in the comments!

Tony Celentano is a text game enthusiast who enjoys the best free online MMOs at Iron Realms!


Number 3 just reminds me of Synbios. He's such a TVTropes person. That said, I can seriously find a few tropes that suits Ruth pretty much to a T.

I've become afraid to click any link he posts on forums. Still, maybe I should give the Tropes a browse for inspiration.

...and he was never heard from again.

You'll never come out....beware! Awwwwwwwwwwww yea!

Synbios is ebil.

Sometimes, especially with politics, it can be difficult to separate IC from OOC.

When making any new character, I look at their race and how they might act because of it, I look at what their past may have been, and how I want people to see them. I also take into consideration, later, who their parents are, the relationships with them, any extra little quirky things, and just generally how they should act. For example, one of my characters is very bouncy and childish, another completely silent, yet another very... well, emo with a hatred for generally everything, and of course Aeral, who has evolved so much due to her positions that it's really hard to say how I roleplay her now.

 For a while it was that I was just logging in to talk to people, but I find that it's important to be out there and be present and be able to roleplay when you're in a leadership position. Having said that, there are a lot of mechanics in IRE games that do allow for some terrific roleplay. Illusions as well as emoting, it's all a part of it, so have fun and go with it.

Is to play a Magnificent Bastard.  Maybe someday I'll have the time to play a Twilight alt, but until then, I can only dream.

I give you the thumbs up!


Hehe, nice


This is definitely true, one of the most important parts of RPing in my mind is to make it distinct from your acutal personality.  If your character is exactly the same as you, then what's the point?

But at the same time, it can be hard to rp away from those traits that make you, you. Its most important be able to put an emotional barrier between you and the game, you know things have gone wrong when it hits you far too personally.

It's not as easy as you say it is. Afterall, you've put days, months, often even ears into your character. If you encounter a thief or a crazed murderer, who disturbs and harrases your character, will you not be affected as a person? I totally agree that putting a barrier is important and separation of In Character personality and your real one is essential to roleplaying, but that never occurs 100%.

Yeah...I've fallen into the trap of meshing my RP and RL. Especially with talking on AIM to some of the players. I really need to work on making them completely separate and start acting like how I want my character to be perceived in game. I am a bubbly, energetic, happy person in real life and I think that shows too much in my character. Especially since I'm a Logoshigaru and should be acting a bit more mysterious and stand-offish. I'll have to work on that.

I noticed recently I had fallen into the trap and working my way out of it

I have noticed my own RP abilities dropping as I get comfortable in Lusternia as well as other games...

Great article, ill have to give some of the ideas a try and see how they work.

The tarot thing is a brilliant idea, but man I just don't want to go through tvtropes for hours and hours and hours!

The things is MUD games are the only one where you're really roleplaying, unlike other MMORPG

That's what I like about them!

Did not know you can do this online! I'll look it up.

I've been using TVtropes to practice writing with, though. It's really cool.

interesting ideas. might want to try the tarot card one O.o



Kill it with fire!

That's about how I felt. TV Tropes as an RP generator wouldn't be my first choice.

I find that one of the best things I can do when I am getting too OOCly invested: take a break. 


Also, TVtropes is evil and sucks away all your time.

I was going to comment that TVTropes wasn't evil and link to a suitable Tropes article as justification.  Then in the process of doing that I wasted half an hour reading an unrelated article...


Re:  The actual article.  Some interesting ideas for the basis of a character there, although I'd encourage any new players to only use them as a starting point otherwise your character may come across as rather cliched and trite.


To the main article - those are three great ideas and I must try them all!

Separating IC and OOC can be really difficult. There was an article about not taking it too long though that was pretty good about explaining if you're getting too involved you should consider taking a break.


It's fun to log in and have a chat with your friends because there comes a point where you join a clique and they become your friends, more in an OOC sense than an IC sense. Most of these people that I'm clan-friends with I don't roleplay with. And as someone who moved from the US to the UK, I can say that being around at prime time to suddenly NOT being around at prime time, was a pretty hard transition. when hardly anyone else is in your clique is around at the times you find normal, it can get pretty boring - but it opened up doors to interact with others, and find new things to do, and develop more roleplay. Having that sense of, "I'm using this game more as a chat room and less as a roleplaying environment" really puts things in perspective with what's available out there.


But the point of the game is to have fun (and try not to ruin other people's idea of fun). IRE doesn't require you to sit by yourself for hours on end using a THINK emote - which can be fun at times, don't get me wrong - but sometimes you just want to log in and have a bitch fest, get it out of your system, and then resume with your normal schedule of play.Then sometimes you log in and just want to sit there and do a bunch of emotes and tell those pesky kids to get off your lawn.


One thing I always loved to hate about IRE was the dramafest that comes with it. Since it's a player-run base and so much relies on others, it can get pretty hectic when you finally nab that guild master spot after IG years of had work, only to have oodles of divas come and basically ruin your day, every day, with their drama llamas. But once you learn to deal with them swiftly and painlessly you can make a sport out of it. The point I'm getting at with this is that people should learn not to use drama as a roleplaying device.


If you're just getting back into roleplay you don't need to go around telling people who e-sexed who and omigawd your ig sister slept with your ig father and they've been at it like bunnies for 40 years. Honestly, who cares? Besides the 3 or 4 active members of your family, probably no one but you. *If you're going to roleplay don't scrape it from the bottom of the barrel.* A good place to start would be with your guild or order and then slowly fan out until you become more familiar and feel like you can balance everything.


Lusternia has a pretty nifty emoting system. Being pretty unfamiliar with the other IRE games I can't really put much else into comparison, but with a little time and practice, even handing someone a letter can turn into a fun roleplaying experience thanks to the Lusternian emoting system.


It's also all the little things that people forget make great roleplaying tools. You DON'T need a god to roleplay! It's neat when they jump in to interact with you but it is not a necessary part to roleplaying. If you roleplay it should be for you and you only.

You raised a number of very good points. The one about not needing an IC Divine to roleplay being an important one.

A lot of players tend to neglect roleplay until a Divine shows up. 98% of your time in an IRE game will most likely be with other players. It is always nice to have a Divine RP with you but ultimately your experience with other players will shape your experience in a MUD.

Don't let yourself lose out on good RP situations simply because you don't RP unless a Divine is watching.

You should see some of the stupid shi'ite I've convinced people of simply because it makes sense from a realistic standpoint - but there is NO code whatsoever to support it.


Any newbie should give a couple of those a try.

This post was totally worth it just to learn about TVTropes! 


That being said, I think I've found out a set of archetypes from there that fit Maklyr, which is both interesting and amusing.  And, no, I'm not going to share. I don't want him to get typecast. :)

I guess I just have a knack for it, because I do it, and I do it well! :P

I'll have to take a look at the tvtropes thing, though I prefer not to let side-sites distract me, heh. I have to agree with Lucine for the most part...take a break if it's getting too close to home. It's far to easy to fall into a rut or 'yourself' for that matter.

I agree with most things except that I think your character does take on a lot of yourself. Maybe not completely you, but even the best roleplayer can not help but to bring a bit of themselves into it. 


If you're spending more time chatting OOC with people than actually roleplaying then you're degenerating the experience for yourself :/

this is why I have a strict no aim/msn policy. only a small handful of achaeans have me on FB


So thats what I've been doing wrong!

Awesome website. Personally I've always wanted to play a chessmaster, but of couse the problem with playing a super genius character is that you kind of have to be a super genius IRL to pull it off.

Yeah, there are people in every game who can learn from this lesson.

I think the hardest part of role-playing, is the inability, or at least the perception to make long term changes to the game. Nael can kill people, lead raids, that are sucessful or not. But if I stopped playing tomorrow, there is nothing I could of done that would really affect the world around her. There is no way to seriously tip the balance of power. Sure it shifts, but people get bored, stop playing, and it tilts back. Not because the world was changed by people's actions, but because people got bored.

I liked a lot of these ideas. Most of which I would have never thought of doing. Another thing that you can do to is to incorporate and mix plots from several different genres of movies or books. (Obviously, keep these in line with the RP world you're playing in) But, for instance, let's say that you're watching a movie and someone's personality changes entirely from beginning to end. Things to think about might include: What were the reasons for this change? Is this something that I want to explore with my character? What elements of RP exist for my character that could help me institute this plot?


Another thing that i've done that really helps in rethinking your RP interactions with other characters is solo RPing. One of my favorites is going to your character's divine temple alone(or someplace that they normally convene). Try creating your own ritual. It's not important if anyone else sees it, it is about your character and how their personality contributes to their interaction with religion, city-state politics, or locations.

Good article

"However, the bitter old timers run the risk of treating the game  like a chatroom. Suspension of disbelief can be difficult, especially if a favourite God went suddenly inactive during a roleplaying event. Or maybe you have a huge list of text gamer buddies on your instant messenger list, and spend more time talking about the RPG than playing it - or worse, not thinking twice about using AIM information in-character."

You also end up making it more difficult for new players in a particular city to join in as well, since they'll always be outside that private circle.

This would be exactly why I work hard to keep OOC/IC separate.  Very few people know OOC information about me, I'm in exactly one (small) OOC clan, and I prefer to keep it that way.  The more temptation avoided, the less I'll give in to it, and the stronger my character will be.

Why the site is great for locating all the parts that make up every character ever created. It sucks me in and suddenly I'm wondering what a Large Ham is...then what is related to that...and another thing...

Agreed. A simple search on TVTropes can result in you emerging three days later with no answer but a lot of interesting but pointless information.

Some good ideas


I don't see any real problem in discussing the rpg within the confines of the game itself. It's very easy to separate my choices from my character's choices. Oddly enough, the biggest violator of the 'metagaming rule' is the roleplayers cult that started in a clan and slowly migrated to skype.


My group of friends and I have played for so long together, that we can maintain our own roles while chatting about other games, high gas mileage cars and sports. The trick is to find and hang out with like minded people who won't violate your chosen rule set. After that, you can roleplay -and- use the game as a chatroom at the same time.

I'd never heard of TVTropes before. Very amusing.

It can get tricky, I have discovered when I first began to play the game as a typical angsty high schooler. The trick, I guess, is to try and settle on who that person is before actually being him/her. That's the mistake I made, to be someone without knowing that someone, and to get too emotionally attached. Should've known better.

Cool site, TVTropes. Probably one I should never have found, hours of my day are now gone to it :)

Agreed, it's fun for inspiration, but suddenly it's five hours later and you got nothing done!

Nooo, TV tropes is a bottemless pit that sucks away you time. Actually, its a bit like text games...

I thought it was a very interesting read.


Thanks. ;)

Big thumbs up on this article!


I can't decide if Drazik is the grumpy old man, magnificent bastard, or the jerk with the heart of gold!

LOVING suggestion #1.  I'm gonna go roll an alt right now; great way to use up my Alt credits.

Yes, I agree that it's hard trying not to merge your character with your personality. But in certain instances it could be more effective. Certain traits can help push your character in different places depending on your interaction with people.

The best way to develop your RPG is to write down solid goals for your character - things that you wish to accomplish and go from there.

And the other point I like to make is the less interaction you have with people outside of the game... the better your roleplay.

Whenever I roleplay, I have a sort of "theme" in mind. I try to hold the theme loosely, this gives the character room to evolve and change. I think the evolution makes the roleplay even more realistic. Nobody really stays the same.

I browse TV Tropes for RP ideas often. I also use the D&D alignment system to maintain my characters morals.

Shirley, why not just go with what feels right with you?  Seems to me you are trying just a bit too hard to be something honestly, you have no idea what that something is to begin with.  Go with what feels right to you. Be who you want to be for you. Not for anything else. Morals are simply "psuedo-rules" that a city-state or government live by. Not everyone follows those of course.

Or when all else fails, just play a better version of yourself :P

The pulling tarot card one made me laugh quite a bit. That's a pretty interesting idea.

TVTropes is dangerous. It's even worse than wikipedia - if you go on there for 5 minutes, expect to be there for 5 hours.



At the moment I am not taking very much effort to develop my character seperation and merely try to avoid saying something blatantly OOC, sometimes failing even that.

Deffinately applies to me. In all the characters I have played, people always know it is me. Seems I need to up my game.

We normally know it's you because you tell us :P

Tru dat.

Meh. I only tell people when others have either found out or when I play an evil character/thief and my wife tells people and either makes me be nice or makes me suicide. though I deffinately think I spend too much time OOC on the Roldem Connection which has deffinately had a detrimental affect on my roleplay. I am seriously thinking about quitting the OOC channels and only ever using OOC brackets for coding/system stuff or to help with syntax/newbies. Time to become a zealot and start forcing my priestly ways down the throats of others and drawing on experiences to write sermons. Stupid ooc.. 

I think that your own RP shouldn't come from a website search.  Call me crazy.


I know several people IRL who are naturals at roleplay. I am not one of these people, unfortunately.

If you know them IRL and you met them IG, then they are not very "naturals at roleplay" like you say they are to even know them IRL to begin with.

I had a long DnD background but never had to maintain a character as long as Greys so I had to identify certain elements of a person I wanted to try out(quirks, hobbies).  

To help keep the IC/OOC barrier is how you talk with people.  When talking OOC, I never let people refer to my character as "you", by ensuring they have a key concept of him as a different entity as myself it reinforces it.

I'm fairly new to the IRE world and it is wonderful!  I have been lucky and had an active house with a lot of older, active members that are very supportive and guiding.  It was the moment when I realized all the house rank 'testing' was more about slowly learning different aspects of the game that it all 'clicked' and I fell in love.

Now the RPG came easy for me - as it truly was the reason I went here - but have just recently caught myself, as you mention "in the grind" trying to eek out that last level or so or travel to get ready for rank andvancment, etc.  I keep stepping back though - taking a breath and reminding myself it isn't a race. 


At the end of the day, what you said is true BUT not everyone wants to invest so energy and...can you believe it, it actaully does sap one's energy, so only play when you are fully competent? I don't think so! And we all know Achaea is the worst play to they even know what it means?? Just kidding!!

At the end of the day, what you said is true BUT not everyone wants to invest so much energy and...can you believe it, it actually does sap one's energy, so only play when you are fully competent? I don't think so! And we all know Achaea is the worst place to they even know what it means?? Just kidding!!

The most common trap I fall into usually involves AIM, IRC, or OOC clans inside of the game.

When considering a possible theme I like to be able to know why I would do ,or feel or say such a thing, and then idedify the cause of the cause to at least three cycles of "but why" 

I try to have two characters.. One who is 'strictly rp' for when I am in the mood to really get into some actual RP with NO ooc involved.. The other for when I just wanna stuff around.   OOC  clans etc ruin RPG's =X

I now have to know who your alt is little miss!!

It's pretty true. >.> Like, it's really neat getting to know people and make friends this way, but yeah the OOC societies kinda get in the way of RP.

You know when RP took it's greatest hit? The moment it still hasn't recovered from? The moment the forums went active. Shortly after, ooc clans became the norm. Ban ooc clans and remove ooc areas of the forums and RP may have a real chance again.


I'ma huge believer in rp'ing, but I have to say I'm very against this super cute, "oh look how my long flowing hair floats in the wind" type.. grumble grumble

I'm opposed to people who're opposed to cutesy roleplay in general. D: Of course, some of it actually is pretty horrid, but any sort of roleplay can be done well! It's about the implementation, yo! 

I hate when people randomly start talking to you OOC in tells for no reason besides "Hey, that move was cool, was that scripted?" Or "Lolautobash".

Interesting note about the introverts

i liked the tarot card one the best. i'll try it one day!

TvTropes is a blackhole. You'll be sucked in forever. 

I've yet ot venture out.

So far I've been able to keep things ooc and ic while not mixing the two. I complain ooc about things happening ic a lot, but my char doesn't whine, she just kinda deals with whatever is thrown at her. She has a lot more patience with things than I do...


I've tried using TV tropes to create a character but the site was faaaaaar to distracting for that to work.

Hehe, whupf.

I'll just stick with the old fashion way



I think pull Tarot cards could be a lot of fun. Basic three card spread, you could have one be your past, one your current actions, and the final would be what your goal is. That'd be sort of hilarious if you pulled some things, but really awesome otherwise.

Tarot cards always have a lot of interpretation involved in their reading, so it wouldn't be too hard to make a storyline out of a three card draw.

Which sounds really fun! If I ever try a different IRE game, I may just give it a try.

Nice article, I really enjoyed reading it.

Nice article and nice respons, I agree with you cannot make a character like you are IRL, but your temper from IRL won't go away even if your RP, but it can be better controlled with music for me and having good friends IG


That picture is from Yugi Oh! Isn't it? :D

pretty much

Random char generation is a thing?