Online Text RPGs: Dealing With OOCness - Asking When

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By Lisa Ohanian

In online text games where role playing is ‘strongly encouraged’ but not strictly enforced (like those made by Iron Realms Entertainment), the matter of staying in-character (IC) can be a tricky issue. Those who prefer to play online text games for combat or for the social aspect will inevitably falter at times, and go out-of-character (OOC). Most of the time, this is harmless enough. But occasionally this disconnect can cause confusion, drama, or simply the ruining of a significant moment in the other character’s roleplay.

So where does one draw that line between tactfully informing or nudging the other player towards roleplaying in critical circumstances, and becoming a self-righteous roleplaying nazi worthy of blacklisting? Read on for some advice on when to address OOCness in online text games. Part two of this series, coming soon, will then detail how to proceed tactfully, once you’ve decided whether you want to intervene.

Although good judgment should always triumph over a cemented list (every situation is different, after all), here are some general questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to speak up about OOC behavior in a text RPG-

How important is this conversation to your character – is it a key defining moment that you’ll want to remember, or a throwaway chat? If this is something that your character might refer back to for some emotional reason, it is perfectly acceptable to ask that the character playing opposite you respect your immersion.

Another factor is exactly how blatantly OOC they are behaving – is it possible to pretend they used a slightly different word and keep going with the conversation, or is it impossible to reply without going OOC yourself? If the other player is saying something insignificant, and something that could be taken IC, it’s much easier to ignore the comment or to carry on the conversation in an IC manner.

Finally, do you think they realize that you’re staying in character? Do you plan to use or reference something from this conversation ICly later on? If the other player is saying something that you suspect is OOC, and could potentially cause consistency problems later on, it might be a bad idea to keep quiet.

All of these factors can play into one’s decision to address the problem in the first place. If it’s a brief and insignificant conversation with OOC undertones, I’ll often either ignore the OOC deviation or try and wrap up the conversation. If it’s a dramatic moment in my character’s life and the other player insists on being blatantly and repeatedly OOC, however, or I think that it might lead to problems later on, I would politely say something every time.

Remember, as you play a MUD as a role player, that you have the right to have fun, too! In MUDs, it is inevitable that some players will be playing for the role play, and some will be playing for the combat. Just as role players are expected to partake in some minimal level of combat without whining about it, even something as simple as defense, combatants are expected to engage in a minimal level of role play when they happen to come across a role player. Keep in mind that both preferences are valid, and that there is a delicate balance going on here - striking the perfect mix of demanding the role play you need for your character while not forcing it upon other players can truly be an art!

Now that you're a master at detecting when to address OOCness, try some high quality text RPGs today!

Lisa Ohanian is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from Iron Realms.


I think the best terrible attempt at conveying OOC information IC that I've ever seen was when someone politely informed me that they had to go, because their soul had choir practise...

Ha! This has happened a bunch of times to me with people. There is one player I know who talks OOC like this all the time and it drives me insane.

I think if I heard something that funny, I'd have to let the OOC slide.


Exactly. We play games for fun. Not having fun, because of some made up rule is a bit silly.

I agree whole-heartedly with the authors comments here, Keeping IC/OOC Seperation is key to a strong roleplay environment.

A rule of thumb I use is ALWAYS be IC, unless it's a specificly OOC clan. People play these games for the immersion as much as anything, and if you have to go OOC for some reason, do it in a tell.


I remember long ago being terrified of this ability I kept hearing about called "soulrip" before I figured it out.

OOC clans are the devil's work!

One of my favorite things about Midkemia Online is they are very strictly IC. If you step out of line towards OOC, people have no problem putting you back in place.

One of my peeves lately has been people pulling IC stuff onto OOC clans that are mainly there for helping people with antitheft and curing. Not quite as bad as the other direction, perhaps, but rather annoying.

I wish they would enforce it, by penalty of zapping :S Only ((OOC: Tells)) should be acceptable, or web or certain clans. I dislike how people try to play a MUD / RPG like it is Halo 3... just go play Xbox -.-


I agree totally, i hate it when people go to ooc with me 

I agree that tells should always be OOC, but IRE disagrees...


So to make things more IC you want gods to react publicly to OCness by zapping? I think you're a bit foggy on the concept.

In a group of people, that aren't all my "close friends", nah, I stay in char. I was recently politely encouraged to speak in tells even though I was talking to real life bf about talking to one of our other friends, so it could easily have been an inchar thing so no harm done. But I respect the third party looking at the sky, thinking a zap is coming for saying "yeah I plan to talk to her later". It's all good! encouragement respected and will be enforced!

I've done some RPing on other non-MUD games, and one thing that can be quite confusing is long distance chatting on a MUD.

What I mean is, my character can simultaneously talk to a person next to him, talk IC in a tell, talk IC over guild channels, talk IC in city channels. It's like I'm everywhere at the same time, and it's quite weird and confusing - open to a lot of meta-but-not-really-gaming problems. I can IC tell someone that their worst enemy is about to stab them in the back - except I could be on the other side of the world. I'm not quite sure what the etiquette is surrounding this.

At any rate, as for the article I have to agree. There's nothing more annoying than someone dropping a not at all subtle pop culture reference in the middle of a conversation. Though usually the people who break character constantly or just don't seem to be in character at all are new players and need to be cut a bit of slack.

i'm pretty cool with Imperian's balance between IC and OOC.

it can get tricky describing how to set up a trigger or something.  Especially when it's a young person, who you really want to keep IC with, to draw them into the game.

It can be tricky to explain in character but totally worth it if you can. If you really can not, a message with OOC Tags will have to do.

Certain things can be refered to in an IC way. I can refer to triggers as reflexes, and even give an IC way of describing what should happen. But the moment you start talking actual code then you have to switch to an OOC message.

Good point

There's a whole unwritten(?) glossary for describing OOC things, soulripping, help scrolls, soul aeon, reflexes. I'm sure there are more I've not come across.

I'm sorry, but I see much of that stuff as just stupid. Saying 'soul aeon' over 'aeon' is being overly pedantic. As far as I am concerned, soulripping is OOC unless and until there's some actual in game reference to it.


Here' s my rule of thumb, if you can't win an bardic by mentioning it, it is OOC.

As a mentor, going OOC is pretty hard to avoid sometimes. Not only because you usually need to help your proteges with triggers, but also because you have to find out when they're going to be around. I tend to ask every novice who is interested in becoming my protege when he or she  is likely around, and to use GMT for telling me that.


I think dates and times in general are a good reason to go OOC from time to time, especially if you consider that you might very well talk to someone at the other side of the world, and using the Achaean time usually leads to both people converting the given dates back and forth.


However, in such moments I usually pick a remote place where nobody might get offended by the OOCness of the conversation, or keep it to tells, messages or party. Aside of that, I find that asking for permission to go OOC if you talk to someone you don't know that well is a good idea, too.


A very pertinent article

The problem is that things like combat blur the IC IOC line

and the attitude towards combat add to that blurring

Some elements of the game require a little OOC-ness, but that should be reserved for tells/messages. I'm ok with it as long as there is a clear definition between IC/OOC. I try to respect that with others as well.

any friend you have IG eventually becomes OOC i'd think

Why it's so difficult, really. There's designated places, generallly speaking, intended for OOC use. What bothers me so much is when people get cranky when they are, indeed, used for just that purpose.

In my honest opinion because sometimes it is needed to have ooc conversations about game issues.

Seconded! :D


It's really obnoxious but I see it all the time.

meh, don't really care.


Credit comment.