OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


The Toughest Skill for a Role Player to Have

the toughest skill for a roleplayer

There are a lot of good skills for a roleplayer to have, good grammar is one of them, the ability to keep writing through a dry spell, getting past writer’s block. But if there is one skill that I think is the toughest to have it’s not the ability to create narratives, come up with plots, nor to come up with names (I suck at that last one). It’s selflessness.

I know what you are thinking, selflessness? Really? That’s not a skill, that’s a trait. In real life yes that is a trait, in a game character that is a trait. But as players who play the role of deities in these games the rules are quite a bit different. When you are in a fight it is often one of the hardest things ever to not kill the most baddies, deliver the finishing blow, or win the war. There is a difference between being the best player and playing the best character.

Not making a Mary Sue nor delivering the winning kick specifically so someone else can deliver that crushing blow and feel that adrenaline rush when they do something awesome. And then the icing on the cake is when your character delivers a funny line or compliment flattering their character? It may not seem like it, but admitting that something you made didn’t do as well as something someone else made and then complimenting them about it is a sort of selflessness you don’t see everyday in real life. But being on the receiving end of that is one of the greatest feelings a roleplayer can have. Honestly its moments like that which all roleplayers crave and that we all play the game for. And its just not something you see every day.

The problem with being selfless is that in general its not that satisfying beyond the “oh I did a good thing” feeling that lasts all of thirty seconds. You hope that somewhere down the line the other party will reciprocate, that they will give you your time in the sun. Hopefully that other party will do such a thing, though it seems as often that they won’t or they won’t go that full extra mile, and sure you won the fight but you don’t get the same compliment from their character towards your character. While that might sound petty we as roleplayers invest dozens even hundreds of hours of thought into our character. Even when we aren’t writing we are still thinking about it. So to give that sort of gift to another player and not receive it back is tough. But when you do receive that same degree of selflessness from another player its the greatest feeling in the world.

My father once told me something profound which he heard from someone else. “Long after people forgot what you said, they will remember how they made you feel.”

If you try and find the common link between veteran players its that they will almost always jump into a game with people that made them feel good. They will remember for as long as they are on this site that one time that character went out and made their own character feel like a hero, or the most sinister of villains.

On the flip side you will never encounter veteran players that are selfish because people don’t want them in their games. People will remember forever the guy who pulled out laser rifles in lord of the rings and the guy who slew a dragon in star trek. The guy who did incredible feats to make him seem awesome and greedily took all the glory.

The one thing in role playing that always beats taking victory is being given it by your fellow players. And it all comes down to selflessness, the guy who shared his water in the desert. The girl who sacrificed a holy sword for their best friend. The nation at war that asked for help (this is a big one, no one likes being able to admit they need help in a fight). The player who helped the mod come up with a storyline.

The reason selflessness is a skill, not a trait is because I have seen new players that are selfish become selfless in a few months of playing. It is something that that most people don’t innately start off with in roleplaying because they are looking for an adventure. If there is one thing I have learned in roleplaying is that when you are in a group, joys are multiplied. The best players in my opinion are those that daydream not just about what their characters could one day do, but what other characters can someday do.

  • Jaxx

    Good article. As for the Mary Sue I think we all do that now and then for different reasons, however I do see a lack of depth in most of the younger writers. Most of the posts I see from them are barely a paragraph of 2 to 5 sentences. It looks more like texting a friend than writing a story and it gets difficult to keep up with when they post like that 20 to 50 times a day. Aside from a lack of creativity many younger writers only focus on the actions of their character rather than the inner feelings and flaws. I made a game where I forced them to have flaws for balance and some had to be reminded they were ignoring them. Writing is hard enough as it is but if you refuse to improve on character development you may find yourself in a constant rut.

    • I think you might be generalising a bit, youth does not always equal bad. We’ve inherited recently many players whore used to the more common forum-based roleplay, which as a style can have shorter posts. But that’s a matter of style and taste. It’s not what I originally intended OW to be used for, OW is geared towards much longer posts, but if that’s how they want to play, then it’s fine.
      Focussing on actions or feelings again is a style that’s up to the writers and the game they’re in, doing it one way isn’t wrong, just what someone else has chosen.

      • Jaxx

        Sorry Dave I was not intending to bash on others. I was pointing out what I see going on especially in my games. It kind of reminded me of the old Marvel, DC and D&D role play games I used to play with friends back in the day. We would always have some power-gamers and at least one person with no imagination what so ever. One time while playing a DC like superhero game we made everyone take a major flaw to make the game more fun and balanced. One power gamer with no imagination picked a “Green Lantern” character and their flaw was they could not use the same power technique more than once a day. However the only technique they could think of was making a giant energy fist to hit with. It kind of killed the mood for everyone since they were annoyed by this. Regardless of good intentions and patience, other gamers bad habits can make it hard to enjoy the games after a while. Sorry if my comments come off as a bit harsh.

        • No problem dude! I just didn’t want one of our younger players seeing this and assuming you’re saying all young people are bad at roleplaying just because they’re young.

          • Jaxx

            You are correct in that I should have refereed to inexperienced writers instead.

  • Elena

    Treat the others how you want to be treated – this is the main principle which should guide everybody… I am always acting following this, and yes, I get disappointed sometimes.

  • Andy Locke

    imo, it’s not selflessness, it’s just being a good roleplayer

    I’ve lost count of the number of crap tags and weak finishes to storylines that I’ve seen in my time

    a good post moves the story forward, involves other players, and gives them something to work with at the end of it
    it’s remarkable how few people get that sometimes