Well, yes. But then again, no…
Roleplaying (or RP for short) is one of those ‘love it or loathe it’ activities for most people I think. For starters it does require some ability of the imaginative kind and, depending on how you want to go about your roleplay, for most types it helps if you have a very good imagination indeed! DreamWorlds, as a concept, lends itself to the landscapes of the imagination and nowhere has to be imagined more often than fantasy (or dream – geddit!) worlds. Which is where roleplay, for the majority of people, is most firmly based.
But what sort of roleplay is the next question of course. So many kinds, but there are differences and one of the determining factors in making a wise choice is, again, imagination. How much do you have? Before you tell me about your imagine-quotient, it’s my post, so I get to do ‘me-me-me’ first! I have quite a good imagination, thank you! Some would say amazingly good, but some people’s ‘good’ is way too strange for others of course. But what I most like to do with my imagination is stretch it and, for me, roleplay is the single most ‘rewarding’ way of doing that, without getting myself killed, or at the least terminally embarrassed, because the physical equivalent of my all action hero killer elf would be dead in two minutes if I could do it for real! So it’s a ‘safe’ way for me to be literally drop dead gorgeous, kick ass and never have a bad hair day ever again – as a warrior she-elf who plays in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
This answers the ‘where am I?’ and the ‘what am I?’ questions for me (some of the time anyway). Your where and what could be in the Star Wars Universe as a Wookie; or in Half Life as a Black Mesa scientist; or a munchkin ‘in the merry old land of Oz‘; or something in Wonderland, or Narnia or… wherever you want really! See – this is the beauty of roleplay, because in theory you can be anyone, anywhere, anytime you can imagine, including your own original and wholly personal worlds although, if you want a shared experience this can lead to problems, which is where fantasy genre comes into it of course. Because you do quite often want other people who know that genre in there with you, as they know what can happen and who you can be etc and therefore you can forget about having to do stage management all around you and just concentrate on being the ‘you’ in that particular RP setting – to the max.
In the end it’s all about making it as ‘real’ as possible without breaking the fantasy for everyone – look at how successful roleplay sites like Second Life are, to the point where your second life starts to sound very like your first real-world life and you’re taking out a lease on a neat little $2 million pied a terre, handy for the main strip in Vegas after meeting ‘love of your life’ #4 on the slots – or whatever your alternative reality has to offer you in the way of surreal kicks, to take you out of said first life!
This is why fantasy genres are so great for roleplay because, if you like reading fantasy or watching movies like Avatar or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy et al, you automatically up your game and have far more alternatives to have fun with. And so finally we come to the ‘how’ to roleplay and this is often where fantasy can become ‘just a silly game’, or something extraordinarily rewarding. And it all comes back to how imaginative you’re prepared to be. So what are the ways to RP? You may already be doing it without knowing you do! Here’s a ‘short’ list –
- cosplay ~ dressing up essentially, but as authentically as you can to the point of it being performance art
- live action ~ situational or historical re-enactments; or romping around a park ‘acting out’ your group’s choreographed roleplay game; or more organised events played on surprisingly well-conceived ‘sets’
- console/video etc ranging over a number of platforms ~ Half Life; Heroes of Might and Magic; Pokemon blah, blah blah
- tabletop games ~ modelling-oriented and played like traditional battlefield games Warhammer Fantasy Battle; Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle
- community online RPGs ~ notably, amongst others World of Warcraft; Lord of the Rings Online
- pen and paper and/or dice ~ most famous of all, Dungeons & Dragons
- freeform/textual RP ~ whatever you want, because you write it yourself with friends
Something for just about anyone there and not just using a keyboard, mouse or stick! Being a message board/forum on DreamWorlds we use dice for some of our RP games, but mostly we play a textual game in different venues to maximise the experience with as little regulation as possible. For people who like interacting we have 2 types of RP forum structure –
Single worlds (The Dream Worlds): These are our ‘immersive’ arenas where you can play in a specific single genre forum. These are naturally intended for group activity and so we basically set these up when we know that there’s a reasonable number of people interested in playing a particular world or genre. At present we have 3 themed single worlds –
Tolkien’s Arda ~ Middle Earth and maybe Valinor too. Arda’s a huge place so we’ve got themed sub-fora for Hobbits; Men; Elves; Dwarves and Dark Creatures and the Wild Lands and Ancient Realms to cover the ‘wilderness’ areas and earlier centres of civilisation such as Beleriand and Westernesse open to RPGs, discussion, fan-fiction and themed games.
Celtic Myths & Legends ~ what it says on the tin really! The Sacred Grove is our discussion and hub area with a sub-forum The Word of the Bard for fan-fiction and art etc and for RPGs Celtica ~ Realms of Myth and Legend which covers the mystic world of the Celtic gods, Fair Folk, druids and legendary heroes and incorporates 2 sub-fora for classic/romantic and historical/warrior takes on the Merlin and King Arthur myths.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld ~ which is currently being reorganised but again has house room for fan-fiction and art, themed games discussion and of course wacky RPG around the Discworld’s hilarious and unlikely magical topography and cosmopoli…
The Multi-Fandom Insanity Arena (The DreamGalaxies): Ermmm… Yes. well it might be a good idea to use the link here as it’s sort of hard to explain but easier to just jump into it! Basically we have helpdesks to explain how you can cross the fandom frontiers and boldly go to places where no Wookie, Elf Queen or Vampire has gone before…
It’s really all about any genre you care to name really and it’s here that our future single worlds may start to take shape if we get enough people clamouring for a permanent home. Until then it’s basically up to you what you want to play and who you want to play with as you can simply open a thread and start playing with one or two people ‘privately’ or by invitation only, or join in an ‘open for all’ thread where it might be a mix and match affair with a horror/goth theme, but played in Narnia – or somewhere that takes your fancy with a whole mixture of oddly assorted characters from DC Comics, Disneyland, Westerns, the Roman empire and dump them all on Dune…
Which gets us back to imagination land again. This is my kind of roleplay you see! The sort where I’m in the driver’s seat, make the rules and solely dictate what my character does and where he/she does it. My warrior elf can go to Arda and play to strict canon demands in Beleriand in one game on Tolkien’s Arda and, in another over in the DreamGalaxies insanity arena, she could be off with Sgt. Angua to the Mended Drum (on Discworld), for a pint with Herne the Hunter (Celtica) and then into another Galaxy game on a road trip to Tatooine afterwards, with Batman, in Flash Gordon’s rocket ship. It’s ‘silly’ games as much as you want it to be, see?