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The Role-Player's Guide - Common Conventions

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Wednesday, 19 November 2008 14:10
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The Role-Player's Guide
Character Development
Background & Personality
Character Creation
Refining your Character
Speaking & Emoting
Moving in the Game
Role-Playing Out of Game
Common Conventions
Pushing the Limits
Advanced Role Playing
Tricks of the Trade
Additional Resources
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Common Conventions for NWN Multiplayer Games

Most of what we have discussed so far covers character creation and some of the game mechanics. From here on we will be talking more about conventions.

Caveat: This guide is not attempting to define the “right” way to role-play, because there is no “right” way. Not following conventions in this guide does not mean that you are a bad role-player, or that others will necessarily criticize you. This is merely a list of conventions for multiplayer games that many, but not all, players feel contribute to a fun and rewarding role-playing experience. When players discuss the pros and cons of their various gaming sessions, failure to adhere to one or more of these conventions is frequently mentioned as a source of frustration or intra-party conflict.

These are not in any particular order:

Be a “Team Player”

By and large, the whole point of multiplayer gaming is to be part of a team of adventurers. To that end, try hard to keep the party goals in mind while gaming. Nothing frustrates a group more quickly than a player who has his own agenda and tries to force the entire party to follow it.

Stick Together

The most common expression of party “togetherness” is to stay together physically. This is especially true in DMed games. It is very difficult for a DM to organize and handle a party effectively if they split up into different groups. This can also make managing the plot difficult; because some party members may be in different areas when critical events or conversations occur. Sometimes this also results in cumbersome repeating of plot elements once the party has reunited.

Even without DMs, it can be frustrating for players who are trying to role-play a conversation if one party member constantly goes off into different areas and gets into combat, or talks to key NPCs without the rest of the party.

As with most of this document, this is all very subjective. But, here are some general ideas around “togetherness”:

  • It’s always a good idea to at least remain in the same “area” of the game.
  • If you must split up, it helps if only one group is on the move. For example, one group may be waiting in the tavern for another group to return from a trip to the temple. This allows the DM to concentrate on those that are moving, and not having to worry about keeping an eye on the others.
  • If you have a DM, just DM message them if you want to split up, and let him or her make the call. Some multiple-DM teams may be able to handle a split party more easily than a single DM would.

Don’t “Metagame”

“Metagaming”, in the pejorative sense, is exploiting knowledge that only the player should have for the benefit of the character.

Some common examples of metagaming include:


Dungeon ClairvoyanceUsing knowledge of things the player can see on-screen, even though the character can’t see them. Ex. Despite the fact that the party is an entire screen away, a player notices that there is a click-able fountain across the room, and shouts “There’s something in the fountain!”
Map VisionMaking assumptions based on the map. Ex.“No, the secret door can’t be here, there’s not enough room on the map for another room there.”
Mod KnowledgeUsing prior knowledge of a module to guide the party. Ex. “Um, we should probably rest here and buff up, this next room is tough.”
Party Chat AbuseParty chat allows every member in your party to hear the conversation, even if all the way across the game world. Responding to someone out of hearing range is out of character, and should be avoided. Try to be careful with Party Chat and only assume you “heard” it if you are physically near the speaking character. A visual aide to help with this is found right in your chat window. There are miniature portraits of each player in front of their names, and the text they spoke. If a character is out of hearing range (talk range), this portrait will show up as the default ‘bald guy’ portrait instead of the normal portrait used on the right side of the screen.
Game MechanicsUsing knowledge of the game mechanics to make decisions in the game. Ex. “No, this can’t be the guy we’re supposed to kill, he’s set to ‘plot’.”

Avoid OOC and Other Speaking “No-No”s

Playing NWN online is great because it can relieve you of inhibitions you might have role-playing in front of other people in a room. However, with that comes some responsibility to the group. Saying something that is out of character can really kill a good role-playing mood for everyone involved. This even includes saying things that are related to playing NWN. Here’s a great example from Essobie’s article (see Additional Resources):

Ritan: Scrolls are for bookworms… my power comes from within!
Olaf the Mysterious: Put a sock in it, sorcerer, before I pull a rabbit out of your backside.
Horak: How do I put dual wielding weapons into my Quick Slots?

That was going well until the bit about the Quick Slots. Some conventions about speaking “out of character” include:

  • Prefix any out-of-character comments with “OOC” (ex. “OOC – How do I put dual wielding weapons into my Quick Slots?”). This helps players separate the out-of-character comments from in-character comments. But, even the use of the OOC prefix can be jarring to some hard-core role-players. Here are some other options.
  • Use the DM channel to ask the DM the question. If it’s something that the DM feels needs to be published to the group, like “OOC – Jim’s having a heart attack, so we have to stop”, then the DM can make that call. At least if it’s a quick question, the game hasn’t been disrupted for the other players.
  • If there is no DM, send a private Tell to one player if you have a question. Again, you can get your question answered, but you’re only jerking one player out of their role-playing mood.
  • Avoid “OOC – I leveled.” Yes, we all know it takes a few minutes to process a level-up. Well, either wait for a break in the action, or role-play it! “Excuse me, friends, I need a moment to ponder something” or some such. (This point is one on which people have widely different opinions. Many people who consider themselves heavy-duty role-players still prefer to use “OOC – I leveled” so that others will know why they are not responding.)

Another convention related to speech is to avoid modern slang and abbreviations. Some of the “no-no”s include:

  • Using “l33t sp33k” or other Internet jargon. “w00t! That wuz a phat treasure!”
  • Using abbreviations. “BRB Korak, Need to rest 4 a while.”
  • Using “emoticons.” “Oh, nice kill (^_^).”

The general sentiment is that these things tend to break the mood of the game and remind players that they are just people typing words into a game. There are a few abbreviations that show up all the time in OOC comments. Most of these are abbreviations that are frequently used in the world of online chatting. Here’s a few of them, just so you aren’t entirely lost:


AFKAway from keyboard
BRBBe right back
LOLLaughing out loud
ROFLRolling on the floor, laughing

Keep Control of NPC Interaction

NPC interaction can be a big source of conflict and frustration in multiplayer. When several players attempt to interact with the same NPC, or even multiple NPCs, at the same time, the result can be aggravating for other players and DMs alike. So, a few thoughts on how NPC interaction can be handled to minimize frustration:

  • If appropriate, elect a single character as “spokesperson” to be responsible for NPC interaction. Many times, this would be the player with the best ability to persuade.
  • Wait for everyone to be ready and on the same game screen before starting a conversation with an NPC, especially a scripted one. Nobody likes to miss plot-related information because someone couldn’t wait for the others to catch up.
  • Even if you are a fast reader, go through scripted NPC conversations slowly enough to give everyone ample time to read. Some players may not be native English speakers, and others may just take longer to read than you do. I’m not suggesting you get confirmation before proceeding, just don’t fly through ten screens of text in a matter of seconds.
  • Don’t start a conversation with an NPC while one is already underway between a party member and another NPC. Not only is it distracting, it can be very difficult to follow the on-screen text when two different subjects are being discussed.
  • Keep emoting and other role-play to a minimum when others are interacting with NPCs. Again, it can be very distracting to try to follow a key plot discussion while others are typing things like “Hey, do they have ale in this place?”
  • In non-DMed games, try not to repeat scripted conversations to get at a dialog option you missed because you failed a Persuade check. It’s a big mood kill. Think about it – in real life, if you try to persuade someone of something, and it doesn’t work, would it work any better if you tried again and again with the same argument?

Respect the DM(s)

The DM is doing his or her best to arrange an exciting adventure or campaign for you. In most cases, all he or she will ask in return is that you follow the rules laid out for the campaign or adventure. If you aren’t going to follow those rules, then you should go play something that doesn’t require a DM.

If you do have a problem with how the rules work, don’t make a fuss about it in game. You’ll only succeed in annoying the DMs and the other players. Instead, take a breath and count to 10. Most DMs are happy to discuss the rules they use, as long as it’s done in a sensible, friendly manner. The middle of a game is not really the best time to do this. Wait until the end, and send them a message outlining your problems with it.

Typically, most DMs will set the stage ahead of time by posting the rules that they would like to see followed. In many cases, these are most of the conventions we are talking about in this document – no running, stay in character, talk in a certain channel by default, and so forth.

Respect the Other Players

In general, we don’t know the people we’re gaming with. You may wish to explore a subject or situation that makes others in the party uncomfortable, for example, a relationship with another character in the party. Another player may spoil your in-game plans by upstaging you, mistakenly or otherwise. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They probably didn’t mean to upset you, the player. If you have a concern, try talking to them out of the game about your concerns.

Ultimately, it’s all about respecting others’ styles of play and finding a balance as an adventuring group. If you find that you are teamed with players whose style differs from yours, don’t try to get blood from a stone, look for a new group! There are certainly plenty out there. And if you’re in a party where roles are duplicated, and you’re the stronger one, look for opportunities to give your counterpart some room to shine. Have your fighter feign an injury and ask the other to hold the front for a night, for example.

Scouting Conventions

In a typical multiplayer game, the overall process of scouting usually looks something like this:

  1. Party chooses a direction (i.e. “Let us head north, and stick to the road”)
  2. Scout moves ahead, perhaps just far enough that they can no longer see the rest of the party (assuming top-down view).
  3. Whether there was anything interesting or not, the scout then comes back a few paces and “reports”. It may just be “It’s all clear up to that building” or “Bandits ahead, they've set up an ambush! Looks like four or five of them.” Don’t shout the information back to the party from halfway across the screen, unless you want the DM to bring down all of the monsters on you!
  4. The rest of the party moves forward to the point marked by the scout, and the process repeats.

Some other scouting conventions:

  • If at all possible, the scout should avoid engaging in combat until they have notified the party and described what enemies are there, in what numbers, so the party can set a strategy. Of course, if you’re spotted, you won't have a choice.
  • Scouts should not enter a new area until asked to do so by the party. This is one of the prime things that aggravate other players, when the scout goes ahead before the rest of the party is ready. Most DMs frown on scouting across areas, because many area transitions are intended to represent long travel.
  • A scout shouldn’t start scouting ahead until the party agrees they should scout ahead. It can be frustrating when you are busily role-playing with the rest of the party and the scout goes wandering off. Stick around and role-play!
  • Scouts generally shouldn’t open chests, pick up items, or otherwise interact with placeables until they have brought the party into the area. This is both good “looting” practice and safer in case of traps, monsters, and key plot points.

Big caveat: this is one of the more subjective sections of this document. Please read the section on “Breaking Conventions” for further discussion.

Like with scouting, there are some common conventions related to looting as well:

  • When items of interest are picked up, and the setting is appropriate, place them on the ground for the rest of the party to examine. Party members can examine items on the ground by right-clicking on them. There should be no need for each person to pick up, and then drop the item. This is particularly important for plot items, like secret messages and journals, which everyone should see. If you find such an item, place it on the floor and draw the attention of the other players to it.
  • If you are opening various chests and cabinets, and finding nothing of interest, or petty treasures like a few gold, make sure you mention it to the party. It’s frustrating for the other party members, because for all they know you’re picking up tons of good items. That can lead to people thinking you’re trying to keep all of the good stuff for yourself.
  • Role-play your findings! Consider the difference between:
    “OK, who needs a +1 flaming longsword?” and
    “Th . . . this blade, flames leap from it when I grasp the hilt! What sort of sorcery is this?”
  • Role-play the identification of objects too. This is a great opportunity for characters with a high Lore skill. Again, consider the difference:
    “Varak, can you ID this for me?”
    “Yep, it’s a ring of protection +1” and
    “Varak, look at this ring. I’ve never seen it’s like. Can you tell what those runes are?” “Interesting . . . very interesting. *runs a finger around the band* This ring is enchanted to protect the wearer from harm. Perhaps not a very potent enchantment, but it may be beneficial to one of our party.”

Big caveat: this is one of the more subjective sections of this document. Please read the section on “Breaking Conventions” for further discussion.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 November 2008 15:07