Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Invisible Dice and Staying In-Character

I play all my pen and paper games on IRC these days. It's a sad development that is a result of being separated by time and distance from all of my players, but it's enabled me to play with people I would otherwise have never met. I prefer playing in-person: more can be said, faster, and the game moves along at a rapid clip when everyone's around the table. I have a stable of voices I like to trot out for in-person games that are never used on IRC. For me, it's a suboptimal playing choice.

But I've been there for a long time now, going on three years. Before that I played on AIM because all the people I played with had gone to school (so had I) and that was the only way we could keep playing. I've discovered that there's a cult of players and GMs on IRC that disdain the use of dice in the game channel because it clutters up play. This seems to me to be an extension of the issue that people have in-person around the table: too much OOC chatter.

But, is it? Is too much OOC chatter even a problem? Let's look at it from an outside perspective without any bias. Talking out of character has, in my experience, been an issue mostly for the reason that it eats up valuable game time (after all, we don't have all day to play!) and thus detracts from the game by giving us literally less game to play. This is a problem; yet, players and GMs alike love to chat, particularly if they don't see each other all the time. Out of character chatting occurs outside of the game because the people playing the game are friends. This is a side-effect of something good that in itself is not necessarily evil, but must be moderated.

Now, the second issue at hand is rolling dice in the same IRC channel in which the actual gameplay is taking place. OOC talk is likewise relegated to a separate channel, one in which dice are probably also rolled. The first and most important issue that this addresses is immersion. How do I know this? I've been told by the people that do it. I imagine that the secondary concern is leaving clean transcripts for later viewing. But what exactly does rolling dice have to do with immersion in the game?

There is a school of thought that insists that the action of the game is sacrosanct and that the curtain should never be pulled back on the mechanics that are running it. This attitude, to me, is mystifying. I don't see how the presence of dice interrupts the illusion of inhabiting another person; they simply allow one to see into the workings of the world.

This is just an observation; I'm far from certain what it is that causes this, nor what it means. It's just another one of those strange things that go on in the roleplaying world.


  1. Ah, OOC chatter. Especially deadly when you have limited time and risk being thrown out of the place you are playing for no goddamn reason.

  2. My situation is very similar to yours, Josh. I'm pretty much limited now to IRC for RPG sessions. And with playing our games on IRC now there's quite a few issues.

    This first thing is we need to distinguish between "Role Players" and "Role Play Gamers". A lot of people in the Free Form Role Play community are lumping themselves in with the Tabletop RPG community.

    While I do not personally care what somebody does for their kicks let's get this straight right now. The Free Form Role Play and Tabletop Role Play Games are NOT the same thing. Yes I know people that engage in both Free Form Role Play and Tabletop RPGs but they are not the same.

    What Free Form Role Players engage in is "Collaborative Fiction". They're writers nothing more. If Stephen King and Dean Koontz got together, would they be "Free Form Role Playing"? No they'd be simply writing.

    Where'd I learn the term "Collaborative Fiction"? From a butthurt Free Form Role Player when I told him he wasn't playing a game. The reason they're not playing a game is because they don't have the aspects of a game. There's no mechanics system. There's no system of checks and balances. There's no risk assessment. There's no strategy or critical thinking or problem solving. There's no objective or goal (whether or not said objective/goal is clear or evident at first) There's no rules for handling of situations.

    Another problem is things that happen in the room that people are playing in during the session. Many times we're working with limited resources and small time frames to game in. Excessive OOC chatter, people constantly commenting and being a backseat gamer or a backseat GM/DM need to stop. We're trying to maximize our gaming time here. Maximizing our game time maximizes our fun. Please be considerate and keep your non-game related chat out of the game. Wait until the session is done. There's plenty of time to visit. Gaming time is limited. Thank you.