Roleplaying Pitfalls and Worldbuilding Woes (OOC Guide)

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Crystal Spires
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Roleplaying Pitfalls and Worldbuilding Woes (OOC Guide)

Postby Crystal Spires » Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:07 pm

Roleplaying Pitfalls and Worldbuilding Woes


In this guide, I’m going to be treading dangerous waters, and I am going to construct a general criticism of what Roleplay world building should be and what roleplay world building shouldn’t be doing in order to create an effective world for people to interact with, and to also improve the general quality of roleplay in II and NS. While some might find that these qualifications and criticism may be a mere matter of taste, they are also something that really should be considered by people who intend to be good writers, and good players to interact with. These are what I am going to call the woes of worldbuilding, and the roleplaying pitfalls. Let’s get down to the dirty business of talking about what is drawing the reader away from NS and poses a distraction from roleplaying.

Glaring Issues with Worldbuilding

To start with, let’s address something really important that is not often discussed in roleplay or in out of character discussions. We are all fiction writers! Now that we’ve come to terms with this, we need to confront something that fiction writers often struggle with when writing a story, and some that come into play when you are roleplaying in NS. One of the biggest issues are worldbuilding and the impact of world building. When you create a country, there are going to be important things that, as a writer, you are going to need to remember a world that should be able to create a functional world. There should be land, food, shelters, infrastructure meant to deal with all such things necessary for your nation’s survival. All social structures logically should evolve from the necessary infrastructure used to address survival. If there are social structures that are in no way connected with the way people learned to survive and address necessary things to live, then you have to adequately explain them historically or with context involving the world itself. If there is a social group or a social structure it should be connected to and not disconnected from the necessary things for everyday life.

Monolithic Cultures

Nothing is more ludicrous than a society that has no actual diverting individual thought! If we were to suggest that Americans, Canadians, Englishmen, and Australians all agreed on everything in their culture right down to the individual level, this would be a quick way to get laughed out of the room. Every society has people that conform with social norms, some that rebel from the social norms and build their own subculture, those who follow the norms but have no faith in the core goals of society, then there are those who essentially withdraw from mainstream culture and have their own micro-culture within the nation. Unless you have the cases of alien hive mind cultures in which this is a facet of their culture, you should have unique points of view in almost every character. People do not have monolithic cultures, and cultures are made up of individuals.

Shifting Canons

The first and most important thing is internal consistency. Any rules, events, settings, or characters that have been established within your fictional world should continue to exist and function as they did previously, unless otherwise indicated. Without this we come to an incredibly important and icky problem that we call the dreaded retcon. Retcons, or ‘retroactive continuities’ do not only damage your ability to storytell, but they also disrupt canon of other nations that have interacted with you over the time you have existed on Nationstates. This is usually a problematic issue that can make roleplaying a difficult chore.

“What Consequences of Tech?”

The presence of various instances of magic or technology is going to have real consequences for your society. There is no escaping this fact, and thus as a result any technology that you decide to include in your society, or any magic you decide to include in your society, will most certainly need to have a major effect. For example, presume there is a crime committed by use of magic, there will need to be some sort of method to prevent or address it, because such things will proceed differently with normal situations. If there are different types of threats and dangers provided by various technologies, there will need to be ways to handle them and levels of disaster preparedness. Without this it becomes game breaking, or story breaking, and it will make you pull away from the story, and usually introduce logic that will have you questioning the major authorities in various worlds.

Willing Suspension of Disbelief Problems

What happens when you have something so absurd that a person has trouble accepting that something you have written exists? You get this problem. There are ways to make something that is fantastic or not connected to the familiar environment we are used to, but if something is so distant from a person’s experience, they are not going to take it as serious as anyone would like. If you want to make something that is so distant from what is familiar, then it can come off as being almost parodic and comedic, and unless that is your goal, you should try to draw the reader in using what is familiar to them, and then connecting them to this unfamiliar world with the fantasy being peripheral.

Gameplay Lockup Due to Dustopias and Ewtopias

Now, this is going to be a big topic as it addresses what cause major problems in cooperation with Roleplays. Without having an agreement that nations will affect one another equally, there is very little point to interactive roleplay. In worse cases people will lock up their roleplay entirely, and will be unable to interact with other players without having to make a change to their nation. Now realistically, no nation is locked up in this way. If there was a major incident or a situation that would introduce change, society would evolve. No society in real life is kept unchanging and nor do they stay the same from one day to another. Thus we have to address that in NS there is a bad habit of players to keep a nation from being a moving interactive experience, and rather they make a nation in stasis.

The Ewtopia

The Ewtopia is a person emotionally invested in stagnating their own nation permanently because it is his/her own personal utopia. They are personally emotionally connected to their nation, and any alterations to the nation in question becomes untenable because it would mean what the writer considers to be a perfect world would be "destroyed" and they would no longer find that the nation they are playing to be fun. The Ewtopia is created when the writer uses his or her nation as a mouthpiece for their own personal views of what they find to be a perfect world in real life. The drawback to the Ewtopia is of course reflected in the name and in the picture above. Ewtopias often are unrealistic, and depict what the author views as wonderful, and only shows it as wonderful when another equally reasonable player would find such perspectives to be horrible and a terrible place to live for perfectly legitimate reasons. Since the Roleplayer in question playing a Ewtopia does not see any drawbacks in his or her nation, they will utterly neglect to RP what would be reasonably negative consequences of this worldview's implementation even if it would make sense to occur in the real world.

The Dustopia

The Dustopia is a person emotionally invested in stagnating their own nation permanently because it is his/her own personal Dystopia. They create this dystopia to be identified as only evil to antagonize other roleplayers, but not actually roleplay any realistic conflict with them. Any positive change to it would 'destroy' this aspect of the 'evil culture' and the Dustopian RPer would no longer find that the nation they are playing to be fun. The RPer cannot see a way to meaningfully change their nation without perceiving it is "destroyed", because they have no way of identifying with the nation if anything changes in it. Now, like the Ewtopia the Dustopia is often unrealistic and created to depict a practically self-identifying evil culture that is "unassailable" and "peerless" when taken to its logical conclusion such a society would crumble like dust if a faint wind blew upon it. Since they are playing a Dystopia they will utterly neglect to RP what would be reasonably negative consequences of their evil government's implementation of policies even if it would make sense to occur in the real world.

What do we do about it?

Now that we’re aware of the problem, I am asking IIers and NSers to propose possible solutions to these glaring issues in NS roleplay. While I feel that more world building, dispassion, and cooperation will solve the majority of these problems, I think there is a good chance to discuss how to solve these problems working with one another. I would appreciate suggestions to avoid these roleplaying pitfalls, and how to be able to improve the quality of Nationstates as a whole. I welcome comments and possible solutions to these issues.
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New Edom
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Founded: Mar 14, 2011

Postby New Edom » Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:16 pm

Reconsidering your position cannot hurt--ultimately you have the final say about how you want to roleplay so giving it serious thought can't hurt.

Roleplaying is a game done by mutual consent. So when I started my region I had totally different ideas about how it would work, but a series of discussions, compromises and brainstorming sessions led to what we have now, which is a very effective rping region with a sense of history, geography, economics and politics that has a strong form but is also flexible. This makes it possible for a new player to fit in but also provides for the rest of us doing little tweaks here and there to help them do that.

Having a sense of how different nations are interconnected and to some extent dependent upon one another thus helps to avoid some of the traps listed above.
"The three articles of Civil Service faith: it takes longer to do things quickly, it's far more expensive to do things cheaply, and it's more democratic to do things in secret." - Jim Hacker "Yes Minister"

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