Roleplaying Guide


I. Introduction

II. Basics of Roleplay

III. Styles

IV. The Cardinal RP Sins

V. Etiquette

VI. Grammar Tips


I. Introduction

For those new to roleplay (RP) in general, or just roleplay in Second Life, it may seem daunting to start playing on the many sims across the grid. No one wants to look stupid or inexperienced, and a lot of times questions are left unasked. This guide should answer most questions one might be afraid to ask about roleplay, but the only way to learn is by doing. Start by observing avid roleplayers on major sims while wearing observer tags (available on most sims), and join in once you feel comfortable.

Everyone had to start somewhere once, and only with experience will you be able to improve. Roleplaying can be one of the most amazing experiences when enjoyed within a supportive community. The most important thing to remember is to always respect your fellow roleplayers. If a mistake is made, discuss it civilly out of character before the scene proceeds or call for a neutral administrator if needed. One of the most helpful tips I can offer is to try to maintain good Out of Character (OOC) communication and rapport with your fellow roleplayers. A game shared among good friends is always much more fun than one played ‘against’ strangers. Everyone has an amazing story to tell, and the key is to find the ground between two characters that allows both to flourish.


II. Basics of Roleplay & Terminology

At the core of roleplay is the ‘emote’, or what your character presents to other characters in an interaction. This post can be anything from a few lines to entire paragraphs, but more on that later.

There are a few ways to craft an emote. The first, and most widely accepted on roleplay sims, is the use of the /me command. Just type /me and then add whatever you wish after:

/me ran along the path.

An apostrophe can be added to start with possession:

/me’s eyes widened in surprise.

For serious roleplay interactions, dialogue becomes necessary at some point and can be spliced into the emote easily:

/me looked up when the door opened, smiled, and greeted him, “Good morning, Mr. Smith!”

An alternative that some use in less formal roleplay scenarios is the use of asterisks to denote actions. This is generally frowned upon in formal roleplay. Example:

Avatar Name: Good morning, Mr. Smith. *Smiles and waves to him*


Most people are quite familiar with what Out Of Character (OOC) means. This is basically just the player’s own personality and actions separated from the character portrayed on an RP sim.


In Character (IC) is the player acting out their character in the chosen role. It is extremely important not to confuse IC with OOC, or hold OOC grudges due to an IC interaction.


Non-Player Characters (NPCs) generally take two forms: reference NPCs or interactive NPCs. Reference NPCs are those characters referred to by players, such as the non-existent bartender, waiter, or doorman. This is used to enhance atmosphere and in some cases move a scene along. Interactive NPCs are generally played by a Game Master (GM) or volunteer from the community to provide more depth to a roleplay. Most of the time the person playing an NPC will have a titler on to indicate they are not performing their usual role on sim. Examples include playing another player’s relative, protesters at a rally, etc.


III. Styles

First person voice in roleplaying with the use of ‘you’ and ‘your’ is generally frowned upon. Most people in a scene do not want to see something like this:

/me walks over to you and smiles. I then lean in and give you a hug.

The most widely accepted voice is third person, but personal preference generally dictates tense. My personal preference is to use past tense, because it reads like an actual book, but either is usually all right in a scene. Some people will change their preference if roleplaying with a partner who uses the opposite in order to make the scene read more smoothly. Both of the following forms are completely acceptable:

/me walks over to him and smiles.

/me walked over to him and smiled.

Regardless, the most important point is to keep your tenses consistent. Try not to start in present tense and then switch to past halfway through an emote.


Most roleplayers are familiar with the terms ‘one-liner’, ‘semi-para’, and ‘para-RPer’ in regards to a player’s preference on post length. There is an unfortunate generalized attitude that the only way to roleplay acceptably is by spewing out massive multi-paragraph posts, and that anything less indicates a lesser-skilled roleplayer. This is just silly. It must be stressed that post length is nothing more than a preference, and the most versatile roleplayers are concerned more with content and appropriateness for a given situation than actual length of the post. That being said, please refer to the following for further information.

One-liner: As it says, a single line of text. Full scenes may be difficult to roleplay in this way, but quick situations like entries and exits may be very amenable to this sort of post length. It should be noted that a ‘one-liner’ in response to a long, detailed post is generally frowned upon when the response fails to address the points outlined in the previous post.

Semi-Para: The definition of this length style may vary between players, but generally most consider it to be between 3-4 lines of text. This length can be especially helpful in intricate scenes (such as fights) involving numerous players, where posting multiple paragraphs may actually hinder flow of the scene.

Para: This is usually upwards of 5 lines, and can be as long as several ‘text breaks’ on the viewer. These tend to be incredibly detailed posts that really set the scene, but it should be noted that non-paragraph RPers may not have enough patience to wait between posts. Most players tend to allow 5-7 minutes per post. For very lengthy posts, up to 10 minutes is usually still accepted, though it may be best to IM the other party to let them know your response will be that long in coming.


There is some debate on this topic. Some roleplayers argue that an emote should only contain what is physically possible for the other player’s character to recognize, while others claim that including character thoughts can help deepen the other’s understanding of motivation. Both arguments are valid, but I personally believe a middle ground can be achieved. What you want to really avoid is using character thoughts solely to ‘pad out’ an emote. Your partner cannot respond to things that your character thinks, and you may leave them trapped if you have your character reminisce mentally for 10 lines about their abusive childhood.


Somewhere, someone along the line started overusing ‘would’ in emotes and now this error has been disseminated across the grid. Kill it, with fire.

Simply put, the use of ‘would’ in an emote should only be instituted in an instance of a potential action that may be interrupted or denied by another character. This also includes contractions such as she’d or he’d. A rule of thumb is that it is appropriate to use if you can replace ‘would’ with ‘tried to’ and it still sounds all right. Let’s look at some examples. (This may seem exaggerated, but I have actually seen posts like this.)

She would reach for her drink and she’d take a long gulp of the cold liquid. She’d lean forwards and would say, “All right…I’ll do it.”

With the replacement trick this becomes: She tried to reach for her drink and she tried to take a long gulp of the cold liquid. She tried to lean forwards and tried to say, “All right….I’ll do it.”

That…look ridiculous, doesn’t it? No one is stopping your character from performing basic tasks, -usually-. Certainly there are circumstances where that might be the case, but 99% of the time this is not true. On the other hand, it is perfectly appropriate to use ‘would’ to indicate a potential action.

She would grab for his arm with her eyes wide and hiss, “You can’t do this to me!”

She tried to grab for his arm with her eyes wide and hissed, “You can’t do this to me!”

In this instance, the other character may pull away, so the action remains a potential.


There are many ways to emphasize a thought, action, or dialogue that you may run across. The most common are hyphens, asterisks, or slashes as follows:

What did you -think- would happen?

What did you *think* would happen?

What did you /think/ would happen?

IV. The Cardinal RP Sins

Metagaming is using OOC information in a post that your character has not ICly obtained. The most common examples are reading tags overhead and addressing a character that way or reading profiles and knowing something about items carried or backstory that your character would not know. If your character has never met the other person‘s character IC, you cannot know their name (unless it is a well-known public figure, movie star, etc). This is all first degree metagaming.

Second degree metagaming involves a primary metagamer disseminating information to other players as truth, which is then perpetuated throughout the sim with often detrimental effects. For example, Character A tell Character B OOCly that he is planning to rob the bank. Character B then relays this information (either inadvertently or maliciously) to the police, who then arrest Character A or bring him in for questioning. In this situation, the police players are not at fault, as the information they trusted from Character B was actually metagamed without their knowledge.


Note: you may also see this referred to as ’godmodding’. Essentially this is trying to claim total control over the plot and outcomes to a situation, often while portraying a character as invincible. This is most often done by players who want their character to ’win’ everything and satisfy ego rather than work collectively with the community to create amazing, rich stories. Some examples include taking no damage at all during any sort of fight, creating a totally invulnerable character with all sorts of powers (super-strength, mega-intelligence, etc.) that make it unfair to other players, or trying to twist the plot in a way that will allow a character or character’s faction to ‘win’ at all costs.

No one likes these characters or, generally, the players behind them. It makes a player look extremely rude and ignorant of general roleplay etiquette. The most interesting characters in books and movies are those that have weaknesses, that have made it through very difficult trials and evolved because of it. Remember this, and remember that roleplay is not about winning, but about creating something incredible within a collective group.


Powergaming is actually a subset of godmoding. In this case, the godmoder takes it upon himself or herself to dictate another character's actions, reactions, or thoughts, or attempts to force someone into a certain RP. In roleplay, you are never allowed to respond for another person. This includes throwing a punch and including in the post that your punch completely knocked out the other person when they have not even had a chance to respond, and may have dodged it. In sexual roleplay, it may include telling the other person what their character is feeling, level of arousal, etc.

It should be noted that there is often a spectrum of acceptability here. For instance, as noted above, telling another player what damage your punch did is highly frowned upon. However, posting a hug or a kiss on another character yours knows very well, or is dating, is generally accepted. If there is any doubt, a post should be crafted open-ended, to allow the other player to choose their own response.


Posting quick one-liners or dialogue without giving the other person a chance to even start an emote.

Character A: Hi.

Character A: How are you? *smiles*

Character A: Are you from around here?

Character A: *Steps in front of you*

Character A: Want to grab some coffee?

Don’t…do this.

V. Etiquette

When entering an area with multiple players around, it is generally considered proper to wait for 5 minutes or so, or until a round of posts has been completed. It gives you an opportunity to find out what is actually going on before posting something that might just be silly. For example, taking a jaunty stroll up to the bar when a gunfight is going on, or trying to talk to two people who are actually having sex in an alley. In the latter case, it would likely be rude to try to disrupt their scene, and it may be prudent to seek out roleplay elsewhere. If there is ever any question, a friendly IM inquiry is never a bad idea.


It’s generally considered polite to wait for a final post before leaving a scene. For example, even if your character whirls on her heel to stomp off in a huff, you should always halt while still in chat range to allow your partner a final word - even if there is no dialogue.


Post order should always be followed. In one on one roleplay, this is usually very straightforward. One person posts, the other responds. However, in multi-player scenes such as large brawls, confusion can ensue if close attention is not paid. Often in these situations, one player will keep track of post order (‘PO’), and even occasionally put the names of the players in order in a titler so that everyone is aware of the order. This is to ensure fairness and flow of a scene.

Ignoring the PO, either on purpose or accident, is generally known as ‘post jumping.’


If an OOC comment is needed during roleplay, it can be added by using brackets, usually (()) or [].


((Is it your post or mine?))

[Is it your post or mine?]

OOC talk should be minimal in an IC area, and any long discussions, greetings of friends, or arguments should be taken immediately to IMs to preserve the immersive quality of a sim. Many RP sims have an OOC chat group to allow mingling and goofing around with others of the community out of character.


If a spelling or grammar error is made, the most common way of correcting it is to use asterisks in an OOC line following the post. Example:

/me jumped up and down.


VI. Grammar Tips

You can create the most attractive avatar on the grid, pouring thousands upon thousands of Linden into it to come up with something so beautiful that even non-Goreans instantly fall to their knees and prim babies cry with joy. But the moment you open your mouth and utter, “Your pretty. How r u today?”, it all comes crumbling down. Sims rain blood. Avatars run shrieking from the grammatical apocalypse. Here are some tips to help!


Save yourself a lot of angst: all contractions have an apostrophe. ‘You’re’ is a contraction. It’s the combination of ‘you’ and ‘are’. Here are examples of usage:

You’re using ‘your’ inappropriately.

You’re welcome.

You’re the best!

In contrast, ‘your’ is a possessive adjective, used to indicate…possession. Example:

Your ridiculously large prim hair is obstructing my view.


This one can be tricky. Sometimes it's right, but looks wrong. Just remember that all contractions have an apostrophe. So…it’s=it is. Example:

It’s all right to cry.


‘Its’ is the possessive adjective. Example:

Its surface reflected the rising sun.



‘They’re’ is the contraction of this bunch. It’s used to describe what more than one person might be doing, such as:

They’re all dry humping each other in the poseball orgy pit.


‘Their‘, on the other hand, is another one of those possessive adjectives; this time, it refers to multiple persons or a conglomerate entity, such as a store. Example:

Their skins all look vaguely like Buffalo Bill in drag, from Silence of the Lambs.


‘There’ is used to indicate place, or sometimes used with a conjugation of the verb ‘to be.’ Example:

There is a creepy child avatar staring right at me.


I've seen a LOT of people throwing "whom" around in very, very wrong circumstances. Mostly when trying to sound all highbrow. It sort of makes my head explode.

Use the he/him method to decide which word is correct.
he/she/they = who
him/her/them = whom

Elves who/whom live in the wild can be crazy.
They live in the wild, therefore 'who' is correct here.

We all know who/whom did it.
She did it, therefore 'who' is correct again.

To who/whom should I send the notecard?
Should I send the note to her/him/them? -Whom- is correct.


Alot is not a word. Autocorrect wouldn’t even let me write ‘alot’ the first five times. Nor is alright. No, it really isn’t. Google it. It is a common misspelling that has been perpetuated in informal written language, but is incorrect. Just FYI.



These are different. Really. Lose is a verb that means to suffer the loss of something. Loose is an adjective that means the opposite of tight. You can ‘lose’ your virginity, but ‘loosing’ (loosening) it might raise a few questions… In general, most of the time the word you are looking for is ‘lose.’

Feel free to send me feedback and suggestions for additions to this guide! Also feel free to distribute this as you wish, especially when you see people struggling, as long as the credit to me is not removed. I worked very hard on this!

© 2011 Ascension City & Alika Luminos' Player

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