Hyperspace Beacon: An open letter to all roleplayers in MMORPGs

I really hate when non-RPers get their kicks out of making light of what roleplayers are doing to have fun. Many times, the roleplayer will be standing at the bar minding his own business on an RP server no less, when all of the sudden some bored 12-year-old in a 40-year-old body spams as many particle effects at the people just attempting to have a conversation in character. You’d think if that happened enough that it would cause people stop roleplaying; I’m fairly certain that’s in the back of the griefer’s mind. Sometimes it works, but most of the time, I like to believe that it just strengthens the roleplayers’ resolve. They try harder to find a place where they can be comfortable doing what they enjoy doing, or they simply ignore the flashing effects around them and barrel through.

But the funny thing is I don’t believe it’s that kind of thing that actually drives roleplayers from a game. I believe that the biggest detriment to roleplayers is other roleplayers, and the biggest hurdle in attracting new roleplayers to the gameplay style is ourselves.

A toxic cycle

I like to believe that most people are good. Most people believe that what they are doing is right. Many times I think that people even believe that their personal self-sacrifice is the right thing to do. “I’m just standing up for the little guy” or “I’m just giving it to them straight” are common phrases heard from those who are, in the long term, tearing down the community.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that sometimes the little guy needs someone to stand up for him, and I also believe that being honest and forthright are virtues. However, I think in doing so, we need to be honest with ourselves and do what we do with a bit of humility and understanding of the other person’s perspective.

I have two close friends — people who have encouraged me to continue to be who I am — who left Star Wars: The Old Republic fairly recently. Both are good people. Both are not perfect. However, they left the game because they just couldn’t take the drama from the roleplay community anymore. It was overwhelming the number of people who would accuse them of things they didn’t do. It was overwhelming the number of people who would gripe at them on a daily basis. And it was overwhelming the number of people who they called friends that would post sideways rants on their Enjin walls about them.

I will be frank, the reason that I’m writing this is because it’s to happen to me, too. But I don’t want to rant about it just because it’s happening to me. I see it happen to many people all the time.

The echo chamber

I’ll tell you what happens: One roleplayer’s expectations aren’t met by a second roleplayer. Player two unknowingly committed a roleplay sin against player one. Or maybe player two wasn’t as familiar with lore as player one, or more likely player two’s version of lore doesn’t fit player one’s narrow view of lore. Or it could be as simple as player one’s personality not fitting player two’s. Then one of the two players, let’s say player one, will post a rant about player two on a public forum, telling his or her world how terrible of a roleplayer player two is. Of course, player one can’t post the other side of the story because he or she doesn’t know the other or the other side might ruin the narrative player one has built. Then player one’s echo chamber of friends and followers will begin bouncing back everything that player one just said and liking his or her post, thus falsely inflating player one’s ego.

Player two then does one of two things: defends him or herself to player one (publicly or privately) or leaves the community. Player two might find his or her own echo chambers and provide a scathing counter argument continuing the perpetual cycle of pointless backstabbing. Or if it’s just not worth the time anymore, player two will leave, possibly posting something about leaving or more often than not disappearing without a word to anyone.

A solution

It’s a problem. But it’s not a problem that can’t be fixed. And it’s really easily fixed with two things: giving the benefit of the doubt and resolving conflict privately.

As I said before, I believe that most people intend to do good or do the right thing, even if it’s not what I would consider the right thing. But if someone offends you or causes you problems, unless he’s that 40-year-old child I mentioned before, then it’s most likely that he didn’t mean anything by what he did. If he did, then don’t be a sucker, just avoid that individual. You and he will be better off long run.

If you do have an issue with someone, be a respectful adult and approach him or her privately even if what was done against you was public. No one likes to be called out publicly, and instead of actually fixing the situation, calling someone out publicly is only going to cause the other person to become defensive. That’s not saying that people will not become defensive in private, too, but it will at least slow the echo-chamber effect. I can guarantee that taking it public will only make things worse. But maybe speaking privately will turn what was a negative situation and turn it into a positive one.

Anyway, I don’t think it’s as simple as Bill S. Preston and Theodore Logan would make it out to be. I don’t think it’s as simple as being excellent to each other, but I do think that consideration for how you are representing the roleplay community — or any community — as a whole should be paramount. I hate thinking that maybe I could be just as bad for the community at times as the griefer pelting rocket effects at the cantina bar; I want to positively affect the roleplay community and the people looking for a roleplay home. I hope you do, too.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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Watre Games

I too have had a similar experience from role play drama and it caused me to leave the game.

I have role played in games for many years, both online and pen and paper. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive and the vast majority of role players are there to have fun, are not mentally deranged, and do not take it all too seriously, just like the vast majority of PvPers are not violent psychopaths.

Anytime you get a group of people together you are going to eventually have drama. I know a guild of PvP gamers who are constantly infighting, so much so that their guild is failing badly. I have friends who complain about the drama in their church, or their academic institution. It is a huge part of human nature and our need to socialize, belong to a group, etc. Drama simply is a part of life everywhere.

Back to role players..one of the biggest problems is that there are so many different types of role players.

There are Casual role players, who stay in character but otherwise just play the game. There are what I call more Hardcore role players who not only stay in character, but separate player knowledge from character knowledge, and the Intense role players who write pages of bio and expect everyone to read them as soon as they meet your character so you can become part of their story. They are more apt to blur player and character knowledge by sending “tells” to defend their character and let you know how wrong you are.

I once played a SWG Emu game and when looking for a group of role players, I found a what appeared to be a nice group. Eventually, it became evident to me that this was unlike other games I had played. Not only did I get the “read my bio, you are totally not getting my character” tells, but had a very nice guy who was studying to be a minister try to save my “real life” soul. I stuck around too long, left angry and disgusted.

Unfortunately, there was no where else to go, which is true of many games out there, especially one like this without a role play server. So I left the game. Now, I played on an unofficial rp server for SWG (the actual real game) for many years and never had any issues. The majority of folks were casual or hardcore, we all got along, and if there was drama, we could easily go find other individuals or groups who shared a similar play style. I also found that the vast majority of non-roleplayers would join in with us sometimes and really enjoyed our role play. This to me is the perfect setting for a role play scenario. It is FUN, not stressful or at least not any more stressful than another other social game.

Sadly, many run into those Intense groups which do not suit their style and suddenly all role players are dramatic, mentally ill, or perverts. This is no better than labeling every PvP player as violent, anti-social, and cruel. There will always be the fringes and the goal here would be to find a place to play where others share your style and/or are mature enough to respect your style may be different from yours before you get to the point where you are so traumatized that you leave the game.

Respect and maturity are certain part of the answer. But even among adults, there are always those who are less mature for a variety of reasons. I think part of the solution must be that the role play guilds/groups need to be open about their style of play. They must make that clear to new members when they join in the role play, and they need to use “tells” to remind each other that this is supposed to be fun.


I agree that the biggest threat to a roleplaying community is their own drama. And in general I would agree with Larry’s proposed solutions – if an online roleplaying community was representative of general population.

I fear my point of view might be neither popular, nor helpful: After getting a deeper glimpse at several communities, I have come to the conclusion that it is anything but. The quality, the quantity, the causes, and in the end the dealing with drama in the communities I glimpsed have driven home the point, that a substantial portion of the conflicts in question is indicative of rather severe social – or mental – problems. Thus trying to be a respectful adult, with rare exceptions turns out to be one of two things: Pointless, or a free therapy session.

Enjoying roleplaying as a hobby has brought me to different solutions: (a) Limiting involvement in the community to a point where I’m “under the radar” of people I do not want to be involved with (or: limiting exposition to RP-drama ;) ) and (b) generally not getting involved (except for the occasional “Seriously guys, I know psychiatry from the inside and it’s kindergarden compared to what’s going on here. Tune it down, would you?”).

Here’s to hope I do not offend too much with posting those two cent…


I suspect a fair number of people will roll their eyes at the mention of psychiatry, but based on my experiences I agree entirely. I don’t know how or why, but roleplaying and roleplay communities either attract people with serious unaddressed problems or bring those problems out in people. I don’t know which. I don’t know how to solve this; in fact, I doubt it can be solved. I’d love to be proven wrong on that. I roleplayed in MMORPGs from day 1 of Everquest up to about a year ago though, and I found that the only workable way for me to keep the kind of distance I’d like from roleplayer drama has been to just stop roleplaying altogether.

Thanks for expressing your point of view more eloquently than I could have, Leontes.


My main reason for staying away from any organized role playing is because, at the end of the day, the larger the number, the closer we will be to a replica of real life, usually with people replicating the type of behaviour they dislike others having towards them in real life.

In the particular case of SW, you have roleplay based around power struggles of space nazis, the potential for things to go wrong is much higher than usual, and it’s pretty high usually.

Roger Edwards

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

Problem solved & the drama can go piss up a rope.

Melissa McDonald

I learned over the years that roleplaying, per se, is overrated in my opinion. I learned this in EverQuest and having to deal with a grumpy dwarf who hated elves, and who played it to a T. I realized that I didn’t want to be hated for such a silly reason, and at a point I stopped being “Goldenhair of Faydwer, Wood Elf” and started being myself in an avatar body. For me, these days, RP means not bringing real-world issues and topics into the game world. But I am just me. I do not struggle or strive to be a character and act out that avatar’s life in a way different from my own spirit.


It’s not an RP guild that I want it’s an immersion guild that I’m looking for. These days the most immersion I get from any game is playing Stellaris with my cousin.


RP to me sounds like a bunch of immature adults playing pretend. I’ve fantasized of being in a fantasy world and stuff, kinda like the anime .hack (and be stuck there), but I would still act like myself, not someone else, that’s just messed up and disturbing.


Generations of tabletop roleplayers would look down on this comment and politely qualify it as misinformed.

As for any human activity, truly, there are many types of roleplayers. Some may be your stereotypical basement dweller, sure, but from my experience the majority are living pretty balanced lives. They have jobs. They are parents. They are working their ass out during the week and, when the weekend come, they may want to vent by engaging in a social activity with friends.

Roleplaying hasn’t anything to do with being mature, it is just another way to socialize and enjoy a medium by seeking immersion. And what better way to immerse yourself in a virtual world than acting as one of its denizens? Sure, there’s always that guy who’ll go too far, act as an integrist or being unable to distance himself from his character, but I’d argue that, in this case, roleplaying would be the symptom, not the issue.

It is kind of sad that, in a genre which sprouted from role playing games (you know, the RPG part in MMORPG), roleplayers are ostracized and looked down upon as if they were some kind of oddities or second class citizens.

As a side note, and to give you some additional perspective, did you know that that kind of ‘messed up and disturbing’ activity is now staple of human ressource management and team building techniques?




thought so

Sunken Visions

Society has rules and regulators for a reason. If you give people a platform where they can abuse their position without fear, you force individuals to rely on the community for support.

In other words; you need GM’s to keep the peace, lest your game attract a never ending stream of trolls and swine.


So I decided to give this roleplaying thing a try way back in the day with some Ultima Online player ran servers.

I decided for the ultimate challenge, I’d play a Lawful Evil Alchemist. I had an Orc thug. I ran my Alchemy empire as any Lawful Evil player would by skating the rules and trying to get a cut of the other Alchemist’s action “mafia style.” where “accidents” like an “Orc raid” could occur. Got a few deeds to businesses, and in Lawful Evil fashion when I was paid appropriately I honored my crooked deals (Lawful). In one case a player ran town ran into a nasty case of Earth Quakes mysteriously happening until my price was met and per the agreement for a large lump sum (which was actually given to them by GMs but whatever) I never returned even after the enusing events. Wasn’t long until I was the only Alchemist on the server with my shops.

Well then later a buncha goodies (same town that paid me their lump sum) decided they would end the evil menace on the server once and for all they of course started with the Drow, which was 2 people. So here you had this 20v2 scenario going on. And so I hatched my grand master plan to conquer the world. Step two, after being a successful alchemist magnate, I would shut down all my shops but keep my shops open to the Drow kingdom. I made a grand old post on how declaring war on evil was hurting my business and thus I was forced to join sides against the warlike actions of good. Well I was a bit of a PvPer you might say and me and my Orc thug kinda decimated the forces of good pretty easily and waged total war against them to the point some of them started deleting their characters and joining the force of the Drow. A few weeks of that it turned into a pretty pitch battle and the Drow eventually got their own leader and started talking up their own plans to conquer the surface world. Step three, again I could not abide such harmful plans to my family owned and operated business and employees so I had turn on them as well. After about a month I had the whole roleplaying server devolved into a mindless murder fest of madness and slaughter where being the owner of the only Alchemy shop to fuel potions for PvP and the best PvPer around I basically ruled the world.

Now that was pretty awesome, but eventually they put me on trial because they said I wasn’t a roleplayer and I just came to ruin their roleplaying good times. And I explained them my maniacal plan for world domination. They all played right into my hands and I now ruled the world. While most were pretty happy, there still was a heaping help of hate for me and it didn’t matter I had beaten them at their own game and out roleplayed the lot of them. They were just angry and mad and that’s when I wash my hands of the roleplaying thing entirely. Just weren’t interested in playing actual roles, they just wanted to make themselves feel good and type with old english accents while emoting the night away. No thanks says I. If I’m going to role play, I’m going to play a damn role.

PS: They wiped the server after :D

Melissa McDonald

Interesting, I always thought of Lawful Evil as meaning you always do the evil thing, i.e. you simply cannot be trusted and you’ll do the evil thing even when there is no real benefit, other than the will of evil.

I chuckle when I hear the lyrics to that GHOST song “Square Hammer” where the guy says, “Are you on the square? Are you on the level? Are you ready to stand right here, right now, before the Devil”

The Devil wants you to break your word, not keep it! LOL.


Well alignment really has two guiding values. The second part, good/neutral/evil, generally is pretty specific over your over all attitude. It’s the first part, lawful/neutral/chaotic that really puts the spin on the second part. For example a neutral evil person is just out for themselves and would “break the deal” because they don’t really value law or order.

It’s probably best looked at by the opposite example, chaotic good. A chaotic good person would do anything, even break the law, if what they’re doing is good. So Robin Hood would steal (against the law), but then give to the poor (good). So when you go back to that Lawful Evil you can see a Lawful evil person would keep deals and follow laws but to their own benefit rather than others. Hence I would extort a town or business (evil) but I’d keep to the agreements of that extortion (lawful).

It’s these very kinds of misunderstandings that Larry was describing in his article and I faced similar criticism by people who disliked what I had done. Again their principle complaint was that I wasn’t role playing even though my actions were always in line with a lawful evil character. The truth was they just didn’t like what I had done and were trying to use social shaming to solve their problems. I’ll admit I wasn’t surprised. Role playing is essentially acting. Acting is a performance. Performance requires an audience. So it’s a very social act in the first place and it’s not uncommon in social based settings for others to make their complaints to society rather than directly dealing with their issues head on which is a big reason why I never bothered since.


Out roleplaying is like winning the warm up lap.

Loyal Patron
Bývörðæįr mòr Vas´Ðrakken

I think it comes down to this. people refuse to agree to disagree and walk away from conflict.

Most of them came from second life where they could grief people to take over money making opportunities or something. I really did not play second life but about the time people noticed someone buying an island in game for real money, people who don’t enjoy video games targeted it for making money under the table.

I think that is were the otters and other groups that used to do the things that offend people in private channel that now try to make everyone turn off the main chat window to avoid seeing offensive stuff. It happens less in games that you have to buy an account and pay a sub simply because replacing those accounts cost money. Mostly what they seem to do is use the recruit a friend to get free accounts into high level areas then use the silent account to jump servers to bring their friend or dual box account to harass people away from where their character logs in.

As far as people disagreeing with where the story should go some people want their toon to be the protagonist and everyone else to be a supporting character, and other people understand that being able to joke with someone ten years later about some instance that you fell off a ledge and the mob still died or years ago when two people would drive the argo really high between two characters and get close enough that the mob could target both and move closer and further apart so the mob just stands there twitching as it tries to aoe both players. I think we crashed the sever with that trick. Or even further back as people stood in line in the green mire to kill this one boss that had the best drop in the game so that even though it was a heroic dungeon you had to fight through to kill the boss after completing a kill so many mobs in the dungeon quest, when it was popular for about two years there was so many players in the dungeon made of about four rooms any mob that spawn was burned down by fifty to one hundred fifty players or so. People back then treated behaving as what was expected and players that did not behave found all the monsters in the room attacking them and no one helping them. Back then the mobs required about ten people to attack them to survive fighting them. so people waited in line.

Fan fiction and roleplaying is sorta the same thing. The npc are supporting characters and even if you read it in a quest it could be mis information. If you an another character disagree with what the story says either play with a different person or treat it like people who did not go to a party disagreeing with what happened there. But above all else when you are arguing take it back channel. People do not need to have to see people rant in game channels in case there is something important they need to see in the chat window.

Peter Couse

Hmm I must be roleplaying with different folks then because , while I’ve seen minor things like what is described here I’ve not seen wholesale social griefing much, some, but not much. What is described seems more like personality conflicts which happen in every type of guild.

What drives me away from roleplaying in games now? It is certainly not the roleplayers it is the games. If a company even deigns to give lip service to rp, it is now seems to take two forms either, A) here is a nice chat box for all you cute rp’ers to go play in the corner in or 2) we have rp! just click on one of the options in the cut scene. It is amusing that SWTOR was mentioned because that was my last great rp try in today’s MMO’s. They have the unique (or maybe not so unique) status of doing both of the above.

First standing in a room with absolutely no tools to work with in a graphical game is a shame, how about at least being able to sit? Nah. And then jumping from rp in SWG to SWTOR…OMG *facepalm*. I realized the rp we were doing in SWTOR was exactly the same as we were doing in Yahoo chat 15 years before and it looked exactly the same! So add on top of that the devs attitude that ‘we can make your rp for you’ has, IMHO,slanted new players ideas as to what rp is. A scripted story is not roleplay, it is a nice passive story.

So dealing with God modders, the ones who have to be the biggest badass etc. can be dealt with or change who you play with. Games with gimped rp that use the rp tag in their classification are harder to work around for me.

Wow this got way to long, not even sure this is on topic lol.

Best Star Wars RP in 2017? Second Life LMAO

*edit* now that I see thirtymil and Robert mann posts…they said it way better than I did and stayed on topic!


I like to believe that most people are good. Most people believe that what they are doing is right.

The latter often leads to anything but the former.

But on topic – I think the issue stems from the fact that in any minority community (and RPers are a minority in terms of overall MMO population), validation is often spearheaded by conformity to a perceived group ideal. In the case of RP, this comes down to avoiding a whole host of ‘RP sins’ that are perceived to devalue the worth of the hobby and the player’s position in it. It’s why there are so many gripes about people RPing as Revan’s long lost sister or the like – ‘that is lame and cliched, ergo it devalues the intrinsic value of our community and I feel tainted simply by association with your substandard efforts’.

The other reason, I suspect, is simply because RPers can be more sensitive to criticism. Any hobby where you have to watch and respond to other people’s behaviour whilst acting as someone other than yourself is going to inherently attract a more empathetic crowd, and empathetic people generally have thinner skins when it comes to behaviour they perceive to be unpleasant.