There are several bad roleplay behaviors common to many RPGs. They are often employed by those new to forum roleplaying games. This is because these things are specific to roleplay, some to forum roleplay. It’s no wonder newcomers don’t know all the ropes yet. However, bad roleplay also may come from experienced players.
While bad roleplay may seem harmless, it is at best irritating to other players. At worst, it’s against your RPG’s rules. Some forum roleplaying games ban these behaviors specifically. Other games rely on the “tacit assumption” that bad roleplay (metagaming, powerplay, godmodding) is never okay. Unless you’re certain, avoid these “techniques.”
Introduction to Bad Roleplay
Absolute Bad Roleplay Guide?
Bad roleplay concepts are different in different games, styles, and groups of forum roleplaying games. What is “powerplay” at one RPG is referred to as “godmodding” elsewhere. This guide is not intended as the be-all, end-all guide to bad roleplay. It provides a basis for RPG administrators and roleplayers who wish to define bad roleplay similarly. In short: there are many definitions for these concepts. You (and your game’s rules) may or may not agree.
Bad Roleplay and RPG Consent Level
The Bad Roleplay guide is designed for Strong Consent roleplay games. Concepts such as powerplay may not apply at Non-Consent games.
The Bad Roleplay Umbrella: Godmoding
- godmoder (noun)
- A roleplayer or roleplay character engaging in metagaming, powerplaying, or godmodding.
- godmoding (verb)
- The act of godmoding.
- godmode (noun)
- Generally not used in forum roleplay, though characters may be referred to as “in godmode” in rare instances.
Godmoding refers to several types of bad roleplay as an umbrella term. All godmoding attempts to shift the roleplay in the godmoding player’s favor. In essence, godmoding is any attempt at giving a roleplaying character an advantage that does not normally exist in-game.
The word comes from video games, where godmode includes “features such as invincibility, unlimited ammunition or lives, or similar power boosts” (Godmoding). Forum roleplay players can’t use exploits or cheat codes to power-up their characters — but certain roleplay behaviors can achieve virtually similar results.
Types of Godmodding and Bad Roleplay
Read on for specifics about the different types of godmodding and why they make for bad roleplay.
- Godmodding is godmoding specific to character creation, skills, and certain situations (e.g., combat).
- Powerplaying is godmoding by controlling another roleplayer’s character without permission.
- Metagaming is godmoding specific to the use of OOC knowledge in roleplayed actions, behaviors, thoughts.
- Retconning is godmoding specific to erasure or alteration of past events..
Advantages Gained via Bad Roleplay
The advantages gained by godmoding in forum roleplay can be:
- Against other players and their characters — e.g., the super-powered beast-hulk who smashes any challengers in a fight, no matter what.
- Against the game world and its realism rules — e.g., the twelve year old magician who can suddenly defeat a previously unbeatable enemy.
- Against the environment — e.g., the teenager in a high school town RPG who never references or writes about being in class and instead works full-time, despite a truancy policy being enforced in-game.
The Problem with Bad Roleplay
The problem? RPGs are a world built and played in by players. Everyone has to agree to the same rules about the way the game is played.
Bad Roleplay Reduces Sensibility and World Coherence
- With the beast-hulk character, yeah — sure, sometimes there are unbeatable people. However… they are very, very rare. If unbeatable or overpowered characters were allowed in RPGs, enough people would want an overpowered character that it would unbalance the game. Anyone trying to play a regularly-leveled character would quickly be beaten to a pulp. It alters the dynamic of the game.
- In the high school roleplay, it raises questions about where the truancy officers are, and why they aren’t enforcing the law on this character. Especially if the truancy officers have been vigilant, this makes little sense.
Bad Roleplay Reduces Player Sense of Fairness
- In the magic-based roleplay — the most likely reason for the enemy being unbeatable is to build a sense of danger and/or excitement. If this enemy played some role in the game, it’s not fair for a single player to unilaterally decide to make a major change to the world.
- In the high school roleplay, it’s not fair for this character to avoid truancy and gain monetary advantage over other characters. Everyone else’s characters have to abide by the truancy rules.
Bad Roleplay Infographic
Is it Really Bad Roleplay?
Notes for New Players
Don’t worry about making mistakes. If you’ve accidentally done some bad roleplay, please don’t feel bad about yourself. There are very few comprehensive guides to forum roleplay out there. Every game is different — some games are radically different. Your mistakes don’t make you a bad person, of course! If an RPG administrator is being super harsh and mean to you because of a mistake, remember — you may have found a Bad RPG. You might want to hop onto a different game! No one deserves to feel stressed or hurt over what should be a fun hobby.
Notes for RPG Administrators
“Bad roleplay” can be an honest mistake. It can be difficult to separate what you know from what your character knows, after all — metagaming can happen accidentally. Powerplaying, too, can happen unintentionally. New players may not know powerplay exists. In these cases, it’s not really bad roleplay — it’s inexperience or a mistake. RPG admins who wish to be fair and welcoming are well-advised to differentiate between intentional and unintentional bad roleplay. Sorting intentional from unintentional can be difficult for an RPG admin, but it’s worthwhile in the name of fairness.
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