Previous to having entered Second Life I had never done any role play gaming. I never played Dungeons and Dragons. My life with computers began in 1989 as a result of an unpleasant interaction between my car, another car, and a petrol station. As a result of this unfortunate confluence of physical objects I needed a change to a more sedentary career. Computers were starting to proliferate then so I bought one. I brought home a nice shiny new 286 with 4 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard disk and tried to work it out. I spent four days trying, and failing, to get Windows 3.1 to connect to the internet thingy I had heard about, its lack of an included TCP/IP stack producing this maddening failure. Within a week I hated it. I put the whole thing back into the box and walked away. Some time later a friend told me about a bulletin board they were a member of and came over and installed all the required protocols and software and showed me how to connect to it. There were other humans out there! I was hooked. But I never got into gaming. Primarily this was due to the fact that most games seemed to involve killing things. I tried Day of the Tentacle1, a graphic adventure game, but my failure to grok the interface led to another dismal failure. Instead I combined my interest in photography with this new medium and got into Multimedia Development. Consequently I arrived in Second Life unencumbered by any experience in role play.
I was thus trepidatious when first entering this role play community. I wasn’t even really sure what ‘role play community’ meant. Fortunately for me Ptolemaic Egypt ran role play classes. Sadly every single role play class I attended in Ptolemaic Egypt was focused on combat. In every class most of the discussion was about establishing valid scenarios for combat rather than rushing around and just attacking anybody and everybody willy nilly. Every single one. Myself and the other priests tried to introduce information about how the combatants could interact with the priests. We covered; how the priests might help combatants – for example with healing and amulets, why combatants could not attack people in the temples, and scenarios that might involve priests and combat. There was some interest in healing, until they realised it was going to be role play healing rather than something that might reset the damage level on their meter. Most of them were completely uninterested. One warrior once came to see me to ask for an amulet before going into battle. Eventually priests stopped going to classes after we had been enough times to see that this was all that was ever going to happen.
While the community I studied was a self contained community, it was also part of a wider group of communities focused on role playing historical cultures. These communities would stage inter community events, but they were mostly combat events so I didn’t participate in them very much at all. These events did produce some interesting cross cultural tensions. One community that focused on role playing ancient Greece was keen to initiate inter community combat with our community. There were lengthy negotiations to try to organise an event, but in the end it failed to eventuate because one member of the Greek community, whose character was a goddess, couldn’t agree to the stipulation that, for events hosted in the Egyptian sims, she wouldn’t be able to play that character.
The first thing I learned about was metagaming. The idea of role play is to experience the spontaneous interaction between participants. This spontaneity can be hampered if one person starts to dictate the actions of another. When this happens it is known as metagaming, which is strictly prohibited, but nevertheless happens with some regularity. For example, if two avatars are fighting and one strikes the other the striker may describe the blow, but not the consequences of the blow. It is then up to the stuck avatar to determine and describe the consequences. Thus “I punch you in the face” is allowed, but “I punch you in the face and you bleed” is not allowed. The latter constrains the struck avatar to a particular outcome and is seen as forcing one’s own expected outcome on the other. It seems quite obvious why such a thing would be prohibited, if the goal is to experience spontaneous interaction, and to allow both parties free expression. Nevertheless the metagaming ban was a constant source of contention, especially in combat. Oftentimes a resident would assert that the result described by their opponent was not sufficient in comparison to their actions. The solution to this problem was the advent of gaming meters. Such meters control and describe the interaction between opponents and their weapons. Meters require the use of weapons particular to, or compliant with, them and include various types of functionality. The Ptolemaic Egypt sims used the Gorean Meter2 and only weapons compatible with this system were allowed in the sims. When opponents using such weapons undertake combat, each blow is recorded by the meter and the combatant’s health score is adjusted accordingly. When one’s health falls to zero one is dead. This results in differing actions depending on the metering system used. A common result is that one’s avatar would be rendered immobile for a set period of time. Capture is also possible, with some systems rezzing a cage around a captured avatar.
It was mandatory for all avatars in the Ptolemaic Egypt sims to wear a meter. This was a source of some concern. While most of the members of the community were heavily involved in combat role play, others, among them myself, had no desire to participate, and saw it as one segment of the community imposing their will on another. They saw it as a kind of metagaming. One reason being that if one had no desire to participate in combat one could be forced to do so, and indeed killed, by being set upon by another, as long as one was wearing a meter. While it was specified in the role play classes that combat should be consensual, and the rationale for any particular instance of combat must be role played, i.e. one may not simply set upon another with no warning, it was a common occurrence that this would happen, especially when violence was used as an outlet for OOC grievances.
As the sim rules explicitly stated that “there are no safe zones”, another reason for not wishing to wear a meter was that by not doing so one could create combat free zones. For example priests could enforce the social prohibition against violence in the temples by not wearing meters. Most priests however complied with the rules and wore meters, but I never wore one. Even though it was declared mandatory to wear meters the Pharaoh, played by the sim owner Horemheb, applying his usual selective enforcement of rules, never forced me to do so. He and I had many discussions about this. Me telling him that violence in the temples would have been unthinkable in ancient Egypt and that as he had instituted a ‘no safe zones’ rule I was taking the action of not wearing a meter in order to protest this rule. He in turn saying he though combat should be allowed everywhere but that he wasn’t going to enforce the rule and make me wear one as he liked the tension generated by the fact that ardent combatants couldn’t fight me. He wasn’t perturbed by the fact that his rule was at odds with ancient Egyptian social mores, he just thought it was funny to watch people get frustrated. This was to have interesting consequences when a dispute arose between myself as high priest and a general of the army. The latter sought to resolve the OOC dispute by applying violence to the high priest, but was thwarted by the fact I wore no meter. This will be described in detail in a later section.
Metagaming is also anything that uses information or actions from outside the world to influence events inside the world, e.g. hacking the meter system or one’s character having knowledge they couldn’t possibly have. For example if one meets an avatar for the first time in role play, even though the avatar’s name is displayed over the avatar’s head by the client, one has to pretend one doesn’t know the name as the character the avatar is playing couldn’t have this information.
Other actions that are considered metagaming are to use facilities of the client that amount to the avatar doing things they could’t do. For example an avatar can’t teleport around or fly during role play if their character couldn’t reasonably be supposed to do such things. Flying was completely banned in Ptolemaic Egypt. While it is easy to prevent avatars flying in a sim, there is a setting in the estate controls3 to turn flying on or off for the entire sim, stopping avatars teleporting was more problematic as it isn’t possible to turn it off completely. The estate controls do allow one to restrict teleporting to certain locations, i.e. one can set it so that there is a single point in the sim that avatars are allowed to teleport to, but point to point teleporting would be impossible. This allows avatars to arrive in the sim but not to teleport around it. Sim owners would often exploit this feature to force visitors to enter though a shop in an effort to fund their sim. This was the case with Ptolemaic Egypt until so many members of the community complained that they were sick of having to walk all the way through a quite extensive many leveled shop every time they wanted to enter the sim that Horemheb relented and provided a members entrance. Eventually utilities became available that allowed users to teleport to any point in a sim, even if teleporting was disabled or restricted at the sim level. This frustrated owners but was widely used due to its great utility.
Animations, Gestures And Emoting
Another basic component of role playing is emoting, which means to describe actions in text, for example, ‘I pick up a scroll’. I am uncertain of the derivation of emote, though it has certainly been around since Internet Relay Chat (IRC) first arose. However its usage seems to be quite at odds with the meaning one would expect the word to have, as it is mostly used to describe actions, though it can be used for feelings. I can however say why the term exists. In Second Life detailed actions by avatars are just not possible. Gestures and animations are the only means of causing the avatar to perform discrete actions.
Gestures are preprogrammed animations, usually with accompanying sounds, that can cause the avatar to perform a limited set of actions. There are a set of gestures included in the Second Life client, examples of which are wave, laugh, clap and bow, and a much wider range can be purchased from the Second Life Marketplace. The gestures included in the client are ludicrously exaggerated and wildly stereotypical, and for these reasons are rarely used, except by noobs. In Ptolemaic Egypt the use of gestures was prohibited, leaving animations as the only way to exactly control one’s avatar.
Animations are usually a single action, must be purchased and are cumbersome to use. For these reasons, even though there is a range of animations available in the Marketplace, they are not frequently used in role play. Exceptions to this are that they may be employed in a particular place for a particular thing, usually in the form of poseballs. For example if an avatar was going to the temple to pray they might find a poseball there with a praying action in it. Although usually poseballs will have a single action in them it is possible to create longer animations to produce a set of actions. For example I programmed an animation that would have the avatar perform the various actions of a particular prayer ritual. This is rarely done as it is a time consuming activity which requires the use of external programs such as Poser4 or Qavimator5 and few residents have such skills. Recently animations have become available which are created with motion capture technology. This results in much more realistic animations. These are quite expensive, in Second Life terms, and are not yet widely used.
While the avatar is sitting on the poseball and the animation plays the resident loses all control over the avatar. This reduces immersion as one is no longer being the avatar in quite the same way. Watching one’s avatar performing a particular animated action creates an odd sensation that the avatar is possessed, as one has the perception that the avatar should only do what one makes it do. Another problem with poseballs is that the animations in them are made to suit an avatar of an average size. If one’s avatar is much outside the size the animation has been made to suit then the actions will appear awkward. This is particularly noticeable with poseballs that come in pairs. An example would be a pair of poseballs designed to simulate two avatars hugging. In the case of a very tall avatar hugging a very short avatar the problem would be seen at its most extreme. The short avatar’s face would be in the tall avatar’s abdomen for the duration of the hug, as the tall avatar has no capacity to bend down to adjust the hug to suit the short recipient. A fat avatar being hugged by a thin one would result in the thin avatar’s arms intersecting the fat avatar, and in fact disappearing inside their torso. Such things also reduce immersion. This is presently an inevitable consequence of the nature of the medium.
Emoting is the logical solution to these shortcomings. One may, using text, describe any situation without any props being required. There was a fine line between emoting and metagaming, especially where combat was concerned. One may not emote for another. However the rules of combat in Ptolemaic Egypt implied that once one was captured a procedure must be followed that would, in any other situation, be considered to be metagaming. For example, as described in the notecard below, once one was captured one must act as if one was unconscious until one’s captor role played an awakening. Moreover being captured was the only scenario in which it was allowed for an opponent to role play killing without the meter declaring one to be dead. Capturing was far more popular than just fighting until the meter declared one or the other dead.
The following notecard example was produced by the combatants and explains the procedure for dealing with a captured opponent and gives examples of how one might emote the capture. Once the meter reached a certain threshold one was considered captured. Often a cage would be rezzed around the victim, and victim they certainly were. As described in the notecard, it was mandatory to bind one’s captive. Other scenarios were not allowed. Letting them go was not an option. To me this seemed like metagaming. Surely once captured there was a possibility that one might escape, or offer to change sides, or offer information for one’s release. The rules dictated that the only option was bondage. At first, I saw an amazing array of detailed and exceptionally violent role plays involving captives. Eventually I chose to remain in the temple and avoid combat scenarios as much as possible.
Notecard – Role Play Example: Capture
When you capture an opponent, their meter shows that they are caged and down. In role play, that means they are unconscious/knocked out and or wounded. Your capture is down for 4 min. You have 4 min then to emote checking the captive for their weapons, taking their weapons, tossing aside, and or destroying their weapons. You then must emote taking out rope or straps of some type, placing the rope or strap around the wrists/arms and tying a knot securely. You must then again emote the same process for the legs. Once that is complete, you may then click on your captives cage and have them bound. To leash your captive and take them with you, you must then emote tying a leash to them and then dragging them away. Here is an example: "Walks over to the barbarian and picks up his bow" "Taking the bow, I smash it over my knee and toss the pieces to the side" "I then check the barbarian for other weapons, take those weapons and toss them far away hidden from sight" "I take rope from my belt and grab the arms, wrapping the rope around the wrists, ties a knot and making sure it is secure" "I then move to the legs wrap them as well and tie a secure knot" "I take some more rope and thread it thru the bindings making a leash" "I then drag the captive off with me" While that emote is not the greatest example of role play, it is basic, effective and works. We all know that in live combat situations, it is difficult to take the time to emote a lot of descriptive narrative. So, the example above is considered a MIN effort in role play capture binding. You may of course do more if time allows, and also engage your captive once they start to become more conscious (as their meter clocks down). You can emote getting your captive to speak to you, if you desire, by kicking them, pouring water on them, or other ways to get them to talk. That's part of the fun of role play. If you are captured, it means that you are to lay still. You may emote being knocked out or wounded, but, you cannot engage in dialogue with your opponent, unless of course they emote waking you up. In other words, you can't talk to each other directly. While you are down, you may emote that you are wounded, or are bleeding etc. Please be aware however, that those wounds, if too severe will stop you from escaping later if you have the chance. As as example you emote that you have been badly wounded and cannot be dragged away without the dragging killing you. Or that you are badly wounded and you are bleeding to death and need a physician. Your opponent may just let you bleed to death and help you to die rather then get you help to live. Remember, role play is a series of actions and reactions, so like chess, think your moves ahead of the emote. Here is an example: "Having been hit and down, I lay here, the blood dripping from my mouth" "Unconscious, I cough up blood onto the hot sand" "I cough again and again, the blood now oozing out of my mouth" "I feel myself coming in and out of consciousness, losing blood now I don't know if I can make it" "I awaken (the meter timed out), to find myself tied up and choking on the taste of dried blood and sand in my mouth" "Water, I cry out.....WATER!" Then someone says....... "Dude, we are in the fuckn desert ok, you suck at rp, so shut up. If you don't shut the fuck up, Im gonna kill you" THAT IS NOT ROLE PLAY. THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. Do we all see the difference here?
A huge range of props for bondage and torture were for sale in the Marketplace. One could purchase wounds to apply to make one appear bloodied, or burnt, or a whole range of unpleasant outcomes. Certain role players would invariably rape and torture their captives. The vizier was notorious for this. She was also notorious for not waiting until one was captured in order to do so. This is yet another example of how Horemheb would set rules but then selectively enforce them on the basis of whether or not he liked the person or if he thought it might be fun not to.
The following notecard example was produced by the priests and gives an example of how to role play greetings. This card is quite different in character from the capture example card. Obviously it is written in an entirely different register from the combat card. But most notably the capture card could be for any capture sim in Second Life, while the greeting example card conveys information specific to role playing in ancient Egypt.
Notecard – Role Play Example: Greetings
For some of you reading this, Role Play (RP) is a new concept, for others RP has been practiced over many different peoples and places, in either case, RP here in ancient Egypt is new to all of us. Simply stated, each of us are learning, growing, and developing our RP as we move forward. What we do and say, and how we act and behave, others will notice and take note, copy or try and imitate. Watching and listening to others is a great way to develop some of your RP. In addition, there are and will be visitors from other lands who will come here seeking to RP with us. Their impression of our RP will be based upon you, and first impressions, in this case, mean a lot. Taking RP seriously, for some may seem a chore, or work, (you should be reading and getting familiar with the history of ancient Egypt), yet this "homework" will help you to better understand and communicate more effectively with others in RP. This basic platform of knowledge allows you to take on your role with more confidence. Once you feel confident in your RP, well, that's where the fun begins. RULE #1: While you can see and read others Titles and profile pages, you do not, and can not, use that information in ROLE PLAY. If you meet someone for the first time, you must RP finding out who they are, where they are from, what they do etc. Sometimes, looking at what they wear gives you some clues. As an example, generally, when you see a Roman, they will look like a Roman would, so you could assume that you are talking to a Roman. If you see that their title says, Roman senator, but they do not say that to you, then you don't know that they are a senator. If you ask them in RP, "what business do you have here Roman?" and they say to you "I come from the Senate of Rome, with business for the Pharaoh", you now know they are a Senator. Here are some basic examples of how to greet: Standards/Examples for Role Play. Greetings. Pharaoh: If in range to greet the Pharaoh, you first would bow, then give praise. Then be silent and wait. Example: Sees his/her God approaching and bows to his divine presence. 1. "My god, please forgive this one for being in your sight, I am not worthy of such an honor. 2. "His Majesty, lord of the two lands, praise the son of Ra" 3. "Praise to my God, my Egypt, I am your humble servant" Anything like that. If you are not sure, just IM others and ask. Never use the word "Pharaoh" to address your God. Depending upon your level and or who is around the Pharaoh at the time, he may speak to others and have them speak to you, or he may address you himself. If he does not speak to you, you bow again, back up and walk away. Most people would never see the Pharaoh up close, never mind have a chance to speak to him. If they did get close enough, they would be overwhelmed. The Pharaoh to all is a living God. The link between all Egyptians and the Gods. Royalty: All are greeted with full title if you have met them before. If not, and you can tell by their dress that they are royal, then assume it and greet them. "I give praise and greeting to the royal house of Egypt" or "Em Hotep, I am your humble servant" All: "Em Hotep" Leaving. Pharaoh: Bow and walk backward giving praise. Royal: Bow and walk backward with salutation "Senebty (whomever)" All: "Senebty"
- Moby Games, Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, https://www.mobygames.com/game/maniac-mansion-day-of-the-tentacle, Accessed 09/02/2014. ↩︎
- Sao, A., Lowell, J., (2007), Gorean Meter, http://gm.mivabe.nl/, Accessed 09/02/2014. ↩︎
- A set of controls that are only accessible to the sim owner and which allow the control of all aspects of the management of the sim. See – http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Estate_Menu ↩︎
- Smith Micro Software, Inc., Poser 3D Animation & Character Creation Software, https://www.posersoftware.com/ (original citation URL – now 404 http://poser.smithmicro.com/, Accessed 02/04/2014) ↩︎
- QAvimator, QAvimator, https://qavimator.bitbucket.io/ (Original citation URL – now 404 – http://qavimator.org, Accessed 02/04/2014) ↩︎