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I know, and have been told, that I miss social cues when roleplaying. This isn't a terribly huge deal when the social contract is well-set and explicitly communicated or the gameplay doesn't rely heavily on said social cues, such as in campaign-structured games using well-established systems. However, in narrative-driven, freer-form environments, especially those built around persistent worlds, the missed social cues cause me no end of grief. I get perceived as:

  • Obstructionist (i.e. My Guy Syndrome/not "going with the flow" of plots)
  • Aggressive/excessively competitive (as I latch onto systems and associated goals that are clearly present instead of seeking goals that further plots)
  • Not interested in others' stories or characters
  • Overly demanding (when I try to run a plot)

and my characters come off as too extreme in one dimension or another (overly hardened, overpowering, too geeky, too non-social, etal) as a result of this, as these social cues are often trying to communicate an unwritten social contract of gameplay.

So, how do I improve at reading these OOC social cues so that my RP future doesn't simply repeat the past? Keep in mind that much of my play, especially the more narrative-oriented stuff, happens online in text-only or sometimes text-and-voice environments, so whatever advice you give can't rely on the other participants being physically present. Also, explicit OOC communication is not a norm in these communities, as they lack the theoretical knowledge and understanding to explicitly state what they want, so trying to speak about this matter with them, or what the social norms of the community are for that matter, has proven unhelpful already.

Furthermore, trying to use RL social-cues resources to help with this problem has proved relatively unfruitful as they lack the RP-theory knowledge to understand how these problems manifest and find RP-specific cues and meanings. For instance, many of the other players I deal with will try to communicate OOC issues through IC social cueing, which is not an easy thing to explain to someone who isn't versed in RP to begin with.


One example of a combination of overly demanding and excessively aggressive comes from a villain and plot that fizzled in the planning stages. The protagonist in question was an engaged minor noble who had moved into his area and set up a noble house there, as well as finding a girlfriend; his player asked me to play some sort of antagonist for said protagonist. I came up with a jealous bastard half-brother who would stop at almost nothing to usurp the noble's power. For instance, framing the noble for a capital offense was on the table, and so was infiltrating and taking over said noble house, as well as tricking said girlfriend into having a child by said bastard sibling.

However, the player in question wanted none of it, as he was seeking a simple, relatively minor villain: "kidnap the girlfriend and perhaps hold her for ransom" vs. "trick the girlfriend into having a child by a bastard half-brother usurper or worse yet, usurp the house himself". Thus, the entire plot fizzled before it ever began. Interestingly enough, the other player, much later down the road, complained about a lack of mean characters in the RP world in question, although an attempt to bring up the complaint in light of his earlier objections was rejected with an "I don't have time for this".

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closed as off-topic by mxyzplk Jan 1 '17 at 4:11

  • This question does not appear to be about role-playing games within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know this is a RPG problem we can help you with - it's a general life skill. Do you really only have this problem while RPing? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 1 '17 at 4:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk -- I can work around this problem IRL by seeking out explicit instruction/advice on what various social cues mean in various contexts. However, the communities in question are not equipped to provide that level of advice to me re: RPing, hence the question here. \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay Jan 1 '17 at 4:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Right, so a basic issue that comes up in any online situation or IRL situation where you can't pause and get coaching from others. I'm sorry man, I don't think this is something that the experts here are expert at answering. Any meaningful answer won't be RPG experience, it'll be psych/life coach/communications experience. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 1 '17 at 4:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ You are welcome to get 5 people to reopen-vote, or to open a meta Q to discuss. But otherwise, yes. I don't think the OOC/IC divide is really relevant much at all, written/said social cues are written/said social cues. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 1 '17 at 4:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case That might be more constructive and lead to a sustained reopen, yes. It's hard to make statements regarding votes on the hypothetical after-edits form of a question though, hence “might”. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 1 '17 at 23:18