Trolling

meaning and definition

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    What is trolling?

    Trolling in a roleplaying context refers to behaviors intended to disrupt gameplay, provoke other players, or derail the narrative of the game.

    Trolls often engage in actions or dialogue that breaks game immersion, antagonizes players, or leads to non-constructive outcomes. Their tactics can vary from sarcastic remarks and annoying other characters to more severe disruptions like spamming the game channel or intentionally misusing game mechanics.

    Historically, the term originates from a fishing technique that involves dragging a baited line behind a boat, metaphorically used to describe the way trolls bait their targets into reactions.

    Over time, trolling has evolved from mere playful mischief to a label for a range of problematic online behaviors.

    Today, trolls can be found across a wide variety of roleplaying games (RPGs), including MMORPGs, tabletop games, MOBAs, FPS, and more.


    Trolling FAQs

    How does trolling impact a roleplaying game?

    Trolling can significantly undermine the player experience in a roleplaying game. It disrupts the flow of gameplay and narrative coherence, which can frustrate players and diminish the fun. Persistent trolling might lead to players leaving the game or refusing to interact with the troll, potentially causing the game to fall apart.

    What can game masters do to manage trolling?

    Game masters (GMs) can manage trolling by setting clear rules about acceptable behavior within their games and consistently enforcing them. They can use tools like mute or ban functions for severe cases, or redirect gameplay through narrative control. Open communication with players about expectations and the types of behavior that won’t be tolerated is also important.

    Are there different types of trolls in games?

    Yes, there are several types of trolls in games including:

    • Flame trolls who instigate conflicts and hostility among players.
    • Grief trolls who derive pleasure from causing distress to others by disrupting the game.
    • Spam trolls who flood channels with irrelevant messages.

    Each type employs different methods to disrupt or manipulate the game dynamics and player interactions.

    How can players differentiate between trolling and playful banter?

    The key difference between trolling and playful banter lies in intent and impact. Playful banter is consensual and contributes positively to the gaming experience, enhancing enjoyment for all involved. Trolling, however, is non-consensual, aims to provoke or upset other players, and generally has a negative impact on the game.

    Can trolling ever be a positive element in a game?

    While typically seen as negative, trolling can occasionally add unexpected twists or challenges to a game if done with the consent of all players involved. Some groups might welcome light-hearted trickery that adds to the story, provided it doesn’t harm the game’s integrity or player enjoyment. For the most part, however, trolling is a term applied to unwanted behavior.

    Myths about trolling

    Trolls are always malicious. Not all trolls engage in their behaviors with harmful intentions. Some might not understand the impact of their actions or might think they’re just playing harmless pranks.

    Trolling is easy to stop. Stopping a determined troll can be challenging, especially in games with open or public communication channels. If warning and then muting/silencing the offending player don’t work, moderators may need to resort to either a temporary ban or permaban.

    All disruptive players are trolls. Some players might appear disruptive due to misunderstanding the game rules or dynamics, rather than an intent to troll. This can happen when there’s a mismatch in expectations between the player and the game’s existing community.

    Trolling examples

    • In a text-based RP game, a player consistently uses their character to steal items from other players without good reason, causing unnecessary conflict and disrupting the collaborative story.
    • A player enters a roleplaying forum and posts off-topic messages repeatedly to derail ongoing story threads.
    • During a strategic multiplayer session, one player pretends to cooperate with others only to betray them at a critical moment, aiming to provoke outrage rather than to advance the plot.
    • A character in a roleplay repeatedly breaks the fourth wall, making out-of-character (OOC) comments that confuse the narrative for others.

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."