Roleplaying in SL: Lessons Learnt from Lost & Found

If you’ve been following my blog for the last few months you’ll know I’ve been musing on the nature and mechanics of roleplaying in SL. Indeed, it was those conversations that led me directly to leave HBA Island and join Steelhead. Once in that fair city I immediately set about embroiling myself in a complex storyline of lost memories, assumed identities and exploding laboratories and is this experience I’d like to talk about here.

To start with the “Lost & Found” tale was just collaborative writing RP with a few photos thrown in which, bar the collaborative stuff, is meat & potatoes to me as that’s how I’ve always done all my RP, simple tales told by a simple bugger on a simple blog with some pictures sprinkled hither and yon for good measure.

Apart from plot ideas from Darien, the collaborative bit wasn’t, at first, really all that collaborative. I merely approached the other folks involved with IMed or emailed requests to involve their characters and then asked them to OK the draft results to ensure I captured them correctly and that I hadn’t dropped a ruddy huge clanger. I was bowled over by people’s enthusiasm to read through a post and agree or amend & agree it – this meant not only was the turn around time for posts really quick, but I knew that they were all happy with their ‘parts’.

Collaboration really began by accident. I was out taking pictures of Steelhead just near the lab when TotalLunar Elipse, the estate manager, turned up. We got to chatting and IMing about OOC issues. I asked him about the pentacle in the Labs and bang! we fell into IC RPing – it was my first time and he was very gentle 😉

I gained a lot from this – in fact it altered the direction of the tale as Lunar downloaded a lot of history and information in that one encounter and I began to plot immediately how I could work it all into a post.

From there I had some very fruitful email conversations with Annechen Lowey and Amarantis Belfire – both were kind enough to read my draft offerings and help flesh them out until I could see the finished post before me.

So far so good – writing and photographing on my own, emailing to & fro with others and even an in-world, in-character exchange. This was, using my earlier definitions, Written and Character RP in action and was obviously producing some small measure of Community RP as a small handful of other Steelheadians had linked to my tale in their own, a big result for me I should add 🙂 But what of Event RP?

Well, dear reader, let me enlighten you as to my plans right from the start – the destruction of Mason Labs and cruel injury of our hero, HBA. And to do this I wanted to burn down the lab in an act of community supported Event RP (in the end I opted for an explosion, but the plan was the same). I talked to Darien, Lunar, Anechen & Amarantis right from the start and then nearer the time IMed & emailed my neighbours to explain my plans and to ask if they’d be willing to help out by allowing wreckage to be strewn across their plots and even damaging their buildings. To my amazement all but one replied and all those said yes! The only problem was I had no idea how to do it* 😀

In the end it proved easier than I had imagined – I deleted the lab on the land (I couldn’t edit the pieces as they weren’t mine and the person they belonged to is no longer in SL) and used my PrimFinder tool to make some simple jagged shapes which I them textured as metal and scattered about. I also bought some smoke scripts and bunged them into transparent prims to make the wreckage look hot.

Destroying the lab

Destroying Mason Lab

Destroying Mason Lab

One Bloody Big Cog

I then tested out some explosives I’d bought for the end of <a href=””>The Lost Journal</a> and I found some excellent free sculptie fire that grows, smokes and dies all on its own.

Firefighting in Steelhead

Firefighting in Steelhead

Lost and Found - Explosion 1

It was as I was testing this lot that I ballsed up. I was showing my friend Warren Daines and, in the spirit of goofing about, we announced FIRE! in the group chat. Within 30 seconds we were involved in the roleplay I had planned, except it had all been arranged with my neighbours to take place three days later! They then had to rush about placing wreckage and damaging buildings – I felt a right berk!

Lost & Found Chapter 11

Lost & Found Chapter 12 - Epilogue

Lost & Found Chapter 12 - Epilogue

Anyhoo, as it turned out it went well and people enjoyed it – it even got a mention in dispatches:


Mason Labs in Steelhead Harborside was accidentally blown up. Several pieces of debris landed on homes, the bridge, and underwater. We ask that you not try to move the objects as they’re being tested to make sure they don’t have any sort of contaminant and we don’t want someone accidentally squishing themselves.

The Steelhead Sentinel

So what lessons have I learnt?

Communication is vital and planning is a must. But don’t pop your cork earlier than you promised 😀

Now… Let’s get one with another, shall we?

* Lunar had a good tip for destroying a building which I would never have thought of – turn the pieces of the building (or in my case, the wreckage) physical and watch it fall, then turn them all non-physical… et voila! One destroyed building. I recently saw a good example of this here.


  1. Very nice behind the scenes explanation HB, I think it sounds like you and Lunar did a really good job on the communication side of this.

    And I was thinking that perhaps the “oops the fuze was too short” probably made it a little bit more fun for the neighbors and elicited some spontaneous reactions. I say this because–as someone who has witnessed or participated in a number of dynamite-based remodeling projects–the surprise factor adds a distinct element of fun to the proceedings.

    Just last week, Caed, one of the Deadwood owners, decided to blow up his Whitewood saloon, just for the fun of it and to make life a bit more interesting for the residents.

    It was a Complete Surprise, no one knew it was coming as far as I could tell, but in short order we had all kinds of people crawling over the ruins, looking for survivors, looting, etc. Yours truly had even borrowed a team of draft horses and was using them to drag away bigger pieces from the rubble pile when there was a secondary explosion. I had to rp chasing those frightened horses halfway across the sim.

    Anyhow it was grand fun, and I know some people were sort of sad they missed it, but after reading your piece here, it struck me maybe there is an “in-between” strategy that could be applied to this kind of project. One could combine the communication element and the serendipity of surprise, and in essence, do what you did, but do it on purpose: i.e., let everyone know that you are going to blow up something, make sure they are cool with having debris come though their living room, but then only give a range of time when the big boom might happen. Then they could sort of be prepared, but still have some of the surprise fun factor.

    Planning is good, but sometimes you get some of the best reactions if the partygoers don’t know exactly when the girl will jump out of the cake or what she’ll be wearing.

    1. Aye, you’re right there – RP needs surprise to be fun otherwise it’s just, well… planned 🙂 I think the biggest problem I have in that is that my online times don’t coincide with many folks being online & in Steelhead. So to pop the cork a few days early and have the folks I had turn up was a really nice surprise.

      I’m working with Lunar (who is very time limited at the moment and not very well) and a few others on my next RP idea – if it comes off I think it’ll be amazing (even if I do say so myself) and should be able to include many more folks. Hmmm, I wonder if we can get people together under false pretences and then spring the surprise… I’ll speak to Lunar ;-D

      p.s. I hope you’ll be writing about the saloon explosion on your blog soon mate 🙂

  2. I am glad you have learned how to blow things up in SL …. now WHEN will you learn more about BUILDING? HUH? HUH? HUH? … btw, are we there yet?

  3. This reminds me of the time I had the grand opening of the Brownstone West in Nova Albion back in ’04. We had packed out Cafe Jack, standing room only, and right in the middle of my speech Mom ran in all upset because she had lost her locket. She had been been exploring the Forest of Kahruvel earlier that day and hadn’t noticed the disappearance until after she had returned to the cafe. Well, we all busted a move to the Rodeo region (porting in to the the Noyo Telehub first as that was how ports were routed back then). I’ll never forget the sight of all of us materializing in Noyo and then flying up and over the ridge into Rodeo. Quite a sight! We spent a good 20-30 minutes rooting around in the tahra before Loki Pico finally located her locket under one of the columns that had long fallen over up near the standing stones on the bluff in the northeast part of Rodeo. Boy was she ever relieved! The posting about that day, and everyone’s impressions of it, was lost when the Lab’s update of the forums to an unfortunate turn. We lost a whole series of forum posts spanning, I think, a few months period. Oh well. The memories live on! Sometimes the most unexpected things happen when folks are already assembled for an entirely unrelated event.

  4. This is the post that still survives which I made a few days before the section of posts went missing containing the aforementioned Grand Opening event post:

    (I have always wondered if that was a mere accident or a purposeful move on the Lab’s part. There were many revealing posts made during that time. I wish we had the ability to see an archive of those posts.)

  5. Also, we had so many folks packed into Rodeo that day that it winked out and we were all momentarily tossed into the Void until the Grid rerouted us back to Noyo. That only happened once though. Perhaps they beefed up the grid borders once the circuit breakers had been flipped back into place.

  6. Os: You mean the animals for kitty’s act? I did wonder why they fell and not the fish, but never thought to ask 😀

    Sal: Thanks for the link and I’m only sorry that LL lost the record of what sounded like a very fun event in Kahruvel’s history. Maybe some of the people there kept snapshots from the time?

    I will have to ensure that unexpected things are allowed to happen in future endeavours, I feel 🙂

  7. Scripting is easy; it’s the builders I admire. 🙂

    It would be simple to add any existing particle effect (that you have the code for) to the script. That would make the particle effect go off only from the root prim. The only way I can think of to cause a particle effect to go off from multiple prims is to drop the relevant particle script (modified appropriately) into some subset of (or all of) the prims in the thing to be exploded.

    We really need an llLinkParticleSystem(); I’ll have to see if there’s a JIRA on that…

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