There's a large number of people out there that like role playing. After all, as much fun as it is to write stories with you as a main character, you can get a more direct feeling by acting it out spontaneously. As such, a large number of role-playing groups in MMORPGs, MUDs, fora and other media have started to pop up. They usually offer a particular concept to get things going.
However, as a general rule, the more open the recruitment and the more specific the concept, the faster it will mutate into something that the original members don't like. Obviously, change is a natural part of anything, but in open roleplaying, it's usually treated negatively. It will usually create a Broken Base, with the purists claiming that the new people are ruining the group. It usually doesn't end too well.
This decay can take at least six forms:
- Any tight restrictions will eventually be broken. If it was originally exclusive to female characters, expect it to come up with a flimsy reason to include male characters. Same goes with ethnicity, concept, etc. This can be explained by the fact that once a leader wants to include a friend, he will find a reason to include said friend.
- This can, however, sometimes occur in reverse. Whereas revolutionary events and game-wide plots are often triggered by individual members when a group is small and everybody trusts each other not to do anything stupid, as membership and popularity grows that trust is often eliminated by the introduction of disruptive players such as God Modders; as a result, the mods may find themselves imposing tighter and tighter restrictions on what players are allowed to do.
- Cerebus Syndrome applies here. Regardless how light-hearted the original concept was, expect it to be forgotten as people start role-playing Wangst and/or inserting Token Evil Teammates into groups of previously purely heroic characters. Reverse Cerebus Syndrome is also possible; a game may start out with a serious concept and gradually slip into farce as newer players enter (or the original players stop taking it seriously).
- If the group was originally a parody, expect it to lose that focus as people start joining it with the misguided notion that it actually is taking it seriously.
- In an MMORPG, if the group decides to take on another focus (e.g., endgame), expect the role-playing aspect to die off as people start joining specifically for such activities.
- Formerly group-oriented roleplaying becomes focused on a small, controlling group or even an individual; any RP not about that person or group becomes irrelevant, while that person or group become the center of all things. This often results in Continuity Lockout amongst newcomers who Can't Catch Up (due to not having the years worth of in-game resources and social bonds) and causes the old guard and thinking of them as disruptive for trying to get involved.
- A group is supposed to have a limited run, but due to its popularity the Game Masters artificially inflate the length or just abandon the idea of an endgame entirely. Can be another source of increasing restrictions on what players are allowed to do due to the desire to preserve the status quo eternally.
One additional form of Open Roleplaying Decay that appears in many MMORPGs is the loss of a roleplaying population; while random, 'in-the-field' roleplaying may initially be a particular server's bread-and-butter, the roleplaying will eventually lose steam, and confine itself to guild-centric RP (or the occasional one-off RP event). As a corollary, speculation or inquiring about the status of this process as it applies to, say, one game server vs. another is a great way to break the Internet.