Last year at MystiCon, I had the privilege of meeting a man named Brian Rucker. He played in all three of the Traveller games I ran there and was kind enough to purchase three of my books. My wife and I had an opportunity to spend a little time with him and he was a great guy.
I shared a few emails with him after the convention and then heard nothing from him for a few weeks. I checked his FB page and was saddened and horrified to find that he had died just a day or two after the final email he had sent me.
Tonight, I ran across an article written about Brian. He was known as "Oddjob" on several forums and, apparently, in the MMORPG community. At any rate, within this article, the author shared a list of rules on playing MMORPGs that I think not only apply well to RPGs in general, but could be taken as good advice for any activity.
Those rules are:
1) My character belongs to me; your character belongs to you. We don't have to RP together if our styles of RP or the narrative goals of our characters don't mesh. We're not bad people or elitists if we recognize this. It means we're smart people who recognize the best time to say "no" is as soon as possible.
2) Never tolerate pressure to conform, especially if it violates the above rule.
3) Know the setting and use the setting as an inspirational device to create characters and situations that evoke the setting. Never use your knowledge of the setting to make another player feel foolish because odds are it only makes you look like a jerk. Be prepared to recognize that other people may have distinct versions of the setting themselves and that they could be right about some things or wrong to an incompatible extent. If disparate visions create too much dissonance to sustain suspension of disbelief, see rules 1 and 2.
4) Be patient with new roleplayers and non-roleplayers. That's where we all came from. However, we're under no obligation to entertain others if we're not being entertained back. Some players are gifted with the great compassion and patience to be wonderful helpers. Some aren't. Know which you are, help if you can, but if not, avoid nasty comments and get back to your own business. Catty asides reflect poorly on you, and veteran RPers will assume you are insecure in your own abilities if you appear compelled to trash less-experienced roleplayers.
5) If you're not having fun, take a break. Maybe a long one. While we do make friends and form longlasting communities here and in other MMOs, ultimately, this is just a game. It's not real life. When people or situations get you down or stressed or bored or irritable, maybe you just need some quality time away from the game. It'll be here when you come back, and people always seem happy to see someone who's returned after a long absence.
6) Pay attention. If you can, use a character's name, make reference to his past, or banter cleverly based on something the other person's said to make people feel drawn into the RP all the more. Ultimately, wealth in a roleplaying community isn't based on items or credits but on connections and reputation both IC and OOC. Each time you go out of your way to acknowledge someone, you're giving him a tip -- the same when someone singles you out for some comment or RP. Even when meeting new people, try to draw them out. Get them interested in what's happening, and often, the best way to do that is to ask them about them.