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Secret Handshakes For Roleplayers



Like many roleplayers, I started roleplaying as a teenager, and then fell out of the hobby when the rest of my group decided that it was "childish", choosing instead to spend their Saturday evenings getting drunk and failing to sleep with women.

A few years later, newly friendless (the group had broken up because when we all finally managed to start sleeping with women, it turned out to be with the same two women) and very bored, I decided it would be good to get back into roleplaying.

It was at this point I found out something. It's quite hard to get into contact with roleplayers, which is confusing, because it always seems easy the first time round. You have a friend who roleplays and he introduces you to the hobby.

But this is one of those classic logic teasers, like not being able to use the implausibility of the universe to prove the existence of God. Since you get into roleplaying by having a friend who roleplays, it doesn't matter how unlikely having a friend who roleplays is.

Because if you hadn't had a friend who roleplayed, you'd never have got into roleplaying.

(I'll leave you guys to digest that thought for a moment).

The point is that it is only when you attempt to find a second person who roleplays that you find out how rare roleplayers are.

Except they're not rare, are they?

The Problem

The problem isn't that you don't know many roleplayers.

The problem is that for most (if not all) of the roleplayers you know, you don't actually know that they're roleplayers.

I come across quite a lot of people on-line (perhaps writing to me at Critical Miss, or posting on on-line forums) who are roleplayers who don't actually roleplay, because they've lost contact with their original roleplaying buddies and have been unable to find more.

Think how many roleplayers these people know. Not how many that they know to be roleplayers, but how many people they know who are roleplayers.

Confused? Let me explain.

Let's make up a bloke called Joe. Joe works as a programmer at Bloggs Industries. Bloggs employ two hundred people at the office where Joe works. A hundred of those are programmers or hardware people of some kind, while the other one hundred are accountants, secretaries and the big scary blokes who work in the warehouse who are probably pretty nice if you weren't scared as fuck when you went there that they'd grab you and put you through one of the packing machines---

Sorry, just working through my own personal hangups.

Okay, so we've got 100 geeks and 100 non-geeks. What are the odds that out of those 200 people, not a single one of them roleplays?

I'd say pretty low.

It's pretty likely that at least one, and perhaps two or even three of the geeks roleplay.

And that's just Joe's place of work.

Then there are other companies who Joe has to deal with, or perhaps even visits. There's the computer supplies shop that he buys his PC stuff from, with all the people who work there. There's the comics shop that he goes to. The list goes on and on.

Joe probably knows around 10 roleplayers, each of whom is in a separate group of perhaps 5 people, meaning that Joe has access to a pool of 50 roleplayers.

Except that he doesn't. Because he doesn't know that any of these people roleplays.

I once worked in a company just like Joe's.

Did I tell anyone that I roleplayed?

Did I bollocks!

I mean it's just not the sort of thing you talk about is it? It's career suicide. You'd do less damage to your prospects if you said you were into trainspotting or model railways. Roleplayers learn early on to not talk about it.

What We Need

We need a way in which a roleplayer can somehow give signals to people he comes into contact with which mark him as a roleplayer, but in a way which only other roleplayers would recognise.

The Solution

We need a secret handshake, just like the Freemasons have, although when I say "like", I mean similar in concept, not in actual execution. The last thing I want is for someone to end up joining the Masons under the mistaken belief that they were participating in a live action Call of Cthulhu game.

Well we ended up in this underground chamber, with this spiritual music playing, and loads of blokes standing around in robes and holding sceptres. I just thought, "Wow! Great costumes!"

So we need a special handshake, like the Masons have, but different.

How It Would Work

Every time you meet someone, such as when you've started a new job and are being introduced to the other members of your team, you'd shake hands with all of them, but you'd use the secret roleplayers handshake.

The non-roleplayers in your team wouldn't notice anything. But if one of your new colleagues was a roleplayer, he would take note of it. He wouldn't say anything at the time of course - not in front of the non-roleplayers. But later, perhaps when you met up by the coffee machine, or maybe via a secret email, he would make contact.

Other Signs

We also need other methods of making contact.

Perhaps we could come up with some kind of "abstract" symbol, which would mean nothing to non-roleplayers, and could therefore be left "lying around" for fellow roleplayers to notice.

If you had a pin board about your work desk for example, you could arrange the spare pins in an apparently random fashion that happened to form the "roleplaying sign". A fellow roleplayer, noticing the symbol, could later make secret contact with you.

Where To Go From Here

Having outlined the requirements, the next stage is to define the actual handshake and symbols. I can't actually think of anything in particular, and even if I could, I'm crap at drawing, so I wouldn't be able to communicate it.

So it's over to you guys. If any of you have ideas for either the handshake, a gesture, symbols or whatever, and can get them down on paper as some kind of diagram to be followed, then please sent them to me at and we can publish them in the next issue as candidates for review.

I look forward to hearing from you.

(Of course, this being Critical Miss, don't expect the next issue to be out anytime soon).

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