Time after time, however, discussions and opinions emerge about the right way to roleplay. Discussion and arguments tend to gravitate around these issues:
- Player knowledge vs. character knowledge - some people believe that as a role-playing exercise, the integrity of the experience is compromised if a character acts on knowledge that he/she cannot possibly have. This includes the location of secret doors and traps, the weaknesses of certain monsters, and creating gunpowder in a campaign where the tech level just doesn't support it. Other believe that since it's a game, past meta-gaming experience should inform current gameplay -- otherwise we're just gonna keep getting killed in the same damn area by the same badly-designed killer dungeon.
- Player skill vs. character skill - if you are naturally charming and cunning, then your skill at bargaining, lying, and seducing people at the gaming does not stem from your character's abilities but from your own. Some styles of play support this, and encourage otherwise not-so outgoing players to stretch themselves a bit. On the other hand, if your character is clearly a stupid oaf in conception, coming up with an uncharacteristically brilliant idea also stretches credulity.
- Character-is-me vs. character-isn't-me - some people create characters that are slightly better/worse/different versions of themselves, while others create very different characters each time character creation rolls around. The former are sometimes looked down upon for being not very original, while the latter run the risk of being labeled drama-hogs and frustrated thespians. Both tend to incur this type of loss of respect if their role-playing habits or personalities (real of affected) rub other players the wrong way a lot.
- Roll-playing vs. Role-playing - seemingly the opposite of the first two issues, this centers around a player (and sometimes GM) reliance on the dice to determine everything, regardless of the skill, decisions and gameplay involved.
In my personal opinion, the issues mentioned above aren't a black & white thing (you either are, or you aren't crap). Normally, there are gradations along a continuum along with other mitigating circumstances that complicate them.
Will try to tackle each of these issues one-by-one to see how the possible histories and nuances of these issues may have come about, and how the may be resolved at the game table.