Role-playing Role-playing and You: A Cautionary Must-Read for New Players

Discussion in 'Forum Games & Online Tournaments' started by 765Bro, Dec 15, 2012.

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  1. 765Bro

    765Bro Hibiki...~

    So you saw the shiny new sub-forum, and you want to be a part of it! Fantastic, but first I'd like to take some time and explain just what a roleplay is, and how you can contribute to it.

    Before we begin, please remember that all global forum rules apply here as well.
    What's a roleplay?
    A roleplay, or "RP", is a semi-improvised story built by users interactions through characters of a fictional setting. After creating an original character, or "OC", and joining an RP, players will take turns writing and acting from the perspective of their characters to advance the story and obtain some sort of goal. It's not so much a "game" as it is both creative writing and acting, but it's very enjoyable and satisfying as well. Our subforum will feature roleplays of all genres, both Pokemon based and otherwise.

    Roleplayers, or "RPers", are the actors of the characters of their own design. It's the roleplayers' responsibility to remain active in the roleplay, contributing to the development of the plot through well-written and rules-abiding posts. These rules and character requirements are to be designed by the GM. However, it’s a general rule to be creative with your characters, so please avoid too many overbearing similarities between your character and another one from any other form of media. There may be some exceptions, so don’t hold this advice steadfast and ask your GM for clarification on their policy.

    The original poster of the RP thread, sometimes referred to as a "GM" (Gamemaster), should provide about a paragraph of introduction, explaining the basics of the story, as well as a general format for interested players to submit their "character application". I advise all GMs to impose a reasonably small character limit, (A more popular roleplay is more difficult to manage, and less likely to succeed) with priority to those with the most well-written character applications. It's also recommend you briefly outline rules or refer players to these guidelines to dictate good and successful roleplaying.

    Out-of-character, or “OOC”, discussion is allowed in the same thread you are roleplaying if. It’s recommended that you ask questions about other players’ actions or character within that thread, for transparency. Signify the OOC dialogue by using (any) ((combination)) [of] [[brackets]]. I personally use [[the double squares. (Because I like the option to use inner thought even out-of-character.)]].

    Retconning, a blend of both retroactive and continuity, is the act of explaining or changing a previous event, or attaching new significance to it. In a roleplay setting, it means to go back and undo a players’ unwanted actions. This could be to repair the damage of godmodding, or to settle a conflict between actions. It’s up to the GM to employ a “retcon” as necessary to smooth over these problems: The less retconning, the better as it wastes the time and effort of the roleplayers as well as can cause great confusion. This should be avoided, but is ultimately a necessary technique in roleplaying and shouldn’t be worked around for that sake.

    I don’t enforce word limit of your post, so single, short OOC questions are allowed in the same thread you roleplay in. I recommend asking for clarification from the player or players you are interacting with before proceeding if you are unsure. It can save much retconning, and subsequently time as well as avoids disputes.

    Guidelines to Good Roleplaying
    Alright, here's a big one. This is probably the biggest pitfall to all new roleplayers, even those experienced with creative writing before. The difference between roleplaying and creative writing, is you only control one of the characters.
    That is to say, it's a universal tried-and-true rule that you cannot be God. If it seems "cheap" or unfair, it's cheating and no one wants that. As plainly obvious as it may seem on paper, it's a very common error among roleplayers and a very grave one. It's a sign of both immaturity as well as thoughtlessness. To explain in detail, I'd like to go over a few of the various and many examples of what most will consider "godmodding".

    1. Controlling another's character without permission.
    The enjoyment of roleplaying is derived from playing a role! When you take the power to play that role away from the roleplayer, you're bound to upset someone- especially considering the attachment a roleplayer forms with his character. Some fighting roleplays or fighting scenes might encourage you to create a full "combo" of actions, emulating the fast-pace of a fight. In response, the technique "combo-breaking" is to be expected- having the other character or another character begin acting right in the middle of the other combatants post and interrupting or changing the outcome of the events.
    The general rule of thumb is that you should never assume what another character would do. A shorter post is usually perferred, if you require another character's response in order to proceed.
    A BAD example would be:
    2. Dodging many or every attack without explanation or justification.
    If you can't explain or justify how you dodged the attack, you can't dodge it. Be reasonable and realistic. (For the setting.) It's always a kind gesture, as well as helps to advance the scene, to at least take some wounds from most attacks. Along with not being God, you are also not Neo.
    A BAD example would be:
    A GOOD example would be:
    3. One-hit kills and undodgeable attacks, or both without explanation or justification.
    The rules above apply here as well. Not only are you taking power away from the other roleplayer, but you really need to justify anything that might instantly kill someone. Try and avoid these in most cases.
    A BAD example would be:
    4. Mind manipulation
    This is some gray-area. When used responsibily, psychic characters might find this fair game, but ultimately it still falls under example 1. Please excercise caution when playing psychic characters, and take care not to overuse or overpower this ability.
    A BAD example would be:
    5. Overpowered characters
    Overpowered characters, something abbreviated into "OP" or referred to as a "Mary-Sue", are characters that are unbalanced by comparison to the others. Don't be an EX among Stage-1's. Don't be a Legendary among Babies. This rule is simple enough, and is largely covered by rules above.
    A BAD example would be:
    As long as this section might be, these are staple rules that are widely followed by most roleplayers. If you heed only one of these guidelines, let it be this one. I won't hestitate to enforce this, and GM's shouldn't hesitate to report it to me.
    Guideline Number Two: Blocking Vs. Accepting Offers:
    Just like in standard improv, a story can only progress with an open mind. If you’ve ever taken drama, you should already understand the importance of accepting offers to drive the plot. If someone makes a plan, go along with it! Even if it isn’t the smart one, or the right one, it might be the fun one. Everyone has a dumb idea now and then, but please be nice to one another. Take the unexpected or strange option once in awhile. While it may not bring you any closer to your goal or may not be what you want to do, there could be a chance for some great character development or exciting treasure and battles.
    That said, if it is physically not possible to go somewhere or do something, there’s no reason to arbitrarily attempt it, or open an entire side-plot of trying to achieve it. Put plainly, this shouldn’t even be a problem if you don’t have dumb ideas. :p
    On the reverse, please don’t take always be the one to drive the story. Take the backseat every so often, and apply the Golden Rule: Treat them as you wish to be treated. With considerate give and take, all the players can influence the plot and get along.
    Guideline Number Three: Explanation and Justification:
    This is an important one, obvious as it may seem to anyone with experience in creative writing. Details, details, details! There’s no word-limit, and longer posts are certainly encouraged when they can be mustered. Roleplaying is largely an exercise of imagination; and to truly immerse the other players in that experience you should provide a description of all your actions, trivial as they may be. This guideline is especially true in combat scenes, where “combo-breaking”and the actions of other fighters largely hang on how you performed yours.

    Not only this, but as I’d detailed in the Godmodding section, explanation and justification are vital to balancing. Naturally, Exploud can’t learn SmellingSalt, but if you argued it was chain bred on… That is to say, even an obscure explanation can justify what you’re doing. The more reasonable and simple the explanation the better, especially in combat (In which the other player might be a little bit more critical of your explanations…) but that’s not to say you should shy away from fun and surprising actions.
    This isn’t to say we’re looking to be baffled by your irrefutable physics and application of humid wind mirrors and applied Phlebotinum, so please consider a safe medium between the two extremes.
    A BAD example would be:
    A GOOD example would be:
    Guideline Number Four: SPELLING AND GRAMMAR PLZ !:
    Here’s a personal pet peeve of mine, so please take note. Most practiced roleplayers tend to be quite the writers, and thus value both spelling and grammar quite a bit. If you can’t be bothered with the latter, please at the very least follow the former. Spelling is incredibly important not only for conveying the intended meaning, but it projects a poor an uneducated appearance of yourself. Take care to maintain adequate writing or legibility, or I can guarantee that people will begin to avoid interacting with your characters. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t spell the word, find a new one or find out how. New and inexperienced roleplayers or writers are obviously given some generous leeway, but strive to improve yourself down the road.
    You are, however, free to spell out accents as you see fit; so long as you demonstrate adequate spelling throughout the rest of the post.

    This is another guideline I intend to maintain judiciously, but despite that I hope I’m not scaring any of you away. Slight spelling mistakes are natural and I’m sure I've encountered more than my fair share of breaches of grammar. (They say roleplaying is hyphenated. Go figure.)

    A BAD example would be:
    A GOOD example would be:
    Guideline Number Five: Flawed Characters are Realistic Characters:
    Plots advance through struggles, and along with God and Neo, you’re not Superman either. I know, cruel world. That said, flawed characters are dynamic, have opportunity for development, and have interesting weaknesses to exploit. Give him a phobia, or maybe he’s not the best reader in the world. Utilize trade-offs to balance your character, such as lowering his physical constitution in exchange for magical inclinations or uncanny luck. A step further is to feign obliviousness. As much as you know that something is hidden under that rock, your character has no reason to check under it. Even better would be to take the backseat and not have a plan for once. Can’t find the secret cave entrance, hidden under that rock? See if someone else has an idea, rather than a queer six-sense of hidden rock-entrances.

    Roleplaying Formats:
    Your format of choice is important, as it dictates your level and skill of roleplaying at a glance. While you should certainly strive for “traditional story format”, outlined below, new players might feel more accustomed to either of the other formats. This is not necessarily a bad way to ease yourself into roleplaying, but it’s not suited to the slower and more wordy pace of forum-based roleplays. If you think you can manage or have experience in creative writing, I urge you to move towards the traditional story format and encourage you to refer to Guideline #3 for guidance in that regard. It’s a much more immersive and powerful experience.
    Instant-messaging format:
    This is one of the worst habits to get stuck in, but is a common hang-up for roleplayers adjusting from roleplaying over instant-messengers, from which the name is deriven. Though similar to the script format, it drops the titles before the text. This limits the roleplayer to only acting one character at a time, as well as weakens the intricacy of your actions.
    An example is:
    Script format:
    Exactly as it sounds, the script format is named for its resemblance to scripts actors might use in a play. Though similar to the instant-messaging format, the names placed in front of actions or dialogue allow the roleplayer the freedom to use multiple characters.
    An example is:

    Traditional story format:
    The standard format for authors of books, short stories, and more importantly: roleplaying. It is the most professional looking of any format, promoting both a descriptive post and a pleasingly immersive setting. It complements the use of more than one character, and can be written in present or past-tense. It’s recommended you double-space between paragraphs as well, but this is semantics.
    An example is:
    The Drive:
    This could loosely be considered the type of roleplay you want to start. It consists of two types: Character-driven, and plot-pulled.

    Character-driven RPs are very much similar to what you might call a “forum-game RP”. The GM doesn’t generally have a full-fledged plot, so the characters decisions and actions will influence the direction of events. The GM will still provide the various enemies to fight and settings you encounter, but who those enemies are, what settings, and why are largely based off your characters’ actions. The GM may have a small direction he’d like the characters to follow, but isn’t a strong or definite enough one to pull the story.

    Contrast to character-driven, plot-pulled roleplays are much more structured. The GM knows what he wants to happen, and how. The GM should be careful not to “railroad” or commit the players to that path, going as far as to sabotage other directions, but should certainly encourage a definite path to the defined goal. The GM wants to see the characters’ reactions to the situations he provides, rather than the situations they make.

    Both types are equally acceptable, but the decision usually boils down to how confident you are and how much effort you’ve put into your plot. The more confident you are in your story, the stronger the pull in that direction.

    Your First Post:
    So you’re all set for roleplaying! But after your application has been accepted and the roleplay has officially started… What do you do? Your first post should be thoughtful and informative, introducing the other players to your character and establishing some basic and dominant personality traits, as well as appearance and maybe even some backstory or mood. It should be one of your longer posts in the roleplay, attracting an interaction by providing either an interesting character arc or some other kind of hook. By providing this information, you not only establish you and your character’s presence but also encourage the story’s progression. This is also your first impression, so please take special care to correct spelling and grammar, and provide plenty of description.

    A BAD example would be:
    A GOOD example would be:
    What a wordwall, eh? But I certainly hope it’s been an informative one, and that I’ve covered everything that can be taught about roleplaying without actual experience. But now it’s up to you! I encourage you to go and join one of the new roleplays, and put to practice what you’ve just learned.

    If you have any questions about the guidelines, or need specific assistance with roleplaying, I would be more than happy to help. Please feel free to post on my profile or privately message me! Likewise, if you find anything lacking in the above or disagree with any of my proposed guidelines, I’m always open to suggestions or criticisms and look forward to fine-tuning these expectations to our general consensus.

    If you have a complaint about another user, please do not at all hesitate to privately message me. I’d like to handle matters before behavior gets out of hand, because I’d hate to have to be the one to break up a fight. Please exercise sympathy, patience, and compassion with our other roleplayers.

    Experienced roleplayers, I hope I can count on your patience and cooperation with those just learning, and I hope that those inexperienced will be mindful and receptive to your advice.

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