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PostPosted: 18 Jul 2010, 19:02 
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This is a thread for any new RPers or even old ones who need some advice on what RPing is about, the best way to do it, and how NOT to do it. This is mainly intended for anyone who either hasn't RPed before, or has but isn't sure the specifics of how it's done on the Comm, so it may seem rather elementary to some of our established RPers.

To start with: what is an RP? It's a Role Play. (I've always thought it should be RPG, being Role Playing Game, which is what all other genres of role-playing (tabletop, video game, etc) are known as, especially since "role-play is a verb-but *ahem* that's neither here nor there.) Role playing at its heart involves pretending to be someone you're not, but for the purposes of entertaining yourself rather than other people, which is what differentiates it from acting. Well, that and the fact that you have to decide everything your character will do and say rather than reading it from a script someone else wrote...and some other stuff involving costumes and money, but never mind all that. And no, in case you're wondering (and if you are, you've been sadly misinformed), role playing in any capacity is not evil, does not lead to suicide, and has nothing to do with Satan worshiping.

While role playing in tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, or in a video game, etc, is governed by rules that limit what you can do, RPing on a forum like this does not have such strict limitations. It is not decided by tables, rules, dice rolls, programming, dialogue options, levels, ability scores, or anything like that (well, not usually). This means that a successful forum play-by-post RP will require a fair amount more sense and restraint on the part of its players than other RPGs. Otherwise everyone does whatever they want, and that does not end well.

So this is my first rule, my first piece of advice to you, a possible fledgling RPer: think. Think before you do something. Think about how what you do will affect the rest of the RP and the other players. Think before you act, before you post. Think about whether what you are having your character do will help the RP or hurt it. And a warning to you, dear player: if you do think about your actions and come to the conclusion that it will hurt the RP or the other players, but you're going to do it anyway, just for kicks: you will get your ass kicked off this forum so fast it'll catch fire on the way out.

If we're clear on that, we can move onto the next step, which is how you actually go about RPing. In this kind of RP, the way it works is that one person posts what their character is doing, then another person posts what their character is doing, and so on. Simple, right? Pretty much. This is different from tabletop-style gaming, though, in that you should not post something like, "I move over here," or "I investigate the secret room," or anything like that. Posts are made in third person and should be written as if they are an excerpt from a novel or story. If you need an example, just look at some of the RPs we have here.

This is where the complicated part comes in. There are limitations to what you can have your character do. If everyone just posts whatever they want, then chaos ensues pretty quickly, and the RP will go down like the Hindenburg. These limitations aren't as solid, numerical, set-in-stone as tabletop gaming, but they are pretty much required if you want the RP to actually work as it should.

Forum RPs like this lack the typical "game master" set up, where one person is set aside to dictate the world to everyone else involved. That person, typically known as the GM or DM (dungeon master), will tell the players what they see, hear, smell and taste, what's going on around them, how many of the monsters they've managed to kill and how much gold is in that there treasure chest. GMs are also responsible for governing the actions of anyone in the world who isn't a player. This is important because while, as I said, forum RPs don't have this exact same element, they do have something similar in that the RP leader-the one who starts the thing-is responsible for making sure everyone knows what's going on.

The main difference here is that the RP leader actually plays a character themselves, rather than just acting as a disembodied entity. They will also post more or less like anyone else. The key difference between them and everyone else is that-if they have set things up properly-they know what's going on. They know what's supposed to happen next and what's behind that corner, while everyone else doesn't. This means that the RP leader can either reveal these things to their players in the RP, by posting what their character sees, or by telling them OOC. "OOC" stands for "out of character" and it's any behind-the-scenes talking that goes on about the RP, and can take the form of short messages in between posts, lengthy discussions in a separate thread, or conversations through PMs or instant messaging. The RP leader may choose any of these methods to tell the other players what's going on ahead of time so that they can adequately describe it themselves when they need to.

A good RP will use a lot of OOC communication to make things go more smoothly. After all, if the players don't know what's going on, they can't really do much of anything, and this tends to lead to one of two things: 1.) the players just start making things up, or 2.) they don't do anything and the RP dies. If you're leading an RP, you may naturally want to keep some plot twists and things from the players, but you should always try to let them know enough of what's going on that they can keep reacting accordingly.

If the RP runs well, it could continue for quite a long time, people just posting in turn and having fun. This is ultimately the entire point of an RP: if everyone involved is having fun, it's going well.

PostPosted: 18 Jul 2010, 20:09 
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Here are some general tips I have regarding RPing (first post was getting a bit long):

Godmodding and Sues-Just Say No: Many video games have a cheat called "god mode" where player can make themselves completely invincible. Nothing touches them. Godmodding is similar. It's what happens when someone in an RP-and it can be any of the players, including the leader-makes it impossible for them to lose. If someone challenges them to a fight, they'll always win. If they're in a tight spot, they'll suddenly pull out a magic item they didn't have before. They become impossible to outmaneuver or beat in anything. They act on knowledge they shouldn't have, they have skills they shouldn't have managed to develop, they are always one step ahead and may even start dictating other characters' actions to their own players. Godmodders may insist that their characters do have flaws, and maybe they do, but they're still impossible to beat.

Sues are similar, but whereas godmodding tends to be in more of a tactical sense, Sues are more character or personality based. The term is short for Mary Sue (for girls) or Gary Stu/Marty Stu (for guys, depending on whether you like alliteration or rhyming better). A Sue is a character who is just perfect and wonderful all over. They're special, unique, charming, amazing, perfect, and everyone loves them. Or so their creators think. Sues tend to go for the rarest race or profession there is-if there's a race that's said to have only a few members left, or even be completely extinct, you can bet the Sues will zero in on that. They pick up skills that should take months to learn in a few days, they're a natural at anything, they skip merrily by rules everyone else has to get the picture.

In a way it's easy to see where the temptation to do this comes from. If you have a character who's an alternate ego, who can do things you never could, whose qualities are completely subject to your decisions, why wouldn't you want to make them as awesome as possible? But the reality is, it's really, really annoying to everyone else involved. Imagine if you were playing a video game against someone who had God Mode on while you didn't, and all you could do was flail helplessly at them while they ripped you to shreds. No one likes someone who's too perfect, not really, and having them around just ruins the game for everyone. It also tends to result in everyone else having to make their characters more flawlessly perfect to match, which tends to make the entire RP devolve into a pissing contest before too long.

Avoiding this is easy. Just don't make your character too perfect. Have them lose a battle or a contest, fail at something they were doing, get hit once in a while. Not the just the little things-have them sometimes fail at something big and important to them. Give them negative qualities. Maybe they have a temper they can't control, or never stand up for themselves, and make sure that these qualities do have a negative effect on the characters' lives and are noticeable. Don't just say your character has a rotten temper-show it! Don't fall to the temptation to make your character the rarest race, the most dangerous profession. Have them be normal in some respects-maybe they come from the common-as-dirt race, or practice a trade that's boring but necessary. Distinguish them by their deeds, not just by who they start out with.

Lose Control: This is a tricky one, because it can sometimes be hard to tell where the boundaries fall. But it's also an important one. It boils down to this: do not tell other people what to do, or rather, what they are doing.

You are in absolute control of what your character decides to do, but you can't decide how it will affect other people. You can have your character say something to another character, but you can't decide for yourself how they'll answer back. You can start a fight with another character, but don't make assumptions about where all the punches land and never give them the chance to dodge.

This may be hard because you may sometimes feel that you can't do anything without checking with someone else first. But it's not that hard to get around. If you really need to know what someone else will do before you do anything else, you can either contact them OOC and ask, or you can end your post describing your character's actions but leaving room open for the next character's. For instance, you might end your post by saying, "Fred held out his hand to shake and said, "What about it, Bob?"" and then wait for Bob to post what he's going to do. In the end, it's best just to think of it as really being through the eyes of your character. In real life, you can determine what you can do (presumably) but the only way to see what other people will do is to try it and see.

Making Stuff Up And Why You Shouldn't: You might think the entire point of a role playing game is to make stuff up. Well, it is, I'll give you that. But not in this sense.

The sense that I am talking about refers mainly to the players of an RP who are not the leader(s). It's sort of like the environment version of the previous note. In this case, rather than dictating what other people will do, you dictate what's going on around you and everyone else.

To a certain extent, you can do this, because some things are inevitable. If a cold wind blows, the leaves on the trees will rustle. If you're in a marketplace, you'll probably be able to find common goods for sale around you. If you're in a bar, there'll be alcohol somewhere, unless it's a really strange bar. This is not a problem. It's a problem when you suddenly declare that a cold wind blows and turns all the leaves pink. It's a problem when you say that you suddenly turn around and see the King of the Realm walking down the marketplace. It's a problem when you duck behind the bar and spontaneously discover grenades.

An RP leader can do that, because they know the world the RP is set in and the events that will take place there (if they're good at what they're doing, that is). For a character to just decide to invent a plot point on the spot, or introduce a new character out of nowhere...that is a problem. Because it seriously throws of the balance of the RP. Take it from me-having someone do this in the middle of your adventure really screws things up. What's this new plot point? How do I work around this? What does it mean? It also has a tendency to fall under godmodding; maybe you've refrained from having your character just produce a grenade when there was no mention of them having one, but if they're capable of just finding them laying around for no reason, the general outcome is the same. And for God's sake, don't argue with what the RP leader tells you about what's going on. If they say that the treasure chest you've discovered has 100 gold coins in it, you cannot just say, "No, actually there's a thousand gold coins!" Don't even think about it.

If you really need to know something about the environment, ask the RP leader. Send them a PM or put a quick post in the RP's OOC thread: "Hey, are the leaves in this area prone to turning pink? What kind of people will be in the marketplace? What will I find down behind the bar? Is there maybe a secret compartment in that treasure chest? No? Okay."

Working On The Railroad: In contrast, this is directed mostly towards RP leaders.

Railroading is a role-playing game term for when the person in charge of things restricts everyone's actions to follow their pre-designed plot. It refers to how trains cannot deviate from their train tracks. The players of a railroaded game find themselves feeling like trains, unable to deviate from the tracks laid out for them.

An example of railroading* might be if the RP leader decides that the characters are going to find something of value that will later be stolen from them. That's alright on its own...but what if the players come up with a really good way to prevent that thing from being stolen and the leader just goes on and does it anyway? No matter what they do, somehow that thing will be stolen. If they post a watch on it at all times, ninjas will sneak past and grab it. If they put it in an ultra-high security safe, the thieves will just get better at stealing to get their hands on it.

*which I have shamelessly cribbed from the Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide

This is basically godmodding the plot. (Yes, it really does all come down to godmodding in the end. Okay, maybe not all of it.) Players start to feel helpless. Why bother being in an RP when you can't determine your own actions? Might as well go read a novel.

That's not to say that nudging your players around a little can't sometimes be a good idea. There does have to be some plot, after all, and if everyone is going in the wrong direction you might need to remind them where they're supposed to be headed, or drop a hint that they really should talk to this one guy. In general, with RPs, if you're the leader you can just drop a hint in the OOC thread-"Hey guys, plot's over here." The problem really only comes in when the player's actions can't affect the story in any way.

To avoid this, make the plot fluid. Make the decisions the players make important to the plot. Leave openings for them to decide what to do. Know your world and characters well enough to know what would happen in response to anything the PCs come up with. Don't let the plot hinge on an inevitable event the PCs can't control, but rather the decisions they make and the results of those decisions. It'll make things interesting-and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

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