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Roleplay Guide, Tips, & Tricks
#1
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Contents
1. Introduction and Terminology
2. God-modding and Power-playing
3. Character Sheets versus Paragraph Introductions
4. Character Designing
5. Lengthening Posts
6. Battle Scenes
7. Other Stuff
8. Reserve

Introduction

A lot of people enjoy writing and roleplaying. Who wouldn't? It's a great pastime and a nice way for aspiring authors to develop their skills. Plus, it's just all-around fun and a wonderful means of interaction!

Some of you aim for developing your writing skills while others of you simply want to have fun. Whatever your reasons are for roleplaying, there are some things you're going to come across quite often.

Note: While I have been roleplaying since ~2009/2010, I'm not the absolute best around; I've still some improving I want to do. That said, I know a few tips and tricks that I learned over the years. So, while you don't have to practice everything I preach, this thread is here to give you a few ideas if you want them. This guide, in fact, is inspired by another one that I enjoy looking through.

Advice: No matter how long you've been writing for, I always highly suggest reading different guides about writing. You might learn some new things or come across tips you formerly knew. I also recommend trying different styles of writing, different focuses; you just might discover something you love even better.

Terminology/Definitions

RP(ing) = Roleplay(ing); alternatively written as role-play(ing).
IC = In Character.
OOC = Out of Character.
OOC Brackets = Parentheses or brackets used to separate OOC talk from IC writing. Often single ()/[] or doubled (())/[[]].
Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu = A character that is "perfect" in every way. 
Anti Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu = A character that is "imperfect" in every way.
Character Sheet (CS) = A blank template listing various subjects to fill out when creating a character. Also referred to as a "Character Skeleton" or "Character Bio".
GM = Game moderator; the owner of the roleplay thread. Also frequently called the Original Poster (OP).
PC = Player Character; a character specifically created for a RP thread that is strictly played by one specific member.
NPC = Non-Player Character; a character generally created for background/support/plot reasons in a RP. Often controllable by all members of the thread.

God-modding and Power-playing

The definitions of god-modding and power-playing are going to vary from person to person to a small degree. However, there is a bit of a universal understanding as to what the three mean. And, generally, both are no-no's. 

So what are they?


Power-playing:
My Definition: When you make your character "immune" to everything or make them more powerful than they logically should be.

Some common forms:
a) Unreasonable immortality/immunity from mortal injuries.
b) Having God-like abilities.

Example:
He didn't actually die from being stabbed in the heart. Instead, he faked being dead so he could later catch his enemy by surprise.

Again, ignoring the little detail we know, it's clear that a stab to the heart should kill pretty much any living creature (ignoring some exceptions). Though a more extreme example, it's still rather unfair to deal with. The simplest thing to do when dealing with someone who is power-playing is to kindly talk to them. In less blunt situations, the person might just not realize that they've power-played. If you aren't sure about talking to them, it is always acceptable to approach the GM of the thread you're in, or a Moderator.

Godmodding:
My Definition: When you take control of someone else's character without prior, direct permission.

Some common forms:
a) Making someone else's character do or say something (often out of character).
b) Killing another character.

Example:
She sat down next to him and waved in greeting. He waved back and asked, "How are you today?"

As with power-playing, a member sometimes just doesn't realize they godmodded in their post. Here, one member took control to have someone's boy greet their girl. While it might not be out of that boy's character, it still wasn't done by that character's own writer. Leniency for situations involving power-play and god-modding vary from person to person; it's always best to check with someone first to see if it's okay for you to take minor (or major!) control of their character.

If someone's god-modded your character and you want them to fix that, simply talk to them nicely and you shouldn't have any further problems.

For some, the terminology is reversed in their understanding (i.e. Godmodding is having "god on your side" while powerplaying is taking control of someone else's character). Regardless, the concepts hold true and unacceptable.


Character Sheets versus Paragraph Introductions


This is very preference-based. Some favor character sheets and others favor written intros. That's fine. It's still nice to know the pros and cons to both.

Character Sheets:

Example:

Name:
Age:
Gender:
Personality:
Appearance:
History:

Character sheets are likely going to be what you see the most. It's a simple, uniform format that is often utilized for basic organization purposes. Very straightforward, character sheets list information important for the RP and provide the ability to quickly find the details you want to read. However, there's not a lot of wiggle-room for actually getting to know the character on an active level. Development is forced to come later instead of starting at the beginning. Though it is useful, it is a little conforming and limited.

Paragraphs:

Example:

This is a character introduction post I made recently for an RP on another site.

Quote:Oh crap.

A figure leapt over the fence, chain link rattling from the trespass.

Oh ****. 

His breath came in ragged gasps. Fabric rubbed against his legs and torso as he ran. Normally unruly, short black hair swept back from the wind, thick streaks of red dye blending in. Nimble fingers touched metal as he slid across the top of a sedan, startling a human woman with a bag of groceries. "Sorry!" He barely glanced behind him. The threatening heat boring into his back kept him on the move. Ocean-blue eyes scanned the world ahead for any opportunity of escape.

Jorath slipped and skidded as he made a too-quick change in direction towards a shopping center. His shoes scuffed the concrete and, for a heart-freezing moment, he thought he would crash. Fortunately, no such thing occurred and he kept his forward momentum. It only required shoving two humans aside in exchange. The string of swearing continued in his thoughts and he swore he could hear Malvorin roaring after him. Okay, roaring wasn't the right word; the guy wouldn't go so low as to actually roar in public. Malvorin, Jorath liked to acknowledge, had better taste than that.

It didn't matter that Jorath might have... maybe... accidentally botched a Soul Contract intended for Malvorin and gave it to his enemy instead. Come on. It wasn't as if Malvorin wouldn't have another chance at a rather important business man's soul. Sure, this one controlled a lot of the banks and some of the business sector but...!

Did it really warrant being chased down by one of Malvorin's goons? 

Jorath broke through a crowd of shoppers, ducking into a store full of pungent candles and body creams. He slunk behind some of the larger displays, putting an excessive amount of interest into some of the perfume vials. Really? Candles, lotions, and perfumes. How much more scent-y things could they pack into one place?

"Can I help you with anything?"

Waving quickly at the woman, Jorath flashed a broad grin. "No, but thank you. I'm just looking for a surprise gift for my boyfriend. I snuck away while he was looking at some shoes so hopefully he doesn't find out where I went." The woman smiled at him, mouthed something like an 'oh' possibly, and then walked away. Jorath rolled his shoulders and glanced through the shop windows into the main areas of the center. No goon. No looming doom burning into the back of his jacket. Maybe it was clear.

Letting out a puff of air, Jorath ran a quick hand through his hair before passing his hands over his clothes to straighten them. He watched his medium-dark, olive-toned skin twitch along the back of his hands as silvery tendrils slithered through the flesh. Keep it together, Jay. His body always itched or crawled or just otherwise felt uncomfortable whenever his adrenaline hiked up. It'd been told to him before that demons couldn't go against their natures. And his was just as foul as any others.

But he tried, anyways. Or, at least, he tried what he could while also staying alive long enough for the next day. It was... well, an awkward juggling act, to say the least. 

Jorath wasted time with tidying himself up, waiting just a little longer to make sure he'd actually lost the other, more powerful demon. Thank the Realms he was fast and the goon was more of a tank. He wasn't as fancily dressed as some other demons he'd encountered but Jorath liked to think he had a decent sense of style. If he wanted to, he was certain he could pull off the black trench coat, Mysterious Edge vibe. But he didn't want to. He liked his loose-fitted jacket, tank top--because, let's face it, he had some good-looking muscles to flex--and jeans. Silver chains dangled from a belt loop and connected to the adjacent one at his right hip. There were more chains, and those ones made of iron, but they weren't visible on his body. They simply chimed within his ears like the ghosts of a memory he could never forget.

He looked and felt human. Mostly felt human. 

Okay. He'd wasted enough time here. Pretending like he wasn't fully satisfied with the over-abundant display of options, Jorath left the store and slipped out of the shopping center. He continued to keep a wary eye out, in case Malvorin's goon had stuck around somewhere close by. So far, though, it seemed he was in the clear. Which was nice because he was hungry. Hunger was always two-fold though. The ordinary human need for sustenance, and then the less-than-ordinary demonic need for other... stuff. He did his best to ignore those cravings but had more failures in that department than he would like to acknowledge. 

Writing paragraph introductions has some appeal to me, though I am a fan of both methods. Written introductions allow the writers to freely decide how they wish to format their words. It provides an in-character experience that opens the door to a more genuine understanding/feel of the character. Though, it is a little harder to navigate and find the specific information you're looking for. Additionally, not everyone may put the same type of information within a paragraph introduction unless otherwise required.

Character Designing

Character design can vary in difficulty from person to person. Some can create characters on the spot while others require much more planning and time. Using a character generator, in my opinion, is always okay if you're having particular trouble. If you're stuck with coming up with an idea, feel free to look at other characters for inspiration or pick and pull from the results of a generator. There's no shame in asking for help, even from another member.

Let's use a character sheet format.

Quote:Name:
Age:
Gender:
Personality:
Appearance:
History:

Name is pretty straight forward; this is the name of your character.

Age is also straight forward. However, always keep a few things in mind: the world setting, age limits set by the GM, and the aging process of your character. If you're RPing a war setting where the PCs are fighting each other, you're highly unlikely to get far with a child. Similarly, if the GM has put down a required range of ages, you should respect that unless previously planned out with the GM. The aging process of non-human characters is also important but tends to vary based on the RP, so be aware of such things.

Gender is a bit of a tricky term. There is actually a distinction between the gender and sex of a living being. Sex is the binary label we are given at birth, either male or female. Gender, on the other hand, is the actual identity of the individual. However, some people aren't aware of this distinction and use sex and gender interchangeably.

Personality is a very important part of your character. A lot of people don't enjoy flat characters they meet in books, nor in real life. Everyone has flaws, likes and dislikes, stress/nervous habits, and so much more. Quirks, preferences, and pet peeves bring much more life to a person than some might be aware of. Elaboration is always a nice thing.

You don't have to make a moody character or an overly shy character in order for them to be liked. Play around and try out different personalities if you're frequently falling back on one specific archetype (ex. The moody loner who's always quiet and detached). Again, feel free to use a generator if you need some ideas.

Asking yourself questions such as "What do you like?", "What's your least favorite color?", "How do you handle stress?", and so on can help you expand on your character as a rounded person.

What I like to do, when I'm having trouble, is pick out three positive traits and three negative traits. With those, I have a basic concept of who my character will be. From there, I try to dedicate half to a full paragraph elaborating on each trait.

Appearance is another important detail. What does your character look like. This goes much more in-depth than simply "blue eyes, blonde hair, and tall". Describe their facial structure and skin tone, the shape of their build, give a more specific height (ex. 5'4"), and tell us about their preferred style of clothing.

Otherwise, people just might imagine your character as a floating set of eyes and hair. ;3

Just like with personality, if you find that you are typically using an archetype, try something new. Play around with different physical traits. Look up different body types and racial groups, see what basic features are associated with. You might find that you like having new characters over the same old one all the time.

History isn't as big of a deal. However, no one can read your character's mind and know from the start what occurred in their past. Just like you have a history from the moment you're born to the moment you read this thread, so does your character. You don't have to describe every little detail but, give us some insight about what their life has been like. Much of their history is going to affect their personality as they developed, and vice versa. The same goes with their appearance choices (ex. What they wear and how they like their hair).

However, please understand that you don't need to give your character an overly tragic past or mental illness to make them likable. If you do decide to involve some sort of trauma/tragedy/illness, I highly recommend that you properly research the consequences of such things. Some people can, and may very well, get offended if you play off a mental illness or emotional trauma as virtually nothing or some light concern.

Sexuality and Relationships

Creatures are diverse, especially humans, and this includes the range of sexual and romantic orientations that exist today. While only a handful are ever really heard about, there are much more orientations than I can easily define. (But don't hesitate to look them all up if you're curious and want to learn something new.) However, it is still important to respect each other.

While no one can push their religious or personal beliefs on you and force you to make your character a certain way (that isn't based on the setting of the RP), it is still not okay for you to try and pressure their character into a relationship the member doesn't want.

For example, you shouldn't shove your male, homosexual character on someone else's male, heterosexual character. Especially if the other member has made it clear that such IC advances are undesired.
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#2
Lengthening Posts

When you make posts to an RP, they don't have to be the next new novel--they can be as short or as long as you want them to be. However, making sure that other members have something to react to and build off of is always a benefit. This way, the work required to keep the RP moving forward isn't left on the shoulders of one or two specific members. One-liners aren't illegal, though--they happen and that's okay, too.

So, what goes into a post? Several things:
-> Setting
-> Interiority (AKA thoughts and emotions)
-> Action
-> Dialogue (sometimes optional)

I mentioned one-liners. What are those? They are as the name suggests: one line of text. Let's start there.

Quote:She grabbed a book and sat down to read in the library.

In this one line, we have a character that is performing an action in a location. It's helpful enough if someone else wants to bring their character over for an interaction. But it doesn't give us a lot of insight to the character herself. We don't even really know what she looks like (assuming there isn't a character sheet to look at).

Let's add more, starting with the setting. (We'll just work down the list as presented.)

Quote:She grabbed a book and sat down to read in the library. The library wasn't very big. Located at the edge of the town, it was situated best for the elementary and middle school children that lived in the area. The shelves were aged, their corners worn down or chipped, and the books possessed a layer of dust from partial neglect.

A few sentences dedicated to describing the library helps others understand the environment the characters are in. You don't have to detail every little inch of a space. In fact, I encourage you not to. Focus on what's relevant or important, on what can provide some insight and a basic frame to work within. This allows other members to know where they're at while also giving them the freedom to add bits themselves.

Let's move to the next piece: Interiority.

Interiority consists of what your character is thinking and/or feeling. This is also where a distinction between showing versus telling comes in. For those who don't really know what that is, I'll explain.

Telling is when you directly say what it is. (This is also what Summarizing does.)
Quote:He was mad.

Showing is when you describe what it is. (This is what Scene does.)
Quote:He felt his skin flush with heat and his nerves seemed to vibrate. His blood began to boil as he clenched his fists and ground his teeth together.

There's a balance between Showing and Telling, but no one can give you an exact measure of it in any given piece of writing. That balance is always changing because it is dependent on the specific thing you're writing. Sometimes, it changes because you want a specific effect or style of writing. It's up to you.

So:

Quote:She grabbed a book and sat down to read in the library. The library wasn't very big. Located at the edge of the town, it was situated best for the elementary and middle school children that lived in the area. The shelves were aged, their corners worn down or chipped, and the books possessed a layer of dust from partial neglect.There used to be more people here, she thought to herself, unable to focus on the pages of the story. It made her heart ache, a heavy weight within her chest that wanted to sink to the floor. She missed people, missed the community that the library once drew together. It made her feel old, like her bones were filled with the same dust that covered the books and creaked like their covers.

Action is how the character moves and/or performs a task. We already encountered one piece of action: the girl grabbed a book and sat down so she could read. Let's add more, though, because our girl isn't going to just be a stationary figure.

Quote:She grabbed a book and sat down to read in the library. The library wasn't very big. Located at the edge of the town, it was situated best for the elementary and middle school children that lived in the area. The shelves were aged, their corners worn down or chipped, and the books possessed a layer of dust from partial neglect.There used to be more people here, she thought to herself, unable to focus on the pages of the story. It made her heart ache, a heavy weight within her chest that wanted to sink to the floor. She missed people, missed the community that the library once drew together. It made her feel old, like her bones were filled with the same dust that covered the books and creaked like their covers.She sighed and flipped through the pages, trying to make the words capture her eyes. When that didn't work, she snapped the book shut and got up to return it to the shelf. She stared at the books and blew as much dust off the shelf as she could.It didn't satisfy her. She needed to do more.She turned away from the shelf and headed for the front desk.

There's a thing to note about action: it can be done in passive or active voice. Now, most times, you're going to encounter the active voice, but the passive voice isn't taboo or ever unheard of. It's just stylistic choice. For some examples to understand the differences:

Active voice is:
Quote:I threw the ball through the window, breaking the glass.
This sets me up as the agent performing the action, placing the responsibility on my shoulders.

Passive voice is:
Quote:The glass was broken when a ball was thrown through the window.
This removes the agent who performed the action, absolving any responsibility that should be taken.

Last, but not least, is dialogue. This is any speech or conversation within the post. And this is a lot more optional than most other elements of writing. Characters don't always speak within a given situation. Like in our library where a lot of people are silently reading. However, dialogue is no less important for consideration.

A thing to know and understand: when there is dialogue from two or more individuals, each speaker gets their own line/paragraph. Don't blend them into the same paragraph; it gets confusing and difficult to follow along with who is saying what.

Quote:She grabbed a book and sat down to read in the library. The library wasn't very big. Located at the edge of the town, it was situated best for the elementary and middle school children that lived in the area. The shelves were aged, their corners worn down or chipped, and the books possessed a layer of dust from partial neglect. There used to be more people here, she thought to herself, unable to focus on the pages of the story. It made her heart ache, a heavy weight within her chest that wanted to sink to the floor. She missed people, missed the community that the library once drew together. It made her feel old, like her bones were filled with the same dust that covered the books and creaked like their covers. She sighed and flipped through the pages, trying to make the words capture her eyes. When that didn't work, she snapped the book shut and got up to return it to the shelf. She stared at the books and blew as much dust off the shelf as she could. It didn't satisfy her. She needed to do more. She turned away from the shelf and headed for the front desk. "I want to volunteer here. What do I need to do?" she said as soon as she stood before the clerk.

The man looked up from his computer and smiled. "That's wonderful. All you have to do is fill out our Volunteer Form. It's over by the front door. Once you have it completed, you submit it here and we'll get your information entered into the system. After that, you'll get a small badge and you can come in to help any time you're available." He pointed as he spoke, and she followed it with her gaze. The forms rested in transparent holders, three in total, that lined the wall at chest-height.

"Okay, thanks," she replied.

And, suddenly, we went from a single sentence to a couple paragraphs filled with details. Again, you can write as little or as much as you want, but it's always best to try providing something for other members to react to. But, it's best to avoid writing seven paragraphs about a character drinking a cup of coffee or seven paragraphs about what your character sees to their left just to mimic the same about what's to their right. It boils down to what's relevant for the situation and what's insightful about your character so members learn more about them as the RP progresses. (Can we say: character development?)
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