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Thread: DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing

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    Sentinel DragonHeart's Avatar
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    DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing

    DragonHeart’s Guide to Good Role Playing

    Updates

    August 22, 2009 - Updating links; removing dead ones.
    August 5, 2006 - Main guide posted.

    Mission Statement

    Before I begin, I would like to explain why I’m writing this guide. I’ve been a member of these forums for some time now, and over the years, despite the many efforts of our story-loving veterans, the quality of role playing at this wonderful place began a slow and painful descent to mediocrity.

    In the hopes of stopping this trend before we’re reduced to chat speak and asterisks (just like the old days…who remembers Jet Pack Soldiers? I do! ), I’m gathering everything I’ve learned about writing and role playing and putting it all into this guide. These are the things I’ve learned both from my time as a writer and from some of the best writers on these forums, many of whom are no longer here. This is as much my tribute to their amazing abilities as it is a way to help others.

    I’m not here to criticize or judge others for being “bad RPers”, I simply believe that a lot of people here could improve greatly if only they could clearly see everything that is part of role playing, from the writing to the characters to the development of the plot. Role playing isn’t supposed to be work, but it is supposed to be a celebration of writing and storytelling. There is no match for the feeling that comes with joining other writers to create and build something great, but if even just one person cannot rise to the challenge, the story will fall, and so too will the people who hoped to have wonderful new story to tell.

    If there is just one thing I can teach you from this guide, it is this: role playing isn’t about having the strongest character, the most spells and abilities, or the most tortured and mysterious past. It is not a competition. Role playing is sharing the love and joy of writing with others and together going on a journey to new places, and most all, having fun doing something you enjoy with other people who enjoy it.

    And with that, I present to you, DragonHeart’s Guide to Good Role Playing.

    Table of Contents
    (Use Ctrl+F to search for the section you want to read.)

    The Tools of the Trade
    Character Creation
    Joining an RP
    Starting an RP
    Building the World
    Writing the First Post
    Working with Others
    The End
    Links
    Credits
    Note to Readers

    The Tools of the Trade

    Before you even consider joining or starting a journey in the great world of role playing, there are three very important things you need to have: A word processing program, a dictionary, and time.

    Now, many people who participate in an RP just type their post right on into the reply box, hit "Post Reply", and move on. To anyone who does this, please, I beg of you, just once, try writing your post in a word processing program first. (Microsoft Word will work. Personally I use Microsoft Works Word Processor.) These is one very good reason for doing this: spellcheck.

    The most common problem in any given RP post has nothing to do with someone's character or even their ideas; it's basic writing problems like spelling, grammar, and formatting. Some posts are so mangled by these issues that they become nigh-unreadable and cause many problems for an RP, regardless of the overall RP's quality. It could be the best RP in the world but no one is going to enjoy it if every other word is misspelled.

    Most word processors these days also have basic grammar checkers as well. They tend to be somewhat inaccurate, but please use it to at least check for punctuation and spacing problems. It won't fix everything but it will definitely help.

    Now as for the dictionary (if you don't have one there are many online you can use, www.dictionary.com comes to mind.), it's self-explanatory. There are many writers who either incorrectly use words or just flat-out use words they don't know the meaning of. If you want to use a special word that you don't usually use, either because you want to sound smart or because a normal word just isn't cutting it, please look it up first. If the meaning isn't exactly what you want, use a thesaurus to help find a better match and ensure that you're using it in the correct context. This will help clear up any possibly misunderstandings.

    And the most important tool of all, time. If your idea of a good RP post is 30 seconds of reading the previous posts and 5 minutes of writing your own, you might want to reconsider your decision to RP. Personally if I cannot devote at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to read and respond to an RP, then I don't post, I wait until I have more time later. Also, if you're doing something else or feeling sleepy, it's probably not a good idea to try this. Unfocused writing tends to be sloppy and you can miss important details or even end up posting incorrect information. This may make your fellow writers mad or even force them to leave the RP in disgust.

    Character Creation

    Okay, let’s say you’re cruising around the RP forums, checking for recent threads or just thinking of a story you’d like to start. Either way, your character comes before any other part of the RP. This is the single most important aspect of any given RP so if you don’t put any effort in your character, don’t expect to get anything out of your story. A good character tells their own story.

    Let’s take a look at the basic character profile favored by most people starting an RP. Why do we want them? So we know what kind of people are going to be in the story. A little background never hurts. In some cases the author will want very specific characters, so read their posts carefully and always fill out the entire character form they provide. If they don’t have one, use the basics. You should always have an idea of your character before you begin any story.

    Character Profile Analysis

    Name: There’s a lot of power in a name. Choose yours carefully. I see a lot of people who only use an alias or a title or think that every name is some grandiose thing that must be as long as humanly possible. In any written story a name is a reflection of the character. A king might have a long noble name but a peasant’s name will likely be short and simple, for example. Even if your character only goes by their alias and doesn’t know or use their real name for whatever reason, you still know what it is, so add it in. It’s pure laziness to add so much mystery to a character profile in general; it’s just bad taste for a name.

    If you’re stuck and can’t come up with a name that you like, allow me to point you to my favorite naming resources on the internet. I use these for many of my characters based on the meaning and origins of each name. I even use them for place and object names on occasion.

    http://www.20000-names.com/
    http://www.20000-names.com/special_categories.htm
    http://www.zoope.com/about/about_names.html
    http://www.kabalarians.com/index.cfm - This last one has a name analyzer that I highly recommend trying out, just to see what they say about your character. They do both first name and full name analyses.

    Age: This is an often overlooked factor in RPing. Age is more than a random number, it determines a large part of your character’s attitude. A teen will be rash and emotional, while someone in their 60s will be much more stable and open minded, for the most part. Keep in mind that your character should act their age, not yours. Even if you don’t know how someone of a different age will act, a little common sense will get you the basics, which is just fine.

    Also note that the younger a character is the less effective their skill in things like battle or diplomacy will be. An 18 year old character will -not- be a complete expert at their form of combat. This is the number one issue I see with age, expectations are completely unrealistic the younger a character is. Unless they have a damn good reason for being extremely proficient at a young age, then no they won’t have completed training and full battle skills.

    Gender: Um…basically so we know to write he or she. I don’t find it to be especially critical unless you’re playing the stereotypical nature card.

    Race: This can be an important factor, and I find it’s also overlooked a lot. If your character is not a human, they probably won’t act like one unless they spend a lot of time around them. If you choose to play one of the more recognizable races like elves, centaurs, a dragon, then you don’t really need to describe the race, just name it.

    If, however, you choose to be a nonstandard race, please do us all a favor and describe any and all physical differences we will see about your character. Tails, long ears, fur, wings, etc. It’s very hard to interact with a character if we don’t even know how to describe them. You don’t need to tell us the history of the race or anything, just please please please provide at least a basic description. If you have trouble with this, you can even find a similar picture online and link to it to help us all out. Your fellow RPers will really appreciate this if they too are serious about their writing.

    Hair/Eye Color, Height and Weight - These are purely aesthetics and while they do determine how other people react to your character, it’s only to an extent, the first impression kind of thing. Please just try to keep these reasonably realistic, and if you aren’t sure about height-weight correlation, don’t try to invent numbers, just say what you mean. To me, saying a character is average height and weight is as acceptable as the numerical values. It’s just not important enough to stress over unless it’s somehow a major part of your character’s personality.

    Physical Appearance/Clothing: Again, keep it realistic and functional. Chances are a 16 year old will not have developed a lot of muscle mass, even through hard training, so they won’t be extremely buff just yet, and a character like a ninja will probably be small and flexible. Basically just use common sense for these and remember that it’s just an initial guide, your character can always change as time progresses in the story.

    Weapons: This is where I see a lot of problems in particular. Use a weapon that suits your character’s needs based on their current occupation and combat training. There is no way anyone under 20 will be able to practically wield a buster sword unless the thing is hollow, for example. Also try to keep it in context with the RP setting and try not to go overboard. Unless you have a lot of pockets in places we don’t want to know about, chances are your character can only really carry 2-3 weapons at the most.

    A good general rule for this is one large, two small. One large weapon that goes on your back, two on your hips. If you use guns or bows, one weapon space will be taken up by your ammunition. This is all about balance; you don’t want an overpowered character. Not only can having too many weapons be a hindrance, it’s also not a lot of fun. Challenge yourself, don’t take the easy way out. Feel free to use a type of weapon never seen before in an RP if you want, just be sure to either thoroughly describe it or provide a picture so we understand what it is.

    Magic/Skills/Abilities: This is easily one of the hardest categories to develop. Everyone wants lots of skills, abilities, and magic, often to the point of excess. Again, balance is the key here. These are mostly open ended, just try to keep a few things in mind:

    • Invincibility, either through physical resistance or dodging, is poor form and godmodding. Don’t do it.
    • Invisibility is ok in certain situations, but don’t abuse it, and it doesn’t make you immune to other forms of detection.
    • Too many abilities/skills is the same as being invincible. Balance.
    • Magic is harder to control than physical power, thus it must be more limited. Cure spells are ok, instant healing is not. Also keep in mind that severe wounds will not be fully healed by magic and would still have physical effects even if it did. It has limits, you know.
    • Elemental magic is fickle and doesn’t mix well. You can use more than one, but remember that opposing elements tend to cancel each out, so you can’t logically use both. Thunder/Electricity and Earth elements come to mind. Also, the more elements you use the weaker their overall effectiveness will be.


    Above all, pay attention to any limits set by the author of the RP. If they want four skills/abilities/magic, then only list four. Not five, not forty. Four. Failing to follow their rules may result in being barred from participating in the RP. Don’t get angry and yell at them for it either. They have their reasons for wanting to be specific, so please respect that.

    Joining an RP

    This is mostly self-explanatory, but I’ll throw in my suggestions for it anyways. There’s really no wrong way to join an RP unless you don’t read any of the information on it, but there are a few things you might want to keep in mind.

    Read all of the posts in the sign up thread. While the beginning post will contain most of the information you need to get started, there may be new developments further in the thread. It’s always good to make sure you understand what you’re getting into before you start.

    If there’s any part of the story you don’t understand, feel free to ask the author to clarify. If they can’t define whatever you’re having trouble with, suggest changing or removing that part altogether. There’s not much point in writing about something even the author doesn’t know.

    Start a discussion about the story and feel free to put your own ideas on the table. A good RP author will listen and consider all opinions. If they get angry or threaten you for doing so, chances are it’s not the kind of person you want to be writing with.

    On the other hand, listen to what the author has to say. If they request that you change your character or an idea with a reasonable explanation for doing so, please honor it. Don’t get angry at them for it, this will not usually be an issue unless you ignored part of their post or chose not to follow their guidelines. If they don’t provide a reason for requesting a change, ask them and if the answer is not reasonable, ask a moderator to make the decision.

    If at any time another person harasses you about your character or ideas, please report it to a moderator, even if it’s through the Private Messaging system. This does not give you grounds to harass them back in any way, so don’t do it or you too will be taken care of by the moderators. Please be respectful to everyone, even if they aren’t to you. Karma has a way of dealing with those types of people.

    Starting an RP

    While joining an RP is a fairly simple matter, starting your own is not. There is a lot that goes into a good RP, and the amount of information you have to keep track of can be overwhelming at times. Even an open RP, with no directed plot, can be difficult to manage if you don’t have any organization.

    First off, let’s take a look at the two main types of RPs, open and closed.

    An open RP is the most common, probably because it’s a lot easier to start. Open RPs have no set plot, you simply start at an event and let everyone develop the story as a group. Although these types are popular, they frequently fizzle out somewhere in the middle and most never have a defined ending. They are fun to do but I find that they often lack the consistency, and often the coherency, of a closed RP.

    The key to making an open RP work is communication. Keep touch with all of your members and discuss ideas frequently to keep the plot moving in one direction. Lacking a focus is the main cause of death for most of these, since people lose interest as the plot just never moves with any clear progress toward a goal.

    Closed RPs are much more difficult to run but have a much greater chance of reaching their conclusion, and perhaps even spawn a sequel or two. These are the RPs where the author controls the main plot events and moves the story along to their intended goal. The amount of wiggle room you have depends on the author, so if you have an idea for your part of the plot always discuss it with them first.

    Closed RPs depend entirely on the cooperation of the other members and the clearly defined plot laid out by the author. If you don’t explain what it is that you want to do, don’t expect your RP to go the way you intend. At the same time, remember to be open to new ideas and don’t be afraid to change things around if the plot starts building its own momentum. Flexibility will enhance the strength of these stories and encourage everyone to keep doing their best to make the best story possible.

    Closed RPs are often used for events, such as club recruitment or tournaments like the Roleplay Jam, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start one if you have a great story in mind.

    There is also a third category, which can apply to either an open or a closed RP: invite only. If you want to start an RP with only your friends or the members of a certain club or clan, this is how it works. Make sure you post the list of eligible members somewhere near the beginning of your first post so there’s no confusion over who can and cannot enter. If anyone not on the list attempts to join, ask a moderator to take care of the situation. If there is a repeat offender or several different incidents, you may want to consider asking the moderators to monitor the situation or suggest a way to remedy the problem. Usually just putting “Invite Only” in the title is enough to keep those kinds of things from happening.

    Ok, so now you’ve decided what kind of RP you want to start. Regardless of which you’re choosing to do, all RPs begin the same way: with the world. You can’t have a story without a place to put it.

    Building the World

    Worldbuilding can be very time consuming if you go into real depth, and while it may be beneficial to do so I know that most RPs will not take place in fully developed (finished) worlds. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you have enough information to understand your setting. There is no set way to create a world, but I do have some resources with basic guidelines to help you get started.

    http://www.sfwa.org/writing/worldbuilding1.htm
    http://www.web-writer.net/fantasy/
    http://www.fantasymaps.com/101/

    http://hiddenway.tripod.com/world/ - This is my main resource. It’s basically everything you could ever want for building a world. The links above are selected from this directory so you don’t have to search through the entire thing. I would suggest checking out some of the other sites though, if you have the time.

    Since worldbuilding is an open-ended process, I’m not going into a lot of detail on it for a reason. It’s up to you to decide how much you develop your world. You don’t have to post everything you do in your RP, but try to have it somewhere you can easily access for references.

    If you do decide to use someone else’s world, Spira (Final Fantasy X) for example, then make good use of the available resources. Maps, pictures, history, everything. Personally I don’t like using worlds developed by other people, but some do. Just try to stay in context with the world you’re using.

    Note: For closed RPs try to map out any and all significant plot events, past and present, in some sort of timeline that is easily viewable by all members. Open RPs should have at least events leading up to the beginning of the story but again, it’s not necessary. It does help a lot if you do, though.

    Writing the First Post

    You have your character(s), a well-developed world, now you just need to start writing! Writing the first post, commonly referred to as the introduction, is in my opinion, the hardest part of any RP. The introduction post should be written with three basic goals in mind:

    Establishing a setting - Where, when, who, and what. This is where your character's story begins, so write accordingly. None of that mysterious person/past/place nonsense either. You can be as enigmatic as you want when you meet other characters, but for right now, you're writing as your character, and obviously he's going to know who he is, why he's there, what his goals are. Unless you have a damned good reason, don't hide your information. You'll just hurt your character development in the long run if you do.

    Introducing the main character(s) - Somewhat covered above, but again, try to keep it realistic. Add personality to your character! He's not a cardboard cut-out, after all; he'll have emotions, he'll have quirks and bad habits, he'll trip over a rock in the road. Write as if your character was a real person, basically.

    Beginning the plot - There's always a beginning. It can be an event, a person, anything. Start off slow until other characters start coming into the story, but feel free to develop your character's story, or even a side story in the meantime. Just make sure it has some relevance to the overall plot and isn't too over the top. Even fantasy stories are realistic, you know. The good ones, anyways.

    Because of this, your first post will almost always be the longest, at least until the plot starts developing with your fellow RPers. Don’t be afraid to write a lot; it’s a good thing, trust me. The more detail you can provide, the better off everyone will be. Remember, we want to know all about your characters, world, and story!

    There is no formal way to write an introduction, so just keep those three ideas in mind and you should do just fine. The only other tips I can really give for this is not to go overboard with your backstory. Tell us what we need to know, in other words. Everything else is for flavor since the past is just that, and we’re more interested in the present.

    Note: For closed RPs, backstory is essential to understanding the current plotlines in most cases. Read (or write! ) it carefully.

    Writing with Others

    So you’ve either started or joined your RP, people are just starting to get into the story, and you’re about to meet up with another character. Now what?

    Well, first of all I strongly recommend getting in touch with the author(s) whose characters you’ll be roaming with. Although it is god modding to use their character without permission, it’s perfectly acceptable to do a joint post where they supply their character’s half and you write it all, including your own. This is tremendously useful in dialogue and prevents having to spend multiple posts on a conversation that takes the equivalent of five minutes for your characters to say.

    Also, feel free to work out separate plots with other authors, especially in an open RP. The sky is the limit, so take advantage of it! It’s a lot more fun and exciting if you can work with a fellow writer to open up new adventures that wouldn’t otherwise have worked out. This is why I emphasize communication so much. You want to be interacting with the other RPers at least as much as your characters do. I find an instant messaging program like AIM to be the best way, but TFF’s own private messaging system also works quite well.

    The End

    Well, if you’ve made it this far I congratulate you. Very few RPs ever reach any definable conclusion, so congratulations to all! Wait, how do you write an ending? Well…basically the same way you write any other post. Once the climax is reached and everything has concluded, allow everyone to have one or two posts to tie up any loose ends with their characters, and then let the story end with grace and dignity. Let a moderator know so they can lock it and send it to The Cleft of Dimension, where everyone can admire your work for ages to come!

    Links

    These are links to related threads and sites you may find useful.

    Threads

    TFF FAQ
    RP Forum Rules
    What is a Spam Post in an RP?

    Role Play Battling
    Tournament of Arms
    Tournament of Heroes

    Literature

    Other Sites

    Argentos Online

    Credits

    I may have written this guide, but it would never exist without many many people who contributed, either directly or not, to both these wonderful RP forums and my own experiences.

    Many thanks to:

    Andromeda
    Cloud711
    LocoColt04
    Merlin
    Mydako
    Piroblaze
    Psiko
    Psychosyd
    Quisits
    Shan’do Spike
    Spekkio
    True Omega

    …and all the rest of TFF’s RP veterans. You know who you are.

    Special Thanks to Fuzz for creating TFF, may his reign be long and prosperous.

    Note to Readers:

    Whew, that was a long guide. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, and I hope I was able to provide some insight into the large and amazing world of role playing. This guide is based solely on TFF’s role playing system, so while the basic guidelines are the same, many of the guidelines listed here are specific to this forum.

    If you have any questions, comments, or other feedback, feel free to post in this thread or send me a private message. This guide will probably expand from time to time, so check back for updates every now and then, I’ll list any changes at the top of the guide.

    ~DragonHeart~
    Last edited by DragonHeart; 08-22-2009 at 06:15 AM.

  2. #2
    The Quiet One DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing Andromeda's Avatar
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    I will probably be putting a stickie on this soon since it is definitely a thorough and well written way to go about RPs here at TFF. I find it coincidencal that two guides for RPs appeared on the same day at nearly the same time. Anyway, this is definitely a more valid example for those RPers that wish to improve themselves within our rankings here. But even it is highly valid here, it is still important information overall for writing in general.

  3. #3
    Professional Klutz. DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing Hyzenthlay's Avatar
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    Hey nice job thats really informative, maybies i will send u a gift for it...

  4. #4
    parkour messenger extrodinaire DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing Mokkan Brushtail's Avatar
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    okay, I understand but don't understand the character thing, do I just describe him in the rp as it goes along or what? help I'm confused.

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    Lady Succubus DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing Victoria's Avatar
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    You post a profile. It's really not that hard to understand. The OOC threads of the RPs usually tell you the character sheet information they require.

    Such as the Sisters of Tella, for example. Sisters of Tella (Original RP)

    This is the OOC thread, which you sign up for the RP. I notice you just posted in the RP out of nowhere. That's kind of a no go with RPs that have OOC threads. You have to read over the OOC thread first, and then sign up and wait to be accepted.

  6. #6
    parkour messenger extrodinaire DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing Mokkan Brushtail's Avatar
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    I found out, this is very different from the other site I go on, god for the first time in my life my natural hair colour curses me in an RPG oh the horror lol, thanks for the help I'm glad I decided to post here.

  7. #7
    Lady Succubus DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing Victoria's Avatar
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    ...Your natural hair color? What does that have to do with anything? o.O;
    You know that you don't use yourself as a character (you can, but.. you'll be extremely limited...), you create a unique character.

  8. #8
    parkour messenger extrodinaire DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing Mokkan Brushtail's Avatar
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    it'll come to you eventually about my hair, ednolb, I know I never use myself, but by uique do you mean a different one for every roleplay?

  9. #9
    Sentinel DragonHeart's Avatar
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    I know it's been forever, but I have an announcement regarding this guide: version 2.0 is coming! Expect new, updated information, complete revisions of the old sections and entirely new additions.

    It is going to take some time to get v2 up and running but in the meantime, if anyone has any questions or requests for information to be added in the update, post here and let me know.

    As of right now new additions will include a basic glossary of common RP terms, a section on casual RPs, and example templates for things like character profiles.

    ~DragonHeart~

  10. #10
    Registered Uber DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing Hobaginator's Avatar
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    Re: DragonHeart's Guide to Good Role Playing

    "just like the old days…who remembers Jet Pack Soldiers? I do!"

    Dude! My brother "Order" and I started jet pack soldiers back in the day! I forgot what our names were back then, but we just came back. And yeah, that RP was an amazing idea that bumped it's head in the pool and drowned... Anyways, I'm glad to see some familiar people still keeping this place alive! I remember Quistis too. I think my profile name was Tyro

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