Roleplaying General Guidelines

Flo

Spectacular Genie Superstar
Join Date
Nov 1, 2018
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Credit to Thundawave and Karolina

Hello! This guide is being written to provide a general idea, and support for both creators and participants in various styles of Roleplay. By no means are the following tips concrete and correct answers, and can be both expanded upon or ignored as you wish. This guide merely presents a way of looking at a form, and providing the necessary tools and tricks to both creating a detailed form, or a well-thought out Roleplay.

Part I: Roleplay Creation
When creating a roleplay of any kind, regardless of whether it is some grand fantasy adventure spanning your own created world, or a small scale high school drama roleplay, it is important that all fundamentals are kept. I will take the required parts of a roleplay from the Marriland Roleplaying Rules, and explain both why they are needed, and how to expand upon them and make an interesting and compelling story that anybody will want to join.

Backstory
A Backstory will likely be either the first or second thing that you come up with when creating a roleplay. A good backstory can set up stakes, explain the rules of the world, plant ideas that could be used later on and overall helps to ground the players and readers in the world. Below are two seperate backstories, one that is a small sample taken from a roleplay, the other is one i came up with on the spot. With any luck, the difference should be discernible.

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One thousand years later, the shards of the Solis began to mysteriously dim worldwide. As a result, nights gradually grew longer. A summer day never lasted over twelve hours anymore. Scientists and engineers poured their efforts into this problem and eventually came upon a method of suspending the Solis shards in pools of its recycled waste. This gave some energy back to the crystal and halted the growth of nighttime.

Another century passed. By this time the shards had turned a purple hue as a benign side effect of feeding on its waste. They also began to dim again, and the duration of nighttime accelerated once more. An energy crisis was fast approaching - if the recycled waste was not enough, then what? To make matters even worse, large, translucent monsters of all shapes and sizes suddenly appeared in waves, attacking the pieces of the Solis and attempting to drain the waste vats. To combat the new threat, the military was set up inside and around the cities at all times.

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Once every 200,000 years, the dreaded monsters of the deep rise and begin destroying the populace of the island nation of Zwemer. To counteract this, the great shamans devised a ritual to stave off these monsters; by forcing their souls into human vessels. These vessels, known as the Kept, are treated awfully by the Zwemer people. However, they do not know the threat of the Deep Ones, as their souls and their powers are never too far from the surface.

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As you can see the difference in quality is evident, even from this excerpt. The first section describes a problem in the past, a solution with some set-up for future problems, an immediate threat, and a resolution to that threat, and a reason for the characters to be involved. My shoddy example gives a monster that is not described at all, only appears every 200,000 years so no real history exists for them, alongside lifting the main idea for the characters straight from Naruto. Naturally, while taking ideas straight up like this isn’t a good idea, adapting them and putting spins on them is never a bad thing, and can prove to both be something simple or similar to other media they know, and can provide a crutch for your story to stand on.

Plot

While I shouldn’t need to explain why a plot is needed for a good roleplay, it can be difficult to determine when a plot is too restrictive or too open. Truthfully, this is the kind of thing that comes from practice, trial and error. It also depends on the genre and tone of the roleplay and story you are trying to tell. In the case of a secret military division, it’s not very likely you’ll spend much time roaming around and exploring. To counter this, something like a group of friends who travel around exploring caves and dungeons would spend all their time exploring, with a touch of linearity to keep the plot advancing.

One important trick that I feel is difficult to discern when creating a story is to determine an ending, or at the very least, being able to checkpoint progress. While you may not want to specifically goalpost the end of an RP, for some stories it is better to know what the end goal is, or the RP will dissolve into meandering and treading water. And even if the end goal is reached, and the demon lord is dead, that doesn’t mean you are forced to end it. The beauty of the interactive medium means you can just keep going. Find a new foe, explore a new location, live some more of your characters lives. It is all up to you, as both the gamemaster of the story and the players within, to decide when your characters tale is over.

Once again, I will show two different plots below, one from a created RP, the other I just came up with. Once again, the difference should be evident.
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“Hail, my dear ones. I am known by many names, but my chosen one is Life. We do not have much time, as Death haunts around every corner, even in dreams. The universe is tainted by his rampage. There is too much pestilence and war in my beautiful creation. However, it is not up to me to end his reign.

Soulmates! I call on you to reunite and find each other at the Tree of Beginning, my sacred altar. There, you shall be under my protection, able to call upon my power from then on. But beware, my young warriors. Death is cunning in many ways, and he will do anything to prevent your rise.

So, go. Go, I tell you. Find your Soulmate and save the world.”

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The Kingdom of Halice was under attack from a siege of monsters constantly battering the outer defenses. The King declared that all able bodies over the age of 19 were to be enlisted in the Monster Extermination Division, in a last-ditch effort to try and repel these invaders.

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Once again, the difference should be palpable. My pitiful attempt likely wouldn’t even be allowed under Marriland rules. It doesn’t describe a plot in any way, it doesn’t give a clear ending or resolution, and doesn’t provide any clear areas for the characters to expand their worlds or personalities, all things that the top example does.

Rules
Rules are not really what this guide is here to discuss, but it does allow me to bring up a certain point; do not be afraid to enforce your rules. I have seen roleplays where significant amounts of godmodding have taken place, and the creator has done nothing to curb this. Remember, as long as you be respectful about it, enforce your rules. You’re the boss (relatively)!


Character Form
The character form is possibly the most important and underutilised part of the roleplay. A character form can inform the players on so many neat aspects on the roleplay that you are then spared from having to write in some exposition paragraph. Aside from the required things like name, gender, age and what have you, it allows the creator to really explore potential ideas with the characters that exist within their worlds. Does the typical person carry a weapon, or have magic powers? Do people have familiars, or are they a different species altogether. These additional things can help to assist your players in creating three dimensional characters that immerses them in the roleplay.
Even in some of the necessary forms there is space to expand the world of the characters. Things like the backstory and the personality can help to create a real character, because it isn’t just the person making it who has to deal with that character, but the other players must react accordingly, and subsequently, your world must react as well. In addition, if all the characters are from the same location, the backstory lets each person and their spin on things, and assist in fleshing out the worlds backstory for you. If one character comes from a city that you didn’t explain much about, let them do it for you! This also means that the players feel like they are a part of the world as well, rather than just observing a world that you have made., which is an issue that catches up a lot of RP creators on occasion, myself included!

Part II: Character Creation
I’m only going to go over the necessary aspects of a Character Form, and hopefully expand on the points to help explain them.

Name
I don’t think I need to explain why names are needed. However, a name is more than just a label for your orc barbarian or shy student; it can also help to create a well rounded character. Having a nickname, a shortened form that friends call them can help to show which characters are friendly with whom, without the need to state that they are friends. A military label can show that not only they were part of a military system, but respect rules and authority. Having a special name that they are famous for can create a sense of illusion and mystery about them, or create another form of storytelling for the characters.

Gender
I have always been against having gender as a requirement for forms, but I do understand the need for it. Gender is again more than just telling the other players which pronoun to use and which characters to set up romance subplots with. It can be one of the most subtle forms of giving information without strictly stating it. Do females have a lesser station in this fantasy world? Maybe this female works as an assassin, disguising her identity, or as a famous hero, praised for her achievements over her gender? The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination. Of course, RP specifics depending, you may choose to make your character transexual or non-binary or any of the other possibilities that exist. These can also be used to fuel a characters growth. Was their life full of hardship surrounding their choice? Perhaps this led them down a different road than planned. It is important when creating a character to realise that every aspects can be a tool for development, but not everything has to be. If you just want to RP as a non-binary character, go for it! It’s your character, and as long as the substance comes from elsewhere, who can say no? (Aside from the RP Creator, who very much can say no, but not for reasons pertaining to gender, usually. It depends.)

Age
Age is another aspect of a form that, at first glance, doesn’t seem to add to a character, beyond explaining why the character looks the way they do. In reality however, age is a fantastic measure of describing what a character should know, be able to do, and anything of the sort. Age is a limiter to what the character can be. If you create a 70-year-old sage, it would make sense that they have lived through a lot of things and would be knowledgeable about the world. Equally, your 21 year old adventurer may not be as world-savvy (or maybe they are; subvert those tropes!), they would likely be able to perform physical feats beyond our sage. Age is another way that you can diversify and make your character unique.

Appearance
Appearance can, of course, be a description, an image or a combination of the two, dependent on the rules of the specific RP. Appearance can be used to tell a story. Beyond the typical visual descriptives like scars or eyepatches, you can use anything as a visual storytelling. Why do they have their hair the way they do? Is it short and practical, or long and flowing? What kind of clothes do they wear? These can all be used to expand on the world and the characters in it.

Personality

The big difficult one. Personality is the single thing that trips everybody up.How do make your character unique but also realistic? The typical way I do it is to pick a specific character trait, and build the rest around it. For example, if the trait you picked is ‘gruff’, how would that impact the rest of how they behave? Would they be standoffish, and give curt replies? Perhaps you’d take it the other way, with them having a heart of gold. This is where the main aspects of your character, but be sure to make it enough so that you can stay in that character the whole time. Complexity is a common human trait, but it makes for a difficult character to stay in the whole time.

Brief Biography/Backstory
These are typically interchangeable, but most RP’s will ask for either or both. Here’s where your creative muscles really get to flex. Expand on the world you’ve been given, explore it, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make your character as interesting as possible. In addition, make sure that your backstory fits your personality and any other miscellaneous things that could be specific to the RP. One of the most common nitpicks with a form is that the character is inconsistent. If you have a hard, tough-as-nails character who lived a nice life with their family with no hardships, it doesn’t add up to a coherent character. Make sure that everything is also consistent with the world, not just the character. If every character originates from the same town, read through all other forms and make sure you keep the canon consistent, otherwise it may lead to issues further down.

Of course, I do not want to present these ideas as being the only way to do things, as it very clearly isn't. I would love to start discussions with you about these topics or anything at all regarding RP's.
 
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