Hi, and welcome to my unofficial guide to roleplaying. ^^ Before we begin, I'd like to point at that I am not, in any way, saying that what I write here is the only, or the best, way to roleplay: I am merely setting up a guide for those who have no idea about how to go about it, or would like some hints on how to improve their roleplaying.
Questions, and suggestions, are both appreciated and loved.
The basics: Style
First off, I'll start with the very basics of roleplaying - the style. There are two main styles of roleplaying:
The first is where you use asterisk to show movement or gesture that your character makes.
eg: *Osi stands on a soap box to address the crowd* Hi, thank you for reading this.
This is usually considered a less formal, or even 'illiterate' (I mean no offence by this term) way of roleplaying, and is usually used in forum chat or OOC threads. The tense for this style is usually present. Use of asterisk, or other alternatives (Such as -action -, or /action) are often a good way to ease into roleplaying for beginners, though I don't suggest you leap into an RP in this style unless other roleplayers are using it also.
The second style I'll talk about is the more formal, or 'literate' style of roleplaying (Again, no offence meant), where you write your words and actions much like you'd find them in a book.
eg: Crouching down in front of her laptop, Osi rubbed at bloodshot eyes, squinting at the screen.
"Wow." She murmured, not quite believing what she was seeing. "I'm at two-hundred and seventy five words on this thing already?"
This style is almost always used in past tense, and is the style used for the majority of roleplays. Unlike the 'asterisk' style, in 'book' style, it's best to try and observe correct grammar and spelling rules, though this doesn't have to be done to the letter.
As a general rule for roleplaying, try running your posts through a spelling and grammar check (I use Microsoft word) before posting it. Having corrected spelling can improve your post tenfold!
Obviously, to roleplay, you need a character of some kind. Usually characters are some kind of humanoid creature, though it is not uncommon to find animal roleplays and other varieties also. My suggestion to first time roleplayers is to start with a human (or something close to) character, as how humans react, move and speak will be much more familiar to you then how, say, a wolf would be.
Let's start with an example profile and go through it piece by piece.
First off, character name:
This one isn't incredibly difficult. I would generally suggest putting your character's full name, first and family (and even middle name, if you'd like) in here, unless you have a specific reason for your character to not have a last name. Its little details, such as a last name, that fills out a character. Also, if your character has any aliases or preferred nicknames, here is the place to put them.
This brings us to age:
Now, I know the majority of us want to play teenagers or young adults, yet this isn't a must do. There is no reason why you can't play a forty year old man, if you really want to. Try to pick an age that's appropriate for the roleplay.
Now we get to the more interesting things. Appearance and personality are two criteria that I've noticed people having the most problems with, so I'll try to break both down a bit.
Quite a few people get around appearance by using pictures, rather then describing their character. While this is alright, I personally feel that using just a picture fails to highlight all aspects of your character's looks - if you really want to use a picture, try writing a short paragraph, or even a few sentences, to go with it and truly make the picture into your character! For those of you who, like me, prefer written descriptions of your characters, we'll cover the basics.
- Hair/Eye color: Try not to be too cliche and unnatural with these (oh my word, every second character has red eyes!), yet don't just leave it as 'brown hair and blue eyes'. Going into shades of color, and different styles and lengths for hair, can really add to both your characters appearance and personality, and make them stand out from the crowd.
- Height: While this might not seem important, it can actually be used in later actions in the roleplay. Try looking back at how tall, or short, other characters are so you can have your character react accordingly, whether that is by looking up when speaking to another character, or failing to see them because they're much shorter then your own.
- Physical structure: Again, whilst not seeming very important, your character's build can say a lot about their personality. Weight can also come into this category, if you wish to include it. For example, if your character is a body-builder, you will want to mention how muscle-bound his body is. The same were your character a ballet dancer - you can go into the long, lithe figures. Skin-tone and color are also good to pop in. In this category, you can also mention how they walk or move, or any scars or disabilities your character might have.
- Clothing: While this is not, perhaps, an absolutely necessary criterion, it can help define your character. Instead of describing one outfit (Unless, of course, your character won't change clothes at all during the roleplay), try describing the style and colors of dress your character prefers, or even styles/colors that they hate. Jewelry and accessories also add an individual touch to a character.
The personality makes the character:
Personality is one of those criteria which can be a little vague - after all, our personality changes over them. Your character's can do the same over the course of an RP. Try not to just sum it up in a few words though -
Personality: Cold, brooding, doesn't like people but will warm up to you if you try hard enough.
While this may be the bare bones of a personality, it doesn't actually say much about the character. Try elaborating a little on how they might react. Also, in the last point, there is a slight contradiction: 'Will warm up to you if you try hard enough'. If a character keeps away from others, he will not likely let other characters close enough unless forced to. Try to make sure your character's personality is consistent. Also, it is a good idea to keep your character's past in mind when creating a personality for them. If a person had a happy childhood, it is unlikely they will turn out a cold, brooding person.
Which brings us to History:
The first point I'll make on this one is try to avoid making your character have amnesia, unless there is a real, solid reason for it. This might just be a pet peeve of mine, but I just would like to make the point that a person does not just suddenly get amnesia for any reason. It's the same deal for the "Saw his/her family murdered in front of his/her eyes at the age of nine" story; not everyone, unless it is a war-time roleplay, can have this story.
My main reason for using these two scenarios is to emphases this: Try to be original! There is no crime in giving your character a 'normal' past, with a loving family, school and what-not. In fact, if often makes your character unique. Also, try to make your character's past synch with the roleplay: If it's a modern-day, realistic roleplay, you should try not to bring in demon-hordes and the like.
I'll be short on this one, I promise. Again, there is nothing wrong with having your character having a family: I'm sure not everyone's family in an entire roleplay was either killed off by the bad-guy, or were evil and abusive.
Mentioning family members also gives you the added option of bringing in a minor character attached to your main one; siblings can have rivalries, children can run to their parents for protection. Giving your character a family can help you shape their personality and history, depending on these minor character's own lives and stories.
Whilst not absolutely necessary, giving your character an occupation not only gives them something to do but, once again, can reflect their character. It also gives reason for other characters to interact with your own. For example, were you character a blacksmith, other characters could come to you to have their weapons fixed, etc. Having an occupation gives your character both purpose, and a range of skills other characters might not have. A word of advice though: if your character is in their teens, it's unlikely they could have become a master swordsman or blacksmith in that amount of time, no matter how long or hard they trained. There's no shame in being an apprentice.
Again, in my opinion, this category is not absolutely necessary unless you're joining a battle RP. After all, people generally don't walk around their own village armed to the teeth (or, at least, they don't where I'm from). If you're playing a peasant or farmer character, I'm sorry, but the most you'll likely have is a knife of sorts.
This brings me to characters that do carry around weapons, such as mercenaries, or the like. My general rule is this: Don't overload on the weapons. More weapons does not make you more cool. Try to think your weapons choice out: your character cannot physically carry around a broadsword, a double-bladed sword and a great-axe. I personally try to give my character one weapon (two if one of them is a bow), yet this isn't a rule. Just try to keep it sensible. ^^
One other thing; if it's a Medieval Europe style roleplay, try not to give foreign weapons, such as katanas or throwing stars, to your character, unless they are specifically from that country.
First of all, I'd like to say that there is absolutely no obligation for your character to have magical powers, even if everyone else in the roleplay does (unless the roleplay creator specifies otherwise).
Now that I've said that, I'll say much the same thing I did with weapons: don't overload your character with magical powers. It is highly unlike that your character, no matter how special, will have perfectly mastered every elemental power by the age of 17. Remember, kids, limits are fun! Even if your character is a highly magically based, they can't go shooting fireballs forever. The most important thing, when using magic in a roleplay, is limits.
And that brings us to the end of dissecting a basic profile! The key, pretty much, is detail and moderation in powers, strength and weapons. ^^ Originality is never bad.
Third: Actually roleplaying (The dos and don'ts)
- Alright, if you got through all the last section, I'm impressed. This means that you're going to do well in roleplaying, as one of the most important things you can do is read everyone else's posts. You don't want to miss out on important information or character movement just because you were feeling lazy.
- Do go into detail! How your character moves, what they think, little gestures. These sorts of things add life to what could otherwise be a rather dull, cookie-cutter caricature.
- Keep all conversation that is not related to your character, or 'OOC' (Out of Character) out of your direct roleplaying. Larger roleplays will often have an OOC thread which you can discuss your roleplay in, rather then break up the actual storyline, or you can use methods such as ((brackets)) to keep conversation separate. Try to settle all matters on plot, fighting and general conversation within OOC. Arguments of any kind should -definitely- be kept to OOC, preferably private message or e-mail if possible.
- Make sure what you're having your character do is consistent with what other players are doing, or with the plot. For example, if a players character is alone in a room, with the door locked, your character cannot suddenly be in the room with them. Use the door, mate. It's what it's there for.
- Don't ignore other players just because they don't fit in with where you want to go with your character. There's nothing worse then entering a roleplay and having everyone ignore you because they're caught up in doing their own thing. Pretty much, it's rude.
- I'd suggest that you don't leave the roleplay for long periods of time, then expect everything to be the same when you come back. Along with this, if you need to leave for a while, try to write your character out of the plot before you do. Leaving your character in the middle of a conversation with another and then leaving for a month is incredibly annoying for other players.
- Please, if only for my sake, do not godmode. This is the act of constantly either not letting the actions of others effect your character, or making 'auto-hits' on another person's character. This can be seriously annoying to other players, and extremely frustrating. Also, avoid doing the impossible, such as somehow dodging a point-blank attack unscathed. Godmoding can also be called C&E, cause and effect. Don't affect others characters unless you have their permission!
- Don't feel that you have to make your posts long to look intelligent. Often you don't need to make especially long posts. Just say what you feel you need to say. On the other hand, don't just post a line or two - you can describe more then that! Moderation is the key, my dears.
- Having a 'sixth sense' of absolutely everything going on around your character is not only unrealistic, but can be plain annoying for more stealthy characters. Unless someone makes a move to draw your attention to them, such as stepping on a twig, etc, it's unlikely you're going to see/hear them. Try to keep things at least remotely realistic, and give other characters a chance! You don't have to 'win' the roleplay.
I'll add more to this section as I think of things.
Fourth: Creating a Roleplay.
There are three things you need in a roleplay:
Myself, I think the first, plot, is the most important part of your roleplay. Although it's important to give your players a degree of freedom in what their characters do, a plot is the driving force of your roleplay. Frankly, without a plot, your roleplay is more then likely going to die (I speak from personal experience @.@). The best plots, I've found, are when there is no 'good' and 'bad' side, although those do work rather well. Try to encourage players to evenly take one side or another, so that you don't have one 'good' character against a horde of villains, or visa versa. Also, don't snap up the best lead role for yourself, unless you particularly need it played in a certain way. Try to have equal roles for each character.
Again, this is important. Try not to just say "a dark forest", or, "an open field". Give your players locations and landmarks to work with.
While this might not seem important, try and have an ending or final aim for your roleplay. This provides a goal for you to try and coax your players towards, and should keep the story moving. If you reach the goal, you can always set up a new one.
Whilst having lots of information and detail in your roleplay is often a good thing, make sure you don't overdo it. Often, if your intro posts are too long, players won't want to read it all. Keep in mind how much you are willing to read, and try to keep your intro lengths to around that.
And we're done!
If you managed to get through that giant slab of text, I must say I'm impressed! Well, I hope this was of some use to you. ^^ Remember, that what's in here is just my advice to roleplayers, not the roleplaying bible or anything.