A Beginner's Guide to Roleplay
This guide was originally written by Rainpelt and Hekomi
Welcome to the Roleplay boards! If you've got question or need help getting started, you've come to the right place. This guide will give you all of the background and basics that you need to pick and join your first (or fourth, or five-hundredth) roleplay.
What exactly is a roleplay?
It's kind of like shared story-telling. Roleplay is defined as taking on a character's role and acting through them in a unique plot and setting. It can take place through several "media," such as real life (from something as complex as LARP [Life Action Roleplaying] to a child's make-believe), organized virtual games (like World of Warcraft), or through a forum or chat. Here on CS, roleplay is a popular forum game that has grown over the years into a small community. Members like you can create their own plot lines and invite others to join with their own characters, essentially writing a moving, flexible story together in a variety of genres.
How does it work?
So where do all these characters come from?
Well, you and your fellow roleplayers will generally create your own! In special circumstances, such as with a roleplay based upon a popular book, movie, or television series, you will be allowed to take on and roleplay official characters from the series. But, usually, and even in fan-based roleplays, people will create their own OCs (original characters) to use. If you need help creating a successful character for a roleplay, check out our How to Create a Roleplay Character guide!
How do you know what your character should do?
The roleplay host will provide a setting, plot, and a set of rules and guidelines in the first posts of a roleplay. The plot gives everyone a place to start, and often a common goal to work towards. However throughout the roleplay your character does whatever you feel that your character is likely to do (within reason, of course). Try to put yourself in their shoes, look at what may motivate them, what might aggravate them, and their own personal goals and desires. You should always try to help contribute to the forward motion, be this through causing conflict, helping move towards the end goal, forming relationships, or potentially diverging from the main plot on a "side quest" of sorts. But don't forget it is always important to listen to the host and any guidelines they have set out for you.
If you still need help figuring out how to act, a good idea is to do more development on your character. Run them through different scenarios and see if you can pin point their reactions. Get in their head and really have fun with it, that's what roleplay is all about.
Where do I, as a roleplayer, fit in?
Picking a roleplay to join is just as important as creating a character and often times you don't create your character(s) until you know what sort of world they'll be placed in. There are a many things to consider when picking a roleplay, but two of the most important are: "What are you interested in?" and "What level do you roleplay at?"
Your interest is fairly self explanatory. If you have no interest in romance, don't join a roleplay centered around couples. If you're a Harry Potter fanatic, maybe a fandom-based roleplay is for you. If you'd rather be a cat or a dragon than a human, then we've definitely got those too! Browse through the boards and check out whatever draws your attention. Be sure not to join too many, however, because roleplay can be time consuming and you never want to overload yourself.
Literacy level is a bit different and is dependent on how much your write, and how much attention you give to grammar. CS has our boards divided into two categories, general and semi-literate/literate. General roleplay is where anything goes, but in the semi-literate/literate boards, roleplay hosts have the right to be picky about who they accept. Definitions vary from person to person, but if you're joining a semi-literate roleplay, they tend to expect a good length paragraph with correct grammar and spelling. Literate roleplays can require significantly more writing, depending on the host. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the three literacy levels, however, and more advanced styles can be time consuming, so join wherever you are comfortable!
How do I join?
Joining a roleplay is fairly straight forward. Once you have picked a roleplay that looks interesting to you, make sure that you read through the plot, setting, rules, and any other information the roleplay host has set out in their first few posts. You join a roleplay by posting a form for your character, which will include information like name, age, gender, history, personality, etc. Often a template will be provided within the first few posts with information the host would like to see before accepting a character, but you are almost always welcome to add more information.
Generally you do not have to ask permission to post a form (or more than one, if you'd like to have multiple characters), but it is considered good etiquette (and required for more advanced roleplays) to wait for the host to tell you they have accepted the character(s) you have posted before you begin roleplaying.
If the host has a problem with your form and you don't want to change it, perhaps another roleplay would be a better option. There is nothing wrong with politely changing your mind. Do keep in mind that you and your character are not the same thing, nor are other players and their characters. Just because there is a conflict within the roleplay between 2 characters, does not in any way mean that another player has a problem with you. It's very important to be able to separate yourself from your character, and if you're able to do that you'll probably meet some of your best buddies through shared interests in a roleplay.
Talk the Talk (Glossary)
A quick index of any unique terms you may come across in the RP board.
OOC, which stands for "Out of Character," is when roleplayers are talking as themselves, not as the character. Generally you will use parentheses like ((this)) or [this] to indicate that you are talking out of character. Most times OOC will be done in a separate discussion topic, but sometimes speaking within the roleplay is necessary.
Similar to god-modding, a character who is perfect in every way, they never do wrong or get hurt, and tend to be described as beautiful, flawless, and powerful. Realistic characters do have flaws, so it is good to make sure your character is well balanced.
Power-playing means someone taking control of another player's character without permission. For example, if your character wants to surprise another character with a kiss or a love letter, it would be power-playing if you decide on the other character's response/reaction. Power-playing can cause problems in a roleplay, but a small amount of minor power-play can sometimes be useful for progressing the plot. There is a very fine line here that you will have to address with your fellow roleplayers.
God-moding is when a character is invincible, all powerful, and all knowing. These characters know things they shouldn't be able to, can do things they shouldn't be able to, and can't seem to get hurt. They may have 'flaws', unlike a mary or gary-sue (see below), but the flaws don't tend to hinder them.
You can read more about power-playing and god-moding below.
Good Roleplay Behaviour and Etiquette
If you are new to roleplaying on CS, it's a good idea to read this guide to basic roleplay etiquette so that you will make a good first impression on your new roleplay buddies.
Avoid grave digging
This is what we call it when you post in an old roleplay when everyone has already lost interest and abandoned the roleplay. If a roleplay is "dead" and hasn't had any new posts from anyone in weeks, it's probably time to start a new roleplay instead of digging up old "dead" topics from the grave.
Please remember that roleplay isn't reality
So if someone's character calls your character a name, picks fights with your character frequently or doesn't really interact with your character, don't take it personally. This doesn't mean the other player has a problem with you, they are just playing the part of a character which doesn't like your character. Try not to get upset or mad at the other player, because they are most likely just trying to make the roleplay more interesting, and not trying to be mean.
Leaving for dead
This occurs when there are a lot of people involved in a roleplay and a bunch of them go offline. The remaining roleplayers might add an entire page or more of posts for their characters while the others are gone. When the other roleplayers come back they have a ton of catching up to do which can be difficult. Sometimes they may request a quick fill-in as an easy way to catch up. But constantly typing up what has just happened can get frustrating, or some people may not do it at all. Bottom line is: be courteous of other role players and refrain from posting a million posts when half the roleplayers are away. You might want to join another roleplay to post on in the meantime if your roleplay partners are away often.
Rights of the roleplay owner
The person who created the roleplay topic is considered to be the owner of that roleplay. They can set their own rules for who can roleplay and what kinds of things people can do in the roleplay. If they want to allow God-Modding or Mary-Sues they can do that. But remember that everyone must follow the official Roleplay Rules at all times, and the Roleplay Owner can't override these. That means no swearing and no breaking the romance, drug/alcohol, or violence restrictions - even if the Roleplay Owner says it's okay.
The ever popular mini-plot is born when there is already a plot to the role play (eg: the characters must find some sort of sacred diamond to restore peace to the world), then someone wants to add their own twist to another person's role play. For example: the character may start to have flash backs of past lives that then intrude on their present and side track the entire main-plot entirely. This is often annoying for the creator of the role play and can be irritating for others also. It's a good idea to discuss your plans and ideas with the other roleplayers so you know if people want to include your mini-plot, or whether it's better to start your own new role-play.
Spam and out of character chat
We call it "spam" if you post things which are not really relevant to the roleplay, such as asking people to trade pets or telling them what you got up to on the weekend. Every off-topic post makes the topic a little longer and makes it harder for other roleplayers to catch up with what's been going on. If you just want to chat with the other roleplayers about something personal or off-topic, you should PM them - maybe you'll make a new friend! Sometimes it is acceptable to post "Out Of Character" (OOC) - for example if you need to discuss the plot/character goals or catch someone up on what's happened in the roleplay so far, but remember the point is to roleplay, not chat about it!
Nobody is perfect all the time!
Sometimes you may be roleplaying with someone who is a bit younger or is very new to roleplaying and they may occasionally make mistakes with the rules or do something you don't like. Maybe their grammar and vocabulary isn't as good as yours or they read and write more slowly. But we all started somewhere, so try to encourage others to develop their skills and keep trying, and don't get mad and picky about every little error. Remember we're all here to have some fun!
Power-Playing and God-Moding
While all players on the site are working together to tell a story, there are a few rules as to what people can add to the story. They help keep everyone on an even playing field and keep it fun for everyone involved. No one enjoys playing with someone who takes all the control or completely ignores that every character has limits. Below you’ll find some examples of what not to do so that you can avoid them.
Power playing is when you type up the actions of another character. Let’s take a look at an example.
- RPer1 wrote:
- Shadow turned and saw the shape of a wolf in the distance. He stood his ground and gave a gentle growl, suspicious of what was to come. He turned his ears back and his lip trembled in his growling. Shadow was never a wolf to trust strangers. And so, his tail wagged slowly, hoping that this wolf did not see him. The dark wolf wanted loneliness. Would he be granted it?
- RPer 2 wrote:
- Light merrily skipped ahead, seeing Shadow right away. “Hey! Who are you?” Shadow immediately pricked his ears at her words and came up to her. “I’m Light,” the golden wolf said. Shadow smiled and said, "My name is Shadow! I'm happy to meet you!"
It’s pretty clear that RPer1 didn’t intend for Shadow to be friendly with Light. But RPer2 has taken complete control of Shadow’s actions. In this example Shadow is acting completely out of character, but let’s take a look at another possible response by RPer2 that is also an example of power playing.
- RPer 2 wrote:
- Light merrily skipped ahead, seeing Shadow right away. “Hey! Who are you?” Shadow immediately pounced on Light, clawing at her face and biting her neck. Light flailed at the sudden attack, but could do nothing to stop Shadow’s vicious onslaught.
Again, RPer2 has taken complete control. Is this what Shadow would have done in the situation? It certainly seems more in character than the first example. But it doesn’t matter if this is accurate to how Shadow would react or not. The problem in both examples is that RPer2 has taken all options away from RPer1 as to how their character will respond.
Most of the time power playing is pretty easy to avoid. Special care should be taken when role playing physical fights. When caught up in the excitement of battle, it might be tempting to say that your character hit another character or delivered a crippling blow. But that doesn’t give the other player a chance to have their character dodge or block your attacks. Saying your character “gouged out the other wolf’s eye” is power playing; stating that he “swiped at the other wolf’s eye, hoping to impede his vision” is not. The other player’s reply to your post should let you know how successful your attack was. It can be a bit tricky to balance at first, and you may wish to read over some completed fight threads to see it in action.
The only time it is acceptable to control another player’s character is when they have given you permission to do so. Usually these situations involve very simple actions where allowing you to control the other character will help speed things along. This might include things like following another character to an agreed upon location or cooperating in a mutually beneficial task. Whatever the action, the other player must give you express permission to do so.
As it sounds, god moding is when your character becomes all powerful or all knowing. Here’s an example.
- RPer1 wrote:
- Shadow drifted into the night. He could smell the bear and grew very afraid. He moved slowly, hoping that he could sneak away. Sadly, he could not because he heard the heavy breathing of the monster behind him. Ears pointed back, all he could hear was the huffing of a nearing bear. Shadow shivered in fear. Suddenly the bear let out a snarl.
- RPer 2 wrote:
- Light saw the bear approaching Shadow and immediately jumped onto its back. The bear thrashed wildly, but never hit either wolf. Light snapped its neck and the bear died. She jumped off easily, "Are you okay?" She sounded very worried.
RPer2 seems to have had good intentions (wanting to save Shadow), but Light’s actions make very little sense. A single wolf is unlikely to be able to take down a bear, and would certainly not be able to do so easily and without injury. By coming in and suddenly making everything better all of the drama was taken out of the situation.
Your character should not be able to deflect every blow in battle (unless there is some massive difference in the two character’s experience and strength). This is especially true if nothing in your bio or posts has indicated that your character is a skilled fighter. After a severe wound your character should not be instantly better and full of energy.
God moding doesn’t just apply to physical actions. It can apply to knowledge as well. Here’s another example.
- RPer1 wrote:
- Shadow hesistated. Perhaps this wolf was different. She seemed so nice. But he had been fooled by false kindness before, and then they had cast him out. Maybe someday he would find a home among those who would accept him and not judge him too harshly. But for now it was safer to stay on his guard and hope that this encounter would be short. “I just want to be left alone.”
- RPer 2 wrote:
- Light laughed happily. She always knew just what to say. “No you don’t silly. You just want to be accepted for who you are. I’ve had trouble with other’s judging me before they get to know me too. We have a lot in common. We should be friends!”
As this seems to be the first time these characters have met, there is really no way that Light should be aware of Shadow’s deep personal feelings or his seemingly complicated past. All she should know is that he seems guarded and wants to be alone. Keep in mind that while you, the player, may know a lot about other characters on the site, that knowledge does not transfer to your characters. You can read a character’s bio and get insight into their thoughts and feelings. Your character’s knowledge is limited to their interactions with the other character.
Your character should not be able to see through every lie they are told or instantly know when others are in trouble. Keep in mind the strengths and weaknesses of your character, as well as those of other characters. If a character you meet has a talent of being a good liar, then it’s less likely that your character will pick up on it. If your character is too trusting they might believe lies that aren’t even very convincing. Allowing your characters to make mistakes or be mislead can add a lot of interesting drama and makes your character more interesting and relatable.