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Five Golden Rules

Accepting your compliments since 296 AD

I've written this guide not as a be-all-and-end-all of roleplaying, but as an exhibit of good manners and good sense when it comes to the roleplaying world. Once you get over ranting about how unoriginal the world is, there are so many roleplayers out there with interesting, inspiring characters full of potential it saddens me to think that so much of that potential is wasted in bad roleplaying skills! If you've ever taken a drama course, you might notice some similarities with rules of improvisation – that's because in a lot of ways play-by-post RP emulates live impro.

Note: this is not a beginners' guide. I'm going out on a limb and assuming you know the basics of roleplaying - intros, characters, etiquette and the like - and have a basic writing ability and some common sense. There are a lot of confusing cross-references and I like putting things in parenthesis. Mind you, assuming you have a rounded, developed character and you're willing to take things with a pinch of salt, you should read on - maybe you'll learn something new!

Rule #1: Interact!

No, seriously.

ex: A walks into a bar. B glances up, then goes back to his drink.

The number of people I see entering a roleplay and refusing to interact with the person starting the roleplay is almost a disgrace. Roleplaying is based on interaction, so to deny this, even in your introduction, is detrimental to the roleplay itself. Another thing: don't walk away from interaction. If your character is going to leave the scene alone, don't automatically expect others to follow (see also, rule #3). If a character makes an offer of interaction, don't shun it unless you have a better one! For some reason, I've observed that "lower" levels of roleplayers, classed around semi-literate, are much much better at obeying this rule (which is the most important!) than self-proclaimed "literate-advanced" roleplayers -- where the scene often becomes stagnant because interaction is not immediately founded and isn't maintained, either. See rule #4 for establishing a premise.

Rule #2: Don't Block and Do Improvise!

Acceptance is the key.

Once you have a premise, run with it! You can add things if it starts to get tired, or let it mould naturally into something else, but don't force the action into what you want to happen unless the Setting absolutely calls for it. If another character makes an offer – for example, if they ask a question, or perform an action or give dialogue which requires a response or guides into advancement in a Setting, don't deny it. It is acceptable for your character not to notice or to deliberately ignore what the other character is doing, as long as it advances the action. Everything you do in a roleplay should be towards that end. If there is no action (or interaction, see rule #1), there is no roleplay.

Make sure and keep the action ticking over! If you feel like the interaction between two characters is getting boring, don't be afraid to make the Active Choice – that is, have something happen which will spark off more opportunities for interaction and spice up the roleplay a little. Improvise! Make sure it's not totally random or out of character (see also: rule #4), and it fits with whatever Setting you're roleplaying in, and don't introduce spice just for the sake of it. If too much is happening, it detracts from what roleplay is all about – character reaction and development.

Rule #3: It's Not About You

Humility is a virtue.

A lot of people try to shove their characters and their characters' goals in everyone else's faces, competing for attention and changing the subject towards their character in every instance. When you come across a roleplay where everyone does this, the in-character atmosphere is confusing and personally, reminds me of small children who refuse to share. Worse still is when characters try to outdo each other in terms of misfortune (or any other relevant circumstance). Roleplay is give and take – to be able to fully appreciate it, you've got to accept that your character might not have the limelight all the time. Ideally, you won't push your character to either crave or shun the limelight. Whether this is part of their personality or not is a whole other kettle of fish – if they're supposed to be an arrogant, pushy git they might try to hog the limelight, but what the character wants and what the roleplayer wants are two different things. You have to be willing to let other characters have their fifteen minutes of fame and a sway in the Setting, otherwise the roleplay will come to nothing.

Don't think that people will automatically believe what your character says, either. Play along with whatever happens and keep in character. Your character is not god. Your character is not all-powerful. If you think they are, you might want to go back and have a look if they're really suitable for a roleplay setting and mightn't you just want to enclose them in a nice, quiet story where they don't have to be a nuisance to anybody.

That's not to say your character can't have a moment, of course - or more, if the Setting demands it. Just avoid overdoing it, and don't try and shove the indignity or tragicness or wonderfulness or Loch Ness Monster of your character's situation under everyone's noses. It'll unfold as the roleplay develops – and if it doesn't, it's not important.

Rule #4: Have Motivation

Suspension of disbelief is not infinite.

It's okay to go out on a bit of a limb with your character if it helps with the scene, and it's okay to do something your character wouldn't usually do as long as you know why. As long as they have a reason and it fits with where the Setting is going, it's fine. Don't worry about making mistakes if your character has a reason for what he does. Remember when you were creating your character – his personality was shaped by his experiences and his experiences were shaped by his personality in an infinite loop. It's a lot like that in roleplay. Characters that are unchanging and static are meagre to roleplay with and become boring to play. It's much better (and more realistic) to have a character who is dynamic and changes with what they encounter.

This also means that character A's reactions to character B are going to be different depending on a lot of factors – what they think of B, how they themselves are feeling that day, what character B is doing. Combining knowing your character and their motivations with improvisation (see rule #2) is a brilliant aid to creating an interesting and engaging premise to build from, and the same can apply to carrying on the action through the Setting. If the introduced Setting is somewhere your character wouldn't normally go, give them a reason, don't just have them floating around for the sake of it. If they really, really, wouldn't normally go, you can highlight this in your introduction. By the way, if the motivation's contrived or non-existent, the roleplay will be forced and often won't work. You don't wave at random strangers – unless you're pulling some kind of prank (a motive) or think they're someone else (a motive) or... See what I'm getting at here? Motivation is essential.

In many Settings, motivation will work often work similarly to realism - which is valid in all Settings, not just realistic ones. Suspension of disbelief in fantastic Settings (and even some normal ones – why do those kids never have classes, anyway?) is a tricky devil, but with appropriate justification, anything is possible (see rule #5 for use and abuse of this theory)! If the character's motivation for doing something, or your justification for something happening is "just because", you need to reassess what you're trying to get at, or else you're probably breaking rule #3.

Rule #5: Make Assumptions

Because we all like to play with the world.

More often than not, the Setting you are roleplaying in will be fictional – or fictional enough that you will be able to take some liberties. In principle, anything is possible with a created world – in reality, each roleplayer has their own idea about the world they are roleplaying in, and the very act of building one another's ideas forms the basis for roleplaying! From experience and speaking to several roleplayers who regularly start roleplays, I can say that we love it when you take liberties with our worlds – within reason. It's difficult for me to define these parameters because they are so different between different Settings. All I can say is be sensible, and use those improvisational skills I was talking about earlier!

Miscellaneous Tips

For things wot don't fit.

-- Read the rules!

-- If in doubt, ask.

-- I'd recommend using a posting order in roleplaying, or at least having the politeness to wait until someone's stopped posting !cont tags to start your post.

-- Don't use Papyrus, under any circumstances. Seriously. No.*

-- Present your character interestingly in your introduction and don't worry too much about physical description.

-- When you're lurking, try not to interrupt or make intermittent comments, especially if you don't know the board maker. Don't stalk people; it's scary.

Credits

Thanks for reading!

I (tegri) wrote this guide and if you like it or you want to share the love, you should link this page. Feel free to quote me, but ask me before you redistribute the guide in any way, shape or form. Thanks! In case you were wondering, the CSS is mine, as is the image. Thanks to ahulme75 at stock.xchng for free use of the image, edited in Photoshop. The fonts used are Green Piloww, LeviBrush and MY TURTLE from dafont.

* -- I apologise for my opinion.

Vin is amazing, guys. You should totally check out her epic create-a-character page if you need any help on constructing a bio for your creation! ♥




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