Roleplaying Forum Writing Guide
A guide to roleplaying beginning with writing in forums.
Guide to Writing a Role-Playing Thread
If you are reading this guide, you have probably already read the FAQ or know how to Role-Play from past experiences. This addition is to give hints and tips for how to further your Forum Role-Playing. If you have noticed that you don't always get the response from other posters that you were hoping for, this is for you.
Types of RP:
As stated in the FAQ, there are a few different types of Role-Playing. For the purpose of this guide, this article will only be focusing on Open-Role-Playing, Structured-Role-Playing, and Closed Role-Playing as these are the only three that require you to type up paragraphs and think in a plot line fashion.
Open Role Playing
In this type, every person in the thread is a equal actor and you may never God-Mode anyone unless they give their permission. The Original Poster (OP) usually starts with an end in mind and will try to steer the thread in that direction but try to give everyone their own camera-time.
Structured Role Playing
This type is still open for people to jump into and contribute, but is more rigid than an Open RP thread. The OP has a story to tell and is allowed a small amount of God-Moding throughout the thread if things deviate too far from the plot line, but should still always respect the other actor's character rights.
Closed Role Playing
These threads are sort of like a sign up, as a separate thread is created for people to ask questions and register their character. These tend to be rare, but were once commonplace in the Beta Role-Playing forums.
There are a few rules for joining an Open Role Playing thread. First of all, you must join in a logical fashion. The thread starts in Stormwind and you are a Forsaken. What are you doing in Stormwind in the first place? How did you get in?
Fors came down the stairs of the Lion's Pride Inn, yawning. He began slaughtering the pitiful humans all around him.
Critique: How did Fors get into the Inn? Why was he sleeping upstairs? How would no humans see him? You don't know, and the author probably has no idea either.
Fors crept into the open window of the Lion's Pride Inn, quietly slitting the throat of the only human in the room. It hadn't been easy sneaking past the guards or climbing the wall, but that was what he had been trained to do. He was here on a mission, and he meant to complete it. With a light foot and a quick dagger he stepped out of the room and slew another human who had been standing just outside of the door without a sound. He only hoped that no-one would find him before he had a chance to slay them.
Critique: A real, logical entrance was made and he obviously has a plan, even if he didn't reveal it yet. Plus he has given someone else a chance to interact with him.
Many times you simply cannot think of a good reason for your character to be in that place a that time, so you have three options. One: You can start your character in a different location and wait for the plot to advance before joining the others. Two: You can switch to another character. Most Role-Players have many different characters to call upon, so be sure to use them. Three: Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Just because you enjoy a thread, it doesn't mean that you need to join it.
This part is broken up into a few rules.
This is the thing that every decent Role-Player hates to see. To God-Mode is to use another person's character without their consent. This can range anywhere from putting words in their mouth to killing them. Here is an example how the story can be played out, going from good to bad.
Elly knocked the head off one of the advancing Scourge, shouting to her comrade Rajhin, "We can't keep this up! There are simply too many of them!" It was then that she noticed that behind the tidal wave of Scourge stood a single Forsaken, the one they had seen before called Kamith. He was holding his hand up high and shouting an incantation. She quickly slashed through the mass of Scourge, hoping she could interrupt him in time.
Critique: This establishes what is happening and does not take control of other's characters at all, assuming that Kamith had already posted that he was beginning to cast something.
Elly knocked the head off one of the advancing Scourge, shouting to her comrade Rajhin, who seemed to be having trouble, "We can't keep this up! There are simply too many of them!" Rajhin shouted back, "Ya mon! We need ta be getting away!" It was then that she noticed that behind the tidal wave of Scourge stood a single Forsaken, the one they had seen before called Kamith. He was holding his hand up high and shouting an incantation. She quickly slashed through the mass of Scourge, raising her mallet to bring it down on Kamith's head.
Critique: This isn't too bad. Elly, however, is determining how Rajhin is fairing against his foes, which is a no-no, plus she is putting words in his mouth. What if Rajhin wants to keep on fighting to the death? Elly also reaches Kamith and is about to smash him. Sure she leaves that up to him, but what if he had wanted to do something while the two of them were still at a fair distance? All in all, this isn't all that bad, but treads the line of God-Moding quite dangerously.
Not Good Example:
Elly knocked the head off one of the advancing Scourge, shouting to her comrade Rajhin, who had been stabbed in the leg and was bleeding profusly, "We can't keep this up! There are simply too many of them!" Rajhin shouted back, "Ya mon! IWe need ta be getting away!" It was then that she noticed that behind the tidal wave of Scourge stood a single Forsaken, the one they had seen before called Kamith. He was holding his hand up high and shouting an incantation. She quickly slashed through the mass of Scourge, smashing her mallet into his side, interrupting his spell. He got back to his feet quickly and usheathed his dagger. "Meddling Paladin! You will die!"
Critique: This simply takes too many allowances. First off, Elly has portrayed Rajhin's fight in a way he probibly doesn't want. Again, always leave personal fighting against NPC's to the individual. Secondly, she puts words in both of the other players' mouths. What if Kamith wanted to act slyly and not say a word, pretend he was dead? That is the kind of thing only the other player can determine. This is definitely God-Moding, but can be played if the others let it slide, but Elly will probably get a comment about it.
Elly knocked the head off one of the advancing Scourge, shouting to her comrade Rajhin, who was barely conscious after the severe injuries he had sustained, "We can't keep this up! There are simply too many of them!" Rajhin could only scream as yet another blade entered his side. It was then that she noticed that behind the tidal wave of Scourge stood a single Forsaken, the one they had seen before called Kamith. He was holding his hand up high and shouting an incantation. She quickly slashed through the mass of Scourge, smashing her mallet into his side, interrupting his spell. He lay on the floor, nearly dead an drained of all his power. "You can kill me, but my spirit and power will linger on, Light blinded Paladin!" Elly just sneered and brought her mallet down on his skull crushing it. The Scourge behind her fell apart, saving Rajhin from an assured death.
Critique: This is just bad as far as God-Moding goes. She portrays Rajhin as an almost incompetent fighter, obviously with much less skill than her. She then not only interrupts Kamith, puts a lot of words in his mouth, but also kills him! And to top it off, she just ended the battle before any of the others had a chance to do anything. This kind of thing is unacceptable.
Bad Just For Fun Example:
Elly lit into the advancing Scourge army, taking out dozens of them with every swipe. Rajhin, however, fell without even taking out a single one. She sighed, raising him from the dead while keeping the tide of Scourge away with one hand. "Must I always say your ass, Rajhin?" "I be sorry, miss Elly. I be incompetent," he replied. She laughed and proceeded to destroy the rest of the Scourge army with a few swipes. She noticed The Forsaken Kamith trying to cast a spell, but his obvious fear of her kept his hands shaking and kept him from concentrating. She walked up to him as he begged, "Please! Please don't kill me! I just wanted to be a real boy!" She Destroyed him with a single flick of her finger, his body exploding. "Well, Rajhin, my clumsy sidekick, I think all is well in Azeroth again." And with that, they all lived happily ever after.
As you can see, God-Moding can be very destructive to a thread's plot line. Watch yourself to make sure you don't do it.
Too liberal use of NPCs
Too liberal use of NPCs, especially ones that are crucial to others' story, can also sometimes be harmful. Take for example the 'Bad Just For Fun Example" above. Elly there defeats the entire army of NPCs without letting anyone else interact with them. Just like God-Moding, you want to avoid doing this. A little rule is that no matter how many soldiers you defeat, the army is always bigger until that phase of the thread is over.
This does not come naturally to many people and can take a while to get used to. The best suggestion for finding the proper grammar of a sentence would be to read it out loud and see if it sounds right. If it doesn't, re-arrange the words until it sounds right.
Ex: Brian ate the muffin, hesitant.
to: Brian hesitantly ate the muffin.
Even though it might not seem like a big thing, it can make all the difference that your sentences flow together, otherwise people will need to stop and re-read you post and suddenly they find that the immersion is broken just because something doesn't sound right. Don't let it get you down if you don't have good skills when it comes to grammar. To get better at recognizing the structure of sentences you should read other novels or even pick up a book on grammar.
The thing with spelling is to look at the word and ask yourself if it looks right. If it looks odd, change it around until it looks better. If you do that and it still doesn't look right, you can look it up in the dictionary or ask someone to correct you. Many people make the argument, "I didn't come here to spell good!" No, but it is important that the person you are trying to communicate to understand you. A little spelling error every now and again is nothing to fret about, but five in every sentence? Again, reading novels will help correct this problem. Of course it makes your RP look much better. Don't hesitate if you think your spelling is really bad, just ask around (with double brackets of course) how to spell those things, ignore teens that don't know you're having trouble with it and all should be fine.
The length of a post can be subjective to the situation. The ideal post is one that is around two to five paragraphs in length. Any more and people will start to feel their eyeballs drying out from staring at the screen that long. If you are having a back and forth conversation, short posts are fine, but at least try to put in a whole paragraph to keep interest up. There are few key things in a post that should always be covered.
Setting: If it hasn't been established, establish it. Nothing makes it harder to imagine what is going on than if the characters are just floating in a 'white space.' Give them a world to interact with. Describing a new setting should probably take up a full paragraph.
Action: What is happening in this post that makes us want to read it? Action does not have to mean that fighting is going on, action simply means that something is happening. It could be internal conflict, it could be Rarkal found a seat at the bar, Bobby might have picked some lint out of his belly-button. It doesn't matter the specifics of the action, just that something happened and you made us interested enough to read it.
Resolution/Suspense: You post must contain a logical end to it. You can use these to hint at what you would like to happen next. Such as, "Killia fired his shotgun at Garmend, hoping that it would hit him. If it did, then his plan would begin." Naturally Garmend is going to be curious to see what Killia's plan is, so he's now more likely to let the bullet hit him. The ending of your post is crucial in that you finish your step and wait for someone else to start theirs. Give them something to work with.
This is the meat of your post. Describe, describe, describe. You are painting a picture for people to look at, so you should make it good. What ever you do, do it with description. Don't just say that you ran from the enemy, say you ran like a deer away from a fire. Say that the table wasn't only green, but that it had elvish runes carved into it. Did you kill something? Well then say how you killed it.
Now too much detail can be a problem sometimes, but if you are having that problem, just back off a little bit and you'll be fine. The point of description is just so that people reading it can get a mental picture of what is going on. Remember 'white space?' You don't want your character to just stand there with his hands straight down at his sides while he talks.
Another problem that can occur in forum roleplaying is players who introduce a character and then don't respond for 3-4 days or weeks. Basically, you end up having a character that has to fade in and out of existence and cause disjoins in character interactions.
- Player 1: Hurbert enters the room, dropping body parts on his way in.
- Player 2: (someone else) picks up a rotting middle finger asks Hurbert, "Did you lose this?" holding it up.
- (Hurbert doesn't respond for 3-4 days or weeks so the story has to continue without any conclusion to that event, which makes that other person's part disjointed.)
(In other words, when joining an RP thread one should try to make an entrance and an exit to let people know whether they are still around.)
More is to come...