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 Roleplaying Theory: Food for thought on how to help with engaging writing/characters
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Denealus
 Saturday, July 25 2015 @ 03:35 AM UTC (Read 1231 times)  
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So a long time ago in a forum far far away, I'd created this thread. Now, I'd always meant to post a follow-up but life has long gotten in the way.

Now that I'm in a mindset to do so, I'm finally going to post a follow-up! As usual, these threads start with my opinions and branch from there. There's no one right way of viewing things. It's meant to promote discussion. I'd also hesitate towards calling out specifics. General rules, and why they are important are more important.

There's very little in the way of right ways to do things in freeform RP. So this isn't about that. Mostly ideas pop up from seeing things that grate. That rub you the wrong way. So this is a compilation of those things. Small pet peeves. It's not to say that this is a wrong way to roleplay. Far from it. But it is a way to explain why some things stick out like a sore thumb.

Keep in mind, these are things that stand out for me and maybe other people. I am by no means the ultimate guru on roleplaying. But I have gone through several character iterations over many years and seen some things I enjoy and some I don't.
So keep this in context.

So you've set up a character and you're ready to go! Maybe you've written before. Maybe you haven't! If this is your first time though or there's some nervousness, here's some ways to set yourself up. Or, rather, some things I see that make me not want to interact with them as story characters. Pitfalls people run into, as it were. I think by watching out for some of these pitfalls, you can tend to engage more people more of the time, so that's how this will be phrased.

Throughout this you may find a golden rule and if nothing else, I think this is one that is key: Roleplay that invalidates someone else's concept of fun to enjoy their character is roleplay to avoid. The list goes into a few examples (and may be a bit wordy) but I believe it's a good guideline to follow.

1. Roleplaying Pitfallss


==DON'T TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER/PLOT==

-This seems weird. I mean, why wouldn't you want to talk about your character? The thing is that, thisThe thing is this is kind of a more complicated way of saying "show, don't tell." Some examples:

"You find when you talk to him that he's extremely charming."

I do? What happens if I don't? This isn't to say "don't play a charming character." This isn't even to say "don't play a character who expects to charm people." It's just once you pigeonhole someone's interaction, not only may it end up disappointing you when people don't treat your character that way, but it may also disappoint the other player to feel that they are "forced" to play a character a certain way.

I see a lot of people go into what I call "Exposition Fairy" mode. This covers a lot of things. But in general, people seem to like to do an info dump about how their character works. Talk to people about how their magic works. Go into lengthy explanations on details about the Island and such not. You'll notice in Improbable Island, not even the Watcher does this. She establishes the relationship as you being "the plonker."

Here's the thing. Think about the last movie you watched. How much time did it spend actually explaining the premise of the movie at the introduction?

We learn about people over time. We don't share our most intimate life stories from the get go. So don't tell me what your character's qualities are supposed to be like. Show me through interaction. Plot expressed through things happening is much more involving than telling me about your internal struggle and ancient evil.

==THE JOURNEY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE DESTINATION==

-This is another that is more difficult for people to wrap their heads around. In a world of freeform RP, it is nice to have easy answers. Someone is hurt? Magic their wounds away! Someone needs an object? Happens to be in my pack right now! Or I have just the right special ability at the right time. It seems to be helping the story along, right? After all, problem solved! You were a helpful asset to their story.

Here's the problem: Once someone has reached their destination, it is no longer a story. It is a completed story.

This comes in the form of logical paths too. You solve someone's riddle for them? That's a completed story. You cure a long standing disease? That's a completed story. The solution is not the story, the path to the solution is.

So next time you consider giving someone an easy answer? Consider whether this is a good time for them to arrive at the destination. "I have a problem" is not always an invitation to solutions. It's an invitation to story. A corollary..

==WHO YOUR CHARACTER IS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT THEY ARE==

-So you're a badass ninja warlord with fifty bajillion swords trained under a million year old goddess of slaughter who had you as her half-bred child and you took a part of that celestial quality into yourself, always fighting your half-demonic nature while the gods of the world play with your soul like a chess piece...

That's cool. Why would I want to play with your character?

There's a couple things that happen with showy gimmick characters. First of all, gimmicks get stale. Personalities seldom do. Second of all, challenge and conflict makes story. If there's no real reason for a conflict, it's not going to make for a very interesting story.

Conflict often arises from personal values, traits, tics. These don't have to be huge scale. A father fighting to protect his land against a callous conglomerate to support his only daughter has a conflict. Sure, his abilities are resources. But the conflict arises from who he is, i.e. a person who puts family at high personal value. I see so many people try to define what their character is and what cool abilities they have that they almost forget to make an actual, you know, character.

And believe me, you get more mileage out of thinking of the personality than worrying about what cool weapon they can wield.

==SOLO IS YOUR FRIEND==

-Now how many times have you seen this happen?

"Euphrades walks into the outpost, sees no one he knows, sits on a bench."

The question I wonder is...if you don't know what to do with your character, what makes you think I should know how to interact with your character? Some people don't like to solo. I get it. Roleplay is about interaction. However, here's a key thing: If I don't read someone's prose and think they like who their character is, that character has very little life to it.

Solo gives you a chance to explore your character without having to meet the demands of other people. It's your character versus the environment. It emerges your character in a living world, not just one where other players exist, but that they're a part of a living, breathing changeable world.

It makes it so that different outposts have a reason to exist. Does your character react different to robots and mutants versus squats or kittymorphs? Does your character have trouble navigating the trees of Kittania more or the sands and hungry zombies of New Pittsburgh?

Solo also encourages other people to join. Because you're not just there. You're doing something. You're active in your environment. People know why they should interact with your character because they know how your character interacts. Show, not tell.

==ARMS RACES HELP NO ONE==

-I've seen a lot of braggarts about abilities of their character or whatnot. Here's the thing: This is freeform. I can invent anything and say it works. That's not a challenge. I could have a character who can suddenly lift the whole Island overhead and crush it with a single hand. This does not take skill. This takes me mentioning that I have the power to do that and write it out.

The other thing is this is a game played with other players. You do not know the other players abilities. Should I be punished just because I think "a fist so hard it can crack concrete" is powerful enough but your character has "a shield that can withstand a nuclear blast"? Clearly when I wrote this character, I was thinking of a character who was powerful. Your power level nerfs my character. My character is no longer fun to play for me because you basically said "No, they aren't." This is Cowboys and Indians mentality.

So...you have options. A) You can be stubborn and stick to your original character concept and say "Nope, doesn't even flinch." Or Cool You can compromise and say that there is at least a visible effect.

Why choose one over the other? The thing is A invalidates my character concept. B supports it. As we're playing a game with multiple people, shouldn't as many character concepts as possible be supported as possible? Even the weakest character should be allowed a moment in the sun. Even the most stubborn character should be allowed to make a point once and a while.

Key point here is: Be flexible in everything you do. Support other characters right to be their character and it's more fun for all.

And last, but certainly not least....

==CHARACTERS CAN ACT HOW THEY WILL. ALWAYS ACKNOWLEDGE THE PLAYER==

-Arrogance, dismissal, boredom, disgust . These are all character traits. This is fine. If your character would not give the other character the time of day, then play your character how you will...

Except this. Even if your character wants nothing to do with them, as a player, there should be some acknowledgment. Characters can bore of other people's antics. Players shouldn't express said boredom. Why?

Because your boring may be someone else's engrossing RP. Expressing boredom as a player is basically invalidating their right to enjoy their character the way they want it. If they're not breaking a rule or causing a public scene, maybe their player likes what the other player is doing.

And isn't the point of a game for as many people to enjoy themselves as possible?

------------------------------------

If this list seems a bit scattered, it's a compliation of a few days. I've been having some trouble putting some of these to words so if anyone has comments and/or suggestions on other pet peeves/faux pas that push them off of storying with characters, or things that interest them, please note. The whole of this thread was really "What makes engaging characters?"

So how does somebody improve? For me, it's largely been finding someone's style I enjoy and trying to figure out why. Noticing some of the faux pas also help shore up some gaps in story.

Anyone else have some pitfalls or story assistance? Let me know if any of these key points are confusing! I'd be happy to go into more detail or add some more as I go on.

-Denealus's/Peach Schnapp's narator. Et al.


 
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Kolojang
 Saturday, July 25 2015 @ 04:36 AM UTC  
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My Charater bring up his shield that can stop nuclear blasts just in time to stop the concrete breaking punch. A second later and his head would be mush. As the fist connects with the hardened steel, the two opposing force send out a shockwave so strong that it lifts a cloud of dust, blows off the shingles off of every Sheila's shop, and sends the Failboat rocking.

And this, kids, is how you deal with someone trying yo punch your character to death while you not wanting it to be punched to death, while leaving both parties satisfied.


 
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Denealus
 Saturday, July 25 2015 @ 05:25 AM UTC  
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Quote by: Kolojang

My Charater bring up his shield that can stop nuclear blasts just in time to stop the concrete breaking punch. A second later and his head would be mush. As the fist connects with the hardened steel, the two opposing force send out a shockwave so strong that it lifts a cloud of dust, blows off the shingles off of every Sheila's shop, and sends the Failboat rocking.

And this, kids, is how you deal with someone trying yo punch your character to death while you not wanting it to be punched to death, while leaving both parties satisfied.



Beautiful, Ko. You hit it in a nutshell. This is a brilliant example.


 
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Naldru
 Sunday, July 26 2015 @ 01:18 AM UTC  
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You can always go for the novella length approach.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, Naldru had just encountered Madame Gigawatt, whose last attack had left him giving off sparks to the tune Total Eclipse of the Heart. (He is desperately avoiding powder kegs.) The concrete punching blow by Piledriver has shaken loose part of the charge, and Piledriver's nose is now giving Morse Code Signals using a bright red light. (The message being given in Morse Code is not one that can be repeated in polite company. However, the Watcher can be seen taking notes and laughing her head off.) A peal of thunder covers the island, and thousands of people look up and say "Now what". Meanwhile, the blast has cleared Naldru's sinuses and incinerated several nasty looking things that had been clinging to Naldru's neck. After Naldru wakes up, he thanks Piledriver for his help.


 
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