In roleplaying, participants adopt and act out the role of characters, or parts, that may have personalities, motivations, and backgrounds different from their own. Roleplaying, also known as RP to some, is like being in an improvisational drama or free-form theater, in which the participants are the actors who are playing parts, and the audience.
People use the phrase "role-playing" in at least three distinct ways:
- to refer to the playing of roles generally such as in a theater, or educational setting;
- to refer to a wide range of games including computer role-playing games, play-by-mail games and more;
The version I'm going to be teaching you is similar to play-by-mail, which already tells you a lot. The easiest way I can describe it is as storywriting, with more than one author. Everyone picks one or more characters to roleplay, meaning your writing should focus on these characters. In most cases, it's not even allowed to decide what other characters say or do.
- or to refer specifically to role-playing games.
Media to use in roleplay can differ from e-mail, to forums, to more direct means such as instant messenger applications.
Now I will give you a step-by-step tutorial on roleplaying, disregarding the chosen media. That doesn't really matter.
1. Picking your form
There are two different ways to roleplay:
- Canon (using characters and stories from existing fandoms such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings)
- Original (making up your own story and original characters)
- pros: Characters have already been established, rules of the worlds have been set, storylines are already partly formed.
- cons: You have to know the characters well to make your roleplaying at all believable, you are limited by the rules and regulations of the existing world, people have expectations.
- pros: You have all the freedom in the world, no one can tell you you are being out of character, no one can limit your imagination.
- cons: Setting up rules, a world and a storyline is difficult, building the characters into believable personas is hard, there is a risk of making your roleplay too lengthy and slow, thus boring.
2. Picking your plot
After picking your kind of roleplay, you have to start deciding about your plot. This includes your setting, your characters and your story.
2.1 Picking your setting
If you have chosen to go Canon, first you have to decide what kind of fandom you wish to roleplay in. Once you have done that, you must choose a starting point for your roleplaying. Easiest would be picking the ending of a film or book, or a certain breakpoint in the already existing story, from there, given you know the characters well, it's easy to start. Important to know is where you are, when you're there and why you are there.
More tricky is picking a setting for an original roleplay. My tip is to first decide on your genre; adventure, angst, romance, humor, or of course a mix of many. Once you've done that, it's easiest to first determine some traits of your world, it's general inhabitants and it's culture. Stick to basic time frames: past, present or future. Don't hesitate to stick to cliches. After all, roleplay is meant to be fun, not a masterpiece.
2.2. Picking your characters
Picking your characters for a canon roleplay is pretty easy. Most people pick main characters of fandoms, others, who fancy more of a challenge, choose the smaller roles. Important is that you and your fellow roleplayers pick characters that would somehow meet each other, or have met each other. Picking characters that wouldn't, in character, ever meet, is pointless. Choosing a canon roleplay doesn't mean that original characters aren't allowed. Just make sure they fit with the canon.
Picking your original character is a difficult business. I generally find that for an original roleplay, plot developments all go together. But most of the time, once you have picked your setting, genre and timeframe, you can come up with something sensible. Especially for beginners, it's important to make sure your characters aren't too complicated and most of all, that they fit together.
2.3 Picking your storyline
Picking your storyline for a canon roleplay isn't as hard as picking one for an original roleplay. Easiest is to pick the ending of a book or movie, or pick a breakpoint in the story to start at. Given you know the characters well, you should know what they generally do in their lives and you can use that to create a plot. However, in roleplay, it's not necessary to plan everything, because it's a collaborative project that needs to grow and for the most part relies on the spontaneous actions of your co-authors.
Plotting your storyline in an original roleplay is more difficult, but I can give some tips on this matter. I find it easiest to start in the middle of something, be it a fight, a flight, or a dinner, it doesn't really matter, but it gives your roleplay a kickstart. Keeping a bit of action in our roleplay is always good. Don't focus too much on character development on a short notice, this is more a lengthy process.
3. Picking your writing style
After you've determined your plot, you have to decide what style you want to use. You can pick between first or third person and past and present tense.
Writing in first person means that you write your actions starting with I. Example:
I walked briskly towards the nearest post office to check if his package had arrived yet.This form of writing focuses on your own character a lot and allows for much thoughts and character development. This gives your writing a 'diary' feel.
Writing in third person is more suitable for a big collaborative project, as it often portrays a general view instead of a character focused one. Example:
Lizzie walked briskly towards the nearest post office to check if his package had arrived yet.Less self centered, this form of writing is more inviting to other readers and writers.
Writing in the present tense means writing the story as if it is happening right now. Example:
I walk briskly towards the nearest post office to see if his package has arrived yet.I personally find this a very unattractive form of writing because it often makes it difficult to get sucked into the story.
Writing in the past tense means writing as if it's already happened. Example:
Lizzie walked briskly towards the nearest post office to check if his package had arrived yet.Most novels are written in the past tense.
4. Structuring your roleplay post
Writing a roleplay post is a difficult task to accomplish, as others rely on your story to reply to. Thus, a elaborate piece of writing is nice. Include actions, descriptions and dialogue. Try to direct it to other people's characters too. Example:
Lizzie walked briskly to the nearest post office to see if his package had arrived yet. The streets were busier than she had hoped for, causing her to be delayed at three traffic lights on her way there. She crossed the last street in a run, skidding to a halt on the sidewalk as she saw him standing there. "What are you d-doing here?" she stammered, smiling, "But you said, the package, in the mail.... not... what are you doing here?"The more you give the other roleplayers to go on, the easier it is for them to reply. In this case, the 'he' in the above paragraph would be the other person's character.
Lizzie ran a hand through her hair as she approached him, glowing with happiness to see him.
This more or less concludes the step-by-step how to, but lastly, some do's and dont's.
5. Do's and dont's
- Communicate with your fellow writers about the storyline, especially if the roleplay gets stuck.
- Write long posts.
- Try to include everyone.
- Respect your fellow roleplayers.
- Take a challenge.
- Use ((OOC: your message)) to talk about things nothing to do with the roleplay, in your post.
- Stay in-character.
- Have fun.
- Roleplay someone else's character without permission.
- Kill or seriously injure someone else's character or do anything the other person might not like.
- Do something your character would never do.
- Make your character perfect, or extreme in any other way. Don't give your character superpowers unless the story requires it.
- Write one-liners (one or two sentences posts).
- Post only once in three months.
- Make it all about you.
6. For more information
If the above has made you interested in the art of roleplaying, or you simply have a question, leave a comment on the post and I'll get back to you.