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A Beginner's Guide to Cooperative Storytelling

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A Beginner's Guide to Cooperative Storytelling

Post  Sharpiefan on Sat Jan 18, 2014 1:13 am

A Beginner's Guide to Cooperative Storytelling

How to be the kind of roleplayer that people love
Written by Dun of RPG-D


The art of roleplaying is one which involves many unspoken rules and subtleties. The proper conduct expected from a roleplayer is often learned over a long period of time, and newcomers to the community are often simply expected to know what to do and what not to do with very little information provided to ease them into things. "Powerplaying" and "godmodding" are words thrown around to warn the newbies, but explanations are rarely given- especially for the less obvious actions which often cause offence.

Hopefully this will help with some of the difficulties new roleplayers often encounter as they try to adjust to the unspoken rules and expectations in roleplaying communities. I can't cover all of the dos and do nots, but I'll try to offer some good words of advice regarding common mistakes.

Here we go . . .

1) Do not glorify crimes and their victims' struggles.
Too many people resort to 'tragic pasts' when they begin roleplaying, thinking that these tragic experiences are required in order to create an engaging character. Rather than ending up with an engaging character, they often end up with a melodramatic one that whines at strangers about his/her oh-so-tragic, entire life story immediately upon meeting them. The character ends up being really difficult to work with or downright harmful. Abuse is not necessarily exciting and intriguing. These concepts don't exist for cheap thrills. You should address them in a sensitive, respectful manner or avoid using them at all. People are intrigued by struggles which bring out the fundamental truths of the human condition. Trauma in itself is not what creates an engaging plotline.

2) Do not attempt to force empty romance plots on other people.
No playable character belonging to another writer will be fixated on a character of yours just because you think it would be fun. There may be nothing in it for the other player or character. If you're someone whose only interest is instant gratification without any depth or impact at all, and you will only thread with a character that your poorly developed character can somehow fall madly in love with within a matter of minutes, you need to reevaluate your intentions as a roleplayer. It's also important to remember that trying to force a physically intimate character relationship on another player can be extremely uncomfortable for that person. Romantic plot lines are not the only ones out there. The best romantic plots are arguably those that develop over time and without being forced. You can put your character into threads with characters whom you don't believe are 'the ones'. No plot is likely to be enjoyed by all parties involved if it's designed to benefit one player.

3) Do not try to live vicariously through your characters.
Perhaps you wish you could be like Superman. Perhaps you love the character of Superman and want to roleplay from his perspective. This is fine and good as long as you realize that Superman is different from you, and he needs to be allowed to act realistically and appropriately. He needs to be able to struggle and succeed. The problem arises when you are unable to approach roleplaying from an objective point of view and allow characters to act in a realistic manner according to their own situations. You cannot manipulate stories that you are supposed to be sharing with other people so you can get instant gratification. It's rude, and it will cause other players to react unfavorably.

4) Do not think that your character doesn't have to face consequences for his/her actions.
This ties into just about everything . . . Your character cannot be perfect and immune to all consequences. If your character does something to offend another or cause problems for others, it is most likely that your character will encounter repercussions, and you will be making a massive mistake if you try to avoid them. If your character starts a rebellion against a just government, attacks the most heavily guarded city in a country, kidnaps a princess, escapes from jail, then attacks an otherwise important and powerful political figure, you must understand that he/she has to pay for his/her offenses. There is no way you are going to get away with playing the "you're treating me unfairly by allowing my character to be confronted by an army of angry persons who know how to use a weapon". . . especially after you were allowed to get away with the previously-mentioned, impossible string of events to begin with. Roleplaying is all about the ripple effects of every character's actions. If you embrace that, you'll find that a lot of cool twists and turns come your way. It's exciting!

5) Do not ignore all elements of realism simply because you are writing fiction.
Even fiction has rules. Roleplayers aren't expected to be rocket scientists, but you are, for example, expected to look up electrocution on Wikipedia briefly to find out how easily or not-so-easily your electrokinetic could kill a man under specific circumstances. You will not suddenly get to give your character a pocket watch in the Earth-year 1123BC and get away with it simply because you failed to acquire a basic understanding of the setting. You must put in a small bit of effort to educate yourself on what it is you're dealing with. You may make a mistake from time to time, but that doesn't mean your character can wear a tank top to church in the Middle Ages without consequences.

6) Do not use "it's magic" as an excuse for everything.
Although magic is, by definition, an often unintelligible concept which cannot be explained purely by science, the way in which magic is utilized is often impacted by a variety of scientific factors. A 5-year-old character probably can't reduce a master mage of 54 years to a pile of sludge with the snap of a finger, and most mages/witches/wizards probably can't crush the planet with the blink of an eye. You must adhere to the rules of each individual magic system you encounter, and you cannot use magic to escape all of the rules of realism.

7) Do not be passive-aggressive or demonize others to get attention.
The rules of basic human interaction apply online in the roleplaying community. If you want something from another player, simply make your intentions and desires known. Do not try to manipulate people and demonize others to get what you want. Be kind and open and respectful. Don't hide behind the anonymity of the internet and drop hints that may or may not be malicious. People will most likely be willing to help you out or work with you as long as you treat them like people who have feelings and priorities of their own. If you're uncertain about something, be willing to ask questions instead of trying to get others to simply offer the answers on their own.

Cool Do remember that roleplaying is a hobby.
People do not want roleplaying to become a chore. They will nurse their sick grandmother before coming online to post for you. Sometimes people have to work or attend classes. Sometimes they cannot post immediately after you have posted. No one likes to be hounded about making replies to threads. No one wants to be forced to write when they cannot or don't feel up to it. A kindly-worded reminder may be appropriate in some situations, but do not expect people to make you the center of their worlds. Allow people to have fun and don't become so strict that people feel they have no freedom to enjoy themselves.

9) Do take your roleplaying experience into your own hands and make an effort to produce your own entertainment.
You cannot rely on other people to steer you toward threading opportunities all the time. You cannot expect administrators to hold your hand forever and make everything happen for you. Incredible, inspiring plots will not fall from the sky directly into your lap. You have to actively seek opportunities in order to make the most of your roleplaying experience. Join open threads, offer your characters to plots that will help others, provide plotting ideas of your own, create open threads . . . communicate with your fellow roleplayers. Don't just sit back and wait for everyone to flock to you.

10) Most importantly, remember that roleplaying is a method of cooperative storytelling- a team effort.
Roleplaying isn't all about you and your plans. In order to find success in the roleplaying community, you will have to experience some give and take. You need not to expect that everyone will conform to your needs while you offer nothing in return. You need to get involved in what other people are doing and engage in mutually-beneficial threads and plot lines. Only then will you experience the best that roleplaying has to offer. Only then will people take an interest in truly helping you enjoy a fantastic story and develop your writing skills to your full potential.

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