Beginners Guide to Forum Roleplaying

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Beginners Guide to Forum Roleplaying

Post  Shras/Eiri on Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:06 am

Beginner’s Guide to Forum Roleplaying

What is Freeform Roleplaying?
Freeform Roleplaying is a medium in which few or no rules are used for roleplaying. In a way, it could be considered more of a collaborating creative writing game. There are no dice to roll or any real rules on what can or cannot be done; each player has the power to contribute to the overall story scenario, which is known as a Sim. Mostly, what your character can and cannot do is limited to the type of character you are playing and the storyline that is currently being played out. Free form roleplaying is all about collaboration. You are interacting with other writers in the story so most of the time you have to be sure you are not overstepping your bounds by controlling another person’s character.

The most important factors in freeform roleplaying are your imagination and your collaborative writing skills.

Creating Your Character:

When creating your character, think about the sort of personality you want your character to have, or what species you would like to play. Bear in mind that the more obscure the race, the less information will be available for it, which will make it more difficult to get your character to fit in the Star Trek world. In general, if you have had to make up elements of your character’s culture, mannerisms, etc, run them by the CO first to make sure that they fit in with the game world. Do not worry too much, though. If your character is fond of Nausicaan swear words, it is doubtful that anyone will complain that your spelling was wrong.

Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry and launched on the NBC network in 1966. Intelligently written and focused on relationships and conflict resolution as much as action/adventure, Star Trek was an optimistic, humanist vision of the distant future in which people of all races--humanoid or otherwise--struggled to find peace. Among its innovations was the first interracial/interspecies crew that worked without racial discrimination, a hot topic during the mid-'60s. However, the network was uncomfortable about the notion of women and men being equals, and relegated the female characters to wearing short skirts and playing slightly more "feminine" roles. Despite the attire though, Star Trek's women were strong, intelligent, and courageous.

Roddenberry had an optimistic vision of humanity’s future: a future where poverty does not exist, and where technology is not the great segregator, but the great equalizer. Remember that 2386 CE is when our story takes place--375 years in the future--so things work differently than they do today. Think about how much technology has advanced in your own lifetime. Now think back to the limited technology and understanding we possessed 375 years ago, in the 1630s.

Roddenberry dreamed of a peaceful Earth where tolerance and acceptance was the norm and people were not motivated by greed or money. His Star Trek television shows and movies often used idealized future scenarios to shine a spotlight on modern-day issues, in hopes that we, the viewers, might share his vision of a better tomorrow, or learn from our mistakes today to avoid a dangerous future.

“Space...the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise,
its five-year mission
....to explore strange new worlds
...to seek out new life and new civilizations
...to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Gene Roddenberry (August 10, 1966)
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Re: Beginners Guide to Forum Roleplaying

Post  Shras/Eiri on Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:06 am

The Dreaded Mary Sue!

In fan fiction, a “Mary Sue” is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader. A universal feature of all "Mary Sues" is that they are too ostentatious for the audience's taste. The author may seem to push how exceptional and wonderful the "Mary Sue" character is on the reader, sometimes leading them to dislike or even resent the character fairly quickly. Such a character could be described as an "author's pet"; the author seems to favor the character too highly. Some of these traits are just fine in moderation, but keeping things from getting too over-the-top will generally keep your character from being seen as a Mary Sue.

Telltale signs of a Mary Sue:

* Is related to a canon character (e.g. Jean-Luc’s grandson Buzz Picard)
* Eyes that change color, hair that takes more than five words to describe, etc.
* Speshul magik powers (even where magic doesn’t exist) and/or unusual appendages such as wings.
* Ability to master anything with ease.
* Cute baby version of an imaginary creature for a pet (e.g. baby ancient dragon, baby gryphon, baby unicorn, baby Cthulhu).
* Plays God to force the story to bend to their will. (e.g. having the ability to make other characters fall instantly in love with them)
* Purple prose or badly-written prose.
* No actual flaws. [Note: being "too beautiful" or "not being able to play the banjo" are not flaws.]
* Obvious author self-insertion. (e.g. Gene Roddenberry’s middle name is Wesley, and the character Wesley Crusher may be a fantasized version of himself as a youth.)
* A "perfect" character that supersedes everybody in looks, personality, etc.

Canon characters (i.e. characters from the TV shows, books, and movies) are not allowed in our Sim. Period. However, makeovers of canon characters are a special kind of annoying. If your character supposedly played a game of poker with Lt. Commander Data, and you write that he was constantly ogling your character’s chest, then you’re making him act completely out of character in a way that makes those familiar with the show scream in horror.

This is a Star Trek Sim, and we try to make sure that the stories and characters we create fit neatly within the “lore” of the Star Trek franchise. In the realm of pop-culture, Star Trek fans have access to a wealth of information that outmatches the vast majority of other such fictional alternate universes, so researching and creating a character that fits somewhere in this massive universe is much easier than doing so in a less-developed story world (e.g. a Firefly, V, or Babylon 5 Sim).

Remember that most of the time, a challenge takes a fair amount of work to surmount. If your character can solve problems with a snap of their fingers, then it makes the situation seem less like a challenge, and verges on making your character too powerful. Generally, problems on the Enterprise require the concerted effort of many characters.

Sadistic, stereotypical villain-like behavior is generally to be avoided, even if you attempt to explain that your character had a rough childhood and turned out that way. Think about the Star Trek shows and movies. None of the regular cast members can be considered “bad guys.” They may be stiff and seemingly humorless, or they may speak their minds without thinking of the consequences, but none of the crew exist solely to be a thorn in their crewmates’ sides.

It’s possible to go too far when trying not to make a Mary Sue character. Giving your character nothing but flaws is just as annoying as making him or her perfect. Put some genuine thought into your character. Do they have layers?

If you give your characters traits that are designed to emotionally manipulate other characters it goes beyond character creation and verges into God-Moding.
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Re: Beginners Guide to Forum Roleplaying

Post  Shras/Eiri on Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:07 am

God-Moding

What Is God-Modding?
It is actually correctly called "God-Moding", in reference to the "God Mode" you can enter in a computer game to become invincible. In roleplay, it means trying to exert too much control over the plot and other characters, usually because the player does not understand the difference between in-character and out-of-character behavior, and in severe cases a player may feel the desire to "win" for their own purposes, rather than to be creative and collaborative.

This is something that every serious roleplayer 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 outright killing them.

Examples:
1) Invincibility: Creating a character so powerful or invulnerable that it cannot take any damage, be incapacitated or hindered, lose a fight, feel pain, etc. This often just ends up being disappointing because a character without flaws feels flat and boring. Genuinely flawed characters and their struggle to overcome them are

2) Dictating other players' responses: Swinging a punch and telling the other player that they are knocked down, that they are unconscious, dead or whatever. That’s unfair because in real life, a person would have a chance to duck, block the punch, sidestep and karate chop, whatever. This also includes dictating another character’s emotional state, level of arousal, attitude, etc. In general, if you’re going to use someone else’s character in your post, either get permission from the player personally, or restrict yourself to describing your own character’s reactions to what the other player has previously written.

3) Impossibility: Drawing a knife when your hands are tied. Pulling a bow out of your rectum when you're on the ground and hogtied (I wish I were making this up). Drawing a bow out of your rectum at all, for that matter. Being held by the hair and with a knife at your throat but whirling round and slapping your captive and disarming them.

4) Just plain silliness: Taking the plot to asinine turns purely to avoid your character having to suffer a misfortune too weak for your manly fictitious self. Being shot at and deflecting the bullet with a penny on a string so that it flies back up the gun nozzle. Again, I wish I were making this up.

5) Anything that is used to let one character force the plot and does not enable the story to be a properly collaborative effort with plausibility.

In Star Trek, the character Q is the physical manifestation of a God-Moder. He’s hilarious on the shows, but to the crew, he’s highly annoying. Writing a character like Q in a roleplaying forum is irritating, anti-social, counterproductive and makes you look stupid. Nobody thinks the God-Moder is strong, hard, cool or intelligent. Just don't do it.
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Re: Beginners Guide to Forum Roleplaying

Post  Shras/Eiri on Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:08 am

Example Passages:
To make this kind of writing perfectly clear, below is a scenario of how a typical medieval fantasy story can play out, proceeding from good examples to bad ones. For each example, the passage has been written by the person who plays the character of Yrile.

Excellent Example:
Holding her ground on the bloodied battlefield, Yrile sliced the head off of one of the advancing skeletons. "We can't keep this up! There are simply too many of them!" she shouted to her comrade Tasnal. It was then that she noticed that behind the tidal wave of undead stood a single skeletal mage, the one they had seen before who called himself Kodel. He was holding his hand up high and shouting an incantation. Panicking at the sight, Yrile quickly slashed her way through the mass of living dead, hoping she could reach him in time and break his concentration.
Critique: This describes the setting, establishes what is happening, and does not take control of other players’ characters at all, assuming that Kodel’s player had already posted that his character was beginning to cast something. This passage also describes your character’s mental state and current motivation, aiding in the reader’s understanding of your character, and improving the sense of immersion.

Good Example:
Yrile sliced the head off of one of the advancing skeletons, shouting to her comrade Tasnal, "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 undead stood a single skeletal mage, the one they had seen before who called himself Kodel. He was holding his hand up high and shouting an incantation. Yrile quickly slashed her way toward him, through the mass of living dead.
Critique: This is just fine. It could be fleshed out with a little more detail, but it doesn’t break any rules.

Needs a Little Work Example:
Yrile sliced the head off of one of the advancing skeletons, shouting to her comrade Tasnal, who seemed to be having trouble, "We can't keep this up! There are simply too many of them!" Tasnal shouted back, "You’re right! We need to retreat!" It was then that she noticed that behind the tidal wave of undead stood a single skeletal mage, the one they had seen before who called himself Kodel. He was holding his hand up high and shouting an incantation. Yrile quickly slashed her way through the mass of living dead, raising her mallet to bring it down on Kodel's head.
Critique: This isn't exceptionally bad. However, Yrile’s player is deciding how Tasnal is faring against his foes (God-Moding), and she is also putting words in his mouth. What if Tasnal’s player wants him to keep on fighting to the death? Yrile also reaches Kodel 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 horrifyingly bad, but it treads the line of God-Moding quite dangerously.

Poor Example:
Yrile sliced the head off one of the advancing skeletons, shouting to her comrade Tasnal, who had been stabbed in the leg and was bleeding profusly, "We can't keep this up! There are simply too many of them!" Tasnal shouted back, "Yeah, let’s make like a tree and leaf!" It was then that she noticed that behind the tidal wave of undead stood a single skeletal mage, the one they had seen before called Kodel. He was holding his hand up high and shouting an incantation. She quickly slashed through the mass of living dead, smashing her mallet into his side and interrupting his spell. He got back to his feet quickly and usheathed his dagger. "Meddling wretch! You will die!"
Critique: The writer has taken too much control of the story. First off, Yrile has portrayed Tasnal's fight in a way he probably wouldn’t want. Secondly, she puts words in both of the other characters' mouths. What if Kodel wanted to act slyly and not say a word, playing dead? Kodel’s player should be the one who decides. This is definitely an example of God-Moding. It might be allowed if the others let it slide, but Yrile’s player will probably get a comment about it. Also, besides putting words in Tasnal’s mouth, in a medieval fantasy setting, Tasnal shouldn’t be using modern turns of phrase--they haven’t been invented yet. Viking warriors didn’t call each other Dude.

Just Plain Bad Example:
Yrile sliced the head off one of the advancing skeletons shouting to her comrade Tasnal who was barely conscious after the severe injuries he had sustained. We can't keep this up! there are simply too many off them! Tasnal could only scream as yet another blad entered his side it was then that she noticed that behind the tidal wave of undead stood a single skeletal mage, the one they had seen before called Kodel he was holding his hand up high and shouting an incantation. she quickly slashed through the mass of living dead smashing her mallet into his side and interrupting his spell. he lied on the floor, nearly dead an drained of all his power. you can kill me, but my spirit and power will linger on, you meddling retch! Yrile just sneered and brought he mallet down on his skull crushing it. the skeletal army behind her fell to pieces, saving Tasnal from certain death.
Critique: This is just bad writing, for several reasons. Yrile’s player is in full-on God-Mode, portraying Tasnal as an incompetent fighter, obviously with much less skill than her. She then not only interrupts Kodel, 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 writing is unacceptable. Beyond the God-Moding, this example is full of punctuation, capitalization, and spelling errors, which make it difficult to read and understand, and can often distract the reader from immersion in the fantasy. If you find these errors sneaking into your writing, try typing your posts in a word processor program that includes a spell-check and grammar-check function.

As you can see, God-Moding can be very destructive to a thread's plot line. Compose your posts carefully to make sure you don't do it. As a general rule, don’t punch another character in the face--throw a punch toward their face. That way you alone don’t control the outcome; the other player gets the opportunity to react.
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Re: Beginners Guide to Forum Roleplaying

Post  Shras/Eiri on Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:09 am

Addendum: Player knowledge vs. Character knowledge

Each of the main characters involved in our story are controlled by a human being sitting at a computer. The players may have jobs, skills, and knowledge that have nothing to do with the character they play. Since we are talking about roleplaying, the character in the game does not know that its strings are being pulled by a person behind a computer, so accordingly, the character has a set of knowledge that is different from their player’s. Here are a couple of examples:

1) Steve is a human who lives in Chicago. The character he plays is a Bolian named Ketrick. Steve is an electrical engineer. His character, Ketrick, is a historian. Let’s say that the starship in the story has an electrical problem. Steve might be able to fix it in real life, but Steve is not the one on the ship. Unless Ketrick’s backstory includes electrical wiring experience, it does not make any sense for him to roll up his sleeves, crouch down and rewire the faulty system in a few seconds. In the story, Ketrick may be the only one available to fix the problem, but if he even tries, it should take him much, much longer because he is not an expert in the field.

2) In the same story, Jolene, a secretary from Miami plays a Bajoran named Luka. Let’s say that in the story, Steve writes something like:

Even though he remained silent, Ketrick knew that the Klingon wasn’t telling the truth. His investigation had just determined that the stolen cargo had been moved from the Klingon’s shuttle to an abandoned building near the shuttle depot on the planet’s surface.
If Jolene reads Steve’s post, then it’s inappropriate for her to write something like the following:

When Luka walked in the room, he shoved the Klingon against the wall and shouted in his face. “We know you left the cargo down on the planet, worm! You hid it near the shuttle depot in Lasa Piren, didn’t you? ADMIT IT!”
Jolene (the player) obviously knows what Ketrick (Steve’s character) knows, because she read Steve’s post. But Luka (Jolene’s character) doesn’t know what Ketrick’s investigation just uncovered unless the two characters have a conversation about it or otherwise share the information. As a Bajoran, Luka isn’t a telepath, so there’s no way for him to have known what Ketrick was thinking. When a player shares knowledge with his or her character that the character shouldn’t have, it’s often referred to as “metagaming,” and is considered in the same avoid-at-all-costs regard as God-Moding.
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Re: Beginners Guide to Forum Roleplaying

Post  Shras/Eiri on Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:10 am

Grammar
This does not come naturally to many people and can take a while to get used to. A great way to determine the proper grammatical structure of a sentence is to read it out loud and see if it sounds right. If it doesn't, re-arrange the words until it does.

First try: Brian ate the muffin, hesitant.

Re-worded: Brian ate the muffin hesitantly. (-or-) Hesitantly, Brian ate the muffin.
Also, even though it might not seem like a big problem, If your sentences don’t flow together people may need to stop and re-read your 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 your grammar skills aren’t fantastic. To get better at constructing sentences you can try reading books on a regular basis, or find a grammar resource online or in a book.

Spelling
If you have trouble with spelling, first look at the word and ask yourself if it looks right. If it seems 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 an online dictionary or ask someone if they know the correct spelling. Many people make the argument, "I didn't come here to spell good!" Perhaps not, but it is important that the people you are trying to communicate with can 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, and of course it will make your RP much better. Don't worry if you think your spelling is really bad; make an effort to try to learn the words that you commonly misspell, and it will improve. For example. some common mistakes are misusing “there, their, and they’re,” “your and you’re,” “then and than,” etc.

Composition
The length of a post may vary depending on the situation. The ideal mission 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. One-offs are more like short stories, so they can be longer, while personal logs may be shorter. 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 and move the story along further.

There are a few key elements 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 explore and find their place. 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 doesn’t necessarily 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. The specifics of the action aren’t critical, just show that something happened and make the reader interested enough to read it.

Description: 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. Whatever you do, do it with description. Don't just say that you ran from the enemy, say you ran like a frightened deer away from a forest 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.

Note, however, that sometimes too much detail can be a problem. If you are having that problem, just back off the description a little bit and you'll be fine. The point of description is to give the reader 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.

Suspense/Resolution: Your post should have a logical conclusion to it. You can use the end of your post to hint at what your character plans to do next. For example:

Pretending to turn on his friend, Killia fired his handgun at Garmend, intentionally trying to miss. His plan could only succeed if Garmend was uninjured."
This allows Garmend’s player to decide how to react to Killia’s post. He or she may write that Garmend then dove behind a barrier and was unhurt. If not, then Garmend gets shot. 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, and don’t forget to tag any individuals your character interacts with, so their players know it’s their turn to post.
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Re: Beginners Guide to Forum Roleplaying

Post  Shras/Eiri on Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:10 am

References
We’ve borrowed liberally from the following sources, and edited them to suit our specific Star Trek forum roleplay purposes. This guide owes a great deal of credit to the original authors of these resources.

Answers.com, (2011), Gene Roddenberry,
http://www.answers.com/topic/gene-roddenberry#ixzz1F01NTSvO

Encyclopedia Dramatica, (2011), Mary Sue
http://encyclopediadramatica.com/Mary_Sue

The RPG Consortium, (2011), The RPG Consortium,
http://www.rpgconsortium.com/roleplaynow/ffrpforumsguide.cfm

Wiki.answers.com, (2011), Gene Roddenberry
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_god_modding

Wikipedia, (2011), Mary Sue
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue

Wowwiki.com, (2011), Roleplaying Forum Writing Guide,
http://www.wowwiki.com/Roleplaying_Forum_Writing_Guide
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