A Forum Roleplaying Guide: Part One

I have been play-by-post roleplaying (or what I call forum roleplaying) for about ten years now. I started toward the beginning of when it really started to get popular. Everyone that takes up any kind of roleplaying that isn’t an MMO starts out with some kind of fandom. Mine happened to be Danny Phantom. Yes, that’s right, I was a Danny Phantom fan. A Phan. Ha. Ha ha. Ahem.

Over the course of a decade, I have been roleplaying a number of different fandoms, and even some original plot line RP’s. So I’m pretty experienced in the area. I know what to look for in a site, which rules and ratings I can handle, and how I think my character is going to be received. I also know the basic and advanced rules and etiquette to roleplaying. So I’d like to share some of my tips and tricks and how-to’s with you. For the next few blogs, I will be talking about play-by-post (PBP) roleplaying. If you’ve ever been interested in trying it before, make sure you stay tuned!

What is Play-By-Post Roleplaying?

Play-by-post is very different than a lot of other RP’s, including MMO’s (massive multiplier online roleplaying games), which are things like World of Warcraft. It’s not like Twitter or Facebook RP’s either. It usually takes place on a forum, although I know Tumblr is also a popular venue for this kind of RP. Basically, it’s a round robin. That means that there are multiple authors that try to write a story together. Usually these stories, or threads, are short, and only include two characters (yours and your partner’s), but sometimes they can get super long and include multiple characters from multiple authors. When you and another author decide to thread together, you may decide the plot out of character (OOC) before you write it out in character (IC). Then you write the story as if you are your own character. The challenge is that it has to be from a third-person limited POV, and you can’t take control of the other writer’s character. In this way, both of you write out a short story that may or may not tie in with the overall plot of the site you’re on.

Rule Zero: Don’t Be a Douche.

Pardon the language, but that’s really the truth. No one likes an Internet troll, a whiner, or just a complete arsehole. The thing is, crap is gonna happen to your character. Your character is not going to get what he/she wants all the time. Your plots are not going to work out. People are not going to go for all of your ideas. That’s okay. It’s still a crap ton of fun even without all of that! Half of the fun of roleplaying is that you get to blend your ideas with everyone else’s, meaning that you get a wide range of events, plots, and plot *twists* that occur! If you’ve ever suffered from writer’s block, you know that even your incredible, seemingly-limitless ideas do actually come to an end. When that happens and you’re on your own, it’s difficult to come out of that slump. But when there are people to bounce ideas off of, it’s so much easier.

The Do’s and Don’t of Roleplay:

What Not to Do:  Don’t Godmod. Godmodding is what happens when you, as the writer, take control of someone else’s character. You make them say something, do something, or you autohit. Autohitting happens when your character and another character are fighting and your character pummels the other character without giving them a chance to retaliate.

How to Fix It: Make sure that your character’s POV is limited. They are not God. And even if they are psychic or telekinetic or whathaveyou, their powers have a limit. Talk to your partner out of character and discuss what you’d like to have happen in the thread. If they are okay with a couple of autohits, go ahead. Just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to make your partner mad.

What Not to Do: Don’t take things personally. Just because someone’s character hates your character doesn’t mean the writer hates you. I have suffered through this myself. I have tried to drop characters that I don’t want to play anymore and gotten an earful from other writers that treated me as if I was breaking up with them because I was dropping their character’s crush. It’s really not a personal thing. It’s a story! There has to be drama in order to make the story move forward. And when people drop characters, most of the time it’s simply because they lost muse for that character. Very rarely does it have anything to do with you as a writer.

How to Fix It: Talk to your partner. Don’t whine, complain, or accuse. Just talk to them. If their character has a problem with yours, discuss why this is. Sometimes you can piggyback off of a conflict like that and make up some really awesome plots! I used to roleplay a character who was absolutely hated by my partner’s. They ended up getting shoved into so many situations where they needed to protect someone they mutually liked, and ended up becoming frenemies. It was a fantastic relationship to plot!

What Not to Do: Don’t make a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. This is a term for a character whose life is so perfect, whose powers are so fantastic, whose personality is so likeable that nothing bad could ever happen to them. OR it’s a character whose life sucks so badly, whose abilities are so weak, whose so dark and evil that nothing good could ever happen to them! It’s one thing to create a hero or villain, but come on – when is the last time you read a book with a perfect character in it? Or, if you have (which I doubt), how long did you put up with it before you put the book down? People don’t like completely perfect or completely imperfect characters. Characters are supposed to mirror real life in some way. Even if it’s an alien with hotdog vision and dragon wings – there still has to be an element of realism or else your audience (and fellow writers) will get extremely bored.

How to Fix It: If you’re creating a good character, give him some weaknesses. If you’re creating a bad character, give her some redeeming qualities. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just enough to make them a dynamic character rather than static. Instead of making your character the most popular person in school, make her think she’s the most popular person in school. There, BAM. Vanity is her weakness. Instead of giving your character the most tragic backstory you can think of and turning him into a depressed self-harming sociopath, give him a few points of light in his past that he can look to in order to try to become a better person.

What Not to Do: Don’t try to change someone else’s character that doesn’t want to be changed. It’s okay if your character does this, because, again, they have a limited consciousness. But for you, as the writer, to try to blackmail, guilt trip, or bully another writer into doing this or that with their character is NOT cool.

How to Fix It: Let them be heroes/villains. If your partner’s character is a cold-hearted villain and she never wants her character to fall in love, don’t push them to change their minds. In the same way, if your partner’s character is a valiant hero, don’t push them into becoming the villain. It’s okay for characters to push each other into things, but writers should respect each other’s opinions, desires, and goals for their characters. That being said, writers should also be flexible with their characters. If you have ONE specific goal for your character, you may not ever reach it if you don’t consider many different avenues to get there. Personally, I generally set about three rules for my character that I will or will not do. Other than that, I am completely flexible and I’m willing to throw my characters into just about any sort of plot they can get into.

What To Do: Be creative! Think of something you’ve never done before. Challenge yourself. Play a character you think would be fun, whether it’s canon (i.e. from the show, book, or movie), or original. Think outside the box. Be willing to plot. Come up with plots yourself! Have fun! Roleplaying should never be a chore. It’s an escape from chores. Our regular lives might be normal and unassuming, but when you’re writing a character’s story, anything is possible. Play someone you’ve always wanted to be! Play someone you never want to become! Play someone you’d be best friends with or worst enemies with! Just play.

Finding Your Niche:

A good roleplay can be hard to find. A lot of times, if you just Google something like “Batman roleplay”, you’ll get stuff from Twitter or Tumblr or expired forums. Be a little more specific with your searches. Some really good RP-hosting forums are Proboards, InvisionFree, or JCINK. Try adding one or all of those terms to your search. Also, be more specific with what fandom or kind of roleplay you’d like to find. Instead of just saying “Batman roleplay”, try something like “Arkham Origins JCINK”. Another good way to find a good roleplay is by going to roleplay directories or help sites. Places like A Thousand Fireflies and Caution 2.0 are resource sites dedicated to helping you find what you need in the roleplay community. All you have to do to is make an account to view their stuff. I have links to these places at the end of my blog.

If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, why not try making one yourself? People are usually wary of starting a roleplay because there is a lot of work involved. You have to find the right forum hosting website, you have to be the administrator, which means leading all the staff and members of the site. You have to figure out coding and how to design your site, not just aesthetically but also to make everything easy to access. You have to write the site plot, advertise, keep momentum going, and promote members to staff. You can’t be afraid to ban spammers and trolls and you have to have a tough hide.

But, if you can handle all of that, creating your own site is amazingly fun! I have been on staff for four different sites, and let me tell you, it is difficult to keep them up and running until you have an interest by the greater population of roleplayers. Things go in and out of style, fandoms rise and then fade. One site I ran lasted for eight years before it started to fade and then died altogether. Another I ran for a year and a half before the same thing happened. But the rewards are awesome. If you have a hard time finding exactly what you are looking for, you can create exactly what you want. Your site can be unique and fun, and you get to write the site-wide stories and events!

Keep in mind that roleplays don’t last forever. People come and go. Plots end. People get busy with life. The point of roleplaying is to have fun. And I have made so many friends along the way – from all over the world – that I am so grateful to have met! I still keep in contact with several of my pen pals, one of which I have known for ten years now. It’s a great way to make friends and stay connected with people from all over.

 If you’ve never tried it, but you’ve always wanted to, I definitely suggest it!

To help get you started, here are some awesome resource sites that a lot of roleplayers, including myself, use:

Caution 2.0 – A roleplay resource site

A Thousand Fireflies – A roleplay resource site

 RPG-D – A roleplay directory

RPG-R – A roleplay rating system

Topsites – A directory of the highest-rated websites by topic

The most important thing to remember is: have fun!


4 thoughts on “A Forum Roleplaying Guide: Part One

  1. Great post. I love post by play Roleplaying. For me it started off with e-feds which are based on wrestling forums. You create a character and take him through the journey of becoming a pro wrestler.

    These days I mostly RP on anime forums. Well s one forum to be precise. I think I’ve been doing this sort of thing on and off for 8 years now.

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