|becky has a neg 4 to stealth checks (clank) wrote,|
@ 2018-11-23 08:57:00
|Entry tags:||essay, rp writing|
Why Role Play?
A Basic Primer for RPing on Insane Journal
Humans are storytellers. It's hard wired into us. I think one reason humans love story telling so much is because stories are a form of emotional exercise. I've had friends who use RP as a form of therapy. For others, RP is a way to interact with your favorite fandom or a cool original concept that interests you, and create an ongoing saga that you wouldn't have been able to enjoy otherwise. For me, online RP is what got me into writing and built up my daily writing habit. Even on days I'm not working on a novel or short story, I'm still writing and telling stories.
I'm going to try and explain what role playing on IJ is, how it's different from other forms of RP, and how to do it. Some of you might have gaming friends from tabletop games or MMORPGs that you want to introduce to the hobby. (Or hey, DW! Nice to see you, cuz.) This is for you, and if you have questions, please leave a comment and ask!
There Are So Many Kinds of RP
Tabletop, LARP, Viddya Games, Oh My!
My very first experience with RP was this kid named Johnny in elementary school who was smarter than most of his peers. He really liked Dungeons and Dragons, but he couldn't get his friends (read: me and a bunch of nine year olds) to learn the rules of second edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. That was fine because it wasn't rolling dice or having a bunch of books of rules we were interested in anyway. It was the adventures of our human paladin, my half-elf ranger and an elf wizard. We were hilariously bad adventurers. "Oh? There might be a trap in the dungeon? Well, none of us know how to disable traps so let's send in the paladin. He's wearing the most armor and probably won't die." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
After that, I was hungry for telling more stories. Not writing stories by myself because I could barely write a sentence at that point. But if I told stories with other people, it was easier. So I wrote letters with my favorite cousin, who lived in a different state at the time. I drew pictures of my character and we told stories back and forth. Not good stories, but they were really fun ones. In college I would finally get back into D&D right at 3.5 edition came out and I spent my Saturday nights LARPing. I want to talk a little bit about these other forms of RPing in case you're trying to bring in someone new who has experience with a different kind of RP and similarities.
Tabletop Role Playing
Most of the time when people thing about tabletop roleplaying, they're probably thinking of Dungeons and Dragons. Players typically gather in person around a table with a bunch of books that describe the setting or type of game and the types of characters your can play and what they're capable of. But tabletop RP is way more diverse that just Dungeons and Dragons. There are urban fantasy games like White Wolf that produce games like Vampire: The Masquerade or Changeling: The Dreaming. There are cyberpunk games like Shadowrun, horror games like Call of Cthulhu, samurai games like Legend of the Five Rings and yes, there are official and non-official licensed games for fandoms. I have the official Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Dresden Files and Mistborn RP books on my shelves.
Advantages: tabletop games are good for action. The rules incorporate an element of risk that isn't completely random based on your existing skills, but there's chance for surprises and tactics are involved. It's also kind of nice to have in person friends to hang out and socialize with, although you can find some virtual tabletop games online.
Disadvantages: the rules can be cumbersome, the books are expensive and new editions come out every few years to keep you buying more books. Tabletop is also a majority cis white dudes that may not be super welcoming to people that aren't. That's assuming you can find a group in the first place, depending upon where you live. Tabletop also depends on a schedule. You have to agree to meet at a certain time and sit down together to RP, and especially as folks get older and have jobs, family and busy schedules, that's not always possible.
Storywise, you typically only play one character at a time until your character dies in game. Depending on the comfort of those in the game seated at the table looking at each other, RPing romance options and other story elements doesn't typically happen. It can if you're in a good group, but it can also be "haha! look how powerful my character is! let's go murder shit and get more powerful macguffins! yay!"
If you've ever seen the movie Role Models, watched the LARP episode of Supernatural or made fun of people in the SCA then you're familiar with what LARP is: Live Action Role Playing. Instead of going drinking or partying on Saturday nights, LARPing was what I did in college. Instead of LARPing medieval style games with prop weapons, however, mine was a very goth LARP, alternating between a vampire and a fairy game. Instead of using prop weapons because we did not want to be killed by cops thinking we were murdering each other on the college campus, we used rock, paper, scissors for combat. (Where you at, Minds Eye Theater frens?)
LARP is probably more similar to online RP than tabletop. It's a large group of people coming together to tell a story.
Advantages: IT'S HALLOWEEN WHENEVER YOU WANT. WOO. If you like getting dressed up in costumes, this can be really fun. It's a big group, and LARP tends to have a more equal representation of people. It feels like improv theater if you're in a good group.
Disadvantages: Drama. So much drama. You're surrounded by dramatic people, right? And the costumes? Yes, it's fun unless you have people judging you on your ability to come up with a costume. And if you thought finding a good tabletop group was hard, try finding a good group of 20+ people. Unless you're in a big city or college campus, you're probably SOL.
(But OMG if you haven't watched the movie Role Models it is the best.)
Okay, call me crazy. I know there are people who RP and get into character while playing video games like World of Warcraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic. I've just never seen it happen.
Advantages: MMOs are very convenient. You can log in any time and there are other people around to play with you. You can make friends anywhere in the world and the OOC chat while playing is a lot of fun if you find the right group.
Disadvantages: I don't think RP actually happens in these games. I think they call it RP, and sometimes people have backstories and special costumes for their video game avatar, but I have never actually found RP happening on the RP servers. I promise, I've looked. It's just playing video games. Even when I played with ROLE PLAYERS I KNEW, it was more OOC talk about how to take something down and kill it. If you're hungry for story, MMOs aren't really the place to find it. Nothing your character does really impacts the game at large anyway.
Oh my god, I've been rambling so much. Now I'm finally starting to get to journal RP, the thing you actually came here for to learn about. So, at it's heart, journal RP games like on IJ are collaborative writing. There are actually a lot of other writing platforms out there, but unless we're talking about RP in AOL chatrooms in the 90s I'm not really familiar with them. You write a bit of the story from your character's POV, and then another player chimes in with a bit more story from their character's POV. The characters react to one another and play off each other, and stuff happens. We'll get into the how further down the post.
Another way of looking at IJ RP is it's a cooperative writing game that uses a diary system (thanks, Emmy!). Not a diary system like the letters written back and forth in the vampire classic Dracula, but diary as in IJ is based on the code for one of the first social media websites, LiveJoural, and we repurpose that diary website format for gaming specifically.
An even simpler way of looking at IJ RP is to think of it like improv writing (thanks, Immora!) just as some people look at LARP as improv theater.
Advantages: Like MMOs, they are incredibly convenient. You can log in to play any time when it works for you. You can make friends from anywhere around the world. Unlike other forms or RP, I find the RP in written form to be deeper, more character driven story. Of course their are exceptions and it depends upon the players, but the players who are attracted to journal RP tend to be attracted to more intense stories like you'd find in a book or your favorite movie/tv show. You can also play multiple characters at once, giving you more opportunities to try on different characters and get more interaction.
Disadvantages: Journal games tend to be very fuzzy when it comes to rules for combat. It's kinda like watching kids play with action figures sometimes and the kids are shouting about which character is stronger and more powerful and would win? Some people don't really write combat at all in journal games. It is heavily dependent on story and the players ability to tell stories and work it out. Like LARP, journal games can also be full of OOC drama. People get really invested in their characters and so when conflict happens to them they can get upset with other players.
How To IJ RP
Oh my god, finally, the good stuff.
Okay! So you read my long rambling intro that probably doesn't apply to you. Or you just skipped it and found yourself here because your friend already told you the basics of journal RP and you really didn't need any convincing and oh my god Becky won't you please just get to the useful information already?
You're in luck. I've got you covered.
A little history:
Once upon a time, before Tumblr and Twitter, before Facebook, before even MySpace there was a little online journal website called LiveJournal. LiveJournal was one of the first social media sites back in the day, before all of us learned valuable lessons that you should watch what you say on the internet. Heck, people didn't go by their real names anyway. They were probably just a username.
Instead of just writing about your day, or making a post to the community about The X-Files, someone figured out you could use LiveJournal for role playing. And so, a new method of RPs were born. LiveJournal also did this cool thing where they had an open source code that was free to anyone to copy and use. So while there were RP games on LiveJournal (and maybe there still is, who knows, the Russians own it now) someone had the idea to take LJ's code and create something called GreatestJournal, and as far as I can tell, that platform was used mostly for RPing. GJ was also cool because you could have a bajillion icons. People like to use icons for RP character avatars so that was neat!
But, for whatever reason, time or money or probably both, GJ went away. That left a vacuum for all the RPers on that platform. LJ's original code was still open source, however, and two newer journal sites opened up: Dreamwidth and InsaneJournal, often called DW or IJ. I moved to IJ because it was free and most of the people I knew and wrote with moved to that site. My understanding is DW has a lot more anime RP than IJ does, but I could be wrong? Idk.
• First Thing's First
Find a game or make a journal. It's a bit chicken and egg, isn't it? You can't really make a journal until you know what you need first. I would be very surprised if you didn't have a friend telling you about how awesome RP is and already have a game in mind they want you to join. Let's go over making a journal first. Even if you don't have a game in mind, you can use your first journal as your CDJ (Character Development Journal) an OOC journal where you can blog about RP or whatever.
• Make that Journal
Whether you're making a character journal for a game or a CDJ, you need to eventually make that journal. You can get started here. That will require you to get a code from a friend but people tend to help one another out. You do need to put a real email address in to verify the account, too. It's also where you'll get notified if someone responds to something you've written. Notifs are very important to RP so you can keep up and know when you have something to respond to.
From there, the very first thing I do is edit my user info page. I typically hide my birthday, my email, my school, location, contact info, pretty much all info that isn't relevant. As a personal preference, I also uncheck the the friends options at the very bottom, because I think it makes the user info page look cleaner.
The next thing I do if this is a journal for a character is I gussy it up. I like to use pretty layouts since I watch the game community I'm in through the "friends" page. Otherwise I'd have to click on multiple community pages separately to check what's going on in the IC and OOC community pages. We'll get how to join communities in a bit. (My favorite place to go for new layouts is tessisamess but there are tons of communities for journal layouts.)
Most games want you have icons, too. If you're playing a character you're going to want to pick a PB (which stands for "played by"). In fandom games, like if you're playing Tony Stark from the Marvel movies, that choice is already made and you need to find RDJ icons in his role as Iron Man. In original character games or for playing characters in books or comics, you are the casting agent that gets to pick who represents your character!
There are multiple communities for finding icons. If I already know the name of the actor or actress I want to use, I usually head to wikicon or archive. If I know I want a certain age range, gender, hair color, etc I tend to go to the hollow-art website but there are a lot of other communities that will also help you find someone. Another thing I tend to do is go to my favorite icon makers and take a look at their icon directories and see if anyone inspires me. Note: make sure to credit where your icons came from. It's just polite. Icon journals typically show you how and where to credit.
• Find a game
Let's say you don't have a game in mind. How did you find this post? I really have no idea. But hey! If it helps you, great!
At the top of the website there is a search field. Just type "rp" or "rp ads" into the search field, but make sure the drop down menu next to it is changed to "interest" instead of username or it won't work. You should find a list of communities dedicated to RP. Many if not most of them will be advertising communities where people put up games to attract players.
Is there a specific type of game you want to play? Original characters? Fantasy? Harry Potter? Multi-fandom? There's probably an RP community dedicated to those kind of games. Look at the ads, see what premises interest you, and then go poke around their game and look at their writing. Are there some interesting characters? Do you like the PBs people used to cast their characters? (I feel like who people cast say a lot about the player. I'm weird like that.) Look around until you find a game that appeals to you.
Once you've found a game, read over their rules page, what they're looking for ("wanted") and what's taken. If you see a lot of the same kinds of characters, you might stand out and get a lot more interaction by picking someone different than the rest. Get a feel for the game and look it over to see if it's right for you.
• Picking a character
Okay, I'm going to be lazy and link to my RP philosophy here, where I cover the process for how I pick my characters and integrate into games.
• Application process
The part that gives me anxiety! Even if I'm bestest of friends with the mods. Even if they would let me get away with writing this application, which they did once. I think I'm going to have to thank RP application writing for getting me through the writing submission process when I get to that part in my writing hobby mini career that I will probably never make a living from. Anyway!
Take a look at the other applications. Usually if you look at the cast list of taken characters, they link to the character journals and the journals have their application they used to get into the game. Look at applications from multiple players, if you can tell which players are different. That's going to give you an idea of the length and the quality they're looking for in an application.
Fill out your application, do your best, maybe even make a note if it's your first time so you can get feedback if it isn't what a mod is looking for. Sometimes mods will take it easier on first time players because they want to teach you the hobby and they want to encourage more new players into a game. Sometimes not. If you have a friend that is bringing you into the game, have them look over your application. They might know the kinds of things the mods like and don't like.
And don't worry if your application is rejected. That still happens to me. Possibly because I like to push limits of what the mods will tolerate. Heheh. Ooops. ("No, Becky. You cannot play a toaster. How would that even work?" "IT'S A METAPHOR FOR CAPITALIST OPPRESSION AND THE DOWNFALL OF THE MODERN MAN." "No." "WHY DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND MY ART?" "Still no." "Okay.")
How Journal Games Work
• IC communities: This is where the "in character" posts go. If you look at the IC community, you'll probably notice how they're set up. Some use "cut tags" in order to hide large blocks of text behind a link in order to keep the community easier to read.
• OOC communities: This is where the "out of character" chatter gets posted to. (God, can you tell I'm losing steam? I've been working on this essay all day.)
• Net, plotting, and other communities: Sometimes the IC communities are divided up into different types. Like internet social media type posts are in one community, and logs are in another. Or sometimes there are new player OOC communities that are free to join so you can plot with potential players in advance.
• Tracking: Tracking is my secret love. If there are two characters commenting back and forth that I'm interested in I hit the little "track this" button at the top of the entry that looks like a little push pin. The tracking button is your friend.
• Posting and comments: Er. Yes. I was going to say something here. Do you need help figuring out how posts and comments work? Erm. Players and mods in the game will probably talk you through that step by step. >> (I had coffee today, I swear.)
• Google docs is your friend. Using gdocs to write up logs and then formatting the text and posting it into the game later is a nice way to make your log look nice and uniform.
• Also I wrote a thing on IC/OOC posts here, though they're a newer thing that not all games do.
Glossary of Terms
Okay, I was going to write one, but this one is better.
Notes & Errata
• It's my party and I can blockquote if I want to.
• There's a lot of writing errors in this one, folks. It was long. I just didn't feel like editing as much as I normally do.
• If you have an IJ RP question here, please ask away in the comments! If its about other RP sites, I'm not as familiar.
• I really know nothing about RP on dreamwidth or how it's similar or different, but I'm sure other people would be interested to know if you have experience RPing on that site if you want to sound off in the comments.
• I had every intention of taking screencaps of IJ and pointing out where to click for things, but honestly I wrote and rambled so much that I got lazy. Feel free to link to any other cool RP tutorials here in the comments.
• I have never actually applied to a game as a toaster. I just like to make fun of myself. Funny side story, though. I once had a character bring in a cat as a character. Not a talking cat. Not an intelligent cat. Just a normal, ordinary cat. SO MANY LADY CHARACTERS HIT ON THAT CAT. IDK. MAYBE THEY THOUGHT IT WAS SECRETLY A HUMAN. IT WAS WEIRD. This was back in my AOL chatroom RP days where we didn't do applications. You just wrote up a little profile about your character and dove in.