View Full Version : Behold the Void's Guide to Effective Roleplaying

Behold the Void
09-15-2006, 04:10 AM
Note: Work in progress. Suggestions and comments are always welcome.

So, obviously, if you're in here, you've got some interest in roleplaying. Well, either that, or you've made a horrible mistake in your random clicking, in which case, General Chat is that way (http://forums.eyesonff.com/forumdisplay.php?f=2).


There are two major things you should keep in mind when roleplaying. First, the bare minimum allowable on this site, essentially, the rules (http://forums.eyesonff.com/showthread.php?t=82571) of roleplaying here. The other, however, is much more abstract, but will ultimately make the roleplay that much more fun for both you and your fellow players.

This guide is here to help you learn to be an effective roleplayer. Some of you already know this, some of you do not, but it is my hope that everyone can at least learn something from this.

We begin our journey with the most common role you will be taking, the player. And, as a player, you must always have...

The Character

The character represents you, or, more precisely, the persona you are taking on in the game.

Many players gravitate towards the same kind of character, always making variations on the same person. This gives them a familiar place to begin and end, they can always tailor their personal character to the RP's specifications and they don't have to change the way they roleplay in any drastic ways.

Other players, however, choose to create many different characters. While more work, they are able to play all kinds of different people, which is one of the great draws of roleplaying. This gives them the freedom to be flexible and adapt to a situation, especially in some roleplays where there is a need for a specific role (the oft-needed but underplayed healer, for example).

Whatever path you choose to take, you must remember a few key things.

1. No matter how many characters you make, they should all be yours in some way or another.

One of my greatest pet peeves is when someone bangs out the most cliche'd character I've ever seen in all of five minutes. A good character should NOT be a carbon copy of anyone you've seen in a movie, video game, book, or anime. It's all right to draw from your personal likes for inspiration, but the purpose of a roleplay is making a character yours, not trying to emulate another character (the exception to this rule is, of course, roleplays where you are specifically playing a premade character. More on this a bit later.)

If for no other reason than respect for your fellow players who actually put thought into their characters, please try to make as original a character as you can. If you MUST use a pre-existing character as a base, start altering them immediately. Give them quirks, traits, beliefs, something you already plan playing up in the roleplay can make an excellent alteration to a character.

For example, let's say I wanted to play as Cloud. But my big, nasty, mean GM forbids me from doing it because Cloud's way overused and he's a video game character and for god's sake we don't need ANOTHER spiky-haired blond kid with a sword he shouldn't be able to lift, much less swing running around.

But let's say I REALLY wanted to play Cloud. So I'll alter him.

First, look at some of the key problems your GM has with him. That could include things like the sword, his whole "I'm really my best friend" complex, or his anti-social behavior.

The sword can be taken care of fairly easily. How about a standard greatsword? Still large, but not ridiculously huge. Or how about we change it up a bit more and give him an axe instead. A lot of cleaving power, still a big blade, but it's a bit out of the ordinary (how many axe-wielders do you see in roleplays?) and it doesn't change the essential flavor of the guy who wields really large weapons.

But as much as one may wish to play Cloud, they also have to acknowledge that Cloud's complete character cannot exist the same way in this setting. SOLDIER probably isn't around, so Cloud needs a reason to want to wield his big sword. Or axe, in this case. So what do you do? The answer is simple.

2. Background.

Your character didn't spontaneously appear in a poof of badass. He or she was born, grew up, learned some skills, excelled at somethings, failed utterly at others, laughed, cried, desired, they had a life. So unless you're playing a robot or a one-month-old clone, make sure you have at least a good idea of who your character was, and why it is that they became what they were.

Let's take our now axe-wielding Cloud. Cloud already has a pre-established background that works in most settings. He grew up always watching the other kids, was socially awkward, wanted to become great, joined the army, blah blah blah.

Now, let's adapt. SOLDIER obviously doesn't exist in whatever setting you're trying to pass Cloud off as an original character in. So we'll change it. Say he wanted to join the royal guard to prove his worth. Say he grew up constantly hating that he was weak. Say the axe, for him, represents a physical embodiment of his desires. It's a big, strong weapon that, when wielded well, cuts through the opposition. The axe suddenly becomes more than just the character's trademark weapon. He trained to use it because it is an extension of his philosophy of power and growing stronger. It is no longer just a tool to kill things, but something he put his heart and soul into learning. The axe is what made him able to move forward in the guard.

Suddenly, we don't have Cloud anymore. He's not quite original, but he's changed. He's not a cop-out anymore, and he's almost playworthy.

The point here is that your character needs a background to build the foundation of who they are. Look at your character as a person. No person is one-dimensional. We all have things in our past that influenced who we are. Your character should be no different.

Background also makes a great starting ground for another very integral part of your character.

3. The personality.

A character should have a distinctive personality. Something that makes them unique, as only humans can be. Strange habits or fixations, general temperament, these are all things that make your character who they are. You don't need to come up with everything, but it should remain consistent throughout the RP with reasonable developments. Very few people are so hung up on every single trait they have that they never change. People are always learning and adapting, your character should be no different. Their background defines who they are when the roleplay begins. Their experiences in the roleplay define who they become.

When building a personality, it is also a good thing to make sure you understand...

4. Strengths and Weaknesses

Be it from a cohesive set of statistics or a more general assessment of abilities, all characters have their own strengths and weaknesses. Remember that in RPs even GODS have weaknesses. You are likely not a god, so you should have them too. Probably in about equal measure to your strengths. Your character might be decent with spell and sword, but not great at both. Likewise, they might be a master swordsman but not have a lick of magical power, or they could be a mighty wizard that couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper sack.

However, strengths and weaknesses mean far more than the cool stuff you can do in-game. As in real life, a character's abilities are integral to their personality and how it formed. While there are several ways you can take any given strength or weakness as far as it's effect on your character, never underestimate the power natural ability has on your character. For example, your character may be naturally gifted with magic. Did they embrace their strength and become a mighty sorcerer? Did they perhaps slide on their natural strengths and instead pursue mastery of the sword, only to use their innate skills to further their prowess? Abilities are crucial to think about when creating a character, and they should be built around the working concept. Speaking of which, that brings us to our next point...


I cannot stress this enough. Take a concept you like for your character. Having that concept at least vaguely fit with the setting helps a lot. Take that and make a working character. Start putting the character together with how you want them to work mechanically firmly in mind, and make sure that the backstory and personality work with it. Some people prefer to do the sign-up systematically, doing one thing and then another when finished, while others like to skip around and play with the differing aspects until they have what they want. Whatever method you use, make sure the character remains true to the concept (evolution during construction is perfectly fine, so long as it remains consistent).

In fact, I think it should be stressed that consistency is key to making a believable character. Keeping everything working within the concept is an absolute must in building a character. Living contradictions don't really work well in most cases, so as a general rule it's best to avoid them unless you have a really good justification.

6. Appearances do matter

Often people will get so hung up on making a "badass" character that they'll forget that there's a society that exists around them that doesn't generally take kindly to people walking into town with massive weapons strapped to their backs. Also, chances are you're playing an adventurer. Adventurers, by extension, wear practical clothing. Chain-mail bikinis, huge, unnecessary shoulder plates, these kinds of accessories shouldn't be included in anybody who has a desire to stay alive.

Remember: while you may want to have flashy clothes and many people may have them, they should always, always be practical. A nice, colorful cloak should also be water-resistant, spiked armor should be protective, weapons should be kept in easily-accessed locations and in some cases concealed, etc..

Oh, and on that concept, let's take a moment to look at hair.




It's OK to have somewhat outlandish hair, but unless you have a large hair gel budget or your character uses magic to style it, it shouldn't be ridiculous.

The Roleplay

Now that you've created a good, solid character, there are things to do and not do. This will explain some of the overall mechanics of roleplay and how you should use your character in the situations.

1. Don't metagame

I've mentioned this in the rules, but it absolutely bears repeating. Metagaming is using knowledge that you, yourself have that your character does not. Here are some examples of metagaming and ways to avoid doing it.

- You see that a character is stalking your character, reading your character's thoughts, or otherwise doing something to your character by reading their posts.

Metagame solution: Your character is suddenly aware of whatever it is and acts upon it immediately. This causes headaches for the player AND the GM, especially if the character in question's abilities are such that your character would not have noticed.

Correct Solution: Unless your GM explicitly tells you that you notice something is going on, you continue posting as if nothing happened. The best way to do this is to not even read the other posts. Firstly, they're none of your business, and secondly, if you don't know you won't be tempted to pull crap like that above.

- In RPGs, characters get stronger by going out and randomly encountering and brutally murdering savage woodland creatures. Thus, logically, if I go out and train somehow, my character will get better without my having to do anything.

Metagame Solution: Your character randomly goes out to train because they'll magically get visibly better for doing so.

Correct Solution: This isn't an RPG like you would play on the PS2. This is an RPG in the real sense of the word, a roleplaying game. Random encounters are stupid, no competent GM will use them because they don't make sense. Likewise, randomly training won't make you get better, no competent GM will let you do that. If the game allows for some kind of skill progression, it's best that you go out and actually advance the plot. That's the best way to get better.

This isn't Final Fantasy. This isn't an MMO. Don't expect to level grind.

2. Stick to your character

You've made a character. Play him or her correctly. That means sticking within their powers, acting as their personality dictactes (even if it's the not the best choice), and not having them know things that they don't. This is really a simple concept, but people seem to often forget it. You've established how your character acts, usually within the first several posts. Stick to it.

This isn't to say that your character can't change over time, that's a common trait found in all humans. We learn from others and adapt, after all. However, the change must be believeable. Generally, the best way to do this is a gradual change over time, but there are certain cases where an epiphany immediately changes the character's outlook. No matter the cause, it must be believable.

2a. Playing a premade character properly

Some roleplays require you to play as a character already established. This is especially common in Final Fantasy-based roleplays, which you are most likely to find on this site due to the fact that it is a Final Fantasy site.

What is important to remember when playing a character you yourself have made is that, especially at the beginning of the roleplay, you CANNOT ALTER THEIR PERSONALITY. AT ALL.

I cannot stress this enough. The character isn't yours, you don't have a free ticket to play them however you want. The character exists and has an established personality and background. When you decide to play as that character, you are expected to play them to their personality. You are expected to play them like they really are.

This can be even harder than playing an original character, which is why I suggest that less experienced roleplayers avoid these entirely. Yes, I understand the allure of playing Cloud or Sora or whoever is often great. However, doing an effective job of roleplaying the characters is something else entirely.

It is, in some cases, acceptable to have the pre-established character undergo changes in the RP. In some cases, this is even encouraged. However, you must make certain that you play them as they are supposed to be from the start, and make the changes fit within their pre-established personality.

The Triumphant Hero
09-15-2006, 09:54 PM
For more fun, I always try to give my character a big flaw in personality or characteristics in a roleplay.

Rinoa Lover
12-06-2006, 08:19 PM
Can I make mine own RPG for everyone.

01-06-2008, 08:07 PM
this is a good reference for those who wish to learn to roleplay. Good explanations and not too wordy.