How to Become a Popular Player

July 19, 2017 at 6:45 am (Roleplaying Posts) (, , , )

The other day I asked a friend when he might be available for some RP. He named a day, and I said, “Great! I’ll write that in my day planner.”

“You actually need a day planner for your RP?”

“I’d be lost without my day planner.”

I actually use my day planner for everything–what meals I’m going to cook, which house chores I need to get done, deadlines and work commitments, even a running to-do list of the various errata that pops up in the course of adult life. And that’s what I honestly meant when I said these words. But…it’s true. Every single RP scene usually makes it into my day planner, and I definitely usually have something lined up at least a week in advance every night I know I will be available for RP.

“I’m not that popular,” my friend said, and I felt a burst of true exasperation.

Popularity — Perception vs. Reality

This is actually a comment I’d heard before, from other people on the game. Most people do not have RP every single night that they want it. They wait, and wait, and wait to be asked, like girls at a 1950s sock hop, all lined up against the wall, hoping to get lucky.

These players perceive and believe that I am getting asked for every single scene I want to do. They believe people are just lining up, clamoring to RP with me. In reality, I do most of the asking. If I do 20 scenes in a month, someone else would have suggested 3 to 5 of them. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.

I get most of these scenes because I asked for them. I paged a person I wanted to scene with, suggested a scene, and asked when they might be available, clearly and concisely and with no room for any other interpretation. They said yes. We were off to the races. Done. Boom. We both got to do something fun that night.

Blanket Asks Don’t Work

[RP Channel] Random Player asks, “Does anyone want to RP?”

Most common answer: crickets. Nobody knows what to do with that. Nobody. It also reeks of desperation and a lack of skill. That’s why 99% of the time nobody says a word.

When I say I ask for RP every single night I want it I mean I pick someone off the WHO, page them, and ask them for RP, personally. I have a conversation with them. A great good deal of the time, RP happens as a result.

What does work:

[RP Channel] Savvy MUSHer says, “Anyone want to go on a frantic search for a missing child with me this evening?”

See the difference? You’re providing people with an idea of what they’d be doing and why they’d be there. You’ll get takers. You’ll meet people your char didn’t know before, and this will in turn spark more RP. It’s magic!

Passive Asks Don’t Work

A lot of players get really coy.

They page and they make some comment on RP they’ve seen you doing. They’re hoping to be noticed, to be invited, but the invitation just never comes, because when you do this, you are putting all of the onus on the other player to figure out fun for both of you, and unless the stars align– which, every once in awhile, they do– they’re never going to do that. They’re going to run off and RP and do whatever they’ve already planned to do with their existing character arc and character trajectory.

Another coy, passive tactic is to say something like, “Well, let me know if you need me for anything on that plot.”

My friends.

Nobody needs you for anything on that plot. Not if you’re doing it that way.

What a plot runner really needs is someone to go, “Holy shit, the entire village turned purple? Will you NPC the Mayor of that village? I wanna find out what’s wrong.”

Or:

“Holy shit, everyone’s purple? Well, I go take some blood samples. If I bring them to Dr. Fantastic, what will we find together in our scene? Can we scene around that?”

Or:

“Hey, my character is an expert on weird skin phenomenon. Says so right on my sheet. Everyone’s purple. What does that tell him? Who is already in the plot so he can go tell them all about it?”

See the difference?

This doesn’t work all the time. Some plot runners are bad plot runners. Some plot runners are really only interested in running this thing for people they know, and you gotta respect that. You might have to run your own plot to get the ball rolling. You might also just have to be persistent, to keep right on trying with different plot runners. But I’d say it works 9 times out of 10. Plot runners are hurting for people who will take a consistent and intelligent interest in the things they are doing. Seriously.

Sometimes You Gotta be the Idea Machine

There is an art to the ask if you want to get RP almost all the time. It requires some work on your part.

“Wanna RP? Just something random in a bar?”

Meh. I guess. Maybe. Actually, maybe not. I could go on a Netflix marathon, that sounds way more engaging.

Everyone these days usually has some sort of wiki or something that tells you about their character. Go. Scour those things. Look for ideas. Come up with something more creative.

“I see that you run a garage. How would you feel about my char showing up with a car problem?”

Ok, that’s better. It’s tailored specifically to the other player, and allows them to do some sort of RP they obviously wanted to do, or they would not have picked a mechanic. Anyone can come up with that kind of a scene. You don’t gotta be a plot genius, you dig? Now you have a reason to be there and the other player has a reason to stick around. Great.

Feeling really ambitious? You can make it even better in one of two ways.

“Someone’s wired my char’s car with a remote detonator bomb that hasn’t gone off yet, and I was thinking of taking it to a garage just in time for things to get really bad.”

Um. Hell yes. That’s a scene anyone is going to jump right on doing.

You can also just emit the car bomb being there as they work on the car and let them react. That’s fun too. You’ll get a bit of a reputation for being a person who makes things fun and interesting.

Again, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes people will turn you down. They’ll be busy, or tired, or you simply won’t exactly hit it out of the park when it comes to guessing the scene they might actually like. It’s fine. Move on, ask someone else.

No Ideas? No Excuse!

Yeah, I get creatively dry sometimes too. I’m not saying that you gotta be Mr./Ms. idea machine all the time. Cause something cool happens when you do this enough times. Eventually your char has a zillion friends ICly, and sooner or later they sort of catch on or have things they want to do with your char, and you get those rare but awesome asks from people you already know you enjoy RPing with.

But if you never have any ideas and you just sort of sit around the RP lounge hoping to get lucky, you’re not working hard enough. This is an RP game. Ideas are the literal coin of the realm. And they’re just not hard to come up with. I present three exercises you can do to get more RP than you can shake a stick at within the next 3 months. I dare you to try these exercises, and then the entire method, and then tell me in the comments how all this went for you.

Exercise 1: Wiki-Fu

I want you to pull up every character on the game that has not personally upset, offended, or harassed you in some way. I personally absolve you if you wish to exclude someone who is creepy or threatening. Got your list? Great.

Go through their wikis. If you’re on a game with +finger or +info instead of a Wiki, go through that. Do it with a pencil in hand. Write down at least 1 scene idea per character based on their char concepts, RP hooks, places you might mutually hang out, or whatever.

If there is literally no reason on all the earth why your char would or could ever have a conversation with that character, you can skip it, but 99% of the time you can think of something. You are all chars in a TV show and the Unlikely is the bread and butter of your fictional existences. Write it as a wishlist, even. It doesn’t have to be plausible. It just has to be interesting, and plausible enough to get the job done.

Exercise 2: Random Scene Starters

Write down 10 random scene starters that could work for anyone. This is stuff you can toss out on the RP channel, or just throw out at someone you kind of think looks cool and want your character to meet. Keep in mind that by using these you’re committing to emitting any NPCs that are involved, but…that’s not really that hard. It’s like playing a char, only it’s one you didn’t have to app and don’t have to keep.

I’ll do this one right now, just off the top of my head:

  1. Missing child example from above.
  2. Trapped in an elevator. Variant – Trapped in an elevator…with a bomb.
  3. Convenience store robbery.
  4. Beached whale needs help getting back into the ocean, or he’ll die. Variant: stray dog trapped in a fence.
  5. Chars take shelter in an unlikely place when a tornado places them in danger. IRL, my kiddo and my parents ended up locked in a bank vault with the bank employees once due to this very thing.
  6. Troll! In the dungeon! Thought you’d wanna know! See also monster at the pier, giant bird-thing in the sky plucking up virgins, whatever. May not work on all genres.
  7. Help! My character’s trapped on thin ice on an extremely dangerous river! Variant…Help! My character fell overboard!
  8. Car broken down on the side of the road. Variant: car wreck with two chars.
  9. Classic: I’ve got a short term danger and I need a rescue. Anyone can get poisoned by the way, even if you’re badass. Just…roll with it. You can figure out why later. More RP for everyone.
  10. Block party time! Everyone’s invited.

Congrats, now you have 10 scene proposals to launch at people until you get 10 great nights of RP. You will probably be more creative than me, since you know your theme. The theme itself probably has some unique hidden gems in it.

Exercise 3: Guess the Wish List

I am under the firm opinion that every character comes with a wish list attached to it, whether people realize it or not. You can, in fact, draw a direct line from the character concept to the type of RP that person likely wanted to do.

Examples:

  • Someone who is playing a cop/PI/federal agent, etc. wants to investigate crimes. They probably want to have chases too. Car chases, foot chases. Chances to shadow someone dangerous. Chances to find missing people and items, or catch murderers.
  • Someone who is playing a hacker or other computer type wants opportunities to use those skills to gather information. They also want to be able to “shut down the grid” or some such from their van, or install a virus into someone’s systems.
  • Someone who is playing a doctor obviously wants the opportunity to patch people up, diagnose interesting diseases, and perform breathtaking acts of lifesaving fury under extreme circumstances.
  • Someone who is playing an absolutely gorgeous knock-out who owns a club, is a dancer, sings, or whatever probably wants lots of opportunities to be seen and admired, and/or to seduce/talk her way out of trouble.
  • Someone who is playing an inventor or engineer wants the chance to design something cool for people. Taking something apart, dismantling traps, reverse engineering bad guy crap…all on the table.

First, look at your char. You probably had some specific RP experiences in mind, things you wanted to do when you took that character. Write them down, because they all suggest scene ideas.

Then, go back to your Wiki list. Ask yourself what was on other people’s wish list when they took that character. That’s probably a real good hint as to the types of scenes that will entice that person to get out of the lounge and get out onto the grid with you. You can use that to your advantage when you ask someone (again, directly, concisely) for RP.

You of course can throw out any scene ideas that you come up with that don’t excite you, too. If you’re not having fun, nobody else in that scene will have fun either. Just try to end up with a good long list. Get adept at setting these scenes, too…few people like being put on the spot when it comes to setting. Many like having that little warm up so they can put themselves in the scene. You probably like that too, but look, someone’s gotta be the hero here, and today I’m asking you to do it. You’re the one over here reading a very long blog post on how to be a popular RPer on a multi-player MUSH, after all. Or play-by-post game or whatever, as it happens, since the same principles basically apply.

Everyone is Here for the Same Thing

There is nobody who is not on this game to RP. Nobody really wants to sit around the lounge, or idle in their private room, bored to tears. Nobody.

So unless you are overtly creepy or rude, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get RP whenever you want it. Especially if you put some effort into your scenes and give the other players a lot to work with. Next time you’re bored, don’t wait around. Put on your thinking cap, come up with a scene proposal…and ask for what you want.

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How to Play a Trickster Without Being a Douche

June 22, 2016 at 4:47 am (character design, Roleplaying Posts) (, , , , )

There are some character types that make players and GMs cringe because they have a reputation for causing havoc and disrupting the game. Most often, they’re tricksters (the others are the so-called “mad” character types, but I’ll address those in another post). They’re the Coraxes and Nuwisha in WoD. They’re the Kinder (or sometimes, for God’s sake, any freaking thief character) in D&D. They’re known for being spastic, loud, and silly.

But there’s more than one way to play a trickster. You don’t have to default to these stereotypes when you set out to play one. I’m about to offer you some alternative tropes that you can dive into instead. You may notice some overlap and you may not agree with where I placed all of my examples, but…such is life.

The Refined Trickster

This trickster is a master of etiquette and social graces. He or she may even know the cultural norms of multiple groups, and can use them to best advantage. He or she may be snarky, but it will always be a more clever, understated kind of snark. This trickster doesn’t have to have a lot of money, and he or she does not have to radiate sex appeal (but often does). You could do an earnest yet utterly charming young person who is just getting his or her start in life, too.

This person knows how to work a room, and may get a lot of his or her work done through rumors, manipulation, and a simple skill for talking people around to his or her point of view. Sometimes this trickster can accomplish things simply by predicting what people are likely to do, and then setting up the dominoes.

Of course, this kind of trickster isn’t limited to that sort of work, and can be surprisingly effective in other ways.

Examples: James Bond, Irene Adler (Sherlock), Raymond Redding (Black List)

Techno Trickster

This trickster may be your typical hacker, but one doesn’t have to take it in that direction. He or she may simply be good with gadgets, or have an awful lot of them. They may also be adept at improvising different solutions on the fly.

It’s easy to fall into the stereotype of playing the over-the-top bragger hacker, but there are a lot of different ways to play this. Taken from my examples…Charlie is often anxious and socially awkward until there’s a girl she wants to do. MacGuyver is charming and charismatic in the extreme, though those are never the tools he really uses to his advantage…the tech is. Phil is again incredibly charming, witty, and funny, but mostly he makes great use of the tools he’s been given. The unifying thread here, however, is intellect: all of these tricksters are usually wickedly intelligent.

Examples: Charlie Bradbury (Supernatural), MacGuyver, Phil Coulson (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

The Social Engineer

This trickster is similar to the refined trickster, but he or she will take it in a slightly different direction. In this case, our social engineer is adept at making up new identities, fast-talking, and convincing people he or she is someone other than what they say they are. They may be outstanding at getting other people to open up and offer more information, too.

When they’re “off the job” they can be serious, focused, and earnest in the extreme, since they spend most of their time lying to their enemies. As it is, sometimes their friends have trouble trusting them, as they know just how easy it is for their friend to spin a big fat story.

Sometimes, this kind of trickster can make people believe a lie without speaking a word, simply by manipulating appearances or playing into other people’s expectations.

Examples: Michael Westen (Burn Notice), Sam Winchester (Supernatural), Black Widow (The Avengers).

The Covert Ops Trickster

This trickster is more about his or her skills than demeanor. This could include sneaking, sniping, and getting into places he or she is not meant to go. He or she may also have some of the other skills, like social engineering.

In truth, most thieves would fall into this category, but the thing about a covert ops person is they’re a professional. They’re not going to draw attention to themselves with over-the-top behavior. They’re not going to attract attention if they don’t have to attract attention. And if they have friends, for the love of god they’re going to protect their team at all costs, because that team may consist of the few people in the world this person can possibly trust. (Unless, of course, the people who appear to be their friends are not, in fact, their friends, but then they will usually at least appear loyal until it’s time to strike).

This trickster may focus primarily on taking targets down both quickly and quietly. This trickster may also focus on getting in and out without killing anybody at all, stealing information or sabotaging enemy assets with ease.

Examples: Thane Krios (Mass Effect),  Bobbi Morse (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Robin Hood (Once Upon a Time).

The Tactician

The Tactician is more focused on coming up with a broad, overarching plan that will make use of the entire team’s talents. He or she is intimately acquainted with what every member of the team can do. This person will also poke a lot of holes in plans that have problems. The tactician may also be concerned with setting up advantages: he or she might lay traps, figure out how to use environmental factors such as higher ground, or otherwise do things to mess with the enemy while the tanks and bruisers of the party do their thing. They find the loopholes, and they exploit them ruthlessly.

The tactician is, above all, a big picture thinker and an amazing communicator. This person finds ways to inspire loyalty in “the troops,” whether that’s the rest of the PC group or an entire organization. They may be funny and get into antics (see Mat Cauthon, below) but only really when the rubber isn’t hitting the road.

Examples: Mat Cauthon (The Wheel of Time), Leliana the Nightengale (Dragon Age), John “Hannibal” Smith (The A-Team).

Notice how not one of these characters is played in the douchey, limelight grabbing fashion that players and GMs know so well when people start proposing trickster characters. 

In many cases, it’s quite the opposite. Trickster does not mean “plays pranks.” It doesn’t even have to mean funny, though almost all tricksters offer some good zingers every now and then. A trickster is anyone who can pull shit other people don’t see coming. A trickster uses deception to get his or her way. A trickster works from the shadows and sees what others don’t see.

In short, tricksters can be bloody amazing, and you should honor that when you design one.

What are your thoughts? Have you played a trickster in the past? Did they fall into any of these tropes? Did I miss an amazing trickster trope? Let me know in the comments!

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More on Character Building, and On Getting Involved in RP

April 11, 2012 at 5:07 am (character design) (, , )

If you have trouble getting involved in the “best” RP–that is, the tinyplots and storylines that provide a break from endless slice-of-life vignettes and give your character a chance to play the hero in adventures–then your character build is one place you might need to look. There are several different problems that could be assaulting you, and any one of them is fully within your control.

It’s important to recognize these problems because all too often players get frustrated and decide that it is the staff that is targeting them, keeping them from all of these amazing opportunities. In reality, the staff usually has little to do with it. If a staff character seems to be blocking the player’s involvement these rumors can become even nastier, but the staff character is just the same as any other player’s character: beholden to act in an in-character fashion. This can happen especially when there are powerful authority figures dictating who comes on many of the missions on MUSH settings: a general, or a ruler, a faction head or a field commander who has every in-character right to say who should reasonably be involved. In a tabletop the GM often has to find some way to make even the most unlikely characters fit the plot…but on a MUSH, characters generally find themselves having to act and think more realistically, especially with the shadow of ICC and other character’s reactions hanging over their head. Let’s take a look at a few common problems.

You might want to play the ill-equipped professor who gets in over his head and rises to the challenge by his wits, but you’d best have a discussion with staff before you do it to see if they understand what you want to accomplish and to see if they are willing to give you enough of their personal time and plotting skills to make this work.

Your character lacks helpful skills.

I can’t tell you how many times shopkeepers and waitresses have gotten angry at me because I’ve told them that they are not going to be included on an invitation to go raid a vampire’s lair or crawl the Dark Dungeon of Dangerousness alongside the cops, soldiers, wizards, thieves and whatnot who might be able to actually help. They say that if the GM is only creative that of COURSE there would be a role for those people, to which I wind up thinking: red shirts and cannon fodder. Student characters are often in this category as well. Few experienced characters would be acting responsibly if they came along with a passel of apprentices, raw recruits, kids, or trainees. Sometimes theme allows for these sorts of issues,and sometimes students are exceptionally good at what they do, enough to be singled out (usually because they’ve either spent whatever character points they have in a productive direction OR because they RP so sensibly that they earn trust). In general, however, characters who don’t have the skills to face danger will be left at home. Nobody wants their death on their own hands or heads. Of course on a consent MUSH the shopkeeper might, improbably, live through the trip to Vampire Mansion, but this is also a reason why many MU*s are turning away from full consent in favor of an at least partial rolled or mediated system…it eliminates unrealistic RP like this.

Bottom line: If you want to investigate Vampire Mansion or The Dark Dungeon of Suck, create a character who is skilled enough to make the journey and who can prove it.

The Character Acts or Speaks Stupidly

I’m just going to have to be blunt here. Some people are really stupid. Really really stupid. Nobody wants a stupid person at their back. If this is your problem and you aren’t deliberately playing this way I am very sorry because nobody’s going to be willing to say this to your face, and you probably aren’t willing to hear it. Most stupid players I’ve met are extremely arrogant individuals convinced that they are actually Einstein and will get enraged at the thought that their actions are anything less than amazing. I could tell a story about an HE MUSH where a freaking diplomat got herself deliberately trapped with Lord Voldemort convinced that she was going to pull a spy maneuver of teh_awesome and slay Voldemort with her l33t skillz. When I told her she was dead with a capital D she insisted it was because I didn’t like her. No…I’m going to have to insist that it’s because you got in the way of the most powerful evil wizard on the game, and decades before the boy with the funny scar shows up to do something about him to boot.  When I told her that she’d simply been stupid (because I AM that blunt when my patience has finally snapped) she explained to me all of the reasons why this was the most intelligent thing anyone ever could have done. Like I said…difficult problem to deal with on both sides of the equation.

You Haven’t Put in the Character Work

This is going to be frustrating to hear because I know you want to go on the awesome missions right away, but unless you’re RPing in a military organization where anyone at all can be tapped (and you didn’t choose to play the Gimpy Quartermaster or the Secretary or the Recruiter  or the General’s Wife or something) most people won’t take you into the Dungeon of Doom unless they know you, like you, and trust you. This means you might have to put in 1-6 months of intensive RP around nothing but slice of life scenes which build relationships. This lets people know that you’re trustworthy ICly and that you’re fun to RP with OOCly, both vital elements. Maybe there will even be some big public scene and they’ll have a chance to see what you can do there, too. Eventually you’ll get asked along. Kind of like moving to a strange new town IRL.

You Put in the Character Work, But…

I know. MUSH people play so NICE all the time. There’s a reason for that. If you’ve chosen to play the insufferable asshole who makes teeth grit, particularly the teeth of decision makers, it’s going to be hard to get you involved. The whole trust part of the know, like, trust equation. Playing the asshole usually works better if you’re in a position to get involved in the awesome RP no matter what, or if you have an extensive OOC discussion with the decision maker where you pre-decide on a sort of frenemy relationship where he hates you but he knows he can rely on you…or whatever. Oh…it also works best when people have seen what you can do on other characters and actually trust YOU, too. Don’t expect to pull this as a complete unknown. It’s not going to work. Ditto for characters that like to sit creepily and mysteriously in corners. Ditto for the overeager and strange.

You made a twinky character or some other eye-roll worthy concept.

Perhaps you went in the complete opposite direction. You made a character SO useful that you went off the deep end into the land of Mary and Gary Stu, and now nobody wants to play with you because…well…you’re no fun to play with. Reel it in, tone it down, pull it back. Take some time to see what successful players are doing. Then emulate it.

You just aren’t paying attention.

You know all those awesome plot hooks that admin post on the bbs? No, I bet you don’t, cause 97% of all MUSHers never read the bbs. If they did, they’d see something like: Purple fog was over the city at 3 am last night. @mail me if you want to investigate, open to anyone. And then they’d actually be proactive and @mail instead of wailing on public channel that they never get to the “good” RP. You know how often players ACTUALLY take the bull by the horns and do this? If you said, “Approximately never” you’d be correct. Players seem to expect that the Plot Fairy will take especial interest in their perfectly crafted background, float down from the sky, tap them on the head with the star wand and give them all the story. To which I say: you could win the lottery too, but it’s easier to just read and respond to the thrice damned bbs.

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The Care and Proper Feeding of NPCs

December 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm (Roleplaying Posts) (, , , , , )

The use of truly good NPCs is one of the most overlooked strategies by any MU* admin or any player anywhere on any game.

You need good NPCs.

  • NPCs help flesh out the people around your PC, so that you don’t have to be an orphan.
  • NPCs help move plots forward by dropping information, being villains, and being victims.  Nobody’s feelings get hurt (mostly!) when ICC happens to these NPCs.  That means you can kill them (mostly) without arguing with anyone over consent.
  • NPCs help flesh out all the roles that should be filled in the game but that just aren’t for whatever reasons.  You can’t get any normal humans?  Time to make a bunch of memorable normal human NPCs then so that people don’t start snarking that the city is filled with nothing but supers, even though there are 18 players RPing in a city of 4.3 million people.
  • NPCs help your players feel like they’re in a vibrant world that goes on around them–that things happen that they don’t directly see and influence.  This makes the world more believable and fun.

Of course, all of this applies when you do NPCs right.  Basic Redshirt #5 evokes no emotion.  The guy we’ve all known and loved and laughed at for years does.   So how do you TRULY do good NPCs?

  • Give your NPC a first name and a last name.
  • When you pose the NPC add physical characteristics, dress, everything that will help players really visualize this guy.
  • When you pose the NPC use quirks, speech patterns, slang, and expressions that are unique to the NPC.  In other words emit your NPC the same way you’d play a character.  Believably and with attention.
  • Have the NPC in question occasionally seek scenes with the player base the same way you would do with a PC.  Be available to play these NPCs should they be requested.  Have them show up in the places they belong (like where they work) again and again.  Let them interact with people and form friendships. (A downfall here is that you might end up playing your NPCs more than your PCs and feeling grouchy about that.  I have, and that’s why I now set a note on my @doing to let people know when I’m ready and willing to play NPCs and when I want to play my own characters, thank you very much).
  • Allow the NPCs to help forward the story but NEVER treat the NPC as nothing more than story fodder.
  • Don’t stat any NPC until some character declares an intention to fight and/or kill said NPC.

You know you’ve put together a good NPC when:

  • People’s characters reference the NPC in conversation the same way they do a PC.
  • You get physically mauled or tomato’d should you so much as breathe the suggestion that you plan to kill off someone’s favorite NPC
  • You get tears and pages of NOOOOOOOO! when you do kill off someone’s favorite NPC
  • People ask for RP with the NPC
  • Many people on the playerbase know who that NPC is.

In short it’s like running a bunch of other characters, only not as regularly and not as in-depth, but with the illusion that you’re doing just that.  It does take a lot of work, to be sure.  However, if you begin to think of yourself as a storyteller participating in a collaborative story, rather than as just a player out for your own adventures and enjoyment, then this process becomes one of world weaving and you have a lot more fun with it.

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On the Central Character Problem

September 10, 2009 at 5:05 pm (Roleplaying Posts) (, , )

I should be working right now, but this post won’t leave me alone.  So I’m going to take just a few moments to write about this.  I also added the wrong blog to my Facebook, because it should probably be the Big Bad Professional blog that updates to it.  But I hardly ever update that.  It’s my hobby blog that gets updated.  Ah well!

Today I want to talk about a method of character creation that most people almost do–but they don’t quite do.  It’s called Creating a Character through creating that character’s central problem.  In fiction this central problem would be described as:

“What does my character want more than anything in the world, what is stopping him from getting it, what happens if the character doesn’t get it, what is the character afraid of happening or not happening if the character doesn’t get it, and what is the character willing to do (and what will the character never do) to accomplish this goal?”

Most MUSHers don’t start with this.  They start with the character’s profession and powers.  They start with profession because they believe, sometimes accurately and sometimes mistakenly, that the character’s profession will create RP.  Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t.  The problem with profession-based RP is it often requires someone else to create that RP.  Let’s take a defense lawyer.  Theoretically you could get some really cool, interesting RP by finding a player who is accused of something and taking their case.  But this requires a character to break the law or be accused of breaking it, someone to play or NPC the prosecution and the judge, a jury to get gathered, and whatnot.  Someone might write that plot for you.  It might spring up out of the day to day course of RP.  If things just don’t work out that way though, your law career is going to be little more than the background and you’ll have to find other things to drive your char.  When you don’t have a central problem, all you’ve got at that point is socialization.  It has it’s place, but if your character has no central problem that socialization can begin to resemble cold, dirty dishwater that used to have fluffy suds in it but now doesn’t even have that.  “Klah sipping,” as it’s often called, and background sharing have their places–but they cannot provide a satisfying RP experience if they’re all you’re getting.

Some people try to build hooks through their backgrounds or their powers.  They’ll write in interesting enemies, hoping against hope some staffer will be intruiged enough to offer to NPC that interesting enemy, because that is how it works in tabletop.  If you write a nice background and fill it with interesting enemies in tabletop, a good GM will leap on that like white on rice, and they will soon play that enemy for you.  On a MUSH the chances of this happening are 1 in 100.  The staff has their own plot plans. They don’t know you yet and are not, for example, going to waste their time cooking up enemies for people who may or may not be one-liners, twinks, or drama queens.  It is only after a long, positive association with staff that the odds of them offering to take that enemy go up some–and then your chances are still only 30 in 100.  If you put an interesting enemy in your background, the high liklehood is that you’re going to take it yourself, play it yourself, knock your own character out of commission and let your Friends and Family on the MUSH knock him around for you.  This is awesome stuff, and shouldn’t be underestimated–it certainly adds to the MU* community!–but it might not get YOU the interesting story that you are looking for for YOUR character.  Don’t let anybody tell you that you don’t have the right to have this.

Some people will just get heavy on the powers side or the weird background side, figuring if they’re the lost son of the Baron d’ Awesome with the Sekrit Power to Sprout Unicorn Wings and Develop Obsidian Eyes that their character will not only be so interesting to all the other characters that they’ll instantly stand out and become popular, but they’ll be able to dominate every combat scene and thus be hailed as The Hero, too.  Bzzzzt.  Wrong again.  This is a strategy that usually just leaves people rolling their eyes even if your character makes it through the approval process.  It’s another hold over from tabletop, where the GM has only 3-5 other people to deal with and so can indulge your character’s Specialness with all of the attention it, um. Deserves.  On a MU* there are 78 characters or more to deal with, and all of them would like a little piece of being special, being admired, or getting a story.  Nobody wants to compete with something so over the top, especially as the people who try to play these things are often such complete goobers that you wouldn’t want to stay in a room with them for more than 5 minutes anyway.

The problem with the most common character methods is that they focus on external factors.  Not only are external factors often annoying and unlikly to be used, but they don’t help drive the best RP.  The best MUSH RP, the best story, sometimes does not happen, at all, from the preplanned tinyplots that MUSH admin and proactive players put together to make sure people have stuff to do.

It comes from the natural progression of consequences.

Observe.

Let’s say Eve and Betsy, two MUSH characters, are chatting.  During that conversation they reveal they are both madly in love with Jerome, character #3.  They start having a little jealous spat, but they agree not to let this man get between them.  They both agree it’s all “Hands off” and they’ll neither one of them date Jerome.

But then, only Betsy holds true to her word.  Eve and Jerome end up in a scene where they have a long chat at the coffee shop.  They share deep, soulful things (perhaps that painful background Jerome wrote up hoping that it would get him some RP) and at the end of the night they share a kiss.  Player #4, Lucy, sees the kiss and tells Betsy all about it.

Betsy then starts plotting Eve’s humiliation and begins spreading rumors all over the RP circles of something or another bad about Eve.

As high school as that example is, it does show how one scene can spark 4 other very interesting scenes that actually do have stakes for the characters involved, with nary a plot application or GM in sight.  You can almost never create these sorts of scenes with external hooks and motivations.

The central character problem is an internal hook.  And because it is an internal hook, it drives what your character does, what she says, how she speaks, who she speaks to, and why she speaks.  It drives why she acts, what plots she gets involved in, and what things she sets into motion.  It creates secrets that other characters can try to find out about her, still allows for the possibility of writing plots or emitting blasts from the past, and in general keeps the RP moving on a reasonably effortless flow, simply by virtue of the fact that your character wants and needs things and has to reach out to other PCs to get it.

Central problems can also grow, change, and evolve as the game grows, changes, and evolves.  As your character RPs he will meet people, have new experiences.  His priorities will grow, shift, expand, or change.  His central problem will change with it. For example:  “My character is under the Doom of Damocles, so she desperately wants to prove herself as a wizard and as a healer to redeem her past, but she has control and confidence issues,” can become, “My character is under the Doom of Damocles, so she desperately wants to prove herself as a wizard and as a healer to redeem her past.  She’s also involved with the local Warden, and she wants to make him happy above anything else.  She’s got control and confidence issues, and lots of people are trying to kill her.  She’s reclaimed her religious roots and is trying to get in touch with her spirituality at a time where people are in town persecuting members of her faith.”

Or, “My character is struggling with poverty and a failing business after Hurricane Katrina.  He made a bad deal once and is now in debt for about $90000 which he can’t pay off, so he’s been doing local prize fights to try to get some money and coming home hurt nightly,” can become, “My character is struggling with poverty and a failing business after Hurricane Katrina.  He made a bad deal once and is now in debt for about $90000 which he can’t pay off, and the mob boss who he owes has decided he’s useful for doing tasks, so he’s got that held over his head.  In addition he’s fallen in love with a girl who has mountains of money, but has trouble developing the relationship for fear of taking advantage of her or letting her down.”

On the surface those look like external problems, but when you break them down you realize they’re internal.

The apprentice wants validation and redemption.  She also wants security.

She’s being stopped by the fact that there are those who will always see a warlock when they look at her, by her own inexperience, and by the danger that surrounds her.  She’s also stopped by her love’s own internal conflicts, which keep him in a perpetual state of depression that threatens her own sense of security as much as it becomes an issue of honest love and worry for him.

She is afraid of being hated, seen as evil, hurt, harmed, killed, tortured, enslaved, or left alone.  She’s also afraid of herself–of letting the dark seed she planted in her own soul sprout and grow, thus betraying everyone’s trust, herself, and those who she’d hurt in the future.  Though she’s often cheerful, everything that drives her ties into these fears somehow.

She’s willing to study hard, be sweet, act as a servant, offer first aid to anyone who will let her, and stand by her convictions in the face of danger.  She is not willing to nurture combat abilities to full potential or to fight with intent to kill for fear of these things. She’s also not ever willing to betray those she loves–though in part this doesn’t count because betraying those she loves would run counter to her purposes anyway.

Or let’s take the poverty striken guy.  He wants his martial arts school back on stable ground and to take care of his father whose health is secretly failing after a nasty divorce.  He also wants to prove he’s worth it to his girl.  The fact that she requires no such proof is immaterial–he requires such proof.

He’s being stopped by the fact that $90K is really steep for anyone. He’s just a guy, unwittingly in a world full of stronger, tougher supernaturals.  He only heals as fast as anyone who is just a guy does and he can’t afford to keep getting the crap beat out of him.  His own hospital bills are running counter to his purposes because he’s ended up digging one hole to attempt to fix the other.  He’s also being stopped by the fact that he’s not really the brightest bulb in the box and can’t think of the most innovative solutions ever.

He’s afraid of living in his father’s spare room forever (which he calls his basement) without ever proving he’s a man.  He’s afraid the martial arts school that has been a part of his life and his only solid career prospect since he was 10 years old failing and leaving him with no options beyond paper hat jobs.  He’s afraid of what he’s seen himself as already being willing to do to prevent these thigns and afraid that he’ll cross a line some day that he can’t uncross.

He’s willing to work hard, market his school, and teach long hours.  He’s also willing to do illegal prize fights, run errands for the mob boss that don’t involve hurting or killing anybody, and to lie to those nearest and dearest to him to shield them from his problems–including his father and his girlfriend.  He’s not willing to hurt anyone outside of a fair fight or to kill anyone…a fact that might get him into some deep shit one of these days.

Do you see how such problems might drive RP?  The apprentice will befriend anyone she can and take off bigger bites than she can chew.  The martial artist will do nearly anything for money…but only nearly anything.  Wave the scent of a big enough sum of money in his face and he’s listening–but not because he’s a greedy bastard.  Just because he’s in a hell of a lot of trouble and he’s got no idea how to get back out of it again.

Those are things I can bring into every single scene that I play.  It doesn’t require a specific story line.  It allows me to react to the story lines that I find and to locate and participate in scenes that allow me to create more story simply by staring at life through the lenses of these character realities, realities that go way beyond: “I was born the bastard son of a prince on a dark Scottish Moor and the prince hates me and I shoot lightning bolts but I went on to a thriving career in Defense Law.”  My martial artist would still have plenty of issues even if nobody on the game ever wanted to RP out a karate lesson, for example.  My apprentice has plenty to carry her well outside of formal lesson scenes.  Etc.  Because what makes a story is the problems inside of the character, not the implied problems or bad-tv-scrip difficulties slapped into the background at the character generation phase.

So the next time you create a character, don’t start with race, class, description, height, weight, gender, powers, or career.  This stuff might pop into your head, but try to figure out a central problem that you’d enjoy playing first.  There’s just two rules:

1. The central problem must be capable of driving RP without you ever having to have anybody emit anybody, and without you having to emit anybody yourself

2. The central problem may be fed by your characters skills but must not rely upon your character skills.  That is especially true if the skill in question is a power that is not widely available to other players.  So it can revolve around magic if magic is available to a lot of the populace, but may not revolve around magic if you are the only person on the grid that does magic (and if you are why the Hell did the wizards allow THAT?  But that’s another post for another day).

Hopefully this will help you generate richer characters and better RP experiences.  Note that exterior RP hooks are not at ALL verboten–they can help you meet people, find scenes, and locate things to do–just that they can’t be the sole basis upon which your character is built.

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The Motivations of Bad Guys

August 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm (Roleplaying Posts) (, , )

Television and the movies have sort of screwed us MUSHers.  So have books, come to think of it.  They’ve done it, because they’ve taught us that the motivations for the bad guys should always be huge motivations.  The villain should always want to take over something, so the myth goes, and it should always be no smaller than a city and preferably as large as a world. Or possibly a universe.

Unfortunately, this can’t really happen on a MUSH.  Unless wizards are really talented or really flexible, it can’t even get close to happening.  And nothing is more frustrating for any character, bad, good, or in between, then constantly failing, being thwarted, and looking in competent.  It’s one thing to do it when you’re GMing and running NPCs, but if you want to play the character, it gets annoying, fast.  Then the bad guy players start accusing the wizards of being too focused on the good guys.  The wizards, understanding what it takes to keep the game from going downhill fast, can only sigh. And bang their heads a lot.  And make some lame comments about how it happens in stories.

So before we start talking about some alternative motivations for villains we should talk about the necessary tension between Ultimate Goals that makes a MUSH go.

The Ultimate Goal of the good guys can’t ever happen either.  Their UG is a peaceful world where nothing bad ever happens.  True good guys are idealists at heart, which is why they throw themselves in front of horribly dangerous circumstances again and again to try to keep other people safe.  True good guys aren’t even out to just protect their own family or friends,though those people act as strong motivators.  They want people they don’t even know and have never even met to be able to live in peace, without pain, and without fear.  When you take this into account you realize the good guys never really win either.

The really bad supervillain style badguys that happen either as a result of theme or literary convention tend to want everyone under their control.  They want their enemies–99% of the MUSH, usually–rounded up, killed, imprisoned, coerced, controlled, and afraid.

It’s easy to see where EITHER success would completely kill RP on your MUSH.  If the good guys win you rather run out of tinyplot fodder quickly.  If the badguys win you murder your entire playerbase, drive them away, piss them off, and depress them.  So the wizard constantly has to allow victories on both sides, erring on the side of 99% of the MUSH–the good guys.

So if you want to play a bad guy and the idea of failing all the time pisses you off, there’s only one answer.

Quit trying to be THE bad guy. THE take over the world bad guy.  Be a different sort of bad guy with different sorts of motivations.

This post was inspired by one of my new players, who wrote for herself a villain’s motivation that, while not so original that I’d never seen it for, was still original enough for MUSH to be commented on.  It’s also inspired by the character Fidelius, from Jim Butcher’s “Codex Alera” series.   So we’ll start with their motivations first.  Note that all motivations aren’t appropriate for all games or all themes.

To reclaim the glory days: The villain could give two shits about ruling anything, but she wants to be young and beautiful again.  Or she wants to be immortal before she turns old and ugly.  Or he was once a big shot in sports, the business world, or some other highly competitive arena–and he or she will do ANYTHING to reclaim that former glory, including things that other people would find reprehensible.

To do the “right” thing: Politics is a messy business, and if you’re not standing in a very simplistic theme where one side is always evil and the other side is always good, it could be very easy to have a character that does all the things the good guys do–just for the side the good guys hate.  This person, for whatever reason, has decided the unpopular “evil” side of the game is on to something.  Believes that working with them is necessary to save (whatever).  This also means that his goals and the heroic goals sometimes coincide closely enough that he’s forced to work with them, as politics can “make strange bedfellows.”  It also means he may spend more time manipulating and convincing heroes to do things than he will maiming and killing them.

Money: Why money is never a motivator on MU*s will always escape me, because greed is surely a huge motivator anywhere else you go.  Maybe it’s cause most MUSHers are good people at heart and just can’t fathom doing anything bad for anything less than world domination.  That said, for most of us, having $1 million at our disposal or more would be just as good as world domination and without all the silly responsibility to boot.  Even rich people can be greedy and want to get richer, especially since I understand that sometmes those fortune 500 guys can get very fierce and very personal in their competition with one another.

Vengeance: Someone wronged you, hurt you, hurt someone you loved, killed someone you love, took away the most important thing or things to you in the whole of the world.  Justice didn’t get served through the proper channels.  You’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore–and to hell with the “rules” or anyone YOU might hurt along the way.   Nothing will stop you until you’ve exacted the revenge you’ve planned against those you’ve planned it for, in whatever methods, big or small, you intend to pull this revenge off.

Unrequited: Sometimes there is nothing more painful than being the scorned lover.  Sometimes this drives people to do some pretty insane, hurtful things.  The stalker.  The villain who creates problems for the heroine just so he can ride to her rescue.  The villain who knows its hopeless so turns his attention to hurting the one who spurned him or the one who got the lover he so desperately wanted–or both.  The villain who came to hate an entire class of people because of this unrequited love and works hard at taking advantage of it.

The status quo: For some supernatural organizations it’s important to constantly be able to display your power.  Being able to stretch out your hand and hurt someone is more a matter of displaying that you can still do it and so deserve to be followed than any overarching scheme.

Sadism: Some people are just psychotic bastards that like to hurt and murder other people.   This is very hard to do well and it’s very hard to sustain; in my opinion it is easier to pull off as an NPC.  PCs who play this concept need to be extremely good, well respected, established RPers.  They need to be patient and slow, and have a knack for being that guy nobody would ever suspect, until it’s too late.

In the name of science: Or knowledge.  Or magical power.  These villains are a little bit detached and off their rocker.  They want to KNOW things, and to them people who whine about a little pain, torture, death, or mutation when they are clearly serving the greater cause of Science are petty, lesser individuals.  Of course they’d never volunteer themselves–they have the brains so they have to be safe and unharmed to DO the experiments. Aren’t you listening?

Survival: Some people turn to crime and bad guy actions because they’re not real long on choices.  Perhaps the Family has roped them into it.  Perhaps they don’t have a way to get a legitimate job and so commit crimes because they need to eat.  Perhaps they’ve been blackmailed into it and their own self-interest outweighs what they might have to do to others.  Perhaps they’re forced by politics, social obligation, or even fear of bigger, badder bad guys.  Perhaps when they got turned into a supernatural bad thing the only thing they could do was turn to the other supernatural bad things for help and support, and that means obligations to help and support their community in turn.

All around self-centered: This villain doesn’t have overarching motivations–he just wants whatever he perceives as being best for him at the moment.  He’ll do whatever it takes to get it.  If he can do it by nice, normal, conventional means he will. If not, he’ll take the other routes.  He’s got nothing against other people, he just loves himself more than he loves anyone else.

Attainable ambition: In the real world, Ruling the World just doesn’t happen.  There are too many forces and factions just as powerful ready to smack anyone down who tries it.  That said, there are plenty of more attainable positions that require plotting, scheming, and evil to pull off.  The corporate CEO position can be just as appealing to many villains as World Dominators.  So can Mayor, who doesn’t have absolute power but has enough power that the villain can call his pushy, shallow family and take some pride in his title (motivations should be complex and human too–people’s families, people’s opinions,lovers, and friends factor heavily into most people’s decisions.  Villains shouldn’t be much different–playing the AHAHAHAHAA guy who hates and holds everyone in contempt gets OLD, especially on a social exercise like a MUSH).

Just professional, nothing personal: If your character is an assassin it’s not particularly personal to be trying to kill someone.  It’s just the job.  Assassin isn’t a great MUSH role unless you’re fully happy with killing way more NPCs than PCs and in having less than a 100% success rate.  This is also a good motivation for mercenaries, agents of rival factions, etc.

Feels humiliated: Something someone said or did has left this person feeling humiliated and hateful.  They’re not going to rest until the person or faction who humiliated them has been brought down or humiliated in turn.  This can also work if they feel abandoned by said person or faction–they won’t rest until they’ve returned the hurt.  This is kind of a vengeance motivation–only a lot less extreme.

Addicted: People who are addicted to anything–drugs, sex, that special rush of dark magic–have to feed that addiction until they die of it or that addiction is broken.  Addictions don’t lead themselves to high ambitions usually.  What they lead to is a lot of death and destruction.

Proving myself: If you’re the kid who always got sand kicked in his face you might get a little unhinged, enough to be intent on proving that you’re the bad ass now.

Your motivations are outweighing the greater reality: Sometimes villains are villains cause they’re focused on all the wrong things at all the wrong times.  The unrequited guy bursts in with a gun to yell, “Why won’t you love me, Lenora!” when what really needs to be happening to save everyone from the monster attack is that the heroes need to get Lenora to the site of the magic nest so she can do her Cleric Prodigy Glowy thing.  This kind of villain can be just as deadly as the other kind.

It all just got out of control. This guy did something bad once, made a terrible choice.  He killed his lover in a fit of jealous rage and instantly regretted it.  Or he embezzled a million dollars to save his home and the next thing he knew he was having to perform darker and darker deeds to cover up that embezzlement.  Or politics forced him to betray the person he loved and he’s found himself drawn in deeper and deeper ever since.  He may even desperately want to be a decent guy again–and tries to be whenever he can.  It’s just that the web of his own actions keeps trapping him and drawing tighter and tighter around him until one day he looks in the mirror and even he doesn’t know what he’s seeing anymore.

Now if you’ve sat here thinking, “Oh shit, some of this could easily happen with heroes too,” good.  Because these aren’t just “bad guy things,” they’re human things.  Often what separates one from the other is only a matter of results and degrees.

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Fantastic Flaws

July 17, 2009 at 2:35 am (Roleplaying Posts) (, , )

One of the easiest “hooks” for any character is the existence of flaws within that character. Flaws are there to be overcome, to struggle against, to cause trouble when the character really ought to be doing any other thing. To help people come up with some character flaws, I am offering a list. I’ve tried to avoid things that are stupid for RP or that people do all the time. (Being lecherous and stupidly flirtatious is pretty common on MU*s).

* Poverty: Poverty’s pretty overlooked in MU* land because everyone wants to be upper-middle-class to rich. Consider having next to no money and see what RP you can grow out of that scenario.

* Over 50: Older characters don’t move as fast and they aren’t as hip but they do have wisdom and knowledge. They also stand out in a sea of young faces. * Bad Sight, Bad Hearing: These perception issues can cause your character major problems on adventures as well as set you apart from the norm.

* Fat, Overweight, Plus Sized: The only place the obesity epidemic never hit was MU* land. Concerned you won’t be able to find actors? Don’t be–there are plenty of plus sized actors.

* Sensitive to Pain: Most MU* characters seem to be able to get shot 50 times and hit with a sledge hammer and act like everything is fine so long as they still have 1 last hitpoint. Consider playing a character with a low pain tolerance who curls up in a haze of stunned moaning when shot just once. (Hint: that’s what most normal people do).

* One arm, one eye, one hand, one leg: Usually we just scar up our characters, but if your character is a battle veteran it’s very conceivable he is missing something.

* For guys, ridiculously skinny: Yeah girls do it all the time. Guys in MU* land are usually buff. But how about playing a really skinny guy who isn’t quite so tough?

* Absent-minded

* Addictions

* Ill-tempered

* Bully

* Bound by STRICT code of honor or duty, even unto death, even unto betraying friends if it means following the code

* Gulliable/Honest to a Fault

* Meatheaded/Airheaded: (Note some MU* players achieve this even though they think they’re being smart. They come off a arrogant AND dumb then. We mean people who are smart in RL and who play meatheads on purpose). This doesn’t always mean stupid–sometimes an air headed person just isn’t thinking.

* Compulsions

* Cowardly

* Dyslexic

* Fanatic

* Gluttonous

* Greedy

* Impulsive

* Mouthy–but only if you’re willing to take the consequences

* Educational deficiency (didn’t get higher than 5th grade, illiterate, GED)

* Jealousy — both over women/men but also you can’t stand to see someone do better than you

* Lazy

* Miserly

* Self-conscious/low self esteem–to the point of being defensive about it or to the point of refusing to do things the character is perfectly capable of doing

* Overconfident

* Pacifist: Hard to pull off on games with high combat but trust me, you can be a pacifist and still be useful if you know what you’re doing

* Paranoid

* Severe phobias

* Notable strong dislikes

* Casually cruel

* Unlucky

* Hyperactive

* Talks too much–even to the point of letting details slip that shouldn’t slip: rarely happens because people want to avoid the ICC

* Weak willed/easily intimidated/easily frightened/wimpy: rarely happens because people think it is a reflection on THEM

* Dependents or followers who get in the way more than they help

* Secrets that are really and truly capable of destroying your character should they get out

* Horrible reputation

* Terminally ill

* Trouble magnet/weirdness magnet (okay so this one’s common). But if you’re creative enough to emit trouble for OTHERS around it, the flaw works out.

* Generous to a fault

* Overspends/in serious debt

* Carouser

* Curiosity (the type that kills cats)

* Cursed

* Flashbacks

* Glory Hound: as in you can’t stand letting a press opportunity pass you by, you’ll stop to pose for photographs, give autographs, you will ICly insist on the limelight and be pissed when others have it, you will try to take credit for other people’s work

* Neat freak

* Obsessive

* Incompetent: (Now there’s one we NEVER see!!)

* Jinxed–a jinxed character has bad luck and spreads it to EVERYONE ELSE too if they happen to be near her.

* Depression/Bi Polar/Manic: Please don’t play these if you can’t avoid being an idiot about them as you’ll just come across as angsty/boring/in need of therapy OOCly. Ditto for being Certifiable in any other fashion.

* Highly anxious/worrier

* No sense of humor

* On the edge: This character sometimes fails to care if he or she lives or dies and so will attack an entire gang in the back alley with a toothbrush if they are on the wrong side of their edge.

* Cheesy: Some people just say or do cheesy things that render them UnCool.

* Trademarks (the thief who always has to leave a flower)

* Hard headed: Most chars are stubborn. Hard headed characters can have EVERY EVIDENCE they are doing something REALLY STUPID and KEEP DOING IT ANYWAY.

* Vain

* Abrasive or socially unacceptable

* Self-centered/self-focused/stuck on self

* Secretive: This isn’t having secrets so much as refusing to give out information for no other reason than it might be more advantageous not to.

*Poor judgment: Managing to make worse and worse decisions that all “seemed like good ideas at the time.”

Do I use these? Well–I try. I’ll see what I can pull out for my current characters.

My character Del is/has: sensitive to pain, airheaded, gluttonous, impulsive, mouthy, educational deficiency, jealous, a pacifist, paranoid, hyperactive, talks too much, easily frightened, a neat freak, an incompetent combatant, and highly anxious.

My character Amanda is/has: poverty, addictions, ill tempered, bully, strict code of duty, fanatic, low self esteem, casually cruel, horrible reputation, weirdness magnet, has post traumatic stress syndrome, is on the edge, hard headed, abrasive, and secretive.

My character Carter is/has: poverty, meathead, gulliable, overconfident, unlucky, cheesy, and has bad judgment.

But other than that they’re awesome people! ;D

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Players: Giving Your RP Sparkle, Part 5

April 27, 2009 at 1:44 am (Roleplaying Posts) (, )

Good MU* Writing Style

Nope, I’m still not going to get into the long vs. short, narrative vs. actor’s style with you, gentle readers. Instead I’m going to examine a few other things that make for good writing style on an online game. Some of these things are not so different from what would make good writing on a solitary exercise such as a short story, or novel. Others are unique to the activity of a collective, shared, experience. We’ll skip decent spelling and grammar; you already knew that one, right?

Purple Prose Still Sucks

Ok, I’m going to start off picking on us habitually medium-to-long posers. Sometimes in our zeal to chew up scenery, we put out poses that sound ridiculous. Sometimes we do it for a really long time, too, creating something that takes up an entire screen width. This is not good RP. This is a healthy ego in action. Part of the trick of good writing is, according to my old English professor who got it from somewhere else, to “murder your darlings.” If it’s too clever by half, you should make judicious use of the backspace key and get rid of it.

Action words, actions, emotions, and dialogue, clearly presented, make a good pose. If the character is making an impassioned speech, a page worth of pose might be appropriate. If you’re just trying to show off, quit it. A nice, well placed metaphor is one thing. Line after line of flowery writing isn’t.

Bad:

The smoke curls up from the ashtray like a cresting wave, before it breaks lightly against the tips of Jane’s fingers, then slips silently out of the window to ride the high silvery winds like an eldritch mist. She tosses curls as golden as ever was offered in Fort Knox, her smile a gentle serpent as it shines upon Joe. Her face is as radiant as the rising sun as she puts her cigarette aside and gets to her feet. She raises an expectant arm pregnant with the possibilities of the moment…

I could go on, but I’m hurting myself too much. I should really go drag out an example from a log somewhere instead of fabricating one, only I don’t tend to RP with people like this long enough to log them. Yes! People actually pose this way! You’re not giving birth to farm animals out there! Three lines on cigarette smoke, Fort Knox hair, a snake mouth and a pregnant arm. Avoid these things.

Better:

Cigarette smoke billows around Jane as she takes a long drag. She puts the cigarette aside, rises. She gives a Joe a radiant smile and offers her arm. She tilts her head so that her golden curls shine in the sun, perhaps a deliberate motion on her part. In this moment, the air hums with possibility.

The trick is to be descriptive and evocative without making your reader either burst out laughing or run screaming. Sometimes you can just say that Jane takes a drag on her cigarette without making a literary event out of it. I promise.

Consider Your Audience

Not all pose types are appropriate at all times or with all groups. If you’re in a serious scene it may still be appropriate for your character to crack jokes. But it is not appropriate for the pose to reflect a light mood on your part. Sometimes a cute, quickie pose that’s not even entirely IC isn’t bad. Sometimes you can intersperse your pose with a bunch of dramatic song lyrics…and sometimes that’s going to annoy the piss out of everyone trying to scene with you. Regardless of what your character says, try to write the rest of the pose in a way that reflects the mood. Consider a couple of lines from the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight and how they might have been written as poses. I’ll only be changing up the Old Man’s pose to demonstrate my point. Warning: not vouching for how accurately I remember the exact lines.

Samantha stares out the window of the car as they race away from the hotel. “I just jumped out of a window!” she gasps. “And people just shot at us, and threw a grenade at us!”

The Old Man keeps his eyes on the rear view mirror as he spins the car away from their pursuers. “Yes, it was very exciting,” he snaps. “And tomorrow we’ll go to the zoo.” He spins the wheel again, throwing his passengers to the side as he guns it.

The mood here is tense, action oriented, and suspenseful. Imagine, though, had Old Man chosen to phrase the same actions this way:

“Yes, it was very exciting,” says The Old Man, as he spins the car away from their pursuers. “And tomorrow, we’ll go to the zoo!” Rawr!

Nothing wrong with a well placed Rawr; in a comedic or light-hearted scene it can just make people laugh. If everyone’s having a good time, and the “Rawr” enhances that, then by all means, go for it. But if it’s going to break the mood of the scene…consider carefully and rewrite your pose.

The same, really, goes for short poses over long ones. If you’re in the middle of a huge battle scene, sporting event, or other large scene that the TP people are trying to move along quickly, it is inappropriate to pose at great length. You can still pose quality. You don’t have to restrict yourself to one line. But if one line is all you need, then one line is all you need. It can take a little practice to get the pulse of this accurately, and sometimes it depends on your typing speed. Pace is important. Romantic scenes lend themselves well to long, thought provoking poses, a horse race or a game of Quidditch does not. A sword dual lends itself well to evocative, colorful poses between opponents — but a dungeon crawl style battle where you’re getting swarmed by giant rats and the TP coordinator is trying to deal with 10 people at once does not, and you should stick to simply swinging you sword instead of comparing the swing of your sword to whatever your favorite force of nature is.

Finally, if you know them, you should consider the preferences of the person you’re RPing with. The truly great RPer is style-flexible, so can pose short if the person across from them prefers things short and sweet, can pose long if they like more depth — and, best of all, is a good enough writer not to lose too much either way.

Be Aware of Voice:

Everyone has a different, natural online “voice”. Its very similar to the “voice” you hear about that all authors get. Some people are cursed with online voices that normally sound very flat and emotionless. They tend to sound a little depressed, rude, or just plain boring. Some people sound whiny, some effervescent, some know it all, some impatient. They may not be these things, but when you talk to them OOCly they invoke these things just the same, and they make an impression. The only way to shape and craft voice is to have your characters doing things, showing emotion, invoking their personality. Yes, what they say does a bit of this, but you should go just a step further. At the very least give your characters a few typical mannerisms that you can throw in there every now and then.

Maybe your character is an emotionless guy. If so, play it up, not down. A lot of us find emotionless people a little intimidating because they can’t get a read on them. Would you deny them the opportunity to properly react to your character by not giving them enough information?

Jane says, “No.”

Well, bully for Jane…but how did she say “No?” To me she just sounds flat and depressed and a little bit of a pain in the ass. Unfortunately, because I don’t see enough of Jane’s character in that irritating little pose, I transfer all of this to the player. If Jane is depressed and flat because that’s the way Jane-the-character is, might I suggest…

Jane lets out a heavy sigh and crosses her arms. “No.”

It’s still a short pose, but it won’t evoke the same sense of froth-at-the-mouth annoyance that the first one will. The first will lead people to complain that you’re not giving them anything to work with, or perhaps that you’re a total newbie who does not know what she’s doing. Who wants that? The second does give the other person something to work with. An emotion! And, still keeping things short, you can give just a little more.

Jane lets out a heavy sigh and crosses her arms. Her tone is flat, dead, as she says, simply, “No.”

Rule of thumb: short is ok. Boring, without enough information, is not.

A Word on Adverbs, Said-Isms, and Elipses:

Writing books advise you to kill all of these. They say you should never breathe when you mean to ask, speak, or reply. You should never use an adverb when an action will suffice. In general, I agree with them. Sometimes it’s okay to have your character growl or grunt their response instead of saying it, but only once or twice, to give people the idea that your character is a taciturn sort who isn’t so sure they enjoy speaking. Adverbs aren’t bad, if your character perhaps speaks “slowly” or “rapidly”, and you’re trying to get that idea across without chewing too much scenery. Still, both of these things are like salt. Use them, er, lightly.

Jane’s hands flutter around as she punctuates each statement. “And then we went to the store! And then I saw the mugger! And then, oh Mary, he pulled out his gun and he aimed it right at me and he fired and then Joe dove into me and we both hit the ground!” Jane takes a deep gulp of air.

Did you figure out that Jane was speaking rapidly in that pose? I didn’t need to say “rapidly” anywhere in there, though. Nor did I even use the “said” tag, or any “said-ism”.

Joe cries, “Sue, watch out!”

There’s a said-ism, cries, but in this case it may be appropriate. If Joe is crying watch out, it may be because he’s in a rapid paced action scene anyway, and anything else would be over-descriptive and chew the scenery. Yet it still evokes the emotions of alarm and urgency that Joe’s player likely would like us to be aware of when he’s taking the time to yell “watch out!” When you write or pose, you’ve got this bucket of tools at your disposal, different ways to convey different things. You want the right tool for the job as often as possible.

And one word…on…elipses. Elipses…are these little…triple dots that I keep…throwing in here in a most annoying…fashion. Folks like to use them as an attempt to show that their character is pausing or speaking slowly. Sometimes they’ll string a whole bunch together like this ……………. in an attempt to show a very long pause.

A proper elipse is exactly three dots and should never be used to create a pause in dialogue unless you’re trailing off the end of a sentence. In anime based games, it might be acceptable to use an elipse as the only dialogue. (Jane-san superdeforms. “…”) to indicate surprise, shock, a lack of anything to say, disgust…well, it all depends on the context, but anime people in an anime game will know how to interpret it. The other appropriate use is to create a suspense break between actions, see below.

Time stops. He’s frozen in midair. Then…

Joe comes crashing down, unconscious.

Rule of thumb: if you’re not sure whether an elipse is appropriate, just avoid them.

%r, %t, and Tense:

Most MU*s want you to stick to the present tense when describing what’s going on. This is because things are meant to seem like they’re happening in real time. It also grows out of old tabletop RP, where a Player would announce his actions: “I swing my sword at the orc.” It is disconcerting when people try to use another tense, such as past tense. This is one area where text based RP differs from fiction writing. A fiction writer can use first person past tense, or third person past tense, but never present tense. A MU* writer should never, ever use first person and should only use past tense in the unlikely event that he’s demonstrating a flashback.

On the other hand, if you ever do run across a game where everyone is using past tense, do as the Romans do. Don’t be the only person doing something utterly different from the other five or six people in the room. You’re not teaching them anything (such as the style of RP you consider superior), you’re just annoying them and making them wonder why you persist in being different when you can clearly see how things are done in their sandbox.

As for tabs, created by using %t, or breaks, created by using %r, they can be appropriate or inappropriate depending on the situation. Tabs I’m actually pretty neutral on, if you like them, but some people get irritated when you start indenting. %r is fine as long as its clear who is still posing, or is especially useful in emitting NPCs. Again, the trick is to see what those around you prefer and to make use of that. The occasional dramatic use of any technique, where it is clear the technique is meant to call attention to what is going on in a noteworthy, dramatic, and fresh way, usually does not go amiss if only done on occasion.

The Emit Command: Not Just For NPCs

If you stick to ‘pose’, or, heaven help us, ‘say’, every pose you let out is going to start with your name. If everyone does this, the screen starts to look like some sort of extended roll call. It can make players weary without them ever realizing why. Spice things up a little. Use the emit command, either @emit or \, to start your poses off with action or dialogue. Things don’t constantly start off with character names in a book and they should not when you pose either.

Even one word makes all the difference. Any action verb: sitting, standing, jumping, leaping, growling…makes a fine start to a pose, even if the name comes right after. I actually like the emit command so much that I try not to start with my character’s name except where absolutely necessary.

That said, do include the character’s name somewhere, even in a two person scene where you might believe it should be obvious who is speaking. Why? Because the emit command is often used to introduce NPCs. In books, the convention is that the author will not introduce a new character without specifically letting us know first, but sometimes in MU* things get confusing, rolling up and down the screen. If you’re speaking, let us know somewhere, so we don’t wonder if you decided to emit your sister dropping in.

Giving Your RP Sparkle: Conclusion

And this concludes my little series on giving your RP sparkle. Even following one or two of the simple tips found in these articles will improve your RP dramatically. In future articles I want to address things like handling consent, good plot principles, and other fundamentals that will enhance your gaming experience. Until then, I leave you with a quick summary of ways to give your RP sparkle.

1. Creativity counts. Ask yourself what your character has been doing. Make up reasons to be involved. Don’t wait for others to take you by the hand. Don’t play the same sorts of scenes over and over.

2. Originality counts. Don’t make a character that’s just like every other character on the grid. Go out of your way to make the type of character that nobody else has made but is desperately needed.

3. Being “real” counts. Know your character’s flaws and struggles intimately. Bring them into the game.

4. Being interesting counts. Make them ask why you are doing something. Make them ask what you are doing. Give people a reason to talk to you.

5. Clarity counts. Don’t worry about pose length — worry about how clear, interesting, and evocative your pose is. The rest will take care of itself.

6. Consideration counts. Be the guy who knows the preferences of those around him and goes out of his way to provide a good experience for others. Then they will seek you out and try to make sure that you, also, are having fun. Take the time to seek out new players from time to time.

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Players: Giving Your RP “Sparkle”, Part 4

April 27, 2009 at 1:36 am (Roleplaying Posts) (, )

Finding RP, Think Outside The Box

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more annoying to a MU* admin than a player who parks his character in their own private room and then starts complaining that there is no RP to be found. To them I say, “Get real.”

If there are ten people logged on to the game then chances are at least 8 of them are there looking for RP. 2 of them might be there checking mail or chit chatting, but all ten of them at least like to RP and are not going to take it amiss if you page them looking for some. They might turn you down, but they’re not going to bite your head off unless you are a jerk about your request.

Further, you can go park yourself in a public area with a scene set ready to go if anyone should walk into it wanting to play. Why should everyone else do all the work for you?

I’ve heard a variety of silly reasons for why people don’t RP. In this section, I’ll address a few of them — and teach you how to overcome each situation with Sparkle!

Everyone Is At The Zoo. My Character Would Not Be At The Zoo.

My character wouldn’t be at the zoo. (Or the park, the bar, the church, the library, the police station…). I have heard this so often, and it’s so old and so tired. My answer to it is: “Are you sure?”

Use your imagination. Think outside the box. Unless your character is laid up at the hospital or in jail, he can probably physically get to the location, unless it’s in an entirely different city and he has no quick way such as an airplane or magical transport to make it there.

But my character doesn’t like the zoo! He hates animals! He’s said so in RP a dozen times!!

Fine. Here are three possibilities for introducing your zoo-hater into the zoo scene without compromising your character. (We’re back to the entry pose again. That’s because the entry pose really is vital). I’ll use both narrative and actor’s style, long and short, just to demonstrate yet again how truly unimportant the debate is to enjoyable RP.

Caveat: In some situations “everyone” might be at a place it is illegal, dangerous, or impossible for your character to get to. If you are playing a high school student and everyone is RPing over at the Pentagon, then you are right, you can’t get to where everyone is RPing and should not try. The only solution here is to wait for someone to log on who is not at the Pentagon, or perhaps to apply for a character who could be over there next time.

In these examples, where Sue and Steve are used, assume Sue to be another RP’er in the scene. Julie is an NPC.

Example 1: The man in the black hat takes the envelope from Joe. Joe heaves a big sigh, a little color returning to his cheeks. The man in the black hat walks away, trench coat flapping in the wind. A monkey howls nearby and Joe jumps. He crosses his arms and begins to walk away, fast, right toward Sue and Steve.

Example 2: Julie knows damn well that Joe hates the zoo. He hates the smell of the zoo, he hates the sounds of the zoo. He hates animals. He doesn’t even own a fish. Julie was always big on animals, but Joe thinks that she probably chose this spot just to annoy him. Fresh from their breakup, he storms down the walk. Which way was the exit again? He’s approaching Sue and Steve, though he doesn’t even really register who they are.

Example 3: Joe comes racing through the crowds at breakneck speed. “That man stole my wallet!” he howls. Ahead, a punk kid, also running, ducks into the building with the snakes.

Be polite, of course. The nature of the scene you’re about to join should determine what you do to enter, and of course its usually nice to check in with the Zoo people to see if its okay if you join. And you don’t have to indicate why you’re there in the pose! If you are well known to hate the zoo, you can let the others ask what the heck you’re doing there, and can be ready with the answer (or lie). “Julie decided this was a great place to break up with me,” said in a sour tone, can be just as effective. Think about the NPCs in your character’s life, make up a reason, and go to the dang zoo.

I Don’t Know Anyone.

Ok, so none of your regular RP group is on right now. So? You didn’t know any of them when you started playing either. RPing with new people keeps you fresh. It provides you with a steady supply of people to RP with if your current group dries up. It happens. Sometimes everyone in a group quits playing, often within months of one another, leaving only a single RP’er stranded.

Take a moment to play with a newbie. It will probably be annoying, but newbies turn into real live players sooner or later. Will it kill you to spend 20 minutes on them? You can always beg off when you’ve had your fill of bad poses. If you can’t find good RPer’s, raise one.

Nothing’s Going On.

These people like to hang around until staff hands them a plot or event on a platter. I must admit I sometimes do this when I’m new to a game, because it gives me a chance to get to know my character and ease them in without feeling pressured to put on a good performance, one on one, with a perfect stranger. Nevertheless, there is such a thing as being pro-active. Coming up with a one-session RP event is pretty easy if you think a few things through. Try a few of these on for size, and see if you can come up with your own. I’m going to act as if you don’t know a single soul on the game, and as if anything more bloodthirsty than a snowball fight has to be run by staff, two common MU* complaints.

1. Page three players who aren’t in scenes and say, “My character’s roof is all messed up. Would you care to say our characters knew one another? Then we can RP a roof repair scene.” Exchange a few background notes and you’re ready to go.

2. “My character’s new to the neighborhood and hosting a block party. Wanna come?”

3. Arrange a traffic accident with another player. This will in turn get other RP’ers involved (hospital people, cop people, reporter people).

A MU* is a collective imagination exercise. If you aren’t using yours, but are waiting for others to entertain you, you might as well go watch a movie, play video games, or read a book for your entertainment instead.

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Players: Giving Your RP “Sparkle”, Part III

April 27, 2009 at 1:33 am (Roleplaying Posts) (, )

Smart Character Design

There are so many bland, beautiful, nice people in the MU* world. Some of them have backgrounds that would do a soap opera writer proud — but those backgrounds have not done anything to make them less bland. They just give them something to talk about, usually during some sort of background info-dump RP. In the worst case, it gives them something to whine about endlessly, without ever making them anymore interesting.

You can actually salvage a character like this by fleshing her out a little bit and applying some basic principles, so never fear. You won’t have to rewrite your characters to give them sparkle in this way.

The Initial Character Description

MUSH life takes after Hollywood sometimes. Everyone is beautiful or handsome, looks about 25 despite their real age, is generally white, and is a snappy dresser. And while this is serviceable, it’s not very interesting. Because of our culture we think we have to be beautiful to be liked, so our tendency is to describe our characters that way. Then again, some of the most loved characters in the world had physical flaws. Think of it this way: Hermione Granger had long teeth, Ron Weasley had big ears, and Harry Potter had bad hair.

I once received very good advice on this. “Just describe what the character looks like. Let me decide if she’s ugly or beautiful.”

So, ask yourself questions. Is she tall or short? Skinny or plump, or even, god forbid, fat? Most people have eye color down, but do those eyes have any crows feet or laugh lines? If your character is anywhere near thirty, they should. Does she wear eye make up? Is her nose pert, broad, large, small, a button, patrician, a hatchet, a beak? Does she have a wide mouth or a tiny one, big lips or thin lips, a gap in her teeth? Are her cheekbones high? Is she gaunt? Pale? Tan? Is her face rounded, square oval? Does she get acne? Does she have a firm jawline or a soft one? A wide forehead? What about her eyebrows? Are they the same color as her hair? Are they soft, bushy, thin, slanted? At first glance does she look like she’s stern, or daydreaming? Some people have “pleasant faces prone to smile”, but that’s not most of us. Most of us look a little tired and haggard, truth be told. Maybe we look intense, focused, driven, stressed. Some women do indeed set out to look deliberately seductive. Some try and fall a little short, looking like overdone clowns instead. If you have big breasts, ladies, are they sagging just a little bit? Let me tell you, it’s hard to find and maintain truly good bras if you have big breasts. It’s hard to stand up straight, too: your shoulders are constantly pulling forward. If she’s tall, does she hunch her shoulders to try to blend in, or milk every inch for its intimidation value?

And what about clothes? She’s wearing a shirt and the shirt is blue, but is it tucked in sloppily or precisely? Does she forget to iron her clothes? (I forget to iron my clothes). Do her stockings run? Do her shoes need a good polish? Do her socks match? Jewelry is good. Some people overdo jewelry. How much is she wearing?

Most people find hair easiest, but sometimes I think if I see another hair description that talks about raven wings sweeping upward I’m going to scream. I have never met a person with sweeping raven wings. I have met people with bottle black hair that they pull back into a bun though.

The point is, get real. By getting real you can generate RP. Most people have physical problems they struggle with. Acne. Unwanted body hair. A nose they don’t like. Hair that is a constant source of aggravation. Tall kids feel self-conscious. Short people climb on counters to get at the soup. Big breasted women sometimes hitch up their bras and hope nobody notices. We do not have SWAT teams of designers and hair stylists to run out to fluff and primp us between shots, and unless your character is a movie star, neither does she. Consider your desc — and then consider what scenes you can generate with that description. If your character’s shirts, like mine, are always wrinkled because they’re so frazzled, then another character can come and try to beat some fashion sense into them. Maybe your character is mortified because her boyfriend comes into the apartment to surprise her with flowers — only she’s got Nair smeared across her upper lip. Someone’s sister wanders in while the character is checking out her butt in the mirror and grimacing. Our bodies can be a constant source of conflict, aggravation, and discussion, why can’t they be for our characters?

Change Your Character Description

As people grow and change their look also grows and changes. A girl who was never allowed to wear tank tops grows up, moves away from home, and buys as many tank tops as her poor wallet can stand. People go get new hair styles. Sometimes those hair styles turn out to be awful mistakes. People gain scars, get bloodshot eyes from staying up too late, loose weight, gain weight, buy new clothes. When they do these things, other people notice and comment. RP is born.

You can alert people that your desc has changed with a quick OOC, or you can just make some reference to it in your pose. Most people will have a look at your desc if you indicate a significant change in your pose. This can provide fodder for those opening poses (see Part I).

Personality:

Everyone should not like your character. A lot of people try to make their character as likeable as possible, hoping it will give them more RP, because they’ll have more friends. In truth, having enemies is better fodder for RP. You don’t want to be utterly friendless, but you don’t have to be Pollyanna, either. Even good, admirable characters should have one flaw or blind spot that pisses others off.

I once played a good, honorable, amiable, polite swordsman. He was also a chivalrous chauvinist. He got irritated when women wanted to learn the sword and tried to discourage them. He didn’t insult them, but he did treat them to long lectures on why they ought to be worrying about raising babies instead of trying to bloody their hands. He was okay with women doing just about anything else, but he hated to see a woman fight. It was thematic, though it was a part of theme that was rarely played, because there were almost more female swordspeople on the game than male. He doggedly went on, even going so far as pushing a political platform to get them barred from training. Of course it didn’t go through, but it sure did give people stuff to talk about. It also led his wife to push him into a river in disgust, even if they did make up later.

Eventually one of those female swordswomen saved his life, and he had to revise his stance a little bit. Or so she thought. Instead he merely allowed that she had proven herself worthy of the blade, but that didn’t mean every other little girl should run out to pick up a blade. They became friends though.

That was just one of his flaws: he had an anger management issue, could be deliberately stupid at times, was under confident, and despite being an acknowledged master of the sword who had shown a brilliant tactical mind in training, he nearly wet himself the first time he had to be on a battlefield.

The thing is, you don’t have to deliberately sit down and figure out your flaws or what people are going to hate about your character. You just have to ask yourselves some questions. What pisses your character off? What do they do when they’re sad? Are they blunt to a fault? What do they do if someone is crying? What sort of morals do they have? What do they believe in? People can be disliked for their politics as much as their personality. Do they have any bad habits? What about their background? Did they have a rival? Do they get intimidated or jealous when people are prettier, more accomplished, smarter, better fighters? Are they competent enough but always seem to lack for acknowledgment or love? Are they always playing second fiddle to someone else? Is there some dream they’ve had that has been stymied? Do they hate their jobs? Just because you can chose to give them a new job whenever you want doesn’t mean that they can reasonably run out and get one whenever they want.

Do this and you’ll develop a three dimensional character, and you will express their strengths, flaws, and those times when they don’t quite live up to their own ideals in a natural way. You won’t even have to think about it, you will simply know what your character will do, and it will flow effortlessly from your fingers as you type.

One Note Does Not Make A Song:

I really love combat scenes. Offer me a good fight and I’ll never turn it down. I tend to play characters who are good in combat, too, with the occasional exception. Maybe you have your favorite type of scene, too. Romance, TS, angst, dark deeds, mysteries, puzzles, taking classes. Whatever your favorite type of scene, you’re going to get a bad reputation if you pursue only that type of scene ever, especially if you have multiple characters who also only pursue that type of scene, ever.

If you do combat exclusively you’ll end up looking like a twink or a PK monster, if its TS you’ll get a reputation as a TS hound, if its dark deeds you might end up with a reputation as a sicko. Even a bad guy has to wash his laundry. You can do a scene around that. If you’re always writhing in angst people are going to think you just want attention and can’t share the spotlight.

You can avoid this by doing what makes sense for your character to do. Your character might be a lusty young lady, but if she’s also a hard working scholar who does some research scenes, people are less likely to label you as a TS hound. You just play a lusty scholar. If you have alts, and one of them is a lusty scholar, one of them is a dried up old prune of a politician who slaps men at the thought that they might be looking at her ankles, and one of them is a warrior who also happens to arrange flowers, then people are just going to think you have a pretty good range of characters. If all you do is run around trying to pounce every single person who logs on (and really, would you do this in life?) then you’re going to get a rep, and that’s that. Anyway, if you’re going to do that, go to one of the games where that’s the norm. Don’t bring it to games looking for serious RP.

Development

In every good story, the main character at the very least undergoes some sort of fundamental change. A cynic learns to love again. A shy man learns to take up the mantle of leadership. The uncertain become confident. A naive person learns to take a little caution. And so forth. Your character should grow and change as a result of her experiences. If she’s naive and gets betrayed, she shouldn’t stay naive forever. If she won’t wear dresses because she thinks she’s ugly but a handsome man falls in love with her and buys her a pretty dress, she might just wear it with a smile. If she holds fast to a belief and then has an experience that challenges that belief to the core, she should RP out struggling with that, grappling with it, until she either changes her belief or comes out the other side with a stronger faith than before.

Characters who remain sort of stupidly cheerful for life are more the norm than not on MU*’s. It is annoying. If you’ve just been kidnapped you’re not going to walk back down to breakfast the day after the rescue acting as if you haven’t missed a beat. (Now if your character is upset but PRETENDS to be okay, that’s different. You should find ways to show it in your RP. Have a normally sure handed character get clumsy, for example, a sure sign of distraction). Characters who have children are going to have different priorities than characters who remain single. Allow your character the breathing room to grow and change naturally.

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