Role Playing Guide
Written by Millicent Reine
Roleplaying (RP) can be a rather fun way to enhance the experience for you here in Medieval Europe. While the game provides plenty of opportunities to play with your character, the forums, and more specifically RP, is where you breathe life into him/her. It is also a good way to make friends and improve your writing ability and creativity.
If you are just starting out, do not be intimidated by other RPers who seem very skilled. RPing is essentially writing and writing is a skill you can develop and improve in. It can be rather helpful for your own growth if you analyze a more experienced RPers posts and try to determine what you like about it or how they write so effectively, then attempt to apply some of those basic concepts in your own posts. Most RPers are also very happy to help others by providing suggestions for improvement when asked.
The more you practice, the better you will become and the more fun you'll surely have!
This guide is intended to help new RPers, but also hopefully has important information for those who have some experience already. If you are confident that you know how to RP, please humor me and at least skim it. It is, at least, broken down into convenient sections for you!
Terms and Abbreviations
Here are some common terms and Abbreviations that you will encounter in this guide and also probably see other RPers using in their regular talk:
IC - Stands for 'In-Character' and refers to any post or statements that are made as if your character is speaking them. Medieval Europe's forums are largely assumed to be RP only, so you should attempt to be IC as much as possible when in a forum meant to be for RP only.
[ORP] – Stands for ‘Open Roleplay’ This header in a thread name indicates that the roleplay is open to any players’ character to join and contribute to the story.
[CRP] – Stands for ‘Closed Roleplay’ This header in a thread name indicates that the roleplay is closed, meaning that only invited characters can participate in it.
OOC - Stands for 'Out Of Character' and refers to any post or statements that are made by the player, not his/her character. The Off Topic, Suggestions and Game Related subforums here are OOC forums.
NPC - Stands for 'Non-Player Character' and refers to any character in an RP that is not an actual, in-game character. Many players make a few NPCs to act as family, friends, servants or extras for the regular characters. NPCs should be considered as belonging to the player who created them and another player should not attempt to take control of them in an RP.
God-Modding - Sometimes also called 'Puppeteering,' God-Modding is any time when you control the actions of other characters with your posts. Remember that you are RPing with others who have rights to the full control of their characters/NPCs and need to be allowed the freedom to determine how their character will react and behave throughout the course of the RP.
For those who are relatively new to RPing, but have past experience with writing, it may take some getting used to when you first start to RP with others. Instead of controlling the entire thing yourself, in an RP every player generally has the ability to add their own little touches to the story that all participating players are creating via their characters. Because of this, it is important to keep in mind some basic courtesies that should be followed when RPing:
Follow The Flow
Unless there are special circumstances, you generally want to post and have your character behave in a way which compliments the developed plotline and story. Joined intended to be about a peaceful dinner party and having your character attempt to attack the guests is rude and disruptive and usually against forum rules. You can add a twist to the developing story when it's tasteful to do so, but be considerate and think about how it is likely to be received by the other players: will they enjoy it and happily follow you? Or will they be annoyed by the way in which you've interrupted the plan they had in mind for the story?
Avoid Unnecessary OOC Commentary
When participating in an RP you are usually expected to post only In-Character. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to provide outside information to others via an Out of Character comment. When you must do this you should find a way to differentiate between the IC content of your post and the OOC content. Usually, people post the header 'OOC:' and follow it with the comment, all in small font at the bottom or beginning of the post. You might also need to put OOC information in the middle of a post and should do so like this: "(OOC: blah, blah, blah)"
Whenever possible, however, try to avoid doing this as it interrupts the flow of the RP. Before you post an OOC comment consider if it might be just as effective to send another player it is directed towards a PM with the information instead. Also, if you are running an RP with a set plotline idea creating a separate thread named the same as the RP, but with 'OOC:' clearly denoting it can be a good way to have all players be able to coordinate their posts.
Do Not Be a Prima Donna
While everyone's character should have the spotlight some of them time, it is in your best interests to avoid trying to continually hog the spotlight with your character. You are collaborating with others in an RP, so try to be mindful of the fact that it grows tiresome to have one player constantly trying to turn every RP into a story about his/her character.
Be Patient/Courteous to Other Players
Some days you might have a lot of time to post in an RP, but keep in mind that not everyone else might have that luxury. If you post something directed at another player's character try to give them a chance to respond to it before you have your character interact with someone else. This allows them their chance to react freely to your post and helps the overall RP plotline remain clear to readers. If a player suddenly stops posting and you are waiting for him/her try contacting him/her first to see why he/she is missing.
Assuming something comes up for you and you will be unable to resume interacting in an RP it is good manners to inform the others via private message and, if possible, find an RP way to excuse your character from the main storyline for the duration of your absence. It is also sometimes a good idea to grant another player permission to God-Mod your character to a certain extent in order to keep the RP going for the others. If you decide to do this, it is a good idea to post a small-sized OOC comment at the end of your last post to indicate that permission is given for someone else to God-Mod your character.
God-Modding can often times ruin an RP for players, so care should be taken to avoid anything which might be considered to be, or even just appear to be, God-Modding. Here are some examples of God-Modding situations (assuming I am playing as Millicent and someone else plays Jacob):
"... Millicent turns and slaps Jacob across the face. She glares hatefully at him as he recoils from her..."
In this one I inappropriately control Jacob's reaction to the slap and also control the fact that the blow lands on Jacob's face. Perhaps his player would have made him dodge it or react differently to the attack. If so, I've just taken away his freedom to do so with my post.
"... As she opens the door, Millicent can see Jacob standing outside. She greets him and motions, with a sweep of her bony hand, for him to follow her. Once they are both inside, ..."
Here I take control of Jacob and force him to enter. Sometimes something so small as this can be more or less acceptable, especially if you would unnecessarily delay the RP to wait for Jacob's player to post that Jacob enters the home of the person he is clearly entering the RP to visit with, but if you can avoid doing something like this, it is for the best.
"... 'It was Jacob who threw the stone at the dog, My Lady,' the disheveled, old man assured Millicent... "
This is an example of how determining if it is or isn't God-Modding can sometimes be tricky. Assuming Jacob's player has already posted him throwing a stone and Millicent's player controls the old man NPC, then it is alright for Millicent's player to post this. If Jacob's player is not involved in the RP yet, nor has he/she been contacted yet, then it may or may not be appropriate for Millicent's player to post this. In Millicent's player's defense the old man could be lying, so Jacob's player still has the freedom of controlling whether or not his/her character really did throw a rock, but some might still take offense to their character being used in this regard. For this reason, it is always best to make sure you have permission to use another's character in this sort of way.
Start Creating Your Character
Whether just starting a new character or not, it is a good idea to spend some time creating details for your character. You might find it helpful to start by picking personality traits for your character. Make a list of adjectives to describe him/her. These will help you as you try to get into acting as the character would in the RP stories you join other players in. For beginners, it's usually easier (and more convincing) to play a character that is quite a bit like you. RPing a character that is very different from you is more challenging to pull off in a believable way, but it can be a lot of fun too!
Once you have an idea of what your character is like it will be helpful to build a background story that might explain a little of why the character is the way he/she is. If you're having trouble, start with basics and build from there: Where was the character born/raised? What was his/her life like before entering the RP? Is there anything in his/her past that has a big impact on him/her today? Try to get a good mix of the dramatic and the mundane in order to make your character seem more natural. One thing you may consider is whether or not to mention the character's family. You may be well-served to leave this information vague at the beginning because many players eventually make friends whom they would like to RP as family with. Filling out a full family tree (as I did with my last character!) can make integrating your character into other characters' families challenging... It's up to you.
By this point you'll have a good basis for your character to work from whenever you enter an RP, so now you'll want to spend some time visualizing what your character looks like in order to add more detail to your posts. Some people like to do this first, finding a nice picture of a character and creating a story for him/her from it, but other people (myself included) would prefer to build the story and then imagine the character's appearance. Either way, having an idea of what your character looks like will allow you to add flavor to your writing because it will allow you to write descriptions of him/her that will, in turn, allow the readers of your post to visualize your character as well.
If you are looking for a place to start, maybe think of a celebrity or actor from a movie you like and use him/her as a face for your character. You can also look for inspiration elsewhere (I prefer the site www.deviantart.com to browse for characters) and then use the image you select to start writing down adjectives that describe your character's unique features. Are his/her lips full or thin? Does he/she have a gaunt face? Perhaps it is regally angular? Round and homely? How about his/her nose? Is it a hawk nose? Narrow and pointed? Wide and bulbous? What are his/her eyes like?
With all of this completed you should have a very clear idea of what your character is like. From this point forward, allow your character to grow and develop from the RPs he/she will now participate in. Will he/she grow and improve? Continue to blindly suffer the consequences of his/her short-comings and character flaws? Remain stable and true to his/her values and characteristics and simply live a new adventure each day?
The choices and the character are yours!
Enhancing Your Posts
Now that your character is set, it's time to start RPing! As with any sort of fictional writing, you'll want to make your RP posts interesting and with enough detail to help the readers (very important in RPs since co-writers are also readers) visualize and understand the subject matter. This can be challenging at first, but as with everything else about RPing, you'll get better at it with practice.
Here are some quick beginner tips to help you improve your posts:
Avoid 'One-Liners' - Even when posting dialog, do not just post a sentence or two: add details! Include some descriptions of the surroundings and your character's expressions and body language.
Spellcheck and Write Properly - Try to write each post as professionally as you possibly can. Use quotation marks to separate spoken words, avoid using leet speak or shorthand, proof read before and after submitting to fix mistakes.
Vary Word Usage - It is always better to avoid starting many sentences the with the same words or reusing adjectives numerous times in one post. If you need help adding variety to your writing, try using a thesaurus.
Stay In-Character - Not only should your posts be in character, but you should at all times make sure that your character only knows what he/she is supposed to be aware of! If two other players are writing about their characters waiting to ambush yours, don't have yours act as if he/she knows unless there are clues that he/she could pick up on the alert him/her. RPs should be realistic, so be prepared to have your character not always know as much as you do.
Once you've mastered, or at least grown very comfortable with, basic RP writing, it's time to step it up a notch and find ways to make your posts really stand out. One way to accomplish this is to attempt different styles of writing. A lot of players usually prefer to write omnipotent posts which include the characters' private thoughts and information about the character that aren't necessarily known to the other characters. This is handy for making sure the reader understands the character, but sometimes it is more artful to only include outwardly-evident descriptions that require the reader to infer what is actually going through your character's mind.
For example, consider these two posts:
"... Millicent grows angry at Jacob's commanding tone. The vain noblewoman cannot stand that he would dare speak to her in such a manner. ..."
"... As Jacob speaks Millicent remains silent, but her dark eyes begin to narrow and knots form at the corners of her angular jaw. The bony knuckles of her alabaster hands somehow grow even whiter as she shifts in her seat. ..."
Both of these are probably good examples of a proper RP post. In the first example we know, because we are told directly, that Millicent is angry with Jacob. The second example, however, does not come right out and say that Millicent is upset. Instead, the reader must draw that conclusion for himself/herself, something that holds their attention more. Also, by using this method of communicating the same idea, the writer is forced to give visual descriptions that make it easier for the reader to picture Millicent in the scenario.
You should not always attempt to write one way or the other, but instead consider which method of communicating the same idea will be most effective in the present situation. Some moments lend themselves to using the character's dialog to give us an impression of what he/she is feeling, others benefit most from visual descriptions and yet others do just fine with the direct method of telling us what is happening. When you prepare a post challenge yourself to try to write it in another manner and you may just find a much better way to post it.
Practice makes perfect!
I like to do research to enhance my Roleplaying, so I've collected a few links to sites that I've referenced for acting out my character here. others might be interested in them too, so I'll add them as I find more:
Layout and Sections of a Church: http://www.fisheaters.com/churchbuilding.html
Time-Keeping in Medieval Europe (Note the table for the 12th Century): http://www.troynovant.com/Farrell-A/Essays/Medieval-Timekeeping.html
Poisons (This page describes Medieval poisons, but there are links to lots of other handy information on this site as well): http://www.florilegium.org/?http%3A//www.florilegium.org/files/UNCAT/poisons-art.html
Crime in the 1300's (It's rather simplified, but interesting none-the-less): http://medievalcrimeandpunishment.wetpaint.com/page/CRIME+IN+THE+MIDDLE+AGES
Medieval Dress Wearing (Provides some insight as to lady's clothing and how one wore them properly): http://historicalnovelists.tripod.com/medlife.htm
The Origins of European Army Ranks (Describes Medieval armies): http://www.xenograg.com/101/excerpts/origins-of-european-army-ranks
Coat of Arms Information (This link shows the shield types, but there is wealth of heraldry-related information in the other links): http://www.fleurdelis.com/shieldsdividing.htm