Category Archives: Forum RP

Character Study: Selenay

Selenay is what happens when I get bored and go looking for a different group of RP partners. The original idea was a retelling of Night Circus, supposedly not following the books…and yet I felt like the two people who started it had a clear railroad they wanted to go on and the rest of us were sort of…sunk. That or Night Circus has severe world building problems. (I hadn’t read it, perhaps that was my mistake.)

Selenay, however, is a wonderful little souvenir to have from it. I was given a very broad template to work off of. The Fortuneteller was manipulative, with the passive power of being able to see the future and react accordingly to shape it, and in league with the Ringmaster. Well, I loved the idea of the two of them having previous history, and that being a relationship that she ran away from. Why? Because she didn’t like what she saw in their future. I made her petite and with a friendly, out-going personality that hid her self-centered and manipulative personality, and bam, Selenay was born.

Before the RP fell apart, the Ringmaster’s player and I started working on backstory, and eventually went down an original idea. It didn’t end up working out due to different ways of RPing and the site we used dying, but it did end up fleshing this character out a lot to the point that I love her so much in all her flawed glory, I’d love to do something else with her, whether that’s taking another try at an RP or trying original or what.

So, yes. This character is selfish, self-centered, and manipulative. It’s part of who she probably would have been anyway, and then it got ramped up to eleven because her father abandoned her at a rather awful orphanage after her mother died with cancer. That leaves scars, and it shows. But what was fun was when something wiggled in enough to actually make her feel guilt about her actions. Enter her relationship with the Ringmaster. We ended up making it start as friendship, and an uneasy one at that, which eventually turned romantic until Selenay ran away out of fear of being left first (she has issues trusting men).

I did find something that this character valued more than herself, enough to give up her own comforts and secrecy–her daughter. Yep, she ran away and found out she was pregnant later. Leorna was Selenay’s biggest weakness, because she’d do anything to keep her safe. It was interesting to transition from the selfish brat into the mother that Selenay was. She was very doting, very affectionate, and yet kept secrets from Leorna in the name of protecting her, to the point of contracting a type of magical contamination that was killing her as surely as cancer. Even worked with another magician to try and protect them, which is saying something.

The only thing that I really couldn’t get consistent was her powers. Part of that was because of the way I was trying to give her some level of agency in the RP, which made things a royal tangle. I tried to fix it belatedly, but, well, issues. If I ever do anything again with her, I am definitely going to work out a consistent magic system. Her magic was always passive, though, as she wasn’t able to directly change anything. She saw it, she was compelled to tell it, but she couldn’t change it with magic. She could only change it by forcing different actions a la the diverging time lines effect. It was how the powers affected her physically, and how she used them, that I was horribly inconsistent. The Tarot cards were roughly what I used, but since I don’t know much about fortune telling, there was a lot of fudging going on.

Selenay is possibly the second-most flawed character I ever wrote. (I wrote a sociopathic serial killer once, it was short lived and that makes me sad, I was having fun.) It was part of what made her fun. I didn’t have to make the right decision or the hero’s decision. I go to make the selfish, what benefits this character, decision. It was almost like playing the villain, only without some grand master plan in mind. Normally I play on the sides of the angels, but this time… Well, the best comparison I have is the Lady of the Lake. Neutral, focused on her own goals, and screw anyone who got in the way.


RP: When to Recognize a Bad Partner

Part of the fun of RPing is not being able to predict what the other characters are going to do. For some, there is no plan and it’s completely winging. For others (such as myself) there is usually a loose framework in place, but it can be rewritten if the characters react differently than expected. The key is to remain in communication and remember where the boundaries are.

Problems come into place when those boundaries are crossed, or when communication breaks down. These are my personal signs that something has gone south, and you should consider breaking up the partnership (which is a post for another time, I will get to it).

1) They stop answering your messages. We all get busy, not every message gets answered within the hour or even the same day. People also go on vacation or have emergencies happen. I usually wait a week or two before I send a follow-up message, and then see what happens. But even if you are completely free-forming your plot, keeping a conversation of reactions going helps insure that both of you are having fun and are still engaged. If that breaks down, it’s a sign of dark days ahead.

It could also mean that, for whatever reason, they are away from the computer unexpectedly for a while. If you are on a site that requires monthly posting, this is a big problem, and while you shouldn’t completely give up on them, start making back-ups and tracking down a potential replacement.

Of course, it could also mean that they are about to take a left into Crazy Town. I have horror stories, mostly involving the same person, where suddenly the plot went side-ways from what we had previously decided, and the person refused to respond to messages when I expressed my concern and my lack of enthusiasm for this new direction. Either way, silence is not a good sign, but can be okay in the long run.

2) They start messaging too much. On the opposite end of a spectrum, there is such a thing as bugging someone to death. If you messaged them an hour ago, and they have logged on since then, they probably saw it or were only on long enough to read things, but weren’t at a place to reply. Maybe they have to think about the answer.

Being constantly barraged by messages outside of RP is exhausting. It is also the first signal of entitlement to a response. At this point, just talking could fix the issue, re-establishing boundaries. You definitely don’t have to take it, though, and if it doesn’t stop, consider finding a new partner before you hit the next problem.

3) They feel entitled to anything you write. This could be applicable to just your RPs. They feel like they are your partner, and if you join a new RP they need to join too and their character has to be paired with yours. It’s one thing to be friends and like to RP with each other because you trust them not to bork you over. It’s another for someone to constantly do it without your consent.

Sometimes it can even extend beyond the RP, and they feel entitled to any sort of writing you’ve shared with them. Original, fanfic, alternate ways scenes could have happened in the RP, anything you’ve written, they feel like belongs to them even more than it does you. This is when things are going to be ugly when you break. Make sure you’ve either posted everything, or whatever they have is easily proven as yours not theirs, just in case.

Because the fall-out is going to be ugly.

They will start to poison your relationships with the other RPers on the website you are using, even if it is an RP they aren’t involved in. They will try to drag others into the break-up, telling them half the story in order to make themselves look like the victim. Passive-aggressive messages will pop into your inbox, and basically they are going to make a nuisance of themselves.

Sometimes the moderators will get involved if you ask. Sometimes they won’t. Handling it is a nightmare all around. But if you notice the earlier markers, you might be able to get out of the relationship before it gets that far. Because it is a relationship. Just like dating (and finding an agent), finding good RP partners is hard, and you have to wade through the crazies. They also take constant work to keep communication and barriers you are both comfortable with.


Character Study: Bobbi Morse

Partnering with Clint here, my rendition of Bobbi Morse.

What was fun about Bobbi was while I knew who the character was, I am, as has been established, not a comic book reader. When I went wiki-diving for background information, I had very little to go on. She was really under-represented in wikis (or under written in comics, both are options). However, I watched her in the few mediums she was present in, read her quote entries, and came up with my interpretation of her character that I can only hope is close.

Bubbly and high energy, at least on the surface, Bobbi uses her energy to hide her serious demeanor and her smarts, on top of being a smart ass. She started off as being bound and determined to prove herself as worthy of being of the Avengers, despite dealing with psychological and potentially physically issues from her past. She has slowly relaxed over the panic attacks that losing a loved one used to cause her due to Clint carefully addressing them once he was aware of her issues. Around Clint, she acts the flirt, but others who have worked for her know that under her snark, she is the most serious agent on missions and won’t tolerate goofing around.

I made all of this history up, so be aware that it is completely wrong. Her father was from an old Southern family who moved west to California to be an artist, her mother an orphan who rose to be a ballet star in New York before she retired to have a family. Her mother was diagnosed with a mutant-variant of MS, highly aggressive and eventually fatal. During that time, Bobbi basically raised herself. She was then sent to live with her grandmother while her father lost himself in his grief. Going to college early, she got her doctorate in biochemistry and was recruited into SHIELD. During those early days, her grandmother and father both died, leaving her with no family. As a result, all of Bobbi’s emotional ties are with SHIELD. It is her home, Fury is her paternal figure and boss combined, Phil was her favorite uncle (that was a hard loss for her), Natasha is that annoying older sister…and Clint is her whole world.

Her biggest character trait is her mind, and her way of thinking. She is constantly planning, constantly absorbing new information and using it to problem solve. The problem with this is that she can get too caught up in worrying about the future (especially since she inherits her mother’s strain of MS and has to come up with the treatment for it), and the past just adds fuel to the fire. She also really struggled with putting a name to the feelings between her and Clint, much less their relationship, out of fear of repeating her parents’ history.

Bobbi is social for work, since I went more of the spy-espionage route with her, and is good at acting the right way in situations. But really, she’s happiest spending quiet time with people she cares about, maybe going out for something casual. A beach bum, if she can have a person she loves with her while hanging around the beach all day, that’s the perfect vacation for her. There is a miscarriage for her and Clint that will lead her to being very protective of her other two children, particularly Ash, who is her baby. But as long as nothing is even remotely threatening them, she is a very loving mother who encourages her children to do what makes them happy.

Bobbi is so much fun to write…and also suffers from having the most AU timelines because she’s so easy to do so with. I think my favorite is the one I call the Romanoff Sisters AU, because Bobbi ends up at the Red Room Academy with Natasha as girls. She is rescued by Natasha and Clint just before her graduation procedure, and discovers that her father has remarried since her mother died, giving her a half-sister (who Natasha also adopts, because Bobbi’s sister is her sister) Rhonda who goes by Rhonni, and then more digging produces another sister, Titania. Her personality doesn’t really change, and she gets to annoy Clint while being jail bait with a crush for a while. The sister and family dynamics in that one is just a lot of fun.


Character Study: Clint Barton

Trying something new here for the RPG section, and doing some studies on characters that I either play or play with as we interpret them in my various Forum RPs. There’s a few OCs in here, but a lot of them are actually canon characters that we combine different mediums for and sometimes ignore canon for the sake of sanity. Maybe I’ll even eventually do some of my d20 characters. So welcome to my personal chaos.

I’m starting with Clint, who I don’t really play myself, but I do write him in prompts, so I guess I half own him? Joys of one-on-one threads (sort of, a third guest writes as Natasha). This is an AU of the MCU RP, started just after the first Avengers movie, and since then it will keep with the main plot of MCU movies, but I reserve the right to throw monkey wrenches at things that don’t work for our story, rather than the other way around. Or entire shows, since Agents of SHIELD is totally not canon for us aside from occasional pulls.

Our Clint is a surly sort. He didn’t snark much, not after what Loki did to his head, but once he started to get his feet under him, he got better. Particularly renewing his friendship with Bobbi Morse…which has since developed into something more, despite some of his reservations and Bobbi being Bobbi. His seriousness probably comes out more because Bobbi is such a smart ass, while with Natasha he is allowed to be more of the class clown. Regardless, he always has a snarky comment at the ready.

His past history is a bit of a combination of comics and MCU-canon. Abusive father, ran away and joined the circus with his brother, who then left him for the army. Clint followed along eventually but never found Barney, and got recruited into SHIELD as a fixer. He met Natasha while she was being mind-controlled by a villain-of-the-week, and despite orders used the antidote on her to bring her over to his side. She was with him on the mission that has his hearing questionable out of one ear (which one depends on who is writing him). They are close, but while Natasha flirted with the idea of them being a couple, he didn’t consider it as anything serious (until this got him in trouble later).

Possibly that is his biggest character trait outside of the snark and the bow and arrows. Clint is very much in the present. He may see better from far away, but he tries not to let the past drag him down, and he sometimes struggles to see past current circumstances to the future. He also is big on making assumptions on his relationships with other people–whether it’s friendships and work partnerships to where he and Bobbi currently stand in their relationship. While this means he has incredible focus on missions and isn’t easily swayed from his objectives, it can lead to problems when he is wrong about where he currently stands with people.

More than Bobbi, Clint is a social creature in the sincere sense. When he cares about you, he means it, and he wants to spend time with you. He also prefers doing active things…as much as work lets him. He’ll also lie in bed and cuddle…as much as Bobbi lets him (curse morning people). With his kids (yes, plural, we’re odd), he is the doting father. There are moments where he worries over Bobbi babying the youngest, Ash, but that’s just him wanting his son to be able to follow in his and Bobbi’s footsteps if that’s what he desires. (Bobbi’s dog drives him nuts, though. His own fault for getting her a puppy for Christmas.)

I think what I love most of RPing with Clint, on both sides of the coin, is the aftermath of a conflict. He’s able to put aside what just happened–whether it’s a verbal or physical fight–and enjoy the moment of calm after, capable of sweetness and poorly timed jokes to ease the tension and give some levity. Or, if needed, give someone a talking-to about how they just screwed up, and tell them how to make it better.


Forum RP: Politics and Picking Battles

Just when I thought I was out of these to write about, a friend pulled me back in… And for once, I don’t have to wait a couple weeks because I’m not personally involved! There is a Harry Potter rant at the end of this post, but I’ll mark it so you know where it is.

So, you’ve had a big fall out with another player. You just can’t get along, and it’s better if you stay in different RP circles. You join a new RP that excites you…and then they join a little while later. Not only that, but they manage to attach their character to yours. You don’t want to leave the RP, and you know they are going to have some issues with how you do things. You know this is going to be a problem, but what exactly can you do about it?

(For those curious, yes, Sue strikes again.)

Well, here is what my friend is doing, and then there will be my take on the situation. She is hoping that it won’t end up being a big deal. The RP is supposed to be centered around canon characters, and overall Sue’s OC should remain a very minor thing. If it remains that way, they will probably be able to survive the RP without any serious flare ups. However… Having been in RPs with Sue before, I can say that she is never happy to be a minor part of anything. So either she is going to meddle and get her character into the center of the action, or she is going to pout and grumble in a way that completely doesn’t help her situation, just makes her victim, like she has done before (see my post here with Sue’s introduction). I could be wrong, but… I doubt it.

So what would I do in the situation? Well, I’m rarely as attached to a character as my friend is this early in an RP. But this is a character she has played in other canon RPs and has seen others play her, and the way I see it, it’s a bit like me and Rogue. I don’t handle seeing others play her well either. So if that was the case, I suppose there are a couple options. On one hand, you could message the player and make sure that you are going to play this as civilly as possible. Not something I could do, but I’ve burned my bridges with Sue and I have no regrets about it. But it is an option for my friend if things start trying to fall to pieces.

The other option…is wait for her to shoot herself in the foot. It will happen, of that I have little doubt. Unless the girl has managed to drastically change. Anything is possible, and I’ve had very little to do with her, so I suppose there is a chance. But because she’s the one with the OC insert in this case, the group is going to be more likely to let her fall to the wayside than they are my friend’s because she is a canon character. It’s cold and a little cruel, but it puts the problem on the player who is the problem, letting you relax a little without necessarily having to deal with her. Definitely keep the rest of the group it the loop though if sand starts being thrown, though. You want them to see what is going on. Her group has a chat thread going, so I encourage her to keep all her interactions with her in there, where everyone can see them.

Okay, if you have no interest in Harry Potter, feel free to scroll to the end and leave a comment or whatever you like. Rant begins now.

The original character is a Muggleborn Slytherin. A Muggleborn. SLYTHERIN. Apparently there is a wikia somewhere that says that this very rarely happens. I call balderdash. And there is a reason behind this.

Throughout the ENTIRE book, it is bashed into our head that Slytherins are obsessed with the bloodlines. It takes generations for someone to move from half-blood to pure-blood status. While the wikia may claim that Muggleborns may get sorted into the House, the only way I would really accept that is if they are actually descended from Squibb bloodlines, which would make more sense. Somewhere in the character’s ancestry, there has to be a witch or wizard of a pureblood family. Because if they don’t? Think about the description of characters in the house.

The main traits of the Slytherin House, once you take the pureblood aspect away, are their charisma, cunning, and stubbornness. Charisma, like a Gryffindor. Cunning, like a Ravenclaw. Stubborn, like a Hufflepuff. I’ve seen memes that talk about how Gryffindor is actually a merging of all the other houses, they just have to be brave enough to ask to be put in Gryffindor instead. But the same can be said of Slytherin. If you don’t have that bloodline in you anywhere, you can easily be shunted into one of the other three houses. It is also a matter of choice, just also about who you happen to be related to.

And to make matters worse, she’s a Muggleborn Slytherin in Voldemort’s hayday. Yeah, this is set when the Marauders were still in school. I just don’t even. Like the last remaining descendent of Salazar Slytherin would let a Muggleborn who was admitted into his house live after he found out about it. (And I’m sure he’d find out about it pretty quickly.)

End Rant.


Forum RP: Formatting Posts, A Nightmare

So, I am a notorious skim reader when it comes to RP posts. Not because I don’t love all the itty bitty details, but because I got really excited to see what’s going on. Also, because let’s be honest. My character(s) have no idea what is going through the other person’s character(s) head(s), so all I really need to know at least at first glance are what physical and vocal cues I’ve got to react to. I can reread for thoughts once I get that initial reaction done. Even if I have the time and attention to read a post from beginning to end, when I’m writing my own reply, there are certain parts that I need my attention to be dragged to immediately more than any other.

The problem: most people don’t know how to format their posts for readability.

Now, some forums have rules that help with this, though how formal the rules are tend to vary. My main site only has requirements on dialogue, so I have to set it off in a specific color (usually white, or another color off of a set list if I have an NPC speaking). Others I’ve been on have required dialogue be in bold, or haven’t worried about it at all. But if my current site has rules, why do I claim that some posts are harder to read than others?

It comes down to how the post flows for the eye, something that even as writers of novels rather than of RP  posts, we have to be aware of. What I mean is how much we mess around with the font of a post and in what ways we do so. Bold fonts tend to leap out at the eye pretty much no matter what (thus why it was used to help set off dialogue on my older sites). If it’s used just throughout the text at random for emphasis, that’s what my eye is going to be drawn to, even if I really need to be paying attention to something else that follows afterwards. It can be a huge distraction. The same for all caps. Bold and all caps are also used in today’s generation to indication shouting, which can make it come across as very harsh. (I know, most younger people already know this, but people like my mom don’t, so it seems like something important to mention.)

Italics are a better alternative for emphasis. They are subtler, and while reading they stand out, they don’t jump out and demand your immediate attention, ASAP. For novel writers, this is what you have to use (editors won’t let bold font or all caps go to print, pretty much universally). But it has it’s own problems. If every other word is italics, not only does the point of emphasizing get completely lost, but it makes the page look very busy. Just because italics are more subtle doesn’t mean they are completely unnoticeable, especially if you have several of them bunched up together. It gets really annoying.

Colors are another big thing to pay attention to. Nobody likes the player who uses neon pink or yellow on a white background where it is nearly impossible to read it, while at the same time, using a super dark color on black is also a really bad idea. Pay attention to how the color appears on the color of the site as a while. For example, my main site is two different shades of blue. Believe it or not, my signature purple is nearly impossible to read on it. That left me with indigo, which was a darker purple that even still on the darker of the two blues was a little iffy, or a pale purple called plum. I went with the plum for  my personal font color so this way it would actually be readable. (Greens are also pretty nightmarish. Blues are easier, which seems kinda contradictory.)

How all of this goes into the site is part of what makes this a nightmare for writing. Setting off bold and italics is fine, the colors though…ugh. Some use the [color=] format, some use the [colorname] format… And the color names are just weird. They are long, they are sometimes really silly to try and remember how they are even spelled. I’d prefer a drop down menu, but there are so many different colors that it would be nearly impossible to program anything that even worked. I’ve long since gotten into the habit of doing emphasis as I go, and then when I pause to gather my thoughts or I finish, I go back through and do the dialogue color changes. Otherwise, it would drive me crazy. And I still mess it up 9 times out of 10.

These aren’t hard and set rules, mind you. In full-blown arguments between characters, I’ll use bold and all caps and italics all over the place if I feel it’s necessary. (Some of my characters are very passionate hot heads.) My Rose Weasley’s posts are often littered with italics because she gets horribly excited about just about everything. It is all a matter of character voice. But before I post something or when I’m formatting my novels, I always think about whether or not the format is going to irk somebody or be hard on the eyes to read. It’s something I think every writer should consider, regardless of the format.


Forum RP: Balancing Power

With Tabletop RPGS and video games, you will have noticed that your character levels and grows stronger in the game. New items get unlocked, the plot advances, everything is hunky dory. Part of the joy of forum RP is YOU control the plot alongside your fellow RPers. Your potential for any story is virtually unlimited except for the rules you establish at the beginning. But, to repeat the most often used Marvel quote anywhere, with great power comes great responsibility. Or in this case, can cause severe headaches for your fellow players.

Let me give you an example to talk about this. Let’s say you are doing a high fantasy story, set in some medieval land that you’ve come up with. Some of the characters can use magic, others can use weapons, some can do both or neither. It’s pretty open and lets several different players interact with each other, right? But… What if one of the players ignores the rules about godmodding and makes a character who is an expert swordsman and a great magus? Suddenly, that player is going to curb stomp the entire story and make playing with him/her almost unbearable for everyone else.

The way around that is to make sure you build qualifiers into the different kinds of characters people can play, just like DnD and other games do. So, for example, if you are a great mage and have tons of power and spells at your disposal, you haven’t had time to focus on the physical so you aren’t that great at it. Or you have focused on becoming a great fighter, either because you have no magic potential or your power is so small you can barely start a fire. Or maybe you’re an okay fighter and you’ve got some magic under your belt, but if you try to out-magic the mage, you are going to be turned into a toad, and if you challenge the knight to a duel, you are going to get your butt handed to you. It’s all about finding that right balance.

I’m not saying a character can’t have some serious strengths. But there has to have drawbacks. Let’s use Rogue from X-Men and my RP with that canon as an example. I’ve given her the ability to acquire and then use any mutation that she comes into contact with, not to mention gaining information without worrying about somebody lying to her. What are the drawbacks? Answer: a lot right now. She can’t have physical contact (at least right now, that will get fixed), there are limits on how long she can use a power and how many times she can call on them a day (which will grow to the point it’s silly).

Seems like she’s going to be perfect once I get all her NUMEROUS issues straightened out, right? Wrong. For one, I never plan to RP her to the point that she has that level of control. It will take several years in RP time for her to get it, and it’s taken us over a year to RP a single day. And even if we do get to that point, there are some traits that won’t change. If she is careless, her touch can still be deadly and she has to live with that fear for the rest of her life. And nothing is going to make the voices of people she’s touched who live in her head go away. She’s going to have to live with those too. Those are the drawbacks of her powers. By keeping so many limitations, I make it so that the other players can get in a fight with Rogue and she can potentially lose. It’s what keeps all of us getting along.

Another solution is to provide the characters for an RP. I’m not necessarily for or against this, since it really is conditional on how much control I get over the character after I claim him/her. As long as I keep true to what is initially provided to me, I should be allowed to do what I like. If the creator tries to assert  control over what I do, that’s when I don’t like the situation. Another reason why I wouldn’t like it would be if there’s a set agenda that is working unfairly against me or another player because of the way the characters are set up.

Yet another example of this. In one of my RPs, I play a character with a passive type of magic. Let’s call her kind of magic user (passive or little power/strength) a 2. There is another 2 in the story and two other people who I shall call 1’s because they have no magic at all. There are two other characters in a side plot who have power but not the training to use it, who I call 3’s. And then we have two 5’s: characters with a lot of power and the training and mindset to use it. The creator of the RP is playing a 5, a 3, and a 2, and the rest are scattered among different players, though I know at least one is also played by one of their friends, and I suspect it is the other 5.

In case it is unclear about where the imbalance is, look at what the creator controls again: one of the highest powered characters in the story, one of the powerful but no training, and then a passive/light magic user. As a result, they have the ability in almost any situation to say through their characters, “No, that’s not how I want this story to go, let’s go my way.” And if your character disagrees? Your character is probably going to get killed by one of the 5’s.

In that sort of situation, as the creator, you need to take a step back and realize that this is an RP, meaning a collaboration with other people, not a novel you are writing. The other people need the freedom to play out their character’s stories without you constantly slapping them on the nose because it isn’t going the way you want. Who knows, the new way might even be better. In fact, I near-guarantee it will, because your fellow players are going to be having more fun. And isn’t that what we RP for? To tell stories together and have fun? I know it is hard to let that control go (believe me, I know), but it will improve the experience for you (less stress and frustration over stupid little things) and them.

And if you are the player in the situation? You can try talking to the creator about it (this sometimes works, though be warned if it doesn’t, a harsh consequence for daring to say anything may happen). You can also try creating an AU story with another of your fellow RPers who may feel the same way that lets you explore what happens if you can follow your choices. Maybe even turn it into a short story or a book of your own! You can also just wait it out and see if the creator lets you off the leash as the RP progresses. Some creators are super protective for the first couple of forum-pages, and then loosen up afterwards. It’s a small hope, but it’s there.

Power struggles in forum RPs are a constant. There are no clear rules to help make characters in balance from the beginning, so we as players have to figure out the best way to interact with each other. Sometimes this means giving in a little, sometimes it means giving in a lot. But the important thing to remember is that this is a group effort. Hoarding all the power doesn’t make you the leader, just a jerk.


RP Forum: Playbys (and the resulting drama)

For years, I relied on my own head to picture my characters. Not always a great thing, since I still sometimes think in “anime” terms, since it’s easier as far as fantasy is concerned. But once I started RPing characters that were normal humans in everyday worlds, I had to start thinking about who would “play” them. On my forum (where I’m now a prefect, let us all SQUEEE!), a lot of my RPs are linked to movies, who have actors who played them. So now, even new characters have to have who we would like to think would be picked to play them in a movie, what we call playbys (for those who have no idea what that word is). It’s become a habit to try and do this with my books as well, if only to help me nail down an appearance and keep to it consistently. Sometimes, though, this can lead to more than it’s fair share of drama.

For example, the details. Do I have to have a British actress for my playby for Rose Weasley? Can I find an actress who is EXACTLY 17 to use as a base for Caley? For some people, that is a definite yes. One of my friends even does this with her characters for her book series, using the actors’ ages to figure out the age differences between characters. So where do I stand on this? Well… In an ideal situation, if I’m torn between two different playbys, I’ll take one with the closest nationality and/or age to what I want, but I won’t let it limit me completely. There’s no reason I should be stuck with a playby for a character just because she’s British if I find her to look too sweet or whatever for my version of Rose Weasley (thus, how that playby got changed from Karen Gillian to Haley Ramm). The details do trip me up, though. I have spent over an hour wading through brunettes with blue eyes to find Caley’s playby, and I still ended up on one of my favorites by default. That’s when I don’t have to give up completely. I’ve basically decided that if I have a character with pale blonde/white hair, she’s played by Scarlett Johansson. I’m done. No more trying to desperately find one, thank you.

Sometimes there is another completely different problem. Let’s use more Harry Potter examples here. In the movies, Astoria is played by Jade Olivia, a woman with dark hair and a darker complexion. With my somewhat crappy knowledge of genetics, I know the likelihood of that couple having a pale, blonde son is extremely unlikely, if not impossible entirely depending on Olivia’s background. As a result, I decided to change her playby to another actress who was paler and had strawberry blonde hair, without going too far in the other extreme so she looked too much like Draco’s actor, Tom Felton. You can reject the canon if it doesn’t fit with something that’s in your mind as far as the RP is concerned. There’s no reason why you should be miserable because your character’s playby is someone you think doesn’t fit the character. Admittedly, I wouldn’t do it too often, since that sort of destroys the point of RPing with an established canon, but for one or two characters, that’s fine.

In the forum where I RP, there is a particular section that I haven’t yet had the courage to go trolling through, but it sort of functions like each character in it is going through Hogwarts (or wherever else they are) at that time, interacting with other characters pretty freely. Well, in that section of the site, they are horribly picky about playbys being repeated. I’ll be honest, I’m this way in my current RPs. It’s kinda of stupid to use the same actor for two different characters in the same world. That said, I do have an Avengers RP, where obviously Scarlett Johansson is playing Natasha Romanov, but I also use her to play a pair of half-sisters, relying on the opposing hair colors to separate them (plus, she just can’t not make faces it seems like, so her features don’t all look the same in the two pictures either). As long as these two RPs don’t mix, I’m cool. But if Celine and Natasha ended up in the same place, yeesh, I would insist on somebody changing their playbys, just to keep things from being silly.

With the situation my forum uses for that one part of the site, there is a lot of potential for drama. As I mentioned, certain details make finding a playby harder than others, and what happens if you FINALLY find a playby that matches with your vision of the character, only it turns out that someone else has already claimed them? Well, hello, drama, haven’t seen you in a while… You’re going to want to have a meltdown, and that’s fine. Feel free to growl at your computer, complain to a friend, anything except for actually contact somebody about the problem first thing. Get the frustration out first. Then, look at your second-choice. Don’t have a second-choice? See if you can find a playby that has everything except for one trait. Is it one you can live without? Can you change the hair color in Photoshop and make it perfect?

Only if you have tried everything do you talk, very politely, with the person who has the playby you want. Find out why they picked them, first. Are they their favorite actor/actress? Are they just using that playby as a place holder? See how attached they are to that playby before you try to ask them if they mind changing it. Don’t pressure them, and don’t make demands. If they seem very attached or don’t want to change, ask them instead if they had a second-choice that was similar, to see if they know of an actor/actress that you didn’t. They could have a new name for you that, upon looking them up, works even better than the one you found. And if all of this fails, and you have no playby, well… That’s when you go to the character and make adjustments to make it fit a playby that you find who you can live with. Whatever you do, don’t get angry at the other person. It isn’t their fault, and they shouldn’t have to change just to make you happy.


Forum RP: To Follow or Ignore Canon

So, all of my forum RPs are based off of other worlds, making them almost collaborative fanfic as much as they are RPs. My current ones are a Harry Potter, X-Men, Firefly, and Avengers. Now, what makes this relevant to this post is…all of these have a LOT of different versions of them. I mean, dear lord, Marvel has HOW many different universes now? I gave up keeping them all straight a long time ago, and just kinda wade through them the best that I can. But because there are so many takes on the same worlds, sometimes it’s hard to pick what your RP treats as canon and what it politely ignores.

I’m going to use the X-Men as my wonderful example here, focusing on my character, a version of Rogue, partly because she’s an adoption and serves as the perfect example. Anyone who grew up watching the 90’s cartoon of Rogue has a very clear idea of the character, the same character that is usually presented in the comics in some way or fashion. But each version has it’s quirks, particularly some of the non-comic affiliated ones. X-Men: Evolution, for example, turned her into a goth. The Ultimates universe gave her a different name than the one we’ve commonly associated with Rogue. And let’s not go into some of the other really weird things Marvel has done over time. But the big kink in all the plans was how Rogue was written in the movies: meek, quiet, and nervous. The exact opposite of the fiery Southern Belle that we all know and love.

Between the actions of the previous RPer and how I set Rogue up in my head, I managed to make the meek behavior into a phase, like all teenagers go through. The fact that, even as horrible as it was, Last Stand gave her the beginnings of a backbone helped a good deal. But there were a lot of set facts about the fandom and comic book canon that I had to decide whether or not to accept them. Mystique adopted Rogue at one point, even turned her against the X-Men. I could have taken that on as a plot point, but I decided against it. Partly because of the fact we were beginning to incorporate bits and pieces of First Class lore without making that movie canon into the RP, but mostly because of Mystique’s reaction to Rogue. We never saw that mother/daughter, strained relationship that even Evolution played with at least a little bit. Besides, I borked her childhood up enough without turning one of her numerous foster parents into a shapeshifting mutant intent on using her for her own plans.

As for her childhood, again, I had a lot of different options. One version of Rogue’s past has her living with her parents, her father being abusive. Another version that is often tied together with the first has her parents as part of a sort of hippie commune. There’s where she was mostly raised by her Aunt Carrie, or by Irene. And then there’s what the movie gives us, which isn’t much to go on at all. In the end, I actually took bits and pieces from everything and threw them all together into a mess, if only because that really gave the character some much needed depths that I wasn’t getting from anywhere else in the RP besides the voices in her head.

I guess the biggest decisions we had to make about the RP as a whole was the addition of other movies, such as Wolverine: Origins, First Class, and now The Wolverine and Days of Future Past. In the end, as a group, we decided to treat the movies a lot like how we treat the comic books and the TV shows. Nothing except for the first three movies is strict, must-be-followed-on-pain-of-death canon. Everything else can be pulled from if we like the bit of information, but it doesn’t have to be strict. (I completely ignore First Class having Xavier start the school that young, for example, or how it contradictorily gets him into a wheelchair at the end of the movie despite him being able to walk after Origins and ugh.) For example, we follow Origins pretty religiously, with some tweaking, but we break bits and pieces of First Class away to use and pretty much ignore The Wolverine. Most of our group has not read any of the comics, with me serving as a weird bridge between the religious followers of them and the ones who haven’t touched them, so we treat them like we do First Class, and the same for the animated series.

By now, I’m sure you’re begging the question as to why the heck we do this. Wouldn’t it be easier to just make everything canon? And the answer is, yes…if things were consistent. But Marvel and consistency don’t belong in the same sentence together most of the time. Even JK Rowling had her blips where she had a contradiction. It’s completely unavoidable, and in some cases just happens to be worse than others. But in an RP setting, there has to be some manner of consistency, if only because things have to be fair for all the players, so the same information has to be readily available, or if it is changed, it’s changed for character reasons and the player at least knows about it.

This doesn’t mean I advocate change in the name of change. Even though a couple members of the group grumbled, I refused to bring in Cassandra Nova, because it made no sense to me. We knew the man at the end of the movie was Xavier’s twin brother. Twin, not part of a triplet. And not only a twin, an IDENTICAL twin. The boys pulled out all sorts of Marvel logic on me. I won only because it has been stated that the brain-dead twin that Xavier takes over when his own body is destroyed at the end of Last Stand is her cinematic double, something they couldn’t argue with because it was canon as we were following it.

I guess my point is, don’t be afraid to ignore something that contradicts what you’ve already RPed that isn’t easily fixed or seems completely illogical. Especially if other material provides alternate solutions that you can pull from or excite you to play out. But at the same time, don’t ignore canon just to get away with doing what you want to do. Canon exists to create a level field for all the RPers, and so as a group, you have to decide what is and isn’t canon and stick with that.

So when most of the group says “No aliens!”, you have to suck it up and deal with it.


Forum RP: Prompts and Not-Prompts

So, one part of most forum RPs is some sort of thread that is a weekly or monthly list of prompts. Or at least links to them. One of the more famous lists in the form of a PDF that gets linked around is a series of 365 prompts – one for each day of the year. I’ve responded to many a prompt and even suggested a few myself. If an original character is giving me trouble? I write them for a prompt to try and get a grasp on their way of viewing the world. And all of this has led to me noticing a rather…weird turn in the way prompts have gone over the last year or so, at least for me.

All prompts are designed to get a better grasp on a character, whether it’s part of their personality in the case of highly complex characters, or maybe just figuring out new elements to their back story. A good prompt has a few requirements. One is enough details to work with. If I can answer it in one sentence, then obviously that prompt doesn’t do me any good, does it? On the other side of the coin, it can’t get too specific. I’ve had several prompts I’ve had to pass up for stupid detail reasons, such as it only fitting ONE of my characters, and the one thing that character can use for that prompt? Came up on another earlier one and I’m not allowed reuse them.

I guess I’m listing more not-prompts than prompts. Mostly because… Well, maybe this is the least year or so of professional training finally sticking, or maybe it’s always how I’ve instinctively worked. But if I’m going to write something, even if it’s just 1000 words talking about Laura’s mother surprising her by turning a vacation into a permanent move… I want a POINT. I want to be working towards something, whether it’s a surprise for my character or conflict between them and another one, something.

Asking me what my character’s favorite place in the world is… has no point to me. Okay, so Laura (who I’m picking on a little to make my point) likes to sit up on the roof rather than being anywhere else. And there are specific reasons for this, since her power-set includes enhanced senses, and really, having super hearing and smell in a boarding school situation has to be her own little version of hell on earth. But… Really, that’s like, a paragraph. So unless I bring plot to the prompt, which is both warping the prompt and making me do twice the amount of work the stupid thing is supposed to require of me, there’s nothing to it.

It isn’t just my forum infected with this inability to realize what a good prompt is. Remember that list of 386 prompts I mentioned? Yeah, there’s a wad in there at some point that goes into DnD territory a little, asking both where a character falls on the lawful/chaotic spectrum and on the good/evil spectrum, though it breaks it up to spread it as far as it can. Okay, I can answer those prompts in less than a sentence! A fragment answers those. So… What’s the point? Reiterate that my character is a villain or a hero? Reiterate how much they hate or revel in authority? I should already know that, conflabbit! That’s an integral part of character creation. If you somehow managed to skip that step… You have bigger problems than character alignment.

I guess what kills me the most about these not-prompts is how easy it would be to fix most of them. If the writer adds a “why” in there, or even asks a series of follow-up questions, it makes the prompt so much easier to write, and actually makes it useful. I’ve done some amazing prompts over the years, ones that reveal all sorts of things about my characters that I never even knew before. I intend to use them again to help with getting Natile’s voice better nailed down.

So… I guess I’m just ranting and wanting better prompts, just in a blog form. :S Sorry. But this has been driving me bonkers the last few weeks, and if I can help other people write better prompts when they are in charge, so be it.

I think the only thing worse than the not-detailed prompts…is when the mod in charge doesn’t care. I mean, I guess this girl cared at one time or another, but it’s hard to tell that now. Prompts are late, prompts are left unrewarded for days, and when they are rewarded, she doesn’t fill out anything where she has the space to make a comment. She even blanket-rewards at times. TWICE now another player has crossed the forum PG-13 line, and she hasn’t called them on it, even in a warning. And so when all these not-prompts come up, I wonder if she’s not reading them very well at all, which isn’t helped by the fact she had a repeater and has stalled too many times now by taking prompt suggestions.