Category Archives: Forum RP

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.

Really? Really? …Really?

Currently Working On:
Ava Reference Pic
World Building Eresith

Okay, here’s a big rule-of-the-Internet for you: joking doesn’t always come across as joking! Big surprise, right? But you would be shocked at how many people seem to forget this cardinal rule–or worse, use it as an excuse to say something mean and inconsiderate.

Example that spurned this post: I was talking about one of my tabletop RP characters, an elven warmage named Yun, and her background with another girl via PM. Admittedly, Yun’s background is convoluted even by my standards of RPing characters. That said, RP characters are my chance to get that crap out of my system so my work-characters are a lot more streamlined, so I tend to go overboard. This person is in all of three RPs with me, with three characters who have fairly straight-forward backgrounds, with enough drama and history to keep plot interesting for my fellow RPers. This is the same person who picks the stereotypes to play off with the one character that isn’t completely flat, and relies on that to be her history. She does, and I paraphrase, broad strokes with her character backgrounds, a trait which irks me.

Well, she makes a comment asking if I ever do SIMPLE backgrounds (with that word capitalized). To which my brain’s immediate response is, “Yes, with the background characters!” Because let’s face it, only a background character needs to have a simple background. A protagonist of any kind needs a detailed history, something that shaped them into who they are. That’s half the fun of character creation for me, giving my characters quirks via their histories. My biggest example there is Nick Fury. Yes, I – on occasion – play Fury for two of my RPs. I haven’t done a thing with his background because it isn’t relevant. He pops in for a scene and then leaves, chaos in his wake. I don’t need his history. But I do need to know, for example, that Charles is the one who introduced Erik to Magda, that he is the godfather to the twins, that he has a very convoluted relationship with Moira, that he feels like he violated his ethics taking over his twin’s body, etc. It’s part of being a writer!

And when I tried to explain to her that she had insulted me, she said something back that was completely inappropriate and yeah… I’m having a writer’s tiff and refusing to talk to her at the moment. Because I was on a good writing wave, conflabit! I felt like I had improved so much in terms of structure and while I had room to grow, I thought I was getting better! And now I’m plagued by self-doubts about whether my characters and dialogue are still good, since they were my best skill set when I came into my new writing program.

I really didn’t need this right now. My playwriting class is doing group critiques. And I’m terrified. Do you know what happened last time I faced group critique? I got compliments from the class till the professor started his opinion, which proceeded to berate be for somewhere between fifteen to twenty minutes, and ended with how I was unoriginal and lazy for dabbling with the minotaur myth. For the next ten to fifteen minutes, the class of fifteen proceeded to turn against me to stay in the good graces of the professor. I dropped the class, changed majors, and didn’t write a thing for six months. Not. A. Thing. And I can’t do that again. I can’t. So now I’m feeling even more bit by self-doubt, and yes… I’m no longer on a good writing place.

So please consider what you say while supposedly “joking” online. It can cause more damage than you think.

Forum RP Etiquette Pt 2: Unreadable and/or Unhelpful Posts

Currently Working On:
Eresith World Building
Commission Descriptions (1.75/3)

So, aside from passive/aggressive behavior out-of-character, the second worst thing you can do in my opinion is have an unreadable or unhelpful post. Or worse yet, both. Usually these kinds of posts are hall-marks of other kinds of offenders, such as god modders who make themselves invincible and cringe-inducing and power players who rip control of the situation from the other players, particularly in physical actions, but they can also be a sign of an inexperienced RPer who doesn’t know better.

The first is the easier to spot and the easiest to suggest solutions for. It’s someone who doesn’t capitalize letters period, doesn’t know how to use punctuation (either correctly or at all), or has some serious problems with word-confusion. I’m not talking about your little typos – Lord knows, I make a tone ton of those myself (case in point). But I mean the entire post requires you to copy and paste it into a Word doc and try to fix it before you can actually read it. On some forums, they’ll post in eye-searing or too pale (or like on my site, too dark) colors, and whatever the manner of choice for separating dialogue is, be it bolding text or changing it to another color, they will do it incorrectly or not at all.

If they aren’t godmodders or power players, it’s easy enough to owl them and suggest that they fix their posts and explain exactly what’s wrong with them. Sometimes it’s an unintentional mistake – an example being that one of the dark greens on the website I use is perfectly readable on my computer, but not on my friend’s, so they asked me to change Draco (yes, that Draco) to a different green and I easily agreed. Sometimes it’s a case of a character not using English as their primary language, which is when you just have to be patient and understanding while you gently nudge them towards improvement. If they are a godmodder/powerplayer… Pray they leave the RP after the first suggestion they will probably ignore. They are usually the sorts that won’t accept criticism or suggestions.

The unhelpful post is a lot harder to spot, but usually a moderately experienced RPer knows when they’ve written one and will warn their partner or group as soon as it goes up. An unhelpful post is one that doesn’t present anything for your character to react to. Sure, they answer your character’s questions…but they don’t ask more. They don’t raise any confusion or other problems. If there IS any physical action, it’s usually defensive or removing themselves from the situation, or something simple like a shrug or wave of the hand. It could be a purely internal post, where they do nothing but think about what they are hearing/seeing without actually doing anything. Sometimes it’s because there isn’t anything for that character to do but they want to react now rather than wait. Sometimes its because the characters themselves don’t have anything to do.

All you can really do at this point is throw another set of situations or questions at them. If they keep up the behavior, that’s when you need to have a long talk with the RPer about the situation, because something is wrong, and it isn’t going to be a fun situation for very long for anyone involved. Either a change in circumstances needs to happen, or a change in a character trait. Something is shutting things down. And in some rare cases, it’s the player. Either they’ve gotten bored or they are too busy to properly write a post, which means either changing up the plot or pausing the RP till they have more free time. I’m in a similar situation at this point, trying to get into the head of one of our RPers who won’t post, won’t PM me back. I’m letting another player who has known her longer poke at her for a little bit, but as a group we are all about at the point we’d rather split up the RP if this group doesn’t work out soon.

…And I’m calling this as still being on Tuesday because I haven’t been to bed yet. 😛 Now off to stress about getting my Tuesday shift moved around since I’m supposed to be at class and at work at the same time which is a problem… On a random note, I got the history of the Spiral City and a little of the religion done.

Forum RP Etiquette Part 1: Passive Aggressive Behavior is ANNOYING

Currently Working On:
World Building Eresith
Guardians Ascending Formatting for Kindle

Let’s see if I can go two weeks in a row of actually updating this. Due to events that previously happened a month ago, I honestly feel like someone needs to talk about passive aggressive behavior in forum RPs. And since my personal experience is now reasonably old and I’ve made-good with the person who I called on it, I think I can write about it semi-rationally (which is pretty good for me when it comes to this blog, all things considered).

Forum RPs have their quirks that table and video games don’t. There’s the usual stuff you’d expect for an RP where your control of your character is dictated by writing: being literate, formatting your posts according to the forum rules or in a way that makes reading it clearer for your fellow players (usually by making dialogue stand out from the other text in some way), watching your behavior so you don’t overpower or godmod other characters… And then there’s the quirky part. Which is plotting. Most forum RPs don’t have a GM or DM (Game or Dungeon Master) managing the plot for the players, but instead have one or two people who keep everything organized and relations between players civil. Usually, the person who starts it has approval-power over plot devices and new characters being brought in.

What does all this mean? It means that in forum RPs there’s a bit of politicking, a bit of diplomacy, and a lot of learning that sarcasm and hurt feelings don’t often convey themselves well in posts unless you pointedly say, “This hurts my feelings,” or “[/sarcasm]” at the end of a post. The biggest pet peeve I have is when someone threatens to leave an RP because no one is plotting with their character or they aren’t involved in any current plotting after saying nothing the entire way through the process, or who goes after other people who offer plot points for them that aren’t to their particular liking. Which leads up to my own experience recently…

There is a person in my RP group who shall be called Sue because it suits me to call her so and to protect herself (and me) who recently went on a passive aggressive streak in the thread we were using to plot things out for the RP. Admittedly, someone offered a plot device that was a big, big bad idea without asking her privately about it first (which is another definite don’t-do, always talk to the other person before you bring it up to the whole group), which set her off, but that isn’t a good excuse for what happened. She basically said that she saw no reason for her character to even be in the RP anymore because no one was plotting with her, and every time someone offered something, she shot them down and basically verbally attacked them. Now, here’s why I was so annoyed over her passive-aggressive tactics of pleading the ignored victim. For the past few pages of the thread, I had been begging for someone to throw ideas around for my character and theirs. And she never took me up on it. She wanted everyone to figure out the plots for her, rather than taking a progressive stance and plotting them herself. And admittedly, I responded in anger and publicly when I should have done it in a private conversation (and about two weeks later with a different issue, that’s what I did, which I’ll talk about in Part 2), but I was also sick of me and my friends being attacked for her own failure to act in such a way that set her as an injured victim when that wasn’t the case at all.

So, what does all this mean? Some of the most basics concepts of RP etiquette, after the basic formatting/literacy rules. Approve ideas for another character (or their belongings) with their owner before making the idea public to the rest of the group. Don’t respond out of anger in a thread, but direct it privately. But most important of all, take a proactive stance in the RP and when things aren’t quite going the way you want them to, talk civilly and bluntly to the other players about it, without placing blame on everyone except for yourself. No one is a perfect RPer, and we all need improvement, so accept that critique and work towards making the game/story as amazing and fun as it can be without any unnecessary emotional stress.

Trauma in Character Back Stories Part 1: RP Land

Please read with caution. Nothing graphic, nothing specific, but I wanted to give fair warning…

RPers love torturing characters. Especially in their back story. Part of the reasoning is it adds depth. Usually forum RP characters start out pretty flat, but then we discover more about their past, and the resulting personality quirks and voice, as we work with them. Part of the reasoning is because, let’s be honest, most forum RPs are character-driven rather than plot (with a few exceptions), and without SOMETHING in their history, you’re left with very little to offer your fellow RPers to work with. While there are usually some characters defined by happy moments (especially if you are the annoyingly cheerful member of the group), almost all of them have an aspect or two that is dark and unwanted. The problem is there is a line of how much trauma in the back story is just right, and how much is too much. People first starting in forum RP sometimes struggle with finding the balance, especially since it often varies wildly depending on the character and the current situation in the RP.

The first thing to do is examine your forum’s rules. Yeah, those. The page you normally ignore because it’s usually pretty standard: be nice to your fellow RPers, don’t godmod/powerplay/various other bad habits I’ll discuss at some point… But usually listed in there are a few other “don’t’s”, and they can vary pretty wildly. Some simplify their guidelines by giving you a very specific rating (usually the Movie Ratings version, but occasionally they use the Fiction Rating, such as K, K+, T, and M that those who’ve used since they implimented it are well familiar with). Others give a rule sheet.  Mine (as in, the one I predominantly use) does both, especially on things like what foul language is and is not allowed. Some things to look out for are: what are their rules about violence, both character-character and character-NPC (non-player-character)? What are their rules about anything of a sexual nature? Can you allude to certain acts as long as you don’t describe them, or is it a complete taboo? Is it the same with SI (self-inflected violence, a.k.a. depression/cutting/suicide) as it is with normal violence? My forum had issues with the last one being glamorized before I joined apparently, and now there are very strict rules about it. These rules are important for shaping your character’s back story because if your site doesn’t allow SI but you want your character to either be highly depressed or have the history of depression… you are in deep trouble. It is better and much easier to stick to the guidelines from the beginning than to fix your character later.

Now, whatever trauma you decide is necessary for your character (and it has to be necessary), you need to consider what baggage that entails it. You can’t just say that your character was, for example, in the foster care system and that’s that, and use that as an excuse to keep them from leaving the boarding school on holidays. What all troubles come from spending prolonged time in foster care? Numerous sources have provided details that are important to when you RP a character from that background: a sense of constantly searching for an anchor–often linked to acting out, increased chances of being abused/molested (which could be a repeat for your character if they were removed from their parents’ care, think of how that would mess with their heads), heightened sense of paranoia about their personal safety, usually poor grades due to constantly changing schools, if they don’t have an “attitude problem” they could be the polar opposite and be completely introverted. Some even have panic attacks if their environment changes on them. Trauma has side effects, consequences that come with deciding to lump that into your character’s psyche. It’s important to consider all ramifications to play the character well. One of mine slept under the bed for a while until she was certain no one was going to attack her in her sleep. Another has nightmares every night and, rather than stay in bed, goes up on to the roof. Yet another no longer uses personal pronouns if she can help it, a way of mentally protecting herself (if she’s doesn’t acknowledge it’s her they are talking to, they can’t hurt her).

Obviously, if you pick one trauma, you sometimes end up adding  more and more on top of them. Not bad in some RPs, where the characters are supposed to be constantly dealing with their demons, but for most it’s a pain to keep track of, much less to constantly keep in mind when you are responding to stimulus. I’ve had moments where I want to throw things, because while I don’t want more drama, I know that a character wouldn’t take another’s statement well at all. You really have to feel out where the other characters are, and then see where your character belongs. Talking to your fellow RPers about what kind of RP you want and then discussing what kind of characters are needed can prove that what direction you were thinking was too heavy for the RP. Some RPs need a little of everything, but all in balance.

An excellent example of all this is the X-Men RP I’m in (and to also avoid using d20 characters in case I recycle them later). It’s set about six months now after the end of the third movie. We have, currently, six highly traumatized individuals, six low ones (as in barely anything bad in their back story), and the rest are in between somewhere. With a total cast of about twenty-six characters, that isn’t a bad balance, especially for something that is very heavy on character development rather than plot. Part of my job as a player was, each time I introduced a new character, to gauge where we were and what we needed.

My first character that was more of an adoption was Rogue. I had to make a bunch of contradictory sources talk to each other to make her back story make any kind of sense. The previous player had a style radically different from mine, Anna Paquin in the movies played a Rogue that was near the polar opposite of her usual self, and then due to the similarity between movie!Rogue and Evolution!Rogue in a few scenes, people had merged them together in descriptions… Plus, the only real back stories we have of the original, comicbook!Rogue are all similar enough I knew I needed to share that with the other versions in some way. As a result, she’s one of those high-six I mentioned. I’m going to have to allude to lots of childhood abuse once the plot lets me remove her memory blocks. It was the only way to explain a few of Paquin’s dialogue-absent responses to stimuli, plus blend all the various bits and pieces together in a way that made sense as to why her power was so out of control. She’s also considered one of the core characters for the RP, and a lot of the plot is centered around her in some way.

The second character was Carol Danvers. She’s one of the low-six, due to the fact that between Rogue being Rogue and another plot point shaping up to transform our seventh-low into our sixth-high (poor Kitty), we had enough drama going on. I wanted a little silly, plus I intended to knock her off eventually anyway via absorption by Rogue (comic canon for the win), so I thought it would be a nice, temporary lightening to have her flirt with Hank. She has very little trauma in her back story, aside from the token discrimination due to her genetic status and a stint as an ugly duckling as a teenager. Now, we are no longer killing her; the silly-flirting between her and the oblivious Hank has become one of the few light points in the RP.

Third was Wanda, who fell into the middle. Again, we needed a little relief from all the drama, serious-business going on, but in order for us to have a saptastic-couple, I needed to get her and John in the same place at the same time. A little trauma in the form of mandatory detention in a facility for forcibly-Cured mutants was the only solution due to released information about what happens to John after the third film ends. The latest characters, Laura and Charles, are near opposites. Laura is a high-six, due to the fact her back story came pre-written in the comics/cartoon she originated from. I did what I could to lighten it (took away the crazy lady who kept chopping her arms off, for starters), but too much and she wouldn’t have been recognizable (bad in this kind of RP). Charles is going to be another middle character, his heavy guilt over his survival when he intended to die balanced out that he’s back, then lifted almost into a low-trauma by his perfect timing.

It’s all about what’s needed at the time, balancing it with what the other characters are doing/have done, and in the case of RPs based off of other stories (comics, movies, books, etc.), using the material provided by the source, as well as considering the consequences of each trauma inflicted. Rogue’s traumas get to the point that she would rather have more people living in her head, driving her closer to insanity and death thanks to her metabolism-via-her-mutation being in overdrive, than to risk being hurt. Wanda is never going to recover from her time in the facility, she’s always going to be a little unbalanced. And Laura… Laura sometimes forgets she isn’t a weapon.

One last quick note. There isn’t anything “glamorous” about what happened to these characters and the emotions they now feel. Some of them are in constant pain or on the edge of it. They are haunted and it will never leave them be until they are in the grave. All of them (…aside from Carol…) need help, sometimes pretty badly, but don’t know how to ask for it.