Tag Archives: Role Playing

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.


Tabletop RP: Gender and DnD

So. I play DnD. With a bunch of guys. No other girls in the group, and all attempts to add girls to the group have not been met well (one for other reasons, but yeah, hasn’t worked out). Now, I know other girls who play, and have groups that are much more mixed gendered. I just didn’t fall into those groups, and my schedule doesn’t mesh with them. Leaving me stuck with the guys.

And let me tell you, this gets uncomfortable for very quickly.

Now, it doesn’t get uncomfortable for these guys. Because I don’t talk about girly things with them and I work very hard to keep topics away from subjects that while I might enjoy them, I know will bore or make them uncomfortable. Because that’s what our society encourages in female behavior.

Now, if only I could get the same respect.

Frequently, things take a turn for the disgusting, the over-sexed, or sometimes a weird mix of both that really makes me uncomfortable. Especially when they start making references to certain animes and video games, which are notorious for being for the male gaze. And speaking up doesn’t get me any favors, not really, since nothing will actually change. Now, I could be overly sensitive, but I think my experiences and the conversations I have with other female players reveal some serious differences in how the genders play DnD.

For one thing, I’ve noticed that guys tend to go out of their way to make crazy characters. And by crazy, I mean mixing, matching, and combining races, classes, and feats in order to get the most over-powered character possible. Now, if I make something overpowered, it’s by pure accident (the wu jinja gestalt class comes to mind, though I haven’t had enough chances to play it to be sure). I tend to pick a class that fits with the kind of character I’m playing, sticking to classes I know I’ll enjoy playing rather than ones I know will irk me (…like the wu jin, not a good pick in hindsight). The more complicated it is, the more I have to keep up with which distracts me from the game.

So with these crazy characters, you would think the guys were just as invested in the games we play as I am, right? Well, sorta. Some of the group is just wanting to push to see how much they can get away with by terms of the rules. They don’t really do back stories or character investments, and are pretty blase about their characters dying. Even the others who do care about story are always ready to move on to the next thing. Which is pretty contra to Ginny’s understanding of other groups, which treat the characters as investments (which is how i would prefer to play). I create complex back stories for my characters for a reason, and to see it go to waste just frustrates me, so one DM has even lost the privilage for me to do that anymore.

More than anything, I’m noticing, at least in my group, that it comes down to differences in what they play for. Now, these are huge generalizations, but it seems to me that boys play for the laughs and the oh my gods. They want to see how outrageous they can get and the more crazy, the better. But for us girls, it’s about the story, it’s about the characters and the actual RPing.

I’m not saying that boys don’t enjoy the characters and story. They can, and do. But get a group of them together, and they are going to be forgotten in favor of seeing how much damage a fireball spell can do. I’m not saying girls don’t enjoy battles. I love blowing things up and getting critical hits too, but if you put me with a group of other girls, we’re probably going to focus almost entirely on the story and the rest of the system will be an afterthought. Groups need either balance or focus, depending on the set up. So in my case, I have one DM who understands my need for story, the others needs to blow things up. The other…can’t seem to figure this out.

And as a DM myself, I need to learn to read what a group needs. Obviously, I’m going to want to lean towards the story angle myself, but that isn’t going to work with this group of guys. I need to figure out how to feed their need for chaos and my own for story at the same time.

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.

Tabletop RP: d20 Future

…I have no idea how I skipped a week. Really, I don’t. But I’m sorry! Hopefully I can get things straightened out around here…

This post is talking about another system, created by the same people who brought us Dungeons and Dragons, meant for people who intend to try and RP something in either a modern or future setting. My friends and I just call it d20 Future to reference both. While some of the schematics are the same, there are some differences that make the entire process more enjoyable…and more of a headache.

First, the fun side. I know it might sound crazy, but I really like that it breaks from the traditional alignment system and instead focuses on what a character is loyal to. Sometimes, the three by three system is  rather limiting if you have a particular concept that you are trying to base your character’s motivations around. Using this loyalty based system, it allows you to play with that rather than limiting your actions to just what is considered good or evil or lawful or chaotic. Sometimes your decisions you make for your character are based on something like what their family would think of him/her or if its all about choices (taken from a friend’s idea). It opens up a lot of what you can do with your character.

In the same regard, the classes are really versatile. They focus on a particular strength, such as dexterity/speed or charm, but leave so many of the particulars up to you and what you pick for the profession and feats. It makes the classes super customizable, perfect for a modern or future RP since for a DM, you can run almost anything, and as a player…you can run almost anything. Really, it can cause some seriously awesome campaigns. I have a character who is not what she looks like at all, just because of the different things I picked for her. And she’s in a Gundam inspired campaign. Yeah, this is going to get amusing. I’ve also made a space pirate of all things. There are almost no limits.

…notice I said almost. Some of the things are kinda wonky, and I’m not afraid of calling them on it. To begin with, the way different progress levels work together is often confusing or completely nonsensical, and it makes me wonder if anyone capable of logic looked over the book before they published it. I also think it relies rather heavily on the player being interested in the mechanics about scifi. As my earlier post on hard sci fi versus soft sci fi shows, I am not that big on hard sci fi, and like having wiggle room for interpretation. Having had one DM who thrived on being rule-bound and loves hard sci fi, I wish that there was almost two versions of this. One for the soft sci fi people, one for the rule mongers.

The characters are also very, very squishy at first. And experience is hard to get. It makes the first few levels hard from a DM’s perspective, because you don’t want to just curb-stomp your players. Or at least, most people don’t want to. From a player’s perspective, it’s hard to meet almost any check, and then to further complicate things is battle. Most of the weapons are guaranteed to kill you in one hit, if not two, and there is almost nothing you can do to bolster AC at first level. So you have the problem of how do you get experience points to be less squishy…without getting riddled with bullets in the process. Both times I’ve been involved in any kind of campaign, the DM’s solution has been to give us mechs, which can sometimes actually over power the opposition until everything blows up.

Speaking of stuff, oh my lord. The purchasing system. I seriously think they’ve lost their minds. You basically end up with these point systems to reflect how much something is worth in comparison to each other, and you start out with that point and basically can afford…EVERYTHING that costs that point or less. And then if you want something higher, you roll (oh, but you can take 20) and just… MESS, it’s a  MESS. With more issues from the progress levels changing how many points something is worth or if its available or if a better version is available… I hate doing inventory with this system. Absolutely hate it. And I normally love that part, so that says something.

Overall, I think this is a good first attempt at trying to take their success in the traditional high fantasy settings and RPG, and shift it to modern and future scifi. But they were a little too broad with it over all, and if they had broken it down into very clear, separate systems rather than sort of meshing and merging everything to work together, I think it would have been stronger. Except the inventory system That needs taken out back and shot.

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.

Tabletop RP: The Importance of Player Consent

Obviously, no Dresden yet. BUT I literally have a copy in my purse now. I just can’t read it in one night and then turn around and review it in that same night (sorry, not that fast). So I’m skipping to this and you’ll get several posts of Dresden in a row, how about that?

To begin, let me say that I am in one of THOSE moods involving this topic, so I might get a little touchy throughout this post. Normally I try to curb this, post about stuff LONG after it has happened, but this was planned months ago and now current events are interfering. I’m editing myself, but something might slip through.

As DMs, we are effectively playing God with our worlds. Our word is the last word, the story goes in the direction we say it goes, and if you piss us off, we can end the world and be done with it. That means all the power is in our court, right? Ehhhh, not really. Don’t get me wrong, you have the reins for a lot of stuff, including the lives of the players’ characters. But with that power, as the cliched Spiderman quote goes, comes responsibility to your players. Remember, D&D is all about having fun as a group. Going all Wrath-of-God isn’t fun for any of them, and really if you get to that point, it isn’t fun for you either.

In my opinion, a big way to avoid it all is for there to be open communication between the DM and the players. It both seems really obvious and yet really infringing at the same time, so let me explain further before you hit the back button. I’m not saying to tell your players what their campaign’s plot is going to be, what monsters they are going to be facing, ask what they want to happen, anything like that. I’m saying that you should find out what they as players want out of a campaign. Do they want to really get to use this underused class feature? Is there something in their backstory they would like to see come up? Things like that. You want to know what would really make your players excited and invested in the game, and while you may not do it exactly as they want (in fact, I encourage you not to for the surprise factor), it will help them feel like they are having fun and they will stay invested in the story that you are telling.

On the player side of it, you have to let your DM know if something bugs you. My DMs know I’m arachnophobic, so they keep spider-like monsters to a minimum and don’t show me the pictures. They know I don’t like character mods being forced on me, so they try and make it to where either it’s a plot thing that I willingly agree to in some way (though one is pushing it, so I’m feeding him enough rope to either save or hang himself) or avoid them at all. Otherwise, I’ve learned to keep my hands out of the situation and let them try and tell me the story they created. I like it when my character’s backstory is involved, I like battles where we manage to kick butt. Those are things the DMs try to provide to our group, balancing it with the others’ desire for chaos and destruction.

Reasons why this is important are nights like tonight. The DM taking over our newest campaign (which is going to be Pathfinder, new system, joy) is the same one who ran Lucine’s (see the post about plot rails). This is his first campaign since, and to be honest, I don’t trust him not to screw me over just to prove some arbitrary point. Again. So when I decided to play the Falconer archetype, I thought it was a chance to try to take a better bird that would be harder for him to kill…only I have gotten turned down at every path I’ve tried to take today. I can’t trust him as a DM with a bird that only has 2 HP (yeah, that’s the situation without a better bird), and it’s part of the class. So now I have to rebuild my character. From scratch. And I’ve gone from pissy to frustrated to nearly in tears. This isn’t fun for me anymore, and sadly, all the campaigns are starting to feel this way.

Well, now that I’ve depressed myself thoroughly… Anyone have any stories about a DM either helping make a session great or sinking it to the darkest pits of Hades?

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.

News Since…October?!

Yeesh, I sort of died over here, didn’t I? I deeply apologize, everybody, but hopefully my explanation will make up for it.

This last semester, I was taking a class similar to Independent Study, in the sense that it was me working on a story one-on-one with a professor. In this case, I chose to start revising the first book in the Shadow Day Quartet. There were problems with the plot that I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and I definitely needed some advice. Right before I met with the professor, I did an exercise that made me realize that I had twice, if not three times, the amount of characters I needed, and then Prof. Chester pointed out I was lacking a direct antagonist for the main character, then helped me with setting Mari and Natile apart, which gave me a huge plot hole in the newly revised plot line…which is where I’m stuck at now. I need to fix the plot, but I’m roughly a third of the way through the rewrite, with only the first four chapters needing a severe overhaul due to me relearning the important parts of my craft. I brought either a revised plot (it took me a few times to get something solid) or a chapter every week to my meeting with Chester, leading to an average of about 2,250 to 2,750 words a week.

Another class I was taking was Commercial Non-Fiction. These are books like The Diary of Anne-Frank, Longitude, etc. They deal with real events/information, but tell the story like a novel. I had the option of working on my idea to do a study on the various different stories about Anastasia Romanov, but in the end realized I would not have the time to do the research I needed. So I defaulted and wrote about jousting, both in medieval times and in modern medieval fairs/shows. Most of the stuff currently written is everything I don’t need research for thanks to my AOA, aside from the one interview I did manage to get in and the necessary little bit of intell I got on different horse breeds beyond my own handfuls of knowledge… I got most of my part done with it, and the book really just needs me to finish doing interviews to add other people’s opinion/knowledge. That said, I wrote 25,000 words in a very condensed time frame and was quite ready to kill things by the end of it. Each week once the writing started was 4,000 words, required, and then the last one was 5,000.

The final class I was taking was the first half of my graduate project, the second book in the Shadow Day Quartet. It took us quite a while to get my plot beaten down into something that made sense, and the first two chapters are rough. Really rough. I’m used to getting a first draft to get the kinks out before a professor reads it, and it showed. But I finally got my stuff together, and managed to get the first four chapters written. Out of seventeen plus epilogue. The format to this class worked the exact same as the sort-of Independent Study, even with the same professor, only I didn’t necessarily have to turn anything in during a given week (something I found out at the end of the semester, and it saved my bacon). My chapters were also longer, usually from 2,750 to 3,250.

This is all on top of trying to keep my forum RPs alive and weekly prompts, which the prompts alone varied from around 1,200 words to 4,000 words. So lots and lots of writing happened, and something just had to give. Sadly, it was the blog. I had planned though to pick up the blog after my family vacation. Immediately after Dead Week (and my poor advertising students’ early final), I went off to Las Vegas, Nevada for the National Finals Rodeo with my family. Even better, I got to go see Tournament of Kings over at the Excaliber (and make fun of them a little. Great show, but their Arthur story needs help). It was fun, and I even got to leave with more money than I arrived with, thanks to a lot of luck.

Everything seemed to be going alright… And then somebody got on to the return flight from Vegas to Amarillo sick. Guess who got whatever congestion nightmare that was? At first, I thought it was from my ears popping like six times a day from riding the elevator (we were on the 22nd floor of the hotel), but by Sunday I couldn’t breath through my nose, and breathing through my mouth led to coughing. I was still really tired/coughy all the way up to Christmas, when I carpooled back to the Oklahoma Panhandle with my older brother. He asked me to drive up to Tulsa, and we left from there. Along the way, I lost my cruise control on my car (still need to get that looked at, actually…), but thankfully he was driving his up to the panhandle and I got to sleep most of the way thanks to my meds knocking me out like a light.

Now, my wrist has been doing this popping thing whenever I bent it back, and then popping again when I bent it forward, usually only after I’d had a really, REALLY long day of writing. My family informed me in Vegas that this was carpel tunnel, and I needed to start wearing a brace before it got worse. I heard, but since I was having trouble with even the concept of getting oxygen into my body, I hadn’t managed to buy a brace yet. Big. Mistake. Driving back from my brother’s place in Tulsa to my place in Norman without cruise control messed with my wrist sooooo bad… Yeah, writing has become a little bit of a hassle. Thankfully, it has slowly been getting better.

So what has gotten done around here? Well, for one, I’m going to come out and admit to being Eva-Emaria on deviantart.com, as well as in the comment section of webcomics, including Hurrocks Fardel. Now, how the heck is this relevant? For those of you who follow this comic (which should be everyone, its actually really clever and well-paced), there was a contest a few months ago to create characters to be featured in the comic. Since my character, a swan maiden/valkyrie named Eira, won, I’ve been working on her Guard, getting them drawn, bios written, and all posted on my deviantart page. It has taken me almost a year now, but it is finished at last. Very tentatively, I want to someday do a webcomic involving these characters, but I need a few things to happen in Hurrocks Fardel before I attempt to do that, since I need to know more about the world. I also got over the severe burnout that the crazy semester had given me, partially thanks to a new story idea that I’ve added to my list of projects. It’s planned just enough that I won’t go crazy thinking about it.

What are the goals for this semester? Well, one of my classes has me reading basically a book a week, and doing short reports over most of them, four presentations over the others, plus a decent sized final paper. My only other class is finishing my grad novel. In an ideal world, I’m done way early with my second book, like before Spring Break early, so I can be defended and done with it. I have Medieval Fair coming up on April 5, and I need to have my costume and armor (yeah, I’m making armor, be afraid) finished by February 15. And then, provided I’ve done what I need to do to get the grad project done and over with, I’d like to get the first book’s rewrite finished by May.

Outside of writing, I am on the permanent-job hunt for post-graduation, ideally starting June 2 and giving me time to take a two week vacation/work trip up to New Orleans before hand. I’d like to be in an associate professor job, but since I can’t leave Oklahoma for family reasons, I’d be willing to accept just about anything that lets me stay in the rough area where I am. Once I get the job lined up, I get to go house hunting. *rubs hands and cackles* Yep, I’m sick of apartments and am quite ready to be somewhere where there is at LEAST three feet between me and the next house. Plus, I need a fenced in back yard for my poor dog to be moved down here with me.

Now, to the point. What does all this mean for the blog? Basically, I’m ideally going to have the time to start posting on here more regularly, thanks to me finally going, “Rebecca, you DERP, write the post over the week and just schedule it to go up on Thursdays!” I’ll let you all know also when I finish the different books, as well as when my new job/house are lined up. I will definitely want some advice on places to see in New Orleans outside of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. And with that, I’ll see you all next Thursday!

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.