Tag Archives: RP

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.


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.


News: New Category, Changes to Posts, New Content Coming Soon!

So, I was avoiding doing this until I was actually published, but, well. I guess because of what I want to say this week, I need a News category!

What’s going to to into this category? Basically, it’s going to be where you find any announcements as far as when the blog is going to update, if the content is going to be changing, all of that fun stuff, so I’m not sticking it at the bottom of posts anymore since that isn’t fair to people who may miss an entry. (And yes, I totally missed last Sunday because I’m derp. My fault entirely.) In the future (whenever the heck that ends up being, I’m drowning in the first half of Act 2) that’s where I’ll announce when something is coming out, when I’ll (hopefully) be doing appearances and book signings, all of that.

For the other half of this little post… I’m getting burned out of posting about RPing. I mean, I occasionally have something to talk about (I have one Tabletop post in mind), and I’m sure that will still happen on occasionally, but overall, I’ve about hit the end of it, making my cycle hard to keep up with. I could force stuff out, but that could end up being a nightmare.

As for reviews, its hard some weeks for me to post anything that’s relevant. I had a brand new book that I swore wasn’t part of a series… Only I checked the front before I started reading it, and it’s the second book in one. Second books are guaranteed to be bad. I’m not going to whack on a new writer like that (okay, I could, but I’m trying to be nicer!). I’m trying to move more to recent publications, but those take time (and money) for me to find. I have a box of quasi-recent publications coming my way (thank you Ginny!), but even then, sometimes I just don’t have time during the week to read a book and write a review about it, since I have hit the busiest part of my year.

So what does this mean? Well, I’m throwing the cycle out the window. There will be still be reviews, talking about RPing, talking about writing. But what happens when is going to be completely random. It’s a scary thing for me, I like knowing what I’m doing when, but I think this change needs to happen. The cycle was fine when I had more free time in grad school, but now I’m finding my feet out in the working world, and I’m discovering that this means some things need to change with how I’m doing my personal life. I’ve slowed down my forum RPs, for example, and really focus on writing on the weekends. So I think the blog needs to change too.

That said, I do have some new content coming up. I started playing an MMORPG (which is why I don’t manage any writing on the weekdays in the evening), and a friend of mine and I are going to do journals of the “days.” I’ll add that soon, but those posts are going to be REALLY random. Like I may post two or three a week and then NOTHING for a month, kind of random. But I hope you all will enjoy some free story from me, and hope it will encourage people to check out what I do have up on Kindle and my future work.


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?


Tabletop RP: Plot Rails, a DM’s Worst Enemy

So, as a DM you have a brilliant story idea or goal for your team to reach. But certain things have to happen in a specific order, and to insure it happens, you just make it impossible for your players to do anything but what you need them to do for your story to happen like you plan.

Congratulations. You just put your party on the rails and, if my experience with this is any indicator, ended your campaign because none of your players are going to stay with you.

Now, my first attempt at DMing got put on hold because my school work went insane, but there were early indicators that I was accidentally straying into this territory myself, so we’re going to reset it period. But one of our group members who was running a military/mech style campaign with d20 Future actually did this on purpose, and between those two events, I think this needs to be something that DMs learn about the warning signs for and why it bothers players so much.

First, from the player’s side of things. The d20 Future campaign had already been on rocky grounds. For one, the distribution of which characters were useful and which weren’t was way out of balance, even among the party. Some of that is the way that weapons work in d20 Future (more on that in a later post), but some of it was the style of missions we were dealing with. An example with my character: I had set Lucine up to be the soldier. She was an all-around soldier rather than a specialist, so she had some ranks in several of her skills and I went the Smart Hero track, letting her be a variable skill monkey. She was also, fighting wise, suppose to be support/sniper/hand-to-hand, ensuring that the party would always have some other defense. There were two other Smart Heroes in the party, who were specialized, a Fast/Smart mesh Hero, and a Charismatic Hero (if I remember right). I wasn’t the only character that got underutilized with the start of the campaign, but we were slowly figuring things out, so I thought that we would be in a good place after the first few kinks were figured out.

We had left off the previous session invading a base. Now, for those who haven’t looked at my bio, when it comes to video games and such, I tend to stick to medieval fantasy games, or ones that aren’t particularly modern or technical. My DM? He glorifies in that style of game. I was really relying on my fellow game players to make sure we took care of the things we needed to. Problem? Almost all my fellow gamers live to do anything they can get away with. So since we didn’t do one thing, the DM felt we needed to face the consequences. What followed was a complete nightmare. My character was tortured (electro-shock style, and the only one to go through standard torture), the others had their own little interrogation sessions, we lost all our gear, even mods that were done to some of our bodies (not mine, I hate those, but the smart/fast character had a few). And then for those of us who were deemed “strong test subjects”…? You guessed it. We had forced mods/templates put on us. Mutations, to be specific, that were completely irreversible. My biggest hatred in ANY RPG where I create the character. I was done.

So why do players hate this? On my side of it, I felt like I was being punished, and the others felt like we’d had no ways of fighting back, meaning we weren’t playing a game anymore, we were just listening to the DM tell us a story, which isn’t the purpose or fun part of the game. There wasn’t even a chance for an escape attempt, which blew my mind. And through the entire session, we’d literally had no control over what we could do, besides what we could say, and even that was lost to some of us with the use of truth serum (that he forgot to mention was truth serum, that was annoying). As for the mutations/templates, I will always hate the ones I have no say in. Mostly because this is my character and while yes, you as the DM get to write the story, but if you are going to be doing any unchangeable and unavoidable modifying to my part in it, I want to know what and when.* Some of my characters, I’m even okay with it to a certain degree. But it takes time on my part to adjust to the change. (The DM later claimed, btw, he did this to my character specifically because he felt I was too attached to my characters and viewed them as versions of me. I’m still pissed off about this.)

*Note: this does not include plot stuff, like the character’s parents dying or something. In fact, I usually HAND the DM plot crap that they are free to use against me.

So how can a DM recognize that they are about to use the rails? I realized that I had done it with my mercenary campaign because of the difficult I was having running the session. Some of this is the fact my fellow DMs have letting-go-of-control issues, but there is a portion of this that is mine for not having stuff planned out in the right way to leave me prepared and them still have their choices. I also had issues with coming up with challenges that would let each player have their moment to shine, whether it be one’s always creative way out of situations or the other using this class that I am DEEPLY not familiar with, and he didn’t brief me on before we started.

(Here’s a tip, by-the-by. If you are using a class from a supplemental book of any sort, be it war mage, favored soul, or anything else other than what is in Player’s Handbook, bring either a copy of the book or find a link to it and send it to the DM so they can look over the class and know exactly what you are and aren’t capable of. Same if you have a race or trait you want to take on. DMs can’t be familiar with every single aspect in the entire Dungeons and Dragons franchise, especially newer DMs. Even our most experience DM hadn’t known about the prophet-variant of Favored Souls until I told him about it.)

I realized I had thrown them into the main plot waaaaay too early, and had made it way too rigid (sort of baby-rails, which are a good warning sign to look for). I have a better idea now on how to structure it so it is still, at it’s core, a mercenary campaign and they have choices to make, but my grand “save the world” plot can happen at the same time, at their pace. I guess the biggest warning sign is to look at what you are planning on happening that session. Are their chances for the players to fight back or escape or bargain their way out? What are you going to be doing to them, and are they (as players) okay with that, or do you have one or two who really hate it and it would be better to plan something else? If you absolutely must do it, is there a save possible? (No saves and sucky consequences are never a good thing to use, btw. Players hate them. It’s one thing to end up Blessed with Suck because of the Random Number God. It’s another to just be screwed over by Word of God.)


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.