LESSON Passive Vs. Active Roleplaying

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Soulserenity20, Jul 1, 2016.

  1. Passive Vs. Active Roleplaying

    Group roleplays are a whole new world of writing when compared to individual writing projects. Group dynamics require all sorts of new skills and efforts that were simply not required during solo writing and some players struggle with adapting to these new skills throughout their entire roleplaying careers! Today, I will be tackling one of the writing issues I’ve discovered over the last few years here on iwaku. It’s a writing issue I’ve encountered in others, and experienced for myself. It’s an issue that can bring group RP’s to a violent halt, it can crumble collaborations, and drain the life right out of any great plot! This is… PASSIVE ROLEPLAYING! (Dun dun duunnnn!)

    Now, to make sure we’re on the same page, I will define passive and active roleplaying:

    Passive roleplaying is roleplaying which fails to stimulate, or takes away from, the progression of the plot, actions, and responses in a collaborative setting.
    E.g. “Tom ran into the field and caught the ball that Mira had thrown.”

    Active roleplaying, on the other hand, is roleplaying which stimulates or encourages actions, responses, and plot movement in a collaborative setting.
    E.g. “Tom ran into the field and caught the ball the Mira had thrown, taunting her to come get it as he ran back to her and circled her teasingly.”

    Passive roleplaying comes in many forms and each one can cause problems for the other players that are trying to work with you to keep the roleplay active. Active roleplaying makes it very easy for other players to respond, offering a point of either action response or verbal response. Active roleplaying encourages new events in the plot. Passive roleplaying tends to make it difficult for other players to respond to what you wrote, leaving them feeling unstimulated, as if they’re looking at a literary brick wall.


    Now, I understand that some people believe passive roleplaying has its place! And if you are using it to, say, encourage another player to really think and force their writing to be out of the box and excessively creative, or if you're roleplaying a teacher v. a student, as the student, then by all means! Do so! (A student can be a more passive role, though it doesn't have to be.) BUT… make sure the player knows this is what you’re trying to do because for most people, it’s just incredibly frustrating to give and give and get nothing in return!

    Now, how do we pick out passive roleplaying? Well, the first step is to look for action and verbal response points in your writing.

    Does your post contain a stimulating factor that encourages the other players to respond either by action or by conversation?

    WAIT. What are action and verbal response points? How do I know if my post has them or not??

    Good question. An action response point is any part of your post that directly encourages an action-based response from the other writers. This could be anything, so here are a few examples of the action response points:
    • Merrikhai rushes forward at Ariana, his sword drawn, and brings it down in a heavy swooping motion. (This encourages a physical action response from Ariana , she must move, be hit, or counter! She certainly can’t do nothing!)
    • Cosmaur Sarpe cracked the mighty boughs of the tree and sent them dropping to the ground, landing in a heavy whoosh next to the tamers. Dust flew up from the ground, filling the air with a thick cloud of particles. He then picked up the mass and began to drag it to where the group was building a the new town hall, beckoning for the pair to follow him. (This encourages coughing, scolding, following, etc. It does not FORCE a response, as the other one does, but it certainly offers numerous action responses points for the other writers.)
    • Merrikhai leaned in, placing a hand gently on Ariana’s cheek, his eyes met hers and his expression asked permission as he waited for her to close the moment. (This calls for a variety of new responses!)
    • Bumping into someone
    • Shoving someone
    • Touching someone
    • Throwing something at someone
    • Leading someone over rough terrain
    • Spooking someone
    • Requesting an action
    Now here are a few verbal response points:
    • Merrikhai sat and breathed quietly for a moment before asking Ariana if she had ever been to the Bodhra’s highest peak. (This encourages a story from the other player!)
    • Arianalooked up at her beloved dragon and nodded her head over to where Cosmaur Sarpe sat, his black scales shining in the evening light. “Well? Aren’t you going to go over there?” (This requires the other character to respond in defense, or maybe just silently act. The other player certainly can’t avoid a response.)
    • The townsfolk looked to Ariana and began to chant her name, pride veiling their hearts and voices. “Speach! Speach!” They called out. (This very clearly encourages a verbal response from the character.)
    Now we’ll give you an example of passive roleplaying. Let’s see if you can spot the passive lines.

    Passive writing example:

    1. Ariana led Merrikhai through the village along its lone, central path, providing an overarching view of the small settlement’s dilapidated buildings and dirtied street corners. The homes were crammed together along the side of the road, though not for lack of space; structurally speaking, each home precariously supporting the next, and like a line of dominoes, she feared if one collapsed, they all would. Peeking out from grimy windows were small children, watching the two as they passed down the dusty street. Her heart sank for those children, but there was hope. Always hope.

    “Pirn was hit rather hard by the recent storms,” Ariana explained to her companion as they walked, hands clasped before her. “Many lost their homes, and their families. They are a humble and hard working people, but there is only so much men can do in dire circumstances as these.”

    “The displaced live there.” The path ended before a church, teeming with life. She stopped and turned to stand in front of Merrikhai, full of hope. “I hope it isn’t too much to ask, but a little help goes a long way for people like those of Pirn. Surely we could help them in building anew, repairing their homes, their streets. It’s within our bounds. What do you say?”

    2. As they walked, Merrkhai took in the devastation that had clasped the village in the wake of the recent storm. “Certainly there is much work to be done.” He said as they walked. He listened to the words of his comrade, another dragon tamer that had long been known for her efforts in the field of humanitarianism. “You’re very right, a little effort will do much for this pitiful village. They are in great need of help.”

    3. “Perhaps most vital is giving those without a place to live a proper home.” Ariana said, gesturing to the church before them. “A place of worship is not a home! But I know very little of architecture and building. Finding materials should be no problem at all, but we will need to find somebody to compose schematics and the like. After that problem has been solved, we can focus instead on the existing homes, and fix them up a bit. Would you happen to know anybody who can help? An architect of sorts?”

    4.. “I do,” he nodded in response. “I know several, but few in this region, I admit. Pirn has little to offer in terms of fine craftsmen. The nearest I could think of would be Dawn Merker in the far woods, south of this region. She knows much of her trade and has a kind heart. I doubt she’d expect any kind of payment.” He looked at Ariana then, his green eyes settling onto her own pale, purple orbs.

    5. She smiled then, growing ecstatic at the prospect. “That’s great! We should go to speak to her right away. But first, I have one more thing to show you. It will be a bit of a challenge, but I have no doubt that we can do it.” She extended her hand to his, motioning towards the open doors of the building in front of them. “Come on.”

    6. Taking her hand, he followed closely as she led him through the village. As they made their way through the meager streets, sadness filled his heart. They had been devastated by the storm and had no means to rebuild. The poverty that struck most regions of Illos was difficult to stomach. This was why the Order had devoted a great amount of their efforts and resources towards rebuilding and reinforcing the infrastructure of as many small settlements as they could. After all, a stronger people made for a stronger nation.

    On and on they went and as they moved, his curiosity grew. He wondered where she might be taking him, but said nothing.

    7. Ariana led him to an area of the small village that she had not brought him to before. Among the ruined houses of the town, this structure was one of the worst. Constructed with thin planks of wood and cloth, like a tent, it was a makeshift orphanage, and as the pair approached, the sound of children’s voices came from inside the shoddy building. The door was nothing more than a loose hanging blanket, which she held aside as she gestured for Merrikhai to enter.

    Inside the sparse room were children, dozens of them. They stopped what they were doing to look up at the strangers. “Who’s that?” One called.

    “They need a home,” Ariana said. “They’re all orphans, without anybody to turn to. The least we could do is build them something better.” She knelt down to the height of the children, beckoning to Merrikhai. “Come. Introduce yourself to them. They don’t bite.”

    8. Merrikhai felt his heart lurch. He looked to Ariana and felt a sincere love for her as she, once again, showed him the size of her heart. She was right, the children needed a home. This would be their newest project. This would be their greatest project. All across Illos, even after they finished in Pirn, they would ensure the young, future generations of their great land would thrive and be well-looked after. He made his way into the large, dingy building and sat down with one of the children, smiling as he introduced himself.

    Now, let's pick it apart!

    In section 1, we see that my good friend @Rainjay provided an intro to the scene and ended her post with a very easy to answer question. This is a classic verbal response. It's easy to respond to, and certainly doesn't allow me to NOT respond.

    In section 2, I was a Passive Peggy and I responded in a VERY common, passive way: by simply responding. Think of this as a game of catch. In this case, she tossed me the ball, and I caught it. And that's all that happened. For section 3 she had to come over and get the ball back so she could throw it to me again.

    In section 3 she gave me another great opportunity to use my character and his knowledge/past, etc. to contribute and take the reins. Now, in section 4, instead of actually doing all those things, I "caught the ball" again but refused to throw it back. I also made a common passive action that some might think is a strong active action, but it's usually not: I made my character look at hers! This, is certainly an action. Could she respond to it? Yes. But is it really any form of an ideal stimulation for her response? No. It's not really. It's ridiculously passive and I give nothing else for her to go on. I don't ask questions, I don't "put the ball in her court" instead I hold the ball.... and stare at her.

    In section 5, she goes at it again with trying to get me to do something; chipping away at the brick wall, if you will. She encourages my response by offering a hand to my char and starting a new plot point. This lets me respond in any number of interesting ways! I could have Merrikhai tease her and run ahead, I could have him question her secrecy, or simply take her hand and grasp it. While this particular case is certainly a less active response (because she is trying to show me something and I can't act directly on that something without knowing what it is) I could certainly have added in a verbal response point, or something.

    Now in section 6 I did another classic passive writing technique: the internal thought process! These are great for char development and let others see into your char's mind but if that's all you're going to do? Don't expect others to respond. If everything is internal, you're just a rag doll on the outside and nobody really plays with ragdolls anymore.

    In section 7, Rain gave me a great chance to show my char's true colors and contribute tons of ideas and actions and all sorts of fun stuff! What did I do in section 8? I started looking for bricks to extend the length of my wall O_O

    In setion 8 I certainly responded, but the response offered no active ways to entice rain to respond to my char. I isolated him by saying nothing, I isolated him by having him interact with an NPC in a very 1-to-1 manner, effectively shunning Ariana from the interaction, and I kind of just ended the whole thing. I could have given ideas or stimulated the plot development but instead I focused only on what my char was doing: responding. My char doesn't act, and without action you 'll have a hard time having an active post.

    I hope this worked to sort of clear things up a bit. Being an active roleplayer is so important for being in a group roleplay. GM's HAVE to be active roleplayers, but players really owe it to each other and to the GM to be the same way. Active roleplaying stimulates depth in a roleplay, in char-to-char relationships, and really enriches everyone's experiences. Writer's block is a lot less common when you're in an active group of roleplayers and you'll find everyone is a lot more involved.

    If you have questions, don't be afraid to ask.

    Happy writing.
    #1 Soulserenity20, Jul 1, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
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  2. This is a good lesson with good info, but your choice of terms confused me at first. I usually hear this referred to as active and passive roleplaying, whereas the terms passive writing and active writing used in broader contexts usually refers to subject and verb arrangement in a sentence.

    This is good stuff that a lot of people can make use of though, so don't mind my minor nitpicking. :P
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  3. Lol you're right. It may be confusing. I'll correct it so people don't think this is a grammar lesson!
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  4. Yeah, I had the same reaction. But, once I realized what the guide was actually about, I was mostly willing to look past that small issue, as it's still a very useful guide (especially since passive RPing is probably one of my biggest RP pet peeves o_o).

    But yeah, it's probably best to clean up that bit of confusion, since it's an easy fix.
  5. This is seriously the BIGGEST reason i hate doing 1x1 roleplays. When one person puts all of the effort into the rp and has to actively Struggle to keep the rp going... its so frustrating. I love this post and hope a lot of people learn from it.
  6. Yes it certainly deters me from 1x1's! When you feel like the GM to a sole other player it can be tough.
  7. Beautiful guide, Soulserenity - extremely well done! Kudos to you, and I'd toss rose petals before your feet given the option ;)

    Seriously, a timely and thorough discussion of one of THE MOST FRUSTRATING parts of doing some 1x1s.
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  8. Oh goodness is this a beautiful guide. I have struggled so many times with passive partners in 1x1s and groups. I find it to be more devastating in a 1x1 than in a group since in groups you can just write yourself away from the passive ones.
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  9. *blushes* well thank you.

    I might just write another lesson or two in the future if an idea comes up. But generally iwaku is filled with very skilled and wonderful writers! That being said, there is nothing more devastating than seeing a great RP filled with great players find its way to the graveyard because of unintentional passiveness.
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