Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY SKILLBUILDING' started by Diana, Jun 18, 2011.

  1. Prevent Roleplay Death: Handy Tips for any Player.

    Roleplay Death can happen quick or it can happen slow, it can be the Game Master's fault or the Player’s fault. However it happens, it occurs way too often - killing games that would otherwise be spectacular. This article will hopefully be the perfect aid in spotting the signs of a premature Death and preventing them from happening!


    "I have writer's block." could mean "This thread is getting no where."
    It only takes ten minutes to type up a quick post, especially if you're enjoying the thread. If the thread is getting somewhere, you already have things in mind that you're ready to post the next time it's your turn. Even if you're just "playing by ear", if the thread is moving, then you have all sorts of ideas! It's only when a thread starts draaaaagging on way past it's prime when players start suffering from writer's block. Writer's block is a sure fire sign that you need to skip ahead to the next scene. You can't be afraid to say that things are getting dull.

    "I'm too busy to post." could mean "I'm getting bored."
    If you are "too busy" you wouldn't be online checking posts on a roleplay forum and telling this to your partners. You'd be working on that thing you are supposed to be busy with. What you really mean to say is "I'm bored." What was that? "But, I love this game!" If you really were loving the game... you'd be ready to post right away. Eager to see the next reply! Don't be afraid to admit, that you just read the latest replies and you just don't feel like posting. Tell this to your GM and tell this to your Partner. They need to know that what's going on right now in the plot isn't working. Admitting that you might be getting bored is the first step to fixing the problem.

    Are you ready to admit you're just plain out right BORED with where you at? That's okay. There is nothing wrong with being bored. Even if you are head over heals in love with your Roleplay and the characters, you ARE going to get bored sometimes! The trick, is knowing when to admit that you're getting bored so that you and your partners can get past it.

    Don't drag it out.
    The number one thread killer is when players get so caught up in the "chit chat" that they drag out scenes forever. Surely you've noticed that you get more amusement in posting sprees when you and your partners are involved in an exciting scene? Chit Chat scenes are fun in small doses. After all, you do need them in developing intimate moments between individual characters and learning the fine details about them. When do you know your scene has ended and it's time to move on?

    Imagine a modern/sci-fi genre, based in a town that has a lot of "weird" stuff from mobsters to ghouls. Sam and Kendal are students, Sam is a special OPs in training while Kendal is going to be an investigative reporter. Both characters are the sorts that can get involved in a whole line of plot twists.

    The Scene: Sam and Kendal are on a date for dinner. They've been talking about school, hobbies, things that have happened recently... it's starting to be a really tedious scene. Neither player really knows what to do next because the chit chat has become exhausted and there's nothing happening. You Can:

    A) Stay at dinner, but you must create action:​
    a.1 There is an attempt of murder on either character. Because they are both involved in investigations, it could be targeted at one or both of them. They will have to try to escape, be sent to the hospital, chase criminals, etc.​
    a.2 There could be a hostage or kidnapping scene for either character! There would be a big fight scene followed by chasing!​
    a.3 There is a fight/murder/attempt on another player/NPC character in the scene and the two get involved. They must help the people there OR chase after the criminals.​

    B) Wrap up the whole scene with a "narration" post. They finish dinner and leave. You are free to start any number of new scenes:​
    b.1 They are on their way home and are ambushed. (walking or car) They are now either trying to escape the attackers OR trying to follow them and figure out who it was OR they could even have a spat between the pair about not wanting the other in danger.​
    b.2 They go home and one or the other is ambushed. You can do the same scenes above.. OR if they were no longer together when it happened, you have kidnapping possibilities, missing persons, calling for help, the other character returning for the rescue, etc.​
    b.3 They return home and have a steamy forum appropriate love scene. Like chit chatting, though these sort of scenes can't go on too long before they start getting "weird". Get to the high point and classily "close the door" or "shut the curtains".​
    b.4 They return home, and you simply start the next day, giving you even more possibilities for new scenes. Be they the ones above or something completely new.​
    Depending on the plot anything could happen. Instead of criminals it could have been ghosts. Vampires. Wolves. A bunch of angry old woman that have a grudge. The point is being creative and trying to make SOMETHING happen before the thread gets stale and everyone stops bothering to post.​

    Dragging out action scenes can also be a downer!
    Hey, don’t start thinking that just because chit-chat scenes can get slow, that it won’t happen with action scenes too. Dragging out ANY kind of scene will get dull after awhile. Be it a fight seen between NPCs, Fights between player characters, escaping danger, or just something really on the edge. If you characters don’t get any time for a breather, they (and the players) are going to get turned off!

    Plot with your partners.
    Many people are afraid to "make something happen" because they think the Game Master or Partner will get mad. If you're playing with one of "those" - stop it! GMs and Players that don't compromise with their partners are not fun to play with. You have to be flexible enough to let plots fall they way they do. An Roleplay never plays out exactly the way you plan it.

    If you are playing with people that know how to be flexible, but you're still afraid to throw something out there on your own... You have PLOTTING! "Going with the flow" of posting can only last for the first initial scenes while the Roleplay is new. Characters don't know each other and you're still in those great moments where everything is open for you. After that, you NEED to plot with your partners! Plotting allows you to discuss your goals for your characters and how you can meet them. It also gives you direction, so you know what you CAN do in the roleplay and what would just be insane.

    For Example: Sam and Kendal do go home after dinner. They're walking home. You know you want something to happen, but you can't seem to decide if you want Kendal's drunk ex boyfriend to stummble out with a knife or if a couple vampires shop up to jump out of the alley for Sam because he killed their buddy.

    Both plots seem like they could be fun. Discussing it with your partner, you finally decide that Vampires would be more interesting, because you discovered that Kendal's player thought it would be neat if she was coincidentally doing a article about the recent vampire attacks... The Vampire plotline could actually lead on to be more diverse with multiple events as the characters got deeper in it. Where, the ex-boyfriend idea might only last as far as a fight in the alley and getting bandaged up at home.

    Avoid the pressures of a "perfectly planned" games.
    Face it. No matter how well designed your game is, how awesome the plot is, how great your players are... no roleplay will EVER go as planned. Ever. You might as well write the story yourself if you want things to go "just right". Roleplay games are not like writing real stories. If you write a story, everything will end up exactly how you planned it out. In a Roleplay, every player has their own ideas and their own personal goals. While you play, you'll find out that the direction the characters move may be completely opposite of what your game intended. That is what makes roleplaying so much fun... the stories and plots that develop while characters interact!

    Don't pressure yourself with too many "must happen" events. This only stresses you out when you don't reach them, and your players can get turned off when they know certain things are going to happen no matter what they do. Goals, however, are still a good thing to have. Without your goal, players might lose direction altogether to a point where they can't even come up with side plots!

    Compare these ideas:

    Setting A: The modern sci-fi game in a city of strange events. Players are given the information about the setting, but are then 100% on their own. All plots are driven by the characters. In theory this is Roleplay perfection! But, as it turns out... though it starts off with a bang, eventually players have no idea what to do anymore because they have no goals. Even their own character goals get misplaced because the game becomes so random, that nothing "important" seems to happen.

    Setting B: Same plot in a strange city. This time to avoid players getting lost, you have many plot points for characters to reach. There is a Necromancy Cult underground that has successfully assassinated the Mayor, has made smaller attacks on the city, and other bad things. All the players are involved in different ways and in separate threads. You've decided each day and step must be complete before you can start the next day and get on to the next plot point. What was a great theory in keeping the game's plot in order and things running smoothly, ended up backfiring because player partners play at different paces. It works for the first game "day" or two, but then you find that groups seems to play at such different paces. Some threads would finished very fast while others dragged on for weeks! Players seem to be dropping like flies with "I'm busy" and "Writer's Block" excuses, even though they're off playing in other games. The organized game becomes the over planned game.

    Total freedom failed... but organizing the scenes became too extreme! The happy medium? Try something like this:

    Setting C: Same plot in a strange city once again. Have more than one plot goal in mind. You keep the Necromancer Assassins and you add another plot about a a group of people forming a Ghost Hunting club, PLUS another plot about a newspaper holding a journalist contest. What you now have is a main plot, plus two lesser plots. You now have three things that players can build off of. This allows them to have a goal in mind as they create characters. As players get started in the game, PLOT TOGETHER. Characters related to these three different plotlines will mingle together. When things seem to be getting slow with one plotline, it can be mingled in with one of your subplots recreating some new action. This being added with characters own personal ideas will make for an unlimited supply of ideas. USE THEM! This is what will keep your game moving. If you wisely know when to move on to the next scene, you won't suffer much dead time and lessen the chances of players getting bored. You could still keep things organized by day to avoid plot holes, but you wouldn't have to force players to wait while other plot events finish. Players could jump on their next scene. If events start becoming too random, using well placed Narrator or NPC events can turn players back on track towards a goal.

    Use the right kind of plotting.
    There are many different way to plot with players about your game. Use the right ones! Not everyone is going to be online at the same time and not everyone uses the same IM programs to chat with. For a group of several people, you need to make use of the forums for plotting about the game to avoid having any players feel left out. When it comes to simple character interactions, it's not big deal if a couple players chat it out over AIM... But if you're trying to organize the bigger picture and ask people what they're wanting to do next, you need to do it in a place where EVERYONE can see and participate. Chat nights are good in theory, but it's rare when everyone can be there at the same time to really participate. The forum, a livejournal group, yahoo group... you need a place where all the players ideas can be read and can be build on. Even better, this allows for outside non-players to see what's going on... and maybe find that they'd like to join in and get involved in one of the ideas!

    LIFE is the biggest Roleplay Killer.
    For most people, roleplaying is a hobby they do in their spare time. They have school, work, and other activities outside of roleplaying. Even your most dedicated players can fall victim to life coming first. If you and your players have followed all the advice in the article, you still can't avoid real life obligations. You have to allow for that! Keep in touch with your players. You'll soon learn which players are making up excuses for not posting, and which players are truly becoming too busy with life.

    In the end MOST roleplays will die. - Don't get discouraged!
    There are a million things that can go wrong with running a roleplay. This does not mean you are a bad Game Master or bad Player. The important thing to remember is enjoy it while you're playing! It's not reaching a conclusion that is important. It's being able to enjoy playing with people and watching your characters and stories come to life. Do THAT and you have made a successful roleplay!


    Exercise One: If you are a GM or Player in a dying roleplay - POST. Even if you are the last poster. If the scene has worn down, change to a new scene. If it looks like a good moment to throw in sudden drama or action, toss it in. Don't forget to message other players to get them to respond to the new development.

    Exercise Two: If you are finding yourself a chronic victim of "writer's block", really dig deep to see what your true problem is. Check your roleplays to see if you're having a problem with the roleplay itself. Or see if contacting other players in the roleplay for a plotting session will help revive your muse.
    #1 Diana, Jun 18, 2011
    Last edited: May 8, 2013
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  2. One bit of advice I would add is -- and I'm directing this at GM's in particular -- don't be afraid to step in and do things to fix a problem when you see it. Like Diana said, players can get bored if a scene drags on for too long -- so, instead of expecting the players to wrap things up, you can step in and move things along. You have that power. On a similar note, if you see that your players say they have "writer's block", don't be afraid to contact each one on an individual basis to ask what the problem is. You might be able to get their muse flowing again, or you might help them figure out that they just aren't interested anymore (at which point, you can officially count them as a drop-out -- which allows the rest of your players to move on). I stress the importance of contacting players at an individual level because just posting in the OOC saying "Hey, why is no one posting?? :( " often just doesn't seem to get very good results. Telling the entire cast of players to post more kind of diffuses the responsibility of it -- it's unlikely that any of your players will really feel like it's their responsibility to get things moving again. On top of that, individual players often have different reasons for not posting. By contacting players individually, you can help work through the specific problems that each player is facing.

    Additionally, don't be afraid to take action if you think that some of your players have vanished on you. I see so many RP's die just because one or two players vanished, thus holding up the whole IC, and the GM couldn't think of any way to proceed. And while it's certainly annoying for players to vanish and leave everyone else waiting, there is an easy fix! All you have to do is just tell the other players to keep posting. If the drop-out characters weren't doing anything important, then they'll probably just fade into the background as the other characters continue to interact, and you can move on like nothing happened. If the drop-out characters did have a more important role, then, well, you might have to get a bit more creative, but there are still plenty of options. Sometimes this means killing that character off, but, if you're looking for a less dramatic exit, you can just try to think of a reason for that character to leave the party, and then declare it so. The important thing is, don't sit around and do nothing if your thread is getting tied-up with inactive players. When something's a problem, fix it. Or at least try to fix it. And don't forget -- you're the GM, so you have the power to play God a little bit in the IC in order to make things happen, when it's deemed necessary.
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