I used to be a forum RP’er. I started waaay back in the day on Nintendo’s old Power Up (RP) board on the Nsider forums, and wound up running my own for a good 5+ years. I think forum RP’ing is a great alternative to wanting to do something role-play related without 1) leaving the comfort of your chair/couch/whatever, and 2) playing a game.
Throughout those years that I was really into forum RP’ing, I’ve encountered (and committed) plenty of pitfalls that are pretty common to forum RP’ing. Both newbies and veterans are capable of these, and while this is aimed at forum RP’ing, it definitely applies to other kinds of RP’ing as well!
Believe me, I’ve committed all of these multiple times, so if you’re a forum RP’er, don’t feel bad if you’ve done these before.
A big part of any RP is the start. How do the characters meet? Normally, there’s something that draws all the characters together. You might all be part of a guild. Maybe a big event is happening and everyone is gathering for different reasons, only to have someone set off a chain of events and draw everyone else into the conflict – whatever it is, it’s important in an RP that everyone meets, and that’s usually near the beginning.
Well, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Your character is mysterious, anti-social, and stays away from everything. During those few opening posts where people gather he stays to the shadows, literally not bothering to do anything but mind their own business. This can be a potentially big problem if they don’t jump into the action and become forgotten. This can be managed by a skilled thread owner with an NPC, but sometimes even that’s not enough.
You can be mysterious and brooding, but just make sure that your character winds up with everyone else (or at least another PC). You can maybe plan to have your character come in way later, but that’s something you’ll have to discuss with the RP owner.
Crashing the RP
The guy who makes the RP (at least, for me) usually has a plan of action for the flow and plot of the RP. Sure, there are cool side stories because of how the characters interact, but a lot of the times someone will come in and try to shift that plot through some means. Maybe you come in and just kill the main atagonist. You blow up a city. You rip a hole into the space-time contiuuum. This kind of stuff should only be happening after talking to the one running the RP. If you’re unsure about what you can and can’t do (IE: can I kill that enemy? Can I take that path? Can I be one of the hidden masters?) just ask them! They’ll let you know.
The way I do it is I force every player to make an arc for themselves within the world. I ask them what they’re envisioning for this character to become, and then work with them off that and try and weave it into the main story. Obviously, sometimes it doesn’t go as plan, but there is a plan, and that’s what’s important. This plan ensures that they don’t break the RP and the player has a good idea of how things will play out and are able to flesh their arc out from that plan. I make sure they don’t go overboard or undersell their character during crucial plot moments that should star them.
And if someone completely breaks it I retcon it because I’m the one running the show. Just like how DM’s have their own flavor and rules, so do RP owners.
Everyone gets a chance to shine
This is more for RP owners, but make sure everyone’s getting some sun. While most RP’s do have a main protagonist, all PC’s are important protagonists and they all should play a part in the outcome of the RP. RP owners, don’t focus on your own character all the time. I’m very guilty of this. I used to have my character in my own RP be the mega star that outshone everyone. During the tail years of my RP’ing my character was obviously the most important, but they were tied to many other characters that played almost as important a role.
Likewise, if one of your characters is very important, don’t overshadow the others. However, if your character doesn’t, it might be because…
Like the character that broods alone, this type of character kinda just…well, sits there. They’re part of the party, sure, but they’re timid; they don’t take initiative. And so, during crucial moments they withdraw into themselves, most of their dialog being their own thoughts. This can turn especially bad if they become characters of self-pity/depression. Guys, this is fantasy. Depressed characters don’t do anything. Unless it’s centered around someone dealing with depression, I advise against it. These characters can become dead weight really fast, and you don’t want a character that contributes nothing.
Patience (lack of)
Ever flown through an important moment in the RP and it was only 2-3 people when 6-7 are in it? This is actually pretty common, and definitely something to think about in smaller RP’s. In crucial moments, if you post and your character says something to someone else’s character, wait for them. Don’t let another character go off and propel the scene forward. This was the most common problem for the group I RP’d with – we’d fly through really important fights and scenes without some of the players. Have some patience, let the others contribute (unless the scene/battle doesn’t call for them to or they give you the okay).
Character (and NPC) Control
Some RP’s allow you to have multiple characters. Sometimes you need to control a lot of NPC’s. This can be really fun because there’s a lot of interaction, but a really common problem that arises is that you almost have too many characters. You could go off RP’ing on your own with the characters you control. While this could be cool as a little short story – 10-20 posts that are literally just about your 4 characters adventuring together isn’t exactly beneficial to the RP, because you’re really only interacting with yourself.
Another common problem is that you feel compelled to answer something with every character, which doesn’t sound right. Realistically, you probably only need one character to answer, maybe two if that second character is also very involved in the conversation.
You also don’t want to leave a character by the wayside (unless it’s an NPC, in which you can dispose of them pretty quickly as long as they get their job done).
While these pitfalls happen often, don’t think they’re always bad. Sometimes retconning happens (the process of saying a scene never happened, a character never existed, etc…), and that can help stop these, but your RP may employ them as part of it. Maybe you’re controlling three different characters who are in different groups; maybe your character keeps to themselves but is actually spying on the group for whatever reason, and reveals themselves sometime later (I’ve actually played a character that did this and I contributed maybe 50 of the 700+ posts to that particular RP, but it was one of my favorite RP’s to participate in). The variables to how a RP is progressing greatly change some of these pitfalls, so they’re not always bad – I think that in most cases, they are, and it’s something to watch out for in other forms of RP’ing.
P.S. – Anyone who knows what that is may get a kick out of this archived page (fun fact: one of my old threads is on there!) –http://web.archive.org/web/20060502142725/http://forums.nintendo.com/nintendo/board?board.id=poweron_rp&page=14