Running an RP

So, you’ve got a great idea for an RP and you want to start a thread. That’s awesome! As the one running the RP, you’re ultimately responsible for where the RP heads for its most important plot points, what can/can’t happen, etc…

However, there’s some things that you should keep in mind when running an RP. This is mostly from my experience, so opinions may vary – I tried to keep these as generic as possible.

How do they meet?

This is a very crucial part of the RP. Now there’s different ways for this to happen based on the RP, but for one that’s, say, an adventure RP, you need something that brings the party together. You could start everyone out together or have everyone gather together on their own, but remember that they’re not just going to all meet by themselves. You’re the one running the show: get them to meet!

How do they stay together?

In RPG (Role-Playing Games), it’s not uncommon for characters to leave and either never return or come back. In RP’s, this is slightly mitigated by being able to use multiple characters, but in Tabletop Games this generally doesn’t happen unless a character dies or the player is unable to continue playing.

However, in RP’s as well as Tabletop Games, it’s the one running the show that has the responsibility of keeping everyone together. If tensions start flaring and it doesn’t make sense for a character (or characters) to stay, then why would they stay? As the one running it, you need to make sure that each player character has a reason to stay invested unless the player can’t play anymore or they’re being unruly and you need to take action to stop it.

What’s going to happen?

Tying in with the previous two – how is your RP going to progress? Do you know how the player characters are going to be involved? Settings, themes, character arcs…all of these are crucial to an RP, and here’s why:

Winging an RP is bad 8 out of 10 times

Why? because there’s no structure, which leads to no direction, which leads to disinterest or pages and pages of a subplot that amounts to nothing.

Now, sometimes winging an RP is okay, especially for one that’s more light-hearted and not serious. But if you want to go on some epic adventure, you’d better be damn sure you’re putting in some work beforehand. Create an outline of the main plot, find a way to involve the player characters directly, get some lore for your world.

What I like to do is create an outline and then ask those that join to give me an outline of how their character should progress within the context of the story. I then create key points for the main plot and for the player characters, sometimes coinciding the two If I create my own world this serves the double purpose of letting the plot flow nicely and build some lore for the world. Then, as the RP progresses I make sure they hit key points, and if things start to derail I can bring in an NPC to set the player characters back on track.

Now, this can be a tricky process, especially because…

You don’t want to railroad

Obviously there’s some key points that can’t be missed, but you cannot control how the characters interact and play as they progress. If they go off in another direction, you need to be prepared to handle that, and that’s why an outline instead of a strict plan is better – you give yourself some flexibility in how the player characters can reach each key point. You just make sure that the key points are hit.

If your player characters go off the deep end, then you as the owner of the RP have to make a choice. In this instance, I generally just stop them because I’m not a fan of going off the deep end, but that’s just me.

These are probably the 4 most common things I see happen to RP owners that can effectively kill their RP. Plenty of my own RP’s have been left to rot in this way.

I hope this has helped any of you who enjoy RP’ing and want to start your own!

Just Sayin’

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Common (forum) RP’ing Pitfalls

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.

Being Alone

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.

Speaking of…

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…

Too timid

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.

Just Sayin’

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

REVIEW: Code of Princess

A couple weeks ago, I bought Code of Princess, a new game for the 3DS by one of my coveted campaniles, Atlus. I didn’t have a lot of time when I bought it to really play and formulate an opinion on it, but now I’ve had some time and have finally beaten it. So, let’s jump into this fun little beat-’em-up RPG!

Plot:

The plot is pretty subpar. You’re Sloange, the princess of DeLuxia, and are wielding the DeLuxcalibur, a legendary sword with unfathomable power. In this world, monsters and humans have coexisted, but suddenly the monsters have become violent, and it’s up to you to find out why. Along the way, you discover that some demon is trying to take over the world and defy the Gods. That’s pretty much it. But, while it is subpar, the characters advancing the plot more than make up for it.

Characters:

The characters are, simply put, fantastic. They all have unique personalities, but the best part is they play with their own stereotypes and game. The banter between Allegro and Ali about how Allegro’s level 99 and is ‘almost’ a Sage is hilarious. The game knows its story is there just to advance the plot and give some sort of substance to the game (besides the combat), and toys around with it, which is awesome.

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

The backgrounds and effects are nice, and the music is good, but nothing really stands out to me. It was all very subpar, which is disappointing because I was hoping for some awesome music. I haven’t listened to the included bonus CD, so my opinion might change once I hear that, but the in-game music never impressed me.

Gameplay:

The meat of this game comes from it’s AMAZING combat. Every character has their own specific combos, strings, and special skills, and learning what chains, what doesn’t, and combining combos and strings makes this combat a very deep experience. In Campaign, you can only choose 4 characters (Solange, Ali, Zozo, and Allegro), but in Free Play you can choose from more than 30 characters, which is awesome!

Another important part of combat is locking on and bursting. Locking on lets you see that specific enemy’s HP bar, and you do double damage. It’s a nice perk, but once you burst, you do double damage to all enemies, meaning that you have a built-in boss destroyer by doing quadruple the damage you would normally do. That’s huge, and the best part is, it’s doesn’t make the game any easier because of how quickly your MP drains while using it. And, you can be doing a combo, burst midway, and still continue it, giving strategic timing to when you should and shouldn’t burst.

There’s an equipment system, but these do nothing but increase some of your stats (which, by the way, you can increase in any order after leaving up), except for your weapon. If your character can, equipping a weapon can change some aspects of your burst (like doing damage to enemies and knocking them down, having unblock able attacks while bursting, etc…) Sometimes, a certain burst is much more useful than just stunning everyone. My favorite is the one that knocks enemies down. It’s saved me in the harder missions.

Oh, and let’s not forget that this has local co-op for up to 4 players, meaning you can string together some truly ridiculous combos on enemies, making the game that much more fun.

All in all, Code of Princess is a fun little game that offers you a surprisingly deep combat experience and an awesome multiplayer. I highly recommend!

Score:

Plot: 5/10

Characters: 9/10

Atmosphere: 5/10

Gameplay: 10/10

Final Score: 7/10

Old Woman is over-powered.

Just sayin’

REVIEW: The Last Story

A week ago, I finally got my hands on The Last Story. For those who don’t know, The Last Story was one of the games that was made out to be a Japan exclusive, but a couple weeks ago it was released to the states, much to the happiness of many a gamer. But does The Last Story live up to the hype it had before it was released to the US? I think so. Let’s jump in!

Plot:

The plot is your standard JRPG. I’m not going to go too in-depth, but to nutshell it, you’re Zael, a mercenary who finds a mysterious power and uses it to accomplish missions and strive to fulfill Zael’s dream of becoming a knight. Along the way, Zael encounters typical themes like corruption, power, following your heart, being the ‘chosen one’, worldwide disaster, etc… And while it may be typical story fare, it’s pulled off well. There are a few twists (although can be seen if you’re looking for them), but the plot paces itself nicely and it’s always interesting. The best part is the plot is almost entirely character-driven, with very few plot-driven elements. I found myself really enjoying it. The only part that was iffy is the somewhat rushed romance between Zael and Calista. There was so much potential for it.

Characters:

The characters are all great. They all have personality and definitely clash with each other because of it, and that’s great, because the dialogue is fantastic between the characters. And, they all grow by the end of the game and go through complete arcs, which is (sadly) pretty rare these days. The NPC characters in the hub world also have some personality, which is pretty surprising, but they’re all very cookie cutter in the way they act. Still, it’s better than them being ridiculously bland and being the same over and over.

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

The Last Story is your typical atmosphere for a JRPG. A little bit of a steampunk, a lot of medieval, and plenty of ancient technology and magic. Still, like the other elements of The Last Story, these are represented really well. Lazulis City (the hub for the game) is awesome, and it really feels like a city. Stuff is always happening, and the entire city moves with the plot, so you’ll always see people talking about something different. The caves, Lazulis Castle, and the many other levels all are nicely detailed. I never once found myself bored with how the game looked.

The music is great. I have a thing for violins, so hearing the violin in the title screen music was already awesome, but the music in-game is also great, and it always feels like it’s supporting the mood rather than being completely intrusive. I got the soundtrack for preordering the game, and already have most of it on my iPod.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is interesting and incredible at the same time. It’s interesting because combat is, literally, running up to an opponent and attacking. You don’t press a button to attack. Now, I find that weird, and I still find it weird, but thankfully the designers thought, “Hey, most people use the A button!” and they give you the option to attack with the A button. That’s the only bad part about combat. Otherwise, combat is fantastic.

While some encounters are random and you fight, most of them are a sort of preview where you get to see the formations of enemies and you see the characters discussing a strategy. Sometimes they’ll tell Zael to decide what to do, but other times they give out orders and if you don’t follow them, the AI do get obliterated because they’re expecting you to do what they told Zael to do. And to lead into AI – they’re smart. They’re the best AI I’ve ever played with. They heal if they’re low on health, they take cover during stealth missions, and they try to cover you when you’re being attacked. Of course, you can command your allies if you want them to do a specific spell or unleash a special movie, but it’s really awesome to have competent AI that you don’t need to babysit. Even the enemies are smart; they take out mages first every time, and to combat this, you have a special power that makes every single enemy focus on you exclusively. However, having every single enemy focus you means that you die faster and it can be overwhelming, so you can’t just rush in every time with it, making it an interesting balance between using and not using the power you have. It’s a very tactical game for a real-time RPG, and pulling off tactics that you’re ordered to do and see it work perfectly is awesome!

Non-combat wise, the side quests and missions are actually pretty good, even though some of them are pretty lame (one of them is literally buying ingredients from a market), but a lot of them are awesome and are actually mini dungeons, which is really cool and helps you to prepare for the later levels. You can also revisit dungeons to get bonus stuff and face much harder enemies.

The actual flow of the game is nice. I never once had to legitimately grind in order to proceed. Tactics win the day over that, and that’s really nice. There are a few places where you can grind, but the focus is on progressing the story, so those are very few and far between.

Overall, The Last Story delivers, and I’m very happy it came to the states. If you enjoy JRPGs (or real-time RPGs), get this game. It’s worth every single penny!

Score:

Plot: 8/10

Characters: 9/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Gameplay: 10/10

Final Score: 9/10

Just sayin’

What makes a “good” game?

Last night, I played a game called Metagame, which is literally a game about debating about games. It’s a little like Apples-to-Apples, where you place a card down and pick a game that most suits it. Then, you have 2 minutes to argue your stance. The worst gets knocked out and becomes a judge (alongside other existing judges). But this isn’t a post about Metagame, it’s a post about something that stemmed from me playing it with friends. It’s a topic I’ve constantly thought and rethought about: what makes a “good” game?

I think a good game is a game that is playable. That may sound a little weird to you, but let me explain.

This is a hard topic to wrestle with, and it’s not because of our opinions of games. I believe it’s a difficult topic to discuss because of how we individually perceive what a “good” game is. It’s an interesting topic to cover because we all have different views on various subjects, but on things that are subjective (such as this), it’s hard to reach a solid conclusion because of just how subjective those conclusions are.

Let me dive a little deeper into that with an example: If I like role-playing games and dislike platforming games, I may, on reaction, state that a platformer such as Super Mario Bros. or MegaMan is bad. Obviously, it’s hard to deny the success of both franchises and those two games, specifically, but why would I say they’re bad? Because I don’t like those kinds of games. To me, platforming games aren’t enjoyable, and since I don’t enjoy it, it’s bad.

Now, that’s an impaired thought process because it’s inherently subjective. Someone else may love platformers and say those two games are incredible, and they think those games are good. But that is, essentially, the same line of thinking.

So if I can’t say a game is bad simply because I don’t like it, I can’t say a game is good because I like it. Fair enough. Let’s dive deeper.

I could say that the modern-day music, graphics, and gameplay mechanics are simply more advanced, and therefore better. I could also reverse that thought process and claim that the “old-school” games are superior because of how simple, yet compelling they are to play. They defined what games are today.

This is a bias towards a certain era of games, which boils down to, “I enjoy this era of games more than another era.” And ultimately ends up subjective, which does nothing to help us answer the question at hand.

So I say that I enjoy the gameplay of a game more than another, or the music of a game more than another, or the writing is better than another game’s writing. While writing can be objectively defined under certain constructs, music and gameplay cannot. Why? Because they’re both very subjective topics. How is rock better than alternative? How is death metal worse than hip-hop? Why is country better than dance? You can try to fit them under a construct that may give way to an objective conclusion, but ultimately, it falls when it comes to games. Gameplay itself is another way of liking or disliking a certain genre and subgenres.

So how does this all come together? Let’s pit two games – say, MegaMan and MegaMan Battle Network. MegaMan is a platformer with 8-bit style graphics, chip-tunes as music and sound effects, and a very linear story with not a huge amount of background and no dialogue, no twists, no modern-day story-telling elements. Battle Network has a linear story (although has side quests, dialogue, and twists), RPG-style gameplay, 8-bit and more modernized techno music, and Game Boy Advance graphics. So which is good and which is bad? Most will probably claim MegaMan is the good game, but why? Because they like nostalgia? Because they like the music, sounds, graphics, or story better? Do they prefer platformers to role-playing games? How does that prove anything except what you like and dislike?

But wait, there’s more: what if graphics or music is what’s important to you in a game? What if MegaMan Battle Network is better than MegaMan game simply because it has more modern graphics, despite MegaMan having “better” gameplay? (just assume it does for this example, there’s no need to debate that right now.) How do you determine what’s good and what’s bad with someone who may think music isn’t important, while you do think it’s important? What if a certain style of game (like a fighting game, for example) is deemed to need only certain elements (writing is really the only thing I can think of, but you get what I’m saying) to make it a good game?

This is why determining what makes a “good” game difficult.

So let’s circle back to my original statement: “Good” games are games that are playable. What does that mean? It means it’s a game that can be played. “Can be” is important. It doesn’t matter whether or not you enjoy it, if it has the potential to be playable, it’s a good game. It’s a game with music that someone can enjoy, a story (if needed) that is passable and allows the game to logically continue, and no bugs or glitches that break the game and render it unplayable or exceedingly frustrating. It has the potential to breed subcultures (like a fighting game creating a competitive community for it, or how Portal finds its way into other games via cameos).

So, under that definition, both MegaMan and MegaMan Battle Network are good games.

Now, you might be thinking, “Kappy, you must not think a lot of games are bad, then,” and you would be correct. There are very few games that I, personally, think are bad. One of those few is Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic ’06). Sonic ’06, to me, is bad. Why? Because when I played it, the controls were unresponsive to the point where I got a game over on the demo. I played the actual game and would randomly glitch through the floor and die, sometimes multiple times. The first boss fight in Sonic’s story against SIlver found Sonic being stuck against a table, invincible and unable to move or take damage, which guaranteed a restart. The story itself plays through and then resets itself so it never happened (which, by my standards, is awful). The loading times were obnoxious. I could go on, but I won’t, because this isn’t a rant about Sonic ’06. This is simply an example of a game I find bad, and I find it bad because, to me, it is unplayable. 

Just sayin’

P.S. Before I end, I just want to point out that my way of judging whether a game is good or not does not judge how good a game is (which I think some mix together accidentally). It just judges whether a game is good or bad. With that said…

What do you think makes a “good” game?