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Telling Stories: Importing tone

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.There are a lot of things that I like about IDW’s current run of Transformers comics, but one of the things I like the most is the sense of tone.  Scott, Roberts, and Barber all have their own voices when writing stories, but they also all do a great job of creating the feel of a unified setting, with characters all working in the same space seven as they don’t necessarily share the same goals.  It’s heady stuff, well worth importing into roleplaying.

Obviously, I can’t import it directly into roleplaying due to the sad lack of a Transformers MMO (thanks for that, Jagex), but I can bring in parts of the tone.  Which is one of those things that doesn’t really get discussed much when it comes to roleplaying, despite the fact that it really lies at the heart of most imports.  When you’re bringing a character from other media into a game you’re playing, you’re hoping to bring some of the story developments and energy that they have in their original appearance, trying to carry that tone along with them.

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Telling Stories: Why aren’t people getting into this?

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.The worst possible thing to feel when you’re lining up roleplaying is to have a big pitch all ready to go, plenty of planning on deck, and when the big day arrives… nobody cares.

It’s true online or in tabletop form.  I’ve run tabletop campaigns wherein I had really cool ideas for a plot and characters custom-made by players to fit within those fields, but when push came to shove it turned out that no one was actually on board with the unfolding story.  I’ve organized what seemed like really spiffy events to me that turned out just one or two people (which, in this case, was less than I wanted).  I’ve been ready to go and gotten sort of left to one side.

So why aren’t people engaging?  Why can you have an event or a story ready and then find no one willing to actually engage with what you’re doing?  There are lots of reasons, some of which are more common than others, but there are a few questions that can help you at least fix the problem in the future, even if you can’t salvage what’s already gone south.

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Telling Stories: Smothering words

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.The key to communication is brevity.  The shortest form of a sentence that conveys all needed information is the best one.

Anyone who has read my words over the majority of my life will know that I am not exactly shy about using plenty of words, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that more words are automatically better.  Your choice of words and how many you use contribute to how a piece of text is meant to be read.  Something that gets lost very frequently in roleplaying, where players type out lengthy and ornate descriptions of something as simple as picking up a glass.

I don’t care how interesting you’re sure that single act of glass-lifting was, it’s not worth that much time or effort.  It’s a glass.  You lift it and drink from it.  And if you spend too much time typing out how your character does every little thing, you waste a lot of time not being concerned over what your character is actually doing.

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Telling Stories: The space between “can” and “should”

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.Let me make two points that are so self-evident they should be entirely unnecessary, and yet they come up time and again.  The first is one that has been discussed to death: You can make any sort of character for roleplaying that you want.  The second is equally obvious: There are a lot of things you should and should not do when making a character.

These are not contradictions.

It can be hard, at times, to separate the two.  But the entire purpose of this column, and the one I did before this, and any subsequent columns on the same topic I do after this is talking about what you should do.  A column talking about what you can do with roleplaying would be extremely short and boring, consisting of exactly one entry (“you can do what you want”) and offering no useful advice.  But among all the things you can do, there are a lot of things you should or should not do, and just because something is in fact possible does not make it a good idea.

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Telling Stories: You are responsible

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.You all know that I absolutely hate the idea that roleplaying is some silly thing that has no consequences or stresses.  This would be because it’s absolutely not true, and it’s harmful to everyone trying to roleplay with you, but it has even further reach than that: it destroys the idea that you have some responsibilities to your fellow roleplayers.  And you do.  You have several responsibilities.  There are things that you should do when you are roleplaying that obligate you.

Obviously, you’re just trying to have fun.  But just like organized PvP or raiding or any other sort of regular activity, that does not mean the fun is without some level of responsibilities.  So let’s talk a little bit about what your responsibilities are simply as a roleplayer, even if you’re not running a whole lot of large-scale events or involving everyone you meet in storylines.  Just as a roleplayer interacting with other people, it’s reasonable to assume that you can be responsible about certain things.

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