Telling Stories: No accounting for taste
You don’t want your characters to like what you like, usually. At least not solely. One of the joys of roleplaying is stepping into the shoes of someone different than yourself, which doesn’t work in the event that your character is basically you with a race-lift and possibly a gender shift. Since one of the things that we use to define ourselves is the existence of distinct tastes from other people.
Of course, the problem there is that you still have to portray the character, despite those differing tastes. You want other people to genuinely believe that yes, your character likes these things, even if you don’t. So how do you make your character like things that you don’t when your frame of reference is so thoroughly based upon what you actually like and find interesting? How do you give a character a new set of tastes being acted out by a person who completely doesn’t share them?
Telling Stories: Sexuality without the skeevies
I’ve said before that sexuality is part of roleplaying, because it is. It’s part of the human condition, it’s a valid thing to explore in roleplaying, and it’s going to happen anyway. But there’s a line between involving sexuality in your roleplaying and making it the sort of involvement that makes everyone around you look at you with narrowed eyes and intense discomfort.
This has come up a fair bit in the Final Fantasy XIV community of late, for kind of disturbing reasons that serve as an excellent highlight of the issue. Because there’s a race of adults that are clearly meant to look like human toddlers… who are also very definitely sexually mature. Which raises a lot of uncomfortable questions about the characters being played in the real world by adult humans.
Fantasy is, of course, fantasy. But it’s useful to understand how fantasy lines up with and can be influenced by reality, and to understand why one might make the other far more uncomfortable. It’s important to have sexuality as a component in roleplaying, but it’s also important to do so in such a way that no one gets disturbed by it.
Telling Stories: The in-character post
Having a million more ways to interact with people online than we had back in 1997 has meant that people have gotten creative. Very creative, at times. Instead of just doing all of your roleplaying via the game now, you can have in-character journals, Twitter accounts, Tumblr accounts, and so on. Even I’ve gotten in on the fun; as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m running an in-character Twitter account for my shaman over in World of Warcraft, largely because the roleplaying communities on my servers have mostly dried up.
The question, of course, is whether or not it’s worth it.
I’m not going to tell anyone they should stop doing something they find fun, obviously – if writing an in-character journal online is a really fun and relaxing activity for you, go for it. The question, rather, is what you’re getting out of the time invested in making this happen. Writing stories about your character and sending off tweets take time and energy, and it’s an open question of whether or not it actually contributes to your character or just comes out as the roleplaying equivalent of masturbation.
Telling Stories: Why aren’t people getting into this?
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.
Telling Stories: Smothering words
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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