A general advice thread about role-playing and its terms being on demand, I will admit to having planned such a thing for a rather long time. This is a joint effort with several members. This OP (original/opening post) will be updated based on questions asked and suggestions given, so ask away either in the thread or by PM!
In this section, we will strive to explain some of the most commonly used terms in the world of role-playing.
RP: Role-play. A common term for an RP is a "game", but it is not very widely used in forum role-playing. We call them role-plays, or RP's, partially also so as not to confuse it with the term RPG. Role-playing can be seen as unstructured drama. Zemalac comments:
"An RP (Role-Play) is a game where the players take on the roles of various characters and act as though they are those characters, with all the abilities, personality, and background that goes along with them. On the forums, the players write from the perspective of the characters, narrating their actions, speech, and interactions with the environment. It's basically writing a story, but you only have control over one of the characters. From this basis come many different games, all varying in complexity and skill level."
Role-playing one character at a time is the most common practice, but once in a while, we will see one player controlling several.
Original character: Abbreviated OC. An original character created by a role player, as opposed to using an already existing character.
Game Master/Dungeon Master: Abbreviated GM/DM. the creator and designer of the role-play. They will normally set the rules and decide how the plot progresses. Do not mess with the GM in their own RP.
Out of character/Out of context: Chatting as the user of the forum, not as the character or narrator in the RP. On the Escapist, this is usually done with the help of the spoiler tags and not by writing "OOC:". Consult the forum markup for the tags or the BBcode thread by the ravishing and manly wilsonscrazybed. Spoiler tags are: <*spoiler=label>[/spoiler], omitting the *. The label is what it will say before you click it and is not a prerequisite to make a spoiler.
There is another side to OOC, however. A player might interfere with the psychology and actions of their character to produce a desirable OOC effect. This can be part of the problem when a player treats the role-play as a game to win, rather than as storytelling.
Free-form RP: What we role-play here on the forums is normally free-form role-playing, with a minimal set of rules with focus set on character or plot development. Example
Lyncher RP: A lyncher is basically based on the popular game of Mafia, or the variation Werewolf, where the players go through the storyline voting each other out of it. For instance, placing the blame of a murder on one of them. The GM normally appoints one of the players to be the perpetrator(s), and the rest are to try to figure out who they are. The GM can also perform the dastardly tasks himself, and it is thus up to the players to solve the puzzle. This is the most commonly performed type of Lyncher here on the Escapist. Along the way, you role-play realistically as the character. Makes for a lot of suspense, and requires a lot of planning. Example.
True RPG: The GM lays out the plot, character and the available options. Anyone on the forum can vote for one of the options given on what to do next, and so the plot progresses. Example.
Let's Play: Normally, one user plays through a game and posts images and text to show the experience, whereas other users can participate in the story of the game, creating a collective piece of fiction. Example.
Note: Practise of the three following behaviours is generally frowned upon and prohibited in role-plays. Avoid them.
Trenchcoating/Trenching: Refers to the badass long coat wearers that probably began appearing in Westerns or Film Noir and became especially popular in public with The Matrix. In roleplaying, it covers a number of factors, a long, concealing trenchoat obviously being one of them. A character who is a trenchcoater rarely has any kind of characterisation to speak of, and will often pull out some kind of weaponry out from his long, dark, mysterious coat. They are often plagued with a dark, mysterious past they will allude to now and then.
In practice, they always prefer doing things their way, and their way only. It is common they forsake realism if only for the purpose of being badass and are often generally dismissive of the will of others, if not even arrogant. They will usually have at least one humanising quality however, unlike the next term: Mary Sue.
Mary Sue/Marty Stu/Gary Stu/Marty Sam: There are several traits associated with a Mary Sue character, but the most important factor is that the character in question has qualities that are put there only to make her special. If the qualities are explained and serve a purpose, a Mary Sue label should not be issued too swiftly.
With this important aspect in mind, a typical Mary Sue will be leading in the progress of the story, and often act as the idealised version of the author. She has many skills in unrealistically many areas, and possesses exotically alluring looks and normally also a exotic name. Everyone around her accept and love her, even those that are normally anti-social, and she lacks any story-relevant flaws. If she has any, they are there for the purpose of being endearing. In the same spirit, she has a dramatic and unusual past.
Its male versions have become more common of late, but the female versions are still more abundant. Don't, however, take this too seriously. Some characters can't escape a Mary Sue label, but can still be interesting and well-made. It is not a formula of everything to avoid, but rather an overused one.
Godmoding/Autoing: Not "godmodding". This is possible in a active and a passive way. The passive sense deals with how a player has designed their character. It will often solve problems far too quickly and effortlessly, and often results in a character forcing their will upon the RP rather than working with the events. The passive sense also encompasses the creation of an invincible character or indestructible or overpowered equipment.
In the active sense, the player will often influence other characters for the purpose of succeeding with their own goals, or they simply avoid other character's effects/efforts upon them. For instance:
Player A kicks out at player B's mid-section.
Player B vaults over player A and stabs him in the spine.
Not very fun to role-play with. You can not decide what definitely happens. You can only try to invoke your influence on others. It is up to the other player and/or the GM to decide the success, depending on the RP and situation. An RP depends on good writing. It is not a game; it is storytelling.
Autoing is a form of godmoding that involves taking control of someone else's character. For instance:
Player A states: "Player B misses player A and hits player C instead."
Munchkin: Another undesired behaviour. A player who always plays to "win", regardless of the context. This can be the most subtle of behaviours, and connects with the OOC part. The player fails to understand the RP is about telling a good story rather than "winning" in some arbitrary way, and all their actions are affected by it.
All of these behaviors miss out on writing credible, interesting characters. Some of you may find that real, genuinely flawed characters are a lot more fun to write about.
In this section, we will list some general advice on specific elements in role-playing. If you feel we need to add something, just let me know by PM.
Taking control: Taking control of someone else's character depends entirely on the context and instructions of the owner. If you have not received any, do as little as possible with them, but keep them along for the story advancement. Do not use them for autoing, obviously.
Language usage: Posting guidelines naturally apply when role-playing here as well, but more than that, if you want to achieve an effect with your role-playing, you need to use the language correctly. The entire effect of immersion depends on correct language usage, and the same applies if you want to be taken seriously. A great creative piece will be heavily pulled down if the language usage is not adequate. Do not let this happen.
Timing your posts: This is naturally a small, but frequent, problem in forum role-playing. The only real way to avoid time paradoxes is to have good communication with your fellow role-players and the Game Master, real-time communicating in the form of Instant Messaging being the best method and bookmarking the RP's you are in being obvious. I recommend IRC for IM, since you can create channels for every RP, or just use #escapistrp, a sister-channel of #escapist on ChatSpike. Avoid taking a lot of time to type up a large post if the pace seems fast, and vice versa.
Placeholders are one option if you do not have this kind of contact with your fellow role-players, but it is no substitute. The premise is that you post, saying you reserve the spot for a post in the making. The main problem with them is that players who plan to post after it do not know what premises might change with the content of the placeholder. For this reason, they can be useful in a medium-paced RP where the posts are not long, but tend to be more in the way in other situations.
RP etiquette: Exercise common sense and good manners. Nothing new when it comes to internet forums. Heed the word of the GM, and if you have ideas for him/her, PM them. Do not post in the thread if you want to join or have ideas. Use the PM system.
A common problem in forum role-playing is that some players will treat the role-play as a game they strive to "win". This is a huge obstacle in the way of writing creatively for the purpose of creating an interesting story and characters. A role-play is indeed a play, and is treated similarly. In the same sense, do not join an RP if you are too busy to invest time and energy into it. Ultrajoe has this to say on the topic:
"I'd also like to stress the concept that RP's are a house of cards.
If everyone performs to the best they can be, and does their job, nobody ever need do it for them. That is the lowest level of effort required to sustain an RP, and should it fall below that then it shall fail. It's when people start doing their own job and then helping everyone else (who are also doing their job) that an RP becomes Ultra. You're only as strong as your weakest joint, after all."
Have fun: Role-playing is a bit of work, that will not be denied. But if you plan on maintaining your motivation for a longer time, you need to have fun and feel that it is a rewarding experience. Whether it be through interesting plot, character development or the improvement of your own writing, you need to have an incentive to post. If you do not, the overall quality of your posts will inevitably suffer, and you might find yourself dropping out. This factor naturally involves the GM as well, but most of the work lies with you.
Step number 1 is to take a good look at the RP. If you do not actually feel interested in the world and plot, you might want to reconsider joining. Step number 2 is to develop a character you will enjoy playing. This is pivotal for your interest to last.
Step number 3 deals with your waning interest while in the RP. If you find this is happening, find out the reason and change it. If your character is boring you, make a revolutionising change (without affecting others too much, naturally). If the world or plot is the problem, you can either compensate for it in other ways, id est characterisation, or you can talk to the GM about it, in a constructive and diplomatic way of course, via PM.
Saving your work: In forum role-playing, there is a large chance you will write long posts. Therefore, I advice you to get some form of auto-save text function for your browser. Writing outside of the site works, but there is also the matter of how the format will look on-site. To that end, I recommend auto-save text add-ons in Firefox.
Starting an RP: When you plan on starting an RP, make sure you have sufficient experience with role-playing on the specific forum. Knowing some role-players is a plus, but knowing how role-playing generally works on the Escapist is an even larger part of the planning.
Make sure you have all the rules set; you can benefit from trying them out yourself and asking other role-players for advice, in PM of course. While free-form role-playing is the most common, you will need posting and probably behaviour rules. It is also advised you have the plot planned out at large, with several paths if you want your players to have such a freedom. You might find most role-players here are used to progressing the plot with their own actions. If you run such an RP, thorough planning and structure in all the paths is strongly advised.
If you know some role-players, inviting them is always the most smooth way to get players. If not, don't leave too many openings. I have found free-form role-laying on the Escapist works best with a relatively low number of participants. More up to 10 can work if the RP does not require too large posts, but more participants always leaves more responsibility with coordination.
Furthermore, it is a good idea to make sure your RP stays consistent. Using the GNS theory as a basis to determine what type of RP it will be can help with clarity both for yourself and for the role-players.
Text formatting: Here on the Escapist, we have some widely used ways of utilising text in different ways. Descriptive text is the bread text, italics are used for inner monologue (thoughts), "quotation marks" for speech and bold for emphasised words. Do not abuse any formatting, as it will hurt the ol' eye. [h1] and [h2] also work if you exempli gratia want to write a big note (letter) or ostentatious titles to poems, literary works, et alia. Just, please, don't use this too much.
If you want to contribute to this guide, keep in mind that the advice has to be general and relevant to the Escapist role-play stage.
Sporky111's two cents: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/540.116378-Escapist-role-playing-and-you?page=2#4915965
(Used to be its own thread; merged with this thread.)
Lost In The Void's guide to character creation and posting habits: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/362.174743-The-Walkthrough-to-Role-Playing-Character-Creation-and-Posting-Habits