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 On Quality Roleplaying

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PostSubject: On Quality Roleplaying   Tue 06 Nov 2012, 11:00 am

I figured I should put some more guides up, so I'll just copy and paste Eo's guide on the Sporum to here.

Eochaid1701 wrote:
The contents of this guide are not strictly endorsed by the sporemasters*. However, following this guide will save you much heartache, because this is how we roll in this section. If you post in this sub-forum, this what many or most of us will expect you to know.

*The sporum does not have any official guidelines related to RP'ing specifically, aside from following the standard forum guidelines. We hate flaming, spamming, and such in here as much as anywhere else. Probably more.

Italicized words are important definitions that will come up repeatedly throughout the guide and in your RP'ing experience.

How does Roleplay work?

Roleplay is creating and controlling characters to tell a story. The members of an RP are the OP (original poster, or gamemaster (GM)), the mods (if any), and the players.

The GM is the creator of the story. He controls the vast majority of the game’s universe, in addition to establishing a plot and usually controlling the main villain. He writes the OP and makes the rules.
The mods are people appointed by the GM to aid in the exposition of the plot and enforce the rules. Sometimes they are granted some sort of in-character perk as well, as a reward for keeping the peace. Otherwise, they are normal players.

The players are exactly what they sound like. They are the participants, who control main characters (PC’s, or “player characters”) and sometimes secondary characters (NPC’s, or “non-player characters”). They still have significant impact on the plot, since they often carry important pieces of it.

Roleplaying has two distinct domains: In character (IC) and out of character (OOC). IC interaction is what goes on in the RP world. OOC interaction is the players talking to each other about the game. How these two relate will be discussed in more depth below.

Rules, Etiquette, and Definitions

Rules and etiquette are one of the most crucial parts of a roleplay. While rules often vary widely according to setting and plot, there are some common courtesies. These are crucially important and frame all interaction. Here are the major ones, which are often included in the RP’s “rules” section.

Godmodding/Autoing: This is when one player controls another player’s character without permission. This especially applies during fights, where it can mean the life or death of a character. Never do this without the permission of the victim’s player. Autoing is a combat-related variant where a shot is stated to hit without the other player's consent.

Unauthorized plot twists: A particularly heinous form of g-modding, because it derails everybody playing. This is taking the plot in an irrational direction or effectively eliminating an important plot point without the GM’s approval. 
Creating a new character midstream with the ability to magically solve a problem falls under this category as well. With the introduction of one of these characters, all the conflict, all the adventures to be had trying to solve the problem, and definitely all the fun disappear. No more quest for the healing herb, because Bobby the Wonder-Medic showed up. Since characters with that sort of power are completely overpowered for their setting and are generally bad form, they are a no-go. I call these characters “Anti-Plot Rocket Launchers.” On the other hand, if in the above scenario, you made a merchant NPC that knew where a relevant healing herb might be found, that might be okay, so long as he didn’t become a crutch.

Metagaming: One of the hardest things to avoid. This refers to the use of out of character knowledge in character. For instance, the original post may have listed a piece of information, but unless it has been revealed to the characters, it may not be used. To use a popular example, the Emperor may have told Luke that the Death Star is operational, but Lando (who was lightyears away at the time) must find that out for himself. The guy controlling Lando may know that the Rebels are about to get hammered, but Lando does not; ergo, no counter-action can be taken. To act as though he magically overheard the conversation would be absurd and rude to whoever was playing the Emperor, who probably spent much time laying the trap. If the Falcon’s sensors detected that the shield was still up, so that the Rebel fleet barely manages to avoid splattering on it like bugs on a windshield, that would be more permissible, but only if the plot warranted it. APRL’s qualify here as well.

Flaming: Being rude/a jerk to someone OOC under any circumstances or IC without reason. Do I really need to explain why not to do this?

Spotlighting: Hogging all of the attention for yourself. While it’s not game-breaking, like metagaming and godmodding, it’s downright inconsiderate. We’ve all done this one at some point. Just try to avoid it.

Bumping: Posting without substance in order to move a thread to the front page. Follow the forum guidelines for this. If it’s been a couple of days, double-posting is generally accepted. Triple-posting is a no-go. Bumping after five minutes is bad and generally unnecessary. Bumping once a day is more reasonable. If your RP is brand new and it has gone several days without a signup, do not keep bumping it. At that point, nobody is interested.
Necroing: Bumping dead threads. According to the forum guidelines, this doesn’t officially exist. However, there is such a thing as necroing in the RP forum. Anything that hasn’t had a post in a couple of weeks is dead. The GM will not come back, and neither will the players. Once an RP thread is dead, there is nothing more to do in it. It will not come back. 
If you see a dead RP you really like, PM the GM and ask if he would be interested in running it again or if you could run it. If he/she is no longer on the forums, you can try running something similar.

Plagiarism: Stealing. If you use someone else’s material, give them credit. End of story. Many people get very mad if you plagiarize. If you rerun a dead RP (because you didn’t want to necro it), then say something like “based on/rerunning of/sequel to (as appropriate) X’s Y RP.” Rerunning someone else’s RP while theirs is still active is beyond rude. This is not to say that there can’t be several RP’s in the same genre at once: having two dragon RP’s at a time is not uncommon, and it is perfectly acceptable. However, having two identical RP’s is frivolous.

Script/Screenplay format: Writing your posts as though one was writing a screenplay, not a book. Dialogue looks like "Name: blah blah blah blah." This is an eyesore. If you are caught RP'ing like this, the brainbow of war, the emolandfish, and I will all come and breathe rainbow-colored fire of fishy emo-ness on you.
Seriously, screenplay format may be permissible in an illiterate RP, but it's a faux pas anywhere else. Write as though you're writing a book, not a movie.

Stats: Putting a number to things about your character. Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are the most common. An RP lacks these by definition. An RPG, like Dungeons and Dragons, does have them. The OP/source manual will describe the rules for these. Just because RP's lack stats, that doesn't mean you can simply assume you're the best at everything. RP'ing is based on your honor and skill as a writer. If you constantly do ridiculous things just because nobody forced you into a set of numbers, people will hate you and nobody will play with you.

Advertising: Trying to persuade people to join by posting in other people's threads. See "Spamming" in the forum guidelines. Advertising is never permissible. It does not make your thread popular: it makes people hate you, because you're being inconsiderate. Chances are they saw your RP and are uninterested, so don't be obnoxious.

Fourth Wall: Essentially, the boundary between IC reality and OOC reality. It comes from theater, where everything would be directed at the "fourth wall," aka the invisible wall that has the audience on the other side of it. When a character realizes he is in a work of fiction and addresses the audience or a narrator or writer, he is said to have "broken the fourth wall." TVTropes has much to say on the subject. ChaosHarbinger provides a demonstration.

The major thing to remember is that you’re playing with other people. If you wouldn’t want it done to you, don’t do it to anyone else.

Literacy

Literacy is how well the members of an RP write. Each RP falls into one of three categories: literate, semi-literate, and illiterate.

Literate RP’s read like novels where each person chips in the part for his/her character. They have accurate grammar and spelling (occasional typos notwithstanding), vivid or at least competent writing, and well-formed action and characters. Minimum post lengths are not uncommon, and one-word responses are anathema. OP’s are frequently quite long, rule lists are specific, and character sheets are fairly involved. This is the sort of quality every roleplayer should strive for.

Semi-literate RP’s are a step down from literate roleplays. Posts are still legible, but they are generally shorter, and one-line responses are often permissible. This is the realm of the competent but still learning roleplayer. Op’s are often brief, but are sufficient to outline their purposes. Character sheets are short but intelligible. Posters tend to go quickly due to thinking less about their posts.

Illiterate RP’s are the slums of RP’ing. Posts are short as a rule, godmodding abounds, and there is no sense to be had. People with any command of their language have no business writing this poorly. Op’s can be as short as one sentence, character sheets may or may not exist, and chaos generally abounds. We want none of this here.

The grammar rules you learned in school apply to any and all RP’s. Nobody cares if you are too lazy to write properly. Nobody wants to sift through horribly-written posts. If English is your second language, just do the best you can, and everyone else will be understanding. Native speakers have little excuse.
Eochaid1701 wrote:
Posting with all five senses

The difference between mediocre posts and seriously awesome posts is often descriptiveness. The other players want to be able to see what you see in your head. When you say specifically what your character is doing or you describe something, you add vibrance and atmosphere to your posts, making them more enjoyable to read and write. It's easy enough to say that you walk into a room, but the vivid post gives the reader a feel for what the room is like.
The most important thing to remember is that you have other senses besides sight, and you want to appeal to as many of them as you can, within reason.

Let's take a sample post and see what we can do with it.

Steven entered the restaurant, looking around for his contact. He took a seat and ordered a beverage while he waited. The bartender brought it, and Steven drank, wondering where the contact had gotten to.

So what can you tell from that? Only the bare bones. Pretty lackluster, no? Let's start by adding:


Specificity
Details, details, details. Just don't get bogged down in them. Pick a couple representative important details and give out those. If you play your cards right, the reader can guess the rest. This is a general theme, so keep it in mind as you read the rest of this section.

Action
Don't just give us a general series of events. We want to know what happened and why. Specific actions and dialogue count for this, as does recounting motivations and reasons.

Steven quietly walked into the seedy bar. He peered over the tables and the pool players, looking for his contact, Little Jimmy. He sat down on one of the barstools, under the TV. He ordered a tonic water while he waited, prompting an odd look from the bartender, who brought him the curiously non-alcoholic beverage. Still, so long as Steven paid, the bartender didn't care.
Steven sipped his drink, continuing to wait.


While that's still got its issues, it's better than before. We can tell things about the people involved now, like who Steven might be, where he is, and for whom his contact might be working.

Visuals
What colors are things? What shapes are they? What size? Sight is the easiest sense to appeal to, and it is one of the most important.

Steven quietly walked into the seedy bar. He peered over the wooden tables and the pool players, looking for his contact, Little Jimmy. He sat down on one of the vinyl barstools, under the TV showing the Dodgers game. He ordered a tonic water while he waited, prompting an odd look from the bartender, who brought him the curiously non-alcoholic beverage. Still, so long as Steven paid, the bartender didn't care.
Steven sipped his drink, continuing to wait.


Sounds
Any musician can tell you how important sounds are. Are there birds peacefully chirping overhead? Or eerie, oppressive silence? The welcome cheer of people conversing? Or the screams of dying victims? What is making the sound, and which direction is it coming from? Sound contributes a lot to the mood of a scene. Take the restaurant.

As Steven opened the bar's door, the sounds of the patrons cheering at the sporting event on TV filled his ears.
As Steven opened the bar's door, the room instantly fell silent.

Your impression of the bar completely changed based on the sounds of it, didn't it?

Smells
Nobody uses this one much, which is kind of a shame, because it adds a nice extra touch. You can tell quite a bit about people or places by the way they smell. For instance, say you're talking to a well-dressed NPC. Does he smell of cologne? Then he's probably a responsible person - try to do business with him. Does he smell like he hasn't bathed recently? He's probably a poser - you're being stood up.

Steven quietly walked into the seedy bar. He peered over the wooden tables and the pool players, looking for his contact, Little Jimmy. He sat down on one of the vinyl barstools, under the TV showing the Dodgers game. He ordered a tonic water while he waited, prompting an odd look from the bartender, who brought him the curiously non-alcoholic beverage. Still, so long as Steven paid, the bartender didn't care.
Steven sipped his drink, letting the purer air sitting on top of it clear some of the cigarette smoke from his nose.


Textures
How things feel is another major ambience-creator, especially when dealing with exotic creatures. Are you talking about a slimy fish? Or what about a fluffy cat? How would you feel about either one?

Steven quietly walked into the seedy bar. He peered over the wooden tables and the pool players, looking for his contact, Little Jimmy. He sat down on one of the well-worn vinyl barstools, under the TV showing the Dodgers game. He ordered a tonic water while he waited, prompting an odd look from the bartender, who brought him the curiously non-alcoholic beverage. Still, so long as Steven paid, the bartender didn't care.
Steven sipped his drink, letting the purer air sitting on top of it clear some of the cigarette smoke from his nose.


Tastes
While this is the least important one, it can still contribute, especially when food or drink is involved. If you go into taste, just saying "good" or "bad" doesn't cut it. Tell us if its taste would remind us of something, or whether it's sweet, spicy, sour, or bitter.

Steven quietly walked into the seedy bar. He peered over the wooden tables and the pool players, looking for his contact, Little Jimmy. He sat down on one of the well-worn vinyl barstools, under the TV showing the Dodgers game. He ordered a tonic water while he waited, prompting an odd look from the bartender, who brought him the curiously non-alcoholic beverage. Still, so long as Steven paid, the bartender didn't care.
Steven sipped his drink, letting the purer air sitting on top of its fizzy blandness clear some of the cigarette smoke from his nose.


That's much improved from what we started with, though it could still use some optimization.

Mood
This is more of an overarching quality determined by what details you choose to leave in or out. Giving mostly negative details, or listing all the exceptions to the good details, yields a negative mood. Giving as many positive details as possible and glossing over/qualifying all the negative ones yields a positive tone. You have some degree of control over what the reader thinks about your subject. Use it wisely.

That said, let's finish off our sample post:

Steven quietly walked into the seedy bar. He usually strode in like he owned the place, but this was no place to attract a lot of attention. He peered over the tables and the pool players, looking for his contact, Little Jimmy. Not seeing him yet, he sat down on one of the well-worn vinyl barstools, under the TV showing the Dodgers game. Jimmy wasn't known for punctuality, but his information was often worth the added time. "Tonic water, please," Steven said, flagging down the bartender. The bartender looked at him as though he had a second head - who came to a place like this for tonic water? - then shrugged and filled the order. As long as this guy paid, he didn't care.
Steven raised the glass and sipped his drink, letting the purer air sitting on top of its fizzy blandness clear some of the cigarette smoke from his nose. Where was Jimmy, anyway?
Eochaid1701 wrote:
Combat: How it works and strategy

Combat works by stating what attacks you try to do, not stating what you did.

For example: “Gene stabs Bob in the chest.”

This is wrong because it precludes the possibility of Bob dodging or blocking.

Better: “Gene raises the knife and plunges it downwards at Bob’s chest.”
An even better attack would be the above, with the effects of success and/or failure listed: “… If Gene succeeded, Bob would end up with a knife in his kidney. If he failed, Gene would end up very much off-balance.”

Bob’s player might counter with, “Bob grabs Gene’s wrist and stops the blade just before it hits his chest. He tries to twist the knife out of Gene’s hand.” Alternately, he might allow the hit, but somewhere that doesn’t result in the character dying: “Bob attempted to move out of the way, but he wasn’t fast enough. The knife sliced open his shoulder and prompted a cry of pain as Bob retreated into the night.”

Dodges and blocks should be at least as long in writing as the attack, if not twice as long. I don’t see this rule enforced much, but it is common courtesy - nobody wants to play with you if your response to their detailed, half-page attack is “you missed.” Some RP’s have rules governing how many attacks one may dodge in a row. Even if they do not, dodging or blocking everything is bad sportsmanship.

Combat is ultimately governed by reasonability, the necessities of the plot, and player’s honor. If one character violates the bounds of understanding or plays unfairly, other players will not hesitate to call him out in OOC. Doing this repeatedly usually results in being banned from the RP, and the player’s character is often killed IC. Extreme cases may be shunned from RP’s altogether.

Strategy

When designing a character in an RP where fighting will play a part, it is important to build a strategy into your character. My advice for a beginner is to be well-rounded - have at least one long-range weapon or ability, plus something to use at closer range, such as a bow and a sword. You pick off the sentry on a palace wall with the bow, then use the sword for anyone inside.

Alternately, you could go with specialization in one area and let someone else handle the rest. For instance, you could have a dedicated archer with a really nice bow, and find a swordsman to hang out with, or vise versa. It also definitely helps to be familiar with whatever weapon you decide to use. Wikipedia can be invaluable here. I prefer ranged combat, so that I can get in as much damage as possible before my opponent can get close enough to hit back. This usually equates to longswords, archery, or rifles/shotguns (with sidearm). Remember, a real fight is about maximizing your chances to hit the other guy without being hit yourself.

Where available, those with some sort of shapeshifting or conjuring ability can be incredible in a fight. Just don't overuse it so that your character is invincible.
Eochaid1701 wrote:
Characters and Joining

Once you have a basic idea of what to do, find an RP that looks interesting and is accepting players. If you’re brand new, it’s best to prove yourself in a semi-lit RP or two to gauge your own skills and get acquainted with the feel of playing. It’s best to look for a thread that’s just starting or is about to start, so you can begin when everyone else does. If you’re not sure if a thread is still accepting players, PM the GM and ask. If he says yes, do whatever he says to do with the entry form - post it in the OOC thread, put it in the main thread, or PM it to the GM.
Characters are normally created by filling out character sheets or refsheets drawn up in advance by the GM. These tend to go something like this:

Name:

Gender:

Age:

Description: 
(what your character looks like)

Obviously, sheets can be vastly different depending on the GM’s preferences and type of RP. A statistic-based combat RP may have fields for statistics, or a superhero RP may have spaces for secret identities, powers, and location of secret lair. A finished sheet may look something like this:

Name: Gene Hartman

Gender: Male

Age: 22

Description: Tall, wears glasses, brown hair. Usually wears a white T-shirt and frequently a brown longcoat. Occasionally a hideous orange and red knit hat makes an appearance. Don't ask him about it, unless you have a few minutes.

History: He's been a scifi geek ever since he saw his first classic Star Trek episode when he was five. He's branched out since then, and he's gone without a whole lot of friends. He does, however, maintain an in-depth scifi science blog. Due to his proximity to the local pub, he knows how to play a couple obscure instruments.
(This sheet was taken and abridged from the deceased “Runeworld” by Zeehero: http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/390/47791.page)

These sheets give the other players something to go on, and they let the player controlling the character to get a better idea of who he/she is playing. Additionally, they give the GM an idea of what characters he/she will have to deal with. There are many right ways to do these sheets, and only one or two wrong ways. In general, the idea is to make the character fit the setting, without fitting too well.

Well-prepared characters

Suppose one was creating a character for a competitive wilderness survival RP. Having a character that was a boy scout when he was a kid is a perfectly reasonable thing to do - boy scouts are common, and it can offer an advantage. That fits well. Playing as Bear Grylls or some other expert survivalist would be an example of “fitting too well” (Mary Sue-ism). The character is perfect and is thus disallowed. Everything would be too easy, the other players would not stand a chance, and it would be just plain unrealistic. To paraphrase fellow Sporumer wolfji, “What’s the point of everyone else?” When one character is strong enough to solve a problem on his own, all the other, more reasonable characters become useless at best, baggage at worst.

This applies to all areas of the character. For every few strengths, you need a significant weakness that other players have a hope of exploiting. You also need to scale your character to everyone else’s in all respects. If everyone else has a historically accurate melee weapon and a dagger, that’s the sort of thing you should have. That doesn’t mean that if everyone else has a sword, that’s exactly what you have to have. Hammers, bows, or spears are perfectly legitimate, but your ten-foot anime sword and/or tactical nuclear device has to stay at home. Oversized/overpowered characters are rude when no-one else is using them, as are over-intelligent characters. Oversized and over-intelligent characters… no. Just no.

Less-prepared characters

On the flipside, a clueless tourist would also make a good choice for the above survival RP (though not a tactically advantageous one). That would be because a) it challenges the writer, and b) it adds variety to the cast and challenges the other players. If the tourist learns quickly, he can end up as a potentially very useful character with a lot of depth. Relatively few players make common use of this strategy, and that is a real shame.

For example: Gene, whose sheet is above, is somewhat different example. He is a normal-world character destined for a fantasy setting, but his head rests in science fiction, and he has some social disadvantages, like blurting out things at the wrong moment. In other words, he’s well prepared for precisely the wrong setting. Speaking personally, he was set up for a lot of growth, but the GM left the forum before I could get him to that point. In my opinion, this is possibly one of my better examples of the strategy: he has no setting-specific knowledge, but he is well aware of some of the tropes that both settings share. He just needs to learn to look for rings of power, rather than cloaking devices. In other words, advantageous character in the late game, with plenty of opportunities for character development early on.

Whichever strategy you use, the idea is to not overdo it. This isn’t too hard for well-prepared characters, so long as you use common sense and don’t get carried away. For the less-prepared characters, you just need to make sure you don’t end up being dead weight. If other characters are constantly having to save you after the first couple of scenarios, you’ve gone too far, and you should probably give your character enough of a boost that he can bungle his/her way through the RP without having to bog down everyone else.
There is a characterization strategy for every level of writer/player, and with more intricate characters come greater rewards.

Example: Butch and Caoas, dynamic duo

Caoas is a seven foot tall humanoid raven who roams his world as a bounty hunter. He is identifiable by his black cloak with silver clasp, Zorro-style hat, and crimson orb of death. He also carries a .357 magnum revolver and twin rapiers.

Butch is a four-foot tall, eleven-year-old gecko wearing a plain brown hooded robe, carrying a small dagger and a large book from which he is constantly studying - when he’s not glancing around in fear of rabbits. He is downright cute, especially when he tries to be fierce. His only means of defense involves screaming “Sparkly light bubbles!” which does precisely what one might guess. A bunch of pretty glowing bubbles appear around the intended target and then pop harmlessly. That’s all. Somewhat later on, he learned basic healing and teleportation. He plays sidekick to Caoas, who took a liking to him after they met.

Hows and whys:
Butch was originally going to be my only character in that RP. To say truth, I wasn’t interested in playing a major part, so I made a fun little character I could joke around with. However, he grew on me. His appearance was intended to highlight his helplessness and immaturity. The book was a strategic starting item: it gave me some room whereby I could give him more abilities as appropriate. Eventually, he began to swallow his fear and learn to be awesome, thus evolving and maturing as a character.

Caoas was intended as a main character, but he sort of ended up as the Sixth Ranger. He was to be the Kamina to Butch's Simon - the awesome factory who pulled up the underling to his level. Caoas was intended as sort of a cross between Mal Reynolds and Han Solo (as are many of my “cool” characters; it would be much later before I saw Gurren Lagann and realized the grouping I'd made). As for combat, I went with the multivector strategy. The orb I made semi-independent, capable of firing a sort of incinerating laser-thing, so it could attack from another angle whilst Caoas himself came from the front. Imagine what that would do to someone wielding a sword - laser from the back, twin swords from the front. He could mill through mooks by the dozen, leaving more time for the more important main characters to get on with the boss fight. Villains better at magic than he were better dealt with by the main crew. Once I put Caoas together with Butch, Caoas got instant transportation to anywhere within fifty leagues or so, plus a field medic. Both got character development opportunity.

Why did I do all that, after talking about overpowering characters? All of the seven crucial characters got a magic sword that could summon an element, so Caoas turned out to be a little bit behind them - they had area effect abilities which were useful against the many large bosses, while Caoas did not. Hence, Caoas was the mook-munching support guy.
Eochaid1701 wrote:
How to set up an RP
Now that you’ve played a few games, suppose you want to try your hand at making your own game. You will need 3 things: concept, plot, setting, and endgame. A good set of FYEO (For Your Eyes Only) notes is often extremely useful. I will be using my first Children of Aurnia RP as an example.

Concept

This is what your roleplay will be about. This is the germ of your idea. Make it somewhat specific, but don’t get bogged down in details. It should be a few choice words or one sentence. Try to pick something unique. If you can’t think of something new, try to think of a favorite to which you could add a new twist, or something that’s been tried, but never quite pulled off. 

I picked “A modern fantasy dragon hatchling RP” because it fits the last two reasons. Modern-day dragon RP’s had been tried, but they were lacking in plot. Dragon RP’s were and are common, but limiting the amount of power involved by making all the players hatchlings would add a new element.

Plot

This is your concept, developed into the start of a story. It should be a few sentences to a paragraph long. This will determine many parts of your setting. You should have some specifics by this point, and you should have your main plot devices etched out.
“A wizard seeks to take over the world in the name of magic. To do this, he uses a special dragon (a “queen”) to turn humans into dragons, which he will then train and use as an army.”

Setting:
This is the five W’s (and an H) of a story: Who, what, when, why, where, and how.
Who: Who are the major players? Obviously the members will be all you need, right? That’s what they’re there for. Wrong. To get this, you have to decide a few things: who the players will be roleplaying (Pirates? Ninjas? Robots? Average blokes?), who the antagonist (villain) will be, and who any important supporting cast might be. Recurring or plot-important cast such as mentors, higher-ups, and major henchmen need to be planned ahead. Random shopkeepers or travelers who you may have to use do not; if you know you will need one, make note of it to yourself.

The players would be the transformees. I would play the wizard’s apprentice, who would be the one in charge of training, and I would NPC the dragon queen and the wizard.

What: What will the players be doing?
Breaking out of training to avoid brainwashing, surviving in modern America, then coming back and freeing the queen.

When: When does the action take place? You can be as general as a time period (Medieval, early Industrial Revolution, etc.) or you can give a specific date. 

I picked August of 2012 just to put it in the near future.

Why: Why is the series of events happening? Why are things done a specific way, if you’re doing something unorthodox? If you’re doing something that overturns the normal way of doing things, you’d better give a good reason.

As for why I would use hatchlings, I decided that that would be the only way the transformation could take place. As for why transformed humans would be used, I developed the concept of the dragon queen, who can turn members of other species into dragons in the event of near-extinction. Since the species was all but gone and they could only get their hands on one dragon initially, this was the one to pick.

Where: Where will the RP take place, both specifically and generally? Specific locations would be streets and buildings, or cities, or even mountains. General locations would be like countries or continents.

I chose the fictional city of Jessica, Texas, which is located in a triangle with Dallas and Fort Worth. Within it, the first part would occur in the wizard’s training complex. The next part would take place in the player’s choice of the suburbs, inner city, or rural area.

How: How will the goals be accomplished? This determines roughly what the players will do in order to get their tasks done. Try to make this generally broad, but it’s okay to have some points where there is only one or two possibilities if the plot demands it.

For CoA, this was pretty simple. Get past the security system, evade capture, then come back and fight the wizard.

Endgame

Your success/failure conditions. It is helpful to have these sort for worked out for every plot-important event, even if it’s just deciding that the characters will die. This won’t be immediately useful except to make sure you know what your goals are. It will mostly be useful when you get down into playing.

Escaping facility pass: PC’s are free and now have their choice of environments to survive in. Escape fail: Security gets tighter. Failure a second time will result in brainwashing.
Survival in outside world pass: Players get help before going back to fight the wizard. Survival fail: Death and/or capture.
Ending fight pass: Dragons are free and may now roam the earth as in days of yore. Ending fight fail: PC’s die and the wizard takes over the world. Lots of people die.


Writing the OP

This is where the RP takes shape and starts becoming a work of art. The OP has four parts: the hook, the setup, the rules, the signup sheet, and the title.

Hook

This is the first few sentences/short paragraph of the OP. This is your chance to “reel in” the reader and potential player (hence the name). If your setup is short, you can combine this with the next step. If your setup is going to be particularly long, definitely go for a separate hook. Short but sweet is the name of the game. You should leave a lot of questions unanswered so that the reader will keep reading into the OP to figure out the answers. On the flipside, it shouldn’t be so vague as to make no sense or be a BLAM.
Hooks should always be miniature stories, be they action sequences or cryptic conversation. Draw on your plot and make a scenario that will acquaint the user with the atmosphere of the RP.

In retrospect, this could have used a few improvements, but it worked at the time:

"Marvelous, isn't she?"

A long-haired old man in a white business suit watched the security camera footage from a screen in his office. His younger counterpart, who looked to be in his early thirties and wore a brown suit, leaned in to look as well.

"Yes sir. I think she's a keeper. A little old, perhaps, but she'll do."

"True, true. You know, we'll need more than one."

The younger man nodded. "I have been wondering about that. But it took us so long to find her; how much longer will it take to find others?"

The older one chuckled. "Patience, Steven. There were others we could have brought in, but this one is special. She can make us as many as we need."

Steven looked back at the screen. It showed an ancient dragoness, tranquilized and sleeping in a cell. He raised an incredulous eyebrow. "Yes, but we may need another dragon for that. Just a thought."

The old one laughed. "Don't worry. That's what's special. I'll explain tomorrow. We'll get the volunteers in, and you'll get to see her in action."


Setup
This is going to be the bulk of the OP. This is the rest of the your setting, and it should establish the basics of the 5 W’s. You don’t have to reveal all of them at this point - in fact, it’s best to leave some to reveal as you play. Just make sure that you give your players enough information that they can start. Now is the place to establish in-world mechanics that don’t qualify as rules. 
Make sure to give your players an idea of what the stakes are.
This part's a bit long, so I'll just >give you a link so you can look for yourself.<

Rules

Make sure you’ve got the basics, specify what level of literacy you’re shooting for, and add any other considerations you feel are important enough to go here.

Signup Sheet

This can be as specific or as unspecific as you want. Depending what you’re doing, you may not even need one (although they’re handy to have).

Title
Most people wait to decide this until after they’ve gotten everything else done. It’s a sound strategy because it lets you match your title to the overall mood. However, if you get a good title idea while you’re still in progress, go ahead and write it down. Everybody comes up with things like this at different times.

Once you have all your parts, put them together in order and post your OP. It's a good idea to reserve the second post as well so you can have a list of characters for handy reference.
Eochaid1701 wrote:
Tips, tricks, and finer points
Many of these are user-contributed.

Believe it or not, people you've never met will go through and read your RP. This is how I got interested in RP'ing. I read a genetics lab RP on the old NDA forums, and it was like reading a novel. I read the entire 120-something-page game over a couple days, and I knew I wanted to get in on the action. The moral? Make your posts as good as you can. People will see what you write.

Want to be sure to avoid godding in a fight? Roll a die. That's roughly how it's done in person. All you need is a standard d6 or an online die roller. Roll for your opponent. If they roll above a certain number, they hit. If they hit the maximum number, they get a critical success (breaking a piece of equipment, or lacking that, wounding you).* So, if you were fighting someone evenly-matched, they would have to roll higher than a 10 on a d20. Someone more powerful might only have to roll an 8, while someone less powerful might have to roll a 13.

I thought the first four articles on this site were very insightful for a GM: http://www.giantitp.com/Gaming.html
Speaking of that site, I get a lot of interesting ideas and insights from gaming comics. My favorites are Order of the Stick, [url=darthsanddroids.net/]Darths and Droids[/url], and DM of the Rings. D&D has handy annotations below each comic that explains/talks about the gaming aspect that they're joking about and what it means in a larger context. Order of the Stick is interesting in that its writing is way more detailed than one would expect, and the gambits are pretty spectacular. DM of the Rings is finished, and it's all about railroading.

If someone says that there's a piece of backstory their character doesn't know about, it's rude to immediately tell the character IC. I can think of few better ways to kill dramatic tension and fun RP'ing opportunities. The only exception is if you're explicitly asked to reveal it quickly. Otherwise, let the other player work it out on his/her own time.

For information about realistic character actions, see OsakaSun's Guide to Realism. It's a very well-written guide about handling character's emotional and mental states well.

When dealing with a non-fantasy setting and a human character, don't name them something you wouldn't name yourself or your child (if they are not the same gender as you). I've seen plenty of downright stupid character names, many of them from the same person, and it's just plain annoying. Also, remember to add a last name.
If you have trouble with coming up with a good name, then go here and plug in the correct gender until you find something that fits.

*This works best for d20's, so as to minimize permanent damage to both characters.

Remember that what is most advantageous to you OOC may not be what your character sees as being most advantageous IC. Your character doesn't think the same way you do, because he/she doesn't have the omnipotent perspective of a player. Just remember what you know IC compared to what you know OOC and make your character's judgments from IC knowledge only.


The few instances where it's better to tell then show: io9. Also: Tad Williams explains why fantasy writers shouldn't overdose on magic; Heroes and villains of imaginary worlds: A quick primer.

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PostSubject: Re: On Quality Roleplaying   Tue 06 Nov 2012, 1:18 pm

It was a good call to bring a tutorial here.

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