While the exact nuances of good roleplaying etiquette may vary from one RPG to the next, the following concepts are generally considered good manners. Breaking these concepts isn’t likely to get you banned from a game (Bad Roleplay will, though). Poor roleplay etiquette still won’t win you any friends or permanent roleplaying partners, though, and if you want to be successful in your forum roleplaying foray, keep good etiquette in mind.
Starting Roleplay Threads
Be Clear on the Roleplay’s Setting
When you start a thread, certain things are important. Where is the thread set? What time of day is it? What’s going on? It’s important to describe the scenery for the other player. It may be confusing if you set the thread at night, and the other player replies as if it is day.
Start RP Threads in a Sensible Place
For the best response in AW threads, pick a well-trafficked area of the game. If you set the thread in the middle of nowhere, far from where most characters live, the replies you get may be limited as it may be difficult for other characters to access those areas.
Make sure this is a place the other character(s) can access, and a place where it makes sense for them to be. For example, in a boarding school forum roleplaying game, if your character is supposed to be meeting with a boy, don’t start the thread in the girl’s dormitory. This forces the other roleplayer to either write a boring post waiting for your character to arrive, or to break into the dormitory and risk getting in trouble. An interesting scenario, but realism may need to be kept in mind, too (e.g., how often the guards patrol, how likely the other girls are to keep their meeting secret, etc.). Good roleplay etiquette dictates you discuss these interesting (but possibly sticky) scenarios with the other roleplayer before jumping in.
Replying to Roleplay Threads
Pacing and Reply Times
Pace in forum roleplaying is important. Too lax, and you may lose inspiration for your roleplay threads. Too strenuous, and you may find yourself overwhelmed. It’s very important to set a good pace for yourself, and keep it up. If you are feeling too pressured to reply to your threads, you can always drop a few.
Don’t feel pressured to reply to a thread quickly because the other roleplayer replied quickly; it is very important that you are comfortable replying at your own speed! Remember, roleplaying is supposed to be fun. It is normal in many forum roleplaying games to wait a few days to a week for a reply. In some games, threads take even longer — each game has a different pace, and each player within a given forum roleplaying game has a different pace.
If you constantly feel like you’re swamped or you always feel like your threads are lagging, it might be time to start asking your potential thread-mates what their reply speed is usually like. If people provide honest answers, you can avoid speedy or slow posters, and stick with people who are more of your style. You can always ask people to slow down a little if they’re overwhelming you, but it’s somewhat rude to ask someone to hurry up.
Asking for Replies
Some roleplayers consider being asked to reply to a specific thread rude. If your thread participants are too slow for your liking, please consider that they may have real life, other duties, or other threads to reply to, too. Your thread may be plot-centric to your character, but not so plot-centric to their character. If a thread is progressing too slowly for your liking, you can always archive it and try again later or try it again with a different character.
In most forum roleplaying games, you can be in as many threads as you’d like at once. In many forum games, you can pick up multiple characters; some games don’t even have a limit as to how many characters you can play. If you feel as though you’re not getting enough roleplay due to slow participants, you can always pick up other characters or new threads.
Some threads are plot-centric and should be kept as a priority. You should keep this in mind as you’re picking up threads. For plot-centric or important threads, it’s less rude to ask about a reply, but of course, your mileage may vary. Some players find asking for a reply rude regardless of the situation; other players don’t mind being asked to reply ever.
Threads with Multiple Roleplayers
Group threads are awesome — it’s a chance for a lot of people to come together and work toward one end, and they’re often essential for larger, board-wide plots. However, a common problem in large threads is the tendency for each character to react to each thing that happens. It’s easier to summarize and breeze over non-essential interactions if you can, however; a larger amount of participants naturally means there is more to read throughout the course of the thread. It’s good roleplaying etiquette to keep replies short and succinct. There is no reason for your character to verbally reply (or even mentally react to) to everything every other character said. If you’re in a group and several people are talking at once, are you listening to and responding to every conversation? Unlikely!
Roleplaying Thread Post Order
In some threads, keeping a strict posting order is very important to good roleplay etiquette. This especially holds true in larger threads that are plot-centric; the thread-starter or plot-master may wish for the thread to move at a certain speed to make other things sensible within the timeline, and thus slow repliers may be skipped. If you’re skipped, you should ask the thread starter if you can reply to the post out of turn, or if you should just wait for your next turn. Also, one-on-one threads should be replied to in turn, as posting twice to the same thread can be very confusing or even against the rules.
In other threads, strict posting order is unnecessary. Roleplay is typically more lax and not plot-centric in these threads. If you’re not sure if the posting order will be strictly enforced, it’s a good idea to ask the thread starter what they intended.
Glorification of Trauma, Disorders, -Isms, Etc.
A sensitive issue in roleplay is the use of certain plot devices or character “flaws.” Among them are rape, molestation, mentally challenged characters, characters affected with a particular mental disorder, characters affected with a particular disability, and various other sensitive issues. Most games will allow you to play these characters; a rare few ban them outright.
If you want to roleplay a sensitive issue (e.g., a character who was raped, or a character who has Down’s Syndrome, or a character who is transgendered) treat these issues with respect. It is important to remember that these issues do not entirely shape that character and their perception. Your character with Down’s Syndrome is not just “a character with Down’s Syndrome” and you should explore aspects of their personality, history, and interactions, too. Don’t let the disorder/disability/past define the character.
Most importantly, remember that there are very real people who have the experience you’re trying to capture. They deserve your respect. Avoid cliches, tropes, and stereotypes — there’s more enough of that in real life. Be kind to your fellow humans, please! “It’s just a character” doesn’t cut it as an excuse.