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.
For a more advanced technique — you can even use images in your roleplaying to help set the scene. If it’s a night thread, maybe you include a free picture of a moon. If it’s a space setting, maybe you’ll have to look up a wild jungle that looks almost alien. You definitely don’t have to build entire post templates around these images. You can if you want to! But it’s probably less time-consuming to simply include “scene-setting” images a link or at the top of your thread to help other roleplayers get a better picture of what’s going on.
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.
Setting: A boarding high school forum RPG.
Characters: Azazel (boy) and Charchemish (girl).
Scene: The players have plotted for their characters to meet. Charchemish’s player starts the thread. She starts it in the girls’ dormitory.
Problem: Azazel can’t go into the girls’ dorm. This forces Azazel’s roleplayer to either write a boring post waiting for Charchemish 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.
If you’re having trouble keeping track of your threads, check out Roleplay Post Logs. These are custom mini-templates roleplayers use to keep track of their current threads.
Asking for Replies
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.
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, a strict posting order is good roleplay etiquette.
- One-on-one threads should be replied to in turn. Posting twice to the same thread can be very confusing or even against the rules.
- Strict posting order also tends to hold true in larger threads that are plot-centric. The thread should move at a certain speed to make other things sensible within the timeline. Slow repliers may be skipped. If you’re skipped, you should ask the thread starter. Sometimes you can reply to the post out of turn. Other times, it’s best to just wait for your next turn.
In other threads, even very large ones — strict posting order is unnecessary. Roleplay is typically more related and these threads aren’t key to the plot. If you’re not sure about posting order, ask the thread starter.
Some roleplaying post logs even have fancy little markers you can use to indicate whether it’s your turn or not. Post logs are really helpful for staying on top of your posting duties.
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 Syndrome, or a character who is transgender) 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 Syndrome is not just “a character with Down Syndrome” and you should explore aspects of their personality, history, and interactions, too. Don’t let the disorder/disability/past define the character. Avoid cliches, tropes, and stereotypes — there’s more enough of that in real life.
On the flip side — if someone is roleplaying a sensitive issue but doesn’t seem to be doing it “right” in your eyes, please remember that humans all have a very wide variety of experiences. We’re all different. Maybe that person is “doing it wrong” in your eyes, but what they’re roleplaying is actually true to what they live every day? Maybe it’s therapeutic for them to write about certain subjects in a certain way.
The end lesson in all: be kind to your fellow humans, please! “It’s just a character” or “it’s just roleplay” doesn’t cut it. There are very real people who actually live the experience you’re trying to write. They deserve your respect.