Common RPG Starting Mistakes

Donate to stop seeing ads, and help support Forum Roleplay!

Starting an online roleplaying game can be difficult, especially when you’re starting on a forum. There’s no guarantee you’ll be successful, but there are some common mistakes you should be aware of. You don’t want to make a bad rpg, after all!

Document Your Roleplaying Game Information

Failing to document your game information leads to confusion: yours and those you hope will join and participate in your game. This is a serious mistake that makes roleplaying harder, and makes your job as an administrator harder.

Have informational topics, have them set up in a sensible way, and link them everywhere. Link them in the forum header and footer, link them in your admin account’s signature, link them in your joining information, on your registration page, wherever. Make your information easily accessible.

Remember — you don’t have to write all documentation for your forum roleplaying game. Why write your own guide when you can link the Bad Roleplay Guide? This certainly isn’t the only roleplay resource site — you can surely find what you’re looking for somewhere!

Pick an Admin Style and Stick with It

Giving a player you like multiple second chances, while being hard on a player you don’t like is unfair. This differential treatment is the hallmark of an RPG admin with more to learn.

Roleplaying game admin strategies are discussed in-depth on Rules and Members, but to put it briefly — choose how you’ll administrate your forum roleplaying game and don’t deviate.

You don’t have to be fair and impartial or personable and human. Forum Roleplay doesn’t advocate one style over the other. Both are perfectly acceptable, different strategies for operating your online roleplaying game. What is important is remaining true to that administration style.

Styling Roleplaying Game Forums

Style and forum skin issues don’t necessarily make a bad roleplaying game, but they can seriously detract from potential of a game. Make the right decisions when skinning your online forum RPG.

These decisions are often contrary to what is “trendy” in the roleplaying world. Forum roleplaying games are notorious for violating these basic rules of design and layout on the web in the name of er, “aesthetics.” Break the mold and help make forum RPGs’ design reputation improve!

Why is this important? Bad design interferes with roleplaying. You created your forum roleplaying game so people can roleplay, right? Make that as easy as possible for them.


The default font size on the web is 16 pixels. Why are you decreasing it to 11, 10, or even 9 pixels? In very small doses, fonts of these sizes are appropriate — “legalese” text, for example — but they absolutely should not be used for large chunks of content. The same for text in uppercase. The only place this is really appropriate is headings, and even that should probably be in small doses unless you really know what you’re doing. Font colors that barely contrast with your background are inappropriate.

Why am I prattling about fonts? Well, you want people to join your forum roleplaying game, yes? If so — make it easy for them to read things. If someone is struggling to read your forum descriptions, they won’t register — let alone read your information, type their stuff into your tiny input box, and put up with all of that for a prolonged period of time.

Many people have bad monitors, poor eyesight, colorblindness, or some other factor that complicates things even more. You want to cater to the widest audience possible. It stands to reason you shouldn’t exclude the people with bad technology, poor eyes, or a physical trait they can’t help. Let them enjoy your roleplaying game, too!

For more information, font styling is covered extensively in RPG Post Templates.

Headers and Banners

Huge headers and banner images are a mistake often seen in forum roleplaying games. Remember that people have to scroll down to see your content, and if you’ve made the 12,000 forum mistake… well. We’re in for the long scroll, huh?

A super-tall banner, even if it’s super-pretty, interferes with the user’s interaction of your forum. Every time they load a page, they have to scroll three extra times just to get past your header. This can range from a mild annoyance to seriously bothersome. Added, your giant forum image probably isn’t well-optimized and is likely to add a fair amount of load time to your page.

We have huge monitors and broadband connections, you say? Not everyone does. Mobile browsing is making leaps, too — more than a few forum roleplayers play exclusively through a mobile phone or a tablet device. On these devices, huge graphics that take forever to download are still a concern. Breaking a data cap because of massive forum images is one way to lose mobile roleplayers fast.

You Don’t Need 12,000 Subforums!

Sample Organization

  • RP-Related OOC Forums
    • Game Information
    • Joining
    • Accepted Character Profiles
    • Roleplay Discussion
  • IC Forums
    • Northern Region
    • Eastern Region
    • Western Region
    • Southern Region
  • OOC Forums
    • Chat
    • Advertising

Many online roleplaying games are organized per-location — down to the corner store having its very own subforum. Having so many forums on your board has a few negative consequences, including:

  • More difficult to navigate, even for the seasoned roleplayer.
  • More overwhelming for a new member to look at and know where to post.
  • More difficult for you to administrate, especially if your forum software doesn’t offer mass topic actions. It’s also a lot more maintenance — you don’t want to have to hire another administrator because you can’t keep up with 50 subforums.
  • Most importantly, it makes your forum look inactive. So what if the Girl’s Dormitory has 50 threads and 300 posts when every other forum on your board is listing 0 posts?

Especially in the beginning, your roleplaying game doesn’t need a lot of subforums. Instead, consider:

  • Organizing your roleplaying game by region — North, South, East, West, etc. You can list individual territories, areas, landmarks, or anything else within an informational topic.
  • Organizing your forums via physical location — if the Boy’s School is right next to the Girl’s School, their forums should be next to one another.
  • Decreasing your RPG’s playable area. Instead of an entire continent or world, your game can be a state, county, or town. The rest of the IC game areas can be unlockable, or simply non-playable. As your roleplaying game grows and you increase membership levels, these other areas can be unlocked.
  • Decreasing the amount of detail in your RPG’s playable area. It’s okay to let players make assumptions about the buildings on a single street if your game is a huge city. Chances are, there are enough non-descript streets in that city, right? Conversely, in a small town, descriptions of Main Street that severely conflict with established setting can really break believability and realism. In both cases, though — you shouldn’t be setting out every single street in a city, nor every single building on Main Street. In short — don’t get lost in the trees when world-building, especially at first.