Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Character Role Playing for Authors


Authors by Design has recently added role playing to the activities you can participate in on our forum. Long time role player JadedSidhe aka Lynn explains how role playing works, the Griffin Inn, and why this can be helpful to authors.

I've been writing for fun since high school, but I've never tried to publish anything. I'm currently writing a science fiction story that I plan to try to get published. I don't have a lot of hobbies, role playing, reading, writing, playing Sims and Create A World. I have been known to dabble with graphics and making websites.
-Lynn 

What is Character Role Playing?

Character role playing is taking on the persona of your character and interacting with others who are doing the same. The point is to stay true to your character. Act, react and interact as your character would.

The How and Why Character Role Play Helps Authors

Character role play helps in more ways than just character development. It helps with world building and it can even help break through writer's block.

From the character development angle, it helps you make more well-rounded and three dimensional characters. It’s particularly useful for characters that you haven't quite figured out. The rest of the characters are controlled by other players their actions and reactions will be unfamiliar or even surprising to you. Your characters will be asked questions. Some of these questions are the standard fare: What's your name, your occupation, where do you come from, etc. But there will be other questions that you may not have ever considered. This can make you rethink or think about how your character would react, therefore digging deeper into whom your character really is and the world and society he or she comes from.

An example of how character role play can help with world building. One of my characters was asked about the political situation on her world and was there any dissent among the populace. It was something I hadn't even considered. After I'd given it some thought and added a few notes to my character's society, I realized that it, the dissent, added to my antagonist's motives.

In the case of writer's block, character role play is an exercise in creativity. If you bring in even a basic character into a role play game and start interacting with other characters, your character will develop and so will his or her world, that can lead to other characters and their motivations and even a storyline.

In all, character role play is a multi-faceted tool that is a fun way to learn about your characters and the world they come from.

Are There Rules for Character Role Play?

It really depends on the group and how the role play is set up. The rules for the role play here are fairly simple. Because we can have characters from any time or place, things that are unfamiliar still seem to make sense to the various characters. Wariness is fine, hysteria is not. Someone from a prehistoric time won't need to be asking what a table is. Language is magically translated. Everyone speaks their own language, but everyone else hears their native language. The same goes for books and reading.

When Characters Take Action Against Other Characters

All characters may not get along. There may be disagreements, arguments and even fighting.
The rules of thumb are: Remember Fair Play and Use Common Sense.

If characters have magic or psychic abilities, that's all fine and good, but common sense needs to be used. No warping the inn and turning your role play partners into frogs. If it limits your role play partners' abilities to interact and communicate, that defeats the purpose of the role play.

The players have to keep 'fair play' in mind when something like this happens. Storm and Zephyr for example. They could easily use their abilities to call a bolt of lightning against an antagonist. The thing is, they aren't naturally inclined to do something like that unless it’s a life and death situation. From a role play stance, it would certainly be an unfair advantage to do so against someone who doesn't have that sort of power. That doesn't mean they're not above zapping someone with a little shock (think the level of static shock).

There is nothing wrong with acting as your character would act/react to a situation, but, there comes a point when actions/arguments/fights defeat the purpose of the role play. That is the point you as the player have the responsibility to decide how to work things out while still being as true to your character as possible.
Don't kill each other's characters. It defeats the purpose. If they want a good-natured fight, or to settle an insult sure, do it outside the inn (Otherwise, they'll find themselves plunged into the nearby ocean courtesy of Jake the Innkeeper). If a fight does happen, the players will have to decide among themselves who wins and how.

Cursing and Sexual Situations

Cursing follows the Forum rules and overt sexual situations are no-nos. It’s not that *ahem* mutual attraction is banned, it just it isn't necessary to play that out. A simple 'they retire to a room upstairs' and is left at that.

How Do Non-Player Characters (NPCs) Work?

NPC's work differently in different games. Sometimes they are solely used by the person running the role play, sometimes they aren't. It’s best to check with the person or people running the game if you're not sure.

Jake Griffin is an example of an NPC. Not that any of the characters knows this, but, he is a very powerful mage. He created The Griffin Inn in what could be called a 'pocket world'. Jake appears to greet people and serve food, clean up, do a little interacting and keep the role play going.

I normally play him, but that doesn't need to stop someone from using him if he's needed. Anyone is welcome to use (not abuse) Jake. If he's needed to bring food or tea or even turn on music, sure, go ahead, use him. He can even be commandeered to greet someone, but, it wouldn't be proper etiquette to use Jake to tell new arrivals that he's a mage showing off his magical abilities without checking with me first, as Jake doesn't flaunt his mage abilities and he's not prone to announcing things like that.

Tips and Tricks

If you are running more than one character or there is action going on in two different places, you denote this by first stating where the action is happening. If your character(s) are just speaking and not performing some action, use their name and a single bracket.

Examples:
Inside: 
Zephyr refills Storm's tea cup
Storm> Thank you

Outside:
Jake> Welcome to the Inn

There are things we call OOC (Out of Character) comments, information and knowledge. We use brackets, ( < >, << >>, (( )) ), to notate OOC usage. You, as a player, can ask a question or ask for or make clarifications or statements. Using the brackets lets others know it isn't a part of the role play.

It should be noted that your characters don't know what is happening in other parts of the inn. Characters upstairs won't know what's going on downstairs (unless shouting is involved). Using information you don't know is a no-no.

An example of an OOC clarification is the earlier use of the twins' elemental power. 

If they zapped someone I could say something like:
Storm glares at Ariel. He calls his element. There is a small bright flash and a pop. ((She'd feel a small shock like you'd get after dragging your feet over the carpet and touching a doorknob))

Another example is when Isobael introduced Amari. 

I didn't know if she was reading Jake's aura or using some other ability on him:

Isobael:

Outside:
Amari frowns as she glances around. She then looks back at Jake, studying him. "Who else is inside?"

As her eyes focus on him, her pupils dilate, the black overcoming, engulfing the silver until only a grey ring borders the black.

Blinking once, her eyes return to normal and she tilts her head to the side a bit.

JadedSidhe:

Outside:

Jake> Only the boy and the twins are inside.

An example of clarifying a character's action. 

Zephyr would have reacted differently if Arel looked younger than 15 than she would if he looked 15 or older. I didn't know how old Arel looked. You'll also notice I used two different types of brackets. The type of bracket used doesn't matter, it’s still OOC information.
Zephyr puts her gloved left hand on her sword (she wears the sword on the left so it is a non-threatening manner) as she stands to her 6'0 height and turns to the newcomer.

Zephyr looks Amari from head to foot and back up to her face, assessing her for a potential threat. "Good evening."


Proper Grammar and Prose

Role play doesn't require you to use perfect sentence structure and the like. We kick back and have fun while we learn about our characters.

However, text abbreviations such as: 4ever, R U going, etc is frowned upon.

The most important rule of Character Role Play is to relax and have fun while you learn your characters and help others learn theirs.

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