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Layman's Guide to Roleplay

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The Layman's Guide to Roleplay written by: Marian_Frae and Aeturnus

Any comments, suggestions, or corrections would be highly appreciated. Thanks for reading.

Coming soon: a downloadable PDF file of this very extensive guide!

Roleplaying Guide Outline

1. What is roleplaying?

2. Where to start

3. Creating a character

4. Getting involved in a roleplay

5. General RPing rules

- Spelling and grammar

- Power-playing/God-modding

- Meta-gaming

- Over-posting

6. Keeping your character in-character


1. What is roleplaying?

Have you ever wished to be someone you’re not? Like maybe a person with magic powers? Or super skills with a sword? Or someone with huge quantities of intelligence and charm? Roleplaying allows you to do all these and more: basically, you can create a character of your very own – giving them a name, appearance, personality, a background, strengths, and weaknesses – and act or play as him or her within a certain plot and setting.

There are many different ways and formats for roleplaying. There are such things as roleplaying games that are like board games and there are other games, like Aveyond, that are digital and allow you to be a certain character and make certain choices that will affect the course of the game. Another kind of roleplaying is written, as it is here in various forums on the World Wide Web; and, it is this kind of roleplaying that this guide will be covering.

Roleplaying on a forum can be difficult, but its rewards are many. For starters, you will learn how to describe your character, your character’s feelings and thoughts, as well as the world around him/her and how your character will interact with other roleplayers’ characters. There are, however, some basic rules that all roleplayers must follow, which we will also be covering in this guide. Nevertheless, roleplaying will allow you to stretch your imagination as far as you can go and you will have lots and lots of fun!

2. Where to Start

There are two ways you can approach this: with a character or with a plot.

In the first way, create a character you want to roleplay (described in the next section). Once you have one, look through the various roleplay threads in the Tavern, get a feel for them, and decide whether or not your character can fit in with the plot.

In the second way, you do the reverse – look through the various roleplay threads in the Tavern, see what they’re like and what’s going on, and then come up with a character you think would do well in that plot.

Think carefully about how your character can fit into a roleplay. For example, if the roleplay you’re interested in takes place in a Medieval-type setting, your character shouldn’t be a computer hacker; or if the roleplay does not allow for magic and you have a character who is a wizard, it would probably be best to find another roleplay that allows magical characters.

Once you’ve found a suitable roleplay, join in!

3. Creating a Character

Right now, reading this, you probably have one of three mindsets about this section: “Ok… creating a character- I know how to do that, I’m a writer. I can skip this part.” Or, “What can be so hard about creating a character? I mean… you give ‘em a name and description, right?” Or you’re sitting, staring at the screen wondering to yourself, “What have I gotten myself into? I can’t make a character!”

Let me shed a little light on the subject: No one truly makes a character. Characters are not truly created, they are not truly formed, and they are not found- characters are born. How can a character be born, you ask? Surprisingly, it’s rather simple. A character begins with a person- you.

There are major differences between writing singularly for one purpose and writing for a merely common purpose. When roleplaying, you have multiple purposes you’re trying to accomplish: at least one goal, your character’s development, and cooperation with the rest of your group. Because of these differences, you have to “create” your character in a much different way.

When starting in RP’s, it’s a good idea to start very simply: take a part of you that you either love or hate. From that characteristic, build:

Let’s say your starting characteristic is that your character is withdrawn. They can’t trust people. If that’s all your character is- then you have a poor, inflexible, hard to work with character. So say that, while they’re inwardly withdrawn, they have many shallow friends. They’re very popular and seem to be a completely open person with no more secrets than anyone else. You can use this contrast later in the RP to bring depth and understanding… and even needed personal conflict. With those two contrasting characteristics, which exist very much in real life, you still need more. Let’s give your character an innate need or want. For this character, we’ll give them the need to trust. This need will give them both inner conflict and drive- both of which you, as the writer, need. Now that the character is complete with an innate and undeniable need, make sure you understand your character. Write an introduction straight from their mind just to see if you really get who your character is. Once you get that, you can give them a physical description, a name, and a list of abilities.

Physical descriptions seem to kill a writer before they really get started because he/she will start with the description before they have a character. Sure, there are stereotypes which go with a certain physical description… but when do stereotypes make a good story? Once you have a character, you could make them look like almost anything. Take a complete ditz and give them dark brown hair, icy blue eyes, small square glasses, and a short stout frame- and you have an immediately unique character. Just do what first comes to mind.

Names also seem to freeze a character. With a singular story, you generally want a name to have meaning… but with an RP, they’re most likely going to be given a nickname anyway, so why beat yourself over with a baby names book when you can give them a pretty name you’ve always liked and be done with it?

Abilities are a much abused and often overlooked part of your character. When starting out in RP, you don’t want to leave anything out that could give your character weaknesses… but humans have weakness- and any other sentient being other than GOD would as well. A character could not be both insanely strong because they spend all their time working out AND insanely smart because they study all the time. It’s impossible to be both working out and studying ALL THE TIME… unless you’re God. So, please, be semi-realistic with your characters abilities. If you’re in a modern day straight fiction roleplay, then give them abilities people you know could hone over time into something amazing. If you’re in a fantasy, give them one or two things they’re amazingly talented at and then maybe a few things that they can do but aren’t too great at. Give your characters room to grow in their abilities. And most importantly- give them WEAKNESSES. Don’t make an invincible character. It’s not fun for you or your fellow players.

Also, play with your character’s psyche a bit. Give them some ridiculous phobia- like the moon- that they’re likely to face at some point. It adds depth, possible humour, and room to roam. And don’t be afraid to let your character dream- literally dream. Having your character go to sleep and have a dream is perfectly acceptable. It’s nice to see an RP where the characters do fall asleep and dream. That bit of truth makes each character in the RP easier to connect with because everyone needs sleep and everyone has weird dreams.

4. Getting Involved in a Roleplay

Once you have a character and a roleplay you’re interested in, it’s time to join up!

How you can join will largely depend on the nature of the roleplay. Generally, in open or casual/informal roleplays, you can just jump in, introduce your character, and get right into the plot. However, roleplay threads that are more formal tend to have slightly stricter rules and guidelines to follow; therefore, you may want to ask the creator of the roleplay (or whoever is in charge) for permission to join. The creator may (or may not, depending) give you some directions or advice to allow you to better roleplay within the story they’ve created. You may also want to ask any questions you may have about the roleplay.

When you do get to join in the thread, you will first want to introduce your character somehow. There are no hard and fast rules about introducing your character but you may want to include things like what your character looks like and what they’re doing (for example, if the other characters are gathered in a tavern, your character may walk in and be interested in grabbing a drink). Then try to get yourself noticed – the easiest way to do this is to try simply interacting with someone else’s character!

5. General RPing Rules

Spelling and Grammar

An attitude many people come into an RP with is that, because it’s for fun, grammar and spelling can be thrown out the window. This is simply not true. Someone completely disregarding all grammar and spelling is painfully obvious- negatively, while someone who, maybe isn’t native to the language used but is truly trying is also obvious- in a good way. Unintentional mistakes are forgiven and people move on… but complete disregard is not. You cannot write something with tons of abbreviations or misspellings and expect everyone to just understand what you’re saying. Common courtesy in the Roleplay community calls for an attempt at grammar. I’m not saying that if you mix up you homonyms (to, two, too; your, you’re; their, there, they’re) people are going to hate you. Those can be hard to learn- especially if English isn’t your first language. What I’m saying is that you don’t want to be changing tense all throughout your post. It makes it hard to understand what’s going on and what already happened. I’m also not saying that everyone is going to be a stickler when it comes to spelling. I’m certainly not and I write books as well as act as the Editor-in-Chief for the semi- monthly site newspaper. If you’re really just not sure about your spelling and grammar, write the post first in a word document so you can check the spelling and grammar with the spell checker. Then you can just copy and paste. Observing these guidelines will go much further in bringing understanding and cooperation than you might think.


This is perhaps one of the most important rules in roleplaying conduct. Essentially, you may control only YOUR characters and non-player characters (NPCs) if you are allowed by the NPC’s creator (or if you are the creator of the NPC). This means that, if you roleplay as Bob, you should not be able to control Betty, another character. You must give other roleplayers a chance to respond and react to you.

For example, if you are roleplaying as Bob and have Bob make a joke, you cannot say that Betty laughed at his joke with appreciation. What if Betty’s roleplayer doesn’t want Betty to laugh? What if she found the joke lame or even offensive? Instead, simply write that Bob made a joke and wait for Betty’s roleplayer to respond accordingly.

Similarly, if your character and another character are locked in the heat of battle, you cannot assume that you are inflicting damage on another’s character. For example, if Bob swung his sword at Betty, you cannot say that it hit her shoulder, thus injuring her. Instead, you can only say that Bob swung his sword at Betty’s shoulder, and then you must wait for Betty to respond – if she chooses to dodge, then your attack did not work and you must accept that.

On the flip side, all characters have weaknesses. Unless one of Betty’s strengths is dodging and agility, if she constantly avoids injury after several posts, then something may be wrong. Even if she is an agile character, does she not get tired or make mistakes? If you are roleplaying as Betty, it is considered good conduct (and realistic) to take at least a hit or two.

Which brings me to yet another point: If your character takes a hit, they should feel its effects! If your character is hit hard on the head, it’s quite realistic for them to feel as if they’re on the verge of blacking out – or, at the very least, dizzy with blurred vision and a headache! It’s no fun trying to battle a person who never feels anything.

Be realistic! Be interesting! Take risks!

Meta gaming

An oft forgotten, but nevertheless a very important rule is just because you can read other’s posts and read up on their characters’ profiles means you have knowledge your character doesn’t. Consequently, this kind of knowledge should not show up in your roleplaying. For example, if you read Betty’s profile and knew her weakness was a fear of rubber ducks, your character Bob should not be thinking to himself, “I should find a rubber duck because Betty is afraid of them.” UNLESS, of course, Betty has revealed to Bob in the roleplay that she is very much afraid of rubber ducks (realistically, though, I can’t see anyone wanting to openly admit to fearing rubber ducks! XD)


Don’t you hate it when you get lost in a story and don’t know what’s going on? For this reason, please allow your fellow roleplayers to post every so often – all of them, not just one or two. For example, if Bob and Betty were online at the same time and each wanted to roleplay, if they made, say, 20 posts each in one thread, the other people who were roleplaying in the same RP would be completely lost since the story had moved on too far and they would feel left behind! Please be mindful of other roleplayers and allow them to catch up and respond to the thread.

If someone has not posted in a while, try PMing them to get their attention and ask if they plan to respond in the near future. If not or if they still do not respond after a sufficient amount of time, then it is usually considered ok to go on without them to keep the roleplay from going dead.

6. Keeping your character… in character

If you follow the character guidelines in section 3, keeping your character in character will be much easier. But you still might have problems. If you truly love a character, they will take on a life of their own- and no, that doesn’t mean you’ll become crazy and it doesn’t mean I’m crazy. A good character will just come to you. You won’t have to think hard to come up with a good reaction in most cases… and so, for the most part, you’ll be able to keep your beloved elf, human, dragon, or whatever you chose in character. This section isn’t for those cases- this is for the questions or situations you have no clue about.

Scenario: Bob is an emotionally withdrawn but socially active character who has the innate need to trust someone, despite their natural reaction of distrust and false emotions. He’s a remarkable shot with a gun and is a vegetarian. He’s also very competitive. As part of a competition, he is asked to shoot multiple animals for others to eat. The problem is: as a competitor- would he go at it? Or would he- as a vegetarian- not be able to stand the thought of killing an animal for others to eat and so, give up the competition? Most likely, the competitive side would take over… but he’d be conflicted about it even as he pulled the trigger.

Scenario: Bob and Betty are getting to know each other in the heat of boredom. Betty notices something in Bob’s answers to her questions so asks, “Why are you lying to me? These are silly questions.” Bob would not just come right out and tell her. He might even ignore the question blatantly. Because of his need to trust, though, he might be willing, given some gentle prodding from the other person, to tell the truth. But he would NEVER just come right out and say “I have a problem with trusting people.” That’s far from realistic. Don’t be afraid to explore a question or idea in their mind. Let italics work to your benefit. No one goes through out the day without a thought that contrasts or explains what they are saying or doing. If you’re truly lost, have the character stall by giving some lame excuse that will never pass but buys them some time… and let your character MULL OVER THINGS. Let your fellow RPers know that you are trying to continue… you’re just having problems. It’s fine for you to have a weak spot. No armour is perfect and so you can’t fully prepare you character for any situation or question.

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VERY NICE. Good work :)


A few suggestions:


1. what about putting a small template like the archive template?







that way you can just fill it out like you would with a form.


2. how bout "Rp in a nutshell"? For those who really just want the barebones, not the long explanations XD


3. Also, perhaps a mention on gore/graphic details/etc. cuz, depending on the players, it could be an issue.


4. Spaces/italics/colors! At a glance, I just see one long article of jumbled words. Perhaps put the individual titles in different colors or something, cuz the metagaming/over-posting is semi-hard to decipher where one ends and the other begins at a glance.


5. I'm a lazy sloth and will go sleep now -.-zzz


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Glad you like it. :) And VERY appreciative of the suggestions. No one is perfect... and we want this guide to be as perfect as possible for humans. XD yay

1. Hmm... considering this will be posted on another site too, I think I will add that too. Thanks.

2. Mae has made a brief guide which acts as the nutshell version. :) We may put that at the beginning of this... but most likely, they'll remain two separate things.

3. Ah... yeah, we didn't consider that considering the site(this one- and its rules) we originally wrote it for... but we should since, as stated before, we'll be using it on another site too.

4. That's why we're going to have the PDF file soon. I'm just to lazy to upload a file and post a link.

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Thank you. I'm glad it's clear and understandable... if it weren't... we wouldn't be able to call it the Layman's Guide... and that would be saddening.

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It's really good. But my brief one does stand its ground by being brief. I added a link to this thread in mine. But maybe we could sort of bring it together, like you could add a very short thing in the beginning of your post and your extensive one in the end. And then my thread could be locked up and left to die or deleted. It would make things a lot simpler to have just one thread about it. Or you could highlight key words in the guide, so that people with little patience could pick up the main points. What do you think?

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This is great! I was always a little overwhelmed by the roleplaying games here. Maybe I'll give it a shot at some point.


I agree with Mae about having a short main points section or highlighting key words. Sometimes I need a quick reminder but don't want to read too much to find what I'm looking for. Not that I'm being lazy....:)

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Mrm... that's why there's an outline. If you just need a small reminder, it's generally only about one thing. Once I get the PDF file up, it'll be a lot easier to navigate... 'cause there was tons of formatting in the text file. I'm not sure either of us could highlight parts any more than we have. Actually... there are a few emboldened phrases which I could go through and format... but you guys are just gonna have to wait to have a PDF.

As for putting the brief guide in here... I think it's best to have them separate because they will bring different kinds of questions. It would be easier for all parties if those different kinds were split.

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One overlooked point. People should really keep a spell book too. Each character has parameters they can't keep making up spells willy-nilly for every occasion. Once you develope the spells you need to stick to them unless your character does something specific like go to school or complete some task that enables them to become more powerful and add some spells/abilities. Like a water mage can't suddenly perform a fire spell. Or a novice mage creating a spell powerful enough to drop a dragon.

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Hrm... yes... I suppose, to me, that's just common sense... but I've been doing this for quite a while. I've added that to the list of changes. Thanks, Ally.

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...how can it be the Layman's guide if i didn't help write it?


XD sorry, part of my real name. PART OF. no one is allowed to stalk me. i so had to do that.


this is a really good guide. why was this not written when i tried my hand at roleplaying? XD

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Lol. Glad you like it, Tei. And the answer is simple- I wasn't frustrated enough yet. :P jk.

If you tried on the old site, then I didn't see a need. And I don't think Aet or I would have written this by ourselves.

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I'll send a pm nicnikkiz.

@spells and abilities- sorry there hasn't been a revision. Aet and I have both been rather busy... but I've started work on it.(huzzah for sudden inspiration) :)

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I'm on a helpful kick lately and want to get re-involved in the community now that I have a *bit* of time, so if anyone would like this updated with new content, let me know and I will add spells bit mentioned earlier in the comments as well as anything else you guys would like to add. I'll actually create a PDF form this time as well. :)

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