The blog of Raphael - How to be a good partner

Started by Raphael, November 24, 2010, 04:45:31 AM

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How to be a good role-play partner

Very many people think they are good role-players. With only a month of experience as a role-player, I can only see fatal flaws in the role-playing abilities of most people I’ve role-played with. So I’ve decided to write an article that wraps up and sums up what makes for a truly good role-player.

1. Write well!

You cannot be a good partner if your writing sucks. And that doesn’t just mean putting commas in the right places and writing more or less grammatically correct and without too many typos. It also means writing with style and in an attractive way. If you want to be a good role-player, give it some effort.

She turned around and saw him standing naked in front of her and she felt a flush of warmth in the pit of her stomach as she saw him naked. – is not good writing.

She turned around and a flush of warmth rose in the pit of her stomach: he was standing before her, naked, and her excited gaze glanced up and down his muscular forms. – is good writing.

2. Contribute!

Your partners aren’t writing alone. Role-play so that if your character is taken out of the story, the story will fall apart. Don’t just tag along for the ride – actively contribute to the story, add your own twists, assist in shaping the story together with your partners. Use NPCs, initiate dialogues, allow your character to make individual decisions… just contribute to the damn story!

3. Make an interesting character!

Interesting does not mean uber cool and sexy and amazing. Every person has flaws – every single one. Every person is unique in some ways and average in some ways. Every person has several layers of conscience, several layers of motivation, has biography with interesting stories in it, has certain speech patterns, behavioral patterns, etc. Creating a good character is what often separates a great writer from a boring one.

4. Be your character, not a bystander!

Role-playing means you take the role of someone else, not you write about someone else. The best role-players always write from the point of view of their characters, not from a bystander point of view. Your goal is to live the story through the eyes of someone else, not tell the story of someone else. Describe what your character sees, smells, hears, tastes, and touches, and even more importantly – what they feel, think, say, and do.

- Amanda was tall, with light brown hair and dark green eyes that glistered in the dark. She was wearing a low-cut red dress and high heel shoes. – bystander. You are not writing from the point of view of your character, you’re writing from the point of view of someone looking at your character, which isn’t true role-playing and can get somewhat irritating. You are playing a role, not writing a novel, after all.

- Amanda sighed. The high heels had made her feet hurt, and that low-cut dress, sexy as it was, didn’t offer sufficient protection from the cold night air. She looked around for familiar faces, but she spotted none and she felt alone and in the spotlight, well aware that her height and her beautiful green eyes combined with the red dress and the elegant shoes were attracting quite a few lustful gazes. – role-player. You still offer a good description of your character but you are doing it through her own eyes, you are writing from her point of view, which is what true role-playing is.

5. Find the balance between short and long!

5-6 sentences can’t cut it. They simply can’t if you’re experiencing anything more complicated than drinking a glass of water through the eyes of another person (your character.) On the other hand, when you’re writing longer posts, try not to overload your partners with a ton of action and dialogue that they would have to fit into somehow. Thorough descriptions, emotions and thoughts, combined with short bursts of action and dialogue are the best way to write while role-playing. You are not writing alone.

6. Give your partners something to work with!

Look at the last sentence of the previous paragraph. You are not writing alone. So give your partner what I call hooks – dialogue, action or events that allow your partner to choose the reaction of their character. Give them options.

“Oh… by the way,” he said to Jonathan, “you look like crap.” – in the next post your partner can decide whether this remark upsets Jonathan, makes him laugh, makes him figure out a snappy comeback, makes him ignore it, makes him sigh and cry cos he’s had a terrible day… etc.

Technically, almost anything you write can serve your partner in some way in their next posts. But true ‘hooks’ will force a response out of them while at the same time they will be able to choose between a variety of responses. This way they always have something to work with after each of your posts, making their replies easier and their experience of playing another person more vivid, it also makes interaction more fluid and intense. Hooks can be delivered through dialogue, but also through action, through NPCs, through little events, etc. Here’s two other examples:

- your character’s hands are shaking, he or she drops the glass of water and it falls on the floor and shatters at your partner’s character’s feet. – a hook through a small event. A bad writer will have their character ask your character “are you alright?” but a good writer will add their character’s reaction to glass breaking at their feet – startled, upset, amused, scared of injury, etc.

- your character is in a playful mood and hits your partner’s character with a pillow – a hook through action. It gives your partner the opportunity to choose between a wide variety of emotional, verbal and physical responses.

Sounds so simple, so easy, so obvious. So it really surprises me how many role-players actually fail to produce good hooks on a regular basis.

7. Your partners can’t hear your thoughts!

You are not writing alone. Make sure your descriptions and explanations are thorough enough so when you write about something, your partners can understand what the hell you’re talking about! More than once I’ve had to PM my partners and ask them to give me specifics about a certain place or event or whatever because their posts were vague, not sufficiently descriptive. Our characters must meet in this secret facility – but you failed to mention where it is, how to get there, how big it is… And I can’t read your thoughts. You are not writing alone.

8. Follow the rules!

Each role-play has a unique story world. This story world has it's own internal rules, it's own mood, it's own setting. Once these are established, follow them! Otherwise you're spoiling the experience of your partners, and you're showing disrespect for the effort of the people who created this story world. Disrespect isn't gonna make you a good partner. You are not writing alone.

{Feel free to comment}


I think you nailed it that all of us have plenty of chances to learn and places+people to learn from raph. RP is dynamic and social, no one dynamic works between any two different pairs of rpers. That said, just cause everyone's different doesn't mean there ain't good rp tips like yours out there :) . A lot of your advice like hooks definitely shows real Improv savvy and I can't express how much just reading a few improv articles and posts such as yours helped my rp at least.

One piece of advice I'd add, and I think some of your points get at this in other forms, is that it helps to treat each and every partner as the best rp'er ever. I want to learn from every rper I meet because of this. The moment I think I'm a 'better rper' or my style is better the rp just dies. Putting myself in this mental position just helps. Even if someone doesn't share a style that necessarily works with mine, by believing their approach to be just as good if not better, we meld as much as possible. 


I cannot agree with these rules strongly enough, especially rule #6 (Give your partners something to work with!)   Many of the collaborative stories I struggle with give me trouble because of my partner's failure to adhere to this simple principle.  That's not to say I don't fail at it, myself, from time to time; we all need to be reminded of such occasionally.

I admit, I came into this thread with a healthy dose of skepticism, but after reading these, I think you nailed it.