Saturday, May 14, 2011

What is role playing?

RP World Group

The simplest and easiest way to answer that is to give you the most common dictionary definition. NOUN:
1.              Psychology A therapeutic technique, designed to reduce conflict in social situations, in which participants act out particular behavioral roles in order to expand their awareness of differing points of view.
2. An instance or situation in which one deliberately acts out or assumes a particular character or role.

The reality is much more than that. This article and the following interviews will concentrate on the second definition, but the first is also very much intertwined, even when role playing or RPing as it’s called is done just for fun, or taken more seriously. No two role playing groups are the same but all have similar characteristics. One of the necessary components is a vivid imagination.  However, the kind of RPing done at RP World, RPW, further requires the ability to get those images or stories across to your reader. Strong writing skills are a must. But writing in a manner that’s different, 3 dimensional, as opposed to writing done when reading a story in a book. RPers become a living, breathing representation of the written work, for their fans; the character takes on life.

RPing now is very different than it was even five years ago. Most people associate RPing with boardgames and computer games. And that’s where it probably had its first venture beyond a psychological technique or outside of an actor’s workshop. One of the most popular role playing games is Clue. Players are given a character, one is assigned the victim the other the killer and everyone else has to figure out whodunit. In more recent years one of the more popular and complicated RPing games is, Dungeons and Dragons and the blue print for most. Gamers would assume the role of a character in the game. A game master can establish a set of guidelines for that character, what he/she is capable of doing (magic wise), and have a set task to accomplish. Along the way they make friends, face challenges or obstacles they’d have to overcome. After each task they would: earn points, be given weapons in which to protect themselves, treasures that they would later need, or gain necessary strength, all to advance to a higher level within the game and/or capture the coveted prize. These were the original role players. Since that time things have changed dramatically. This type of role playing largely driven by board or video games or television shows still exist but what we do at RP World has gone beyond this.

Moving beyond just gaming some RPing groups incorporated writing.  Creating worlds along with the inhabitants and guidelines that rule the worlds.  Still largely based on fantasy games or television shows. RPers take on pre-determined characters and storylines within the group and write the stories of events that take place within the parameters of the game based world. The more recent and popular form of RPing appears on Facebook, and changed that concept.  On FB it has become more about writing story lines. Groups there portray entire published works, and group administrators or moderators approve or determine storylines and as well as the characters. RPers take on a character(s) of usually a popular author’s copyrighted work. The most popular books to RP are of course the paranormal/fantasy genres. The Black Dagger Brother series by J. R. Ward has more groups RPing that series online than any other. And that has led to some serious contention and cyber fights among the groups.  

The RPing on FB is different than RPing D&D. The RPer uses the published books as their bible. They essentially act out the characters in the book, along with storylines driven by events in the series for their FB fans. In order to do this they must be good writers and have read the books. And have a clear understanding of the character, as the author of the books has portrayed him/her, as well as the world the author has created. Fans are quick to point out any discrepancies. So these RPer are bound and limited in what they can or cannot do with these characters written by someone else. Also there are copyright issues involved. Not all of the RPers or groups are sanctioned or authorized to use the copyrighted work.

RP World was created as a result of this friction and contention, and has taken RPing to the next level.  We are developing a still different written art form. In our world the work and the character must be original. We place no limits on what you want to create. Even the world. The closest analogy would be to think in terms of an actor’s improv workshop where you are given a situation and have to take on a role. You act out the scene and create the dialog. Ex. You’re a woman trying to buy flowers in a flower shop, you’re not sure what kind of flowers you want, and the sales person is helping you. Now action.

RPers in RP World can do that but in truth do much more.  RPW doesn’t give the RPer the situation. They create their own original character, write a profile up on him/her and develop an original storyline around that character or characters, some create more than one within a storyline or SL. One RPer may be the author of the SL or can partner with others. The SL can be just a base outline of the people involved who’s with who, the powers, the protagonists, the villain(s), etc or it can be more complete. There are no limits. Then instead of bringing an oral and visual performance on stage to a live audience, the performance is written from the character’s perspective and performed on-line.  In a manner, where fans can read along as each character involved with the SL writes and posts his/her lines. And the story is told over a series of posts. So it also becomes a soap opera of sorts because the character, unlike a story in a book that comes to an end, can have a continuing storyline. The only limits are those the RPer author puts on themselves.

RP writing goes beyond publishing books for stories as we know them. Unlike stand alone books or a series, RPers bring the stories to life in an interactive way. The reader/fans have direct interaction with the characters whose stories they’ve read about. They can ask questions of the RPers and comment directly to them about the SLs or the characters. The RPers while on RPW never come out of character. That’s part of the fun.

Unlike RPing that exist on FB and elsewhere, where it’s easier to have a pre-developed character and story already written for you to work off. Our RPers have to come up with their own. Even published authors have trouble with RPing. There’s a lot more interaction with others and writing for many published authors tends to be solitary.

Some of the work is written in advance, pre-written. The RPers involved in a particular part of a SL might have a guideline they agree upon for a scene and each person writes their parts and they all go over it and tweak it as needed. Working off each other’s scenes to create the whole. Then when it’s time to post they post those pre-written scenes. Because of time constraints this type of posting goes much faster and will take a shorter period of time to post. The other type and much harder to do option, yet most RPers do very well, is the off the cuff.  Live SLs without any pre-writing. This is where your reading and writing skills really come to the fore. You must know your character and understand the storyline. This also takes much longer to post because the RPer is creating the scene live. She/he writes it then posts it. You can’t rush creativity.

While anyone who loves a story can RP, not all RPers can make the transition to creating original work. Even though they are usually excellent writers, as long as they have a guideline to follow that someone else gives them. But creating their own? Some are lost or terrified of the responsibility of crafting an original story. But the beauty and strength of RPing at RPW is that the RPer finally has control to bring their own visions of characters to life.

Lady Isis
High Sorceress

Come join us we’re waiting for you.