8 August, 2019
Roleplaying is a fun hobby, but it’s more than just worn Player’s Handbooks or people eating roasteth pigeth while staring at pixels on a screen. There’s a lot more that influences it! So let’s take a look at that today and see what inspires some great RP.
I feel like this is more a personal post about what I’m inspired by, but perhaps these are more universal than
I think you can look at adventure stories as being significant for the type of RP that we might enjoy. We can look at Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories or even go back to the grandaddy of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings for a glimpse at what people do in games. The brash adventurer against all odds, the simple person with a heavy destiny, or perhaps even the great fight of Good vs. Evil (capital letters mandatory) to see how people bring what they’ve read into their stories. And in games like Conan Exiles or Lord of the Rings Online show that these books inspire us to want to play in their settings.
Of course, the text medium for most MMO RP makes this inspiration make sense. Plenty of newbie RPers can be accused of writing purple prose when they start, trying to embellish a little too much, perhaps. Of course, some people find this fun, especially forum RPers who had to make every post count. (And I’m not against good description! It’s just when you describe things in overly flowery language and distract from the point that you start to hinder good RP.)
On the other hand, there are limitations. It can be hard to RP a big fight like Helms Deep, for example, without a whole lot of coordination and cooperation going on. I guess some things are better left to the game mechanics!
Some of you when I mentioned Conan or Lord of the Rings probably thought of the movies instead of the books, which is fair. I think many people are more captivated by cinematic experiences today than by reading books. And, you can say that MMOs are a very visual medium, so it makes some sense that people would want their characters to have some cinematic flair! Of course, this contrasts with the fact that typing out RP and moving around in a three dimensional space are hard to do simultaneously. Watching a combat RP in most games where the game system doesn’t allow slow-paced duels often seems rather boring to the outsider on a visual level. People are just standing around for the most part, waiting for posts.
But we can talk about other visual media like anime/manga as well. Especially in a game like FFXIV, developed by a Japanese company, you’re going to see some influence of these quintessential Japanese media in them. So it makes sense that people will take a page out of these for inspiration for their characters and stories. But, I think that these influences find their ways into other games as well, not just Final Fantasy.
Improvisational theater has a lot of influence on RP as well, as that’s what a lot of RP is at the core: collaboratively telling a story given some constraints. This goes for tabletop obviously, as you have people together in person trying to act out a scenario. But you can see the influences in MMO RP as well since it tends to be very spontaneous and immediate. And a lot of RP is even ephemeral like improv tends to be. It’s even fair to say that a lot of RP doesn’t even have very specific goals, especially if you’re doing “slice of life” type of RP.
I’ve mentioned before that I think the improv maxim of “Don’t deny.” I think this shows one of the most important things about RP, in that you want to keep the flow going. You want to take someone else’s action and keep the story moving forward. Of course, good RP will sometimes present obstacles or other complications, but ideally you don’t want to completely stop the RP with such a thing. The goal is for someone to have some creativity that overcomes the complication to move the story forward, even if you don’t know where the story will end up.
So, what do you think? Do you have any inspiration you’ve taken for your RP? I’d love to hear it!