Online Text RPGs: Background Etiquette
By Ren Zhang
For most roleplayers, your character is close to your heart and full of personality, stories, and potential. Naturally, you want to share your character's wonderfully complex backstory with the whole role playing game world and have them know all the hardships he or she has gone through, right?
There is a right way to go about this and a wrong way. Many wrong ways, in fact.
First off, you might want to reconsider any desire that the whole world is going to want to know your character's pages-long history. Most other players in the text game are entirely too preoccupied with showing off their own characters to actually pay attention, unfortunately. The truth hurts, and the truth is that most roleplayers usually like to hear more about themselves than others.
How to get past this? Make them interested in your character first, which leads to the next point... Don't just hand out pamphlets to everyone in the text RPG telling everything about your character; it reduces your character down to a page of words. There is nothing more tedious than someone who is revealing everything within 10 seconds of meeting. Too much information, seriously. Instead, try encouraging people to roleplay with you using small hints, like an accent or something subtle in your description (please, no more "scars across his/her wrists, obvious signs of suicide attempts." It's been used far too often, and more off-putting than interesting).
Show, don't tell - it is much more compelling and a lot more natural. Imagine going up to a stranger and sharing your whole life's worth of events in one go. A much more realistic approach might be, when someone mentions your character's hometown, saying something such as, "I grew up around there! Have you been to so-and-so spot in the aforementioned location? I used to go there all the time." That provokes mutually engaging conversation, and can lead to you taking a quick trip down memory lane with your new friend. Patience is also crucial, because it is much more engaging, again, to show rather than tell - for example, making jokes and playing pranks rather than just sticking, "He looks mischievous," in the character's description.
While on the topic of handing out pamphlets; journals that are used as diaries should really not just be given out. I can't think of many people who would just give a diary out and say, "Read pages 12-17, it documents my painful divorce and subsequent descent into madness". If you want to show a friend something very important in writing, limit it to a few paragraphs and preface it with roleplay by reminding the other player that it is private and therefore confidential. Still, try to make an effort. It is hard to take someone seriously when they've just told their biggest secrets to a person they have known for a total of five minutes.
Respect the idea that others don't need to know every tiny detail. Roleplayers need to value the privacy of their character, because the more that is revealed, the less there is for others to try and find out for themselves.
What it boils down to is, try to keep your character from being two-dimensional; understand that the depth of your character isn't based solely off his or her background, but rather their interaction with others. A character's history can be an important part of his or her roleplay, but it is not everything. It's not something to be shouted to the world, but rather something to be slowly discovered.
If you would like to try out some great online text-based RPGs, check out these text-based role playing games today.
Ren Zhang is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from http://www.IronRealms.com.
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