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    Introductions: Crash Course in Roleplaying

    4) Roleplaying Ground Rules

    Introductions: Crash Course in Roleplaying

    Roleplaying Ground Rules

    Rules vary from site to site, even from roleplay to roleplay. There is, however, one thing that is common to most of them and their rules, which usually stem from one overarching theme, Godmodding (Sometimes accurately referred to as Godmode). Undoubtedly, nearly everyone who’s roleplayed, new or old, has broken one of these ‘cardinal sins’ of roleplaying. I have too, so have no fear, for we recognise where we went wrong and improve on ourselves, and make sure we don’t repeat the same mistake again. Godmoding and Godmodding are the same things.

    For creators; there is a standard, universally known rule pack, that you can include in your roleplays as a Standard Rule Set, and you can even add rules to it in your own roleplay. To compound matters, breaking one of these rules can happen by genuine human error, and it’s important to realise that as both a roleplayer and as a moderator, and to not assume malicious intent. For more information about Roleplaying Etiquette; please see our Roleplaying Etiquette guide. 

    Godmodding is almost universally frowned upon, especially by more serious roleplayers, some even adopting a zero tolerance of it in their roleplays; but the problem is, Godmodding can manifest itself in a few ways, and some are far more subtle than others. The ways Godmodding can manifest itself are:

    Auto-Hitting and Power Playing

    This is usually a consent violation as a powerplayer (One who does powerplaying) controls another person’s character as well as their own, typically without the other person’s consent. 

    For example; ‘BigMeanJunker’ controls a character called Daniel, and he’s roleplaying with ‘Sally-Mays’ who controls the character, Jake. They’re doing a fight scene where BigMeanJunker replies with “Daniel swung a punch at Jake, when it hit him in the face, Jake was stunned by his blow.”

    This is bad, because BigMeanJunker who controls Daniel, doesn’t control Sally-Mays’  character, Jake. Yet BigMeanJunker decided for Sally-Mays what was going to happen, and even took control over her character to make it happen. This is usually seen in bad faith; and I’ve seen normally calm and rational people blow up at it… Not literally of course.

    But essentially, you cannot control other people’s characters unless you have permission to do so, and even then this should be used sparingly. If there is a lot of dialogue between your characters, consider doing a Collab post.

    This comes in many forms; such as:

    • Character A hitting Character B, without permission from Player B.
    • Auto-accepting, like a decision that’s not agreed to outside of the roleplay.
    • Auto-reacting, assuming the reaction of another character to something you said, thinking they’d do it is one thing, making them do it is another..
    • Character ID Related, which is where someone puts in their profile “When he flirts with women, they always fall for him, no questions asked.” If that’s what he experienced then awesome, but actually forcing this onto another roleplayer is downright frowned upon.

    Best ways to avoid becoming that roleplayer:

    • Before committing to the post - re-read everything you've written. Not only can you do a myriad of checks, such as spelling and grammar, you can check for interactions against someone else's character(s).
    • Stick to describing your own character, and their past experiences if needs be.
    • Contact the other Roleplayer before making assumptions about their character; you never know, you could be surprised.
    • Rule of Thumb: When participating with another roleplayer; you cannot write your action and the outcome in one post. If it isn’t your character - keep your hands off of it!

    Mary Sue / Gary-Stu

    A Mary Sue (Female) or Gary-Stu (Male) is a character who essentially is an idealised projection of the author. The character serves as a sort of fictional wish fulfillment. Both of these types are very common in roleplays, and it’s almost universally despised. In their efforts to create a unique character, they’re not; they’re unoriginal and shallow. Due to the nature of the personal and emotional connections these people have with their characters; when the error is pointed out they could react in a way that they perceive the fault being solely on you; this is what they are good at: Projection. Which makes dealing these these kinds of roleplayers difficult. Often, this type of character is almost always beautiful/handsome, smart, popular, rich, etc... In short, they’re the ‘perfect character’ who is so perfect it’s either borders annoying or is outright infuriating to some. 

    To put it bluntly, they are generally ‘perfect’ characters with extremely minor flaws, of which if there are any it’s usually portrayed as being ‘cute’. They have illogical powers and traits, lacking personality and usually being fulfillments of the power fantasies of the author, be that power, sexual, social, or economic.

    For example; Twilight. The main female protagonist (Bella) was, in my opinion a blatant self-insert. She’s shallow, plastic and one-dimensional yet her whole school fawns over her and no one has a bad word to say about her. Yet despite this she is ‘Unusual’ and ‘Doesn’t fit in’, which falls flat when you put it into context of what’s already said. When she is turned into a vampire she exhibits Lore breaking abilities such as being able to control her urges, like her hunger for blood. Skills are learnt quickly, when they would take a long time to master, and she talked about how bright she was countless times. Her only flaw isn’t really a flaw and is over the top to the point that it’s annoying rather than cute, which I think was supposed to be the intention. 

    If you weren’t sure who I was talking about, the character or the author, then that’s the problem. It’s clearly a self insert that does nothing but self-pleasure the author’s ego, other than surprisingly selling a shit load of books and merchandise, that is. You don’t need to look very far to see a male version of this either; just look at Edward, who is 100+ years old and yet, he's still in high-school... I was told the American Education System was bad, but come on.

    This comes in many forms; such as:

    • Personality: One of the first things most people mention is that a character’s personality is no better than a cardboard cut out, it’s flat and lacks any depth of dimension and ultimately comes off as being cliché. 
    • Looks/Physical Appearance: They are either the best snowflake in all of Narnia but lack confidence and social skills, and basically lick windows, or they’re incredibly average looking and are pined after by the world over; hell even Aliens visit just to bang them. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
    • Economic: Despite not working a job in their lives, they somehow have billions of dollars from nowhere. You’d think they’d be running a drug empire; but no, they’re a student at a public school. 
    • Abilities/Weaknesses: They have a metric fucktonne of abilities and literally no weaknesses; or weaknesses such as “Might turn into a cry baby at a funeral”... or “Clumsy”.
    • Sexual: Where the character is somehow the best screw that another person’s character will ever have, despite the fact that the person usually has no idea who the other person’s character has had sex with or completely disregards their history. They have the ‘biggest’ sexual organs in all the land - despite never actually listing specifications and they’re always willing to go 24/7.
    • Omni-Perfect: They’re an embodiment of God. They are very literally Godmodding at this point. 
    • Best ways to avoid becoming that roleplayer:
    • Properly balance your character. If you insist on having shit loads of real abilities this has to be counted with a shit load of real weaknesses, or very good ones.
    • Stop putting up conflicting personality traits. Not only is this illogical, but it’s lazy, for example: Someone who is a clean freak and punctual, but are always messy, never cleans up nor are they very organised. Sure; one somedays they might have the clean freak bug, and others they might be lazy, but to say they are both these things and nothing else in inaccurate.
    • Another example is an evil character who does good deeds; now perceived as evil is one thing. But a nice guy who is evil, doesn’t make sense.
    • Give her or him a trait that other people can poke fun at. Sometimes we like a character because there are endearing moments that others can jibe at, with them. Any in-depth character can perform actions that could be a source for such jokes that don’t denigrate the character at all. You don’t have to, of course, but this shows that they’re just like anyone else. 
    • And there’s no need to take these jokes personally. They’re not a scorn upon the heart of your character. If you feel that an innocent jibe is a heavy scorn that tarnishes your character’s name, that you must seek revenge for it, then perhaps you need to take a step back and get some perspective on things.
    • Human emotions aren’t weaknesses. Your character is not an emotional child if she or he cries in the funeral of their beloved or family member. They are a healthy human with human emotions. 
    • Avoid being cliché, and having cliché attire: How many people do you see walk around in full Lolita wear? How about adults who wear emo/goth wear? Fair enough if you, for example, have a species that has a culture which is more tied to goth/metal music than humans, though 
    • Also in Yaoi with the classic Uke/Seme, the Uke is usually clichéd at being effeminate; and this is literally overplayed to the point of ridiculousness and childishness. Again; I’m not saying you absolutely can’t, just try to avoid it. If you’ve got to make them effeminate for example; that’s fair enough, but to blush and giggle like a ‘japanese school girl’ and squealing ‘DesuDesu’ at the age of thirty-three is beyond a joke.
    • Is a thousand years old but looks 18. If there’s a specific reason then that’s fair enough… But there is no reason why a normal human being would be a thousand years old, let alone looking 18 at that age.
    • Rigid Characters. A character is supposed to grow and learn with the environment she or he is surrounded in, not remain set in their ways forever, as if nothing ever happened to them to make them question their previously held beliefs or assumptions. 
    • The complete "Loner" main characters. Have you always noticed that it’s the Emo and Goth characters that are the loners? This isn’t reality at all. As there are other Emos and other Goths, that socialise within their groups. I’m a Metalhead, and I got on great with Emos and Goths when I was in school, even if I disagreed with their world views. If it's integral to your story by all means, go for it. At least give them a best friend or something.
    • The Abused/Hated Child. This one isn’t as common as it once used to be, being abused or hated as a child is not a character flaw. All it really does is give you a tool for your character to show self-pity and self-martyrdom wherever possible, and it’s extremely unattractive, especially if the character never makes any effort to overcome this adversity and use it to improve themselves.


    This is, by far, one of the one of the things most prone to happen due to human error. This one is so easy to do by accident, and can appear in really subtle ways. Metagaming is the use of OOC information IC. This information can come from Character Sheets, OOC threads or general discussion between Players. Characters should only know the information that they are subjected to within the roleplay, and nothing more.

    This comes in many forms; for example:

    • Player A and Player B are having their characters, Jane and John respectively, interacting. Jane has a scar on her inner thigh that she doesn’t usually show people. John has never seen it, and Jane has never mentioned it however John brings it up in conversation. 
    • The Game Master has announced that as part of a plot, a certain area of their Universe (Where characters are located) will be in danger. Possibly destroyed which could result in the death or injury of characters. A player then suddenly makes an excuse to remove their character from the area to avoid them being caught up in the dangerous plot.
    • If a character originates from (for example) Medieval London, then they will not know anything about electricity, computers or even Quantum Physics. These are things that would need to be taught to them by a character that is knowledgeable about such things. 
    • Another form of Metagaming is Decision Metagaming. This is where you have two characters, Jane and John who get into an argument. Both characters are usually very aggressive and loud with their words and easily get into a scrappy fight. However, the player for Jane, reads in John’s profile that John has the same fighting style as her with a lot of brute-force hitting. With him being stronger than her, the player for Jane then changes her fighting style to become more quick and agile to avoid his attacks.
    • Character Jane knowing John’s inner feelings towards her, even if his demeanor and words are completely the opposite to what he is feeling. He could be showing her kindness and showering her with praise but inside feeling that he really didn’t like her. There is no way Jane can know these inner feelings of his and thus should not act according to the feelings.
    • Best ways to avoid becoming that roleplayer:
    • Keep a record of the information that your character is subjected to, almost like a diary or list. Sometimes you can forget what your character does and doesn’t know, and it can be time consuming looking through previous posts to try and dig that information up. 
    • If you aren’t sure if your character knows something about another character, ask the player of the character in question. They might have a better idea than you do as to what information of their character is known within the Universe.
    • Read posts carefully, and make distinctions between information that is available and information that is not. For example, Jane telling John about her scar. Now that information is available. If she is merely thinking about the scar, that information is not available. This also applies to the example above in regards to thoughts and feelings of a character. There is a difference between the stated appearance and their inner feelings.
    • If you ever find yourself forgetting aspects of your character, re-read your character profile to refresh yourself on them. 
    • Remember that what you read on the forum is not what your characters knows. This also includes Universe areas, which your character will need to learn their way around. 

    Overt Godmodding

    God Modding is, in essence, when a character has the ability to do just about anything within the Universe. They are superior to other characters within the Universe, and practically nothing can touch them. Players do not like God Mod characters as they strip away any fun within the roleplay, as well as any challenge. God Mod characters tend to know how to deal with any kind of conflict scenario and overcome it. Any other characters are left in the dark and simply following the superior, all-powerful character. The Mary Sue/ Gary Stu character is one of the examples of a God Mod character, with the character being perfect, well desired and good at everything they do. But there are many ways that God Modding shows itself, such as Character Creation, Skill-based and Situation-based.

    This comes in many forms; for example:

    • Character Creation: A character that has mind reading powers has the ability to read the mind of every person on planet Earth, completely disregarding any counter-measures that others would develop such as teaching themselves to block out other minds. It’s also very God Mod to have it be that this character has no weaknesses in regard to this ability. So there is no distance limit, no energy limit and no limit to how deep they can delve into the minds of others. 
    • Skill-based: This is very similar to the Character Creation kind of God modding but in this instance it’s when the character is advancing an existing skill, or learns a new one in a period that is unbelievable. For example, a student in a school that is learning how to program on a computer and they somehow manage to learn how to develop a game at triple-A quality in less than a week. It’s unachievable.
    • Situation-based: This kind of Godmoding ignores certain facts of the Universe or a Character’s Situation. This can give an unfair advantage to a character, or to advance a plot further along than intended. Some examples are that during a fight, a character will dodge all attacks, making it so that they cannot be harmed. Sometimes the player would make it so that attacks do not even work, leaving their character with a huge advantage over the other. Another example is when a gathering of Characters require to get through a door which is locked. It is Godmodding to suddenly have one of the characters to have the exact key to get through the locked door. 
    • Best ways to avoid becoming that roleplayer:
    • Balance your characters strengths and weaknesses. This helps create an all-round character that does not solve every puzzle within a heartbeat. This gives them things to strive towards, as not everything is handed to them on a plate. If a character has abilities that are extremely powerful, balance them out with equally debilitating weaknesses. Superman’s Kryptonite is a perfect example of this.
    • Consider what is appropriate for the setting of the Universe and your character’s situation and age. If they are say, twelve, they wouldn’t have a degree in Quantum Physics and work at one of the most prestigious Universities. If your character is in an post-apocalyptic setting, your character would not have access to an unlimited supply of ammo, weapons and medicine. 
    • Keep in mind how long it can take to realistically learn new skills. In regards to the programming examples above, it can take years to perfect coding to do a game of that level, as well as having to learn various other skills such as graphic design. One could never realistically do that within a week. 
    • Think about what is appropriate for your character to know. For example, a slave in ancient times would not know how to read and write while in the modern world, it’s more likely that even a poor person from a first world country would know how to read and write.
    • Keep track of what has already occurred so that you do not accidentally God Mod. This can also prevent you from Metagaming or Retconning by mistake as well. Even a simple list system would help.

    Retroactive Continuity - Retconning

    Retroactive Continuity is going back and changing the story. This can, but does not have to, conflict with pre-established facts and events. Think of it like a series reboot, where a different writer may establish a different backstory for a specific character or organisation. It does not necessarily have to be a negative thing, but it must be handled very carefully; if you have a genuine reason or good idea to add to your character, fair enough, but if you’re only retconning something in as a response to something in the Roleplay, see the section above on Metagaming (specifically Decision Metagaming).

    This comes in many forms; for example:

    • Jack likes Jill, but has numerous piercings. Jill does not like people with piercings, so the Jack’s character owner goes and retcons all mention of piercings out of his character. This could be a problem because many other characters may have commented previously on the piercings, meaning it can affect more than just those two individuals.
    • Stacey and Sam are a married couple, but end up getting divorced for whatever reason. One week later, they are back to being married, with no mention of the divorce or cause, and no mention of getting remarried. This could be an issue for the same reason as the first scenario, as characters could have discussed the divorce amongst themselves, or helped Stacey or Sam through their breakup. It’s also entirely possible that Stacy or Sam got married to someone else in the meantime.
    • Wolfie goes back in time, and has sex with Katie’s mother, making Wolfie the father of Katie (without permission/against their Character Profile). This type of scenario may be acceptable with permission, though, if it is part of the story.
    • It is possible, however, that you just want to add a little information to your character’s backstory that does not conflict with any previously established facts. For example, adding a scar or tattoo to their back, in a situation where no one has ever seen them naked, or at least not their back (since they got the wound/tattoo, at least).

    Best ways to avoid becoming that roleplayer:

    • Be careful what you change. As a general rule, if it has been mentioned or shown in the actual roleplay, avoid making alterations.
    • If you want to make changes for the first example; perhaps Jack goes through a period of change where he decides to get rid of the piercings, this is good for character development, as the transitioning stage is clearly seen. 
    • Don’t change things that could change established fact without a good reason. In the case of being married, getting divorced, and getting back together, at least state that you worked through the differences and chose to get remarried, rather than just because you “didn’t like the flow of where it was going”.
    • For the second example: perhaps Stacey and Sam should try and work their problems out rather than continue in unproductive circumstances. Again this would be fantastic for character development, and perhaps all parties involved can go forward and learn something new for the experience.
    • Overall, don’t mess about with changing things that affect others characters, or any plot points (especially major ones).
    • As for the example with Wolfie… Well; perhaps he should stop messing with the time continuum, and learn to keep it in his jeans.
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