Distinguishing RP types
Roleplayers make up a large part of the community here on deviantArt. It's an ever-growing community, and new members join it every day. Thirsty for adventure, these new members leap into the large world of roleplay, blissfully simplistic, filled with hopes and anticipations. They expect a rich roleplay experience full of excitement, and they want it to be delivered!
New members, however, also means less experience, and less experience means less knowledge. That knowledge which new roleplayers need to acquire may be earned in the long run, by partaking in several satisfying and unsatisfying roleplays and learning through trial and error what is right and what is wrong to include in one. I have taken that path, and I can say that it's a hard place. Some people, even after several years, haven't even made as much progress as would have been expected; they just can't get the hang of it. I have decided to let anyone who so desires take an alternate path, a shortcut to avoid the trouble of being dissatisfied with as many roleplays as I have been. This shortcut takes the form of several tutorials, each of these tutorials equalling one step on the shortcut, which in turn equals a dozen steps on the long path.
Now that the introduction is over (am I the only one who thinks it was long?), I will begin on the tutorial itself. I would like to open with a simple concept. Many people already know about it, but some of the newer roleplayers might be unaware of it. The first subject will be the distinction between the two roleplay types which people can use: script-style and paragraph-style.
This style is also known as "bracket RP" or "casual RP", among other names. As the name "casual RP" implies, this type of roleplay is accessible to everyone. The reason for this is that it's easy to grasp and easy to start. However, script-style roleplays will rarely offer much character development or plot advancement; it's usually used as a "pick-up-and-go" roleplay for fooling around. The posts in a script-style roleplay will usually start with the name of the character which will be involved in the post, followed by dialog and action done by that character, and possibly, in-between the name of the character and the dialog, an emotion, most often in parentheses, with which the dialog will be spoken and the actions done.
To assist me in my quest to improve the general level of roleplays, I have created an assistant. Her name is Kara Chter. Let's meet her right now in a script-style post to concretely demonstrate what exactly script-style is:
Kara: (shy) Hi... *fiddles with the edge of her shirt*
This style of roleplay, as mentioned before, is casual; it doesn't require any amount of skill to play, except maybe the ability to make your posts legible enough for everyone else to understand. Because of that, this guide will not focus on "how to roleplay script-style". It will rather focus on the second type of roleplay.
This style, also known as "formal RP", "mid-long post RP", etc., is much more intricate than script-style, and has much more potential for setting an atmosphere and describing actions and thoughts than its casual counterpart. This is what most people will say was meant to be true roleplay; writing a story collectively with one or more other people, each person using one or more character to make the story advance. People who roleplay with this style need a certain amount of concentration and attention to detail when writing. Roleplayers using this style want to make their posts look as though they were excerpts of a novel.
The posts in a paragraph-style roleplay need to be detailed enough to set a certain mood, although exceptions exist. This style most of the time requires a linear scenario, some sort of concrete plot. Sometimes, people will develop it as they go, needing only a setting to begin writing, and other times, people will decide part, if not all of the plot before even beginning on the first post. The latter can take up several hours if not days or weeks of planning before actually beginning, and will often feature longer early posts and a better starting morale from the players, since they already know what will happen; it leaves less room for uncertainty and moments when neither player will know what to do and would just make their characters speak with each other without much action going on. Planning lets the roleplay deliver action at a rhythm which every player is able to handle. Let's have Kara Chter introduce herself again, this time in paragraph-style:
A woman stands in the center of the plain, unfurnished room. Her appearance is veiled by an indescribable fog, letting only her outlines and actions be visible; she appears to be of average size, and her arms, resting on either side of her body, allow her hands to tug nervously at the bottom of her shirt. "Hi..." she says in a timid voice.
It's undeniable that a lot more content is present in this version of the same post; it may require more effort, but it's worth it; the amount of detail dished out by this style if done correctly often prevents people from getting confused. That will prevent posts in which the last actions of the other character would be completely ignored, or posts that overlook certain crucial details. For example, I've tried making this last post as clear as possible (although still somewhat short) by describing the surroundings, what the others can see about my character, and her actions, so that my partner wouldn't wonder "where is this happening? what can my character see about this other character? what is the character doing exactly?" and wouldn't assume wrong. Though it may be difficult at first, experience should teach most people how to underline details in order to make the other player(s) notice it and have their character(s) respond accordingly.
That's all there is to distinguishing between script style and paragraph style. It's simple enough, but had to be made first, since some script-style roleplayers may not even know what paragraph-style roleplay is; this first "How to Roleplay" hopefully put some light on the subject.