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Before we get into this week’s Trying New Things segment I’d like to point you to an interview about My Little Ponies that was taken at my house in early June when my critter, Sophia, visited. It’s funny, it covers some of what we talked about last week, and the best thing is that it’s audio. You can hear me talk about ponies like a giggling idiot. How could you not want to listen?
Ok, now that the utter embarrassment is out of the way, let’s talk about Role Playing! (Oh, right, so perhaps more utter embarrassment to come)
As you know from last week’s post, I started role playing in college when I found out there was a My Little Pony role playing game. Back then I was a horrible writer, with shallow characters, no back-story, and no idea how to form a paragraph. But the GM (that’s Game Mistress, for you non-players out there) was nice enough to not kick me out or make fun of my lack of skills. In fact, she encouraged me to keep going (she’s also the reason Fie Eoin has such a detailed history and religion – she basically taught me how to write). So I kept going, joined other MLP RPs that sprang up around the original game, and then began seeking out other RPs.
I went from MLPs to X-men, where I played Rogue, Monet, and an original character, Echo/Oralee (she’s a Mary Sue, we can ignore her). While the pony RPs taught me the basics of writing, the X-men RPs taught me about characterization and back-story. You see, the X-men RPers take their games seriously. There’s no coming in as a noob with shallow characters and poor writing skills. You had to play one of the cannon characters and prove yourself before you were allowed to play an original character. And you had to fill out a sheet that was longer than any I’ve ever made with their appearance, back-story, little ticks and inner what-have-yous. You had to know your characters inside-out and go through a rigorous acceptance process that usually consisted of editing the application multiple times until the GMs would give you their stamp of approval. There were time requirements (you had to post at least so many times per week) and writing requirements (you couldn’t start every paragraph with a character name or “he/she/it”, which still bugs me to this day because of that game). You had to talk to the other players on IM and come up with storylines and play by all these rules or you were banned.
Eventually I become Co-GM of the X-men game, and took my experience back to Ponyland to run my own (massive) RP with some of my old friends, as well as plenty of new ones. Dealing with a game as GM is a much different beast than dealing with it as a player, because you have to make the rules, create the storylines, keep an eye on all the threads to make sure no one is breaking the rules, deal with the rule breakers, and answer everyone’s questions. I am absolutely positive that anyone who has GMed a massive RP can run a country. And while I haven’t tried running a country, I did take my GM skills and apply them as a NaNoWriMo ML for several years. If you ever have a chance to do either, take it. You will learn so much about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as how to herd cats (it’s not easy, but it is rewarding).
After a while I burned out on the massive games. I also read the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. You can see where this is going, can’t you? That’s right, I made a (small) DT RPG with only a few players and a huge world to play in. It was dark – way darker than ponies, and even darker than X-men – and characters could disappear through doorways at any time and find themselves somewhere else. Everyone was always getting shot at, or fighting, or running through doorways to find themselves trapped in The Stand world with a sexy Wolf. That game taught me so much about writing emotions and tension, and gave me my two favorite and easiest-to-write characters: Rebecca and Lane.
I took one of the players from that game and we made another X-men game, full of some of the best writers I’ve ever met. But I was spending so much time RPing that I wasn’t writing, and I eventually had to quit playing all together. I had finally learned enough about writing that I was ready to start re-writing Fie Eoin and working on other projects. I’ve been out of the writing-based RPs for three years now (although I discovered WoW a year ago and occasionally log on and kill things with Kindra), and I’m still learning plenty about writing. But it was the RPs that taught me the basics.
We often think of writing as a lonely, solitary thing. RPing was so different, and such a great place to learn the craft. There’s always new characters to play with, new ideas to refresh your story-well, and so much encouragement and friendship. I probably would have never started writing if it wasn’t for RPing, and I know I wouldn’t have found the online writing community. There are so many things I can thank RPing for.
So tell me, are you (or were you) an RPer? What universes did you play in? And most importantly: does anyone want to start a new Dark Tower RP with me? Rebecca and Lane are getting lonely after three years of no use 😉