Role Playing

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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)

Delphinbella, by Me.

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.

Rogue, from Panacea RPG

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.

Other World Dark Tower RPG

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 😉

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Rebecca Enzor

Rebecca Enzor is a chemist in Charleston, SC who writes Young Adult and New Adult Fantasy and Magical Realism. Repped by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary.

16 thoughts on “Role Playing”

  1. You’re making me nostalgic. I remember going from regular player to GM, or as we called them, moderators. Oh, the power… (insert evil cackle). All the writing improvements were great, but I think the best part was the community and having a place to share that passion. I’ve been solitary again these past couple years (until joining #MyWANA [grin]), and have definitely missed having people to talk to about ideas, the process, and everything. 🙂

    1. My Wrimos have kept me from being solitary, but there is really nothing like an RP community 🙂 I would probably do vicious, vicious things to someone for the chance to have the massive pony game back in its heyday, or the DT game back (it never had a heyday, so any part of that back would be great).

      I made me nostalgic too – I just visited some of the old games 😛

  2. I’ve only played one RP. It was years ago, it was about a world that had stopped turning so that one side was eternally dark and the other harsh desert from all the sun. I liked it but I’ll bet my characters was a horrible mary sue! I never really got to figure out what the whole plot was though cause I didn’t stick around long enough. I’ve though about doing some more RP’s but i keep thinking that I’ll just abandon it like I did the other one

    1. Most first characters are Mary Sues (or Gary Stus) so I wouldn’t worry too much about it 😉

      I think if you find the right game, with the right combo of people, you won’t abondon it for a very long time (although all games eventually die – usually when the person who started them leaves. I’ve never had a game last more than a couple months past the owner’s abandonment, which is why I shut down most of my games when I was done playing). So I say: if you find one you like, with people you like, give it a chance. Even if you leave eventually they’ll deal 🙂

  3. I admit that for a major geek, I am an RP noob. I just haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to play since I didn’t realize I was a geek until later in life, and then academia ate my soul. I have always thought, however, that RP was essential to writing. It’s pretty funny, though, how extremely geeky people consider RP when its everywhere and everyone knows an RPgamer. For example, my fiance recently asked a friend about fantasy football, just curious to see what it entails…yep, you guessed it…

    1. I didn’t realize I was a geek until later either, but I certainly made up for it (as you can see! :P). And I totally agree: it IS everywhere. Anytime you pretend to be someone else (Halloween, anyone?) you are role playing. So…. not so geeky after all 😉

  4. I have to admit I know absolutely nothing about RPing. But it sounds fascinating! Thanks for the glimpse into a world that is completely foreign to me. 😛

  5. I am just getting back into the hobby after 20 years. It was missed and is a great escape for me.

    RPing is similar in many ways to reading a good book or watching a fantastic movie. As a GM, it allows you an intimate experience to tell your story and watch it grow organically.

  6. Someone mentioned nostalgia after reading this post, and I feel it too! Not necessarily because of the challenge of writing or game playing (though, I loved that part too) it was more for the sense of community. I made some connections and friends through some X-Men RPG’s that I’m still in contact with today, and I always thought that was the coolest part. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to start one RPG up myself, or at least join another one.

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