Salutations, nerds! I’ve noticed a massive spike in the number of people roleplaying in my MMO’s lately, which is a good thing generally but probably pandemic related. But I’m sure for every person that’s jumped on the wagon for it, there’s another hesitating. If you play games with a big player base and any sort of roleplaying to be had, you’ve probably been in a situation where you’ve gone into an RP hub and found yourself lingering along the outside of the action looking in. It’s an unfortunate place to be, especially when what you really want is to play. It can be incredibly discouraging. This is a situation I have been in many times myself. Fortunately for you, I’ve tripped and fallen flat on my face many times so you do not have to. I’ve narrowed down seven points to bear in mind when crafting your roleplaying profile to elicit the responses you want and get some of those sweet, sweet interactions. Shall we begin?
Pick a concept that allows you to walk up to others
Yes, we are nerds. Many of us are very nervous about walking up and talking to people. But here’s the thing — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a roleplaying hub and everyone was standing around the corners of the room like middle schoolers at their first dance. Every one of them wanted to interact but no one was willing to make the first move. The trick to this is being willing to make the first move. Yes, you. I promise they want you to approach.
Instead of playing a criminal and trying to coax people into coming at you, acknowledge how many people are doing the same thing. Play the bounty hunter instead. Play a character with a vested interest in something people are commonly doing nowadays and have them walk up and ask other characters about it when you see it.
You cannot depend on other people to come to you. Be prepared to get things rolling yourself. And on that note…
Pick a concept that allows you to drive story
Give your character an enemy or a goal. Tavern RP is great but if you can pull people out into the world and give them conflict to chew on they will love you.
Bear in mind this should not be other people watching your character do things. Find a goal you can welcome them into and give them things to do that matter. Most of the time you’ll only be able to leave someone watching the door once before that person decides this roleplaying isn’t worth their time.
If your character hunts monsters, run a monster hunt. Bring in extra monsters for the people who come along with you, or even better make the first monster tough enough that everyone has to be involved to bring it down. Think back to your tabletop Game Master skills. How do you make this fight interesting for everyone involved?
Do that thing.
Pick a concept that isn’t over popular right now
Dig through genre fiction from the last year or the year before. Stuff hot off the press and out in your genre is likely to be over saturated and unmemorable. At the time this article was drafted, The Witcher had just recently come out and the first season of The Mandalorian just recently ended. And I cannot tell you how many Geralt and Mando ripoffs I’ve seen walking around lately. They don’t tend to garner a lot of attention because you can’t swing a cat by the tail without hitting one. On the other hand, I’ve also seen someone whose character was heavily inspired by Melisandre from Game of Thrones, and this went over very well. At this point her debut was a while ago and she’s still a super cool character, but not a recent pop cultural development everyone wants a piece of right this second.
If you absolutely have to play the concept you watched on TV a day or two ago and are really excited about then do it, but don’t cite it in your profile. You aren’t going to be playing that exact character anyway, but your version of the character — hopefully with a few twists of your own! Embrace that. If people don’t notice it’s what you’re doing, all the better.
“Show, don’t tell” comes up a lot in writer’s circles and in this case it’s pretty solid advice. I see a lot of profiles that wax romantic about how beautiful or strong the character is. And you know what? It chafes being told this and makes me far less likely to approach those people. You may be thinking you want my character to be perceived that way. Shouldn’t you say so?
Yes. You definitely should. The trick is not to do it directly. Instead, think about the impression you want to give and describe around that. Make your list of adjectives. “Beautiful,” “tough.” “mysterious.” Now think about traits that make you think of those adjectives.
Instead of talking about how beautiful your character is, describe their soft hair and large eyes. If your character is a natural beauty who doesn’t put a lot of work into it, think about people you’ve known who gave off this impression to you. One of the first girls I ever had a crush on was that way. She was a redhead with lots of freckles and she had dimples when she smiled. By contrast if you want to show your character works at it, talk about how well applied their make up is or how they’ve styled their hair.
Instead of talking about how tough your character is, describe the scars they carry with them from the fights they’ve been in. Instead of talking about how mysterious your character is, describe how they fail to maintain eye contact, meeting gazes but moving themselves right along shortly after.
Brainstorm the traits you want to showcase with this character then brainstorm the physical descriptions you associate with those traits. An intelligent character might wear glasses for example. Lean into some of them, because those are the little cues people are already used to looking for. Then break some of them on purpose. You don’t often, for example, see an intellectual character who is also a potty mouth. Things like this make your character feel more real, rather than feeling like a trope.
Remember to have some average traits
If you try to hammer in that your character is good at everything it’s just going to annoy people. Your character should be bad at some things. This goes for physical descriptions as well. Not everything about your character should be unusual. For example if your character is incredibly tall and muscular, maybe don’t also give them an unusual eye color. A lot of unusual traits can be done well but it’s difficult to pull off. Try two ordinary physical traits for every extraordinary one.
Less is more! Pick and choose your details
Remember those ordinary traits we talked about? The great thing about those is you don’t have to describe them. Whatever you put down on your profile is going to spark people reading it to fill in other blanks.
If I talk about a black sedan, every one if you is going to imagine a different car and the feelings you have about the car are going to be wild and varied. If I talk about a dry split in the rough leather seat that blisters to the touch when you sit down on it because of how long it’s been baking in the sun, and the stuffing pushing out of the cushion, your mind will still fill things in for you but they’re far more likely to be in line with what I want you to fill in. That the car is old, that it’s summer, even what it smells like though I didn’t say a word about that.
It isn’t about writing a lot of details, but the right details. Your character’s hair becomes important when it starts saying something about who they are as an individual. if it’s been particularly well cared for, or if it’s a wild mess with mussed sides untouched in days. The bloodshot of your character’s eyes are so much more important than the color of their irises.
Don’t try to appeal to everyone
I know, this can be a hard one. So many people want to leave themselves open because you never know what you’re going to find in a roleplaying hub. But the more generic you allow yourself to be, the fewer people are going to look at you for what they want. Be honest with yourself about what you want. If you don’t want to write a whole bunch per post, don’t advertise yourself as someone who writes a lot no matter how glamorous you think those people look. Think about what is going to make you have the most fun then direct your profile toward garnering as much of that as possible. Don’t flinch. You have nothing to prove to anyone, and honestly most people that won’t play with you unless you hit a word quota every time aren’t usually very good at it anyway.
Whew. This has turned out to be a long one. So what do you think? Have you had similar experiences in text based roleplaying? Your favorite MMO? Vastly different ones? Please, tell me all about it in the comments below, and as always, stay nerdy!