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A Brief Guide to Roleplay Etiquette Empty A Brief Guide to Roleplay Etiquette

on Sat 29 Aug 2015, 3:52 pm
Hello there, and welcome to the world of roleplaying! Roleplaying is a wonderful and creative pastime that allows for writers of all levels to collaborate in order to make a cohesive story, and it's also a great way to meet new people, develop characters, and just have a lot of fun!

However, if you're new to the world of roleplaying, it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to get started. I know it certainly was for me! I can still remember how frustrated I got at times when I first started roleplaying, and that was over 10 years ago!

This guide sort of serves as a brief overview to roleplaying and some of the general etiquette that should be followed when joining, or creating, a new roleplay.

First and foremost, what exactly is roleplay?

Roleplaying (also referred to as role-playing and RPing) is an activity that is centered around characters. These characters are generally characters of your own creation (original characters, or OCs), though depending on the roleplay you are getting involved in they can also include existing characters from an established genre (for instance, Harry Potter).

Role Playing involves taking the role of this character (or sometimes characters), and writing out how they react in a situation. Role Plays are typically turn-based, meaning someone will start with an introductory post explaining what their character is doing, then the next person in line explains what their character is doing and reacts to the first character if appropriate*.
* This model sometimes varies, but this is the most common model, thus the one I am focusing on. Please make sure you look over any guidelines to any roleplays you may be considering to ensure that you are aware of any differences or additional rules.

A note about images

Another commonly found aspect of roleplay is that some people may use images in order to offer a more clear picture of their character, or aspects of the scenery. However, there is some etiquette that should be followed concerning images as well, as you shouldn't just go and grab the first image off Google and stick it as a reference for your character! In fact, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before you ever use an image.

Did you draw the image yourself?

If you did, then you're in the clear! Feel free to use that image wherever, because you're the owner and you can do whatever you want with it!

Did you commission an artist to draw an image for you?

This is also usually a safe option. Commissioned artists are typically more than willing to let you use the picture they drew of your character wherever you want - after all, you did pay for it. However, a link to the original artist is always a nice gesture, as is asking if you aren't absolutely positive the commissioned artist is fine with you re-posting the image.

Does the artist indicate the image is free to use?

Sometimes, artists will put a note on their art piece indicating that anyone can use the piece, though typically there may be some requirements involved such as giving proper credit whenever you re-post the image, or letting the artist know where it has been used. Typically free lineart that you can colour and popular "character makers" fall into this category, but always double check to see if the artwork in question doesn't have additional terms involved with its use.

Is the piece on a free art website? Or is it stock art?

No, this doesn't mean the artwork is on a site like deviantART or Photobucket where joining is free, these websites SPECIFICALLY state that the artwork is free to use, though even then, this is where art usage starts to get a bit grey. If the website clearly states that the work can be used for any purpose, then you are generally okay, but please watch out for additional terms, as sometimes these websites are very strict in the art's usage. Also, be aware that some of the art on these websites may have been re-posted illegally as well, so be prepared to take the art down if it is found that is the case. Always be a bit more cautious when using art from free art websites, because you never know.

Did you get permission from the artist?

Sometimes, if you ask nicely, an artist will let you use their artwork as a reference for your character. All it takes is an email or private message asking permission, and if they say sure, fantastic! You're all set, just be sure to follow any terms they may lay out for the art piece's use! If they say no, however, they are well within their right. Just move on and keep looking, don't keep antagonizing the artist and don't just use the image anyway.

Is the image by Flight Rising? [Flight Rising roleplay only]

If you are roleplaying in the Flight Rising roleplay forum, you are usually welcome to use the actual Flight Rising art to depict your dragon (after all, chances are you are roleplaying your dragon anyway!) Pretty much everyone in the Flight Rising forums knows what art was made by the artists of Flight Rising so confusion with ownership is not typically a problem. However, if you want to use the art on a site other than Flight Rising make sure you review any art usage policies set by the artists and ask permission as necessary seeing free-use on the site it originated from is not the same as free-use for all over the internet!

This is just some basic etiquette concerning image usage in roleplays (or, really, in any situation) as using artwork without permission is, in fact, illegal. It's called art theft, so please don't do it. In fact, you're better off just not using it, as you may be unintentionally stealing the art!
DO NOT, under any circumstances, just randomly pick an image off of Google/deviantART/Photobucket/etc. and use it with the assumption that it's free to use. Frequently, it's not, and you can get yourself into a lot of trouble by doing so.

The image note may seem a bit off-topic, but it's an important aspect seeing a lot of people are visual and use image aids to get their point across. Please note that images are not necessary for roleplay, but if you want to use them, please make sure you have the proper permission to do so.

Okay, so what about actual roleplaying?

Alright, now it's time to get into the nitty-gritty! The writing aspects of roleplay. People of any level can get into the roleplay world, though always be ready to take advice. Experienced roleplayers can be a new roleplayer's best friend, as they can help the new writer improve and really advance their skills.

When joining a new roleplay

When you join a new roleplay, always make sure you read over any information the original poster has written up. This typically involves the plot, rules, posting order, character requirements, and other important information. If the original poster specifically says that vampires are not allowed, don't go making a vampire!

Some of the most common, universal rules tend to include the following, though these can be expanded or reduced depending on the originator:

Be respectful
No godmodding
No powerplaying
No metagaming
Stay active

The first rule is pretty self-explanatory, though many of the others involve roleplay terminology that may not be very familiar to a new roleplayer. I'm going to spend the time to define them now:


There are actually a lot of different definitions for these two terms, and sometimes they are defined as the same thing or two separate things, but, for the most part, they are pretty easy to explain. Godmodding and powerplaying typically refer to controlling other people's characters, which is a big no-no in most roleplays. While you can say your character charged someone else's character with the intent of knocking them down, you can't say that your character succeeded in knocking them down, as you did not give the other character's player a chance to react.

Basically, rules involving godmodding/powerplaying emphasize that you should only speak or act for your own character, no one else's. There is some grey area, but this is something that becomes almost second nature with time.

Godmodding can also be expanded to emphasize that you cannot have "perfect" characters. By that, I mean characters that are seemingly completely impervious to effects of the roleplay (damage, weakness, etc.) to the point that they are more-or-less "playing god" or have the ability to constantly manipulate the setting in their favour. Basically, characters like these are not particularly fun for other people to interact with simply because there normally ends up being no character development and the roleplaying ends up stagnating because frequently people end up at an impasse where the roleplay can't progress.


Metagaming involves using information that a player may have revealed about their character (say in some sort of bio or character application), but in-character your character would have absolutely no way of knowing. For instance, if one character has a weakness towards fire, unless that weakness was revealed in the roleplay, your character should have no way of knowing (barring really obvious things).

Metagaming is typically frowned upon because it gives characters an unfair advantage over other characters by using out-of-character knowledge. It is basically the equivalent of using a cheat or guidebook to figure out a code for your new video game.

What to do during an ongoing roleplay

In truth, joining a roleplay is probably the most extensive process. Things tend to flow fairly well once you jump in seeing you're mainly focusing on playing your character and interacting with other characters. However, there are a couple things to consider when playing:
Out of character notes

Sometimes you may need to say something out of character, and a general rule is to make sure that out of character note can't be mistaken for something in-character. A lot of people will put these notes in ((double parentheses)) or preface them with OOC: in order to identify them as an out of character note.

Staying active

If you disappear, there's going to be a hole in the plot where your character was. This hole can either be large or small depending on how involved you were, but the polite thing to do is let your group know if you have to go on a hiatus so the other players can make accommodations and not sit there wondering if you're going to come back and whether or not they should move on with the plot.

If you no longer want to roleplay at all, then try to find a transition point, or try to remove your character from the scene in character. That keeps your character from just being left on a cliff-hanger, and provides closure to the rest of the group that perhaps other characters can react to. For instance, maybe your character just continued on their way and left the party, or perhaps they received a fatal wound in that fight you were in and died.

Okay, so maybe this guide wasn't so "brief", but at least it gives an introduction. I do realize that it isn't as thorough as it could be, as there are a lot of different things to take into account (first-person roleplays vs third-person, chat-style vs narrative-style, etc.) that are really more dependent on the unique roleplay in question. I was trying to cover more general things in this post.

And of course, if anyone has any suggestions for things to add, please let me know =3 Or if there are any comments that you feel should be made, or typos that should be corrected, get my attention. My goal was to hopefully give new roleplayers someplace to start so they aren't going in completely blind, and I may reorganize this post later on to make it a bit more cohesive.

Please Note: Credit for this topic goes to http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/rp . I did not write this myself.
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