Thursday, June 25, 2009

News from the front

So, I've recently become interested in the phenomenon of forum roleplaying. I've just joined a game, so I thought I'd take the time to put up some thoughts. (I won't link you to the site; I'm too embarrassed about having people read my writing.) I've done a lot of console and tabletop roleplaying (yes, in case you didn't already know, I play Dungeons and Dragons), but my internet RP experience consists of a few abortive Skype games (it's really hard to keep a game going over Skype). So the things that jump out at me first are the differences in the forum approach. They are, in no particular order:

1) It's generally rules-light. I consider this a good thing. Crunching numbers is fun and all, but the real joy of roleplaying is the cooperative story aspect, and recently I've felt that this means the fewer rules the better. Of course, this only works well as long as everyone gets along, which leads me to my next point.

2) It's on the internet. This is both good and bad. Bad, because as with everything on the internet, most of the forum games out there look pretty awful. The odds of things going poorly (for the players, not the characters) is probably a good deal higher than in your average college gaming club. At the same time, there's so much stuff out there that the odds of finding something that meets your personal tastes (say, psychological horror niche anime) are pretty high. And there are enough people who play that there are most likely quite a few groups full of good writers and nice people.

3) It's not realtime. This is probably the first thing that struck me, and to me the strangest. How are you supposed to have a conversation when the other person might not respond for hours or days? How are you supposed to run a dramatic scene when you don't have everyone at the table? As it turns out, people have come up with ways around it. One of these ways is to have each post partially overlap with the posts before and after it, so that in one post your character might react to a few things someone else did, do something on her own, and ask a few questions for the next poster to respond to. With more than two people, this starts getting messy, but it's better than nothing. And of course, forum posts can be edited after the fact for continuity without embarrassing cries of "retcon!" Even so, the time thing still seems like a disadvantage to me. Maybe I'll change my mind as I play.

So, for the next while, among other things, this shall be a forum roleplay blog. Wow, that's like, Web 3.0 or something. If this much nerdiness hasn't put you off already, stay tuned!

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