• Pyralis

Types of Roleplay


When first starting out in the world of roleplay, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of information. It may seem like every person you talk to has a different opinion of what roleplay is and how it works; of what is acceptable and what isn’t. This article is a list of the different types of roleplay out there and the basic assumptions that go along with them. Hopefully learning more about your options will help you choose a roleplay (or RP community) that is best tailored to your interests.


One on One (1x1)


One on one is a term used to describe a roleplay that takes place only between two authors -- a story partnership. This is the type of RP that Roleplay Central, Reddit Roleplay, Barbermonger, and other Hubs or matchmaking services cater to most.


One on one roleplays offer the most freedom, since you only have to get one other person (your partner) on board for any decision. You can use whichever platform you like (Google Docs, email, and Discord are the most common ones), type of universe / setting you like, characters you like, and post with whichever level of frequency you like -- the only rules are the rules that the two of you come up with together.


In one on one roleplays, there is typically an expectation that both authors will contribute to the plot, characters, and story ideas; though of course there’s plenty of people out there who also like to do quest-based or more table-top style roleplays in one on one, in which case one partner will be the DM and the other will be the ‘player’. One on ones tend to lean more towards collaborative storytelling or novelesque style, but you’ll find that every partner is looking for something different!


The beauty of one on one style roleplaying is that it can be whatever you and your partner decide to make it. Sometimes partners will write independent short stories or one-shots to share with their partners as part of their roleplay. Sometimes, one on ones threads can be part of larger group roleplays. Some one on one roleplays have a defined length and stop when the end of the plot is reached, while others are more open-ended and just keep going until one or both partners lose interest or take a hiatus.



Group


This term is used to describe any RP which has more than two authors. Groups can vary wildly in size, from 3-4 close-knit friends to public servers with hundreds of players.


Most groups:

  • Have a shared universe and timeline, meaning that anyone participating in this group roleplay understands that there is a fixed setting, and agrees to write according to the setting and lore that’s been established. Make sure to read any materials provided that contain information on existing figures and events in the group universe. Typically, time marches along in a group roleplay according to a given ratio of RL time to IC time (such as 1:1 or 1:3), to help keep events straight and reduce plot conflicts that might arise from vague timelines.

  • Have some sort of application process for characters. This might be as simple as writing up a few sentences describing your character’s appearance, or as complex as writing up several pages of backstory, roles, and relations for your character within the set lore. Every group is different, but be prepared that you will be asked for information about your character, and that it may need approval from staff before you start playing.

  • Have some sort of admin structure and rules (if the group is public). This means that members are assigned different roles to carry out different types of tasks in the group. There might be admins who oversee OOC decision making, DMs/storytellers who steer the plot, and players whose task it is to interact with the plots or world that admins help lay out for them.

  • Every group is going to have a different structure, so make sure that you understand the specific rules of the group you’re in. Some groups may allow you to play several characters at once, while others may limit you to only one; some may be public and open to anyone, while others might require an application or private invitation; some may insist you write using present tense, while others may insist you use past tense.


Just because a group contains more than two members doesn’t mean that every member of the group will be present in every scene -- often, there will be one on one scenes or side projects that are meant to help carry out plots, develop characters, or flesh out the setting as a whole. Even those scenes which take place only between two members of the group are usually still considered part of the group’s general lore, and may affect other characters who weren’t present, or may (though certainly not always) become general OOC knowledge to those who are a part of the group.


If you’re looking to join into an existing thread or scene in a group RP, it’s always polite to ask before making a post or hopping in with your character. Some scenes might be private or have specific plot purposes that shouldn’t be derailed, while others might be casual and completely open to surprises. OOC communication is essential in the group environment to keep a harmonious community, so make sure you’re introducing yourself and asking lots of questions whenever you join a new group!



Popular Group RP Platforms


Discord Servers

Lots of roleplay takes place right on Discord itself. Servers might be either public or private, and have different channels set up that represent various IC locations or separate scenes. Distinctions are usually made between IC channels for roleplay and OOC channels for chatting or discussion.


The upsides of roleplay on Discord is that it’s very easy to use, easy to organize, and allows you to set mobile notifications to see when someone has posted in threads that you want to follow. Discord is excellent for shorter-form and rapidfire types of roleplay. Discord is a live chat platform, so you can always be sure that what you’re reading is the most current activity.


One downside is the word limit for posts, which cuts off posts over a certain length, meaning you have to post several messages in a row if you’re doing longer-form RP. Another downside is that it is more difficult to organize and format text in Discord to have a novel-like feel.


Discord is a very popular platform for groups, and there are also many groups that use a different platform for writing and Discord just for OOC communication, lore organization, and community building.


Forums

Forums are also a very popular and widespread platform for group RP, since they can accommodate large numbers of players while still offering lots of specific sub-boards and threads for smaller-scale storylines or niche interests.


Forums are fairly straightforward -- the forum is organized into different folders and subfolders containing threads, and each thread is typically a different scene. There’s dedicated folders and threads for roleplay, separate from those dedicated for OOC chatter and community. Forums can be organized in many different ways, though common organization schemes involve organizing RP folders by geographic location (e.g. The Mountains, The Riverlands, etc), timeline (pre-conquest, post-conquest, etc), or sub-group, such as cultures (elves, humans, etc).

Forums allow for a vast amount of information and writing to be stored in a way that’s easy to browse and organize. Each forum will have its own rules as far as the activity required of each player and how long you can go in between answering the posts of other players -- but typically there’s a little more flexibility in forums with length and timeline, allowing for longer-form posting to be easier than with a chat-style platform.


MMO-RPGs

MMO-RPG is shorthand for “massive multiplayer online roleplaying game.” These are video games, typically made for personal computers, in which hundreds or thousands of players come together in an expansive and open game world. In this, the player characters may interact with one another to complete tasks (usually in the form of quests), compete against one another in combat, socialize, and participate in events. The primary genre explored in these games is medieval/high/low fantasy.


While these games aren't specifically designed for roleplaying (in the sense used in this article), many do lend themselves to collaborative writing. Some even offer RP servers/realms that indicate a higher concentration of roleplayers. These writings usually take place in a built in chat function, where players can send messages that are public, private to a group/party, or private to a single individual. In this, writings are broken into speech and actions, where they are usually differentiated by means of a different color text. OOC chatter is differentiated by markings of some sort (usually dual parentheses at either end of a message).


Along with this, many players will utilize the game world in their roleplay, done by moving the player character around as if they were enacting the actions relayed through text. Posts made are usually short to medium in length, fast paced, and done without much or any OOC planning. The lore of the game world is followed and used as the basis for characters and plotlines. There are often communal chats that are used to advertise for roleplay in much the same way one does on other text-based platforms. This is true outside of the game world as well, where there are communities where OOC discussion and advertisements are posted. These are typically in the form of forums or chat services like Discord.


MU*

MU* is short for a family of internet servers that are used to host real-time text-based group roleplays, including MUSH, MUX, MUD, and others. MU*s are a very old and somewhat niche type of roleplay platform, but there is still a small and dedicated community of players.


A MU* is a server that has to be connected through using a terminal or a computer client of some kind, inputting the server address and portal number to connect to the game. This terminal takes your text input as a player (called commands) and uses it to help you interact with the server. MU*s are characterized by containing a series of text ‘rooms’ that you can move through and write in, allowing you to interact with different players in different locations. MU*s integrate their own OOC chat platform right into the game, so that you can easily maintain IC and OOC communications at the same time.


MU*s are usually heavy on world building and setting as part of the roleplay, since the server allows for such detail to be built into the rooms that the players interact with. Some MU*s, such as MUDs, focus on combat between players or the interactions of players with the server itself -- whereas others, such as MUSHes, focus more on player-to-player writing and storybuilding.


Private Group

Some group RPs are between people who already know each other, and are not open to the public or new players -- these are called private groups. Often, these are run similarly to one on ones in terms of the structure and platforms used, but with more than two authors contributing.


These private groups require a personal invite from someone within them to join, and you will often only be invited if you are good friends with or recommended by another member. More often than not, you need to be present at the group’s conception to be invited.



Non-Text forms of Roleplay


Tabletop

Tabletop roleplay is roleplay done in real-time with people you are gathered together with and able to interact with using voice and visuals, such as at an actual table together or through a Skype call.


Tabletop RPGs are typically played using an established ‘game’ and the according rules, one that can be purchased in a box or through guidebooks -- though more experienced Dungeon Masters will create their own unique campaigns. Tabletop is usually focused more on adventure and decision-making for the characters involved, often feeling more like a quest than a novel. The whole group of players participating in a particular campaign is typically called a ‘party’.


Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder are examples of commonly played tabletop RPGs. Tabletop RPGs helped popularize roleplay in general in the 1970’s, and it is the historical foundation for the many ways online roleplay has spread and evolved to where it is in the present day.


LARPing (Live-Action Roleplay)

LARPing is the act of roleplaying in real life and in real time. People who are physically gathered together usually dress, act, and speak to one another as if they were the characters that they have assumed. LARPing is not at all unlike improv acting -- as if you are acting in a play or a movie in which the actors themselves are also the intended audience, and the script and plot are up for grabs. Similar to group roleplay, a character’s story in a LARP has no fixed end point. It can continue for as long as the event exists and the player still has interest. There is often an overarching story laid out by a Game Master which affects the game, can be influenced by the players, and may progress between sessions.


Each group operates independently of each other leading to vast differences in play styles and culture. However, some groups are organized on a national level with regional chapters, and characters and experience carry over to any event under the main group. LARP events often abide by their own rules and lore, though some events use existing media including World of Darkness or Warhammer. Medieval fantasy remains the most common genre.


Some of the more well-known LARPing groups are Bicoline, Mythodea, and Empire.


 

While this list of roleplay types is far from comprehensive, we hope that it will give you a place to start from when considering which types of roleplay you want to explore. Many players engage in multiple types of roleplay, so don’t feel limited to just one!


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