Role-Play 101

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

What is Role-Play?

Simply put, role-play (or RP) is a story that you write with another person or persons. The term “role-play” encompasses a great deal of styles and methods, and refers to anything in which two or more characters interact in a story setting.

Sometimes these are plot-driven, such as large story arcs that continue from one session to another; other times a session can be a snapshot or slice-of-life that has no major plot and is simply done for fun.

The important element is that you are interacting with other people as your character, and not as yourself.

What Formats of Role-Play Are There?

Role-play has existed for a very long time. The most well-known version modernly is Dungeons & Dragons, which is a tabletop role-play game that involves a mix of out-of-character (OOC) and in-character (IC) elements.

For our general purposes, role-play will largely be done online. Formats for that include, but are not limited to:

  • Forums

  • Chat rooms (such as Discord)

  • In-game chat

Role-play done on forums allows for the role-players to write more extensive story chunks. A simple forum RP might consist of single paragraphs per post, while more advanced sites will have word count requirements (averaging 300 words per post) and can have multiple paragraphs per post. This type of role-play is excellent if you like to explore in-depth story elements, and if you prefer “book” style reading.

Chat room role-play allows for a much faster pace and is typically done in short bursts. A few sentences per post, usually including dialog, is all you really need. This allows for people to role-play on the go, and can be used as set-up or continuation of in-game role-play sessions. It is a nice middle tier type of role-play, involving more description than in-game but less extensive detail than forum. Chat room RPs are also the most user-friendly type, and are fantastic for beginners.

In-game role-play utilizes the in-game chat system. This will be somewhat fast-paced, and is severely restricted by the character count implemented by the game (capped at 255). Unlike the other two formats, in-game RP is not limited to text only, and can incorporate the game itself as part of the RP. This includes interacting with decorations, sitting in chairs, using the emotes available, and so on. In-game RP utilizes the visual element to make it as much of a cinematic experience as possible.

What Types of Role-Play Settings Are There?

RP settings are really as varied as your imagination can take you, but there are a few major ones that are very common:

  • MilSim, or military simulation

  • Teacher/student (master/apprentice, commander/subordinate, etc.)

  • Guided story

  • Personal

  • ERP, or erotic RP

There are many others beyond those, and each has their own subclassifications as well, but we won’t get into those. Instead I’ll give a brief outline of what each of these settings encompasses.

Military simulation is pretty much as it sounds. You have your commanding officer, a chain of command, etc. This sort of RP setting (also called scene, scenario, etc.) is especially common in MMOs, which typically have a heavy military element. This will often involve squads, companies, etc., and utilize the chain of command in various ways. Rescue missions and infiltrations are included, as well as promotions, retirements, and even military parades.

Teacher/student RPs tend to be one-on-one (but can have more students), wherein one person is in the role of instructor whilst the other(s) is in the role of trainee. These are great for MMOs in general and SWTOR specifically, which has the Force-user element of Master and Apprentice(s). Scenes like this typically involve the instructor ‘teaching’ their pupil(s) and will generally take place over several sessions as the student learns and grows.

A guided story can incorporate the first two elements, but are not limited to those. A guided story scene is one in which a lead person guides a group through a loosely-planned story. This is actually very similar to Dungeons & Dragons. Think of the lead person as the DM/GM. They have a general concept of where to go and what to do, and they take a group along to do those things. There is usually some sort of end goal set up (rescue this person, retrieve this item, eliminate this threat) but the players are free to do as they will along the way. Guided stories are great for larger groups (4+ players, not counting the lead). There will also typically be some sort of lead up to the session itself, such as mini sessions in game, “comic” style forum posts, or chat RP communications posts. (You can see elements like this in our own Discord’s RP Venue.)

Personal role-play is almost exclusively one-on-one. This type of RP is all about building interpersonal relationships between characters: familial, friendly, romantically, and more. Personal RP sessions often don’t have a set plot or goal, though they may be set within an overarching story. These are where your characters really get to know each other, spend time together, and so on. This is a great way to explore your character’s true personality beyond what the game provides, and can incorporate game story, though it does not have to.

And finally, last on our list, erotic role-play. ERP is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It typically has little-to-no plot and is all about sex. I’m going to make the token note that you should not participate in ERP if you are not of legal age to actually have sex in real life. (As an aside, should you choose to participate in in-game ERP, I strongly recommend that you turn off the profanity filter in the game’s chat settings.) I won’t go into specifics on this one; this is one of those styles where it’s much better experienced than explained so that you can understand the full breadth of what ERP encompasses.

How Do I Role-Play?