So, I’m a role player. Have been for almost five years (Eff, that long?) and I think it’s really improved my writing.
Everyone has, once in their life, role-played. When you’re a kid pretending to be an evil storm warlock of DOOM or the princess of pink unicorns, that’s role-play. When you’re training the do CPR, that’s role-play. When you croon ‘Happy birthday, Mr President’ to your main squeeze, that’s role-play.
The role-play community sprouted mainly because of the first example, and it’s what I’m going to be talking about here. If you’re more interested in the second, you’ll have to do your own research into CPR training, and if you want more of the third… go grab your honey. ^-^
Getting back on track, there are several different ways to role-play. The main dividers are whether you are in the same room as your co-players or not during the sessions.
The original way to role-play (hereafter shortened to RP) was in-person with several other players around a table. This is called ‘Tabletop’ among RPers. I am sure you’ve heard of Dungeons and Dragons, which, if not the founding game, sure helped RP catch on. It involves the use of dice and paper and a central non-player titled Games (or Dungeon) Master.
The other in-person interaction is called Live Action Role Play (or LARP for short). This involves acting out scenarios while staying in character. It is a lot like Tabletop, but with the use of props. This can also include Murder Mysteries you can buy in boxes.
The other side of role-play is done online.
There are games like World of Warcraft, Star Wars Galaxies and Second Life. You create a graphic avatar and move that avatar around a world. In some games, there are quests, or a story line to guide you through. Some have no other played characters and in others there are thousands of people.
The last type I will talk about is called Freeform. This is a lot like writing a story by a paragraph or two, from the point of view of your character. Freeform can be based in a chat room, over an instant messenger or something called a PBEM – or play by e-mail.
I’m going to expand a little on the PBEM style, because it’s my own preferred RP choice. It can be played via your inbox, or on a board such as Yahoo Groups or EZBoard. Moderators set down the rules, and usually screen your character before allowing them to be used to interact with other player’s characters. These games can be based on anything, from historical thrillers to space operas, or fan-games based on a film, tv series or book.
I found that playing for just a few months, my story characters are deeper, more interesting without being Mary-Sueish and could handle situations in a more realistic fashion. Playing with just my characters like this helped me understand them more, understand their motives and let me know what worked and what didn’t.
I think it’s a great tool for understanding character development and (most times) a confidence booster. Players must beware the Trolls and Drama Llamas, though. They can suck the fun out of game play fast, and could even be lethal (to a RP game, that is).
It is definitely worth a try and I recommend it.