Skills Every Good Roleplayer Should Have
Table of Contents
- Being able to give clear, concise directions.
- Being able to summarize a threat and how to deal with it, or to tell others how to avoid it.
- Being able to give brief, yet effective descriptions.
- Knowing when to use Google.
- Knowing how to get the ball rolling.
- Knowing how to de-escalate a conflict.
- Being able to play different kinds of characters.
- In summary!
Being able to give clear, concise directions.
Whether it's directions to a place or directions to complete a task, good directions give people step-by-step guidance to an endpoint without going into excessive detail or wandering off-topic. Here's an example of what good directions to a location can look like:
"Go north on Daisy Avenue, take a left on Birch Street until you reach Maple Street, then take a right. The house will be on your left. It's painted light gray, and its number is 326. There's a big pine tree and a swimming pool in the yard."
These directions are good because they tell you where to go, where to look, and what to look for - with enough vital detail that you'll be able to spot what you're trying to find quickly and easily. (House numbers aren't often easy to see from a distance, but house color and large objects in the yard are; also, having multiple identifiers makes it less likely you're going to make a mistake.)
Other important location details, depending on what's going on, can include addresses, floor and apartment numbers, and GPS locations. If a character needs picked up from somewhere but doesn't know the exact location, describing landmarks, buildings, and visible business names might also work.
Now, here's an example of what good directions for performing a task can look like:
"What you're going to do is create a Potion of Amity. Everything you need will be in the big cabinet next to the door - the tools are on the lower shelves, and the ingredients are on the upper shelves. You'll need to start with a golden chalice half full of water. Then you'll need to finely crush three yellow rose petals and sprinkle into it. After that, add one drop of mint extract. Then add a pinch of powdered dove feather. Take the stirring stick and stir it around nine times clockwise. Then take the small silver bell and ring it over the chalice three times. Once you've done that, use the smallest strainer to remove the rose petals and feathers (you can strain it into a glass measuring cup), then pour the liquid into a spray bottle. Spray it into the air all around the house before everyone arrives."
These directions do three vital things: 1. they tell you what you're trying to accomplish, 2. they tell you how and where to find everything you need, and 3. they tell you precisely what you're supposed to with do it. Absolutely nothing is left up to guesswork.
If you really, really, really just need to fudge it, you can sometimes get away with writing something along the lines of "[Character name] told them where to go/what to do," but consider: taking the time to actually describe things like in the examples can make what's going on in the game feel more vivid to players, giving them a richer, more immersive experience overall.
Being able to summarize a threat and how to deal with it, or to tell others how to avoid it.
In any tactical situation, or in any situation where a threat presents a risk of bodily harm, people need to know what they're up against and what they might need to do to neutralize it and/or to protect themselves.
Let's say for example that we have a bunch of alien invaders running around. Those who are trying to face down the threat are going to need to know where they are, how many there are (if not a precise number, then at least an estimation thereof), what they're armed with, what they're doing right now, and where and how they're vulnerable. They also need to know if there are any other hazards they should watch out for (EG, the danger of bringing down a rickety old building and causing unnecessary collateral damage) and what they can do to coordinate their efforts with their teammates, and about any obstacles that might give them trouble.
Those who are trying protect themselves or get others to safety are going to need to know things like safe escape routes or hiding places, and possibly what they should do if they encounter the threat directly. They'll also need to know about other hazards or obstacles to watch out for along the way.
If it ends up at some point that one of your characters really ought to be relaying this kind of information to others and you can't do this, your character risks ending up being as useful as a screen door on a submarine. And sure, just as with giving directions, there are times when you can just fudge it, but describing it all it out gives other players a richer and more dynamic experience, so it's absolutely worth it to make the effort.
Being able to give brief, yet effective descriptions.
Whether it's characters, rooms, artifacts, or whatever, if you're making stuff up on the fly and have players waiting on you for input, you don't want to take any longer than necessary to deliver the goods - and you need those goods to be, well, good. So here are some tips to give short descriptions that deliver the essentials.
For characters, get into the practice of describing them in roughly fifty to seventy words, covering details like skin color, hair color and style, body shape, clothes, and any particularly outstanding features the character may have that one would notice at a glance (EG, a severe lack of grooming or a peg leg).
For rooms, you'll want to describe details such as what the floors and walls look like, how the room is decorated, how clean it is, how much and what kind of clutter there is, and if applicable, anything that might strike anyone as especially unusual or out-of-place.
For objects or artifacts, describe their shape or what they are, what materials they're made from and/or what colors they are, any embellishing they have and what it looks like, and any other remarkable features (EG, being damaged in an unusual or otherwise noteworthy way).
For more tips on describing things, check out Describing Your Character: Tips & Advice, Writing Better Prompts, Starters, & Beginnings: A Few Pointers, and Tips To Help You Write Better Roleplay Posts.
Knowing when to use Google.
Players who constantly need things explained to them are a pain in the neck in any game. While most people won't fault someone for asking a question now and then, many will lose patience with players who are constantly asking questions they could easily find the answer to with a quick web search. Before asking anything, see if you can find the answer for yourself by searching for it.
Knowing how to get the ball rolling.
An RP where everyone sits around waiting for someone else to take initiative is an RP where nothing happens at all. So be prepared to take initiative yourself, both IC and OOC - here are some tips how:
Be direct and clear OOC. Don't beat around the bush - ask direct questions like "Would anyone like to interact with my character?" or "How does everyone feel about starting a plot?"
Start a flow of ideas. Ask people questions like, "Anyone have ideas for a plot?" or "What are some things you'd like to do?" And don't forget to contribute some of your own ideas - EG, "Maybe our characters have a group project together?"
Have your be characters willing to initiate and/or maintain interaction. Games don't work if everyone's characters just sit around on sofas or lurk in corners, or shy away from or snub everyone who tries to interact with them.
Above all, don't be an ass. You're going to put off a lot of people if you basically go around griping and grumbling at other players, or making snide comments when they aren't doing what you want.
Knowing how to de-escalate a conflict.
This is a skill that can help you both IC and OOC. It's absolutely essential if you want to play characters who are supposed to be good at calming others down or settling disputes. It's also good to know if your roleplaying community ends up in an argument (and almost every community ends up disagreeing sooner or later!). If you want to learn how to do this, you can do a search for "how to de-escalate a conflict" or "de-escalation."
Being able to play different kinds of characters.
The more variety you can put into your characters, the more games and scenarios you'll be able to play in. Plus, the more unique your characters are from each other, the more memorable they'll be, and the more you'll be able to keep people guessing and wondering what your next character will be like. On the other hand, if your characters are all very much the same aside from a few fairly superficial details, you risk being a predictable, boring, and very limited roleplayer.
Making your characters different from each other doesn't just mean giving them different abilities, but also giving them different flaws, quirks, interests, hopes, goals, insecurities, ethical systems, and backgrounds. (Of course, this is not to say that no two of your characters can have any trait in common - just that you need to variate more than your characters' abilities!)
This skill is also essential if you're going to be playing any NPCs - not only is it important to make sure that your NPCs stand out from each other in players' minds, but it's a little weird and disconcerting if they all mysteriously act almost the same. (What are they, some kind of creepy hive mind? Some kind of mass-produced robots?)
Simple Tips To Put Yourself In The Shoes Of Characters Who Aren't You and Quick & Dirty Characterization Tips & "Cheats" have tips that can help you learn to and manage playing different types of characters.
Skills every roleplayer should strive to have are:
- Being able to give good directions - detailed, yet clear and concise.
- Being able to sum up and describe a threat to someone needing to face it, or being able to guide a person through avoiding it.
- Giving short, yet informative descriptions of anything - such as people, rooms, and items.
- Knowing when to use Google. (It should typically be your first resort when you don't know something.)
- How to get take initiative and get things started without being rude.
- How to de-escalate a conflict - this is a good skill to be able to use IC, and a better one to be able to use OOC.
- Being able to play different types of characters with different personal traits, so you don't end up being limited as a player or boring or numbing other players.
Also, take a look at:
Tips To Be A More Thoughtful & Considerate Roleplayer
Basic Tips To Make Better & More Appealing Roleplaying Characters
How To Make A Playable RP Character Fast
Tips To Write Better Roleplay Prompts
General Roleplaying Tips & Advice
Exercises To Improve Your Character Writing & Roleplaying Skills