Tips To Write Better Roleplay Prompts
Table of Contents
- When you plan out a prompt or starter, ask yourself: "After this, then what?"
- Aim to create scenarios that invite interaction.
- Don't write prompts that rely on the other player's character having motivations and history that the other player can only guess at.
- Everything that other player's character would know or notice about the immediate situation should be contained within the prompt itself.
- And more tips!
- In summary!
When you plan out a prompt or starter, ask yourself: "After this, then what?"
Many players create prompts based on sort of gimmick that they think is interesting, but actually have little to no potential to lead to any sort of long-term plot.
For example, is your prompt based on the idea of one character discovering that another character is actually a werewolf or vampire? It might be interesting seeing the how first character handles the shock, but ask yourself: once the shock wears off, then what? Where do they go next? If you're thinking of writing a prompt based on your character turning up lost in front of someone's doorstep, ask yourself: what happens after the characters meet and tell each other all there possibly is to know about themselves? Where do they go from there?
Whatever prompt you're considering, will there be a way to keep an interesting plot going once the obvious plays out, or is it doomed to turn to endless repetitive fluff?
Aim to create scenarios that invite interaction.
A roleplay doesn't work without character interaction, so you should aim to make sure that there's a reasonable way and reason for the characters to interact - and preferably, as soon as possible. When you set out to create a prompt, think of it as being a bit like setting up an area in a video game - particularly, an adventure game. You need to have people and/or objects that the player can interact with to learn more and progress the plot.
You also need to provide good context for interaction. Many players write prompts that place their characters in places that are extremely difficult to reach (EG, high-security prisons), or places that other people's characters would have no reasonable motive to visit. Sometimes their characters are essentially no more than random passer-bys - the only real reason anyone would have to take notice of them is because they're player characters. People should never have to resort to metagaming to get their characters interacting with yours.
If your character is supposed to be a perfect stranger, ask yourself: would you interact with a perfect stranger under the circumstances you've got in mind? What circumstances would you interact with a perfect stranger under?
As far as finding a location to put your character goes, public spaces and events frequently work rather well - EG, libraries, fairs, etc. Of course, don't forget to ask yourself why the other person's character should interact with yours, as opposed to any number of other people who'd be milling about.
Also, pay critical attention to what your character is doing. Even if your character is in an accessible place, is your character actually doing anything or behaving in a way that invites interaction? People who are sitting in a corner looking sullen, have their noses in a book, or are busting someone's nose over some petty slight are not exactly people who scream "Hey! Come talk to me!"
Don't write prompts that rely on the other player's character having motivations and history that the other player can only guess at.
For example, many prompts are set up so that the other person's character is a longtime friend of the player's own character. The trouble is that with no idea of what brought these characters together in the first place, playing out a believable friendship is virtually impossible. Furthermore, it often ends up that when the characters interact, they turn out to be completely incompatible!
Similarly, some prompts set up a character as having been imprisoned by a canon villain that the other person is supposed to play - but exactly what this character did to deserve this kind of treatment is left unsaid. Generally speaking, most canon villains have more important things to do with their time than chain up teenage girls in the dungeon, which can leave players at a total loss trying to justify something that's wildly out of of character for who they're playing.
Everything that other player's character would know or notice about the immediate situation should be contained within the prompt itself.
For example, rather than making people read a bio to know what your character looks like, weave a description into the narrative of the prompt. Instead of linking to a picture of the creepy old house the other player's character is about to enter, describe it. Describing Your Character: Tips & Advice and Writing Better Prompts, Starters, & Beginnings: A Few Pointers have tips and pointers on describing people and places, respectively.
Likewise, if there's any backstory that the other player's character would likely know about, you can weave that into the prompt, too. And if the other player's character wouldn't have any way to know about it right now, then it's useless information to the player and you probably don't need to mention it yet - instead, consider saving it for the player to discover as the game progresses. People do like having things for their characters to discover and explore!
This isn't to say that you shouldn't have a bio or provide any external materials at all, of course - just that players shouldn't need to have to rely on them to comprehend the immediate scenario in the prompt. Making your prompt self-contained makes a much more immersive experience. Also, many players enjoy the experience of learning about the other player's character through the game itself, and don't want "spoiled" by an all-revealing bio.
And more tips!
An element of suspense is good. A scenario that piques the other player's curiosity is a scenario that player is more likely to want to engage with.
Ask yourself if the scenario makes sense. An RP based on a nonsensical premise runs the risk of collapsing in on itself before long - it's hard to do anything in a world that doesn't actually work. You can find a list of questions to help you troubleshoot just about any idea here. If your prompt is for a fandom, go here. If there's a villainous element involved at all, go here and here. For links to pages with tips relevant to your prompt's genre or genres, go here.
Remember that you need to make a good impression with your characters. People might be put off if your characters seem overly needy, grouchy, combative, judgmental, arrogant, smothering, or creepy; or if they seem overpowered; or if it looks like you're trying too hard to make them seem attractive or cute; or if it looks like you're trying too hard to be dark or edgy. They might also be put off if for all they can see, your character is a jerk or bully with no redeeming qualities. (Always remember, people can only know what you show them).
Remember that players like having freedom to make their own choices. So giving them room to decide which characters to play and/or how to play their characters, and how much responsibility and/or commitment they want where your character concerned can make a prompt more appealing. (And remember, a Hobson's choice where the "alternative" would be ruinous or make the other character a bad person does not count!)
Ask yourself what's in it for other players. What do other players potentially get out of interacting with the scenario you're planning out? How will it give them and their characters something interesting and satisfying to do or explore? What will they get out of interacting with your characters? Why should they care about your characters, beyond taking pity on some awful situation they're in? Why should they want to be around them? If you can't answer these questions, or if the answer is "they get to find out what a great person/valuable asset my character is!" or "they get to do the right thing by helping my character!", it's probably not a very good prompt.
Proofread your prompt! It only takes a short while, and correcting mistakes will make your prompt much easier for people to read and understand - which will make them more likely to take you up on it.If it has sensitive content, make sure people can opt out of reading it. Using appropriate tags or including a warning at the beginning of the prompt can work, depending on which service you're using. Topics you should probably tag or warn about include anything relating to (especially if graphic) violence, gore, sex, sexual violence, or compulsive/addictive behaviors, and both physical and emotional abuse, especially if they aren't commonplace in the source material, or if your post is likely to be seen by someone who isn't comfortable with the subject matter of the source material.
Also mention if it's supposed to involve a kink. Because people do need to know if that's the sort of thing your prompt is going for. It's very frustrating to start an RP that looked like something you wanted to do - only to find out after a few posts that the other player is trying to do something you're really not into.
Don't hijack tags. Okay, this isn't about creating prompts so much as it is about posting them. Posting a prompt in a tag it doesn't actually belong in is rather rude. Not only are there probably reasons people aren't looking for that tag (EG, they aren't interested in the subject right now or aren't a fan), you waste their time.
- When you're planning out a prompt or starter, ask yourself whether it has the potential to lead anywhere beyond repetitive fluff once the initial novelty or surprise of the situation you're planning wears off for the characters.
- Aim to create a scenario that invites interaction in some way. Position your character into a good place and context for being interacted with.
- Don't write prompts that are based in events the other player can't possibly know anything substantial about, and don't set it up with the other player's character doing something that might be difficult to justify.
- Everything the other player's character would know or notice about the immediate situation should be described in the prompt. External information (pictures, bios, etc.) are all right, but they should be optional, rather than mandatory.
- Creating an element of suspense can help get people interested.
- You need to make a good impression with your character - characters who look like they're going to be more pain than they're worth or like the player is just trying too hard with aren't going to win many people over.
- Avoid creating prompts that automatically rope the other player's character into responsibility or commitment. Give players freedom of choice where that kind of thing is concerned.
- Ask yourself what's in it for other player. If it's really all about your character and what you want for your character, it's no good.
- Include warnings for sensitive content, and warn about kinks.
- Don't post your prompt under tags that don't apply to it.
And other stuff that can help you
Basic Tips To Make Better & More Appealing Roleplaying Characters
Reasons Your RP Characters Might Be Bad Friends Or Love Interests
So You Want To Have An Attractive Character?
Basic Tips To Improve Your OCs & Fan Characters
Tips For Writing & Roleplaying Canon Characters Better
Common, Yet Terrible Character Descriptors - And How To Fix Them (And Write Better Descriptions In General)
Describing Your Character: Tips & Advice
7 Very Versatile RP Prompt Ideas
Tips To Help You Write Better Roleplay Posts
Things Writers (And Everyone Else) Should Know About Running A Roleplay
Tips To Be A More Thoughtful & Considerate Roleplayer
Writing Better Prompts, Starters, & Beginnings: A Few Pointers
Basic Tips To Create And Run A Good RP Plot