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Lirriel's picture
Joined: 2010-05-18
Filling out an RSP:

This page focuses on suggestions for writing character descriptions in RSP mods such as MyRoleplay or XRP. For many, an RSP is a "first impression" as we click on people at a social event, or just walking through town. This is not a discussion of lore, backstory details, or other things about character; just suggestions for the RSP description itself.

After years of tabletop RP, I got my online RP start on a fairly open-to-any-sort-of-character RP forum with a distinct setting. Figuring out how to describe my characters in my profile was difficult; appearance, personality, gear, abilities, powers--balancing needed info for GMs, while not being too block-of-text.

What I've learned from various RP and criticism communities are "what other RPers don't like and may turn them off wanting to RP with you" and it's actually been helpful as I create characters and write profiles. Not to please other people; more to try and improve my own writing by seeing what doesn't work. Also, by developing a thicker skin.

So what do a lot of RPers not like--even if they never voice it out loud? Take these with a grain of salt, mileage may vary, all the usual caveats; but these are things I've noticed in a decade and a half of online RP in various venues and seeing how profiles and descriptions are written.

One thing I do recommend, no matter how long or short, detailed or bare bones your RSPs are, back them up! I use a simple Notepad file for all of my character flags, in case something gets wiped. It'll save a lot of heartache in the long run.

Length and Language
I have a "meh" reaction at long RSPs I have to scroll through. I try to keep mine to no or minimal scrolling. Otherwise, I'm adding extraneous description that few are actually going to read when they click to see what they need to know to interact; but more on that in a moment.

Chopping out purple prose can help. We all like to make our writing look nice, but save that for blogs and RP. If I can get what I need to know to interact without having to take 5 to 10 minutes to read, that's more time to actually RP! If you have trouble not getting narrative and flowery, just make it a list of basics.

Likewise, really long titles can stretch some RSP windows and character tooltips. It eats screen space. Keep these things in mind with names and titles, or adding to them through RP. If it's starting to stretch the frame, it can go in the description box, or just go.

A general idea in most forms of writing is "less is more" and knowing how to get across the point succinctly as possible. It's something I've worked on in my own writing, and even apply to RSPs.

Put Down the Thesaurus
When keeping it simple don't try to use creative words for colors, body parts, etc. to "spice it up." A lot of times, those synonyms aren't exact matches for the word you need. One big turn off for a lot of people: "orbs" for "eyes". Just don't. It's overdone and unnecessary. Use the basic word, or you might actually obscure your meaning. Call it “blue” if it's blue, etc.

Simple sentences fall in the same vein; getting too complex, or trying to be poetic with flowery language, can hurt your description.

Don't Assume Others Can—Or Will—Read Every Detail
Not everyone is running a RSP mod. Most can't yet be seen crossrealm. During busy social events, people don't have time to read every RSP. Making a character that looks nothing like the model, is a different race than what you rolled, having a ton of details to fill in over the base model, etc, is sometimes discouraged partially because not every one is going to be able to “see” that. Keep it simple, keep it short where you can.

Despite trying to keep it simple, some characters will require more detail than others. RSPs are as much for the player as for others; we have details to keep straight! So consider keeping the basic description at the top for folks to skim, and then put in a line and note and then go into the gritty details of various tattoos, scars, etc.

Be sure to RP various details! It can help flesh out your RP and bring across more of your character if you emote scratching the stump of his left arm, or she's constantly tucking a strand of long brown hair behind her slightly pointed ears.

Godmoding in a Description
Many people don't like feeling godmoded by RSPs: "you see before you...", "you feel a chill when you look at him", "you are drawn to her extraordinary beauty", "She makes you nervous", "He sees you watching him and begins a conversation...", "you can tell just looking in her eyes she's suffered extreme trauma recently" (I'm not quoting anyone in specific, but I'm not making these up, either).

Why is the "you" necessary? The RSP is NOT an IC function; it's a basic description of what people can see/smell/maybe hear of a character. Starting a convo in one's RSP is silly to detail a backstory, because you're not always going to have a chance to actually talk to everyone who might mouse over or click on your RSP--that's for actual roleplay.

This sounds funny in an advice post where the general “you” is standard; but in RP, people feel that deciding how they react to your character is a form of godmoding, even in an RSP. Simplify the language to not need it; it'll cut down unnecessary wording too. I like to use “one” for a general pronoun if needed; it's less directed or personal, but that doesn't work for everyone.

Speaking of Description
Not everyone is going to find the same things attractive--part of that variety of life in our world; how much more so in one with a multitude of races, each with their own standards of attraction? What a draenei finds handsome is going to be different than a human, gnome, dwarf, pandaren, or any variety of elf. Different cultures find different attributes pleasing, and standards of beauty change over the years.

Also: "She's attractive" or "He's fairly handsome" don't actually tell people what the character looks like, since different people find different traits appealing. Is your character an amorphous blob that alters to suit whoever's looking at them at that moment?

Try to leave out words like "good looking" or "beautiful" or "handsome" from profiles and RSPs; let other people decide if they think the characters as described and RPed are attractive or not. Try to keep the description objective and simple; it'll cut unneeded words. A lot of times, the idea of an attractive character comes through in the RP itself and how people respond to that.

Keeping Privates Private
Many RPers assume that detailed descriptions about the size and form of certain parts of anatomy means it's an ERP alt--no matter how many disclaimers are made. General body shape description? Fine. Emphasizing breast size, or making references to bulges in trousers? People dismiss it as someone looking for sex. Same with proclaiming a character's virginity; who can tell by looking at them? Why does it matter? These are the knee-jerk reactions when these descriptions pop up. Just don't add it in the description; keep it to private RP.

Just the Facts, Ma'am
What can I not see looking at your avatar? WoW's models aren't diverse, so mention of build is usually appropriate (skinny, bulky, curvy, trim...). I can see your hair color and style for the most part, though some details may work; on Aerella I mention her hair is curly and graying, which the hair options don't offer a lot of ways to show. Eye color is another, given we only have so many faces to pick from and the eyes are set on them. Noticeable scarring and tattooing is another one (for Alynore I mention the scarring on her hands if her gloves are off). Most clothing descs aren't needed, though jewelry is not visible so signature pieces are fine. Keep it to physical looks; what people see (smell, hear) when in the same room.

Make sure those physical descriptions aren't contradicting. A woman isn't size 0 while also having ultra curves. A man can't be 6' tall, super muscular, and only weigh 130 lbs. If there are a lot of "buts" and "yets" in a physical description, re-evaluate what those words are actually saying. There's likely a better descriptor to use instead of two conflicting adjectives. If you have trouble determining a weight, leave it out or use a BMI chart, adjusting if the character's stronger--muscle weighs more than fat! You may skip a number for weight entirely, and just stick to build.

Some people go with their character looking just like the toon, and decide on general demeanor; “he often seems grumpy” or “she's mostly cheerful” and that simplicity is fine! Just keep in mind, people are never 100% one way all the time, even in fiction.

Some add lines when RP happens where they're injured or their demeanor changes; in Flag, I suggest putting those temporary changes at the top where they are immediately visible. MRP and XRP have a "Currently" field.

The History Debate
I can't know your backstory just by looking at you.

Yes, I know; by the time we're in Northrend, we're famous heroes of the Horde and Alliance, renowned for our deeds. NPCs greet us when we gain reputation with their faction. Some of us have been RPing on our realms forever.

Not all characters know each other, even if I've been playing with someone on another alt for years. They certainly aren't going to know all the deepest, darkest secrets from before you were famous, or half the deeds you've done since then. Just like we don't know everyone's name and guild because those floating words aren't visible ICly.

Some RSPs do have a space for history, but check the suggested use by the developers: bare basics of what people may have heard, rumors; not the whole life history. We have Crossroads, guild websites, Tumblr, or any other online venue to post backstory; put a tinyurl link in the RSP if you like! But details should come out in RP, much like it does in real conversation. Keep in mind: who tells every random stranger they meet their entire, tragic life story or darkest secrets immediately?

OOC Notes
Things like ((Open for walk up RP!)) or ((I'm a beginner so advice is welcome!)) are fine. Raging notes like ((I don't RP with godmoders who won't ever lose duels!)) or ((Don't even talk to me if you're a lore breaker!)) are unnecessary. OOC caveats on how to “properly” RP with you, or trying to justify behaviors and storyline/character choices ((I can play an Orc San'layn if I want and you lore lovers can screw!)), tend to turn others off.

Conclusion to the wall of text
These are some ideas I've seen floating around. The debates about lore, characters, style of RP, etc, are best left for other resource posts.