Roleplayer's Etiquette 101
Marin's Guide to Roleplayer's Etiquette
(Please note that this article contains multiple examples that assume a pokemon roleplay. All concepts found here are universal however and still apply.)
A) Post Order and Bunnying3) Game Mastering
B) Combat, God Modding, and Character Death
C) Dealing with disagreements
D) Meta-Gaming and Pre-Planning
E) Post Length
A) Interacting with GMs as a roleplayer4) RESPECT!5) Activity
B) Interacting with roleplayers as a GM
C) Having more than one GM
There are two types of acceptable mindsets in roleplaying. (There are some other unacceptable mindsets, such as trolling/griefing. You should not be concerned about accidentally having them, though. See "Dealing with disagreements" for how to deal with others that have them.) There's the competitive mindset and the non-competitive mindset. Only one of these mindsets will every be appropriate at any one time. Which one is appropriate is relevant to the roleplay. Is the roleplay competitive, or cooperative? The easiest way to determine this is to look at the roleplay and ask yourself if competition is a heavy part of the roleplay. When I say competition, I mean specifically player vs player. Not player vs NPC, When deciding whether the roleplay's attitude is competitive or not, ask yourself, how easy is it to make a trainer that is the most powerful trainer ever? Would others call it godmodding and would the GM forbid it? Would they demand you "earn" it? That's the competitive attitude right there, the mindset that people need to /earn/ everything in a roleplay. Obviously there is a balance between the two, but you must use good judgement to tell whether a roleplay leans to one side or the other. Obviously, not all roleplays will be pokemon or even trainer based, but the same concept applies everywhere.
Does the plot have all the player's characters cooperating? Does it leave people to choose sandbox style? Does it have a preset conflict such as there being two categories of characters to choose from? Pay close attention to the plot and the sign-up process to get an idea of how competitive the RP will be. Are you forced to start with low-level pokemon? How easy is leveling up if levels are even a part of it?
You want to have a mindset matching that of the roleplay going into it. If you have a cooperative mindset going into a competitive mindset you will find yourself thinking that others are overly competitive and having your feelings hurt when they don't treat you as well as you'd expect. That being said etiquette does change to a minor degree in competitive roleplays. For instance, in a competitive roleplay if you do not acknowledge and respond to an attack launched at your characters others may hold you accountable by calling you on it and invoking a rule where your character is automatically hit by the attack because you did not respond. However, in a cooperative roleplay this would be considered /extremely/ rude. If you ask another roleplayer not to kill your character or not to defeat your character OOCly in a cooperative roleplay it would considered a perfectly reasonable request. (See "Dealing with disagreements" and "Meta-Gaming and Pre-Planning" for more info on that.) However, in a competitive roleplay it would be viewed as obnoxious.
Ultimately not having the correct mindset to join an RP will most likely result in arguments disagreements, and other problems. There is something you must keep in mind however. Mindsets are not black and white. There is an infinite range of stances in between. The closer your mindset fits to that of the roleplay the less friction it will generate. Neither mindset is 'correct', and it's more a matter of personal choice.
Interacting with other roleplayers OOCly is a great way to make friends. However, sometimes it's not clear how we should act towards each other in the context of roleplaying. These skills are important to have, as not having them can cause great friction between you and your fellow roleplayers. Here we will discuss various roleplaying specific things you'll need to keep in mind and how to deal with them.
Post order is the order in which roleplayers post ICly. This is to give everyone a chance to react to any single thing before others move on. The easy way to think of a post order is to simply wait for everyone else you're roleplaying with to post before posting again. If everyone follows that rule, a post order will form on its own without any further memorization on your part. That being said, breaking the post order would be considered rude and may even be against the rules in some roleplays. (More likely to be against the rules in a competitive roleplay, as well as taken more seriously there.) You may be thinking that you can simply edit your post with new information instead of posting again before everyone is done, but wait! Although that is preferable to breaking post order, you should avoid doing it, especially if significant time has passed, as your fellow roleplayers may have already read the post and may not know to re-read it to see any changes. Simply do not rush your posts to minimize the chances of having to do this, and if you see a mistake that /needs/ fixing or one of your fellow roleplayers points it out for you feel free to edit it. It may potentially cause minor confusion, but your fellow roleplayers should be willing to tolerate this as long as it isn't excessive or causing too many problems.
Bunnying is a roleplayer term which essentially means "to control another roleplayer's character(s) in any way". Bunnying is very commonly against the rules in ust about any roleplay you find, though some roleplays may simply let it be assumed. You should assume bunnying is against the rules in any roleplay by default. The one exception is if you get permission OOCly from the other roleplayer. Bunnying is easy to do on accident if say you're used to fanfiction. If you assume an attack hits, or assume someone else's character says or does something, that's bunnying. Ultimately you need to leave what other people's character do and what happens to them up to their roleplayer. If you feel they are not being fair, then you should simply go to the GM and ask them to say something. In some cases, a limited degree of bunnying may be tolerated by others. For instance, two characters are friends and one character grabs the other's hand and runs off with them. The roleplayer assumed that the other character would be pulled along for the ride, but the other character's roleplayer very well might not care. This is a dangerous thing to do, but if you know another player's character well you may be able to anticipate when to take these liberties. If called on bunnying, simply apologize and fix your mistake. Do not argue. As we will discuss in the dealing with disagreements section, if you truly /aren't/ bunnying and someone is accusing you of it ultimately you should get the GM to handle it, as they have the authority to do so.
Combat in roleplay is when you have your characters fighting. In a pokemon roleplay where humans train pokemon, a trainer's pokemon are considered that roleplayer's characters as well. Combat is almost always turn based. You're expected to know the strengths, weaknesses, and limits of your character(s) and acknowledge them when appropriate. Failing to acknowledge the weaknesses or limits of a character is what called god modding. (Failing to acknowledge a character's strength has no special name. It's just inconsistent and thus poor writing. ;P)
God modding is one of the most famous terms in roleplaying, and easily the most commonly banned thing in any roleplay. You should always assume godmodding is against the rules at all times unless told otherwise. Common forms of godmodding are dodging, taking little/no damage from attacks with little/no justification, and having a character take more abuse than they should be able to with the given, if any, justification by the roleplayer. Dodging is one of the most notorious forms of godmodding as it plays heavily on other roleplayers not bunnying. Simply put, dodging is not a very effective form of surviving in a combat situation realistically, not even in the context of pokemon. Take note that most pokemon attacks have 100% accuracy. This means these attacks should be undodgable without proper justification. Even attacks with only 90% or 70% should be extremely difficult to dodge short of once if a character gets lucky. Dodging is very notable because it's not only godmodding, but bunnying. By dodging a well-aimed attack without some /good/ justification (See: Not luck) you are actually implying that your opponent's character's attack was not as accurate as it is. In this way, you would be controlling their character. A real life example would be bullets. Bullets travel at incredible speeds of many hundreds of miles per hour. The human brain's reaction time is very significant, more than enough for a bullet to travel quite a distance. Dodging a bullet without justifying how one reacted to it before it hit them would be godmodding and implied bunnying. Dodging also encompasses the infamous "instant teleport" dodge and "I was a clone all along!!!1!1one" dodge. As you can see, it's rather notorious compared to other forms of godmodding.
Having your character be incredibly durable is a less common form of godmodding, or at least today it is less common anyway. Back in the day, you'd have people pulling 'a Superman' and being almost immune to bullets, or 'a DBZ' if you so prefer it. This is when you take a character and give them durability they just aren't justified to have. Superman and Goku are /aliens/. One should not ever forget that. (On a side note, if other roleplayers could completely forget your character is a super alien if it weren't for their super powers, that's probably not a good thing, unless you're in a roleplay whose continuity accepts superhero style characters.) This applies to pokemon as well. The games are the word of god here. That is to say, regardless of what you see in the anime or the manga, the games are the canonity you should be referring to when you want to know how strong, how durable, or how fast a pokemon is. (This does not apply to some other things, only combat.) You don't need to do any serious number crunching. You just need to consider how much training a pokemon has, (Alternatively their level if the roleplay keeps track of levels), their base stats, (I recommend Serebii for quickly finding the base stats of any pokemon.), and any unique abilities or extra strengths/powers your pokemon might have. You should then compare these things to those of your opponent's pokemon. If you are not sure about who is justifiably better at this or that, or just don't care, you can alternatively discuss a battle OOCly with your opponent beforehand. (See: Pre-planning) This is only proper in cooperative roleplays though, and doing this in a competitive roleplay is bound to get a negative backlash.
Character Death is a touchy subject in roleplaying. Most people don't create their characters to die, or if they do they want their characters to die at a certain time or certain way. Or at least, cooperative roleplayers do this. See, competitive roleplayers are very different here. A competitive roleplayer accepts that their characters are not special in terms of death, and is willing to accept their death when another character has justifiably killed them. A cooperative roleplayer on the other hand would consider it extremely rude for someone else to create a character that kills their character justifiably or not without their implied or explicit approval. To the competitive roleplayer, only the roleplay's rules can stop a character from dying. To a cooperative roleplayer, they have control over their character at all times, and they are the ultimate controller of what happens to their character. This is a very touchy subject, and it's also very important because acting the wrong way in a roleplay towards character death is bound to cause massive friction between players, and may even result in severe consequences being handed out by the GM. I can't stress how sensitive this issue is. If you're in doubt about how character death should be handled, ask the GM beforehand.
This section is crucial for what if scenarios. You can be the politest most respectful roleplayer ever but if you don't know how to deal with disagreements you will run into problems sooner or later. Dealing with disagreements isn't that hard though! This section is purely from the roleplayer's point of view, as a GM as the authority merely needs to keep respect in mind when making decisions and that's that. For roleplayers though it's different. When two roleplayers disagree, first ask yourself if a rule was broken. This includes rules that are assumed such as bunnying or godmodding, though very few rules other than these should be assumed. If a rule was broken, make an attempt to contact the other roleplayer about it and explain it to them, keeping respect in mind of course. As a matter of fact, it is /always/ important to keep respect in mind when dealing with disagreements. If the other roleplayer is okay with correcting their mistake, simply wait for them to do so. If a disagreement occurs, contact the GM and have the GM be the judge. On the other hand, if another roleplayer is contacting you because they feel you broke a rule, try to be objective and consider if you did. If you find you did, apologize and offer to fix the mistake. If you think you didn't, respectfully decline. It is the accuser's responsibility to get the GM if they want to further pursue action to be taken, though if the accuser continues to argue past your decline, feel free to approach the GM yourself in order to have it settled. Remember that as far as the rules go the GMs are the word of god, no exceptions.
If it's less about a rule and more about arguing about character interaction or combat, try to work it out with the other roleplay. If the conversation gets heated, recognize that you cannot make progress without GM interference and promptly ask the GM to intervene. It is the GM's duty to do this, and if they don't you should consider leaving the roleplay. This does not mean they have to agree with you. It is their duty, and no more than just that, to break up any arguments that get started. If the conversation does not become heated simply make an effort to keep it that way. Discuss until you either reach a conclusion or reach an impasse. If neither roleplayers can agree on something, respectfully suggest that the issue be presented to the GM. Ultimately, the rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if no progress is being made, it's time to bring in the GM.
Meta-Gaming in the context of roleplaying is allowing the OOC to affect the IC. If you're in a competitive roleplay, this means any form of OOC. If you're in a cooperative roleplay, you're allowed to pre-plan things without being accused of meta-gaming. However, you cannot give OOC knowledge on your character. An example of clear-cut meta-gaming would be seeing another roleplayer type out that their character is hiding a weapon and having your character somehow know this without justification. Meta-Gaming is one of the oldest and most severe things to be convicted of in a roleplay alongside godmodding and bunnying. It is sometimes difficult to tell when someone is metagaming, as it can be passed off as luck at times. However, if you believe someone is metagaming this is automatically an issue for the GM, and should be brought to them as such. Using the example of a hidden weapon above, a real piece of work could blatantly meta-game and when confronted by another roleplayer and proceed to say: "Oh, my character just guessed. He was lucky." This is possible, but very abusable. Thus you need the GM to step in and put their foot down, saying enough is enough.
Pre-Planning is mostly a part of cooperative roleplay, as it might be considered obnoxious to competitive players who prefer to wing it. Pre-planning is when you go up to another roleplayer, private or public, and ask them if they'd like to do this or have that happen. "Would you mind if X beat Y in a battle?" "What do you think about X and Y maybe falling in love?" "Do you think X could maybe ask and borrow Y's pokemon for a bit?" You want to pre-plan when you don't want to take the risk of the other roleplayer not agreeing with you and preventing things from going your way ICly. A perfect example of when someone should pre-plan is when character death is involved. Let's say your roleplayer is a token hero and another roleplayer's character has set up a bomb in a building. The hero is likely to try to defuse it, but you don't know if he can and if he can't, the hero will die. Assuming this is a cooperative roleplay, you can then ask the other roleplay if the hero is even capable of defusing the bomb and explain that you don't really want said hero to die. In the event.
If someone is trying to pre-plan something with you, you have the right to refuse as long as the rules don't say otherwise. Keep in mind though that pre-planning is a courtesy, and outright refusing to so much as answer someone's questions and /work/ with them, mostly in a cooperative roleplay, would be considered rude. Even if you have to say no, that isn't plausible or no, my character won't let this happen or make a mistake here, you should at least work with them as a common courtesy.
Post Length seems like a simple enough subject. However, believe it or not there are still those that believe that length = quality and insist on meeting length quotas arbitrarily. This is not only rather competitive in nature, as these same people have a heavy tendency to look down on others who post shorter posts. There are /also/ those who do not understand that post length is not /just/ a personal choice. It's more than that. When considering post length, you should look at other people posting in a roleplay. Look at the average length of the posts. That's your ideal post length. Posting a post quite a lot bigger than the norm or quite a lot smaller is honestly not good etiquette. If there is no average post length established, such as a brand new RP, just post however long you like at first. However, you should be ready to adjust your effort to match that of your peers. The exception to this is if you're storytelling. Storytellers, including GMs, will often make larger posts. You should know what a storyteller is, but if you don't, it's someone who guides/tells the story of the roleplay. This is generally going to be the person controlling important NPCs on top of their own characters and the person who has controls the plot. In the same way making a post that's way too big for others to match is insulting making a post that's too short can insult people as well. It is important to make the effort to keep up, though you should not strain yourself to the point you're no longer having fun roleplaying. If you honestly can't handle it, and the average is honestly just a lot bigger than yours, do not ask the other players to shorten their posts. Same goes for if your posts are unusually long. Do not ask other players to lengthen their posts. If anyone gets annoyed at you, you owe them nothing more than an apology. In the case that your posts are so ridiculously short or long compared to others, you may find that it's better to leave the roleplay. The reason for this is that built up aggravation may cause the local GM to kick you out for lack of post quality.
Ultimately, there are three types of posts.
The light, excessively skinny post: Low quality
The heavy because of muscle post: Good Quality - High Quality
The heavy as in morbidly obese posts: Low quality.
When making a post, you want your length to be reflected by the muscle example. If you lack anything, that's bad, but if you lengthen up a post with details that do not contribute to the enjoyment of other players reading it. (See: Details that are most likely irrelevant or outright useless because they are not observable) it gets heavy for the wrong reason.
Game Mastering, also known as GMing, is an important part of roleplaying. GMs are there to make sure people aren't being selfish and to break up disagreements as the local authority figure. They are also usually there to play the storyteller, the person who guides the main character(s) through NPCs, a plot, or other methods of progressing the story. They make and enforce the rules, and are in charge of upholding the quality and health of the roleplay. Their job is keeping the roleplay interesting and making sure people are enjoying themselves.
One thing you have to remember when interacting with a GM is that they are /human beings/. They are your fellow roleplayers, only in a position of authority. They are however also the word of god. You should be able to trust your local GM to be reasonable and act with the best interest of the roleplay in mind. However, keeping in mind that they are just humans if it turns out you question what they do or say there are certain ways to go about doing it and certain ways to /not/ go about doing it. For instance. If you have a problem with another roleplayer in the roleplay and the GM has not stepped in to solve the problem, absolutely do not bring it to their attention in public. Always discuss problems with other roleplayers in private, as calling someone out in public is rather rude. When a GM disagrees with your logic or proposition, understand that making a scene because of it will not get you what you want. At best, it will interfere with other roleplayer's ability to have fun, which is basically a crime against the very spirit of roleplaying. If a GM's decisions bothers you too much and you have tried to convince them otherwise and have failed, your next option is to leave the roleplay rather than dealing with it. When interacting with a GM it's important to keep respect in mind. Depending on the person, they may require different levels of respect. Simply keeping respect in mind when dealing with a GM is a almost guaranteed way to interact well with them assuming they're a good GM.
As a GM, you are the authority. You are the boss. You are the word of god. Anything you say goes, /period/. For starters, you may want to describe how you handle questions / conflicts in your rules sections to give people an idea as of what to expect. One of the most important things to remember as a GM when dealing with your roleplayers, just like it is for them to remember when dealing with you, is respect. You are the authority, but you must always make an effort to be fair and keep the best interest of the roleplay in mind as well as the integrity of the roleplay. Remember that at the end of the day if you abuse your roleplayers they will in turn leave the roleplay rather than deal with it.
Having more than one Game Master is an excellent way to split the workload across multiple shoulders. Being a Game Master is hard work, and you should /always/ make sure you're ready for it. As a Game Master, you cannot just decide you're too busy with life or whatever. No, you're way too important to the success of a roleplay to be pulling that. However, if you split the workload across a second or even third GM you can make it easier on yourself. The term Co-GM implies that the co-GM is second to the "real" GM, and is thus not the best term to use, as both GMs should ideally be equal. The point of having two GMs is so that if one GM takes a break or abandons ship for whatever reason the other GM can pick up and move on without any problems in addition to lightening the workload on any one GM. (In the event that there is only one GM and they leave, it's proper to have the roleplayers themselves agree on a new GM chosen from themselves.) In huge roleplays with lots of players (Like the Pokémon Trainer Academy) it also helps to have an extra set of eyes. (Though you don't need to be a GM to be an extra set of eyes. You just need to be a friend willing to point out things to the GM when you see them.)
However, there is such a thing as having too many GMs. The reason for this is that all the GMs must agree on any decissions they make. The more GMs you have, the harder it will be to get everyone to agree on it. Two GMs is more or less ideal. Three is also a reasonable bet. Four is pushing it, but five or above is generally a bad idea for any one roleplay.
Respect is one of the most important parts of roleplaying etiquette. If you walk around disrespecting people you've basically set yourself miles back automatically. You can't justify disrespect. There is absolutely no excuse in the context of roleplaying. This is something that competitive roleplayers tend to have some difficulty with. (I'll leave you to theorize as to why exactly that happens.) Nobody likes being disrespected. It hurts your ego, but that's a bit of a euphemism when you think about it. It hurts your /feelings/. whether you're the GM, or a regular roleplayer, or the best writer in a group, or controlling the coolest of cool characters in the roleplay, or /whatever/. Respect is still important. Depending on whether the roleplay is competitive or not and whether you're dealing with the GM OOCly or not what sort of respect is warranted may vary.
The GM has taken the job of working hard to make a succesful roleplay. They are the boss. Basically? In addition to anything you might show a normal roleplayer, you must also respect any decision the GM makes. You don't have to agree with them, but you need to respect it enough to either make do or leave without making a scene. A GM will often feel the need to put their foot down if they feel that someone is undermining their authority, such as extended arguments or snide remarks. Part of respecting them is not doing those things.
Respecting other roleplayers is easy. They're human beings. Assume well of them. I don't mean assume the best, but don't assume poorly of them. When you're roleplaying, leave your non-roleplay related intolerances at the door. That includes politics, religion, and whatever else. The one exception is if you're dealing with smut in a roleplay. Because we as a culture are kind of weird, smut is a fact of life that many roleplayers feel the need to indulge in as a sort of rebellion. If you've ever heard the theory that people like doing the forbidden, that's basically why we have a problem with smut. You should not disrespect others as human beings as a result of smut, and in fact 'doing the forbidden' is not automatically wrong. However, at the point other roleplayers start becoming uncomfortable it becomes an issue that should be brought towards the GM.
We've talked a lot about the importance of respecting others, and how respecting others is absolutely integral to maintaining good roleplay etiquette. That's all true, and you should never forget it. However, respecting yourself is also important to a degree. Let's be honest. Respecting yourself is not going to impress others and it won't help them enjoy their roleplaying experience any more than they already are. The thing is, respecting yourself too little will unimpress others and damage their roleplaying experience. It's important to know and remember that at its core roleplaying is collaborative writing and that means some level of cooperation is necessary. (In contrast, competition is necessary because it is a potential source of great fun.) Respecting yourself is mostly important for your own sake however. If you don't respect yourself, /you/ are not going to have as great an experience as you want.
Respecting yourself is as easy as knowing how to respect others and once you've got respecting others down setting limits to how much you're willing to tolerate them not returning the favor. A zero-tolerance policy would violate the spirit of respect, so you should never attempt to justify how little you tolerate. Rather, you should be trying to justify how /much/ you can tolerate within reason. Know your limits, know how much you as a person can tolerate. This does not mean stop respecting people when they annoy you enough, however. Respectfully dealing with people you can no longer tolerate is an unfortunately important skill to have. (See: Dealing with disagreements)
Activity is an important part of any roleplay. It's also a part of roleplayer's etiquette. Now, the frequency of posting can variate between mediums of communication and communities. For instance, a chatroom roleplay's frequency of posting should be much higher than that of a forum. However, we'll be discussing activity in the context of a forum. Forum roleplays are one of the slower mediums of roleplaying and thus easier to keep up with. However, some people take this too far. Activity is important to roleplayer's etiquette because, quite simply, if you take too long you're going to drive other roleplayers crazy.
Now, there is no one universal "right" frequency at which posts happen. However, in general you will find that waits exceeding 1 day (Meaning 2 days or more) have the potential to damage the health of the roleplay. The longer people are left wanting to post and unable to do so the closer they're going to get to getting so frustrated they lose interest. Obviously things happen offline that can tear you away for a time. That's okay, because the damage caused by inactivity is something that operates on an average. That means that if you're an active poster significantly more than you're inactivie it's not going to do much damage.
Now let's talk about planned inactivity. There are ways, such as if you're going on vacation for a time, to go innactive without hurting the roleplay or driving someone crazy. It's simple, actually. Inactivity only hurts people if your character was in the middle of interacting with theirs. If you have your character step away from the group it allows others to move on while you're gone. When you get back, you can make up a story explaining what your character did while you were gone. This is a simple and effective way to avoid driving people bonkers over things like RP locks. Some roleplays may refuse to wait indefinitely for you to get back, though. The latter is an issue of GMs finding it disrespectful when someone joins a roleplay but does not make the time to participate. This is especially true when a roleplay has limited slots.
Speaking of making the time to participate. Some people have problems with joining too many roleplays. You see an awesome new roleplay and you /must/ join it, right? It is important to make sure you have enough time in your life for another roleplay. If you find that you have to take inactivity breaks for school / work (except for short breaks for tests or unforseen increases in workload at work) or other long-term things then that's a sign that you didn't have enough time to begin with and shouldn't have joined. Get your friends to call an intervention because you've stretched yourself too thin!
In short, activity is extremely important to roleplaying etiquette, and ideally you should be trying to match it to or faster than that of your peers. Keyword trying. Offline life does take priority over roleplaying yes. The important thing you must understand however is that you don't have to do both. Roleplaying is a want, not a need. Obviously you should never keep yourself so busy offlline that you have no time for fun stuff, but neither should you get yourself so busy online that you can't keep up with your online stuff without sacrificing your ability to get offline stuff done. The temptation to join any cool roleplay is a strong one, but your limits on how much personal fun you can fit into a time period should be stronger.