Guidance On Character Stubs

Underwood’s First Principles of Roleplay

By Elegia Underwood

There are lots of ‘rules’ of good roleplay. You can find them all over the metaverse. What they boil down to is stay in character & in story when active & play nice with others. I won’t reiterate them here. I’ll be happy to teach a class on improvisational roleplay for those who are interested, which will include these aforementioned rules, for those who are unfamiliar with them.

Meanwhile, regarding what follows, I don’t suggest anyone should agree with me necessarily. I’ve roleplayed quite a bit in SL. These are just the distillations of what I’ve learned &, as a storyteller, how I think things ought to work in an ideal RP world. You may disagree. That is the way the world works. I don’t make any statements to get up people’s noses or as if I were pronouncing them from on high. I do speak, however, from experience.

People have talked about how nice it is to have no pressure to RP one way or the other in Steelhead, & I like that, too. Most of the time, I am just too busy to be bothered. At the moment, I am also too busy to be bothered to read copious posts on what’s going on & who people are… backstories & history. I’d love to participate now & again in the RP, but not if I’m expected to read the equivalent of a novella every week to catch up on what I missed.


I like to think of roleplay as an immersive form of improv theatre, but if it’s immersive, then it will probably work a great deal like real life.

If it didn’t happen to you, why do you think you ought to know about it?

Now, obviously, some things will be on such a scale that people in a town the size of Steelhead would find out about them through the gossip grapevine or a local paper. And since most people can’t be here as much as they would if they really lived here, there will be things they ought to know or would know if this were RL.

People have suggested the ning as the place to find this info. And that’s certainly a channel many people will prefer. If you can’t get inworld, you can always check the ning for what’s going on. But once I’m inworld, I don’t want to go outside to find things out. And I’m a member of a handful of active, vociferous nings. I can’t keep up as it is. I want to be inworld. I don’t want to be reading or posting to nings.

A concrete suggestion

Post away on the ning if you like, but I think there ought to be representatives of each of the proposed groups (mentioned elsewhere in this forum), whatever they call themselves (Wulfenbachians, Steampunks, Ne’erdowells, WhosiWhatsits etc :) who each have the ability to post Notices to the Steelhead Roleplay Group (new group is essential in order to avoid pissing off the people who have zero interest in RP in Steelhead).

The representative must either be an active member of the RP of their group or have a direct channel to those who are. Every day or so, or whenever significant events occur, these local correspondents would post a notice, as if it were a newspaper article, or a letter to the members of an official group (as with the Consulate) or some other formal method of communication. The notice would have an attached notecard with no more than 250 words on recent events written in character. Avoid verbosity! People may get a handful of these in a week or maybe a handful in a day, depending on how active the roleplay has been.

Further details can be had by roleplaying ignorance! Find the members of the relevant group where they hang out (taverns are an excellent locus for such gatherings, both IRL & in RP) & ask them to tell you what’s been going on. Do it IC, In Character. IRL, that’s how you would get information in a late 19th century town. Most immersive roleplay is just talking to other people about what they did, what they plan to do, where they’re going, where you’ve been etc//.

If you don’t know someone, why should you know their backstory?//

Backstories are essential to good roleplay. There importance, however, is primarily to those who are playing the characters, not to those they will meet. As a player, I need to know my own history & how it has shaped who I am. Besides, having a rich background gives me something to chat about with people I meet in the tavern or the café. However, if the roleplay is immersive, the only way a stranger would know anything about me is to be told by someone.

I hate it when someone reads my backstory in my Picks & then, having just met me, begins to relate to me as if they know who I am. Huh? We just met! How did you know I was born in Britannia? How did you know I am fleeing the Caliph? How did you know my father died in a poker game? More to the point, how did you know my name?! You don’t. Not unless I tell you.

If you don’t know all these things or what’s going on in town, why try to pretend you do? My technique in a new RP situation is to RP ignorance. “I’m new. What can you tell me about this place? These people? My name’s Gia. What’s yours?” And then I only know what I’ve been told. But I can build my own story on that & weave it into the stories of others.

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