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Promoting Roleplay At Your Park
[02/15/2007] [Celwyn]

In talking so much with others about roleplay recently, I decided to jot down a few of the steps we've taken in Solstice to promote roleplay in our park. This is not a comprehensive article of all things roleplay, just a review of how one can work with both quests and on an individual basis from an out-of-character perspective.

The Interconnected Quest

Run a series of quests that contain a story arch. A typical idea might be an 'invasion' in which the characters are forced to flee their town... they then have to fight the baddies to regain control. A more complex version would be having one of the characters possessed by a demon; the other characters are given clues about a relic that can end the possession. The quests would be to find this relic and then to use it on the demon.

At Solstice, our current plot arc involves an invasion by the Romans. How does this work out in roleplay? We posted decrees by the Romans in which they renamed the town or spelled out new laws and the players reacted to that. We have had several players come to the NPC Romans looking for work as spies - or as architects. In the most recent installment, a temple collapsed, trapping one of the characters inside. The others encountered golems, falling "rock" and NPC temple healers, soldiers and the foreman on their way to help him. And they caught a glimpse of the relic specific to this arc.

The Role of the Roleplayer

A good background should inform the way the character acts on quests and interacts with other personas. If a character is half-elven, they may hate elves and be very vocal about it and question the decisions and motives of elven characters. A character who is, or was, a freedom fighter is likely to question authority figures.

Tools such as the 20 Questions (see below) can help spur people to think about not only who their character is, but how they are likely to act in future situations. Workshops that teach acting techniques like body language and bridging the gap between performer and observer can help too. (If we do workshops for garb or weapons-making, why not for roleplay?) Most people love to talk about their characters; if you can get them to think about goals for their characters it can help move your park closer to having some player-driven roleplay. You can also slip in helpful hints, such as "don't create a loner character."

Many of our players find online roleplay helps them develop their character, and pursue interaction with other players. It can be very handy for a player to post an in-character review of the quest. Reviews help new players get into the story and the questmaster can go back and see what's been happening and look for loose ends. The reviews also provide an excellent memory supplement for your players which can be extremely helpful in a long story or if your park only roleplays or quests infrequently.

Keep in mind, however, that you want people to be willing to come out to the park, and roleplay in person with each other. So it will probably be important to discourage the online resolution of conflicts which are important to the quest. These should be saved for in-person roleplaying.

Keep in Touch With Other Roleplayers

Roleplay is best done in person. It is difficult to travel to the other side of the country, visit for an event, and get involved in plotlines there. This is not to say travel is not great for other reasons.

But for roleplay, you want to have ongoing plots in your park, and you want to be able to keep in touch with people who like to roleplay so that you can easily become involved in plots in local parks.

Also, it's nice to keep in touch with local autocrats. If they know that roleplay is a draw, they will be more likely to put a quest on the schedule. It's often good to have the emotional support as well as have people to brainstorm with you.

The Game of Twenty Questions

Taken from the Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game, and adapted for the MLS Vampire LARP and now for Amtgard.

1. What race does your character belong to?

2. How would you describe your character?

3. Is your character a thinker or a fighter?

4. What about your character's family? What were they like?

5. What is your character's main motivation?

6. Who is the one person your character trusts most?

7. What is your character's greatest strength? Greatest weakness?

8. What does your character think of honor?

9. What is your character's own opinion of his race/tribe?

10. Does your character have any prejudices?

11. Was your character married?

12. To whom does your character owe the most loyalty?

13. What are your character's favorite (and least favorite) things?

14. Does your character have any recurring mannerisms?

15. What about your character's psychology?

16. How would your character handle an insubordinate servant?

17. How would your character's parents describe him?

18. What are your character's highest ambitions?

19. How religious is your character?

20. If you could, what advice would you give your character?

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