So, you're new to SotE, eh? Maybe you're even new to role-playing in general? Well, if either of those are the case, this is the section for you! Here, I have outlined everything you need to know about getting started and succeeding in this RPG!
What is Spirits of the Earth?
Spirits of the Earth, or SotE, is an Internet based free-form PBP (play-by-post) medieval high fantasy RPG (role play game) that takes place in an original world, focusing mainly on the continent of Le'raana and its surrounding isles. Though it focuses on Le'raana, the game is always growing and expanding and new locations are always being added. One day, new continents may be added as well.
SotE was opened on December 13th, 2000 and has been going strong ever since!
As is the case with message board based RPGs, you create a character and you play it on the provided message boards by typing out your character's thoughts, actions, and dialogue, and interact with the numerous other characters that are manipulated by SotE's other members. Think of it as a sort of interactive, never-ending novel, in which there are tons of plots and sub-plots yet no main characters. Your character is the hero or villain of the story!
Though Spirits of the Earth is a game, unlike video games and the like there is no winning or losing. Role-play is about the experience, about the journey, and the only goal in the game is to have fun and maybe even improve your writing skills and make some friends along the way.
So...how exactly do I roleplay?
Basically, you treat message-board role-playing as you would treat a story. First, you start with creating a character. Once you do that, you post it on one of the provided forums by writing out both dialogue and action. It's just like writing a story...except, with role-playing, other characters played by other members may interact with yours, and you only have control of your character. That's the beauty of role-playing—it's spontaneous, and you never know what's going to happen next. One of the main goals of role-playing is to develop relationships (friendships, rivalries, alliances, enemies, romances, etc.) between your character(s) and the characters of other players, and through those relationships, stories and adventures will unfold. Or, perhaps the reverse will happen. Perhaps, through the stories and adventures your character takes part in, relationships will form.
Whatever the case, interaction between your character and the characters of other players is crucial.
Well, in order to actually role-play, the first and most important thing you must do is create a character to role-play as! If you are new to this or have no idea where to start (character creation is something many people find challenging, so don't feel bad!), this section shall walk you through the process. Keep in mind you don't have to follow these instructions exactly as they are; you don't even have to follow them at all. This is simply a guide to help you if you need it.
1. Species, Appearance, and Gender
What I see as the most helpful way to start building a character is to decide what species, ethnicity, and gender it is going to be and what it is going to look like. One important thing to remember is that your character doesn't have to share your gender. This is just meant to be fun, to portray something you are not, and your character can be whatever you want it to be. More than likely, though, considering SotE's setting, their gender, species, and ethnicity will impact their history and development in some way, same as happens in real life.
Once you've decided what gender and species it is going to be, work on what it is going to look like. For example, do they have any special markings? Maybe it has a tattoo, a scar, a torn ear, or a piercing? What color are their eyes and hair? How tall are they? What kind of build does the character have? Are they underweight, thin, lithe, toned, muscular, overweight, etc.? What kind of clothes do they wear, if any? Do they wear any jewelry or carry any items?
The character's background is one of the most important things; everyone has a past, after all, and it’s important to know a character’s roots, as it may often influence the plot and even influence the character’s decisions. Now, a common trend among many role-players is to give one’s character a past riddled with tragedy and betrayal and dead parents, and oftentimes even if the parents are still alive, they were drunkards or molesters. But remember, it’s okay for your character to have had a happy life, too, with a good family. Save some tragedy for the game!
This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with having a character with a tragic past—heaven’s no, tragic pasts are fine and considering Spirits of the Earth’s rather screwed up setting, equally screwed up pasts are to be expected! Bad stuff does happen. Honestly, the only time when a tragic past becomes a problem in a game is when that background becomes an excuse to have the character frozen in a state of perpetual angst, or when the character becomes their past, and that’s all there is to that character. Similarly, take into consideration what sorts of psychological effects a huge tragedy might have on a character, how it shaped their life, impacted them, and if it perhaps gave them any lingering biases, phobias, or motivations.
Of course, on the flip side, remember that there is such a thing as having a good childhood, too. Sometimes, a character just might want to go on an adventure for the sheer thrill of it; it doesn’t always have to be about revenge. Not everyone has to have dead families and, in fact, the family aspect of a character can even be really fun to play out. For instance, does the character have a nutty uncle? A mother that constantly inquires about grandchildren? Something else?
There are a lot of possibilities, whether it’s tragic or happy or a balanced blend. Whichever route you take, just be creative!
Personality is perhaps the most important factor in character creation, and oftentimes the most difficult section of creation. The personality of the character dictates how the character will behave in certain situations or on a daily basis. The character's background can help to determine how the character would act, what its beliefs/morals would be, and what it would feel in certain situations. For instance, a character with a really crappy past might allow their experiences to either make them stronger and more determined to make the most of life, or they might become more withdrawn and distant as a result.
Make sure your character's personality is something you can handle and can play, and also make sure that you stay in character. You may not be a big flirt, a spastic goofball, a calm diplomat, a racist bigot, or a controlling jerk, but if your character is, stay true to it! Push your own morals aside and let your character act upon its own morals. You are not your character, and other people are not their characters. If your character has biases or phobias, play them out. If your character is afraid of insects, have the character react when it sees a spider. If your character is prejudiced against elves, there will likely be tension when it meets an elf. Always write what your character would do or want, not what you would do or want.
Finally, consider your character’s motivations. In other words, what drives your character to do the things they do? Religious reasons? Personal reasons? Other reasons?
Every well rounded character has 'em, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, flaws can make for an even more interesting, fun, and realistic character. Nobody is perfect. Neither is your character. Don’t be afraid to give your character real flaws, too. For example, using “s/he is too nice” as a flaw isn’t too useful and it’s often overused, anyway. It’s a flaw that can be beneficial, a sympathetic flaw, so it’s not actually a flaw. Now, if you take that idea and make the character get trampled on, perhaps be a passive pushover, that could work. Or maybe the character gets passive aggressive. Maybe the character only thinks they are nice but has a rather skewed definition of what it means to be nice. Really, don’t be afraid to let your character have real faults and don’t be afraid for your character to occasionally fail or look like an idiot. Doing so can make for a very dynamic experience, and such events can be an excellent opportunity for character growth and exploration.
The strengths balance out the character's weaknesses. So, what kind of strengths will your character have? Perhaps your character is a linguist, or is a skilled fighter or mage. Perhaps your character's strength is their determination or strong will. Again, whatever it is, it's up to you to decide.
The simplest part! Well, for some people, at least. Pick a name for your character. Some people like to make up their own names entirely, and many others like to use existing names. If you need help looking for a name, a great name database is Behind the Name.
Here are some tips when it comes to writing out your posts. And, again, these are just some very basic tips for those who are less experienced when it comes to role-playing or even writing in general. There is a lot more to role-playing and writing than what I could ever hope to write about here! But, as you develop your own writing style and become more familiar with role-playing, you'll learn in time through experience.
I can't stress it enough. Put time and effort into your posts! Now, you don't have to be the best writer. Even bestselling authors were beginners at one point, and there is always room for improvement. However, the only way to improve is to try, and if you put forth effort, you will get better, regardless of your skill level!
Effort doesn't mean you have to belt out 1000 word posts every time; one-liners are just as beautiful and meaningful! Don't focus on the length of your posts; rather, focus on the quality of them. Word counts should only matter when you're doing a school assignment, and sometimes less is more. Just write naturally, don’t force yourself, and don’t write filler fluff.
Now, when I talk about quality, this is what I mean: you are in control of your character and everything about that character, and to some extent, you are also in control of the environment (if someone has already described the weather as stormy, for example, don't write in your post that it's sunny! Rather, expand upon the description that was already offered). So, go wild and get creative! Describe your character's thoughts about the current situation or past ones, describe your character's actions, emotions...anything you like!
2. Show, Don’t Tell
Always be sure to leave the reader something to reply to, as well. Your post can be long and wonderful, but it still may be difficult to respond to, especially if it is a post made up primarily of the character's thoughts. Remember, other player's characters can only see what your character does and hear what your character says. Follow this helpful rule of fiction writing: show, don’t tell.
Describe your character’s body language to convey your character’s mood. If they're scared, don't just tell the reader that they're scared--show it through their actions. Maybe their hands are trembling or there's a quiver in their voice. Maybe their breathing is faster, their pulse quickened. Same thing for if they're happy, or upset, or angry. Find ways to illustrate their moods!
And then there is the whole issue of “walking the walk” as opposed to just “talking the talk”: if your character is supposed to be a charmer, for example, have your character do things that show that he is a charmer. If you have to state in your prose that your character is charming…he probably isn’t. Play it out, prove that it’s true, don’t just say that it is. The characters can only see what your character does and says.
3. Take Risks!
Experiment with writing! Remember, this here is simply a guide; there are no set-in-stone rules when it comes to writing, and even if there were, there are exceptions to every rule. So, take chances! Play around with your writing style, try new things, and experiment with sentence structure, with dialogue, with descriptions. With writing, you can do anything; you have ultimate freedom of expression. So take advantage of it and use it to the fullest! You will learn the most this way.
4. Be Proactive
Don’t just wait for plots to come to you and don’t just expect to let everyone else do all the work—that’s boring. You have to do some of the work, too, when it comes to plots. Don’t be afraid of acting. Let your character do things. Let your character grow and make mistakes. Add your own elements and ideas to the plots you are a part of—that makes it more fun! Role-play is about interacting, so do it. If a thread you are in happens to die, don’t give up there. Pack up your characters and have them move on to another plot.
5. Read. Really Read.
Don’t just skim over people’s posts. Really read them to get all of their meaning and understand all of the content. If you skim, you may miss out on some wonderful opportunities. So just make sure to actually read the posts before you respond to them. No skimming!
6. Embrace Flaws
As mentioned in the character creation section, embrace your character’s flaws. Don’t take your character so seriously that you can’t bear to let your character lose now and then, or come across as an idiot, or feel intimidated, bullied, or embarrassed. Don’t get personally offended if another character mocks your character, though of course your character may get upset by this. It’s okay for your character to have real flaws, and it’s in no way a reflection of your own intelligence or anything. Remember, this is just a game.
7. Be Realistic
Take into consideration your character’s background, beliefs, and abilities while you play. A character that got minimal combat training is probably not going to be able to defeat a hardened, highly trained soldier unless they have some sort of trump card that would realistically allow them to do this (perhaps they are magically stronger? Or maybe they’re more intelligent and can trick said soldier?). Take into consideration the amount of time it takes to learn skills and the like. Your character doesn’t have to be the best of the best!
8. Avoid “Dead” Characters
No, this doesn’t refer to zombie or vampire characters! What this means is: remember to give your character emotions. Have your character feel things. No one is ever constantly depressed or happy. People get scared, happy, sad, embarrassed, etc. all the time and experience a wide range of emotions throughout the day, fluctuating. Try not to let your character become a “dead” character by getting stuck on just one emotion. Let your character react to what is happening around and to it. Even the calmest and coolest characters have their breaking points, and there is nothing less fun than role-playing with a character that is completely emotionless. It’s the reactions that make role-play fun!
9. Be Consistent
Try to keep your character believably consistent. Human beings by nature are not consistent and we sometimes do strange things that seem out of character with seemingly no explanation for them. Your characters might, too; just make sure to make it believable for that character, make sure your character has a reason for doing that. In other words, focus on internal consistency.
For example, if your character is an anti-social introvert, chances are he or she wouldn't walk into a crowded bar and strike up a random conversation with a random stranger. But say that, for plot purposes, you want your character to do just that. Well, come up with some reason why they are! Maybe they're looking for someone and need help, so they muster up the courage to go inside. Or maybe someone pulls them into the bar, or a friend badgers them into going. The behavior may be externally inconsistent, but there's still internal consistency there.
It may be OOC for a shy, passive character to suddenly snap and start screaming in anger, and other characters may be surprised, too. But maybe something drove the character to react that way? Maybe they just couldn't take it anymore and their own reaction surprises them! Their behavior. may seem OOC, but it's still consistent with the character. Humans are just like that sometimes, and people do not generally react to the same situation the same way each and every time.
10. Let Your Characters Grow
Unless your character is a “dead” character, your character can and will grow and change. As your character makes its way through the game, what it experiences and who it associates with may very well shape and mold the character. No, these changes aren't always drastic; they are more likely small, subtle changes. A passive character may develop a backbone, a self-conscious character may develop confidence, a naive character may lose the ability to trust, a kind-hearted character may develop a sense of cruelty, a cruel character may soften, a religious character may experience a crisis of faith...but the character will always remain, at its core, the same character you started out with. Look at your own life: you have changed as you've grown and aged based off of the experiences of your life, but you are still you, if different than you were years ago. Your characters will likely experience that same sort of change and growth.
11. Avoid Mary Sues and Gary Stus
A Mary Sue (or the male equivalent, Gary Stu) is a character that can simply do no wrong, a character that is always the best of the best at whatever they do. They are used by the player to hog the spotlight and make the plot all about that character, leaving little room for other characters to interact. These characters usually always have all the answers, too, just by default. If your character has a disease, they can magically heal it. If your character is blind, they can fix it. Evil villain plaguing the Earth? They’ll defeat it in a heartbeat with their multitude of special powers. These sorts of characters tend to only be fun to the player, but boring to everyone else because they are way too perfect, can do everything and solve every problem instantly, and give no one else a chance to shine.
Mary Sues are played, not created. A player can create a beautiful character with a lot of special powers, but this does not necessarily make this character a Mary Sue—unless the player expects everyone else to automatically love the character. However, the physical attractiveness or special powers is not what makes a character a Mary Sue; it’s all in how the character is played. Remember, a character that is physically plain can also be a Mary Sue. In the end, it all comes down to how a concept is played. If the character has reasonable flaws and is not used to hog the spotlight, it’s not a Mary Sue.
12. Be Open
Very few plots are set in stone and things may not always go your way. Sometimes, things happen in the course of a plot that are unexpected. But try not to be upset if things don’t always go as planned—remember, role-play is a collaborative effort so unless you discuss your ideas and plans with the other players, there is no way they can know if they’re disrupting your plans. No one is a mind-reader. In any case, be open to the idea of change, to the idea that spontaneous, unexpected plot twists may occur. If something happens to disrupt your plans, think of an alternate way to reach your goal.
13. Share the Spotlight
Role-play is a group effort and, thus, there is no star, there is no main character. Everyone that plays is important! So try not to hog the spotlight—it’s not always about you, so let other characters have a chance to shine! Your character will get its chance, too. No one character is more important than the other.
14. Avoid Meta-Gaming
Your character can only know what the other characters say and do. If you, the player, learn something that your character hasn’t yet learned on its own, your character should not know about it! Don’t transfer what you know over to your character. If you read another character’s profile and learn that the character is a spy, but your character hasn’t yet learned on its own that the character is a spy, then your character should not just suddenly figure it out! Have your character respond only to what the other characters do and say.
If you wish to play something you don’t really know about, research it! If your character has a certain psychological disorder but you know nothing about it, research the disorder. If you want to play a character with a certain awesome profession but you aren’t familiar with the profession, research it. If your character is going through a crisis that you’re unfamiliar with, read up about it to see how different people respond in similar situations. If your character is a sailor but you know nothing about ships, research it. Research is your friend. And Wikipedia is a good resource to get quick answers.
As stated earlier, you can't very well role-play unless your character has someone to interact with. Now, for your first post you may decide to start your own thread on one of the boards, and that's perfectly fine! However, if you do that, you are at the mercy of other players. That is to say...you must wait for someone to respond to you. So, if you do this, it is critical that you make the subject of your post catchy, and the content within your post equally stimulating, otherwise it can be easily overlooked. It is also recommended that you post on the Plots and Plans board to advertise your plot and find other players who are interested in joining.
Another recommendation is that you respond to an open thread that has already been created. That way, you immerse yourself right away in the game and get your character involved upfront. Just please, if you do this...pay attention to the date of the post you are responding to! Always reply to threads that are recent, because if you're responding to a thread that was last replied to a month or longer ago, chances are, the thread has died or been concluded and you won't get a response. Also, if the thread title has someone’s name in it or it labeled with a “P” or “Private”, make sure to ask the other players for permission before joining in. Any other threads are fair game, though!
You're likely to see this pop up all over the site and the forums, so if you don't know any role-play terms...now's your chance to learn!
Spirits of the Earth, the abbreviated title of the site.
Remnants of the Earth, Spirits of the Earth’s sequel and sister game.
Out of Character. Used when you, the player, wish to make a note or comment outside of the actual role-playing that is occurring in a thread.
In Character/Back in Character. Used after making an OOC comment to let other players know you have returned back to posting as your character.
Non-Player Character. What that means is that it's a character(s) that is not joined and that it belongs to no one; anyone can play it. Examples include random soldiers, random city-goers and merchants, random beats…whatever you can come up with. They add atmosphere to a scene.
Non-Joined Character. NJCs differ from NPCs in that they're characters that, like a real joined character, are created and played by a specific player. In short, they're like secondary characters in a novel—not a main character, so thus not important enough to join, but there to complement or complicate the plot. They're also sometimes know as "Temporary Characters", which are characters created temporarily just to serve a specific purpose in a plot before being discarded...which thus makes them not important enough to join. Of course, sometimes, NJCs evolve into actual joined characters...
Controlling another player's character by stating that character's actions, reactions, and/or damage received in battle. Also included under power-playing is invincibility, a god-like, all-powerful character, and not taking any hits in battle.
Meta-gaming is when OOC information that the player knows is transferred to their character(s), even though the character has not yet learned that bit of information in the plot. Remember, just because you know something it doesn't necessarily mean your character does.
Where a character is killed without permission by another player's character.
Where your character actually performs an attack that connects with its opponent without stating the damage. The damage is decided by the one receiving it, and that person may also decide not to accept damage and to dodge the attack.