I like to write. I have always liked to write. My badly maintained blog probably doesn’t show this very well, but it is something I like very much. I liked to write as a child. As it goes for children, I used to write quite well. In junior school, I entered a short story competition and ended up having my story published in a small book of them. The fact every single copy of this book ever published is in some parent’s dusty box of memories of their children is irrelevant, the fact is, I had something published. I don’t own my own copy. I don’t even remember what the book of stories was called. I do remember getting the book for free though. And a pen. Free pens are the best pens.
When I was young, for the longest time, I had far-fetched dreams that I would write books, all sorts of books. I would make magic with my words, paint pictures for people in black and white and have them see things in a world of colours. There is magic in the ability to form pictures from words. I realised quite early on, however, that I somewhat lack the drive to write a book. I do not do everything I do for praise and wealth, but there is a part of me that would want to get something out at the end if I was to spend years of my life toiling away to write. I also struggle forming something from beginning to end. I can create characters with ease. I can even create buildings in my head with ease, full cities even. I just struggle to then put those characters and cities into a story that flows from point A, to point B.
And this, dear children, is where I start off with my hobby confessional. My brain being able to conjure individual scenes and characters over a full novel lends me quite well naturally to roleplay. Before I go into specifics, I want to talk about the roleplay community as a whole. There are a whole host of ways people get their play on. You have the traditional tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons (which are awesome), you have the LARP side of things (not my cup of tea) and then you have the online roleplay community. I am intentionally leaving things like MMORPG’s off this list because in my mind they are quite different.
I have had my stints with D&D, and originally, I was quite judgemental about the whole thing, but I quickly realised I was actually doing exactly what I hated people doing about the RP community in general and gave it a go. LARP for me is not my cup of tea, and I have nothing against it at all, I just can’t imagine doing it myself. Online roleplaying is my main forum for RP. There are two main branches I have found for this. I won’t go into all the types of online RP, as there are a few, but if we want two very broad headings, you have the forum players and the quick-fire players. Once again, this is personal preference, but I am not a fan of forum RP. I like to start a scene, play it out and have it over and done with in one session. I don’t want to be trying to play out the same scene 6 weeks later. I use a client (and there are a few) and have quick-fire play. It is not all that quick. I like para RP, rather than short one line posts. I have encountered people who enjoy one liners much more. It is all personal preference.
The issue I do have with this community is that even in today’s society with so many ‘nerdy’ things becoming more mainstream, and more accepted, the roleplaying community is one of those things most people don’t know about. Or if they do, it is one of those things people judge for. Quite harshly. As a result, only a handful of my friends know about it. One of them had a minor internet stalk and came across it completely by accident, but that is neither here nor there. Last year at uni was the first time I had told people about it and even read posts out for them. This is definitely a hobby I am closed off about. It shouldn’t be, but I have been up until now. I adore it. I probably should have grown out of it, but really, I do not see it as childish. Some of the players I have encountered over the past few years have an absolutely phenomenal way with words. These are not children. These are people my age, people older, some slightly younger, who like the chance to escape reality. That is what it is. It is just like reading a book, playing a video game. It is escapism. I am not saying it is the only reason to go back, and it is not one I often think, but it can be enjoyable to escape reality for a while and get into the mindset of a character you know inside out.
Half the people reading this won’t understand me when I say it is something you can get truly drawn into. It is a very involved hobby. I have spent countless hours writing with people, finding myself challenged to think of a response to something I had never considered would come up. That is where the fun and challenge lies in writing with other people. When you write a book, you know everything that will happen. You can dictate what one character will say and how the other will respond. When you play with other people, you are controlling one character and when you write something, the chances are, the response you get will not be what you thought it would. You cannot plan anything lengthy because undoubtedly something will go off track. Some people like that, and some really don’t.
And that is a problem.
This community should be an easy one to be in. You would think that with everyone being perhaps a little nervous about being judged and the community being quite a niche area that people would communicate effectively and politely. No. It does not happen like that all the time. One of the key rules in any roleplay is that what happens in character (IC) and what happens out of character (OOC) stay separate. If they do, things tend to go swimmingly. If they don’t, that is when things go wrong. Very quickly. I will try to set out a generic example. My character is not always nice. For various reasons I have created with the ever growing bio, he (yes, he) can be a little… snappy shall we say? What some people will not realise is that when I write for my character, when he is sarcastic or rude, it is not me trying to insult them, it is a character interacting with another as is inherent in their personality. For anyone outside the community this is very hard for me to explain. But just take my word for it. People can be rude and all sorts in character and are almost certainly pleasant out of character. Almost certainly. There are still some crazies who seem to think they are, in fact, a fairy, or a witch, and that they are in love with another character in and out of character. That is where things get messed up very quickly.
With all the drama that can follow, it can be a community you will make some odd friends. Not odd as in the people are odd (although that is the case with most I have ‘encountered’), odd in the sense that in my life, I now have my normal friends, and my internet friends. And I do truly consider some of them to be friends even if I have not met them and very likely won’t meet them. I will mention one of them by name. Kaitlyn. I have been playing with her now for quite a few years. We started out in one group together playing out a seven deadly sins type deal before I broke off to form my own Victorian estate roleplay. She followed through to that group and very quickly became someone I spoke to out of character. She is someone I rant to about life more regularly than I would care to admit. I know she has dyed her hair pink now despite the fact she works as a psychiatrist. And then we have Kayla. I talk to her fairly often. I regularly check into facebook and see a message from her with something along the lines of: “I miss you, Lottie.” … “Where are you?” “Come talk to me, I am bored.” This is often followed up by my response of: “I’m at work.” … “I’m still bored.” I know a little more about her body than I would care to as she takes some truly sick delight in announcing things out of character to make me uncomfortable, and will often then follow it up with a question.. Something along the lines of: “How’s your Foo-foo?” Yeah… Thanks…
There are so many more but I will stop at the special announcements for those two.
Running my own group was been one of the best and worst decisions I have ever made. I have spent hours… Days… Weeks… Planning things, organising, keeping a group page up to date, trying to entice new members, trying to keep the old ones happy and motivated. It is tiring. Very rewarding at times. Mostly tiring. On top of the insane amount of hours I have spent researching things for Thomas, I have also spent hours and hours reading up on the Victorian era just to be historically accurate. I sort of wish I had a real world application for the knowledge.
Aaaand.. Having reached a ridiculous number of words, I will wrap this up here. This post itself has been surprisingly easy to write, but pushing the publish button is hard. It is so ingrained in me to hide my hobby, when really, I should be shouting it loud and proud. I am a roleplayer, and I like to think a semi-decent one at that. Bam. I said it. I have encountered my share of drama, my share of crazies, my share of truly awesome people, more spelling mistakes than I would care to admit and so many walls that it pains me, but at the end of the day, I still love it so I am damn well going to keep on writing. As a man. Which is weird… Probably.
Note: The pictures dotted around are various pieces of art of my current active character. I have no references of my main female character. I do have a full reference for Thomas though. So I have posted it below. Because I like staring at it. I am a little attached to my character.
(All pictures are linked to the respective artists. Except the second to last one. I have no link to that. The artist is one of the players in my group and he remains completely anonymous to me. It could be a she. It. I will call it ‘it’. It drew it for me. I was very happy with it. It is so weird that it must be my spirit animal. Kayla thinks it is everyone’s spirit animal. We call it Attlin.)