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The Multiverse

Fleshing out a World Through Active Roleplaying

a part of “The Multiverse”, a fictional universe by Remæus.

Where legends collide, warriors rise, and titans fall. This is a massive open world that you are free to explore and interact with; a sandbox for your characters.

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This conversation is an Out Of Character (OOC) part of the roleplay, “The Multiverse”.
An organized archive of roleplaying guides, including step-by-step, how-to, and general essays on theory.

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Alias on Mon Mar 09, 2009 12:05 pm

Note: This is a crosspost from the original post "Fleshing out a World Through Active Roleplaying" on our affiliate site, RolePlayAcademy.com. You can comment there or reply here.

(This guide describes NPC Conversation Topics - threads where one-time or recurring NPCs come together to discuss their daily lives, and as a result will spawn quests for the PCs. The upside is that everyone is involved, and the world you are trying to create becomes only more living.)

There are various ways to create a World. In most novels, the world is narrow, detailed like a corridor through which the storyline paths. And yet, many of us have read Tolkien, or Brust, or scores of other authors who persist with the same world. We as forum roleplayers seek to create worlds post-by-post, thread-by-thread. We gather several friends, toss together enough information to have a setting, drop a character each into the fray, create a bit of history, and starting moving forwards and outwards.

Let me first caution you, from my own experience: stick to a single time period, and only move forward. I have partaken in a world so fluidly created that we moved back and forth through history (at the same time) days, months, decades, centuries, millenia. We created three concurrent planes of existance, at least four ranks of beings, and five times as many characters as we had players. Had we need one person, this would have prospered and grown. Unfortunately, there were too many nuances to keep track of in space and in time. At some point, any world will become too thick for many players to keep it free of contradictions.

Let us say that you seek to create a world, and start with a continent, a town, a day, and some characters. You are a group of perhaps ten avid writers, all looking to participate, all with equal pull as to which direction thir world moves in. One way to go about it is to write, each creating lore, writing quests, beasts, enemies, events, and more of the like. STOP. Do not do this. You are not the lone writer, the Tolkein who has free reign of his domain. Passive Writing, where your work is simply added to that of your fellows, is a killer of worlds. Your work does not engage your fellows, nor are they necessitated to read it, given that they too are people, with lives, with limited time, and are currently busy with their own Passive Writing. In analogy, if all of you start bricking out a building from different places with no rules as to how your bricks should be stacked, your building will either have many holes, several clashes between builders, or no structural integrity if you all manage to still come together.

I prescribe Active Roleplaying.

We are all used to in-character topics where we all throw together our PCs and write NPCs in as we need them. This is, of course, Active Roleplaying, as it requires your fellow players to take heed of your character's actions, and of any world-fleshing information you include among those actions. But how many times can you 'Kill the Were Bear' or 'Save the Princess' or 'Recover the Golden Goblet' before you and your fellows are bored and want to move on to another world, or maybe their girlfriends? Active Roleplaying doesn't always have to be quests, and most importantly doesn't always have to involve PCs.

One mode of Active Roleplaying that involves only NPCs is what I call Conversation Topics. There is little description (of the scenery, at least) and there is almost no action (apart from "stood" or "sat"). If your world was Rome, there could be a Conversation Topic at the Forum or at the Senate. If you were following Aladdin in Agrabah, a good place for a Conversation Topic might be the local bazaar. In Alexandria, the Lighthouse Library would serve well. In the small town of Sleepy Grove a perfect Conversation Topic would be the Town Hall Meeting. In a college setting, an engaging discussion class would work. Given a corporation, a meeting of the Board of Directors. At a high school, the PTA meeting. In a Fraternity, a Regional or National Conference. Etc. For any setting except for the travels of a quest, there is likely some location where several NPCs are likely to meet.

Use them. Rather than starting off with the "Slay the Dragon" quest, take to the town hall, where all sorts of mundane and otherwise matters are likely to be discussed. One man will whine about someone's urine on his white fence. Another will comment about how ugly that white fence is anyway. If nothing else, it is a place to create a one-time or even recurring character with a personality that you want to test out. It also sets the mood to have Gerta, mother of three, bust through the doors yelling and screaming about bandits who kidnapped her son and demand the town's harvest for his safe return, where failure to comply will involve taking the grain by force anyway. Now you have a quest to work with, with a proper setup. Your fellows were playing equally useless townsmen until this quest came about, but now all know about it. When they go to the new topic you've created for the quest they wont be surprised: they will be ready, eager, and thinking of what their NPC will say when the heroes come back.

NPC Conversation topics can be revisited over and over again, or can be abandoned with no loss and no harm done. They give players a chance to stay active in the world between quests, while at the same time serving as spawning point for quests. As the world grows, they become perfect starting points for players new to the world. Most importantly, they give all of the players a chance to practice roleplaying with little consequence - a rowdy townsman can always be bounced out of the meeting, while a boring senator can always just stop talking. And if the annoying teacher gets hit by a car, well, not only was that a good solution to a failed experiment, but it also spawned a murder mystery that a bunch of dumb kids are likely to investigate.

NPC Conversation topics aren't purly theoretical - I have tried them, and in my limited experience they have worked wonders. If you have a world to try them out, please do, and give me your insights and your suceess (or otherwise) stories. Good luck, and happy world building!

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Re: Fleshing out a World Through Active Roleplaying

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Vexar on Mon Mar 09, 2009 4:09 pm

With this I'd like to post an example of how this is used, as I use this practice often. In my most recent role play The Masquerade, the characters start off with a general knowledge of their setting and the roles of certain beings with this setting. From there they are more than welcome to add on as they already have. My most recent post gives characters the opportunity to tie themselves into unfolding events. With this exact event, there appears to be a problem with something leaking out into the public. From here my characters may choose to add to it, or it can take the backseat and become a small blip in the world they are in.

Vexar wrote:Image-Clak- The sound broke the silence in the Chief of police's office. He rested his coffee mug against the finely glossed surface of his hardwood desk. He lacked the respect of the fine woodworking, disregarding the need for a coaster to protect it. A soft white powder was dusted lightly across his grayed mustache. Perhaps it was from a fresh doughnut, but the circles that blackened his eyes said otherwise. A voice lofted from the entrance of the office. " 'Nother attack last night sir, looks like four of 'em."

The chief simple gave a nod, "Four of them? Er, us?" His raccooned eyes shifted towards the tall, black haired officer at his front.

"Well, looks like four of'em got one of us. Bites all over... We can't keep covering th-"

-CRASH- The finely polished desk was freed of its contents as the chief swiped them away. He had gotten to his feet faster than it would seem possible for a man of his size. "No my boy, you can, and will keep this under wraps. S'bad enough we've got 'em in our ranks. S'bad enough journalist are snooping around for other things. The last thing we want to go public is the ridiculous thought of- Of..." His voice drifted as his eyes looked down at the scratched surface of the wood. "Of Vampires!" A hoarse bellow let out the last two words with reluctance.




"Why me?" The voice escaped the changed Kith. "Why did you do this?"

"Aww baby, why do they always ask us the same ol' things? Why do they always think they are special?" The manic voice of a younger girl rang out through the dark room.

"Because, Sasha, sometimes they are." The hallowed voice muttered deeply.

"I didn't want thi-'CRACK'" A scream followed the loud snap. It echoed under the locked and barred door of the room. It squeezed out and spilled into the hallway. Chuckles could be heard following the pain.




"I swear, how can a reporter do his job if he can't do so much as get to work on time!?!" A tall red head complained at her cubicle. She worked idly as her complaints followed. She was sure she'd have to make an excuse for her colleague, yet again. "What will I use this time... Sick mother?" She questioned, only to answer herself in return. "No, overused..."

"Sally, where's Kith?" A balding man startled her with his question.

"Ah, well, his car... Um he had to get it towed, he... Ah, he called me; y'know?" She hesitantly replied.

"Called you? Why the hell doesn't he do the right thing and let us know... "

She struggled to make him look better by adding in another sympathetic comment, but the man had already turned down the hallway of cubicles.
Last edited by Remæus on Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Changed link into a contextual format, better for semantic web and SEO.

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Re: Fleshing out a World Through Active Roleplaying

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Sovenric on Thu Mar 10, 2016 4:42 pm

What about a roleplay that purposefully takes place in the same time and space for the whole thing; where everything happens at once? Should such a roleplay not exist?

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Re: Fleshing out a World Through Active Roleplaying

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby RPGuru on Thu Mar 10, 2016 5:01 pm

My only reservation with this, of fleshing out a world through role-play, is that well I am just downright paranoid-terrified of a world idea being ‘assumed’ by someone else. As a writer who harbors the powerball-3 wishes-one in a million chance of being published by someone reading a (still inexistent) manuscript under the influence of things legal now in Colorado; I am damn scared of someone taking my money and running; literally. I have a fantasy setting in the works, cooking in my mind, but have never played anything, dice or not, in that vicinity. The alternative, alone? What fun is there in play by posting alone.

Or is fun?

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