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Weekend Extras: Writing an RP Description

March 1, 2009
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If you venture onto a role-playing (RP) server, you’ll see characters walking instead of running and talking to each other in /say as if they were having regular conversations. There are a lot of customs role-players follow and some of them can be confusing and intimidating to those just getting started. For the most part, if you follow the Terms of Service for role-playing servers, respect the RP of others, and respect the customs of the server, you will have no trouble.

Sometimes finding role-play can be a little tricky though. Each server is unique and tends to have its own RP hot spots and places to avoid. One of the best ways to facilitate RP is to use a role-playing add-on. There are several of them, but the most common is FlagRSP 2. It allows you to add a brief physical description of your character, a title, prefix, and surname, and connects you with everyone else using the add-on. It also allows you to flag yourself as a role-player and whether or not you are actively looking for RP.

RSP descriptions are as different as the characters. Some are quite long, some are satirical, some give the entire life story of the character, and some are one-liners. There are a few conventions that most RPers tend to follow however. Most RSP descriptions are limited to the physical description of the character. This is information that should be easily obtained by simply looking at the character. Descriptions that reveal the entire life story of a character are typically frowned upon because that is something you would learn by speaking with the character, not by looking at them.

My RSP descriptions tend to be quite brief – a few paragraphs at most. They are limited strictly to a physical description. What do you see, smell, and hear when encountering your character? RSP descriptions should be used as a way to engage another RPer in your character prior to speaking with them. When walking up to someone in real life, you form opinions and expectations by the way they dress and act. This is what your description should be conveying.

For example, let me show you the RSP description of my Forsaken (undead) warlock, Marigan.

Marigan's RSP description

Marigan's RSP description

Marigan might be someone you’d rather not talk to, particularly if your character is concerned with cleanliness. Her description gives the reader a fairly clear impression without revealing anything about her life story. It also provides the reader with a few hooks to use if they decide that their character could tolerate Marigan’s smell. They could approach her with interest about the various types of fungi growing on her, or perhaps suggest that she take a bath or use deodorant.

As I mentioned previously, FlagRSP 2 gives you an option to flag yourself as open to role-playing. The screenshot above is the editing window of the add-on, so you can see the options available for flagging yourself. I consider myself a casual role-player, rarely actively seek RP, but always act towards other RPers in character, so my flags are always adjusted to “In Character” and “Casual Role-player.”

If you click or mouseover my character and you also use a role-playing add-on, this is what will appear:

Description and tooltip

Description and tooltip

FlagRSP modifies the standard Blizzard tooltip to add role-playing information to it. I’ve become so accustomed to the look of a modified tooltip that I find it very difficult to play without the add-on active. Consequently, I’ll have FlagRSP running even when I’m playing on a PvP server, though I probably won’t have a description entered.

This also demonstrates why a short description is better than a long one. It takes up less space on your screen and less time to read!

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