Salutations, internet! This one's lazer directed at text-based RPers. Everybody wants ships. Everybody wants their characters to fall in love. It's like a form of social currency in the RP community and I hear a lot of people complaining a lot about the lack thereof. I could go on about this all day. So I think I will. I present to you, the Top 10 Reasons You Aren't Getting Ships in your text-RP.
Let me clarify first; this is not about you not getting a specific ship. Paragraph RPers, chat stream RPers, freeform RPers I am talking to you, if you have a bunch of characters and can’t seem to hold down a ship with your characters, and this is a pattern for you, this blog entry is for you. Some of this might be a little brutally honest, bear with me. Looking at yourself critically is hard. Looking at your work critically is hard. But it is the first step to improvement.
10 - You’re RPing selfishly.
A lot of people come at RP with this mindset of 'entertain me'. You make your character and you get into the RP and you want all the good things for your PCs and you forget to consider that everybody else in the game came for the exact same thing.
This could come in the form of having reactive PCs that don't make anything happen or present any of their own ideas, or in the form of stepping on other people's toes during character creation. Here's a tip; that character you want to romance? Their player doesn't want you to make an exact copy of them with inverse genitals, that's just going to annoy them and make them think you're unoriginal. Everyone can see what you're doing. Don't.
How to Identify When You're RPing Selfishly and Fix It:
- Look at some of your logs. Figure out how often you're supplying topics of discussion in your RPs. If most of what you're doing is replying to things and following along without offering anything of your own, or if you're doing that more than 50% of the time, you need to start supplying more to the RP instead of just consuming it.
- Look at your characters. Is the character you're playing similar to the one you were trying to romance? Be honest with yourself here, having a different gender, a different birthday and a different color scheme are not enough to qualify you as a separate character. Vary it up, make them more different.
- Look at your plot arcs. How often can you say you come up with the storyline the game is following? Is it centered around other people or your own OCs? Are you repeating things that have already been done? Do you actually care if anyone else is having fun? That's the important but right there. Pay attention to how much fun other people are having.
- Are you giving people anything to respond to? Always make sure, when you post, to give the other players something to play off of. Keep the game rolling. When in doubt, start a fight. Yeah it'll make your character look bad but that's generally better and more recoverable than boring people.
9 - Your OCs turn into a puddle after they get into a relationship.
So you made this awesome character. They are a breathing person, they have flaws, they have an arc. And then they meet someone that they fall in love with and suddenly all those flaws go out the window, and with them, everything that made your character interesting.
Your character should keep their shape. No one in real life melts that badly no matter how in love they are. You are going to basically stay who you are. And even if you know someone in real life that tends to melt like that when they get into a relationship? You know how annoying that is. If you've ever DATED someone like that? I don't need to say another word about it, it's the most obnoxious thing. So why would you want to RP that person?
When your character becomes a puddle you are stripping all of the reasons your partner wanted to RP with you in the first place. That isn't fair to them.
How to Identify that Your Character is a Puddle and Fix It:
- Ask yourself when the last time they behaved like themselves was since they got into a relationship. If they haven't been, do some of that.
- Remember that even when your ship sails you are still trying to win your partner over. Play like that all the time. You're not in a relationship in real life, you can't get lazy. Remember that people are looking at your current ships as a resume for whether or not to get into new ones with you.
- Keep playing your character. Keep their flaws in particular. Yes they might love this person but that doesn't mean they aren't going to grate on each other now and then.
- And no, your character's lover is not an exception to those flaws just because you want a ship with them.
8 - Once romance is involved, you don’t play anything else.
Listen. Fluff gets boring after a while to most people. Particularly people that are picky about their ships. Maybe there are a few people that are okay with 'cuddle, kiss, watch movies, repeat' but most people aren't and even the ones that are okay with it will be appreciative of more than that.
If your posts almost all amount to cooing at each other and not much else, there's a problem.
How to Identify When You're Hammering that Button Too Hard and Fix It:
- This one's easy. If your last 3 RPs have been fluff and nothing else, you're doing this.
- Yes, even if they were also at the movies.
- Yes, even if they talked about future plans.
- If there wasn't any conflict, you're doing this.
- Actually talk about things. Talk about things that make your characters uncomfortable. Talk about problems. Talk about the plot (yes you still need to have a plot, you ding dong).
- Introduce conflict. If they're on a date have them get mugged. Have interloping parents. Look at your favorite TV shows that have run for a long time and think about the things they do to donk up the relationships between characters and do some of those things.
- Continue to play plot with your RP partners, and not just to get the characters to hook up. When you set up that sweet espionage scene just so your character and theirs can have some alone time and hook up in an elevator or ventilation shaft, it's totally transparent, everybody knows what you're doing.
7 - You aren’t making your characters interesting enough.
Yeah, I know, this one stings. They're your babies, you love them already, you know everything about them. You know their secret fear of clowns and how they have scars still from a fight they got into when they were eight and that they love the smell of sea water. But your RP partners aren't mind readers and they're not going to know any of that unless you show them.
There's a good reason you want to ship with the characters you want to ship with. Think about what those reasons are and what makes you find them so alluring. She's proactive and never gives up. He's analytical and keeps his head in a crisis. Whatever it is, it's interesting to you.
You have to be interesting too.
Your partners have to have a reason to want to ship with you. They don't owe you one just because you want it. Be interesting for your partner. Find out what things they like and find intriguing and give them that.
How to Identify that Your Characters are Boring and Fix It:
- Ask yourself if there's any source of conflict around them. Does their behavior cause any problems at all?
- When you post for them on their own do people come to them and engage with them at all? If the answer is no, you probably have a boring character.
- Give them a conflict point. Better yet, give them two. Something social and something outside of social. For instance, maybe they're a little bit prejudiced against orcs so you can use that to start conflict with orcish characters. They can even be really passive aggressive about it and it'll add friction to a scene. And for outside conflict, there's a wizard that wants them dead. There. Your character is more interesting already.
- Pay attention to what your partner wants and do that thing. If they've mentioned they love an archetype, play to it. If they've mentioned tropes they like, try to give them those.
- Acknowledge, at least to yourself, that this does not entitle you to a ship. Not with that person, not with anyone. If you are trying to be entertaining JUST so someone will ship with you, you're being manipulative and they can probably tell, anyway.
- Think about things you like in other characters from shows and movies and books and play those traits. Yeah, you're probably going to end up with a complete rip off at first, but you know what, stealing pieces of things like an artist is an acquired skill. And you have to start doing it to learn to do it better.
6 - You’re mistaking possession for love and real intimacy.
If your idea of how to write romance comes from a YA novel you should probably rethink what you're doing. Some people actually do want this in their RP, but it's pretty easy to tell when they do and when they think it's creepy. Also there's a difference between 'the player really wants this to happen and the character really doesn't and it's a conflict linchpin'.
But acknowledge that if your character is skulking around, grabbing throats without consent, huskily declaring that 'you are mine and I will never let you escape me'...that's not romantic and they are the bad guy. Stalking is not romantic. Jealousy is not romantic. Forcing your partner to do things is not romantic.
How to Identify When Your Character is Being a Stalker and Fix It:
- If they always always show up when their 'love interest' is on screen and hover and said love interest has never approached your character first, they're probably being a stalker.
- If they corner people who are adjacent to the 'love interest' when that character isn't on screen and hover, they're probably being a stalker.
- Yes, even if the character doesn't know that person is there. You know. So in that case your character ISN'T being a stalker but YOU are and it isn't better.
- Let the other player come to you and if they don't then drop it.
- Let your character be the villain; that will reflect well on you for future ships. If you can have a character that is an unrepentant asshole and actually portray them like they're in the wrong, it's going to look very good on you.
- Under no circumstances are you allowed to have your other characters act like any of this is okay behavior. That makes it look like you think it's okay behavior and if you do you either need to go seek help or you're far too close to the situation and need some distance.
5 - You’re trying to rush things.
If your characters just met, they aren't in love.
Don't try to put them into a forever ship immediately let them actually get to know each other. If you have a love at first sight situation, play it realistically; a short fuse burns out quick. If they just met and are already making out, realize the interesting part of this relationship is going to be the break up. Admit it, accept it, let it happen.
Lingering tension is the most fun thing about a ship, you want that to last as long as possible.
How to Identify You're Rushing Things and Fix It:
- Take your damn time.
- Ask your partner if they feel like things are moving too fast and if they say yes, hit the brakes.
- Let that seduction drag out. In the words of Jenna Moreci; If your characters kiss the first time they get the chance to kiss, you're ruining it.
- The more you deny someone the pay off, the better it will be when it actually happens.
- Hint the hell out of the ship but don't give in. As long as you can hold out, don't give in.
4 - You’re merit-badging.
If you play like you have a checklist, you're merit-badging.
They've kissed, check. They've fucked, check. They're married now, check. Kids? Check. Please stop that. Ask yourself if anything else that happens to these characters outside their relationship even matters to you.
How to Identify You're Merit-Badging and Fix It:
- Ask yourself what you know about your partner's character. What do they want out of life? What music do they like? Food? What are some things they say fairly often? What makes them happy? What are they afraid of? Write down your answers and ask your partner if you're right, and if you're not then you don't know them as well as you should.
- Don't go into a ship unless you're sure you know the other player's character. Cause if you don't know your character sure as frag doesn't.
- Go have a real conversation between your characters. Introduce conflict. Let there be plot.
- If you can't do any of that...let them go.
3 - You’re entitled.
Are you complaining that you don't have ships? Of course you are, you're reading this. Or you were just morbidly curious. I read things like this out of morbid curiosity all the time, we should start a club.
The rest of you though. Have you asked yourself what you could be doing to make ships more fun for other people when you complain that you don't have any? Do you actually even care if other people are having fun in ships with you or does that care only extend as far as you don't have to put in effort?
"But love should be effortless," I can hear some of you saying. "Putting in effort defeats the purpose!"
Spoken like someone who has never been in a relationship for longer than two weeks, says I. Love is work. If walking through hell for someone you love is romantic then why not putting in emotional and mental effort to make sure they're happy?
How to Identify that You're Being Lazy and Entitled and Fix It:
- How often do you complain that you don't have ships? What have you done to fix it? Have you asked your partners what they want?
- Reciprocate, you dingdong. If your partner is writing plot for you and playing characters you think are interesting they should not have to ask you to do the same for them you should just do it. Not doing that, failure to reciprocate these behaviors? That's probably why no one wants to ship with you. So start doing sith for other people and quit whining.
- If you don’t have anyone to reciprocate with you’re pretty much just going to have to RP with zero expectations for romance and try to entertain other people until you live down your entitlement. The longer you've been doing it the longer it's going to take you to live it down, but those are your choices.
- Also stop airing your dirty laundry in public. No one feels bad when you complain that they aren't playing with you, this is not their problem to fix.
2 - You’re not actually playing your characters.
Okay this one's really easy. If you haven't logged in in weeks, you're not actually playing your characters and how can you expect to hold down a ship? Okay?
If you're in a community you have to be present to get noticed. If you want to play a game...play the game. This is not rocket science. It isn't fair to expect someone to hold a ship for you if you aren't going to be there to play it and it isn't fair to expect someone to hold a ship for you if they are still interested in playing their half of it and you aren't interested in playing yours.
How to Identify You Aren't Actually Playing and Fix It:
- Are you playing the game regularly? Check yes or no.
- Go play the game, you ding dong.
- If it's a particular ship and you ARE playing, go play that character you ding dong.
- If you're making up excuses as to why you can't do that right now, go break off the pairing and stop sitting on that person's character. Let them move on with someone who actually wants to play.
- Moving right along.
1 - You, the player, are being an asshole to people.
Oh yes, the hardest thing to admit. Listen. You don't have to be being a blatant asshole. We've already talked up there somewhere about having a taking attitude and how you have to actually do things for other people sometimes, right?
If your first thought every time anything comes up is 'what is owed to me' or 'what can I get out of this' there is a good chance you're being an asshole. If you haven't stopped to think 'what can I do for someone else', then yeah, 80% asshole.
If you throw fits in public, people might just be avoiding you. Once in a while, fine, we all have rough days, but if you're doing it more than once a month it's too much and if you're doing it once a week or more, I hate to be the one to tell you this but you're a crybaby. My online community has a specific chat channel for throwing fits, and we use it liberally, and if you've got something like that this doesn't count, but most places don't and no one wants to hear your vitriol.
If you've turned people against each other, people might just be avoiding you. And they're right to. There is no excuse, turning people against each other makes you an asshole. Do not go talking shit behind people's backs and you had better not be saying anything when they aren't in the room that you're not willing to say to their face. Asshole.
If you have dropped people out of character over in character things, people might just be avoiding you. If you have made a big dramatic scene in public about how sad you are over an IC break up or had a character get seriously hurt or hospitalized after an IC break up people might just be avoiding you.
How to Identify You are Being an Asshole and Fix It:
- Stop trying to punish people and make them feel guilty. If you immediately go 'how can I get back at this person by taking their friends away or hurt them in their emotions' you're not only being an asshole, you're being an abusive asshole.
- If you've done this you need to take accountability for it. Apologize from a place of authenticity and don't throw other people under the bus for your own bad behavior. No excuses. It's not going to make people forgive you it's just going to make them think you don't actually feel bad for what you did and all you care about is getting stuff from them.
- Stop being an asshole. Yes, I'm serious, your apology doesn't mean anything if you turn around and do it again. Even if it's to another person.
- Actually do something to make up for being an asshole. Stop asking the people that you were an asshole to for favors. Do something nice for someone else. Not the person that you were an asshole to, someone else. Start by changing your behavior with people that don't have anything to give you. It doesn't mean anything at all if you only want to make nice with popular people.
- If you're thinking about injuring your character or quitting because you did something bad and now people are mad at you just don't. Or just quit. Don't make a big production about the fact that you're leaving because I promise you no one is going to feel guilty like you want them to. You're not eight. Act like an adult.
- Consider other people and their feelings.
- It's probably best if you just give up on the idea of shipping with them for a while, too, because if you're only trying to make nice so you can ship with people they're going to notice and they won't appreciate it.