Fandom RPG

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Synonyms: Role-Playing Game
See also: Celebrity RPG
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Fandom RPGs online are a combination of collaborative fan fiction and traditional role-playing games, in which players write posts, messages, or comments as (or about) characters from established fictional worlds. In some RPGs, players create RP journals on LiveJournal or other journal sites as their characters, and write as if their characters were actually users of a journaling service. In others, journals, message boards, or chat rooms are simply used to post third-person descriptions of what characters do.

Fandom RPGs may include both canon characters and original characters. They may stick closely to the canon setting or be wild AUs; even games that begin as canon-based often quickly become AU as players develop different relationships between characters and events proceed based on players' decisions. Some focus heavily on action-oriented plots that may require complex coordination between players, while others focus more on romantic or sexual relationships. Like most freeform text-based RPGs, the results of characters' actions are usually decided by consensus among the affected players, and "godmoding" or attempting to control another character's actions without the player's consent is frowned on.

How closely to stick to canon (and varying interpretations of canon) is often debated in fandom RPGs. In games with many players who are slash fans, the number of characters played as gay or bisexual may be high, leading to debates over whether this is unrealistic, whether restrictions on characters' sexual orientation are fair or useful, and whether female characters get less attention from other players than male (slashable) ones.

Character avatars

In journal or forum-based roleplaying for some fandoms, especially book series where not all characters have canon artwork or TV/movie appearances, players choose photos of actors (or other celebrities who have many pictures available online) to use in icons representing their characters. The real person whose pictures are used is commonly referred to as the character's "played by", or PB for short. Even in some fandoms with movies, such as Harry Potter, using different actors from the ones who played the characters in the movies is fairly commonplace. However, there is a complex etiquette surrounding the usage of PBs, the specific rules of which can differ from fandom to fandom and even between particular games. Generally, using PB images of anyone already chosen by another player in the same game is taboo; many players also frown on using PBs that are too famous or iconic -- for example, using images of Jack Sparrow for one's original character would invite derision in some RP circles.

On tumblr the term for these is "faceclaim" or FC, although this is more commonly used to mean the celebrity chosen to represent an OC, rather than a canon character.

Livejournal-based RP

After a lot of the online fandom migrated to Livejournal, fans who were involved in the roleplaying culture tranferred their RPing experience to the new platform as well. It flourished especially after Livejournal no longer required lj-codes for account creation and fans were able to create new accounts for every characters they wanted to roleplay. According to Fail_Fandomanon, LJRP later migrated to Dreamwidth.[1]

The structure of LJ RPG relayed heavily on the comments system and the fact that they were threaded, making it easier to keep tract of the interactions. When LJ was still allowing comments to have titles, they were used of Out Of Character (OOC) communication between players (called muns). OOC communication was also placed in brackets within the comment (as long as it was proceeded by "OOC:" notation).

There are several ways fans roleplay on LJ:

  • Dialogue-style - where characters interact with themselves in a direct dialogue, with little to no additional descriptions. Action queues were often put in asterisks or square brackets. Usually short in length, allowing for fast pace in interactions.
Character A: I can't believe you just did that!
Character B: *wipes blood of the blade* What else was I supposed to do?

  • 3rd Person Narration - very similar to fanfic, where players go into the internal monologue of what the character is going through, what they are thinking, what they are doing, what their location looks like. Those interactions often carry several conversation threads at the same time.
  • Hybrid - a mix between dialogue-only and fanfic-like narration

Icons in LJ-based RP

RP accounts would often use icons that featured their character or Played-By with various facial expressions. For instance, an icon with a character face-palming might be used on an in-character comment where something annoying has happened. As such, the icon choice was believed part of the character interaction as much as the comment itself.

Some sites and communities like HollowArt catered exclusively to roleplaying needs, such as including an extensive tagging and searching system that allowed users to find exactly the right Played-By iconset for their character, or to those those that couldn't or didn't want to make their own icons to find a large repository of icon-sized images of a single character.

Due to fans being able to have up to (if not more) 100 icons available for use with their LJ RP accounts, a practice developed of using multiple empty comments with different PB icons to portray silent facial reactions of characters. It would usually be accompanied by a comment title stating how many empty comments the other player could expect before they would be expected to reply.

Examples of LJ-based RP communities

Examples of other RP fan communities

Many RP fan communities exist on free forum sites, such as Proboards, Forumotion, JCink, and Forum Community. These forums were popular in the late 2000 through early 2010's because they were free to create, easy to maintain, and could be customized. Many notable fandoms had large RP forums. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Naruto, and Avatar: The Last Airbender all had dozens of forums dedicated to the fandom universes.

This format was in direct competition with Livejournal RPGs, but allowed for more customization and dedicated world-building within the site. It allowed moderators to create forum-wide plots, assign a one-character-per-account rule, and identify the characters written by using categories which could include Harry Potter house colors, races, village, or bender status.

Some notable forum sites that still maintain membership, and have members posting, include:

One remarkable thing about many of these forum sites is that the archive has lasted even past the life of the users on the site. There is an archive of roleplaying threads and characters that is accessible with a login to these sites. Some notable forum sites that are defunct or unused include:

  • Feng Shui an Avatar the Last Airbender Roleplay forum, hosted on Proboards.

Discord RP

RP servers and channels in a Discord server.

One site that's becoming popular for RP but that is not forum-based is Discord (available on iOS and Android as well as on desktop and on the web). Discord allows users to create a "server," which is a collection of channels that RPers / muns can roleplay in. Servers are usually centered around a fandom and a theme; for instance, "Haikyuu!! College AU," and are often "semi-literate to literate" (in this context meaning 2+ paragraphs per mun written at a time, similar to the 3rd Person Narration style mentioned above).

Often, the server will contain an OOC (out-of-character) section for general discussion, art posting, etc., and an IC (in-character) section for RPs. If a mun wants IC action to take place in a certain location - say, for example, Asahi and Nishinoya meeting in the college library - the two RPers would post back and forth in a designated channel to prevent crossing streams with different RPs happening in another channel.

Discord servers are often age-restricted (either 18+ or 13-26 years seems to be common), some allow OCs, and some might require "activity checks" if the posting starts to die off. They also often require applications or screening processes, usually via Tumblr, which typically consist of an in-character RP sample and a description of the character's hobbies and interests as would be played by the mun.

  • If a mun wants to play two (or more) characters but does not want to create multiple Discord accounts, some have found a way to leverage the Discord bot Tupperbox, which allows them to post text formatted with a configurable pattern (something like "!~") which the bot will then detect and replace with the name and avatar of their chosen character.

To increase interaction and to mirror the reality of users having access to Discord on their phones and PCs, most Discord RPs will have a "group chat" channel, which is where all characters can interact as if they were in one big group chat. (This is a fun function to work around if in a medieval or fantasy AU RP server.)

Servers to promote RP servers are also increasing in popularity. Each channel functions similar to a promotional feed where server owners can post their taken character list, whether they're searching for certain characters, etc.

A popular conspiracy theory is that the prevalence of Discord RPs have contributed to the rise of "group chat" transformative works in several fandoms, since there are some fics (see "Literally Just JoJo But They're Using Discord" on AO3) that mention Discord directly; however, this connection has neither been discretely proven nor academically discussed.

External Links


  1. ^ fail_fandomanon, Archived version, comment thread starting 2016-07-19.