I've been playing RPG's for a long time, and one of the things that has always interested me is the idea of a gaming mechanism as a storytelling engine. Using rules and conventions players are able to interact with one another, and those communications become the thread of a fictional tale that lives as long as the game continues and the embers remain in the memory of the players who experienced it.
It’s that concept, along with advancements in communication technology, that led me to start experimenting with interactive storytelling using various mediums. In the early days this involved things like blogging fictional scenarios, then using the comments to interact with people both in character and not. This eventually evolved into fictional Facebook and Twitter accounts, and then finally culminated in the creation of the RolePages online community.
The idea behind RolePages was to take all of the different communication elements across the internet - blogs, forums, profiles, pictures, videos, and audio - and combine them into a single social network made entirely for fictional characters. Members sign up for the site as a made up creature, or being, and then interact with one another using those tools to create the essence of whatever story they want.
At its base the community is open form roleplaying, with the only rules being social conventions and guidelines that dictate basic etiquette between players. Otherwise members are free to tell any story that they want in any way that they want, as long as everyone else involved consents. And if dissension arises, then it is easy to move on and find another type of game to play into on the website.
However there is also a strong central story that runs through the essence of RolePages, focusing on a single world called Hellifyno, and the exploits of a group of “Heroes” who gravitate towards a pub called the “Blue Moon Tavern.” This story is led by Narrative GM’s who have maintained a continuous unbroken line of fiction for over five years, through the use of guided Events that take place in the various interactive mediums.
The RolePages universe is vast so nobody is required to participate or even acknowledge that there is a main story arc. However elements from it do tend to take precedence as far as page space and featured projects. This leaves things open for anyone to do just about anything they want, while still maintaining a strong focus for those interested in a set lore and location.
The main stage of the site is the live chat theater where characters are able to interact with one another in rapid, real time text to text responses. Posted blogs then tend to focus in on particular moments and private happenings, that can be written out in greater detail. Each character also has a customizable profile along with a comment wall for one on one storytelling.
Some of the more experimental things we play with include video role playing sessions, where members dress up in costume as their chosen character and then respond to each other through embedded youtube clips. We’ve also engaged in audio to text dungeon crawls with a DM speaking over internet broadcast while the players react in chat and on forums, as well as a variety of CosPlay projects.
While the site grew out of an initial love for traditional tabletop games like D&D, it was also heavily influenced by the old free form roleplaying chat rooms that could be found on AOL, Prodigy, and Yahoo years ago. These were completely open ended, mostly unmoderated systems that allowed societal preference to control the flow of stories told as characters typed actions and dialogue back and forth to one another in groups.
I’ve always been fascinated with storytelling, but reading and writing are usually very solitary things. Tabletop roleplaying first introduced me to the idea of creating a collaborative story that had structure, but also room for individual variation based on player actions. With RolePages I’ve tried to take that idea and apply it to communication elements in order to create a social network, that is also a digestible, if elaborate work of multimedia fiction. I don’t know if I’ve succeeded, but we have fun playing with it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our little community.
This post was written by Joseph Gambit. For more information visit http://www.rolepages.com