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An Overly Long Post Talking About In Character Relationships (TM)


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Yeah, yeah, it's been a while, but I was thinking about it and I realized that of my tutorials, this was probably one of the most major gaps I have in my posts that roleplayers regularly encounter. In character relationships can come in many forms. From business to friendship to down right lovers. It might initially seem odd that I am dedicating an entire post to breaking this down, but there are some points here that need to be addressed that many don't consider.

1. Okay, but really, why this section?

Relationships are hard. Period. No matter how intimate, human beings tend to be very complicated creatures that are not easy to predict. The same, for better or worse, applies to the characters we write. While a lot around this subject goes back into consent and communicating with others, I'm going to get more specific here. In character relationships can complicate things in many ways and, even if things are reiterated, it's important we cover everything.

I have brought this up in other posts, but I REALLY need to lean into this here because it is an unfortunate reoccurring problem as far as in character relationships go. Just because two characters are very intimate with one another, that doesn't mean the player behind the character is into you. While this is definitely obvious to those of you who identify as men, the women who are reading this without a doubt have encountered at least one person who took an in character relationship and translated that into real life affection. I am positive that this has gone in many different ways (let us not presume that cis men are the only creepers in the universe), but the emphasis is going here because, unfortunately, it is often the source of the issue.

This goes beyond romantic interest, of course. In fact, it even goes the other way around. Just because two characters hate one another, that doesn't mean the player has a problem with you. If anything, entering a situation with that in mind can create just such an outcome.

Keep in mind, I am not speaking on player to player relationships here. I know people who started their relationships based off of in character partnerships. Sometimes that is indeed a thing that can happen. However, the in character and out of character bonds forged are, indeed, quite separate. If you start developing feelings for a player of another character, it is extremely important that you ask yourself how much interaction you've had with this person outside of roleplay itself. Developing feelings for a player based on your interactions with their characters is as likely to fail as developing feelings for an actor based on their performance of their character in a play.

3. The World Continues to Exist

Just because your character isn't going on regular outings or dates with another doesn't mean it isn't happening. One of the worst traps someone can fall into is presuming that because something never occurred on screen, it must have never occurred at all. This is, oddly enough, especially common when considering the relationship between two characters. This applies just as much to a situation where one person is rarely ever online as it does to one where someone is on other characters.

Characters most definitely interact off camera and in ways that neither players consider. I know this can be a little odd to consider, but remember that the vast majority of scenes written by roleplayers are ones that are interesting. There are aspects of existence with a platonic or romantic partner that just cannot be translated in a way that's entertaining. We mainly play out scenes that are interesting to ourselves as players. It's unlikely you're going to play out a movie night where both players are actively watching the movie alongside the characters and roleplaying out their reactions down to simple cuddling because...

Well. It's not as interesting as the movie. From our perspective at least.

Much of the interaction people have with one another tends to be incidental. Not every conversation is a "scene" and not every romantic gesture is going to be written in stone. This even applies to friendships.

I have seen situations where someone has taken a break from a game, come back, and everyone reacts to their characters as if they just went completely MIA. This is often despite the fact that the player has been available via something like Discord if something like that was relevant. While this is less of an issue for friendships, I have definitely seen situations where someone took a hiatus and their character's significant other's player just decided that meant the other's characters had dropped off the face of the earth and acted accordingly. Just, you know, without looking into it first.

We cannot exist to perpetuate our characters lives as if they were our own. This applies in every way you can imagine. If an absence becomes an issue, the players need to discuss it. While exceptions can be made for situations where a player legitimately just stops logging on and can't be contacted, you shouldn't just write in things that don't exist because of your own perception of what is happening within the story. If 

4. Take Your Time
Here's an interesting fact: it has been scientifically proven that relationships forged exclusively over the internet tend to move faster than a person would usually progress a relationship. It has been far less scientifically proven that in character relationships, regardless of what stripes it might take, often move the same way.  I can definitely speak from experience on both points and while I'm not your real dad, I will still step in and say that you shouldn't JUST go on vibes as far as how fast an in character relationship is going.

While real relationships can also start too fast, this is all fictional and it's pretty rare for the players to make things go too quickly intentionally. I'm not going to give a specific period of time you should aim for, but you should go slow enough to ensure mutually as players that the chemistry that exists isn't actually as shallow as a Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Who slashfic. Worst case scenario, the characters will have more points in their mutual history you can build off of.

5. Don't JUST End it

Of all of the points I've brought up as far as in character relationships go, this is probably the one thing I hope everyone walks away integrating into your roleplay going forward. As much as I have mentioned communication in previous installments, it's always extremely tragic to see people fail to just talk when it comes to ending things.

We can get very invested in our characters and the relationships they forge. While one of your characters suddenly losing a friend or partner is nowhere near as bad as it actually happening to you, it can still really mess someone up. If you don't think an IC relationship, romantic or otherwise, is working out? You should talk to the other player about it. If both players are onboard, or at least understand what's happening, it's far easier for all parties to write around it without some aspect of it turning into an absolute cluster.

The most common scenario where this occurs is when one player takes an extended leave of absence from the game. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've seen people take a break and come back to discover that their character's boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with them off camera and are now dating someone else. We are in the digital age, people. Use your words.

While this section talks about "endings", this same logic also applies to situations that effectively or literally kill off a character. If you are removing a character from play, especially by violent means, you should communicate with any players who's characters are very intimately involved with your own. Yes, it is entirely possible to do this without giving away all of the major spoilers.

6. Conclusion

In short: COMMUNICATE! I'm going to add more sections as I think of them more than likely, but, in a bit of irony, the best way of maintaining healthy in character relationships is by maintaining healthy out of character communication. If there are any elements of in character relationships you think I should touch on, comment about it below and I'll add yet another hunk of text to this.

This is part of a series of tutorials regarding roleplay! You can find the full list of tutorials here!

Edited by McSpazz
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