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Character Novice Character Creation - From Concept to Character

Jaded

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« This is a repost of DerCharlie's Character Creation Guide »

This might be subject to edits of both a minor and a major scale, to keep it up to date.

Creating a character can be a challenging ordeal. Even harder is creating a good character. This guide will take you through the very basics of character creation and how to turn your concepts and ideas into functional characters that can be used for roleplay.

This specific guide is mostly directed towards people who are new to character creation, but there are content that can be used by anyone, rookies as well as the experienced.

Anything written here is NOT to be reposted anywhere without permission. (I asked for permission, no worries)


The guide will cover:
  • 1 - Concepts
    1.1 - What is a character concept?
    1.2 - Finding inspiration (with links and recources).
    1.3 - The good, the bad and the ugly concept.
    1.4 - Name, age and looks.
  • 2 - Getting Started
    2.1 - Making your character playable.
    2.2 - Balancing the character.
    2.3 - Importance of taking notes.
  • 3 - Getting Ready to Roleplay
    3.1 - Writing a background.
    3.2 - Faceclaims.
    3.3 - Roleplaying your character.
    3.4 - Roleplay etiquette.
    3.5 - Repetition/Points to remember.
  • 4 - Terminology
    4.1 - Character/Roleplay terminology list.

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1 - Concepts
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1.1 - What is a character concept?
A character concept is the foundation of your character. It is the basic idea of what/who you want your character to be. It serves as a base and a source of inspiration for creating a fully functional character.

Examples:
- A rebellious police officer with a dark secret and an intense craving for chocolate-filled donuts.​
- An overly joyful dentist who stays positive despite grim circumstances.​
- Some average-Joe who works in a supermarket and lost his right testicle in the Vietnam War.​

These are all concepts. Vague ideas, but not finished characters. There is no rules for what a character concept can and cannot contain. It can be as little or as much as you want it to be and anything from a list of personality traits you want to include or a faceclaim you want to use, to a specific occupation you want to roleplay or a particular event in your character's life. It can be a combination too, there are no limits.

If you are new to roleplay it might be a good idea to pick a simple concept. Something you can mostly relate to, without it being you. It is better to start small and develop through roleplay later on, than make more dough than you can bake. A simple or average character does not equal a boring character. Sometimes they can be the most interesting to develop (to the creator) and the most interesting to interact with (to the other roleplayers).

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1.2 - Finding inspiration (with links and resources).
When you have a basic idea, it is time to develop it. There are many ways to get inspired, but the best way to go about it is to brainstorm. Get inspired by your concept and get inspired by the inspiration you got from your concept. Write everything down. The more the better, you can always change your mind.

While writing the base for your character, there are many ways to keep the creative juices flowing.

- Make a soundtrack. Pick out music that fits your character and listen to it.​
- Pick a faceclaim. Look at it. Characterise the person.​
- Write a list of personality traits. Include both good, bad and neutral traits.​
- Research your character's occupation.​
- If you got the inspiration/idea for your character from any media (TV series, game, movie, etc.) look up the source of inspiration. Be careful not to copy.​

There are various website which can help you get inspired as well. Here are some resources to use for character inspiration:

- Most common jobs in America: [LINK HERE]
- Common character archetypes: [LINK HERE]
- Another long list of personality traits: [LINK HERE]
- Writing secrets for your characters: [LINK HERE]
- Random name generator (this thing is amazing): [LINK HERE]
- Ideas for character flaws: [LINK HERE]
- The 16 personality types (and a test): [LINK HERE]
- A list of common stereotypes (to potentially avoid): [LINK HERE]
- Underused character traits: [LINK HERE]
- more to come . . .​
You're welcome.
Research is an important part of character creation as well. Google is not only an evil company spying on you and selling your information to other companies with major succes and a ridiculous amount of profit every year - it is your best friend too! Google is a gift to modern society and you can easily gain access to all the information you need at the press of a button. Use it! The more you know about your character's occupation, their hobbies and interests, their quirks and anything else really, the better you will be able to play them. Research is an important part of character creation, as it helps you gain an understanding of what your character is experiencing in their field, their life, their head - if you pick out traits, hobbies, occupations, lifestyles or even mental or physical disorders you do not have a lot of understanding of yourself, do your research. Even if you do have extensive knowledge of the subject, looking it up can give you a new perspective, which can add flavour to your character. You might even give whoever is spying on you a run for their money with your ever so increasingly strange internet history.

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1.3 - The good, the bad and the ugly concept.

As subjective and flexible as concepts are, there will always be good concepts and there will always be bad concepts. The list of good concepts is almost infinite. Again, it is subjective. There are no "right". The possibilities are almost endless.

So when there is no way to make a "right" concept, why is this section here, you ask?
While there are no "right" concepts, there are a few "wrong" concepts. The first thing to look at when deciding on a character concept, is your own personal agenda.

If your reason to create the character is one or more of the following:
- To get revenge on another player for insulting you or killing/insulting your character.
- To be the ultimate wet dream of the most flawless badass known to man, whom everybody loves/hates.
- To get all the kills and kill it all.
- To get all the ladies/men and/or ERP.
- To self-insert.
- To win.
do not proceed. Pick another concept and/or think about why you roleplay. Maybe this is not the platform for you.

If your concept is one (or more) of the following:
- A character who is either perfect in every way or flawed in every way.
- A character fully based on a stereotype. (Racial stereotypes, lesbian just to be lesbian, mental illness etc.)
- A very high-moral or very low-moral character with no reason.
- An all-round character who can do everything and has every skill known to man.
- A canon character from any media (movie, TV series, game, etc.)
- A character that does not fit into the setting or lore (such as a supernatural creature in a realistic setting, a medieval knight in a contemporary setting, etc.)
you might want to pick another concept or rethink the concept and work on it to give it more dimension.

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1.4 - Name, age and looks.

You might have a concept. You might know what your character does for a living, where they live and how they like their coffee - if they like coffee at all. Other superficial factors need to be taken into account as well:

Naming a character is hard. But it needs to be done. After all your character had a name given to them, when they were born. Do they go by their birth-name? A nickname maybe? Does their name have any meaning?

Choosing how old your character is, is hard. Remember. Older characters have more experience, but younger characters are more resilient. So how old is your character? How does that affect them? Are they mature or immature for their age?

Deciding what your character looks like is hard. But it is essential, whether you choose to write a description or pick a faceclaim. Does the way they look reflect them as a person? Or doesn't it? Why? How? Do they have any outstanding features such as birth marks, scars, tattoos, piercings, etc.? How tall are they? How much do they weight? Does their body type affect their health? In which way?

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2 - Getting Started
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2.1 - Making your character playable.

Having a concept is one thing, but a concept does not equal a functional character. One could just create a concept and then wing it from then on out, but it would (in most cases) result in inconsistencies. For your character to be playable, you would need to elaborate on a few points:

- Background. Your character's life-story and what shaped them into becoming who they are.​
- Personality. How your character behaves and communicates and which traits can be used to describe them.​
- Morals. The DnD alignments are good sourcematerial for this. [LINK HERE]. Don't forget to give reasoning behind their moral choice, whether they're good, evil or something in-between. Morals are usually linked to both the personality and defining events in one's life.​
- Hobbies and interests. What your character enjoys and what they would spend their time on if they could. This will give them something to talk about and can even provide them with useful skills. Make sure to note why they like it and what they like about it.​
- Skills/Talents. Your character needs to be good or at least able to do something. Their experiences and hobbies could have provided them with some skill that could be useful down the road. Or just something completely mundane. Maybe even both.​
- Flaws. You know what they're good at. Now's the time to find out what they're bad at. What puts them at a disadvantage. Flaws are very important. They give your character some headwind and some challenges. A rule of thumb is to give your character a negative for every positive.​
- Goals and motivations. What does your character want? One thing is why they do what they do, but what exactly is it they hope to achieve? What keeps them ticking? This does not need to be a single thing. In fact, most people have multiple goals and motivations and the more you can put in with it still making sense, the better. It does not need to be anything overly complex or mind blowing. A motivation to go on can be something as simple as a general fear of dying and such.​

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2.2 - Balancing the character.
Balancing the character has been mentioned in various ways throughout the guide and it is one of the most important parts of the character creation. When you balance your character, you make sure they're not too perfect or too flawed. Both can be very hard to interact with for other players and both will be boring to roleplay as in the long run. Having a balanced character gives a better roleplaying experience overall.

Using the binary underneath as an example, the GREEN part is where you want your character to be. As you can tell, they do not necessarily need to be perfectly balanced, but there is still balance between the positives and the negatives. To be in the green, they would need complimenting flaws, skills, talents and positive traits. A balanced character is good at some things and bad at others, either by having few great talents and some severe flaws or being mediocre at many things at once but only to a certain extent and have a bunch of flaws. More on this further down.

FLAWED |--------------------------------|-----|-----------------|-----------------|-----|----------------------------------| FLAWLESS

The RED areas are where you do not want your character to be. These characters are either flawless to the point where they get annoying to interact with, make it hard for other players to roleplay with them or outright kill the roleplay by taking over everything at all times, or flawed to the point where they are annoying to interact with, really hard to interact with, hard to roleplay as there is nothing for them to do or simply should not be alive. An unbalanced character is usually the character who breaks an arm and a leg, loses two liters of blood and still go Rambo on the zombies, is awfully talented at everything they do and therefore does not need anybody else because they can do anything they would ever need to do themselves, or a character who is nothing but miserable, does not have a single positive trait and/or have no skills at all and is fully dependent on being taken care of by other characters, with nothing to offer.


Balancing the character is relatively simple.

- Let go of personal bias and the urge to win/lose. Try to be neutral about your character. You can love (or even hate if that's what you want) them all you want later on.​
- If they are good at something, they need to be bad at something. The better your character is at something, the worse they need to be at something else. That's a general rule of thumb. If they are good at something, others will have a reason to interact with them, and if they are bad at something, they will have a reason to interact with others. That way the different characters start complimenting each other. A character who is bad at everything will have nothing to give just as a character who is good at everything will have nothing to take. There's a full spectrum of various skills your character can be good or bad at, ranging from physical to mental to social. You can make a character who is extremely good at one thing and have a bunch of minor flaws, a character who is extremely good at a few things and have a few things they are so bad at that they would cause a disaster if they even tried, a character who can do a lot of things but is mediocre at it all and if they get too confident in it, it'll go wrong. That is just examples, there are many different ways to pull it off.​
- Age matters. The older a character is, the more experienced they will be, and the more they will know. Usually. A 17 year old cannot be a police officer, a 26 year old has barely finished their medical studies and thus they still lack experience within their field to fully understand it, a 50 year old may know a whole lot, but may also lack a bunch in the physical department as their body has been subject to years of hard work (or no movement at all) and so on. Your character's age also affects how others see them. Many would rather look to the outspoken 40-something year old for leadership and while the 18 year old might be recourseful, the older characters might take their word with a grain of salt until they have proven themself.​
- Everyone is afraid of something. Brave does not equal fearless. No matter how brave your character is, there will most certainly be something that will make them run for the hills. The braver they are, the stronger those few fears might be. Maybe they are afraid of many things, but have other redeeming qualities. Fears can be minor, major or outright crippling and both rational or irrational. Many people are afraid of things such as height or spiders, and some are afraid of rejection or failure. Give your character something to fear and determine how they will react if exposed to it. [LINK HERE] is a list of the hundred most common phobias, and while your character does not need to have an outright phobia, it can provide ideas for what your character could be afraid of.​
- Nobody is entirely good or evil. No matter how high or low a character is on the morality spectrum, there will always be exceptions. If you are inexperienced with roleplay, staying true to your character's alignment is the best way to start out, but as you gain experience, you can start playing around with it. Is there something that could make them turn 180 degrees? The bad guy should have some redeeming qualities (Villainous traits and their virtues: [LINK HERE]) and the good guy should have some flaws (Heroic traits and their faults: [LINK HERE]).​
- Personality matters. While your character undeniably needs some good traits, they need bad traits as well. The traits should compliment each other, but not erase each other. That means your character can't have two opposing traits. You can't make someone who is both a genuine and fake to use an example. That will be a whole other rabbit hole of complexity to jump into (which does not belong in a novice character creation guide). The character can be very charismatic but also very judgemental or socially inept but very kind. The combinations are endless. Various ideas for personality traits can be found here: [LINK HERE]

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2.3 - Importance of taking notes.
There is a limit to how much your brain,
with all the information stored already, can contain
There are restrictions to how much you can remember
with all the mundane memories of toothbrushing and what happened last December

So take notes, take notes
it will only do you well
Shove it down your throats
or your process will be hell

Moral of the Story: Take notes. It will make everything easier. I cannot stress this enough, just as I cannot write poetry. Notes are written for your own sake. If you note down everything, you will have guidelines on how to stay true to character. The notes are for you and you only.

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3 - Getting Ready to Roleplay
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3.1 - Writing a background.
The background or backstory covers the character's previous experiences. A background should at the very least contain:
- Short description of the early life and the conditions your character grew up under.​
- Important relationships, which have made a greater impact on your character's life and way of thinking. This can be parents, siblings, a weird uncle, a teacher -​
- Important and character-defining events, which have had greater impact on their life and way of thinking. This can be one major defining moment, more major defining moments, various moments that lead up to something bigger, etc.​
- Description of how and why they got to where they are now. Including how/why they got their current job, current spouse, economical situation, living situation and/or personal beliefs.​

How much/little you write is entirely up to you. Quality rather than quantity. You know your character, but the more you can elaborate the important events, the more understanding you will have of them. This is where you look into your notes and see what you have so far. If you can write a backstory which reveals your character's personality, morals and motivation without explicitly mentioning any of those three, you have written a good biography.

There are different ways to write your characters backstory:
Timeline: You list dates/years of important events of your character's life, chronologically. Timelines are generally kept short and to the point.​
Novella: A longer, fluid text describing your character's life as a story with varying amount of detail, either written in first or third-person.​

Be sure to include anything of importance - and exclude the rest. There is such a thing as too much detail. While the ones reading through your application to approve it will love to see as much about your character as possible, there are some things that should be left in your personal notes. Unless that one trip to the bathroom you decided to describe was really mind-blowing to your character, or them getting vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate ice cream, when they specifically asked for chocolate ice cream was absolutely heartbreaking to them, there is no need to include it.

The background should give an impression of who your character is, why they do as they do and what to expect from them.

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3.2 - Faceclaims.

Looks matter. Knowing what your character looks like can not only help during the creation process, but will also affect how other characters see them. The face is one of the first things you notice about a person and thus, if you choose to use a faceclaim, there are various aspects to take into account.

First and foremost I would like to refer to the faceclaim guide Legion made for a more in-depth guide on how to find a good faceclaim for your character: [LINK HERE] (This Link Is Broken)

On that note, as mentioned, there are various aspects to take into account. Most important is the ethical. If you pick photographies of real people as your faceclaim, you need to remember them being real people and thus you do NOT use a faceclaim that is -
- Taken from someone's private facebook, snapchat, instagram or other social media site without their permission. Especially not if they are not a public person.
- A picture sent to you privately by anyone, without permission.
- Pictures taken of a person (on the streets, in their home or otherwise) without their knowledge or consent.
- Contains inappropriate nudity. It is supposed to be a faceclaim, not pornography.
- Pictures with other kinds of major triggering and/or offensive content (excessive gore, pictured self-harm and suicide, etc.)

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3.3 - Roleplaying your character.

Remember, a character is generally not considered 'finished'... ever. All you have is who they are up until this point. What happens from then on out and how it affects them down the road cannot be entirely predicted.

When your character has been approved, it is time to roleplay! Now is the time to put all you have written to good use! To avoid it having gone to waste, there are a few things to remember -

- Stay true to your concept. If you make a carpenter or a figure skater, they cannot suddenly become something entirely different. Pay attention to the skills you have given your character and stick by them. If need be, they can learn new skills from someone else through roleplay.​
- Stay true to your morals. A goody-two-shoes will not suddenly rob a group blind and a character made to be antagonistic will not suddenly commit a great act of heroism just because. Morality can shift, but it does not happen in the blink of an eye, just because. Make it a long-term project, if you want your character to turn 180 degrees. Outside influences should play a big role here too.​
- Stay true to your character. You know your character best. But when you created them, you set up some limits and boundaries. Stay within those limits and boundaries when you give them a go. Develop them, show them a new world, put them through every kind of suffering imaginable, but make sure it is still the same character, when they come out on the other side.​

There are multiple ways to roleplay. The two most distinct styles are paragraph styled roleplay and script styled roleplay. Those styles are very different from each other, and when doing forum-roleplay, every participant usually agree on one style. In PZ, it does not matter too much whether you use one or the other. You can type a limited amount and as long as you can make your actions clear to the other players, either works.

- Paragraph is the most commonly used on the server. You write novella-style and dialogue is in quotation marks "as such". When writing paragraph style, one usually writes more text with more detailed descriptions. It takes longer to emote, but you get more vivid portrayals.​
- Script was once the more commonly used style on the server, and is still used by a few. Actions are put in *asterisks* and dialogue is usually not in quotation marks. Script styled roleplay is usually more simplistic and to the point, with simple emotes and is faster to type.​
As a narrator, stay objective to your own narrations. Do not include how badass your character is or how clever they are or how charming they are in your emote. If you need to tell people your character is charming or badass or clever, or even resourceful or how much they are proving their worth, or anything else along those lines, they will be very quick to assume the opposite. Show don't tell. Be neutral as a narrator and leave it to the other roleplayers to decide what their characters think of your character. Let their words and actions speak for themselves.
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3.4 - Roleplay etiquette.

- What happens usually happens. Void as little as possible. Even if it is weird, play on it. Go with the flow.

- Do not bleed. Do not bleed. Do not bleed. Do not fucking bleed. Bleeding is one of the seven deadly roleplay sins and it might as well be on top of the list. You do not bleed. Separate out-of-character from in-character. What happens when roleplaying is fiction and should be treated as such. This is a hobby and it is supposed to be enjoyable for all participants.

- Try and keep highly triggering subjects such as self-harm, rape and suicide low-key. A character can self-harm, get raped (or rape) or be suicidal and even express it (most people here are adults who can handle heavy subjects), but do not constantly point it out just to do so. When including these kinds of subjects in the roleplay, be respectful towards the other players' boundaries.

- Don't ERP with someone who does not want to ERP and do not ERP publically on the server. There are rules about this [LINK HERE]. Sexual content should be taken to a private chat or faded to black. Make sure both you and the one you are roleplaying the scene with agrees on how it should proceed. Keep in mind that ERP is considered a sexual act and both you/your roleplaying partner and the server as a whole can face legal issues if one of the participants in ERP is under the legal age of consent.

- Keep in mind, you can always say stop if a scene becomes too violent, too sexual or too anything else. If someone wants to fade to black for the rest of the scene or take a break this should be respected, no matter the circumstances.

- As a general rule, metagaming, godmoding and powergaming is a huge no-go. With metagaming, there are few exceptions which I might get into some other time, but customarily it is not to be done. At all.

- Let others respond, before you start a new emote. There is no need to machine gun RP to get your point across.

- Do not insult other people's style of roleplay or ask them to change it. If rules are broken, notify an admin. If it is someone you know well, you can respectfully bring it up, but be respectful even if they do not agree.

- Keep OOC to a minimum. Too many of us break this one. Let's get better at it once and for all!

- Stay true to the setting. Always stay true to the setting, and this applies to all kinds of roleplay. You don't pull out a machine gun when you are in a medieval setting or enchant someone to magically lose their fertility in a realistic setting.

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3.5 - Repetition/Points to remember.

[--] - A character concept is the foundation of your character.
[--] - Your concept can be mostly anything.
[--] - There are few exceptions to what is stated above.
[--] - BG, personality, morals, interests, skills, flaws and motivation is at the very least needed for a character.
[--] - A balanced character is a sexy character. A balanced character is a good character.
[--] - It is not that hard to balance your character.
[--] - Just make sure they are not too perfect or too flawed.
[--] - Take notes. Take notes. Take notes. Take fucking notes.
[--] - Include as much as possible in your BG, but leave out unnecessary details.
[--] - Nobody needs to hear about your character taking a poop in forth grade unless it changed their life.
[--] - Really. Yes.
[--] - Be respectful towards your faceclaim. Do not use inappropriate pictures.
[--] - Yes, it is inappropriate to use your classmates facebook photos too.
[--] - Stay true to your concept, your morals and generally just stay true to your character.
[--] - Be objective when narrating. Always be objective. Be fucking objective.
[--] - AND DON'T BLEED.
[--] - You know what, just don't be a dick.

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4 - Terminology
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4.1 - Character/Roleplay terminology list.

This is a (hopefully) full list of terminology specific to character creation and roleplay. Feel free to message me if anything is left out.
  • IC - In-character. Anything typed from your character's perspective (emotes on the server, journals, thoughts and relationships in biographies, etc.)
  • OOC/OC - Out Of Character. Anything typed outside your character's perspective (chat on the forums, anything you know that your character does not,
  • Emote - The written out actions and/or dialogue of your character.
  • Bio - Biography. A profile of your character on which you put whatever you want. It can be, but is not limited to their faceclaim, age, proportions, backstory, skills, thoughts, current situation and relationships.
  • BG - Background/Backstory.
  • RP - Roleplay.
  • PZ - Project Zomboid. The game we are playing.
  • Canon - Meaning that something is official, either to a character, to the lore or anything else along those lines. It is a thing, it is real(fictional hush) and it is happening.
  • Metagaming - Metagaming is when your character breaks the boundaries of their reality, usually by having access to knowledge they should not/would not realistically have access to.
  • Powergaming - Roleplaying a character that knocks everything over, defies the laws of nature, is unrealistically resillient, always hits their target but is never hit themselves, survives everything and so on. Powergaming is committing one of the seven deadly sins of roleplay. Always winning.
  • Godmoding - Quite similar to powergaming. Godmoding is being on a power-trip when roleplaying, with no boundaries. In the bad way.
  • Mech/Mechanical - Anything done using the in-game mechanics.
  • Machine gun RP - Machine gun RP or machine gun roleplay is the act of typing, posting and/or sending a large amount of emotes/replies at once, without little or no room for the others to respond to it.
  • PVP/PVE - Player VS Player, which refers to two players engaging in combat and Player VS Environment, which refers to the player fighting the environment (IG conditions such as hunger, thirst, zombies, cold, etc.)
  • ERP - One of the seven deadly sins... No, not really. But it can be if you do it in public. ERP is short for Erotic RolePlay, which speaks for itself. In case you need further elaboration - It means roleplaying out a sexual act, usually describing every saucy detail.
  • Lore - Conditions and boundaries of the current setting and/or the current setting/story as a whole.
  • (a) Scene - A specific event, occurrence or situation roleplayed out. When talking about a scene, one will usually refer to a single event/occurrence/situation, from beginning to end.
  • Void - We are only halfway referring to empty space here. When voiding something (a scene, a piece of dialogue, an emote), it means to erase it, pretending it has not happened.
  • Bleed/Bleeding/Bleeder - One of the seven deadly sins of roleplay. Probably even the worst one, to some extent. Bleeding means to bring IC conflict, emotion, thoughts and/or any other situation OOC, either by blaming someone for anything that has happened in-character and vice-versa. "Bleeder" refers to someone who bleeds. If you turn a bleeder's keyboard upside down, salt will pour out between the keys.
  • Self-insert - Inserting yourself or a glorified ("better") version of yourself into a written work of fiction, such as roleplaying situations.
  • Mary Sue/Marty Stu - Overly (and annoyingly) perfect character with no (or stupidly little) flaws.
  • Anti-Sue - Like a Mary Sue/Marty Stu, but the opposite. Overly (and annoyingly) imperfect character with all the flaws and absolutely nothing else.
  • Meme - Mindgate.
  • F2B/Fade-to-black - Skipping a particular scene, but still agreeing on it having happened. This is mostly done if someone is not comfortable roleplaying/able to roleplay a particular scene, but still want it to be canon and is most commonly used during extremely violent scenes, sexual scenes or something that simply cannot be roleplayed.
 
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