I talk a lot about improv in some of my blog posts. The reason is because roleplaying is as much, if not more, an improv than it is a story writing. Still, so many people fall into the trap that they want to tell interesting stories, and they feel when they write stories that don’t seem to go anywhere they are failing. Just look at this writer’s advice blog entry as an example, as these could be reasons that people could do an RP scene in a game.
I do play in persistent worlds, worlds that have people from all around the globe on so there could be a story told at 2AM or 8PM or whatever, so you could find people interested in a scene but not interested in a full adventure. This is a godsend for those who like to get into their characters and react to scenes, as you can find scenes you can play from time. You’ll need to study some improv, especially the scene building bits like this, and they should help give you some ideas. The book Play Unsafe is a book about how to incorporate improv into the roleplaying game.
Unlike stories which are plotted out arcs, soft scene based RP is more like real life where while you might have plans, things don’t always play out that way. Instead, you have something you want to forward, you have some aspect of your character you want to convey. You do not always need to know about the angle you are examining until a few poses into the scene, because it often depends on who the others in the scene are and what they are doing. These scenes could be anything and your reason for being in them could be anything; its only limited by your imagination for your reason to be there. Think of them as slice of life of your character. Maybe you’re at home doing the dishes while you talk to friends about the news story you saw, or perhaps you’re out for a jog and run into someone walking their dogs, or perhaps you’re busking for coins on a street corner for passersby.
There are a few key rules to remember when you think of a game as a persistent world, whether it be a tabletop game or a true persistent world like a MU* or an MMORPG. These rules are like the rules of a writer’s style guide but apply more to the RP scenes that you can get into.
1) You are playing the main character in their own story, so what you get out of a scene may not be what other people get out of it since they are playing their own main characters in their stories.
2)Your characters have interests that are not just what their sheet reflects. Those hobbies and interests are important enough to that character to make them go places and do things that others wouldn’t think to do.
3) Be willing to play the comic aspect of a scene, even if your character is normally a serious type. Sometimes, scenes just beg for it. Like a serious type being handed a baby and not knowing what to do with that. The reverse is also true, be willing to play into the drama of a scene, even if it isn’t usually your thing.
4) Know when to lead and know when to support, not everything is about you all the time.
5) Sometimes, the sole purpose of the scene is to entertain the people playing in it.