A while ago I wrote about how to make an MRP profile. Since then, I’ve read maybe a couple thousand MRPs and have some new ideas of what makes one work. I’m going to assume that you know what MRP is in this post, but if you’re not certain of it, go back and read that earlier post.
Note: These, of course, are my opinions on what makes for a good MRP and they can of course differ from someone else’s. I haven’t done any survey to try to figure out how other people consider MRPs and the like, although I suspect that other people go through similar processes. I will try to keep my obviously subjective opinions (e.g., my hatred of really short night elves) out of it. In recognition that these are my opinions, though, I’ll refer to myself explicitly in terms of what I look at and what I see, rather than do what a lot of other people do and ascribe their thoughts to other people.
I am very much a believer that first impressions matter significantly, and that the best way to get me to read your MRP and approach you for RP (assuming our RP is compatible) is to create that good first impression. I’ve said to many people that the first sentence of the description is a very important one, but I think one should think about the impression he or she creates even before that. The first thing I will note about a character is what he or she is wearing. I have no transmog advice for you at this time. But the second thing that I see about a character is the little window that pops up when I hover my cursor over a person. It looks like this:
This tooltip contains several things that help create a first impression. It has your character’s name, your character’s nickname (if any), your character’s “currently”, your roleplaying style and character status. Usually this tooltip will not prevent me from clicking on your character and reading your MRP, but there are a few situations in which it might. First, if your currently describes some action or desire that is completely incompatible with my RP (e.g., “Recruiting for the Scarlet Crusade”), I’ll move on. Second, if everything indicated the default settings (i.e., “(No Roleplaying Style)” in your roleplaying style, no currently, no expanded name, no nickname, etc.), then I might move on assuming that your MRP is blank. These factors aren’t usually a problem because if you’ve filled them out in such a way that I don’t even look at your MRP, it’s probably because you don’t want to RP with me in the first place.
More likely, however, is that the tooltip will create an impression that frames your MRP description. If I see a nickname I like (e.g., “The Desert Rose”), it puts me in a good mood when reading that description. And vice versa; if I see something I don’t like I’ll be less forgiving of things in the description. You can use your currently field to create an RP “hook”. For instance, if you put that your character is currently crying, it invites me to walk up and ask what’s wrong.
Some of this is certainly personal preference (e.g., if your character’s nickname is “Badass Mofo”, it will turn me off but it might get you someone you would actually like to RP with), but a fair bit of it is, I think, more objective. Coming up with a good nickname or an RP hook in your currently status might not get me to approach by itself, but it will create a favorable impression for when I do read your MRP description.
So let’s suppose I decide, as I do with most people who have an MRP, to click on your character and then look at your MRP. It’s still not yet time to read the description. Instead, what happens is that the MRP window will open up and your description will be blank. While that loads, I get to look at your roleplaying style, character status, eye color, race, height, weight, and currently status. Here too you can create an impression.
Imagine that you are playing a human avatar. Let’s suppose that for eyes you put “red”, and then for race you put “Draconic”. That gives an impression of your character right off the bat. In my mind, I’m going to think of you as a Mary Sue and move on, and perhaps that’s what you want. But don’t think that it doesn’t give an impression. In my opinion it’s hard to make a favorable impression with your eyes and race but it’s sure possible to turn me off.
More subtly are the height and weight field. In my opinion, your height should be absolute, with the possible exception of when you are playing a human character. The problem with putting “tall” if you’re a race taller than a human is that there is an ambiguity about whether you mean tall as compared to humans or tall as compared to your own race. I have seen night elf females list themselves as tall in their height field but in their description claim to be short for the race. This is not something that’s going to turn me off, but it is going to create a conflicting or ambiguous image of your character and I think you’d want to avoid it. If you don’t know how tall is normal for your race, check.
Weight has a few issues to it, Unlike height, I think you can get away with relative terms like “slender” or “thick” or what have you. There are a couple things here that annoy me, though. First is the word “curvy”, which I see all the time. Curvy is a shape, not a weight, and it could mean all sorts of different things. My suspicion is that you want to avoid ambiguity here. Leave “Curvy” for where you can describe it in more detail. The second thing I see a lot is “*slaps*” or some other term that generally suggests a person saying “How dare you ask a woman her weight?” Well, I’m not asking. I’m looking at you, and in theory you’re trying to describe what I see. If you don’t report back at least some apparent weight, then I’m not going to get an image back. I would say about 7 times out of 10 when I see such a thing I just move on without bothering to read the description, because it’s a sign of a bad roleplayer. Your mileage may vary.
Weight also has an amusing little feature that a few people fall victim to. If you put a number in the weight field without units, it will assume that you’ve meant kilograms. Because most people don’t have a good idea of kilograms, MRP will then helpfully convert that number to pounds for people in the United States. Thus, your skinny human woman of 120 pounds instead becomes an obese 264 pound woman. The fix for this is easy: always use units when describing weight.
So now you’re ready to hear about the description, the meat of the MRP, the thing that supposedly will make me wild with desire to RP with you? Not so fast. While the content of the MRP description is undoubtedly important, it’s the format and not the content that creates an initial impression. Contrast these two MRPs:
Who would you rather RP with? Who is a person who is going to use concise emotes and expressions? Who is a person who is going to type six paragraphs of RP when one would do? Is there an obvious difference between these two MRPs? I certainly think so.
Long, unbroken paragraphs are very hard to read. Short distinct paragraphs are much easier to read, particularly if you might have your attention distracted midway through. Whatever you make your description to be, whether it’s objective, subjective or narrative, organize it into short paragraphs. I’m much more likely to read your description if it is.
So now, finally and hopefully, we move to the description. The thing I want to emphasize is that there is a lot of information I get from your character before I even get to the description. A majority of the time this does not actually prevent me from reading the description, but it does frame the mood I’m in when I start reading the description. An interesting tooltip, proper heights and weights and a well formatted description give you some leeway. A lousy tooltip, skewed weights and a lousy format? You’d better convince me in one or two sentences because that might be all you get, unless I’m in a mood to read descriptions to laugh at them. At that point I’m going to be an ass and nitpick every little mistake you make.
There are three styles of descriptions I’ve seen that work. (There are several I’ve seen that don’t work, but I’ll leave someone else to describe them.) Those styles are what I call “objective”, “subjective”, and “narrative”.
An objective description basically describes what a person sees when he or she looks at your character, with little more information. It’s generally okay to use subjective words when truly objective description would require too many words to describe a look we all know. For instance, it’s okay to write something like “She looks worried about something”, or “She has an alluring smell of wintergreen”. What would not be okay is to describe her personality or specific history. For instance, you wouldn’t want to say “She was born in Stormwind to a noble family seventeen years ago.”
The advantage and appeal of an objective description is that it keeps things “honest”, in that it doesn’t give an onlooker some knowledge he or she wouldn’t have in order to start roleplay. It’s really awkward when someone metagames by bringing in facts he or she couldn’t know, and one way to try to prevent that is to not give him or her those facts in the first place. The disadvantage of such a system is that it’s harder to create hooks for roleplay. Shared conditions can only be implied. All the stories that you’ve created to flesh out your character? Well, you can’t lure an RP partner with them.
I prefer objective descriptions with my own MRPs, simply because I am a firm believer in not giving people metagame information. I don’t want to say that they are the only ones that work, as I’ve seen some fantastic subjective and narrative descriptions, but they appeal to me for my characters.
Like any description, though, you want to start strong. I used to recommend a three section approach (distant view, close view, mannerisms), and that’s okay for an okay MRP. I’m convinced now, though, that you want to lead with something that will draw a person in, something that will be a hook for your RP. Start with the one thing that you believe is most evocative about your character and you want people to ask you about. Do you have a cursed necklace you want people to ask about? Mention it in the first sentence. Tattoos that have a life of their own? First paragraph. Don’t wait until the third paragraph to give a reader the thing you want him or her to ask about, because in a crowded room he or she might not get there.
After you’re done with the hooks, then describe your character in as much detail as you like. One warning: overly long MRPs can take a while to load, and if they don’t load I might assume they’re blank and move on.
A subjective MRP is one that contains elements that an onlooker couldn’t possibly know. One of the most common ways I’ve seen that used is to place your character within a stereotype or archetype that instantly conveys information that would take an objective description several lengthy paragraphs to inform. Instead of describing posture, clothing, facial expressions and so forth in detail, you would say “She is a spoiled rich brat” or “She is a ruffian from Westfall”.
The advantage of the subjective approach is that it allows you to much more easily convey information about your character in a shorter format. By describing things that everyone has a feel for, you avoid talking about details that are inconsequential. The downside of using such a description is that it does tend to make your character look like a stereotype. It also gives someone meta-game information that could creep into and ruin RP.
I’ve never been a fan of subjective descriptions. In my view, to the point you want to describe someone subjectively, put it in their history as “reputation” of your character. But I won’t deny that I’ve seen some fantastic and compelling subjective descriptions.
Typically you will start your subjective description with one of those broad stereotypes. At that point I think you want to give information that serves to flesh out the character and demonstrate, for instance, that your character is not just an urchin from Westfall but this particular urchin from Westfall. Since you’re doing it subjectively, you don’t have to be limited to what a person could actually see. Describe bits of your character’s history that makes him or her unique. Like the objective description, anything that would serve as a hook for RP should be mentioned sooner rather than later. You will still want to use a fair amount of objective description to create an image for your character, though with this style you would not be limited to that.
A narrative description breaks the mold of the description field and instead tells a story about your character. This could be what he or she is doing right now, or it could be something that happens in the past. Ideally the narrative will serve to define your character and contain some sort of physical description along the way. But it is not really a description in the true sense of the word. It is a story.
The big advantage of the narrative form is that it gives people a really good idea of what it might be like to roleplay with you. The downside of describing your character is that it doesn’t give an impression of style, an impression of how you describe actions, or even generally an impression of the kinds of decisions your character would make. Narrative descriptions also can be highly entertaining; it’s easier to make an interesting story than an interesting description. The downsides of the narrative form are that it is unexpected, it doesn’t give a person a real idea of what it is he or she is looking at, and it’s much harder to create a specific hook for RP. I think that’s why most people avoid them, but I do think there’s no better style of description than narrative to get a person to say “Wow, I want to RP with that person.”
Historically I’ve frowned upon narrative descriptions for the reasons mentioned above. After seeing several such descriptions that really knocked my socks off, though, I decided to try it out with Traxy. I don’t play Traxy enough to get good feedback on it, but I think it works for her character.
Everything that would apply to a good story applies to a narrative description. Again, you want to pull people in from the start, either by crafting a strong image or just with something shocking. At that point, you just tell a story in the same sort of way you would create your character’s backstory. You can also simply imagine that you are RPing with some sort of NPC. I don’t think you have to make the narrative about a major life event, and I’m not sure you should. I do think you should make the narrative one that allows your character to display his or her personality. Consider it a showcase for your RP.
Whatever style of description you use, several things hold true. Avoid meaningless adjectives like “beautiful”. Avoid meaningless fluff like “When you look upon Examplar, you see that he is…” Avoid “very”. Make each word of your description count. I will stop reading for many different reasons, but mostly because I have a limited amount of attention to give.
I wish you the best of luck with your RP!