Whew. Okay, that's most of the theory out of the way. Before I get into specific examples, I just want to say a quick word about "Meta-RP" skills. These skills don't relate directly to the play itself, but still have enormous impact on the quality of RP you experience. "Meta-RP" roughly translates to "above RP" or "outside RP." In other words, these are OOC/interpersonal skills that relate to the roleplaying. Much of meta-RP concerns your general attitude and approach to RP, as opposed to specific rules governing what you do in play. Sadly, this area is frequently neglected and almost never discussed. If you want to be pretentious, these are just darn important life skills to have anyway, but it's especially important that you be able to apply these skills to RP. If no one is good at these things, the RP community will stagnate, and not a lot of actual playing will get done. I will list a few briefly.
There are many specific things you can do to help out, depending on the situation. Sometimes this will mean taking on the role of a baddy and starting shit. Sometimes this will mean letting your character die, be abducted or otherwise suffer inconvenience. Very often this will mean doing something that isn't immediately gratifying or awe inspiringly amazing. For instance, going into a room you don't normally RP in instead of sitting around writing forum posts, playing with people you'd normally never play with, letting your storyline simmer in the background or go in a different direction, playing a "bit" part because your normal character just wont fit in or doesn't work as the center of action, being willing to jump into an RP even when it isn't "yours," being willing to allow people into "your" RP even when they haven't been invited are all valid and helpful contributions. The way to a lively and active RP community is paved through small, "invisible" contributions, not ego gratifying strokes of bold leadership and cunning plans.
You need to develop your recognition factors in terms of what helps when, and an attitude that says "sure, I'll pitch in" no matter what. This can feel an awful lot like hard work at times. If you are serious about RP, and want to see your RP community thrive, you will be willing to roll up your sleeves and jump into the fray. It is essential that you understand that freeform RP is not about any one person or even group of people. Freeform RP is about everyone - the "goal" if you can use such a word is for everyone to enjoy themselves, and hopefully for interesting stories full of unexpected twists and turns to be crafted in the process.
Article text ©2004 Chris Wyman. Redistribution is permitted provided this notice is retained. All other rights are reserved.