Roleplay basics question

Coming from the TRPG side of the hobby and not the writing, reading, CRPG, educational, activist, etc, sides I need to understand why there are so many rules of inclusion when it comes to gender, romance and ethnicity, but not when it comes to personality, advantages, ideologies, goals, religion, backgrounds, etc? People seem to have no problem with playing a revolutionary pirate with a somewhat shady background, but their sex and romance options must be elective for some reason.

I’ve played a lot of characters during a long life on TRPG, and while many of them have been somewhat close to myself or borrowed parts of my own personality, they have all had big differences to set them apart from myself. In a way that is why I play them. I don’t play myself in a strange land or setting, I play someone else, it is half the fun.

So for me, it wouldn’t be a big deal to get a character presented to me, if that fixed character also came with a better personalized story. Sure it is fun to create a character, out of the blue, or be inspired by some other fictional or real character, or based on a strange bit of lore in the game world or an interesting game mechanic (if that is the focus of the game). But it is in no way necessary. Since it is very hard for the GM/author to present all those options and then actually make them a relevant part of the story.

When it comes to coding or trying to take a myriad of different options into account it seems to get exponentially more complex. Especially if the choice is made in the beginning and then doesn’t change during the story. If the main plot is romantic or sexual or coming to terms with who you are, then it would be very relevant. But if your story is about piracy, why have a choice at the beginning that will decide between X variants of every scene for the rest of the book. Almost every novel ever written could be adapted for a different looking main character, or a main character with a different back ground or ethnicity. But you never see 5 versions of a book or localizations of the setting, just to make it easier for the reader to identify with the MC.

Does Choice mostly have to be, “What would I, as the MC, do?” and not “What do I think that the MC, given the MC’s personality and the MC’s situation, would do and what would make for an interesting choice story-wise?”. I can get invested in many characters, not just the ones that feel very similar to me. And even though I hate Hitler, I wouldn’t be against reading a book about him, or a Choice adventure about him. It might be interesting to be the villain, or get an insight into his mindset and maybe get some understanding of why he did what he did.

It is a common problem in TRPG that people bring way to much of themselves into their characters. In short a medieval knightly tale might turn into A Yankee at King Arthur’s Court. This is of course fine, if every player around the table is on the same page. But most problems with TTRPGs stems from a difference in expectations.

And, yes I do understand that there is a limited amount of inclusive heroic MC for a lot of genres, but so it is for the elderly, the ugly, the handicapped, the fat, the scared, the shy, the stupid, the short, the untalented, the average, etc. In short, heroes tends to follow the current cultural heroic stereotype and we need more alternative fictional heroes, but why focus on just a few of those choices/inequalities and not the rest? And why have the choice instead of encourage whole books that focus on more diverse MC? It seems strange that a whole setting should swap gender norms based on a choice made on page one. It is like asking if you want the MC to be shy and fat at the start, and then, as a result, the whole setting shifts to make shy and fatness the norm, but the story remains pretty much the same anyways. It feels a little odd to me.

Am I worrying too much, before even starting to write?



I’m not entirely sure how many games you have played, but while what you’re saying is true for some of them, it is certainly not true for all of them.

Yes, most games do not let you choose your own backstory, simply due to the sheer amount of work that would take to make it have an impact on the world. This does not, however, mean that the choices you make only impact the romances or give small variations to playthroughs. There are numerous games where your MC has a set past, but can react to events in any number of different ways, shaping their world for better or worse. It is up to the reader to decide the MCs backstory and how they would react to situations, and these reactions and characteristics can vary based on playthroughs.

And yes, while romances are generally a large part of games here, I think that has more to do with reader demand than the purpose of the games themself. There are several romance focused games, just as there are several games without any romances at all. It just comes down to what games you’re playing.

Finally, with regards to the “shifting of norms” based on the players choices such as gender and sexuality, this is also simply an authors choice. Most readers do not want to read about a world in which they are oppressed/discriminated against, when many already face such challenges in the real world. Many people read for escapism, to explore the world the author has created without the restrictions and prejudices they face in the real world. Again, there are many stories where the MC will face discrimination based on what they are like. Perhaps you just haven’t found them yet.

Please tell me if I misunderstood any of your points, this is a fascinating topic and I’m glad you brought it up.

Edited to add: Also, feel free to PM me if you want any recommendations on the types of games I was talking about earlier. It can help to have actual examples from what I’ve found.


CoG promotes inclusivity, so having diverse identity option to pick is practically “mandatory” in their stories. I don’t play much of their games, but if someone is willing to do the crazy counting, how many CoG stories have preset protagonist?


You probably are. What you’re mentioning only applies to CoG catalog. In HG (Hosted Games), writers are free to do what they write, what they want.


Welcome to the forums, Nils! What I’ve found in my experience is that second person perspective inherently leads itself to readers self-inserting themselves into the story, taking story events personally–which is both good and bad.

For good, it’s a shortcut to immersion: “you open the door and feel a cold draft go across your arm”. For bad, as you’ve touched upon, the MC’s personality is muted, making them the least interesting character in the story because the author must account for all readers so as not break this immersion. Because the writer doesn’t have control over the main character’s thoughts (because the reader is the MC), they must either risk putting thoughts into their heads or have a very bland MC indeed!

For me and I think a lot of writers, writing a bland and non-distinctive MC is like raking yourself against the coals. To inject some flavor and personality into the story, a lot of second person perspective writers compensate with having a narrator who may be sarcastic or snarky or whatever. While in my opinion this isn’t a perfect fix, it works for a lot of choicescript stories.

The ultimate “roleplaying” perspective and the one I strongly urge you to consider when writing your first choicescript game is 1st person. When we read a narrative in first person, we’re roleplaying as a character outside of ourselves. And because of that, the author is able to make that character have a strong and distinct personality in addition to being able to write with an interesting tone and biased narration. For me, this is living the dream!

I’m biased myself of course, but I would really enjoy reading other choicescript games written in 1st person with distinct protagonists and narrative tones. I think one criticism among second person stories is that many of them tend to “sound the same” due to their inherent limitations.


Thanks for the clarification it helps. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the long and well thought out answer. I will have to think this through. Perspective does matter and it is the same around a table when role playing. Some refer to their character in third person, others in first person but try to keep in characater and some just say I, as in the player, do this or that or speak in their own voice and not the character’s. It is a preference really, nothing is right or wrong, but trying to set a similar mood at the table helps to manage expectations and keep everyone happy.


Short answer: yes

tldr version of my answer: It is complicated; writing IF is different from any other type of writing

Longer answer:

For the Choice of Games authors and the Heart’s Choice authors, there are in-house styles and requirements that must be met to meet your milestones and eventually be published.

As @Szaal aptly points out, the Hosted Games authors have much more freedom to write as they will, although many choose to adhere to styles and standards set by the other labels.

Gender, preference and romance options are usually very similar in Choice Script games because the expectations of the audience has been shaped over the last decade by what was written before. This means that there is a continuous evolution of those expectations. Some of the earlier games would most likely need to be re-written to meet the expectations of today. This genre of IF gaming has the expectation that these game elements be elective.

This is a decent summation; adding one relevant choice that branches your game can mean adding 50,000 words (without code) to your game. In one of my projects, there are three main branches you can follow in the opening act. To add a fourth, I guesstimate that it would add 70,000 words (assuming I was giving equal screen-time per branch).

Expectations set and the desire to give the audience their desire that “choices matter.” One of the broadest examples of games in the Hosted Game’s catalog are the Zombie Exodus games by @JimD … one of his goals in this game series is to allow the reader’s weapon choice, no matter what it is to matter from start to finish.

When a reader gives him feedback such as: "Gee, I wish I had a samurai sword available to fight zombies, the process of satisfying that reader is much more complicated in a Choice Script game than it is in a table-top game. With the table-top, the GM has the ability to customize the scene being acted out on the fly. Traveler, one of ultimate TRPG table-top games can be very complicated because the GM does not need to write the scene prior to the possibility of it occurring.

Jim, when writing the same combat scene, must figure all the details of that scene out prior to it happening, because once the game is published, that scene can not be altered to fit the immediate needs.

I agree, but it is very hard to execute a villainous path or perspective well. @MultipleChoice executes a villain in his Samurai series very well – but the cost to him for doing so has cost him some of his audience because he has been steadfast in developing this villain.

Something that you are missing in your analysis is the scope of the story being written. A King Arthur legendary macro-orientated story will have different expectations than a micro-orientated Sherlock Holmes murder mystery … both types of genres are presented in Choice Script but the macro-legendary hero story is more popular.

I suspect that is because the familiarity that most have for these stories lend them to the first time writer to feel more comfortable writing. Asking the average writer to identify the Rising Action, the Climax and all the other elements of a story is easier for an Arthurian legendary hero story.

And this brings us full circle once more to expectations set by the publisher and the audience as discussed above.


Thanks Augustus for your thoughts. And any recommendations would be nice. I tend to go with the path of least resistance when choosing my adventures, so it will often be alot of cliché coming of age stories in fantasy/Sci-Fi settings, but I read alot and have room for more experiences.

I can understand that people want the escapism of reading and being reminded of predjudices, discrimination and limitations in your escape might be bad. But then I would rather see stories that focus on over coming those problems, rather than a pretend world where they don’t exist. But even so, that could be a nice what-if scenario in old school sci-fi style. But in CoG seems to want them in all stories. And when they have rules it is only about gender and romantic preferences.

I am old and fat. Those are two inequalities that are in many senses bigger issues than gender or etnicity. And there are probably close to zero main stream heroic fantasy characters, or romantic stories either, that fits those two inclusively. And there are many other unequal groups. So why rules for a few, why not encourage a broader range of MC’s in general? And if it is just included as a formality, it might seem superficial. And if the author tries to make something out of it, it might come forth as cringy and off. Write what you know, and all that.

But it might be that the rules reflects the interests of the readers and romance seems to be a big part of many stories on CoG. And what people want to read about. So maybe it is all good. And as previously stated if the story doesn’t fit CoG in the end, there are other ways.

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Yes I do, at least in my book (hopefully finished some day this year)
I’m not easily offended so my viewpoint to create tension, drama, or part of the story and personalities in itself is based on what the human being behavior has shown us, good and bad things of course.

Although what I’m writing is gender locked sometimes I still struggle on putting a voice on the character vs give some freedom to the reader to choose, specially with the interaction between characters, I’m not much of a social person so it is one of my weakness to write about that.

I kind of thought the same at some point, on how to make the character fit on any viewpoint but I couldn’t see how to do it properly, instead I tried to make a character with a fix background that shaped the personality and based on a well known base I moved forward from there. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but I think you can’t please them all (at least not if you don’t write a few million words to account for all the possible stances properly written), so you’ll have to decide if a neutral character with wide spectrum is what your story needs or a decided and fix personality that has a predisposition towards certain range. Each one has pro and cons, each one would be loved and hated, but which one do you want to write and how comfortable are you doing it I think is more important, that way you’ll be able to impregnate your story on a “better” way.


Thanks Eiwynn, for addressing all my questions so thoroughly.

And it comes down to expectations, the number one problem in TRPG as well. Never thought of it, in the same terms with IF-stories. Of course there is an existing expectation relationship between an author and the reader even before they have formally met in a book. It is a good way of thinking about it. Going too far away from the expected is just as bad as staying too close to the clichés I guess. And the IF-stories have been around since I was a kid and have developed just as much as TRPG in general. Thanks for the well thought out answer.


Loudbeat you are definitely right, there is a story for each focus and most likely one should make sure the choices match the focus of the story. You want your gamy elements to promote your story, not detract from it or even worse derail it.

There is a lot of things to consider when switching medium for your stories.

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Generally, gender and orientation are more personal and have more real-world implications. If you say the PC must be a pirate, no one will assume that you believe everyone should be a pirate. None of your readers are actually a shady pirate, and therefore anything you say about shady pirates is very unlikely to be taken personally. However if you say the PC must be a certain gender or a certain orientation, it will be taken as you saying that certain people are more worthy of having their stories told.


Hi! I agree wholeheartedly that fixed character stories are dismissed too easily by the CoG-HG audience. Plenty of other people have lamented similarly about this. But all that being said, I would do it at your own risk. Fixed protags are poison here. It’s not impossible to have a story succeed with it, but it is a whole lot less likely. I know for my first story (which has earned less than a tenth the income of my second one despite being out over a year longer), the fact that the two selectable main characters had established names and personalities was absolutely the most-mentioned issue in negative reviews or forum comments. A lot of people feel that if there’s no ability to self-insert, it isn’t really a proper Choice game at all. And whether or not you agree, you ignore that at your peril. If you’re writing for fun, do what you want. If you’re writing to achieve some level of commercial or critical success, best to make like an old-school AIM chatter and ask those readers “A/S/L?”


Scribblesome, no you are not. Just because I write a story about eskimoes doesn’t mean that I say that [input any etnicity] is less worthy of a story. One could possible argue that was the case if I let people choose their etnicity, accepted 10 choices and then do nothing with those choices. One could then argue that I don’t think the omitted ones are as important, because it would have cost me little time to include an 11th and 12th choice too.

But as soon as I invest time in the choices, spend words on them to make those choices matter in the story, you can’t expect the author to cover all the bases. You can thank them if they did cover alot of them, or covered yours specifically, or covered alot of different non cliché ones, but you can’t expect it.

The only explanation that I can see is that readers of CoG might expect some of the diversity covered, but not in general. If they expect it in general and feel that the author left their sub group out of the equation on purpose to snub them, they have way too high expectations of people. Otherwise you have to expect so many different things for diveristy’s sake that it becomes impossible. And sometimes the average reader will actually be put off by it, especially if the story suffers. You need a good mix of clichés and novelty.

But for sure it is something to think about in every story. Can it be included with not too much work? Can one change a few characters, situations, names, descriptions to make the story more inclusive without the story suffering and feeling contrived? Then one should do it, it might make the story better for some readers, increase the audience and increase the rereadability/replayability for many. It is a complex issue, especially in the context of IF-stories that are complex to begin with, writing not being the easiest thing in the world (especially for us that are not native english speakers) and now also have to be coded. It is an undertaking for sure. :slight_smile:

But I am all fine with CoG focusing on some of the more common inequalities. But even then, there will be people that fall just outside their inclusiveness that will complain and feel purposedly left out. I think it is better to manage expectations instead. But it is a difficult balancing act. But inclusiveness is always a good goal.


You may have misunderstood my tone - I wasn’t saying that this would be your intention, only that some people will make assumptions along those lines as it’s a more personal topic for them. That’s why people get more concerned about a lack of options for things like gender, etc, than a lack of options for job or other aspects of a fixed character.


Sorry Scribblesome if I came off as adversarial, but it is a little bit of a pet peeve of mine. I am from Sweden and inclusivity and gender issues had been a hot topic here for a long time. And many feel it has gone too far in some areas, not far enough in others or some version of equality only recognize certain approved ones. We even have a political party based on feminism as some sort of all encompassing political ideology, which is a tad strange. And there is a big discrepancy in both language and expectations between these semi professional feminists, common people in Sweden that are quite progressive and the old conservatives. But let’s stay away from politics, unless it is the topic of a specific story. :slight_smile:


I am currently working on a game that specifically focuses on roleplay as opposed to self-insert characters. As has been said, it is generally not well-received in the general population, but in my opinion, that’s not necessarily a reason not to do it. There is a lot that still can be done with choice script, and I do believe there is some audience for every type of game, and it is only by people being willing to try new things with the genre and language that new gameplay conventions will arise.

Make the game you want and make something you’re proud of. Make the kinds of games you want to play, and let them find their audience.


I also had thought that an IF game can be besides the (insert player sex aspect and traits) and play, it should be fun too like if you could read a book kind of like the lord of the rings (example just for ease of use) and choose the actions some of the characters make, in this case the characters are fix in most of the traits, with a distinctive background and all that, and you decide for them.
Obviously it could shorten the range of options, but the thing here is that you are interpreting a character, not being the character. It still is roleplay, could it be one of the best games? maybe, maybe not, as I said, we all like different things, but that aplyes to the writer too, so if you want to write it that way no one should tell you that you can’t.


Interesting Tangerine. How will you manage this aspect of your game. Will you limit the choices to choices that character would make, or will give some sort of reward if the player stays true to the character’s established personality, or will you mostly focus on the narrative being based on the specific character so the story will read more like a novel with very personalized content, since you basically have only one background, personality and set of circumstances to take into account?

I don’t see a problem with interpreting a character as a player, compared to inserting my complete made up character. It is more like theater, you get your part and you act it out your way, but instead of specific actions and lines in every scene and a very linear script and story, you can really make it yours. I think that gives you alot of freedom. And you could get away from the “what would I do in that situation”, to “what would I do if I were the author or the actor playing out that character on stage”.

Sometimes you want to escape not only your real life for a moment, but yourself too.

But I can see that this might not be as popular or popularity will depend on the MC as written, as much as the story itself. Personally I like to tinker a bit with all aspects of a character for a TRPG to make it mine, so to speak. But to get the reader to invest in the MC, it might be enough to chose fairly superficial attributes, instead of bringing in a complete set of values, morals, personality, background, looks, expectations that doesn’t necessarily fit the story to come. The best characters are made together with the GM and the other players, so it all fits together and fits the theme with plenty of story hooks built in.

Presenting the reader with a handful of meaningful choices might be harder if you don’t even know who the protagonist really is and when the obvious choice for the reader is missing immersion will be lost. Just as it is possible to lose immersion because you can’t identify with the MC.


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