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Asking on behalf of a friend. She writes:

One of my first experiences with text-based roleplaying was on an anime AU (alternate universe) forum. While they accepted people with all levels of literacy, there was always a subtle drive to improve. You could get a stronger character by putting more effort into your application, and threads were graded on quality as well as quantity of writing. Later on, there were bonuses for writing story arcs, which got more difficult to get with each one you earned. There was a flexible mechanics system that gave people a sense of progression.

What ended up happening is that amazing people wrote there. Like, people who could have conceivably written books (that I'd have happily devoured). Its where I developed most of my skills as a writer.

I've never found a place like that again. Every time I have to move to a new forum, it's harder to find one, as if forum roleplays in general are in decline. Are they? Where have all those literate, character-development-driven writers have gone? I see that Discord is more popular these days, but I feel that Discord is pretty weak for multi-paragraph roleplaying within a larger world.

So, my question is two-fold. What, if anything, happened to forum-based roleplaying, and where are the people who used to write there?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Apr 21 at 20:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @rptb1 Please see this meta for why your comment was removed. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 6 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I gave a partial answer, describing where I've found some completely free-form roleplaying forums, but I don't know of anything that has actual rules, like the OP describes. Does anyone have anything to add about that? (added this as a separate comment to avoid making an answer-that's-a-question.) \$\endgroup\$ – A. B. May 25 at 20:58
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This is likely part of a general trend towards reduced use of words and increased use of other media (sound, visuals, etc.).

Before there were forums, there were BBS and FIDOnet and Usenet, which were largely pure text-based communication platforms. MUDs and MUSHs date from that era.

Forums were actually the first step towards reduced text amounts. I've noticed when forums became more popular than messaging boards, that the text amounts decreased. Possibly caused by the fact that whatever you were answering to was already immediately available (there was also a long fight against the now-sadly-common answer-first-fullquote-below style of messages).

This trend apparently continues and after Facebook and its like already shortened written text to status updates and comments, Twitter managed to enforce a very low artificial message limit.

Within that general trend, gamers followed the flow. I created a surprisingly successful online game almost 20 years ago where players created long histories of realms and dynasties. Both in the same game today and in its successor that was launched about 5 years ago, there is a strong trend towards being less verbose.

So where are these forums today? Gone. They have closed down or evolved into something else. I myself started work on a cooperative storytelling platform some years ago, and after reviewing the alternatives already in existence stopped my efforts because I don't think it would find enough users anymore. Meanwhile, I'm sure a Twitter-like "continue this story in three sentences or less" thing would be successful (but I have zero interest in that).

The writers that used to spend extensive amounts of time on character-development and writing as a hobby have grown up, gotten jobs and kids and disappeared from the hobby, at least from what I see in my games and circles. The new generation of players has a different approach, uses less prose, leaves more to the imagination and is in general shorter and faster in its communications.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting, experience-based analysis. Sincerely, thank you for sharing. Consider updating your profile to include a link to your online game. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 6 at 13:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an excellent answers, but there are a couple of ways it could be improved. First, twitter's limit was originally not completely artificial since it was structured around the idea of posting with SMS and twitters limit was based on that limit slightly reduced to allow for metadata. Second, while rarer than before, there are some places that do at least come close to what the OP is talking about. RPOL.net comes to mind, and while not the same as the forums from the past it is similar. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman May 6 at 15:16
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They're there all right.

Now, this question surprises me, because I'm drowning in the things.

In general, I tend not to find them as stand-alone sites, but as adjuncts to something else - although in some cases they grow to be bigger than all the rest of the something else.

A few examples from my own experience:

Star Trek Online has an official forum, mainly for discussing gameplay and strategy, and there are a few long-running roleplaying threads there. The real action there, though, is with the guilds (fleets) - many of the bigger ones in the game have their own websites, and most of those sites have busy roleplaying forums.

The browser game Renaissance Kingdoms has a strange split personality - there's an extensive roleplaying forum, and some of the players think that the forum is almost the entire point of the game, while others just play the browser game and happily ignore the forum altogether.

On DeviantArt.com, roleplaying games spring up like mushrooms, some drawing-based, some plain text and some some mixture of the two. However, they tend to disappear just as quickly after a while, when players get bored or the younger members find the pressure of homework getting too much. (By the way, despite its annoyingly arch name, DeviantArt is just a "show off your artwork" site, and is not MEANT to be in any way fetish-related. Although there are a few of those, and nobody seems to be able to stop them.)

But with rules?

What I'm surprised by is your friend's description of "grading" threads, "mechanics", "bonuses" for writing story arcs meeting certain criteria, etc., as if they were playing it with some kind of rules. I don't remember ever seeing that. All role-playing forums I ever remember visiting are entirely free-form and any questions about the aim of the game, what to do, etc., are met with a dazzling, vague smile and "Whatever you like!" Some seem to like this. To me, it translates as "There will be NO rewards, NO feedback, and whatever you write, you'll never know whether it was good or bad, or whether it did the job, or indeed what job anyone wanted it to do", and for me that's a recipe for complete despondency. I'd really love to find a forum role-play/writing game with rules and points, but I've never seen one.

(In Renaissance Kingdoms there's what might be a relic of such a thing, an in-game system of 7 "role-play levels", separate from the main game levels, and to gain these you have to meet certain requirements e.g. "have kept a role-playing thread going for at least a month in such and such a section". Most players who've been there any length of time are level 7, though, and there's not anything after that.)

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