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The applications we will cover are Traditional Application Freeform Application Shipper Application No Application Before we get into the nitty gritty, let us consider what an application at it's most basic, is. An application serves to gate your community. It is about restricting what kind of members you will accept onto your site and it implies that you have a standard you have set that you expect people to meet. People who do not meet your standards are rejected or pended with the hopes that they will lift or change their standards to meet yours. You might for example have expectations surrounding Understanding of site lore (familiarity with canon for fandom forums and how it diverges on your site for example). Ability to communicate, that is, read and write. Familiarity with play by post roleplay mechanics. Some admins do not want to introduce people to roleplay! Ability to develop a character without first roleplaying them. If someone meets your standards in an application, you would then accept them and welcome them into your roleplay. It is worth noting however, that this process is not fool proof. Writing an application is a different skill set to outright roleplay, and it is easy to write an application in such a way as to hide (or simply not mention) game breaking abilities. I have noticed that a number of administrators feel that just because a member has been accepted via application, it means that you can not ask that member to make changes to their character. You can. If a character turns out to be game breaking you can politely approach the player to make changes. Your other members will probably thank you because they wont be having fun either! No Application On the flip side are no application sites. A no application site is not a place of chaos, nor is it a place with no standards. Admins of no application sites will still pull players up for game breaking, or for writing illegible posts. To paint a fun picture: An application site can be thought of as a paddock surrounded by a fence. There is one gate and the admin will be standing there, assessing each person before they're let in. A good admin will continue to observe the people in their paddock for unsavoury behaviour, and will throw those people over the fence should they prove obstinate. A no application site can be thought of as an open paddock where the admin keeps an eye on everyone who enters the paddock. If someone is being unsavoury, that person gets tossed out too. A good no application site will still make their expectations clear. Their informational topics will cover if there is a minimum standard expected from a member's writing, if they're strict about third person and past tense and (in the case where experience in roleplay is not expected) will warn players against the three sins of roleplay: power playing, meta gaming and god modding. You might choose to run a no application site for the following reasons: You're confident in your ability to identify issues with characters as they arise and are able to address them. You do not feel that an application is an efficient use of your time. Ie. That the application process does not pick up enough bad eggs to warrant the amount of time spent on approving and pending applications. You want to provide an environment friendly to people who develop their characters through play. You want to get people into play as soon as possible. The Advantages of No App There is no barrier to roleplay, players can jump straight into the good stuff. Players whose creative process does not involve creating a detailed fully formed character without writing them, are not penalised. Furthermore, players who do prefer to create a character from the ground up before writing them can simply do so. There's nothing stopping them from following their own process. There is no pressure on staff to accept new players as soon as possible. (Accepting sooner rather than later is advantageous because you're striking as soon as the iron is hot. That is, capitalising on the initial urge that made a player sign up.) Allows the creation of minor characters, assuming that the no app site also has activity expectations that is minor character friendly. The Disadvantages of No App Players in this section of the roleplay world have been groomed to go through an application process. Erroneous statements about no application sites being chaotic and messy abounds. As an administrator of a No App site, you need to combat that misconception. You can do that with a robust beginner's guide. Because of the above, players may find it difficult to find character information (make sure you do include a place for information to be written! A place might be your character profile or the plotter). Again, a robust beginner's guide can help people find that information. Some administrators prefer simply having the peace of mind that comes with knowing what each character is about. A no application site does not provide that. Some administrators prefer that character information be laid out in a uniform manner. A no application site may not satisfy their need for uniformity. It can however, do so, if you effectively utilise custom profile fields! Traditional Application As stated earlier, an application serves to gate the community by creating a point in which an administrator assess each person and their characters for suitability. This is most commonly done through the traditional application. The traditional application is a form containing fields for the user to fill out. Examples of what those fields might be include: Character name Age Alias/nicknames Birthday Gender Occupation Birth place Face claim (if the site uses them) General appearance Clothing (can be for historical accuracy reasons, or to help other writer's visualise the character without needing the character's writer to keep on rehashing the norm) Personality Family connections History Skills/powers (weapons, magical, talents, etc) Species Sexuality Height Weight And so on. Some traditional applications might also include some fields for the player to fill out. These fields are typically: Player name Timezone/country Age Gender Roleplay limits Some traditional applications are long and involved. Some might be nice and short. Some may include silly (and fun!) little fields like astrological sign or MBTI type. What you include depends entirely on your site and what you want to be able to assess. The length and depth of the application is also reliant on what you require in order to ensure that you have all the information you need to make an informed decision on who to approve or who to deny or pend. You might choose to have a traditional application for the following reasons: You like to know exactly what kind of character is entering play. You prefer to cater to players who can create characters without playing them first. You like to be confident in the knowledge that the player has a good knowledge of your site setting. You are not afraid to pull up players for game breaking characters that may slip through your application process. The Advantages of Traditional Applications Traditional Applications are typically used throughout this section of the roleplay world. Whilst you should never do something just because everyone else does, you should consider whether or not doing something differently is worth the effort you need to put into changing user behaviour. You know exactly what kind of character is entering play. This of course, does not apply to people who write misleading applications or who lied in their applications. You are assured that the player is familiar with your site's world and has integrated their character into that world. Some players prefer to have a process in place as they are reassured that the character they have in mind is more than likely, a great fit for the site. The Disadvantages of Traditional Applications You create a barrier for members and slow down the transition from guest to engaged and active member. It is commonly understood that good web design involves a low barrier to entry, the greater the barrier, the less members you engage. (This may be the point for you, however!) You create an extra work load for staff. Life happens to everyone, even staff. If life has happened to staff, the application process can be slowed down or the stress that might already be on your mind can be heightened. Your site will not be inviting to people who find that their best characters are developed through writing. If your applications can not be amended or appended, then they become out of date. Characters grow and change! I encourage all administrators to consider providing a place for players to append their character application to keep track of those changes or to ensure that their application remains accurate. Unless your site has a system in place, people are discouraged from writing minor characters to either assist someone else's plot, or their own. Freeform Application A freeform application is just as it suggests, a place where the player can communicate whatever they want about their character in any way that they desire. It encourages a creative approach to the application and their approach might suggest more about the character than might be communicated through a traditional application. Players can also simply include what information they feel is important about their character, ignoring whatever is unimportant or irrelevant. A player might choose to approach a free form application in the following ways: Through a more traditional application. Information is laid out in dot points or under headings. By writing prose about the character's pertinent history. This may not be indepth! But should include a major and pertinent event. Through an interview, with questions being asked and the character answering in their own voice (and hopefully lies are noted!) Through poetry! A stream consciousness in the character's voice. And so on. The limitation here is only the player's imagination. I personally view freeform applications as a softer version of the traditional application, where characters may not be as fully developed as a traditional application requires, but an admin can still see that the thought is there and that the player does understand the lore of a site. You might want to run a freeform application site because: You still want the assurances that an application provides, but do not require as much detail as a traditional application might typically require. You might also relish the idea of allowing your potential members to stretch their creative juices. And you are content with allowing members to provide as much or as little information as required. You are not afraid to pull up players for game breaking characters, even after they have been approved. The Advantages of Freeform Applications You have a good idea of what kind of character is entering play. This of course, does not apply to people who write misleading applications or who lied in their applications. You are assured that the player is familiar with your site's world and has integrated their character into that world. Some players prefer to have a process in place as they are reassured that the character they have in mind is more than likely, a great fit for the site. You are a bit more friendlier towards players that create their characters through play, assuming that your freeform application does allow for shorter applications! Some players enjoy the creative freedom that Freeform Apps provide. The Disadvantages of Freeform Applications Some people think that freeform applications typically do not provide useful information about the character because they are so esoteric. You need to take steps to ensure that the freeform applications do supply some information about the character. You can do that by making it clear what information you do want from the application, or by encouraging users to provide dot point information if they write esoteric apps. When provided with total freedom, some people freeze up and don't know what to write. You can address this by containing some examples of what a player can do. Or by providing different templates. If your applications can not be amended or appended, then they become out of date. Characters grow and change! I encourage all administrators to consider providing a place for players to append their character application to keep track of those changes or to ensure that their application remains accurate. You create a barrier for members and slow down the transition from guest to engaged and active member. It is commonly understood that good web design involves a low barrier to entry, the greater the barrier, the less members you engage. (This may be the point for you, however!) You create an extra work load for staff. Life happens to everyone, even staff. If life has happened to staff, the application process can be slowed down or the stress that might already be on your mind can be heightened. Shipper Applications Shipper Applications are the hybrids of the application world and have gotten some bad press because of their name. A shipper application is essentially a traditional/freeform application rolled into a plotter. However, because of their name, there is a misunderstanding out there that shipper app sites are focused on 'shipping' that is, the romantic relationships between characters. This is not necessarily true and if this type of application does ultimately appeal to you, you might consider rebranding your application as a plotter app. On a shipper application site, a member creates their application using the form you supply. Your shipper application might include the following: Any of the things a traditional app might include. A freeform section, or only a freeform section. An "about" or an introduction to the character for the purposes of roleplay. A relationships section: lovers/enemies/friends. These sections would typically include what you're looking for or what kinds of things presses the characters good and bad buttons. Other relationships section: this would typically include information where different characters might know this character. For example, work place, school, neighbourhood. Plot points or plot hooks: these are things that the player is looking for. Or ideas for other players to run with. Once the player has submitted their form, the administrator will typically move the form (thread) into a new forum. You might choose to use a shipper application for all the same reasons you might select a traditional or freeform application. In addition, you might have a shipper application in order to give members just one thing to fill in, removing one step to roleplay. In addition, to choose a shipper app, you probably should still feel that they're relevant! The Advantages of Shipper Apps In addition to the advantages outlined in traditional and freeform apps: Users do everything they need to do to get started in one hit. The layout of shipper apps typically provide prompts for plotters, which can make writing the plotter easier for some! The Disadvantage of Shipper Apps I mentioned earlier that they can be misinterpreted as being unduly focused on relationships, but also: Some players feel that plotters are redundant or useless. This seems to be particularly true of sites that utilise discord. All the other disadvantages that come with traditional or freeform applications! As an admin, it is up to you to select the kind of application (or no application!) that works best for you and the kind of community you want to build. I wanted to touch on one more aspect of applications however: The Medium! Traditionally in this section of the roleplay world, applications have been through threads. The admin provides the user with a template that they copy and paste, and then fill in details. This isn't the only way to do an application: An Actual Form Depending on your software, you may be able to use an actual form for your application. For example, if you were an IPS user, you might use character mod. A myBB user might use the Form Creator extension. An SMF user would simply use the Arceus' Character Manager Mod. Profiles Profiles, no matter the software, contain custom profile fields. As an admin, you can simply use these fields to create an application that is visible through the profile! No more needing to hunt down the application, you just click on the character's profile and have the information there.