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The Red Flags of a Failed RP

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The other day, I ran across the idea that there are distinct but subtle warning signs that an RP will fail. That members can intuit something amiss and know the RP is doomed, even before the RP has begun to spiral into failure. I believe it was worded as "people can smell death on a site, and it goes beyond the wording of rules or the skin's aesthetics." While I think the death throes of a failing RP are pretty obvious to any observer, I feel like there are less obvious but still very noticeable red flags of a doomed RP. Lil' details that can reliably warn a prospective player that the RP is not likely to last very long, if at all, even before the RP has fully launched. An' I'mma stress the point that these red flags are present even before the RP has started. That there is something fatally flawed in the most fundamental foundation of the site that members can pick up on.


I've definitely "smelled death" on sites before, but I find articulating exactly what I was sniffing out to be surprisingly difficult. I have a small list of forums that I occasionally check in on because I'm curious to see if my intuition was correct, and so far...yeah, they have failed before even getting off the ground. A couple of them are in their second or third incarnations and have never seen more than two members despite advertising. Part of me thinks people like me - the lurkers that are wary of joining a site until it has "proven" itself to be worthwhile, thus potentially depriving the site of the first vital members it needs to get going - are a less-than-insignificant part of the problem, but then I remind myself that these sites failed to entice me to join...so they are already failing on their own merit.


What "smells of death" on a site to me, I think, is:

  • A less than enthusiastic tone to the RP's documents. Be that a passive aggressiveness, a weariness, an overly joking tone as if compensating for hidden negativity, or...the type of tone that you can tell the admin is expecting issues. That the admin is overly concerned with stamping out problems before they arise and so you're left with a feeling that the admin will be scrutinizing every interaction on site, potentially creating issues out of non-issues by reading into things too far.
  • The admin has an equally less than enthusiastic approach to their admin duties. Not a lack of expressing enthusiasm, but an abundance of expressing...weariness, annoyance, dislike, whathaveyou. Little makes me think a site is going to be dead in three months, tops, more than a site run by an admin who appears to have no love for their own RP. Especially if that admin is not posting IC... But I think this may be more of a death throe of a failing site than a pre-launch indication that the site won't, or can't, succeed.
  • Although I think any RP can succeed if given lots of love from its creator, regardless of genre or over-saturation of RPs of its type... Something about some sites of very popular genres feel "copy and paste" in the worst way. As if the admin did not put any thought into how the RP should be run, how the rules should be written and what should be included, how to make the setting fresh n' fun, etc...but instead made the site a certain way because that is just what RPs of this genre are. Blindly adhering to tradition without thinking about the hows or whys or if that tradition can be improved upon. A staleness. Or just a...weirdness... ...Like having a play-by section on an animal RP. I have no idea why there needs to be play-by claims on an RP populating solely by wolves, but I've seen it more than once... I can only imagine such an odd detail was included on a muscle-memory impulse of "all RPs have play-bys, they just do."


What do you guys think? Do you see red flags that an RP will fail, even before it has attempted to succeed? What are those warning signs?




Edited by Kajes
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In this thread, I've learned all my roleplays are dead and I just don't want to admit it. 

Usually when I can see that the site was created in a day or less. No offense to people who get things done quickly—I just haven’t seen many of these sites take off. I think they’re impulse creations

What I've found is that you definitely need to have a core group of writers. Whether that's two people or five people, if a site doesn't have its core, it won't be successful. 

There's 70 staff and no members.

It's just too niche. 


The admin immediately vanishes within days of the board opening.


The chat is nothing but the admin saying "hello guests!" For days. Post updates there if nothing else.


Admin have "forever reserves" even though everyone else has a time limit.


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15 hours ago, Uaithne said:

- They're still using the default skin/theme.


- They're not using the default skin/theme, but they've done a poor job adapting the one they're using to their site.  Colors are mis-matched, or the skin doesn't really "fit" the board.


- Post templates are mis-matched.


- Spelling mistakes.


- The plot has no redeeming qualities in it.  There's nothing that makes it different from the next site over.


- The plot relies on "...with a twist!" too much.  Often the twist isn't really interesting or it's so far-fetched that it doesn't make sense.  "Real life . . . with a twist!  Here's Boringsville, Utah where one guy was murdered like 2 weeks ago and no one knows who the murder is.  But there's like 10,000 people in this town and nobody normally ever gets murdered.  And somehow your random real life characters are supposed to know and/or care and/or have some connection to this event, but we're not going to help you figure out how unless you take one of these 27 generic pre-made characters for the staff to drool over.  And that's it.  Have fun."


(Okay, I got a bit carried away.)

I think I legit stumbled on this exact board a while back. 

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-Admins who think that because they created the rules, none of said rules apply to them.


-A godawful skin that's hard to navigate/find important things, hard to read on, is image-filled and has very slow loading times, and has mismatched templates? Oh boy.


-Spelling/punctiation/grammar mistakes everywhere, and rules that contradict themselves.

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-Staff that doesn't know their own lore/has to check on what seem like obvious questions


-Changing lore, plot, or rules to suit members (obviously with the exception of a type of world that allows players to expand on species)


-Staff that never posts replies (especially when they talk about needing to or wanting to daily).

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  • Admins never posting. 
  • Admins complaining in the cbox about members not posting. (And not posting themselves.)
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Active, fun, established 2008! Come join us. 
Aeterna Roma


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Honestly, since I've come from a much simpler/more old school roleplaying background, the visual thing (standard skin vs fancy one) doesn't mean anything to me when it comes to how I think of a roleplay. My own sites usually keep the standard one because I can't code, and I've rather have a slightly modified basic skin that works. I know that's not for everyone. But honestly, as long as the skin doesn't take 30 minutes to load and I can find what I need, I personally don't care.


What makes me feel that a site smells of death is one of two things:


1- You can't find the person who created the site anywhere (and they didn't pass it down, they just vanished), or if you can, they're not roleplaying at all;

2- Staff is always complaining about something (nobody is posting, this or that is happening, etc), and not doing anything to actually change it.


Honestly, as far as I'm concern, I look to the behavior of staff to tell if a site will or will not die. I know I've let one of my own sites die exactly because I, as creator and sole staff member, wasn't happy with it anymore, and just being there felt like a chore. I believe as long as the person/people who created the site still want it, it will last, even if they're roleplaying with one other person who still loves the story.

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Shady McShaderson

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36 minutes ago, Deep Sea said:

In this thread, I've learned all my roleplays are dead and I just don't want to admit it. 

Just keep stubbornly pushing, and it'll get there through perseverance and the Blessing of the Underdog ❤️  

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- Lots of things on the site that are incomplete but the site is 'open.'


- No in character threads at all.


- There is only one complete character profile on the board, and that happens to be the admin's. They don't even have another character of their own to interact their characters together with.


- Lots of negative stuff in the c-boxes, usually the admin complaining about things, though it can be others doing it.

Edited by Icewolf
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Most of the red flags that I look for are already said, but one of my big ones is seeing admins repeatedly complaining or moaning about their board/members in a public space outside of their board. I want to stress the repetitive aspect of this, as in, the only time that you ever see this hypothetical admin posting about their board it's only to complain about it. This also excludes people asking for help with issues in public spaces. It's just the whining, Negative Nancy type posts that are incessant that really give me the "My board's closure is imminent" vibe because seriously, if they're that miserable then they're not likely to be sticking with their board for very long.

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Guest pyrite

Hmmm sometimes I'm not sure if it is the stench of death that I receive, but most certainly there's a gut feeling where I know I should not be on the site or if I'm on the site I should cut my losses. The things I have seen would include:

  • Staff not knowing site rules, site plot, and other important site information. Big red flag if the admins ask or demand a member change something that is properly within the rules, I mean no gray area here, without any special requirements. Double flag for inconsistent enforcement of rules. (Although this usually accompanies the aforementioned issues)
  • Staff hoarding all important canon characters. Always.  Clarifying, I mean continuous hoarding so that staff retains all power on the forum. Every group. Every faction. That sort of thing.
  • A weird one, light v. dark v. neutral role plays, when the factions are not defined. It took me a good long while to stumble upon excellent alignment guides that held my hand through each sect of character alignment. The animal light/dark/neutral role plays I used to belong to didn't have guides or outlines for the faction's behavior, causing the factions to be gross extremes of one another. Neutral tended to suffer the most,  with some characters being one step below the extremes or really one or the other faction without a proper initiation.
  • Sites that turn down every single new member...but they also advertise everywhere.


Insert teenage me trying to role play a neutral character. Well, he's not obsessed with killing, death, or any other debauchery but he's also not about every single law and enforcing it, blindly following one leader or god. Heh, I guess I'll go with neutral.


Double note that a lot of what I've seen is 7+ years old XD so not as up to date.

I also agree with a lot of comments here!


@Mord Proxy --- Yes. I second, third, and everything your post. Yes. I've also found this to be a critical clue.

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