Today we are talking about using off-screen, what that means and how to do it. Now anyone that roleplay’s already does use off-screen, they just might not be fully aware of it for what it is or fully understanding the range of use it can have in MMO’s and roleplay settings, but they use it. I hate claiming there is a right or wrong way to do anything but below I have gathered some advice on how I think off-screen can be best used and some times when it should not be used.
What is off-screen.
Off-screen is what happens when you are not logged into your character. When you are sleeping or working or doing whatever it is you do in your real life. Your character in their own story and setting doesn’t cease to exist while you are logged out, so the mostly commonly used and logical answer is that while they are logged off they are sleeping. Most people do that without even thinking about it. But when you think about it you can use it perhaps more fruitfully.
There are some things that you really shouldn’t leave to happen off-screen, which might sound odd, but bear with me here. If something is important to your characters development, you shouldn’t let it happen off-screen, or if it is important to the development of any other characters within the scene. When the outcome of the event might alter your character, how they think, act and perceive the world around them and how the react and interact with other people you should keep it in-screen for two reasons.
The first is so that you can step through that change step by step and adjust as it comes naturally and ergo have a much better grasp of exactly how it affects your character and what their thinking is and why, it also keeps you aware of them, where they are at in their head-space and how they deal with things, where as if you let it happen off-screen you might find you are not sure of exactly how they would react or exactly why and that vagueness might create a distance between you and your character that will have you growing away from them and not feeling them as clearly and strongly anymore.
Secondly is respectful, particularly if there are more players in the scene or more players that might be affected by the changes it will bring to your character. That is to say even if it is something that is happening only to your character it might be best to keep it on-screen because unless you RP entirely to yourself those changes will affect everyone else you RP with. It’s respectful to those characters to let them be aware and have an input on such things as and when their own characters might. That is to say if you off-screen a certain event for your character that leaves them coming back super talented or super-injured you might find that winding people up, because it changes the dynamic for everyone and they did not get any say or ability to affect or react to that outcome. It runs a line close to god-moted which we will talk about another time, where you play god and decide on an outcome and have it happen without any tangle in-game effort as it were. As extreme example, to make a point, but I’m sure you can see the idea and how it can translate.
Tl:dr: If it changes characters, plots, perceptions or attitudes then don’t off-screen it.
The best use of off-screen is for the mundane things that don’t really change anything and that you don’t want to do when you are in game and playing the character, like sleeping. Eating, washing up, morning jogs, exercise, all that kind of thing can be done off screen and have your character ready to play and interact when you are in game. With that said it can also be just as nice to on occasion incorporate those little Slice of Life flavor things into your roleplay, but for the most part that can be done off-screen.
If your character is meeting an NPC that has little ability to affect outcomes, for example maybe they have and elderly relative they visit and care for on occasion, that can add flavor to the character and their motivations and conversations in game but it doesn’t need to be something that is played out, it can be done off-screen.
If your character is training or studying or researching or other things that require a lot of being by yourself that might otherwise cut you out of roleplay they can be done off-screen and so long as you don’t turn up the next week claiming to be a master at it, those things are idea candidates for doing off-screen.
If your character has longstanding relationships, perhaps they are married and they characters know each other very well, there might not be too much to explore and develop within their personal relationship every singlet night so you can leave a lot of that off-screen and have them onscreen for the things that shake it up and alter it, be aware though that you don’t want to leave all their interactions to off-screen as without that the connection will do cold and you might find yourself struggling to keep it interesting, but it doesn’t have to be every single night, even if they do live together every single night, that can happen off-screen.
Using off-screen is also a good way of dealing with graphic content for those that might not what to engage in that in game but also know that it is a relevant part of their characters story, those scenes can be done off screen if needed to keep everyone comfortable and content.
All in all what your character does while you are not around is as much a tool as any other aspect of roleplay, so be sure you are using it as well as you can.
What does your character do when you are not around?