13. A New Handler's Guide To SOTF

Mr. Danya
Joined: May 28th, 2007, 12:31 pm

June 13th, 2010, 6:31 pm #1

Clu's note: Vole is legendary. He knows exactly what he's talking about and he's done his homework on it to write this guide. This is a lot to wade through but trust me, each and every part is a golden insight. Reading this will stand you in the best possible stead for starting out in this RP.


Hello, and welcome to Survival of the Fittest, or SOTF. If you’re reading this guide, I assume you’re a new member looking to improve the quality of your roleplaying experience and your chances of having a character accepted and fitting into the community. Let me tell you, you’re off to a great start. Most of the problems new users experience come as a result of not reading over all the important information.

So, let’s get started. To begin with, assuming you haven’t already, why don’t you introduce yourself in the Introduction Thread? There, you can meet some of the other handlers, and get a rough feel for the community. Also, you’ll probably be greeted by some folks with colored names. These are the mods and admins. Moderators have dark blue names and admins have red names. Feel free to shoot any staff member questions via PM.

You’re probably here because you heard about our premise and found it interesting. Maybe you (like many others, myself included) came here through TVtropes. A small point of etiquette if that is the case: Please do not use trope talk in your character profiles or game posts, unless there’s a good justification (say, your character is reading TVtropes). Many of our members didn’t come here from the site, and don’t understand the lingo.

Before you go any further, I highly recommend you read the rules. Also, check out the FAQ, which, as the name suggests, contains answers to the most frequent questions.

Now, to participate in SOTF, you will first need a character. For version four, the current version, characters should be submitted here. Please note that we only allow one pending registration per handler at a time. Once your character is approved, you may begin using them in pregame and submit a new character immediately. You’ll know your character is approved because a mod or admin will post APPROVED in a response. You do not need to wait until your character is moved to the student roster to begin participating in pregame or to submit a new character.

If your character is not approved, you will instead receive a reply reading DENIED followed by an explanation of what you need to fix before the character is approved. It is important that you read this explanation carefully. Don’t be discouraged if your character is denied on the first go. Most profiles are. Many of our best and most respected writers (including a large portion of the staff team) had their characters rejected multiple times. Nobody means anything personal by it.

There are some good ways to increase your chances for a speedy approval, however, which I will outline here. They’re pretty simple, but not necessarily intuitive. Before you even begin, though, you should read all the stickied threads in the character submission board. They’re all pinned to the top of the board because they are important.

1. Formatting:
This is what gets many characters a denial right off the bat. Please, please, please read the Profile Template and follow it. For your convenience, I’m reposting the template here, along with the usual mistakes people make.

Code: Select all

 [B]Name: [/B]
[B]Gender: [/B]
[B]Age: [/B]
[B]Grade: [/B]
[B]School: [/B]
[B]Hobbies and Interests: [/B]

[B]Appearance: [/B]

[B]Biography: [/B]

[B]Advantages: [/B]
[B]Disadvantages: [/B]
Please note that each category is bolded. This is important. If you don’t bold your categories, or if you accidentally bold your entire profile, you will be asked to fix it, and likely will not be given a more thorough critique until you do. Remember, formatting does not copy/paste on zetaboards, so if you’re writing the profile in Word or a similar program, remember to include the formatting tags.

Similarly, zetaboards does not support standard paragraph formatting methods. Indentation doesn’t work here. How you make new paragraphs is by skipping lines. Please leave a blank line (only one) between each of your paragraphs, like in this guide. Also, please note the line breaks in the profile. Please make sure you leave exactly the right number of lines between each category. There is no line skipped between “Name” and “Gender”. There is one line skipped (just like a paragraph break) between “Appearance” and “Biography”. This is important because we paste the profiles to a wiki, and formatting is a pain to change there.

2. Readability
This is also important. Please make sure your profile is readable. The Appearance, Biography, Advantages, and Disadvantages sections should all be written in complete, grammatically correct sentences. Your spelling should be correct. Your tenses should, too. We want everything that is current as of the start of the game in present tense, and everything from the character’s past in past tense. You can find many examples of this in our Approved Character roster.

If you have difficulties spelling, are not a native English speaker, or otherwise need help with this category, feel free to ask for it. PM a staff member, or get another member to edit things for you. I guarantee this will improve your chances of getting a character approved. A good place to ask for help is the SOTF Chat. There’s more on the chat later in this guide.

A small specific tip: This
is a semicolon. The semicolon is used to join two independent clauses; it connects related sentences which would be complete on their own. This
is a comma. It does not do that. It connects parts of sentences that would not be complete on their own, like this. I know most of the world doesn’t care, but the English majors on the staff team thank your for your attention to this detail.

3. Profile Content
This is the most important part of a profile. It’s the character, the story, the meat and bones of the thing. If this is good, we’re far more likely to overlook a misused semicolon or two; if it’s bad, no amount of perfect formatting or grammar will save your character. I’ll go ahead and give a section-by-section breakdown on what we want.

This is simple. We just want your character’s name, and any nicknames that are appropriate. Here’s a hint, though: keep your names realistic. At SOTF, realism is the name of the game in profile writing. You may have read some wacky profiles from older versions. That sort of thing doesn’t fly anymore. Realism.

On that note, please do not name your character “Bloodaxe McGee”. Do not name him “Vishtar the Lord of Darkness”. Also, try to avoid “symbolic” names. That is, if your character is a nice guy, don’t name him “Angel Jones”. Of course, there are exceptions, times you can make it work, etc. “Joy” is a common enough name, for example. Still, don’t go overboard. How many people do you know with names that perfectly reflect their personalities? The same goes for ironic names.

Also, no names of celebrities, comic book characters, etc. If you want to use your own name, or a friend’s name, go ahead.

A word on nicknames: Please do not give your characters “cool” nicknames, like “Assassin Stan” or “Dr. Manhattan”. In fact, usually it works best to leave nicknames to develop in pregame, except for obvious ones (name shortenings and such).

Finally, it would be a good idea, if you’re applying late in the game, to make sure your desired name hasn’t already been used. It’s fine to have three “Sarah”s in a class, but it can definitely go overboard. V3 had six characters named “James”, for instance.

This is the hardest bit to mess up. Male or female. Anything else is very, very likely to be denied, unless we are sure that it will be handled realistically and maturely.

Again, this is tough to go wrong on. If your character is a Senior, they are probably between 17 and 19 years old. 16 is conceivable, if they skipped a year or two. 20 is pushing it if they were held back, but possible. Anything higher or lower is almost certainly going to be flatly denied. Realism is your friend.

The version you are participating in will have a specific grade level of the abducted class. Your character must be in this grade. In V5, it’s 12th Grade (Seniors).

Like Grade, this is determined by the version you are participating in. In V5, all students come from Aurora High School. Please make sure to carefully copy the school name; a surprising number of profiles are denied for a failure to do so.

Hobbies and Interests:
Here’s where things get tricky. Here, you list your character’s hobbies and interests. Complete sentences are not required or encouraged. This is a basic, capsule summary of what your character likes to do.

Anything major should be listed here. Also, everything listed here should be mentioned again in your character’s bio. We will deny characters whose interests are not mentioned in their bio.

Please pick interesting, appropriate interests for your characters. A great place to start is interests you or your friends have, since they will probably be easier to write realistically. Please do not pick unrealistic or stupid interests. We never want to see “professional assassin” or “date-raping strangers” in this section. That sort of thing will get you instantly denied, and possibly banned for trolling.

Another thing to be wary of is “action interests”. This is stuff like shooting, fencing, martial arts, and, of late, Parkour. All of these are things that potentially give characters big advantages on the island. They are also difficult to write realistically, difficult to balance, and require research. Do not insert this sort of thing just for an advantage or because it’s “cool”. If this sort of thing isn’t being treated realistically, your character will be denied.

A special note on Parkour: this was a big issue in V4. Quite frankly, the staff is sick of denying unrealistic Parkour characters. Unless you really, seriously, honestly know what you’re talking about, or intend to keep it as a very minor element of your character, please don’t include it at all. It’s not that big of an advantage on the island anyways, and is likely to land your character in hot water if abused during pregame.

This is what your character looks like. There are a few musts in this section. Make sure you give your character:
-A numerical height and weight
-Eye and hair colors
-Facial and body type description (heavy or thin, round vs. long-faced, complexion, that sort of stuff)
-A general clothing style (what they normally wear, and, if you want, what specifically they were wearing on the day of the abduction)

Anything else appearance related can go here too. Scars, birthmarks, or anything else you want. Again, be realistic. Nobody has naturally pink hair. A 5’9”, 105 pound girl will not have D-cup breasts. Characters should dress somewhat appropriately for reality, as in, no capes without a darn good explanation, and probably not even then. Also, in V4 pregame we had a rash of very tall (6’2” and above) characters. Most were incredibly thin. The average male in the USA is 5’10”, and weighs 168 pounds. The average woman is 5’5”, and weighs 132 pounds. If you need help figuring a good height/weight ratio for your character, check out this BMI calculator.

This is your character’s history, personality, and everything else worth noting about them. This section should be detailed. It will probably be fairly long. At a minimum, it should include:
-Family stuff: Who are your character’s parents? Do they have any siblings? What is their home situation like?
-History: What has your character’s life been like so far? What are some important events from their childhood/earlier life? What from their past matters to them? How has their past shaped them into who they are now?
-Social stuff: Who are your character’s friends? What is their clique or peer group? Does anyone particular in it stand out? How does your character interact with and treat others? How does your character view them?
-School stuff: How does your character do in school? What classes do they excel in? Which ones give them trouble? Are they involved in any extra-curriculars? Do they play any sports? Do they like school? Do they pay attention, or goof off in class?
-Personal stuff: What are your character’s hobbies? (remember to include everything from the “Hobbies and Interests” section, even if only briefly) What does your character do in their free time? What do they enjoy? What do they dislike?
-Personality: What is your character’s worldview? How do they present themselves? How do they feel about things?

Of course, realism is big here too. On that note, there are some things that should be dealt with carefully, or in some cases, not at all in bios. A brief (though by no means totally inclusive) explanation of these follows.

Tricky stuff: exercise caution with the following elements in a biography:
-Dead parents/siblings: This happens in real life. It’s also a big deal. Please do treat it as such in your bio. If someone’s father dies, life doesn’t just go on, at least, not immediately. It’s important to note how your character felt/feels about this subject.
-Abuse: This is, again, a big deal. Treat it realistically. Discuss it respectfully. You never know who’s going to be reading your profile, or what they may have been through, so don’t trivialize things.
-Violence: Students get into fights. It happens. Be realistic about it, though. If you attack someone on school grounds, you’ll get suspended and likely have to deal with authorities/school counselors. If you get into lots of street fights, eventually you’ll get arrested. Make sure these consequences hold true for your characters.
-Injuries: If your character is seriously injured/ suffers extremely unusual medical conditions, do your research, and don’t just throw it in for an exotic flair.
-Disdain for others/disrespect for others/general jerkishness: Be sure this is realistic and doesn’t stray into the realm of Premade Player.
-Loners: Loners are hard to write well, and can get really boring in pregame. Also, remember, everyone talks to at least a couple people sometimes, even if only through necessity.

Problem stuff: do not include the following unless you want your character to be flatly (and possibly permanently) denied:
-Prior murder: Your character should not have killed anyone prior to the SOTF program. This reccomendation is a direct result of problems in previous versions. While there could conceivably be a way a character who had killed someone could be approved, it would have to be treated incredibly carefully. If you’re even considering a character with this sort of element in their past, you should probably talk to a moderator first, and don’t be surprised if we tell you no.
-Premade psychos: Your character should not be a dangerous, unmediated schizophrenic. They should not be a heartless sociopath. Anyone who could not get through four years of public high school should not be submitted. Now, if your character is on medication for some disorder, that’s fine. They can always lose their pills on the island or something. But they must be able to function in a high school setting.
-Premade players: We should never, ever be able to tell that a character will “play the game” (that is, willingly kill their classmates) just by reading their profile. If your character plays, that’s fine. But we shouldn’t know for sure just by reading the profile. Some of the best V3 villains were characters who sounded completely normal in their bios.
-Emotionless characters: If a character has no emotion, how can they be interesting to read about for months? We don’t want any Kiriyama clones, please. (A note for those unfamiliar with Battle Royale: Kiriyama is the villain of the book. He is incapable of feeling emotion. He works for the book because he gets very little screen time).

This is the stuff that gives your character an edge over the competition in SOTF. Strength, cunning, optimism, weapon skill—anything that gives them a leg up goes here. Be sure it’s kept realistic, and makes sense. Also, make sure your advantages and disadvantages are at least semi-balanced.

Advantages should be mentioned in the biography. They should also follow naturally from the bio and the character’s hobbies and interests. It makes no sense for someone who never exercises and plays video games all day long to be in perfect shape. It makes perfect sense for a star football player to be strong and tough.

Note: Never, ever, ever put anything to the tune of “Due to a lack of connection/emotion, he would have an easier time than most killing his classmates”. Killing people is never easy. Emotionless psychos are boring and need not apply.

Those things that hinder your character go here. Fears, injuries, enemies—anything that could be a major pain on the island.

Like advantages, disadvantages should be mentioned in the bio and follow naturally from the other elements of the character. Please do not insert random phobias to balance out your character’s advantages and then forget to mention the phobias and where they spring from (if applicable) in the bio.

Note: A lack of weapon experience is not a disadvantage for a normal high school student; it is the assumed norm. Weapon experience is a serious advantage. Also, if your character sounds like a loner who will kill everyone and wouldn’t want allies anyways, then a lack of friends is not a disadvantage either. Then again, if that’s an issue, your character has probably already been denied.

Also, please avoid overly-specific disadvantages. These are things like, “He is totally defenseless if caught in a rainstorm on a Tuesday between the hours of three and four AM, due to an obscure religious belief”. This sort of thing is so unlikely that it isn’t really a disadvantage at all. Similarly, this section is only for things that will be a disadvantage on the island; while poor trigonometry skills may prevent your character from getting into his or her college of choice, they won’t be much of a hindrance when beating someone to death with a baseball bat.

Alright. That’s what you need for applications. There is a chance, though that, for whatever reason, you aren’t going to be applying to the main SOTF roleplay. Maybe it’s too demanding. Maybe registration for the version is closed. If that’s the case, though, have no fear. Check out SOTF Mini. SOTF Mini is an offshoot of SOTF. It is geared towards quicker, smaller, more frequent games and less experienced roleplayers. That doesn’t mean there isn’t good writing there, though; many of SOTF’s established handlers participate in Mini, as do several of its staff members.

Mini pretty much shares the main SOTF chat.

The remainder of this guide will assume that you are participating in the main SOTF roleplay; the guidelines for Mini are similar, however, there is no pregame for Mini.

Okay, so you’ve gotten a character approved. Now what? It’s time to start posting. If pregame is still going on, you’ve lucked out. Pregame is a great time to get a feel for your character in a normal environment. It’s also a great time to improve your writing. Lots of people who started pregame as mediocre or worse writers are now excellent, thanks to their experience.

Before you post anything, pick a few threads and read them. Ask other handlers for threads they recommend, and check them out. This will help you a lot. I read all of pregame, and it improved my posts enormously. Reading parts of pregame will also help you get a feel for the posting style and speed of the board.

When you post, you can either start a new thread, or join one in progress. If you start a new thread, be sure you give an interesting setup, with potential for other characters to interact with you. Alone, in an alley, hiding from everyone, in the middle of the night, in another town, the odds are good none of your character’s classmates will be around. Give details, but leave some things open for other handlers to add, too. Feel free to find a thread buddy on chat. The first thread I felt confident about was one I participated in after chatting with the handler who started it on chat.

If you join a thread, first make sure it’s public. If it’s a memories thread, don’t join unless it is marked public. If it’s a normal thread, you’re probably good unless it says “private”, though sometimes handlers forget to tag their threads. Next, check the date of the last post. If a thread died over a month ago, there’s no point reviving it. You’ll be best off joining a decently new and active thread.

Also, be patient. It may take a couple of weeks for anyone to join your thread. That happens. Don’t jump around every day out of anxiousness. On the other hand, don’t let yourself get stuck in a thread that’s going nowhere. If you’re unsure about things, feel free to ask in chat or PM a staff member.

Once another handler (or a few) are in your thread, or once you’ve joined an existing thread, be sure to stick to the post order. Post order is the order in which handlers post. If handler KillerVole starts a thread, then Crash and MK Kilmarnock join it in that order, the post order is:
MK Kilmarnock
MK Kilmarnock

If, after a couple of rounds, Wheeler joins the thread, posting after Crash, the new order is:
Mk Kilmarnock
Mk Kilmarnock

Please don’t break post order unless someone has disappeared for a long time, or you have permission. There is an exception: if characters are divided into groups which are not interacting, yet share a topic, each group may have its own post order. Prom threads in V4 did not have a post order, and similar exceptions may occur in V5.

Another thing: Don’t Godmod. Godmodding is controlling someone else’s character, be it in a big way or a small one. Never write dialogue for another handler’s character. Never write actions of theirs that the handler did not write first. If in a combat situation, never call hits (that is, you can say your character shoots at another’s head, but not whether the bullet strikes on target). Even minor things like gestures should be left to each character’s handler.

Exception: If you get permission from a handler, you may Godmod their character. Please include in your post a note to the tune of (GMing Approved). This will keep the mods from shooting you warning PMs.

A far more extensive treatise on Godmodding may be found here.

As always, the big thing is realism. Be realistic. Don’t exaggerate things too much. Make sure characters react in ways you can imagine real people reacting.

Finally, when you leave threads, write (([Character’s Name] continued elsewhere)). When you add them to their next thread, link them as explained in this tutorial.

Bonus: Editing
I cannot overemphasize the usefulness of the post preview button on the board. I highly recommend that you edit each post before submitting it. To do this, write your post, then click “preview” and read it through again. You will probably notice things that are spelled wrong, sound awkward, contradict later elements, or otherwise need fixing. I know I do every time I post. You can fix these things before the post goes live. Reading and editing your posts will drastically improve the quality of your writing. I edited this guide, and found tons of mistakes and things to add.

If you actually have to edit a post after you submit it for whatever reason, there is a button to do so. When editing posts, if you do not want the “edited by...” tag to show up, uncheck the box that reads “Show that you edited this post”. In my personal opinion, posts look better without the edit tags. Please do not edit posts for anything beyond grammar if other handlers have posted after you in a thread, unless you are absolutely positive that you won’t screw up their posts with your changes. It is really best to get permission.


The SOTF Chat is a great way to connect with other handlers on a more personal and casual level. The chat is a part of SOTF, so we do expect people to be respectful and appropriate to at least some degree. That said, the chat is home to a lot of jokes, teasing, and other silliness. People there tend to have pretty thick skins, and expect the same of newcomers. If something happens in chat that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you feel violates the rules or spirit of our site, save the logs and PM them to a mod or admin. We’ll look into it.

Similarly, if a mod or admin in chat tells you to knock something off, do it. You may be sanctioned on the board for chat infractions, and vice versa.

A piece of personal advice: People tend to enter the chat, and the SOTF community, in one of two ways. They either jump straight in, full of confidence and flinging jokes left and right, and acting like they’re the center of the board, or they approach things more slowly and take some time to get their bearings. The slow, steady method has always seemed to serve members better in the long run. Don’t be afraid to stay sort of quiet and watch to get a feel for the community. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to speak up and get involved. Just be sure not to be obnoxious.

Board Etiquette:
Please be respectful of your fellow members. Treat everyone with courtesy, and you will be treated the same. Take some time to read other people’s writing, and don’t be shy about asking for help or criticism. The staff team is always glad to help you.

If you have any problems with other members, report them to the staff team. If you have problems with a staff member, report them to someone higher up on the chain of command (Admins>Mods). If you have problems with an admin, report them to another admin. Megami trumps everyone, but hasn't been around in a long while, so you'll have better luck hitting up another admin first. We hope you enjoy your stay, and have a great time writing!

SotF: Mini - SCdoes a-rolling! - PV3 Prologue ongoing!
Draw Thread! - Pathfinder! - Writing Thread!
[+] Spoiler
13:58 Gianni Oh come on you broke someone's heart
13:59 Gianni you are proud, not embarrassed
13:59 Christian Yes
13:59 Christian Be proud
13:59 Christian Do we not all strive to break a human soul?
[+] Spoiler
Vincenzo/a 'Vinny' 'Enzo' Gatti | DO IT FOR THE VINE.
Toby 'Noodle' Andreasson | :|
[+] Spoiler
G008 - Kammy So'oialo | wants a new script
G062 - Becca Everett | was a damn superstar
G071 - Sunshine Cho Lee | trusted
[+] Spoiler
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G014 - Yelizaveta 'Bounce' Volkova | Out of here | Gasoline
B060 - Brock Mason | Thump. Thump |
G029 - Kristina 'Kris' Hartmann | Put Down. | Drama Bombs [∞], M79 Grenade Launcher [x6 grenades]
G117 - Jessie Anderson | Still Smiling | Faith