Hello everypony! This was something I'd been considering writing for a good while now. It's a basic set of tips and such for creating RP adventures for you and others. Now, it's not a set of "rules" or even "guidelines", but it's the basic steps I go through myself when working out big or little adventures or storylines within the RP.
When I first joined TP, I never figured on it being an outlet for telling fun and interesting stories with your friends and fellow RPers. Fun and interesting adventures and storylines can help you meet new ponies, players and take your characters into new directions you'd never even thought about before. Even messed up adventures can lead to unexpected surprises.
What follows here are very basic steps and tips to help anyone out there take the first steps towards story greatness!
Step One: Ask Yourself "What Do I Want Out of This?"
It's ultimately, your story. You're the one putting in the effort, so you should as yourself this: "Why am I doing this story and what do I hope to accomplish?"
"I want to learn a new skill."
"I just made a new friend and want to get to know them better."
"I want to explore a cave."
"I want to visit Appaloosa."
"I want my character to get stronger."
"I want to have a large party!"
These are very basic ideas, but they're enough to get you started down the right track. It's important to think of a why, even if the answer is "I just want to have an adventure." This is because it gives you a degree of focus on which to build the rest of your story idea.
Of course, like anything, there's exceptions. Some players adhere much more to the "make it up, no planning" idea than the plan it out. Both methods are fine and I'll talk a a bit more on it further down.
For now, though, just think about what you want your adventure to accomplish and move on down.
Step Two: How can you achieve the goal you set in the previous step?
We'll take one of the example goals from the previous step and continue with it: "I want to explore a cave."
So the obvious step is for your character to find a cave. From there you use your imagination to visalize what the cave would be like. Is it damp? Dry? Are there bears? Are they hungry bears? What do you see in the cave?
Congratulations, you now have a brand new RP adventure! You're a cave spelunker! Once you come out you can be proud of the accomplishment!
But that was an easy example. Let's try: "I just want to have an adventure."
Now this one's a bit tougher. Since it's so vague. What kind of adventure? A Fluttershy-style one that takes place in your backyard? A Twilight-style one that has you lost in a vast library? An Applejack/Rainbow Dash one involving althetic competition?
Think of any restraints that might get in your way. Are you an earthpony? Then exploring Cloudsdale might be out of the question.
Unless, of course, you find a way to walk on clouds. Maybe you visit Zecora to get a cloudwalking potion. Maybe you find a strange plant in the Everfree that for some reason turns you into a pegasus for a day.
See? Just start asking the right questions can nab you a whole bunch of possibilities and we haven't even reached Cloudsdale yet. What if you become friends with a pegasus there, but don't want to tell them that you're /not/ a pegasus for fear of them no longer liking you? Now you've got a degree of drama and good drama can make for more interesting stories.
Let's look at one last example, "I want to have a large party!" This plays well into the next topic. Ask yourself questions like, What kind of party? Is it a grand opening? Is it a "just for the heck of it" party? Anypony can try to round up Pinkie to throw a party, but think about doing the preparations yourself. Talk to Pinkie at Sugarcube Corner to get cake and mention the party. Get a copy of "Egghead's Guide to Party Planning" from Twilight. Ask around town. If you see somepony walking around, as them what they'd love to see at a party.
Doing this kind of in-character setup not only helps you get your adventure moving, it gets word out and MOST importantly, gives you the chance to meet brand new ponies you weren't expecting.
Step Three: Who can come?
This is a very personal question unique to each and every player/character. The quickest and easiest answer is: whoever you feel like! It's your adventure, it's YOUR story. It is entirely up to you who you want to share that story with.
This step can ultimately be one of the most difficult of all steps. On one hoof, you don't want to exclude everypony. BUT you don't want to burn yourself out or worse, make the adventure no longer fun for you.
The best advice to give is to bring whomever you feel most comfortable with for more contained stories. Simpler stories like parties are obviously much better opening up to large groups.
The bottom line with most of this is that it's YOUR story. It's your call. Involve who you want, don't involve who you don't want. Of course, be nice about it. Maybe you have another adventure planned that's much better suited to their particular talents!
Step Four: Have a "Point A" and a "Point Z"
This is much more simple than the last step. Now that you've got your plan, just write down two things on a piece of paper, or in a word document or something: Your Point A and your Point Z.
Your Point A is what triggers your adventure. It could be the discovery of the cave or the desire to have a party. Whatever triggers your new grand adventure!
Point Z is arguably more important. This is the "end point" of your adventure. This is where you find the light at the end of the cave tunnel, where your party's a big success and where you tell your new Cloudsdale friend the truth and yet they're still your friend.
The reason "Point Z" is so important is that it gives you a goal to strive for. As you develop your story, you may come up with side stories, other ideas you may get distracted. Reminding yourself of your "Point Z" can help you guide the story back to the reason you went on it in the first place.
Tips and Ideas
Hopefully those will at least help you get a start to creating some fun new adventures for yourself and your friends. Of course, these aren't rules or anything. Everyone does stories their own special way. That's what makes them interesting for each of us! What follows this are just a few tips and ideas. As always feel free to discuss things in the comments. This is intended to be a fluid guide with additions and changes as it's worked out.
Solo vs Group RP "Adventures"
This, like a lot of other things in this guide, is a matter of personal preference. There's absolutely nothing wrong with soloing an adventure. Sometimes solo RP can show how well you're able to hold a story together without outside influence or help. On the other side, group RP shows how you're able to bring a group of players/characters to a conclusion for that adventure.
In the end, pick the method that you feel best tells the story you want to tell and run with it.
Adventures CAN Be Draining, But Rewarding
Before you plan out a major epic story arc, know that devoting the time to see it through can be draining. Multi-day, multi-character complex arcs can sometimes lead to late nights and you always run the risk of leaving a storyline or character behind.
However, accomplishing this can make you and the players you made it through the storyline can often be worth it. Just know what you're getting into before you do. If you're not familiar with doing storylines and adventures, start simple and get more complex as you get better with leading it. Don't bite off more than you can chew.
Oh No! Drama!
This is inevitable. In life and RP. If you do your best, people may even still get upset. The best thing you can do is keep doing the best you can and stay civil in ALL discussions. The first person to get angry loses. Getting angry helps no one. If the issue is based on the story, talk it out with the person upset. Usually, the issue arose from a miscommunication that's easily solved.
This communication leads us to our next tip:
Be Open to New Ideas
Having a basic plan is important, however, you should be open to ideas. Don't let others dictate ideas to you, but if a player seems interesting to take the story in a bit of a different direction, see where it goes while keeping your Point Z in your mind. Don't maintain a story with an iron grip, but allow the players to shape it to their own whims. Remember, THEY may have their own Point Zs in mind. If it helps, DM them and see what they want to do. If it aligns with YOUR Point Z, then there's no problem. If it doesn't, work out a way you can both get what you want.
Allow Your Characters to Evolve Through the Adventure
Let's face it. We've all been there. You've been playing the same character for awhile and it's boring. They're in the cafe every day, doing their job every day and they haven't changed since the day you made the account.
So maybe think of an adventure /completely/ out of their element. Something to really put their skills to the test. To keep up the cave exploration theme, maybe they need a rare ingredient (thanks @mlp_CiderApple!) but they're terrified of going into caves.
Work out the adventure and when they come back out they're no longer scared of caves. Your character has become stronger, more diverse and even better, can share the details of this adventure with new friends and characters. Maybe eventually find a new cave to explore with a new friend.
Of course, like everything else, there are some players who LIKE their character to remain as they are always, that's fine too. But speaking from personal experience, sometimes allowing your character to make their own path through a story or adventure can lead them to amazing new possibilities.
"Tone" of the Adventure
First, thanks to @mlp_Luna for reminding me about these next three topics which are very related. According to the guidelines, RP "should" be kept at a rating of G. I've no reason to disagree with this. My /personal/ guide is Disney. If I KNOW that it would never see the light of day in a Disney cartoon, then I won't do it.
This doesn't mean you can't have some degree of "darkness" to your adventure. Return of Harmony certainly did. But the best way is to keep it "emotionally" dark. Friends angry at friends can be a problem to start with. You can have characters sad, angry or even depressed, but keep it in the relatively broad rage of Disney.
This leads into the nest topic:
Gore, Grimdark,Violence etc.
Just...just don't. Again, these aren't rules, or an exact how to. As I said at the beginning, in the end it's YOUR story. But I've often found going the violent or grimdark route is kind of lazy storytelling. It's blatantly forcing impedement or pain on your characters rather than just letting the story go.
In the end, this is an RP about colorful horses that like magic and cakes and stuff. Limb loss, over the top violence and extremely dark situations just do not fit with the world. If you think your character or story will be enhanced with some sort of maiming, step back and think about how you might be able to better tell that story without going to so steep a tactic.
This is something whose definition varies wildly from player to player. Also known as "godmodding", this is when no force on Equestria can stop you. You are the IRON PONY, as it were.
Here's the thing, as I said above, as much as drama can lead to better stories, challenges to your characters add at least as much.
To use one of the above examples, the cave exploration, how much fun is it if you go in, are able to leap across vast chasms, wrestle bears and then walk out? Maybe for some, but then why'd you have the adventure in the first place?
Think to the mane six in the show. For every strength they have they also have flaws. Rainbow Dash is Loyal and athletic, but very overconfident and TERRIFIED of failure. Applejack is strong, honest and a hard worker, but stubborn to the point of personal exhaustion. Twilight is intelligent and magically skilled, but easily panics when the slightest thing goes wrong or she doesn't know what to do.
It's OKAY if your character doesn't know how to do something. This is how your characters grow and learn over time. If you try to explore a cave, it's OKAY to fail. Then your character can return and maybe read some books about cave exploring and return, better for the experience.
If you solve every single problem or difficulty with little to no challenge, then in this pony's opinion, it can become less fun and more of a chore.
Above All Else: HAVE FUN
In the end, this is what we're all here for, right? If you're not having fun doing this, then take a step back. We're all here to have fun and tell stories. Keep that in mind always.
Thank you for reading this. Please leave any comments and suggestions below. I'd love to read them and add to this as time goes on. I hope this article helps you in your own RP stories and adventures. Remember, we have this whole pretend magical world to explore. Let's make the most of it!
Enjoy your time in Equestria!