Role-playing, or RP for short, as it relates to the furry culture, is an activity in which one or more people each assume the role of a character in an imaginary situation, and narrate and/or act out that character's dialogue, responses, and motivations. Role-playing is done for a wide variety of reasons-- it has roots in theatre and theatrical training and improvisation, in certain religious practices, as a business training method, and as a psychotherapeutic technique. It is often done purely for entertainment, as a form of collaborative storytelling.
A number of useful innovations have been developed and put to use in recreational roleplaying.
Role in the furry fandom
Role-playing as an established form of entertainment played a strong developmental role in the history of the furry fandom, having allowed for the introduction of many early non-artists into what was previously the funny animal fandom. The history of modern-day role-playing began in the 1970s with the creation of Dungeons and Dragons (the first tabletop roleplaying franchise) and the MUD1 (the first multi-user dungeon for telnet), and the meeting of role-players (and costumers) with the artists and writers of the funny animal fandom at the science fiction conventions of the 1980s led to the first furry parties and conventions. Role-playing also helped in the development of the fursona as a core concept of the fandom as well.
Published role-playing games
Several games designed around role-playing, like Ironclaw, Dungeons & Dragons, and GURPS, have been published. They include rules that help players better understand the abilities and limitations of their characters (and balance them out with other players' characters and the challenges presented during play), as well as descriptions of settings. Also known as tabletop roleplaying, these games commonly use dice or some other form of random number generator to create outcomes for the character's actions. One player will act as a game host, sometimes referred to as a "game master" or GM. This player is the storyteller, and controls the flow of the game along with any nonplayer controlled, or NPC, characters. There are two well known furry RPGs, Ironclaw (and its sequel Jadeclaw) and World Tree, as well as others, including Furry Outlaws and Furry Pirates.
Online chat technologies, including IRC and other chat rooms, and instant-messaging clients, are often used for the sake of roleplaying online. 'MU*s' are also popular for online roleplay. 'MMOs,' an acronym for 'massively multiplayer online games,' are computer games with many players who connect to a server with a program that usually gives them a graphical representation of an environment through which their characters navigate, alongside other players' characters, as part of role-playing - one common within the fandom is Furcadia.
Pencil-and-paper, tabletop RPGs and Pen-and-paper refer to using published gaming systems, which require some record-keeping with paper and pen or pencil, including a character sheet. Usually done offline.
Roll-playing is a malapropism referring to the nearly ubiquitous use of dice (which are rolled) in published role-playing games; often it is used disparagingly to describe players who let random dice rolls dictate things whose outcome should depend upon reasoned-out sequences of events.
Table-top and Face-to-face refer to role-playing conducted offline, with all participants together in-person (usually around a table), as opposed to online role-playing.
LARPing, an acronym for live action role-playing. Much like table-top role-playing, except that it is usually conducted in larger areas, outdoors, and/or in more public places, and involves acting out body language; it's closer to theatrical improvisation.
Freeform role-playing is roleplaying conducted explicitly with OUT formal or published rules.
Other roleplay methods
Other methods of roleplay used by furries include:
- Forum-Based Roleplaying, or Play by post (or PBP) such as FictionDepot
- Played using a message board, forum, or over e-mail. Each member roleplays their own characters in separate posts in response to the actions and words of other characters.
- Text-based MU*s, including MUDs, MUCKs, and MUSHs.
- Chat room-based roleplaying.
- Fanfiction (fanfic) - Roleplaying is done through members writing stories and sharing them (sometimes in paper fanzines).