The essence of roleplaying is the experience of the players and storyteller interacting to create a story. One thing that differentiates the Storyteller system from others is its dynamics. In most game systems the Game Master designs an adventure which the players re-enact. In the Storyteller system the Storyteller designs a background and premise for involving the characters in a situation but the story is a gestalt of the Storyteller's background and the players' choices. The players, through their characters, have as great a role in creating the experience and writing the story as the Storyteller himself does.
If you are already a roleplayer or Storyteller, familiar with the basic concepts or just don't give a porcupine's proboscis, skip ahead to the section titled Now That We Are Here.
What does being a roleplayer mean? It means that you have agreed to spend at least some time with other people and interact with them. All of you are there to create something. This means that you have a certain responsibility to the other players to not be annoying and try to co-operate with them as a player. Simply because the characters don't get along does not mean that the players have to be enemies. Remember though, in many good games the lines between player and character get subtly blurred as you empathize with the character. In a roleplaying game the characters aren't entirely fictional to you - you are making choices for them and to a degree they are as real to you as a novelist's character is to the writer. This is part of the creative experience. Intense emotions can be ignited during games and people should be prepared to deal with them. Have a brain and don't be a dweeb.
What does being a storyteller mean? It means that you are a god who is there to humiliate the players. Actually, that is not true but there will be times during games when you will wish it was, so take what little pleasure you can in the fantasy now. These times usually come a few fractions of a second after a player's bizarre decision has totally destroyed the story set-up you had been working on for a week and were so proud of. Dealing with these chaos situations is part of the frustration and joy of being a Storyteller. Most Storytellers do lay out plans and ideas but they should not be inflexible in them. Players will do the unexpected and the Storyteller who is obsessed with seeing his exact vision come to frutation will be annoyed. Instead, like the players, the Storyteller should enjoy just watching everything unfold.
In early roleplaying the majority of games were combat adventures where the Game Master was there to proxy for the monsters. This created a competition between player and Game Master that made any successes all the sweeter, knowing that your characters won against the odds. In time the games changed, games became more plot oriented and Game Masters became Storytellers and somewhere in there a few roleplayers realized that the greatest victory was not getting gold out of a dungeon but ...
Trying to define what roleplaying and storytelling are is absurd. I do not trust myself to have the eloquence necessary to describe an experience as complex as roleplaying. Primarily, what someone needs to appreciate roleplaying can only be gained through the experience.
There are a number of sources that discuss the nature of roleplaying and define it. However, the context - the players, the long nights of caffeine highs, and adrenaline rushes - can not be defined, only experienced.
What you most need to know, what will give you the most pleasure, is the basic experience of playing. Your approach might be modest - a few hours a couple of times a week. When I first played I found the experience to be both less and totally different from what I had anticipated. But on a few beautiful occasions it was everything that I had dreamed of and more. When I look at a player's face and see true fear for their character, when I look at them after a game and see them trying to come to grips with what happened - these are the events that make it worth while to me. What I will be giving in this chapter is merely a survival guide for the first few games. After that instinct and experience will be your best guides.
The first question is - who are you? Already the Ranma 1/2 universe is littered with colorful characters from the proud Kuno Tatewaki to the angst ridden Hibiki Ryouga. Those familiar with the world of Ranma 1/2 will probably have favorite characters and want to play them. This is perfectly fine. These characters already have a wealth of background information that will make playing them (maybe) easy and fun.
Nothing, however, is quite like building your own character. This allows players to be more completely a part of the game and players tend to feel more personal about characters they built themselves. If players initially create and discard a number of characters this is fairly normal. Creating a good character is a matter of experience and sometimes even experienced players take a while to develop a character they really like. By building a character specifically for yourself you can get what you want out of the game. A great place for beginning with character development often is to ask yourself what do you want to experience within the game - adventure, mystery, ect... and then build a character for that purpose, to exploit that potential.
Obviously the characters are not in the Ranma 1/2 universe. By definition it is impossible to play within it as changes would be inherit. Deciding what kind of game universe the players will use is a decision of how much of the Ranma 1/2 universe will be replicated in your game setting.
A viable option for most groups who want to remain true to Ranma 1/2 is the side story. These types of stories are considered to be on the "side" because they so easily fit into the Ranma 1/2 continuity that they could take place between the actual stories. These usually do not introduce new major characters and no changes are made to the character relations. Alterations of tone are common. Many players enjoy a slightly more serious tone since they find complete chaos tiring to play in. Players are free to interpret cast characters differently, expanding on character complexity, but must remain true to the background and consiestant. This allows the group to use a lot of pre-existing material but it is hard to do a chronicle of side stories.
If the players are using a group of new characters, or a mixed group of the Ranma 1/2 cast and new characters, the peripheral style might be more viable. The peripheral style is usually centered away from the main Ranma 1/2 storylines, integrating characters from other places and though they might encounter Ranma 1/2 cast or have stories overlap. Some players might even use Ranma 1/2 cast members. For example : during his journeys Ryouga certainly has opprotunities for other adventures or what does Moose do in his spare time? School rivalries, family enemies or friends, rival dojos and other backgrounds are simple plot device that could be used to bring together the players and the Ranma 1/2 cast. A peripheral story is a good way to give groups the most flexibility in plot, introducing new elements, and altering tone.
The Elseworlds story is one of the most common types of fan fictions. These can be nice balances of the familiarity with the Ranma 1/2 cast and freedom of expression for players and Storyteller alike. In these gaming environments the normal world of Ranma 1/2 is sent spinning by fundamental changes. The most common of these are the what if and crossover. The crossover places some totally alien element in the Ranma 1/2 world. One of the most bizarre examples of these I've seen (that actually worked well) was a fan fiction of a Predator hunting Ranma. The what if usually takes the Ranma 1/2 cast and places a fundamental question - with the changes to the world coming forth from that. An example of these might be - What If Moose found one of the puzzle boxes from Hellraiser? Is the game based around that event or did that happen years before the game event? How did that affect other characters? Fan fictions are an excellent source of ideas for these stories.
One thing to remember about the cast of Ranma 1/2 is that they are not children or adults. As adolescents they are leaving childhood and are expected to be mature. However, most Ranma 1/2 characters are martial artists. They are taught to be confident and trust their bodies. Now, however, they are in situations where violence is a short term solution and more often than not their instincts only complicate things. Never before have their emotions been brought into conflict to such a degree and they aren't emotionally prepared to deal with them. Unequipped to deal with many basic questions about their own lives they often have to make decisions that have implications on the hearts and lives of others. As a result the frustration often forces them to resort to aggression. While combat can be a nice plot device and fun it should not be the heart of a story. The focus is on the lives of the characters and combat is merely one part.