Althanas is more than just a creative writing and roleplaying hub – it’s designed to help you improve your writing, too! We use a ten category, 100 point rubric to judge each completed story, and award experience and gold based on your writing performance.
The Rubric consists of carefully defined categories, which aim to gauge a thread’s overall quality. These categories form three groups:
“Story”, comprised of Pacing, Setting, and Storytelling.
“Character”, comprised of Persona, Action, and Communication.
“Prose”, comprised of Technique, Mechanics, and Clarity.
There is a final category, called the "Wildcard."
Story: A good score in story requires three things. First, the story needs to progress in time and location. Second, it needs to develop to hold the reader’s interest. Third, it should be original, creative, and authentic.
Storytelling (10 Points)
The telling of the story influences the storytelling score. It asks questions such as, has the writer situated the thread in an appropriate timescale, or does the thread seem to be a random snippet full of vagueness? Does the writer weave a compelling tale, or follow a predictable plot? A good score does not require a massive, epic, or convoluted storyline. Instead, success here comes from looking at the big picture, and considering “Why is the story taking place?”, “How does the story unfold?”, and “Why is it important?”
You should not need to read a character profile to understand story, or to get the basic information required to understand the plot.
1-2: Poor – You failed to explain the character’s presence or importance. You gave no meaning to events. There was no sense of scope of the characters past or future. Events transpired randomly and made little sense.
3-4: Below Average – Some traces of story were present, but not explained coherently. The thread lacked meaning or place in a larger narrative.
5-6: Average – Displayed a clear effort to tell a good story and connect plot with character.
7-8: Solid – Showed clear knowledge of storytelling, though lacked the finesse to reach a masterful level.
9-10: Masterful – Your ability to deliver a compelling story is masterful.
Setting (10 Points)
Every story has a setting, and Althanas has many unique realms to work in. This category includes faithfulness to the region’s canon, and the writer’s description of their characters movement through those environments. To score high in setting, a writer must go beyond painting backdrops. Setting is not just to look at. It exists to be experienced by the characters, and through them, by the readers. For instance, if you describe a chair, did your character sit in it or pick it up to smash in an enemy’s face? Is it hot or cold, sunny or rainy, and are its effects on the character described? In short, a good setting does not just describe place; it makes it smell, move, hear, and breathe. It makes the setting a character all of its own.
1-2: Poor – The character acted in a void. The effects of the setting on characters largely ignored. Something was lacking in the description, or the characters referred to places and things not described in the setting (the writer set the thread in a desert, but described sitting in a forest, etc).
5 - 6: Average - A 5 or 6 signifies a good attempt at setting. Either it falls short immersing the reader or the reader pictured a lacklustre setting. It means the description is developing into a well-wrought entity. 7 - 8: The writer immersed the reader in a visible, dynamic, and interesting environment.
9-10: Masterful – The description never falters, and its effects vividly described. Your character uses elements of the setting, and the setting “uses” the character. The environment had clear, but appropriate impact on story.
Pacing (10 Points)
Pacing gauges the thread’s flow and the way the story unfolds. It focuses less on intricacy, and more on narrative emphasis and author’s intent. Not all scenes need to move at the same speed. For instance, an intense, visceral combat between enemies relies on quick pacing compared to a slow romance. Pacing builds tension in some scenes and eases it in others. Good pacing keeps a reader guessing, and allows for effective movement from one part of the story to another.
1-2: Poor – The thread ended abruptly, or the posts were long-winded and pointlessly off-topic. The posts added nothing to the story and/or gave your partners very little to work with.
3-4: Below Average
5-6: Average – Though the thread did not stagnate, or move too quickly, it failed to keep the reader engaged. It dragged on in places, rushed crucial scenes too quickly, or juxtaposed a good beginning with an abrupt end.
9-10: Masterful – Your posts fit the story like a glove, and flawlessly matched each scene’s mood. Whether flowing or raging, your posts moved the story along at a sustainable, and believable speed.
Character: One important factor in gauging character is, do the thoughts, words, and actions of the character seem real? Making a character think, speak, and act outside their nature without explanation will hurt scores in the character categories. A character should be believable and compelling. It is unusual for a frenzied barbarian to compose music mid battle. It is out of the ordinary for a dull-witted man to outwit a brilliant opponent. If you can justify these actions, though, then even an illogical response from a character can serve a better purpose than an intelligent, mundane, and routine one.
Communication (10 Points)
Communication and dialogue must be sensible and believable between characters. A warrior in the midst of a battle does not break out into long-winded speech. A nonprofessional would not be able to converse with jargon. A quiet, withdrawn person might not speak much at all. On the other hand, a particularly flamboyant, arrogant, or witty character might decide to deliver a speech on the fly. A poorly educated human might, in a moment of crisis, say a few words that are elegant in their simplicity. Communication is not “How much talking was there?”. It is “Does the communication represent the character?”
Communication is not just through words. It includes all methods, means, and manners of communication. For example, a mute character might communicate his intentions through sign language, or by pointing to relevant objects. Consider written, sung, pictured, and implied dialogue as well. Internal monologues and general introspection are also included in communication, but can bleed over into persona as well.
1-2: Poor – The dialogue is inconsistent, and odd at ease with the character. The dialogue is from other sources, or quoted inappropriately.
3-4: Below Average
5-6: Average – The writing expressed solid moments mixed with the mundane. Communication served a solid purpose in the story and made sense, but lacked much depth.
9-10: Masterful – The communication was insightful and developed persona and plot. It felt real, believable, and served a purpose. The reader could really hear the character’s voice echo.
Action (10 Points)
Action is similar to communication, in that it is about the relevance, not the form the actions take. Every motion must be relevant, and keeping within character and environment. Keep in mind that action is not limited to fighting. For example, a character might have a favourite book. A player could begin a thread with her reading it for a third time. Characters secretly in love might unconsciously sit closer to one another and shoot each other shy glances. Strong action paints characters as breathing, vibrant, and full of motion, rather than lifeless statues.
In battle and combat, strategy is an important part of the action score. In quests and vignettes, it is about developing responses. For example, a mastermind might brew an ingenious plot, while remaining unable to change to changing scenarios. A brash character might forgo planning altogether, and rely on spontaneity. Just like communication, how cool action is or how intelligently executed are secondary factors. The writer must consider ability, believability, and adaptability.
1-2: Poor - Actions made no sense in terms of chronology or character. Realism and the character’s limitations ignored without logical cause.
3-4: Below Average
5-6: Average - For the most part, described actions used to give scenes life. A sense of realism was upheld, and worked relatively well with character and abilities.
9-10: Masterful - The actions not only portrayed character, but also helped define character personality. The character reacted to different situations in a realistic way and displayed their limitations fairly and intuitively. All five senses were utilised in the writing, and used with literary finesse.
Persona (10 Points)
Persona refers to how you depict your character’s emotions, thoughts, and ‘inner selves’ in relation to personality. Emotions can be one of the trickiest things to write. It is easy to write too little, or too much. Characters, save certain notable exceptions, always have emotions. They feel pain; they feel love, hate, and happiness. They may not always know what to do with it though. It is sometimes more about struggling to understand the feeling, than the feeling itself. To that end, it must be a believable journey, because without a specific reason, emotion should not be overblown.
These guidelines warrant suspension if the emotion is appropriate. For example, a warrior, used to pain, may react if he is subject to something outside his experience. Even though hardened to suffering, something can push their boundaries, and that warrants a show of emotion beyond their character. Perhaps the character is an entirely alien being with inhuman emotions and ways of thinking, or something artificial with no feelings at all, then, the rules go into flux, allowing creativity to transcend the usual human understanding. Because of that, persona is one of the hardest areas to judge.
1-2: Poor – The way the character’s emotions or lack of was either clichéd or absent on the other.
3-4: Below Average
5-6: Average – The writing mostly conveyed the emotions of your character (or lack thereof), but some passages felt excessive, forced, or lacked context. Some parts fell flat or written too awkwardly for the reader to understand.
9-10: Masterful– The emotions were exceptionally realistic. Every piece of introspection let the reader delve deeper into the character’s psyche, and the writer successfully conveyed their intent. Emotion and persona were not ill paced, nor where they the dominant force, and that lead to strong, overall characterisation.
Prose: To use a metaphor, the prose is the bones, sinew, and skin of a thread’s “body.” Mechanics refers to the basic building blocks– the bones. Technique ties things together, using different methods of stylistic devices to make the mechanics transcend the mere words on the page – the sinew. Clarity is the public face of it all, what people see…the part of a body that people immediately interact with and try to understand – the skin.
Mechanics (10 Points)
Did you correctly place commas? Are your sentences actual sentences, and not fragments? Do you spell words properly? In other words, do you follow the basic rules of Standard English? This also covers finer areas of linguistics, such as a sentence’s accented rhythm, passive language, and so forth. These rules can be broken without detriment, provided they are broken intentionally to serve a specific stylist purpose or colloquialism. The judge will determine whether a broken mechanic intended to enhance style
1-2: Poor – Innumerable spelling, grammar, and word use errors. The sentence structure was degraded and difficult to read.
3-4: Below Average – Multiple typos and grammatical errors, most of them were detectable with a spellchecker, proliferated the writing. The overall sentence structure was lacking in rigidity, although the majority of errors are commonly made or typographical in nature.
5-6: Average – There are few errors, but commonly misspelled words or sentence structure anomaly were present. Alternatively, errors are sporadic, but there were overused verbs and passive voice.
7-8: Above Average – The writing was devoid of obvious errors and showed concerted effort to proof read. Your prose has a good cadence to it, but lacked finesse to reach a higher category.
9-10: Masterful –Posts were free of typos, and took subtle aspects of the English language into account, such as building sentences based on word pronunciation, using dynamic verbs, and no passive language. In essence, the writing was mechanically flawless, one or two typos will not preclude you from scoring ten points here.
Clarity (10 Points)
Clarity concerns itself with whether or not your posts make sense. Can the reader comprehend what is going on? Do sentences clearly describe events and logically follow one another? Clarity, in the purest sense, asks this: do you say what you need to say understandably and clearly? All categories can affect clarity in some way. Poor mechanics can make writing illegible, or actions and chronology difficult to follow. Not all categories can affect clarity negatively, however. So long as it is intentional as a literary or plot device, such as a dose of mystery or surrealist elements, there are times when being unclear can make writing crystal.
1-2: Poor – The writing was indecipherable, full of repetition, nonsensical description, and all but impossible to follow action.
5-6: Average – While the writing was generally understandable, the reader sometimes felt inconsistencies and missing spots in the provided information. The wording of the sentences sometimes stumped the reader, forcing him/her to reread to figure out what you were trying to say.
9-10: Masterful – The meanings in the writing conveyed successfully, without the need to draw on extensive back history. When referencing characters, you take the time to describe them, to explain (if necessary), and to maintain all other aspects of the rubric. The same goes for original races, creatures, and weapons. You have not intentionally withheld relevant information outside of literary device.
Technique (10 Points)
Technique is all about special literary devices. This includes foreshadowing, metaphors, and allusion. It can utilise symbolism, tripling, or internal thought, and many others. The rubric looks at technique in several ways, which affect the other categories. For example, devices such as foreshadowing used to build tension help pacing. Metaphors and personification can help to develop setting.
Technique also relates to effectiveness. For example, was the foreshadowing constructive in creating tension? In addition, did the writing contain many subtle techniques rather than shoving it in the reader’s face? Given the nature of this category, it tends to be subjective, as one person may dislike certain styles another loves. Judges receive training do their best to remain objective, and gauge whether or not the literary objectives of the writing were intentional and appropriate.
1-2: Poor – There was consistent and basic misspelling throughout each post. Metaphors are incorrectly applied, and analogy and unconventional formatting are damaging to the writing. Substantial proof reading is required.
3-4: Below Average
5-6: Average – The writing shows comfort with personal style, and there is evidence of understanding around the techniques utilised. Some of the literary devices either do not come across the way intended or backfire. Some passages require more, whilst others seem a bit excessive. The flow of the writing, though clear and fluidic, sometimes felt clunky.
9-10: Masterful – The writing is rich with well-placed rhetorical devices without containing an overabundance. The flow of the writing is impeccable and does not feel bogged down by purple prose. Put simply, the writing has undeniable flair without bordering on melodramatic.
Wildcard (10 Points)
The wildcard takes into account anything that does not fall under another category. It allows for subjective appraisal, and award aspects of your writing that were liked that fell outside of the Althanas rubric. Notably, this is where judges score creativity, as well as how the story came together. The score also accounts for use of previous material, references to past and present threads, and the use of the extensive canon available as background material.
We even use this rubric to judge the winner of roleplay battles and tournaments! Even if your character lost the fight, your writing determines the real winner in the eyes of the judges, and earns bragging rights and a place in the next round!