Okay, you know what kind of site you want and what kind of crowd you're looking for and what genre you want it to be categorized as. Now let's work on the plot and the characters that will be involved in it.
-The Story so Far:
The key here is to make a rich, engaging storyline for your members to get drawn into.
You basically want to make a summary from beginning to present time of what happen and why it happened. Remember to add at the end of your storyplot your members' purpose of roleplaying at your site. Are they here to just be the townspeople and build up the town? Are they here to learn and create new spells? Are they here to find the love of their life? Make their purpose clear. Also, make sure that you're open minded to story changes. Your plot may or may not come out exactly the way you want it when you let other people join into it. Keep this in mind and try to make sure your storyplot isn't too overdone, long and strict. Also, don't be so stubborn about trying to stay on course with the storyline. You may miss out on some pretty interesting twist and turns. The reality is that roleplaying with complete strangers will cause for a lot of impromptu style thinking. So stay open minded.
-Less is More:
This means not to take on more than what you can handle when building your site. It's better to have a basic plot/setup that members can help build up into something big over time, than to have something that's big and has to shrink over time. Members don't like it when you have to keep taking away things they're used to because you realize that now it's a mistake.
I actually seen a site with the announcement that said since they added more forums, this would get members to post more or get more people to join their site. This is not true at all. Members love to see a nice clean and tidy site. They don't like seeing a long, overwhelming list of useless forum, topics or storyplots. So make sure you have no more than 7 forums for them to roleplay in and keep the storyline simple. Make sure you also pay attention to which forums are popular and which aren't, and then get rid of the ones that no one posts in.
-The Villain and Hero of the Story:
It's best to make a villain for your story instead of letting members do so. Most members will always be torn in wanting to be the 'good' guy even though they created an 'evil' character. So don't leave it up to them. A villain doesn't have to be a person, it can be an event where all members are trapped in a collapsing building and must get out before it collapses. A villain can be a famine, an earthquake, poverty, a flood or any other natural disaster. It's basically events that will shake things up every once in awhile. If you do choose to make your villain a human, make sure that this person is fleshed out properly and has a reason for why they're doing what they're doing. Perhaps this 'villain' is trying to make the world a better place by wiping out the Government who is causing the hunger and poverty within the town. But perhaps the 'villain' plans to wipe out the Government is radical and way over the top. Maybe they plan to blow up, or kill off the whole town and just start over. Or maybe the Government can be the villain of your story by controlling the currency and food supply. Whatever it may be, try not to paint such a black and white picture of what it means to be a 'villain' and a 'hero'. Get your members to think twice before they judge who the 'hero' or 'villain' really is.
-Pitted Against Each Other:
I do not recommend you setting up your storyplot to have members pitted against each other. Such as: Mafia vs Mafia, or Military vs Military. Many members aren't going to feel comfortable killing/wounding other members. I mean, come on, who's going to want to see their favorite character die to the hands of another character? (I know for sure I wouldn't!). When players know this, they'll keep avoiding battles at all cost. This will now hurt the storyline if no one is battling for victory. I would suggest that if you want a territorial/gang roleplay, then have players battle NPCs (Non-playable characters) that have been created by Admins or Mods instead. This will cut down on the guilt if the NPC dies, or if the member has to kill them.
The reality is that players would prefer working together to take down NPCs than to take down another member.
-And it Goes on and on…:
Okay, I won't argue that there is such a thing as lack of detail. But I will argue that there is such a thing as too much detail. The reality is that adding background story that has a background story, that has a background story can be right out flat boring and useless.
I've come across a few sites that had gobs of back-story and history. However, I also questioned how many people actually remembered everything that they read? The key is to add enough detail to keep members interested, and enough detail that will actually show up in the roleplay. Here are a few historical things you can think about adding to your roleplay storyline:
-The History of Your World:
-Keeping Your Members in the Light:
I strongly suggest keeping your members updated on site changes through announcements. Members love this, it makes them feel like you care and have been paying attention to your site. Also, try and mention why you and your staff are making these changes to the site. The point behind this is to have members understand the way that you think, so that they may be well prepared on what to expect from future changes and from you. For example, if you are known for doing a monthly maintenance and members spot out some inactive forums/topics that have been sitting around for some time, then they'll automatically know that those topics/forums will be leaving on the next maintenance check. And this just allows them to feel more confident in knowing what to expect from you and your site.
-Character Bio Sheet:
I'd like to take the time out and tell you how important this really is. The reality of this is that there are some really jacked-up characters out there. I'm talking about some hot messes like a friendly-assassin that threatens to kill anyone in their path, but won't hurt a fly because killing is wrong [Think about that...].
These sour contradictions make no sense whatsoever. And these jacked-up characters will single handedly destroy your roleplay with their nonsense. To prevent these sour patches from joining your site, it's best to set up a sturdy Bio outline so that you can spot out those nasty contradictions. Another thing, don't let your members just make up their own race, traits/flaws/abilities and such. The reality is that they're not going to do right and that they will make Mary Sues and Gary Stus (Perfect characters). Create outlines for them to pick from and limit them on how many traits/skills/abilities they can pick from to help flesh their character out more.
If you need help in how to limit characters and their abilities and such, but don't know where to start, then you can start below:
Bio Sheet Outline:
For an outline of what your character Bio sheet should look like, check out this really helpful outline:
-What You Should Do Instead:
All of the things named above is totally unrealistic, and makes for a poor roleplay. There is no logic behind a character being able to read minds without being a psychic. Or being able to teleport without powers or a spell. Or being able to know everything that's going on without having to actually have been there. Or how annoying it is to have that character never react to anything that is happening to them. Or is always crying and whinny over their past. This type of lazy fantasy roleplaying is the main killer to all roleplays. Not to mention what a pain it is to have to play with someone that is like this.
It's urged and encouraged to try and play more realistic by simply having your character talk and interact with other characters to find out what's going on, instead of them just magically finding out. To also politely, and gently excuse your character from a conversation that is coming to an end with another character, instead of rudely ending it by teleporting away. To also minimize bringing up past tragedies, instead of bring them up every post. And to react properly to whatever is going on with your character, instead of ignoring it.
While this may seem boring, just remember that it takes some real skill to add logic to fantasy. So all around, playing in a more realistic way helps any roleplay site and your character to grow!