Thursday, 23 July 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Four

Our Guildmaster, Overon is emphatic about Roleplaying. Recently he encouraged Vision of Excellence members towards a simple rule. Say what you need to in party or guild chat but keep /s (‘say’) for in-character dialogue.

For myself I added an extra rule. Be nice.

Like most people I don’t want to be famous for looking down my nose at people. Like everyone I have some real-life friends on the server, and sometimes that entails discussions about real life.

I found it easy to implement Overon’s simple rule, and to encourage others to do the same, without ever needing to mention it.

‘Are you from Sweden?’ someone asked me in /say last night. I replied in /whisper and the entire conversation switched channel without anyone being scolded. Even if it hadn’t, I’d have quietly followed the simple rule without passing judgement on the other person.

Anyone pulling their hair out over the state of role-play on their server might consider how they can quietly lead by example. An appropriate emote or inspiring comment will often stir others to join in the flavour of the moment.

It worries me that many are very quick to define themselves as not being role-players. This feeling is reinforced by the behaviour and complaints of those who consider themselves the ‘real thing’. Such behaviour makes role-playing seem like an unattainable holy grail, available only to those with a degree in Drama.

However I find it hard to believe these ‘non role-players’ do not become as immersed in the experience of adventure and danger as the rest of us. You’d really have to be swimming against the entire stimulus of WoW not to feel some immersion in the experience. We can add to that immersion by staying in character ourselves. That includes not going OOC to complain.

Let’s try to treat everyone as role-players. Lead by example. Not bash those who don’t conform to our own approach (mine or yours) and encourage role-playing by portraying characters that actually have some character.

And be nice!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Three

Stories within stories…

Warcraft has a considerable back-story and mythology informing it. Quests have purpose. You’re collecting twenty vehicle parts because some lazy gnome needs them to build his new invention. Real rivalries exist, as anyone who has been ganked more than once by the same enemy will realise.

Camaraderie is genuine and unforced. Bringing down a raid boss with your guild, or fighting for long months in a pre-made battleground or arena team will demonstrate this feeling.

Arch villains haunt the world with their schemes, and servers have their own legendary heroes and villains.

So why then feel the need to ‘go and do some role-play’?

To me this is akin to a group of Dungeons & Dragons characters, playing in a richly imagined campaign world, deciding that they will sit down and… play some Dungeons & Dragons! Thus creating a fiction within the fiction, but one that is contrived by the players instead of the Dungeon Master.

Now some innovation can indeed add depth to the WoW experience. On our server a guild called Theatre of Blood decided to put on an afternoon’s entertainment by staging a theatrical play in Duskwood. Other’s have organised parties or opened shops in Stormwind. These are natural developments within the existing structure.

However, contriving stories within the game or sitting in the tavern creating made-up material shows a lack of understanding that we are the players and that Blizzard are the DM’s!

Does it matter? Is this not a legitimate form of proactive creativity within the game?

It matters because those who ‘take time out to role-play’ are missing the point that role-play should not be distinct from any other part of the game.

Monday, 20 July 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Two

Westfall. It needs no introduction if you’ve ever taken a stroll around its hills and plains at sunset. After a few hours being harassed by outlaws I stop in the tavern for a breather.

A muscled human Warrior is buying something from the tavern keeper. Being a polite sort of Elf I wish him a good evening… by name.

‘How do you know my name!!?’ He demands, his eyebrows meeting like two furry swords.

It’s a showstopper. Of course I read it above his head. My bad. But unless he has the improvisation skills to acknowledge that I might indeed know him by reputation or prior friendship this is going to turn nasty.

We are two actors on a stage, and I’ve fluffed my opening line. Some good nature is required on his part to keep the show rolling.

‘Why aren’t you role-playing?’ he presses the attack.

What he really wants me to do is to break down, acknowledge my mistake and plead for mercy. Say something like; ‘I cannot justify knowing your name. I read it above your head. Please forgive me for not role-playing.’

Luckily I have the wit to help him out and rescue the scene. Praise Elune.

‘Of course I know you,’ I assure him. ‘You’re the hero who slew VanCleef!’

He follows my lead with the reply; ‘This is a RP server!’

What’s really going on here? Is the Warrior a valiant guardian of the sanctity of role-play facing down an intruder or an unimaginative keyboard puncher trying to prove their superiority by using “RP” as a weapon?

I hacked his head off, put in it my backpack, and went home.

I landed in Ashenvale where a young rogue came dancing up to me.

‘Hey Fey!’

‘Hello,’ I replied, removing my weapons and settling down for a quick nap. I love it when people remember me.

Friday, 17 July 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode One

I think Blood Elves must spend a lot of time on their hairstyles. When honest adventurers are out earning a living, these vain creatures are sitting in front of ornate mirrors with a fist full of hair gel.

I’m watching one right now, trying to determine it’s gender while I get ready to fire a well aimed arrow into it’s ear. He or she hasn’t spotted me yet, but in a few moments we’ll be engaged in a life or death struggle and only one of us will be walking away with dignity intact. I’m in a mean mood today.

They are almost far enough from the local guards for me to take my first shot, when some shouting breaks my focus.


Suddenly I am no longer in the forest. I am sitting in front of a computer playing a game. Thanks very much.