Monday, 24 August 2009

Cataclysm – You Know Too Much

You watched the Cataclysm trailer this weekend didn’t you?

I have to say it looks pretty exciting. However it sometimes seems to me a pity that we can become so much in the know about future WoW events before they ever happen, from a story-telling point of view.

There’s a strange irony to how we approach this RPG. We strive to know tactics before we step through the door of an instance. Almost certainly we know the potential loot! Of course it varies from person to person, but often players have enormous amounts of information about challenges before they are undertaken, and not to have that information is failure.

Does this foreknowledge fly in the face of immersive roleplay, or would the heroes of old have indeed gathered as much information as possible before heading off to kill that Minotaur? You decide.

Aragorn: ‘Okay when Frodo draws his sword about 100 orcs are going to come charging out of the woods. I want the Hobbits to draw as much aggro as possible and start running to where Boromir will tank the main group. Legolas, Gimli and I will deal with any adds, dps like crazy, and then run down to the others. I’ll off-tank the main boss while the rest of you finish off the mobs.’

Frodo: ‘How do you know all this stuff anyway?’

Boromir: ‘I still think we should wait for a healer. Ask Guilds.’

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A Myth in Action

Playing any adventure game with a reasonable amount of freedom is about choosing to be a hero. Or a villain. Or a morally ambiguous character.

Morrowind and Fallout as well as Dungeons & Dragons and other table-top RPG’s are examples of forums where this moral choice is available.

The same holds true for Warcraft. Whether you like it or not, whether you play on a RP server or not, you will make choices about the moral quality of your character.

Everyone is free to be a total bastard if they want to. However I think many aspire to be a hero! But does being a hero actually involve?

A hero might have fantastic equipment. In Arthurian mythology the sword Excalibur was an exemplary weapon, as was Narsil in Lord of the Rings. The shield of Achilles and the spear of Odin are among many, many other significant and magical artefacts wielded by mythic heroes.

A hero may belong to an elite group such as the Spartans, the Knights of the Round Table or the Myrmidons. They may brave dangerous ruins or explore strange forbidding islands, as did the Argonauts.

But still the quality of heroism would be elusive without the heart and soul of the hero, his or her conduct and contribution to the world, ‘the power to bestow boons on his fellow man’ (Campbell 1949).

A true hero is a ‘living-light fountain, which it is good and pleasant to be near… in whose radiance all souls feel that it is well with them’ (Carlyle 1841).

If you choose to be a hero then choose to be pleasant to be around, helpful, fair and righteous. Lifting up others on your journey and showing the camaraderie of the classical heroes. Demonstrated from Spartan courage to Arthurian chivalry; it's not just what you do but the way that you do it!

Epics come and go, but what abides is your conduct. A good reputation, once broken, is not easily fixed by a trip to the blacksmiths.

‘We hunger for heroes as role models, as standards of action, as ethics in flesh and bones like our own. A hero is a myth in action’ (May 1991).


Campbell, J. (1949) The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Carlyle, T. (1841) On Heroes and Hero-Worship
May, R. (1991) The Cry for Myth.

Monday, 10 August 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Seven

Role-playing is not optional on a RP-PVP server.

Like many I was caught up in this weekends post-patch fervour to grind Emblems of Conquest. We ran a massive slew of Heroics to that purpose. After which I put on my favourite robe and waited in Elwynn Forest for the chance to kick someone’s ass.

While I was sitting on the fence, like Elves do for reasons known only to us, another 80th level character came strolling along, bristling with armour and weapons.

One of the aspiring heroes ran up and told him; ‘Good evening!’

To which he replied; ‘Fag’. And then rode off.

A few minutes later this same arrogant person put out a message on the general channel:

‘Anyone want any help with Hogger while I am here?’

I couldn’t resist replying; ‘You and what army?’

This bought some sniggers on the general channel and the angry reply:

‘F****king roleplayers! I won’t be laughed at by some kid who thinks he is his character!’

I might usefully add that the speaker was from a guild once considered the elite of our server. But in those days elite also meant friendly and helpful.

If you’ve been following this blog, you will have noticed a broad and encouraging attitude to defining role-play. Thus far I have:

Looked at role-play in terms of developing character.

Encouraged people not to break character for the purposes of arguing about role-play in game.

Invited everyone to consider themselves as role-players. You don't have to sit in the tavern chewing over the old days. But you should try to stay in character.

You may or may not agree with my definitions. However, role-playing is not optional on a RP or RP-PVP Server.

Some confusion exists about the definition of RP-PVP. I will make it very, very simple to understand. A RP-PVP server is a RP server. With PVP active.

Anyone who disagrees and thinks it is either/or can try two experiments to check:

Read Blizzards own definition. It is very clear.

Go and stand outside an enemy city.

It will soon become clear that neither RP nor PVP are optional.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Six

About character…

When I’m running a Dungeons & Dragons session, I encourage players to flesh out their statistics and weapons by adding four personality traits to their character sheet. In many ways these traits will inform the gaming experience to a greater extent than their +3 Vorpal Swords or whatever hardware they are carrying.

What makes a great Warcraft character is not the ability to spew huge chunks of rhetoric and mythos, but the ability to play a consistent and interesting character.

One the notable characters in the history of our server is Benevolent. Grand Marshal Benevolent led a great many pre-made battle-parties during the golden age of battleground warfare. I was aware of his back-story and he acknowledged the back-story of others. His character's achievements weren’t invented, he had actually accomplished all this stuff. Notably he was a consistent personality. Let’s try and create a character trait list for this person:


Interestingly, I never saw Ben hanging around in Goldshire chatting about the World Tree or walking slowly around the capital cities with a stick up his rear. Yet for me this character became as much a part of the Warcraft mythology as any notable NPC.

Keith Johnstone, an innovator in the field of Theatresports, provided some valuable advice in creating character in his book Impro for Storytellers.

‘Knowing the characters’ purpose isn’t enough – what really matters is how your character tries to achieve this purpose.’

Try creating a list of personality characteristics to inform how your character goes about their objectives. It’s likely, if you’ve been experiencing your character for a while, that you can already identify key character traits that may differ from your own. Many who consider themselves “non role-players” may be surprised to learn that they’ve been in character for quite some time.

Feel free to write your characters traits in the Comments box if you want to share them.

Because it’s my blog and I may as well indulge myself, here the traits I aspire to when being Fey:



The following lists are suggestions for actors on portraying personalities. They are slightly different from character traits, but useful in honing appropriate behaviours for the attitude you want your avatar to convey.

(From Impro for Storytellers)

To be Thought a Hero:
Talk about your thrilling adventures, Start a fight, Guard and defend your honour, have a beloved, issue dares.

To be Thought Intelligent:
Correct people, know everything, use long words, analyse everything.

To be Thought a Jerk:
Brag, point out people’s defects, make pointless jokes, pass blame onto other people.

To be the Life and Soul of a Party:
Be positive, be generous, know fascinating gossip, compliment/flatter.

To be High Status:
Take or fight for control, be more relaxed and stiller than your partner, talk in complete sentences, often use people’s names.

(Many other lists are possible).

Saturday, 1 August 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Five

I need a quick break from WoW, so I decide to try a free trial of Star Wars Galaxies.

After 10 minutes spent creating a suitably mullet-headed Jedi I log in and busy myself running around undertaking quests for Han Solo. It's all happy fun, even though the whole affair seems somewhat unpolished compared to WoW.

I'm pretty much alone in this starting zone, but after an hour or two of play I finally run into a group of other player-characters playing musical instruments in a medical bay. One of them stares at me as I stride in and comments; 'A loljedi'.

Instantly paranoia hits me. A loljedi? What does that mean? The implications don't sound very good. Have I chosen a character class that will mark me out for humiliation across the universe? Shit. I decide to Google the expression and try and get a better understanding of exactly what a loljedi might be.

The results aren't very flattering. I put together a picture of a game overun with wannabe Jedi's, often roleplayed very poorly. I feel a little stung by the insult. After all, I hadn't interacted with anyone yet.

I log back in and a stocky looking man in a military jacket approaches me.

'slt' he says.

I'm a little puzzled by the odd statement. Who or what is slt I wonder. Is he calling my William Wallace looking Jedi Apprentice a slut?

'Excuse me?' I respond, slightly annoyed.

'Sorry,' he pleads. 'I'm French.'

Some hours later, after having failed to use my Jedi powers to leap off low surfaces, I land on Tatooine. Here a reasonable collection of other players are, well, standing there. I can't see any other Jedi's and am feeling slightly on the spot in my Padawan judo outfit.

A bearded man comes up to me.

'English or German?' he questions.

'I'm a little bewildered,' I try to imagine my characters response to the strange question. 'I've just arrived here.'

Weirdly he turns tail and runs away. Watching him jog on I feel I have won a small victory of some kind.

Suddenly my name is being called and a very wise looking person is approaching me. Due to the miracle of floating titles I can see he is a Guild Master. This kind person answers some of my immediate questions and does it in such a way that allows us both to stay in character. At last my first sophisticated Star Wars Galaxies conversation!

I'm about to finish the happy exchange with a wise closing remark. Perhaps 'May the force be with you!' or simply 'Farewell friend' when a terrible message appears on my screen...

You have exceeded the chat limit for a trial account. You will be unable to chat for the next 8 minutes.

I try to speak but nothing comes out. My mouth is opening and closing, but I'm standing there in front of this wise Guild Master and unable to say a single bloody word. How the hell do I get out of this situation without losing massive face? In the end there is only one solution.

I turn tail and run away. Like a loljedi.