This article is a guide, a supplemental packet or how-to on the subject of roleplaying. It is not meant to be the absolute way to roleplay and is only based on the opinions of the creator.
In RP today, there can be said to be many things that are needed to make the experience truly excellent: A story, characters, and, perhaps most important of all, immersion.
I will, today, discuss all of these in some detail, starting with the only thing that is not actually required to RP, before moving to the most important, and then, finally, ending with the real point of this whole thing: The unsung hero, Immersion.
If you don’t care about what I have to say on the others, feel free to skip past.
I’m sure many of you are confused: “Surely, Gef,” you shout at this post. “You cannot be serious! You can’t RP without a story!”
I’d like to first thank you for your passion, and second advise you pursue medical attention for that schizophrenia making you think I can hear you as you scream at the computer screen. I would then like to tell you why I say what I do.
Story is something that is required for a book; there must be events in this medium. But in real life, not everything has some deeper conflict or purpose. Sometimes, you’re just sitting in a restaurant, chatting with the people at the table next to you. Now, if you really wanted to get technical, you could argue that the story there is getting food, but that’s just semantics. No, story is what occurs when you later tell someone about that night in the restaurant where you met your fiancée after throwing a fork through her father’s Jell-O™ and into his prosthetic hand.
In order to RP some grand, master plan, there must be story, and more often than not it requires some OOC collaboration between parties involved. But to RP, you don’t need to have a story. There is no story apparent when you walk into the tavern and chat with the current patrons. There is no story when you meet a friend fighting the Quillboar in the Barrens. No, there is only interaction, and that is what is truly required: the interaction.
Even still, there are often stories involved in RP, and I here have a few thoughts of my own.
- 1. Try to keep your stories from being inaccessible to the outsider. A server that excludes others, that gathers itself into little cliques and never expands RP beyond that is doomed to die as morons stream in to fill the gaps (You know who you are). To that end, I ask of you all to break down the walls around yourself, and try to get people involved… Or, at the very least, let people who stumble upon your RP have some part. Nothing is more disheartening, especially to a brand-new RPer than to be ignored, much as I’m sure your little brother/sister/whatever often felt disheartened when you ignored him/her/it on the playground. And, like said little brother/sister/whatever, if you do it too often, eventually, he/she/it will become older, put in piercings, listen to My Chemical Romance and start cutting themselves. Before long, they’ll rise up as one for the Emo Revolution, as has happened so many times before in history [Citation needed].
- 2. Keep your stories somewhat realistic and original. While it is possible that one person has found the lost gem of Medivh’s chalice of magical magic, when everyone has found Medivh’s various artifacts, before long we wind up with people coming up claiming they’ve found Medivh’s eyebrow comb. …Yeah, most of that was to use the phrase eyebrow comb, but my point remains the same. If you’re going to do an ‘idea’ that has already been used (and mind you, there are no ideas that have not already been thought of) give it a twist. Sure, there may be an evil wizard trying to destroy Stormwind, but what makes that wizard different from all the other wizards (Note: If you want to know, ask me. I got LOTS of reason why my evil wizard is different)? Feel free to go with the flow, but make sure that at least one point, you split off from that river, if only for a little while. Diversity is fun. Do not, however, become so diverse as to make things that are simply too ridiculous for comprehension (“Hey everyone, look! I am a High God of the Qiraji, and overthrew C’thun myself! Bow before my might!”)
- 3. Backstories are a big part of a character development, but I figure I’ll talk about it here first, in discussing things your story should have.
- A. Where/when was your character born? What kind of family did she come from? Did she have a good childhood? What were her parents like? What did they do?
- B. How did your character become what she is? If she’s a Mage, did she train in Dalaran? If she’s a Warrior, who taught her to fight (or did she teach herself?)? If she’s a Rogue, is it because she trained for it, or grew up on the harsh streets of the Capital City of Lordaeron after her parents died in the war?
- C. Did she fight in the wars? Did she lose family to the wars? Was she a civilian displaced by the wars? (note: considering the rather war-torn nature of Azeroth, it is likely at least one of these occurred. But, not necessary)
- D. What has she been doing of late? Has she had any family? Are they alive?
- E. After you’ve written the story, I highly advise you go back and look at the various aspects of the story, and make sure they all make sense with the timeline. The lore of this world is a bit flexible, but there are some constants (There were no Orcs before the First War, no Ogres, Undead were ‘born’ within the last 9 years, Kal’dorei/Human, Draenei/Dwarf/anything with those two races (Kal’dorei and Draenei) are not possible unless the character is less than 9 years old for a Kal’dorei, or 2 for a Draenei) – http://www.wowwiki.com has a lot of excellent and accurate data.
It is interaction between characters that is the meat of RP. When two characters meet, there is an interaction – be it vague body language, specific words, or even violence, the two of them act towards each other according to the guidelines their players have set forth for them.
It is important that you think about how your character reacts to various situations and various behaviors, especially considering that they’re likely to meet with a lot of them. At the very least, define a personality for your character – what are they like? Are they a happy, or a morose person? Are they old or young? Prudish or liberal? There are many questions, and by answering them, you begin to flesh out what the character is like.
Some Gefnotes about characters:
- 1. Nothing is more important to the RP than the character. Put some time into it. Even if their backstory isn’t too complex (“He was a farmer until he moved here. What? Were you expecting Kil’jaeden?”), make sure their personality has some development.
- 2. Consider how you type when portraying your character. The way you speak, and the adverbs and adjectives describing your character will do a lot to determining what people can understand about him. If your character is a country bumpkin, it is probable that he would speak like a country bumpkin, which means that those of you so fond of, “What ho, lad! What brings you to this cheery little hamlet, hm?” should probably try to make your character a bit more intelligent. …And maybe a bit less British,
- 3. As in the real world, the way your character dresses plays a great roll in the perception of others. It is highly advisable you level an RP character – not to the highest levels, no, but to a level where you can wear some clothes that make your character look how you see him or her. For instance, unless you genuinely see your character as wearing ragged robes, you probably shouldn’t leave her at level 3. You don’t even have to get a character that high to get some clothing that looks presentable – even for a character that’s supposed to be rich. This rule also applies to hair color/facial hair/hair style: older characters would likely have graying hair, characters who spend all their time outside would have tanned skin, characters who can’t pay for haircuts and shaves would have raggedy and scruffy beards/hair – put some thought into it. Have some fun.
- 4. Make sure your character remains believable. Turalyon and Alleria had a son, yes, but it sure isn’t you. Vampirism (or something rather akin to it) is a rare gift only to the traitor elf princes – and you aren’t one of them, in all likelihood. Dragons are, by and large, very secretive in humanoid form, so sure, your character can be a dragon – but you’re going to be the only one who knows about it. Seriously. Dragons never reveal their identity unless forced to do so. A few simple rules: your character probably isn’t more than just a member of the race (note: he may very well be an exceptionally strong or well-trained one, but he is not a member of the race’s X-Men), your character is almost undoubtedly not directly related to a lore character, or their best friend, or lover, or whatever (note: your character can, however, and probably has, met at least one major lore character. He just isn’t their bestest friend and confidante).
Immersion is the unsung hero of RP aspects, yet it is, as much as characters, required for any RP.
Immersion is sinking yourself into your character. When you RP, you are, at least to some degree, suspending your thought of yourself as yourself. For a time, you are not playing a game, you are in a real world, where magic reigns, and dragons fly the sky. You effectively pretend that you are your character.
This is a very important part of RP. When you play this game, you are a person sitting at a computer, playing an avatar who goes around and kills things, but when you roleplay, that computer, that person behind it, vanish to your senses. You are that avatar. That character. That person. Everyone – even people who truly do maintain their sense of, “I am a real person in this real world” do have some part of their mind that doesn’t think like they do – it thinks like their character. And as important as the fact that they think like that character is that that part of their mind stays separate.
In order to fundamentally change your personality to RP, you enter this new world. This new world has its own rules, its own politics, its own problems. And this world functions as it will – it’s a concept called the ‘willing suspension of disbelief,’ where for a time, you focus not on what does not make sense, but understand, “It doesn’t have to, for this is a different world.” To that end, we can make ourselves our character, through that tenuous link of the willing suspension of disbelief.
It is therefore important – imperative, no less – that that cable that connects us to the real world not be threatened, for like the internet cable that connects us to the game in the first place, if you damage it, you will not be suspended as your character playing the game – you will be left a person in front of a computer with no character. And just as much as if that internet is pulled, if your suspension of disbelief is damaged by something – by a moron yelling, “HAI GAIZ, LOOK, IM SO 1337,” or by something occurring that makes that part of you that’s you consider, “Hey, wait… That wouldn’t happen in this setting,” then we are pulled out of our character, and that truly damages the RP, for your character is not someone sitting in front of a computer, typing out answers to various questions from someone else and typing their responses. Your character is saying things. Your character is acting, and if you lose that, you lose the RP. Really, breaking the immersion is kind of like this:
- Except instead of the Death Star, it’s your RP, and instead of a cheering Han Solo and Luke, it’s a moron named “Hordesukz” running away yelling “LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL I AM T3H 1337ZORZ N I PWN U NOOBZ GO ALLIANZ ” in the middle of Silvermoon.
I think I’ve made my point.
The world has rules, and most of them are similar to our own. Everyone should follow those rules, so as to maintain their link to their character, and so as to keep everyone else maintained; perhaps you’ve heard people say in jest, “You’ve ruined my immersion!” Well, as much as people joke, it is a serious thing: our immersion is what lets us be our characters. It must be protected – nay, cherished – that we may continue to use this game as our own.
Keep yourself from using information from the real world. Think never in the real world, only as your character. These are two things that ideally – in a perfect world – everyone would do. I cannot expect that, so here is what I do ask of everyone who wishes to help maintain the immersion for themselves and others:
Understand and obey various laws of cities and towns, which are quite similar to our own, with some differences (Stormwind’s a monarchy, so no denouncing the King in massive public ways, Orgrimmar is a warrior city, Silvermoon is a nice paradise of light and magic with inexplicable fel crystals, etc. etc.)
Try to avoid talking in OOC brackets in /s or /y. I know, it can be very tempting to do so sometimes, but it’s just as easy to talk to someone in whispers, or in party chat, or even in an OOC channel – somewhere where people not privy to your conversation will not be forced to listen to it, and thus, forced out of their character.
Make your character act as though he/she is in a world that is not your world. This is the most important: Azeroth is different, it has different constants. Azeroth is a wartorn world, and frankly, a lot of people seem almost too complacent. The Alliance and Horde are at war, both with each other, and with the Scourge – it is important that there is some atmosphere of that! There are threats – respond to them, if only by making your character a bit more tense, a bit more hardened as a result of the very real threats. Seeing everyone sit in taverns and chatting as though all’s well with the world – for me, at least – can be difficult to see. (Note: I understand why people RP this. This last one is really just a suggestion, more than something that’s important: the world really is in turmoil, and it’s probable that most people would, at least to some degree, respond to it in everyday activity – war bonds, anyone?)
(P.S. to Note: That raises a good question: Who the Hell is funding this magical war against the Scourge and the Alliance or Horde? Get on it, people-with-nothing-to-do!) (P.S. to P.S. to Note: Those people with nothing to do who aren’t me. I have to write more of these random articles after all)
That’s all for today. I’m Gefjon, and this is my latest long, rambling article on RP. And as usual, I will be endlessly bumping this so as to sate my rampant egotism (Again, Blizz, save us both the trouble: just sticky it, and I’ll release the hostages)
P.S. Er…. ….Did I say that?
Play me off, Sam.