Welcome, gentle reader, to the first in a series of OOC entries about roleplaying (RP) in World of Warcraft. This series was inspired by a number of discussions I’ve had with other players recently and by the fact that people in Warcraft keep coming up with crazy ways to do things… well, crazy. Every day I hear about otherwise totally normal and balanced people doing weird and unnecessary things in roleplay that make it awkward and difficult for everyone to get along – and what winds up surprising me every single time is how many of the people I talk to expect crazy drama to be part and parcel of roleplay. It isn’t, and it doesn’t have to be. I played and administrated Live-Action Vampire games for over a decade, people: I know crazy drama and I’m telling you, you don’t need it in WoW.
Today we’re going to start with the basics of being a good roleplayer. For purposes of this discussion, I’m assuming that you (the reader) already know what roleplaying is (i.e., running around acting out the role of your character in World of Wacraft) and perhaps have been doing it for a bit. We may come back to more basic topics in future… but generally I’ve found that people get that first step down pretty quick. It’s the ones that come after that trip folks up. And that’s where we’re going to start.
Being a good roleplayer has more to do with OOC behavior than it does anything that happens in character (although we’ll spend plenty of pixels talking about characters down the line!) If you’ve been roleplaying in any capacity for any length of time you may know more than a few good actors and storytellers who are bad roleplayers, because they forget that roleplaying isn’t like writing a book (where you dictate what happens and how everyone reacts) or acting in a play (where you only have to worry about your own part), and they manage to muck up what should be a really simple game of pretend with their attempts to play it by the wrong rules. Roleplaying is its own creature, a shared medium that requires you to cooperate and get along with other roleplayers – especially in the kind of free-form RP that you find in World of Warcraft – to tell a cohesive, engaging story that all participants can enjoy.
There are a lot of very good roleplayers out there, but they all have certain traits in common.
- Create RP. They don’t sit around whining about how no one talks to them; they go out and start talking to people. They drop plot/conversation hooks for others to pick up on, and they listen for opportunities to jump in and expand a story with their own ideas (respectfully, of course!) Even when playing the loner in the corner, they find ways to stay involved and give other players something to work from.
- Encourage others. They are patient with slow typists and new roleplayers. They offer aid instead of criticism. They are respectful of fellow roleplayers even during disagreements, and work to find solutions that preserve an element of fun for everyone.
- Do their homework. No one reasonably expects everyone to be a lore expert (at least no one who is Encouraging Others), but good roleplayers know enough about what they’re playing to make a believable and workable character. They recognize that ten minutes spent reading Wowpedia before introducing their character for the first time makes all the hours of roleplaying to come more enjoyable for everyone.
- Respect lore and setting. Bending lore is one thing; breaking it is another. Good roleplayers recognize that just because a thing could have happened doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily likely or a good idea… and they know when to modify or set aside an appealing concept because it just doesn’t fit.
- Are considerate of their fellow roleplayers. They do not godmod or otherwise attempt to dictate action to other players. They do not constantly upstage those around them. They are patient when their buddies are raiding or roleplaying with others. If the RP starts going someplace that makes the other player uncomfortable, they are willing to stop or arrange some kind of compromise (fade-to-black) to accommodate their RP partner.
- Play consistent characters. Their characters have quirks, tells, fashions or patterns of speech that make them unique and memorable. Their characters have their own values and motivations. Their characters are not necessarily predictable, but they act in accordance with their defined personality.
- Accept the IC consequences of their IC actions. Certainly, no one can perma-kill anyone’s character without the player’s permission. But good roleplayers understand that if their characters go around torturing people and smashing kittens and generally being a jerk, then eventually few other characters will have a good IC reason to hang around them anymore.
- Separate IC and OOC responsibly. They do not mistake in-character flirting or antagonism for out-of-character attraction or hatred. They do not use their character as an outlet for their real-life issues. They don’t let their OOC knowledge of information or events influence their roleplay.
- Keep an eye on the story. At the same time, they keep abreast of what their fellow players’ goals are, and what they enjoy, and they make certain that they are not letting their character run roughshod over other players’ fun. It can be tricky balancing the needs of a character against the needs of a story – especially without metagaming – but good roleplayers pull it off.
- Support their community. They abide by preset RP server rules by giving their characters RP-appropriate names, and by staying in-character in /say, /y and /e as much as possible. They are dedicated to creating and maintaining a positive and immersive roleplay environment. They represent their guilds and server well when out in the greater World of Warcraft.
- Use RP mods responsibly. They have MRP/TotalRP/FlagRSP/whatevs, but do not rely on people reading it. Their flags are written to neatly convey useful details without overwhelming the reader with minutia. Details about their character are reinforced through their emotes.
No one is born a good roleplayer, and very few people take to it entirely naturally their first time out. Every good roleplayer out there became one through hard work and a lot of practice. Every roleplayer was once new, and the vast majority of roleplayers were once bad. And everyone has room for improvement.
We’ll revisit most (if not all) of these guildelines at some point or another in the coming weeks. But next week, a similar overview of what makes for a good character, before we dive into the meat of these discssusions. I expect that for many of these entries I shall be preaching to the proverbial choir – but if I do happen to produce something useful to you, dear reader, please let me know? And if there are topics that you would like for me to cover in future, please tell me that as well.
Thanks for joining me!