Tuesday 9 March 2010

Introduction to roleplaying, part 1: settling in

A lot of my fellow guild members from Single Abstract Noun are new to roleplaying servers and I've noticed a lot of questions cropping up in guild chat about what's going on and how to react to this unfamiliar way of playing the game. So I thought I'd write a little introductory guide to help them out and perhaps help others too. This first section is presented as a series of questions and answers covering the basics: I'll try to go into more detail in future posts. I've deliberately started from a very simple level, so if you find a question that you already know the answer to, feel free to skip ahead.

What on earth (or should that be Azeroth?) is an RP server?
An RP server (RP is short for roleplaying) is a special class of server in WOW which is reserved for roleplayers. As with the regular servers, they come in two flavours: PvE, where you primarily fight other monsters and PvP, where other players from the opposing faction can attack you. You'll see those denoted as RP and RPPVP on the server lists. For example, Argent Dawn (EU) is an RP server, and Defias Botherhood (EU) is an RPPVP server.

That's not very helpful. What I meant was: what do roleplayers do?
Essentially, roleplaying is collaborative improvised theatre and the roleplayers are the actors. Roleplayers differ from regular WOW players in that (at least part of the time), they speak and act from the perspective of their character, rather than that of the player. That means that they don't talk about what was on TV last night (that didn't happen in the game world) and they don't use gamer slang like "tank" or "DPS". Roleplayers often portray characters very different from their own real-life personality, so don't assume that that arrogant Blood Elf has a player behind it who is also rude.

Do these idiots all think they're Orcs?
No: they're playing a role, just as an actor does.

What's the point of roleplaying?
Ultimately, gamers roleplay for similar reasons to people who join amateur dramatic societies: they enjoy acting. It also has a benefit for the other players. Instead of seeing a bunch of computer-generated characters having scripted conversations, you see real people talking about the game world all around you. It improves the sense of realism immeasurably, even if you don't participate yourself.

Do I have to roleplay too?
No. Players on RP servers are used to others coming along to enjoy the friendly atmosphere (players on RP servers are generally more helpful and less rude than the majority of the WOW community, as Larisa's story shows). However, you should avoid doing things that break the atmosphere for others, such as dancing naked on the mailbox, talking about Megan Fox in /s or riding your Kodo right through a group of roleplayers who are having a discussion. There are a couple of terms in common use by roleplayers that help out here: in character (IC) and out of character (OOC). Try to keep your OOC conversations to channels where others can't see them, such as party or raid chat - that way you can natter away to your heart's content without harming anybody else. Specialist gaming terms like "aggro" or "DPS" are considered OOC, as they wouldn't be part of a normal conversation in that world.

Why is everybody walking?
Roleplayers often walk in cities rather than run about. Why? The same reason you probably don't jog to the cinema in real life. Running everywhere simply isn't realistic. Now we all know that for practical game reasons, players need to be able to move quickly in fights, so the default setting in the game is to run. Sometimes it's nice to just slow down and take a look at the world around you, though.

Why are people ((talking in double brackets))?
Some roleplayers do this to denote OOC comments. I'm not a big fan of it myself, as seeing "((BRB - bio))" breaks the atmosphere just as surely as "BRB - bio"without the brackets. In the times before you could link items in channels, it was occasionally handy for use in guilds where /g is IC.

How do I spot a roleplayer?
Many roleplayers use specialist addons like FlagRSP2 that carry additional information about their character that other users can see. They also allow you to signal how interested in roleplaying you are, such as "beginner roleplayer" or "full-time roleplayer". They also let you add other details about your character, such as a description or a surname. These have been written by players to compensate for features that are lacking in Blizzard's default UI. Many other games include this functionality as part of the basic interface. It's worth installing Flag RSP2 even if you aren't that into roleplaying yourself. It's a good way of getting a feeling for how other players approach the subject. Here's one of mine as an example:
This troll is flamboyantly dressed in garments that appear more showy than expensive. His body is festooned with large items of jewellery.

His mount is heavily loaded with bags and packs, each of which has been secured with an elaborate lock.

Strangely, he appears to be followed by a small chicken.
Some of these can be unintentionally hilarious, as there are bad roleplayers out there just as there are bad raiders. Occasionally you'll also find a parody of these, as this piece of comedy genius from Moonglade (EU) shows:
It all began in the beloved lands of Nagrand, Illidan was there, farming reputation with Mag'har, when suddenly Thrall came from nowhere and went "Hey, Illidan, how about a threesome?". And Illidan thought, eh, what the heck! So they asked Sylvanas about it and she said yes. Then Kil'Jaeden and the Lich King wanted to tag along and woila! Thellus was born. Thellus then killed Sargeras because Thellus is so fucking awesome and has invisible pink, green, blue and yellow tentacles on his back, with thorns on them. Then he ressurected Sargeras for the lulz. Thellus is so awesome, that if you look straight into his eyes for .1 second, you'll get instantly pregnant, whether you're a female elf, or an Orc male. Thellus can fly because he has an invisible jetpack on his back, with fuel up his ass. When he's running, you can't see him. He's THAT fast. And if you try to see him, you'll instantly drop dead and die. He's so overpowered that if you touch him, you're gonna explode and then reanimate and explode again just because Thellus is so awesome. He's infact so awesome, that if you watch Channel 5 on TV, Thellus will suddenly pop up from nowhere and slaughter a goat and give it to you in person. Thellus was the reason why Kael'Thas betrayed their race. Thellus was the reason why fish is so goddamn disgusting. Thellus is the main reason why the Elves in Silvermoon City are gay, because all the Elves want to be just as awesome as Thellus, but they can't. Because Thellus is named after himself because he fucking win so hard. If you try to attack Thellus, he will eat your weapon, then your armour, then he will eat your head and vomit up himself and watch his entire body morph into a clone of Illidan and Thrall, then eat the clone. His hair is so golden blonde that if you just look at it for a second, you'll be blinded for the rest of your life. Thellus has six fingers because he's better than everyone else is. Thellus is so awesome that he can crawl into his own asshole and come out from his ear. One time, when Thellus was out killing monsters and raping Alliance, Thellus found himself more awesome than everyone else, and that's true. Thellus is Chuck Norris in disguise, Thellus has a brain that is too large for his head, Thellus is surely the most awesome Elf you've seen. Thellus has all 493 Pokémons. Thellus is a Digimon and a Pokémon at the same time.
OK - you got me interested. How do I get involved?
I'll try to cover that in part 2 of this guide. Until then, keep your eyes closed unless you want Thellus's babies!

Edit  (18/10/2010):
Wow! The world has gone crazy with roleplaying blog posts today:

  • Lissanna has an excellent guide to playing on RP servers here;
  • Jaedia has created a compilation of several different starter guides here;
  • Gazimoff has some more useful information here and
  • Poneria has started writing about levelling a roleplayer here.
They're all good reads, so go dip into them if you're interested in finding out more.


  1. Thanks for the mini-guide, useful for an RP server noob... I never thought of RPers as actors, it makes much more sense this way. (And it also explains why I'm not in the least bit interested in RPing).

    I beg to differ on something, though. RP servers aren't friendlier. I recently x-realmed an alt to Defias, and when I had the gall to ask a question on the forums I got flamed to hell and back. How did I dare to ask about a guild that doesn't RP? Not the warmest welcome, let's say.

  2. Boo for comments that don't save :)

    Try again: Thanks for this, I am feeling slightly out of my depth (might trying growing sometentacles of zomg awesomeness and see if the helps!)

    On a serious note though, I'm looking forward to part deux as I need all the help I can get :)

  3. Jen

    Sorry you had a bad experience. From what I 've heard (I don't play on them much myself), some of the RP-PVP servers can be closer in culture to PVP than RP, so the community may be weaker as a result.

    Whilst I believe that RP server are nicer on average, no server is 100% asshat free and I'll try and touch on some of the darker sides of RP in a later post.

  4. Nice post :) Loved the funny description, the guy really managed to wrap up most cliches into it.

    @ Jen: RP realm boards and trade channel are as elitist as on any other realm, but instead of "PvE progress and GS" you will get "RP" fights. But generaly in game there is difference in the atmosphere.