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Encrypted Text: Roleplaying as a rogue

Much like the rogue class itself, Elizabeth Wachowski's Encrypted Text usually pops up just when you're not expecting it, is prone to disappearing without notice for large periods of time, and steals your lewtz.

Hey, fellow rogues! It's been a while! Well, more like nearly two months. Sorry. But we're back with some fresh ideas, one of which is this: how can you roleplay as a rogue without seeming like a cliche?

Admittedly, I'm new to RP, and my RP character is a draenei priest -- about as far from my beloved troll rogue as one can get. So this article is geared to people who, like me, are new to RP. The more experienced RPers can correct all my horrifying, glaring errors in the comments.

So, let's start out with:

Picking a race

Each race has different rogue traditions, heroes, and senses of morality. Here's a quick overview:

  • Humans control several rogue organizations: the Ravenholdt guild, their archrival Syndicate organization, and SI:7, the official intelligence agency of Stormwind. If you're interested in "joining" any of these organizations (or the vaguely rogue-ish Defias Brotherhood), human would be a good choice.
  • Night elf rogues would seem to have some difficulty fitting in with their peaceful, nature-loving society. However, night elves have skills at stealth, and every society needs its enforcers. The night elf police force, known as the Wardens, always has room for a good rogue -- and the archdruid Fandral Staghelm might not be above employing some sneaky folk to advance his political goals.
  • Dwarves don't have as strong a rogue tradition as other races, although some of them do belong to Ravenholdt. Dwarf rogues are good choices for PVPers or someone interested in roleplaying an outcast.
  • Gnome rogues tend to be quirky, rather than broody, and often use engineering or other technology to enhance their skills. They're also well known as escape artists, a skill that provides an excellent opportunity for roleplaying a thief.
  • The most famous rogue in Azeroth's history is Garona, a half-orc, half-something-undetermined assassin from the First War. As such, orc rogues have a strong tradition to build on, including their own assassin's guild -- the Shattered Hand in Orgrimmar, who serve Thrall and destroy the Horde's enemies. Orcs are known for their brutishness and skill in combat, as opposed to stealth and subtlety.
  • Many troll rogues also belong to the Shattered Hand and are famous for their skills in tracking enemies. The troll tribes also have a long and storied history of interfighting and assassination, providing a rich background for someone wishing to roleplay a troll rogue.
  • Blood elf rogues don't have quite the same status in their society as paladins, as high elves used to disdain thievery, but they are now accepted as a necessary measure to defend the Sin'dorei after the devastation of Silvermoon. Valeera, from the WoW comic, is a blood elf rogue. If you're interested in playing a character with a thirst for vengeance, or playing a mage-killer, a blood elf is an excellent option.
  • Undead rogues can also be avenging the deaths of their loved ones, the destruction of their cities, or they could simply like killing and eating people. Rogues guard the Undercity and its outposts through their guild, the Deathstalkers. Unlike orcs, they are more known for stealth, cunning, and quick assassinations than their skill at face-to-face combat. Keep in mind that undead have no need for sleep, food, or human comforts.

Creating your story

So you've picked a race, and maybe even come up with some ideas for your background. Now it's time to figure out your character's story. Where were you born? How old are you? Why are you a rogue? Do you belong to any organizations, or are you a freelancer? Do you want revenge or money? Are you a noble patriot, or just someone who likes killing? Do you steal, run drugs, kill for hire, scout, dig up ancient treasures? And are you going to be in character all the time? Do you plan on acting sneaky and/or like a jerk to your guildmates and group? If so, get ready for a real-life bad reputation.

As pointed out earlier, blood elf and forsaken characters often have some sort of tragic backstory. I've yet to meet a forsaken who's totally cool with being murdered, brought back to life, and reviled by all of his former friends. However, it's very possible to roleplay a friendly, outgoing rogue who is in it for money, patriotism, or just because it's what they're good at. A recent All The World's A Stage has an excellent article on backstories for all types of characters here, and notes that stories of love and loss are really only interesting when characters transcend their loss instead of dwelling on it. Shadowy, brooding rogues are often considered to be overplayed. And you don't need to come up with a complex story: yours can be as simple as "I was born in Lakeshire, my mom was a rogue so I decided to be a rogue too since she offered to pay for school. How do you work this stabby thing?"

A thread in the RP forums lists these unusual, non-broody rogue characters:

  • A practical joker who is too showy with blades to be truly effective.
  • A fist-weapon rogue who RPs as a professional boxer.
  • A "capitalist" who is more interested in guns and making money than fighting.
  • A gnome scout who futilely gathered information to help in the Battle of Gnomeregan.
  • A night elf "tourist" who steals to finance her journeys outside of Teldrassil.

David has a great tip for roleplaying a rogue: Don't be up-front about yourself. Charging into situations going on and on about your tale of loss and sorrow and heartbreak and your thirst for revenge doesn't exactly fit in with the mysterious ways of your class. Instead, listen to what other have to say, and only drop tidbits of information about your life when it seems like you can trust them. If you're truly a spy, thief or assassin, why would you broadcast that to the world? Plus, if you're RPing a member of an assassin's or spy guild, gathering information on PCs is going to be one of your character's main goals. Not to mention it can lead to a lot of fun on the forums.

Oh, Mary!

David Bowers wrote an article on the Mary Sue phenomenon -- RP characters who are SO good, SO unusual, SO tragic or SO important to the world that they turn into cliches. Mary Sues want to be the center of attention at all times, and like to make themselves seem important in the Warcraft canon. Particular Mary Sues for rogues to avoid include:

  • "I'm Garona's daughter/son/sister/lover." No you're not. Garona's been missing for ages, and if we're going by the laws of nature here, something that is half one species and half another is almost always not going to be able to reproduce. You are not a special snowflake; you are not the center of WoW.
  • "I'm really a tauren rogue magically shapeshifted to look like a troll!" If you want to play a rogueish tauren, make a fury warrior. Don't try to compensate by using the old "a wizard did it" excuse.
  • "My background is so tragic that I'm overcome when I talk about it, but I'm still going to talk about it all the time!" People who are constantly overcome by their own sense of pathos will quickly be seen and ostracized as drama queens.
  • "I'm a bounty hunter!" Only use this if you actually bounty hunt the opposing faction. If you do, awesome.
  • "I have amnesia!" Is this Days of Our Lives?

If you're really worried about being a Mary Sue, you can take the World of Warcraft Mary Sue Litmus Test. But the best way to avoid Mary Sue-dom is to listen instead of talk and remember that you play a very small part in everyone else's storyline.

Experienced RPers, what advice do you have for newbs like me?

Filed under: Guides, RP, (Rogue) Encrypted Text

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