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All the World's a Stage: Sacrificing spells for the story

All the World's a Stage returns today to shine a brutal but loving eye on the intricacies of roleplay. We do this by looking at the craft of roleplay itself, and the people who love it. We might not be ready for Jerry Springer, but we're pretty sure this week's column is going to have a little debate behind it. Michael Gray fills in this week for David Bowers, and talks about letting roleplay exclude some other forms of play in the World of Warcraft.

We're not a big Guild. All told, we probably have about twenty to twenty five people who come online at various times to talk, chat, and play together. We have some structure, but we're mostly a motley of friends who hang out. Our raiding effort takes place because our raid leaders woke up one day and said "By Wrath of the Lich King, we're going to be able to progress in ten man content."

We're also a roleplay-ish kind of Guild. I say "ish" because we're not full immersion players. We have some light story notions. For example, I have the vague idea that our raid's main healer is the son of our raid's main tank -- that's mostly because they're the same human model, but one has light blonde hair, and the other has old, graying hair.

So, when we come across folks into the roleplay and immersion a little more than we are, we're sometimes not quite sure what to make of it.We're learning Zul'Aman, working to round the corner from "2 Animal Bosses, 1 timed" to "3 Animal Bosses down, 2 timed." We were fortunate to have a guest-star priest, a highly skilled player that I've known for years. I've seen her Druid, Rogue, and Priest with such great skill that I'd trust her to excel in any play environment.

So, there we were. In the heart of the Zul'Aman instance. Harrison Jones had just died, and we'd just applauded that fateful one-shot. We punked Eagle, cleared some trash, freed some frogs, and downed Nalorakk.

We rounded the corner from the Bear Avatar, and were on our way to do battle with the Dragonhawk avatar. There are these bad, bad (Leroy Brown level bad) mobs called Flame Casters. They once looked cross-eyed at our off-tank, and he instantly keeled over dead. So we decide to Mind Control each one, and let their friends rub 'em out. Sounded like a good plan. We ask the guest-star priest to MC the mob marked with a star.

"Wait, wait," my friend says. "I can't Mind Control."

"No, it's okay," I say. "I trust you -- you'll be fine."

"No, really," she says. "I never learned it."

"I'm not sure I understand," I say. "Is this a roleplay thing?"

"Yeah. Holy priests shouldn't use Shadow spells. I never learned it."

We were floored. And while the raid leader totally worked around the issue, it definitely put me in thought about whether we're truly devoted to our characters. I'm sure even now there's dozens of folks lining up to say "Raids aren't about roleplay, get over it! Just ignore that the character knows the spell. . ."

But, that's the problem. In the same way I have trouble buying that the Son of Illidan is a Level 1 Rogue, I'd have trouble ignoring the Blizzard-given stats I see about my character. And if that's the case, isn't it better -- if your goal is to be true to your story -- to avoid purchasing a genre-breaking spell in the first place?

Another friend of mine complains -- constantly -- about Engineering, and especially about the new bikes. In her version of Azeroth, the genre is pretty focused on sword-and-sorcery. The Steampunk Engineering pieces kind of break her out of that. As a result ... no Engineers exist anywhere among her half-million alts.

That''s pretty innocuous compared to ignoring an entire school of your character's spells, but I'm totally sold by the devotion to character and story shown by my Shadow-ignoring friends. And let's be honest -- if you're a healing priest in a raid, exactly how often are you asked to bust out Mind Control anyway? Heck, I doubt Mind Controlling those flame-throwing trolls is even the best way to do that corridor. So, really, that's not a big deal either.

I think a lot of us do this to some extent or another. Don't believe me? Do you turn your hat or cape off? I do. I can't stand the way they look on my dwarf. I just can't picture my burly, serious dwarf sporting a cape. Now, that's an aesthetic issue, but it's one that's purely driven by my desire for the character to adhere to my vision of it.

Why do you think so many Horde players were bothered by the addition of Blood Elves? The pretty, petite, and prim posers didn't adhere to their powerful and potent vision of the proper Horde. Their idea of genre, and the one being laid down by Blizzard, didn't match. If there were any feasible way to make it happen, do you think those upset Horde members would turn off Blood Elves?

So, yeah. I'm pretty sure everyone who cares at least a little about roleplaying, story, or the genre of their playtime censors their gaming experience to some degree. We might want to think that my Shadow-ignoring friend takes it a little far, but I think she's just showing more devotion to an ideal. It might not be my ideal, but I think if all had a little more gumption in life, the world might be a better place.

Even if it's just the World . . .of Warcraft.

All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players... Have you ever wondered how in the world players can raid and RP at the same time? Or how roleplayers turn the inconsistencies of the gaming environment to their advantage? What kind of stories do you like to roleplay, other than "hero who saves the world?"

Filed under: Priest, Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

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