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15 Minutes of Fame: Herding roleplayers with a feather

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

The popular saying about leading a raiding guild is that it's somewhat like herding cats with a feather. Imagine then, if you will, tickling players through day-to-day game life amidst the friction of potentially volatile in-character roleplaying. Arialynn, the GM of <Templars of the Rose> on Earthen Ring (US-RP), leads an established troupe of roleplayers that's spent the Wrath era not besieging Arthas but running medieval-style market days in Dustwallow Marsh. Headquartered in Theramore Harbor, the Templars most assuredly exemplify the road less traveled, both literally and figuratively.

What's it like to lead a guild that spends more time tossing back stiff ones in the inn than it does wrestling with Defile before the Frozen Throne?

Main character Arialynn
Guild <Templars of the Rose>
Realm Earthen Ring (US-A)

15 Minutes of Fame: How would you describe the Templars and the kind of things it does to the typical, non-RPing WoW player?

Arialynn: The <Templars of the Rose> is a medium-heavy roleplay guild, meaning that we roleplay spontaneous events or thick-and-gritty storylines. We hold a weekly tavern in Ironforge called the Mug & Sandvich and a twice-a-month event called the Harbor Market, which is best described as an in-character farmer's market.

The guild itself is a neutral but Alliance-aligned guild that prefers killing Scourge and Legion instead of chasing after Horde. As you can imagine, Cataclysm means several things for us when it comes to fun and tension; we've definitely been raking in the plot benefits of new hate between the Horde and Alliance.

Like many guilds, we still PvE and PvP often, but roleplay is the central focus. Many players come from a wealth of roleplay experience from tabletop or other MMOs; other members are brand new and catching on fast.

I understand that your realm has a fairly strong RP community, is that right?

(laughs) The answer is yes, but everyone on the server will rate it in varying degrees. I would suggest asking our realm forums that question, but I'll claim no responsibility for the trolls that may pop up. We keep them well-fed, though.

The better answer is that Earthen Ring is an older, more established roleplaying community with established players. This can lead to both bad thing and good things, but there are good reasons why I've stayed on this server for three years. Its players hold weekly events, large tournaments and lengthy storylines. We have a player-run social network where we post character journals, stories and announce events. When playing a game, what more could you want than a community that likes roleplay as much as you do, and also occasionally acts like ornery old man?

Is there much faction-specific and cross-faction coordination?

With the Templars and cross-faction, yes, and more so lately. With Cataclysm looming, the Horde guild and our ally, <Tears of Draenor>, has organized RP-PvP events. Our guilds were allies through parts of The Burning Crusade and most of Wrath, but thanks to some diplomatic blunders and a bit of behind-the-scenes puppetry, the Templars and Tears are at one another's throats. Two RP-PvP events took place in Northrend at the beginning of the summer, along with a lengthy forum thread where players exchanged in-character letters and declarations of war. The storyline is best described as a slow but unstoppable crumble.

This is made easier by the social network that is run by Earthen Ring uses, earthenring.net.


How did you come to be GM of the Templars? Did you come to WoW to roleplay, or did you discover a roleplaying niche while playing WoW?

I was made GM of the Templars in September 2009, when its GM of two years, Althwyn, retired. I joined the guild one month after its founding in October 2007 and now consider it my World of Warcraft home.

I discovered World of Warcraft roleplaying in 2005 (after) I joined a few college friends in a game they spoke of and played so much that I was often lost in the jargon. I was able to join them in their WoW jargon one month later and took revenge by confusing others. And yes -- I survived the Barrens chat in its heyday; my original character was Horde.

Tell us a little bit about your personal MMO and RP background.

Before World of Warcraft, I had no experience in MMOs, and even if had you scrawled the acronym on my forehead, I would have blinked at the idea and called it strange and silly. My opinion has obviously changed since then, and being the Star Wars geek that I am, I'm watching The Old Republic's development very carefully.

As for roleplay background, I'm an old-school mIRC roleplayer, along with being a writer in what is fabled as "my free time." I occasionally slap people in game with a trout a bit to tout my IRC badge. Most people never recognize it and just dismiss me as silly.

Managing the convergence of IC and OOC emotions and relationships as a GM must be tricky. How do you help members keep character-to-character and player-to-player relationships sorted out?

When I became the GM of Templars, this was the focus. The line between in-character and out-of-character needs to be thick and never crossed. It's actually a rule in Templars: OOC drama is not tolerated, but IC drama is just fine.

Of course, a blur of that line happens -- and to put simply, we're all human. But keeping the line firm and setting the personal example can do wonders. However, things can still get confusing if you play a multitude of characters yourself. I once was asked to attend an event on two separate characters. Sometimes the IC and OOC line is so thick that it's easy to forget who the player is behind the characters. As it was, one of my characters stayed home sick. Or rather, he was likely chased away by bears on his way there ... Long story.

Our tipster indicated that you're fairly young for an RP GM. Do you mind sharing how old you are?

I'm going on 24. Is that old or young? I've been told both these days.

I think it's pretty young for someone who's managing so many gamers engaged in criss-crossing storylines. Is there a trick to keeping an entire guild full of RPers moving in the same general direction? I'm sure it can't be simple helping integrate players who are new to RPing online to a group of experienced RPers.

It actually grew easier overtime. Why? Because those who were new to roleplay caught on and were warm and receiving to the new roleplayers who took their place. Having a mix of both is an amazing blessing, and it's surprising how D&D-oriented some of our events can be, simply because several Templars still enjoy the feeling of d20s in their hand.

What it really does is introduce a variety of experience and ideas for events. We've run some completely free-form events such as the Harbor Market, when you simply show up and play the part of a bustling, medieval-style market with little to no rules, and we've hosted smaller events hosted by what's best described as a Warcraft dungeon master. The Mug, as it is affectionately called, is a tavern with actual regulars and the occasional kitchen fire. The D&D events and the Mug stemmed from Templars with ideas. Market itself was originally inspired by an idle comment made on our web site.

The idea is to keep the field open to anyone with an idea and help them run with it. It takes initiative, but the idea is to play a game. That is also a rule in Templars: Make the game fun.

The final trick is to take chances. Recruit someone you're not sure about, and see what happens. You'll find that some of the most surprising players come in this sort of package.

How involved in raiding is the guild?

Templar raids are best described as short bursts with fun, revelry, a bit of victory and a bit of facerolling. We raided Karazhan in The Burning Crusade, downed a few bosses in Naxxramas in Wrath, bulldozed a few places in Ulduar, and now look to tackle a bit of Icecrown before Cata releases. We don't mind making these raids OOC or IC -- the latter is actually quite fun. How often do you get the opportunity to spout some John McClain-esque action hero lines and make a few NPC faces bleed?
Is there much pressure or wistfulness about not being more involved in current end-game content?

There's both, but it varies for each player. There are some who never experienced end-game content when it was popular, and there are those who sprint into it right away with raid coalitions. The Templars eventually grab a taste of the end-game raid experience, but if that is what we wanted full time, members would be in a raiding guild instead of RP guild.

What about PvP? Do the Templars do much as a guild in battlegrounds?

Historically, it's been sporadic at best. Lately, with the Tears RP-PvP events, more and more Templars have jumped head first into battlegrounds. I myself am an old-school PvPer who simply got lazy in The Burning Crusade. I paid the price in Wrath until I got enough PvP gear to survive hits. Many Templars are doing the same; it's a right of passage we all must take. The price is pride and about half your face.

What about world PvP?

That flight master in Crossroads tripped and fell on his own sword, I tell you.

In character, the Templars take up sword and spell against any force that threatens home and land. Sometimes that threat includes Horde who want nothing to do with peace and simply want to watch people and houses burn. This stance provides a great reason to go out and steamroll a few Horde and still have in-character fun.

A few months ago, there was a world PvP incident on the Skybreaker with none other than a few members of the Tears. The end result was a hilarious battle of parachute bubbles and dodging behind walls. It took a few months, but we later resolved the skirmish in the traditional duel beneath Dalaran. I think we'll be having another rematch soon.

How did you come to choose Theramore as home base for the guild? What are the advantages and disadvantages there?

Theramore is a perfectly-equipped city with an empty ship, docks, a stable, smithy, keep, mage tower, inn, training dummies -- you name it, it's there. We even have Tethyr, the monster of a visitor that brings in a few moments of rain -- at least until one drunk Templar decides to wrangle the him with bare hands. True story.

The isle is also headed by Jaina Proudmore, who has much better relations with the Horde than King Varian Wrynn at the moment. It matches the Templar creed and also distances the order from Stormwind politics.

The downsides are numerous, but some funny. The isle is a bit far for travel and doesn't garner too much RP traffic unless players are invited. It's also a dry town, some may like to know; the innkeeper sells non-alcoholic drinks only. Keep that in mind when you party in Theramore -- it's strictly BYOB.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players from all walks of life, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron "Nog" Eisenberg to Olympic medalist Megan Jendrick ... from a quadriplegic player to a player who's racked up every achievement in the game.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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