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All the World's a Stage: How to keep your realm's roleplaying alive

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. In World of Warcraft, that player is you! Each week, Anne Stickney brings you All the World's a Stage with helpful hints, tips and tricks on the art of roleplay in WoW. Shoot me an email with your roleplay issues and questions about various aspects of roleplay -- I'm always open to suggestions!

There's something that's been popping up on more and more RP realms lately, a common complaint that has been growing louder and louder since the launch of Cataclysm. While there are a ton of RP realms out there, there are several that are considered "dead" or "dying," with little to no RP to be found. Instead, the general public seems to be more focused on raiding, questing, or instancing, with RP taking a firm last place in the list of server activities. Most roleplayers, when asked about this phenomenon, agree that it's taking place and lament the days when RP used to be plentiful and commonly found.

So what happened? Likely it's something to do with the new expansion -- most roleplayers found themselves dealing with the task of leveling their characters and let the roleplay fall by the wayside. Others may have found new realms or new friends to play with. Still others may have found new games or other activities to interest them. World of Warcraft is a fluid game in terms of population; people show up, they make themselves known, they have fun, and then eventually, they leave. Other people pop up to replace them, and the cycle continues on.

The question is how, exactly, do we stop this slow decline of RP? How do you keep RP alive on a server that is "dying?"

The life cycle of an RP realm

This is actually a pretty common occurrence, way more common than you'd think. There are far fewer RP realms than there are PvP or PvE. Originally, there were only three realm types: PvP, where players were automatically flagged when they stepped out of the starting zones and into the "real world"; PvE, where players were never flagged unless they wanted to be; and RP, where players were encouraged to roleplay. These RP realms were actually PvE realms; players never found themselves flagged unless they wanted to be. When patch 1.8 was released, Blizzard launched RP-PvP realms, where PvP players that wanted to roleplay were free to do so.

There were a small handful of RP realms at first, and more were introduced over time. The first RP realms had very heavy populations as a result of tons of players that wanted to roleplay; the introduction of new RP realms helped ease the overburdened realm population. This continues to this day -- when a new RP realm is announced, you'll see the new realm population explode with roleplayers looking for someplace a little less crowded.

Only ... it's not just about the population. Along with the population issues, RP realms often found themselves plagued with non-roleplayers, and still do to this day. Some of these non-roleplayers are just looking for a realm where everyone is polite and types in full and complete sentences; some are looking for easy realm-first raid kill titles. Unfortunately, some of these people are also specifically looking to grief roleplayers. Regardless of intent, the consequence was often that you would see very little IC interaction in realm channels or open areas. Instead, roleplay began to occur only in select areas, far from the prying eyes of those who chose to mock the roleplaying population.

This trend continues even today, and as the roleplaying population grows more and more secluded, it appears that roleplay is something that is disappearing altogether. It might be, it might not be -- the point is, since it isn't in public areas and isn't easily visible to hopeful new roleplayers looking for a new realm to start on, this behavior slowly starts to discourage roleplay altogether. As more and more roleplayers notice less public RP, they begin looking for a new home in the hopes they can find the roleplay they're looking for elsewhere.

When Blizzard launches a new RP realm, these players flock to it, intent on creating a "haven for RP" where anyone can RP any time they want. However, it's only a matter of time before the cycle starts anew. Depressing, isn't it? It shouldn't be -- this sort of thing happens not only to RP players, but to PvE and PvP players as well. Realms with lopsided populations see this sort of thing happen all the time. The launch of new expansions also causes people to either move or leave the game entirely. It's not just roleplaying; it's how the MMO works.

Keeping RP alive

Some roleplayers on established RP realms are desperate to keep that RP alive. They have friends and good memories of the realm they're currently on; they don't want to see it die out. These guys have the right idea, but more often than not, their energy is spent on threads and complaints that talk about the problem, instead of actually addressing the problem head on. I don't blame them -- this kind of problem is something that takes a little work to correct -- but you cannot solve a problem by simply complaining about it. There are several ways to keep RP alive, but all of them involve actively fostering it.

Roleplay workshops On some realms, players are starting the trend of roleplaying workshops -- events designed around helping new players and old players alike in the art of RP. The guild Pox on Shadow Council (US-H) holds these types of RP events, and they aren't just limited to players on Shadow Council -- any roleplayer is encouraged to attend. For more information on workshops, you can check out Pox's website; the next workshop is scheduled for March 19.

But Pox doesn't have to be the only one doing this. Anyone can hold a roleplay workshop, and it's a good way to get new roleplayers on your realm involved and get to know the fellow roleplayers on your realm.

Realm-wide RP events These differ from roleplay workshops -- instead of being an event designed around teaching people how to roleplay, these are actual open RP events designed by roleplayers. There are several different kinds of events; many servers have "tavern nights," where a guild or a group of roleplayers will take over the running of an in-game tavern and encourage anyone to show up for a drink and a chat. Others are far more complicated and involve group participation in an event prepared by a guild or even by a single person.

Over on Moon Guard, player Ookmara (US-A) has the latter option in the works, featuring time travel and a replay of the battle for Shattrath City. For more information about the event, you can check out the post on the Moon Guard forums.

Limitless roleplay A great deal of the trouble people complain about is simply in finding the roleplay. Roleplayers will flock to one area of the world and conduct all their roleplay in that location -- Silvermoon is a pretty common example for Horde, Stormwind for Alliance -- while other areas of the world are left alone. But why restrict roleplay to certain areas? If you're on a roleplay server, you should be able to roleplay anywhere you'd like.

On Sisters of Elune, player Bellamuerte (US-H) recently broached the idea of an open RP weekend, encouraging all roleplayers, whether new to roleplay or experienced veterans, to head to Orgrimmar and RP out in the open. You can check out the forum post on the Sisters of Elune forums.

All of these kinds of events serve to foster roleplay and highlight the point of an RP server -- roleplaying.

Handling issues

But then you still have those non-roleplayers wandering around the RP servers to deal with, don't you? Here's the thing -- the majority of those non-roleplayers are pretty harmless. Some of them may even find the idea of RP interesting; they simply don't really wish to participate in it. These players don't need to be forced off the server; if nothing else, they serve to boost the player population and keep the auction house prices at a reasonable level.

If, however, you run into griefing, there is only one solution that will work: Report it. Roleplay servers are self-policing by nature. There are no Blizzard representatives patrolling the servers looking for code of conduct violations. As with every other offense in the game, Blizzard works reactively, not proactively, so it's up to the player population to police other player's actions. If Blizzard does not receive a report for unwanted behavior, nothing will be done and that behavior will continue.

So do you see a name that isn't an RP name, like Holycow or Worgenfreeman? Report it. Are you being griefed for openly RPing on an RP server? Report the griefer. Blizzard cannot tell you the actions it's taken -- that's between the company and the person being reported -- but you have to realize this is the only way they will know that someone has done something wrong. Keep your reports brief, polite, and be sure to mention the name of the offender, and the time of day when the offense occurred, if applicable. This will help the GMs track down what happened, so they can respond appropriately.

What about roleplayers who choose to play outrageous characters, Mary Sues that have no place in lore? Roleplayers that litter their words with internet shorthand? Roleplayers that insist they are dragons or the heirs to various nonexistent thrones?

Here is the biggest rule to keeping roleplay alive on a roleplaying server: Don't discourage roleplay. Ever. Even if it's an obvious Mary Sue, even if they don't quite seem to have a grasp on the English language, don't discourage people from participating in roleplay, ever. New players may not know exactly what they are doing, but they are trying -- they shouldn't be scolded, they shouldn't be harassed, and they definitely shouldn't be told to go away.

If an opportunity presents itself, offer to help. Ask if they'd like to go over their character description with you. Point them at this column, point them at any roleplaying blog out there, mention the various roleplay workshops, offer suggestions -- but whatever you do, don't shut them down. The prancing Mary Sue you see today may be one of the best roleplayers out there -- she just doesn't have the hang of roleplay yet. There was a once upon a time that you were new; remember that and be polite, helpful, and kind.

If no action is taken, nothing occurs

The most important point to keeping roleplay alive and well is that you can not stand idly by and let roleplay happen around you. You have to be proactive, not reactive when it comes to RP. If you notice the RP realm population seems to be scattered to the four winds or that it looks like RP is slowly dwindling away, don't just sit there, complain about it and let it die -- do something about it! Organize an event, start a conversation with other roleplay guilds, start a thread on your realm forums.

But above all else, roleplay. Wherever you go, whatever you do, roleplay your heart out. Players do not notice what is not right in front of their faces. If you keep the roleplay in obscure areas, behind closed doors, contained between members of your own guild and nobody else, RP will quickly come to a halt. New roleplayers won't even consider coming to your server, because there is no evidence of any RP anywhere. You shouldn't have to actively search for roleplay on an RP realm; it should be happening around you at all times. If you notice it isn't happening, ask yourself how you are going to address it.

While some servers have all but dwindled into RP wastelands, there are still RP realms from the original launch of WoW that are going strong. The key to fostering roleplaying is to keep roleplaying and not to let the actions of others discourage you from doing so. Report those that harass or otherwise condemn RP. Keep your hands outstretched to those who are new at the roleplaying aspect of the game, and you should see your server keep right on flourishing as time goes on.

All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. Let us help you imagine what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying or even RP on a non-RP realm!

Filed under: All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

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