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All the World's a Stage: So you want to be a bad guy


Today, All the World's a Stage begins a series on "how to be evil," bringing back the bad guy in your fantasy roleplaying -- complete with ideas, methods, warnings, and practical examples.

Up to now, we've mostly talked about roleplaying as a way that you and your friends can get together and enjoy developing your characters' relationships with one another. You don't normally tell stories about epic struggle against evil incarnate as a roleplayer in WoW, mostly because you have very limited control over the enemies you can struggle against in the game -- they tend to respawn every few minutes. It's hard to say, "We have just defeated Arthas and rid the world of the threat of the Scourge!" when your guild is scheduled to do the same thing again next week. There are ways around the continuity problem when you're raiding, but generally the best roleplayers tend to stay away from big lore characters and earth-shattering consequences, to focus on the more personal, down to earth things our heroes experience as they go through their daily lives.

It's kind of like if you had a TV series about all the things that happened in the general background of Lord of the Rings that didn't make it into the movies or novels – Frodo, Aragorn and Legolas would not be in it, but there would be other characters who could interact in the same world, and flesh out many of the details that wouldn't fit in the epic trilogy. (Incidentally, I have not had a chance to play Lord of the Rings Online, but I would hope that one of the goals of that game would be to do just this for the world of Middle Earth, the same way WoW roleplayers can sort of do for Azeroth.)

Now, even though you typically don't roleplay yourself beating up the biggest bad guys in the game, that doesn't mean you can't have any antagonists in your RP stories -- just that your own personal villains have to be somewhat low-key, and that you and your friends have to play them yourselves. There are a lot of limitations and pitfalls with that sort of endeavor, of course, but with a bit of subtlety and imagination, it can most certainly be done.

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Filed under: How-tos, Virtual selves, Guides, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

All the World's a Stage: The art of the alt

All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players. They have their stories and their characters; and one player in his time plays many roles.

With all the talk lately about starting new characters once the Cataclysm arrives, it struck me that most roleplayers already have more than one, including myself. Like most players, I started with one, a night elf druid, and focused on playing that exclusively for quite some time. It didn't really occur to me that I would even want to play more than one.

Then, I began to notice that other people played more than one character, even within the same small group of friends. I had one friend in particular who had mastered the art of roleplaying multiple characters. She never said anything out of character to anyone in our group, and it took me ages to even realize that her characters were ally played by the same person in the first place. Each one had its own personality, and each had a different relationship with all our mutual friends.

Knowing her made something click inside my mind, and I began to see other possibilities for myself too, other sorts of characters I could play with different weaknesses, strengths, and entirely different stories to tell. As my roleplaying experience grew, I began to feel as though one character couldn't contain all the ideas I had jumbling about in my head, so... I started another one, then another, and ... another. Little did I know all the pitfalls I could run into with so many characters, nor the quirky little tricks that could become possible with multiple characters, a small group of friends, and a bit of creativity.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, How-tos, Guilds, RP, Classes, Alts, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

All the World's a Stage: Cataclysm's new race/class combinations


All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players. They have their stories and their characters; and one player in his time plays many roles.

As you know, the new race and class combinations coming up in the Cataclysm will open a whole new set of doors to people who want an alternative character choice that goes against the grain of their typical racial customs, to one degree or another. With the exception of a couple combinations that feel as though they should have been there from the beginning (such as blood elf warriors, which need no discussion here), each new possibility presents roleplayers with an opportunity to play an outcast of sorts, a character who has made a significant break from the traditions his or her race usually represent.

The lore behind each combination is not yet fully clear. We know tauren paladins will probably worship the sun and call themselves "Sunwalkers" for instance, but not much more than that. Some things are clear, though, and there's a lot to get the imagination going for those roleplayers who yearn to play something a little different.

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Filed under: Night Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Tauren, Undead, Trolls, Druid, Hunter, Paladin, Priest, Analysis / Opinion, RP, Classes, Alts, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying), Cataclysm

All the World's a Stage: The new character experience in Cataclysm


All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players. They have their stories and their characters; and one player in his time plays many roles.

As you know, the Cataclysm is going to bring major changes to the whole world of Azeroth. There will only be 5 new zones for leveling above 80 and one new zone for each new race -- the rest of the work they're doing involves changing the old zones, bringing them up to the standards of zones in The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, adding new quests that are more appropriate to the current timeline, and completely rebuilding the areas that just didn't work so well.

You are also probably aware that this is a much-needed improvement. The 1 - 60 leveling process (except for the draenei or blood elf starting areas) has long been fraught with serious flaws. Going through it the first time wasn't so bad, since exploring everything felt so new, but doing it the third and fourth times meant sheer boredom. I remember many times going to a zone, completing many or all of the quests there, and leaving without ever feeling as though I had really "been" there. Except for a few real gems, quests mostly involved spending a lot of time running long distances in order to kill more nameless bad guys -- they felt more like pest control than adventure. Just being there seemed to remove me from the story of Azeroth, and dump me in some other world where there was nothing important happening. Vast stretches of land on the Azeroth map meant absolutely nothing to me as a roleplayer: no character, no story, no meaning.

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Filed under: Quests, Expansions, The Burning Crusade, Leveling, RP, Alts, Wrath of the Lich King, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying), Cataclysm

All the World's a Stage: More possibilities for goblins and worgen in Cataclysm

All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players. They have their stories and their characters; and one player in his time plays many roles.

So the Cataclysm expansion has officially been announced at BlizzCon 2009 and while there are many things we knew before (such as the addition of Goblins and Worgen), there are many things we just learned (such as the beginnings of their proper lore), and many things we still don't know as well -- some things even Blizzard still seems undecided about.

But there are some indications of things to come which will surely affect roleplayers. The most obvious change involves the changes the whole world will be going through. Each of our existing characters' will have their own reaction to the cataclysm, of course, as well as the opportunity to go through the game from 1 to 60 with a new character, and maybe not be quite as bored as you were the last 6 times you did it. Your new tauren paladin's leveling experience will be very different from your tauren shaman's, and each one will have different things to talk about once they reach the level cap.

Another obvious addition is that you can start another character with whichever new race you like most. Many players have been wanting to play goblins and worgen for a long time, and appreciate the new parity that the two races bring to the two factions -- the Horde now has a diminutive race that is likely the closest the Horde could ever come to "cute," and the Alliance finally gets a race that is actually monstrous. This opens the doors for people to try out the opposite faction even more than before. We've already talked about these two races in a previous article, but now that the expansion's new races are confirmed with additional lore and information, there's quite a bit more to say.

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Filed under: Druid, Hunter, Analysis / Opinion, Expansions, Lore, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying), Cataclysm, Worgen, Goblin

All the World's a Stage: Reflections on the passing of a roleplayer's mom

All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players. They have their stories and their characters; and one man in his time plays many roles.

Long time readers of "All the World's a Stage" may remember that I wrote an earlier series of three articles, called "WoW is a Work of Art," which I viewed as a kind of launch pad for this column about roleplaying. The first article talked about how when my mom came down with a very serious form of brain cancer, I had to put other things in my life on hold in order to come back to the US and take care of her. I was happy to do this, of course -- it was an honor to be able to be there for my mother when she needed me, but I won't pretend it was very much fun. Cancer is a terrible disease that wreaks havoc on one's body and emotions all in one big punch. Roleplaying in WoW was one of the social activities I could do for fun at that time, a little world I could enjoy without actually having to leave my home and the loved one that I was caring for.

Last weekend, the life of my mother was very visibly coming to a close. As the deadline for this column approached, I asked for leave (incidentally the first weekend since almost two years ago with no article in this column), and spent every moment with her I could. She died on Monday afternoon, leaving me an inheritance of countless feelings and thoughts which I shall undoubtedly explore for the rest of my life.

Among many other realizations and ideas that have come to mind, I realized that my roleplaying career had come full circle. My decision to play WoW and eventually write about it had begun with my mother's cancer, and now that this cancer had finally taken her life, I wondered, how has this roleplaying contributed to my real life? Has it made me a better person? When I eventually lie on my deathbed as my mother did, will I feel thankful to have roleplayed in WoW the same way my mother felt thankful for all of her experiences in life?

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

All the World's a Stage: How WoW and Warhammer treat RP servers differently


All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players. They have their stories and their characters; and one man in his time plays many roles.

Mythic Entertainment released a beta version of Warhammer Online for the Mac this week, along with a free 10-day trial, so I decided to give it a try. I noticed, quite happily, that there was an option to choose a roleplaying server, and as soon as I selected it, I was surprised to see an introduction pop up, about what sorts of names characters were expected to have there, as well as a bit about what roleplaying is, too.

Why doesn't Blizzard have a proper introduction to RP servers special rules in WoW, you ask? Maybe they felt that most players would know what "RP server" was supposed to mean and respect it better, or perhaps they felt explaining RP a bit on their website would be enough. As time went on, however, RP servers have filled up with people who have no interest in roleplaying and Blizzard seems unsure what, if anything, they should do about it. Perhaps Warhammer's RP introduction built into the game is just the solution that WoW needs too.

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

All the World's a Stage: Possibilities for worgen and goblins


All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players. They have their stories and their characters; and one man in his time plays many roles.

Ever since word broke about the possibility of playing either a worgen or a goblin, I've been thinking a lot about how it would be to roleplay them. In terms of lore, each one fits in very nicely -- the goblins have the neutral city of Undermine not far from the great Maelstrom at the center of the world, and the worgen have lots of connections to other dimensions, possibly the Emerald Dream. Assuming the expansion is in fact going to be a combination of the Maelstrom and the Emerald Dream, each race could have a lot to do with why the Horde and the Alliance are eager to go and continue the adventure after Northrend.

Some others are talking about how and why these races would join either faction. The goblins seem a shoo-in for the Horde, since they've already got so many connections with one another above and beyond the ostensible neutrality the goblins maintain between the Horde and the Alliance. The worgen connection to the Alliance is a bit tougher to figure out, but there are two apparent possibilities: either the humans of Gilneas have become worgen and wish to rejoin their former brethren, or the original worgen from their own dimension somehow join up with the Alliance in order to fight off a shared enemy such as the Burning Legion or the "Nightmare" of the Emerald Dream.

Today we'll discuss both of these possibilities and stake my claim on which I think is more likely, and look at a number of the story hooks that worgen and goblins could create for roleplayers if and when we get the chance to play them.

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Filed under: Horde, Alliance, Analysis / Opinion, Expansions, Lore, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying), Rumors, Cataclysm

All the World's a Stage: Guild themes


All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players. They have their stories and their characters; and one man in his time plays many roles.

Every guild tries to make itself unique in one way or another, and yet much of the time it's hard to tell many guilds apart. Most guilds say something like "we are a group of friends" who "focus on casual play" or "on raiding progression" or something which can make clear its priorities in the game, whether in PvP, PvE, or RP.

Roleplaying guilds have a special opportunity to distinguish themselves with all these elements and then some. In addition to raiding schedules, loot distribution rules, and whatnot, they also have a story -- some idea of where the people in this guild come from, and what binds them together. The story theme that binds them may be something as simple as striving to fight against all evil threats to their homeland, or it could be as involved as running a weekly faire, full of trading, performance, and all manner of festivities.

Most roleplayers seem to just drift into an RP guild based on who they happen to meet in the course of their travels and what sorts of friendships they are able to develop. I worked this way for a long time, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, and in the end I gave up, feeling increasingly frustrated that I wasn't drifting into guilds that could really meet my needs. Finally I decided to steer my own ship and I realized that the theme of any particular guild could make a big difference as to whether or not I enjoyed being in it.

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

All the World's a Stage: Out of Character


All the World's a Stage. It really is. All the World of Warcraft is a actually a stage -- and all its orcs and humans merely players, each one with a role to play.

When people hear about roleplayers in WoW for the first time, some get the impression that we take our little game of "let's pretend" way too seriously, that everything we do in the game has to be some sort of mind-blowing expression of our innermost true feelings. But the truth of the matter is that only a portion of what we do in the game involves stories and character -- a lot of what we do and say to other players is not "in character" at all. In fact, our out-of-character (OOC) communication is essential in order to properly enjoy the in-character (IC) elements, and good roleplayers do a lot of cool things to help make both sides complement each other.

Much of what roleplayer does is out of character, and rightly so. Even just pushing buttons in order to activate abilities could be considered "OOC" -- in a way, the only character you can ever totally immerse yourself in is... yourself. Any time you play a role that isn't yourself, there's always some part you which is there in the background, knowing that it's all just a show. You can't really ignore your true self -- you have to let it guide and inform every part of the role you play.

The same is true when roleplaying in WoW. Roleplay is strengthened when you open up and accept OOC communication with others, establish real relationships in addition to those your characters create. Actors in a play have to support each other as real people or their play will fail, and in the same way, the honest communication we open up with our roleplaying friends can sometimes be what defines our roleplaying experience and gives it true meaning.

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

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