Thursday, January 22, 2009

Roleplaying Rant

I've spent the vast majority of my playtime on Earthen Ring, which is an RP server. As I wrote in my earlier post, I was a rather active roleplayer for the first year of my WoW career. After that, it went downhill. At some point, the roleplaying in WoW was taken over by various drama queens and kings.

This post is aimed towards those drama queens and kings, but might be of interest to others who've encountered them, or even to people intending to start roleplaying.

How to recognize a drama queen

While I find the term 'drama queen' to be the most descriptive, other names are also floating around. 'Spotlighthugger', 'Power RPer' and possibly a dozen other such names describe similar behaviour in roleplaying. What generally defines them is that their roleplaying is all about them. They're the main character in the story, everyone else are less important characters. They're practically bursting to tell/play their story. Just push the botton (ask to hear their story), and they'll talk about themselves for at least the next half hour. Most won't even wait for that, if they believe someone will listen to them.

Practically every drama queen use some addon like FlagRSP. It allows you to write a description for yourself, which other players with the same addon can read. It can be quite entertaining to install this addon if you're on a RP server, and walk around some capital city just to read what people've written in the descriptions.

The third defining characteristic of drama queens is that they all want to be special. They try really hard to write stories and create characters that are completely unique, resulting in rather quite a few far-fetched bios.

The problem

Now, the problem with drama queens is usually not that their stories are uninteresting. Quite the opposite, it can be very entertaining to listen to a story. What type of entertainment depends on the story and the character, ranging from hilarious (often without the intention of the storyteller) through amusing to exciting.

The problem is usually that it can be rather tiresome to listen to yet another far-fetched, overplayed story, which rewrites the lore of WoW yet again. How many secret lovechildren does Tyrande have? How many times was Thrall saved by a single hero, who for some reason needed to be omitted from the common lore? That, and the fact that it can be quite annoying to listen to someone who won't let anyone else get through. Granted, unlike a verbal conversation they can't just speak louder than everyone else, but they don't necessarily need to. Many roleplayers are quite polite, and will wait their turn. And when their turn doesn't show up... well, then they'll just wait until their patience grow thin, and then stop showing up for roleplaying sessions.

Hints on backstory creation

I don't want to teach you how to roleplay. The paragraphs above contains quite a few hints on how to roleplay. Besides, there's quite a few sources that have written 'Roleplaying 101' guides before me. I'll just list up some spesific suggestions I have for drama queens.

Normality, the new originality

If you desire to be original, you needn't nescessary go out of the way to create a new original backstory, complete with some major names from the lore and some grand event that without your intervention would've doomed the world. In fact, there are so many of those, that it's refreshing to read/hear a down-to-earth story. There are still many things that can and does happen to "normal" people, and just because it can happen to normal people doesn't make them uninteresting. Try roleplaying a father who needs to feed a family, for example.

Avoid anything about rape

I'm very certain that 100% of all characters I've met who've been "raped" in their past, have been played by male players. Many other male players, and probably almost every female player will react very negatively to that. To the poor souls that've actually experienced it, it will probably be a lot of emotional pain. Here they come to WoW to relax and play, and get reminded of their probably worst experience ever. Tasteless.

Regarding lost eyes

... it's the peak of unoginality. But if you really want to lack one eye, first find a good reason that actually doesn't make everyone think "yeah, right". Second, most people don't cover lost eyes with the biggest gem in the world or something like that. Third, actually roleplay it. A person with only one eye will have a limited depth perception, causing him to occasioanly misjudge distance and bump into walls, loose their footing, misjudge a ledge. With that said, they will also be used to it, meaning they will avoid moving too close to somewhere they might misjudge and fall down. In fact, they might've developed phobia of heights. And that brings us to...

Mental problems

Now, this is something refreshingly new. I personally believe that every adult person in the entire world have some mental problems they live with. Most people don't have a diagnosis for this. Only those that have problems that in some way hamper their life get a diagnosis. Why shouldn't WoW characters have theirs as well? It makes a character way more realistic. But here's the trick: It must be some problem that you can function normally with, or at least hide really well. A challenge can be to roleplay a character with a problem the character itself isn't aware of, or at least views as a problem. Some examples of mental problems that could be roleplayed: Father/son-problems, general problems with authorities, virtually any phobia, schizofrenia (not to be mixed with multiple personalities), sleepwalking, hearing voices, paranoia, lack of respect for own well-being, bad judge of character (often trusts the wrong person), bad memory, and various fascinations. For more adult roleplaying, various fetishes. Again; the character must still be able to function normally.


A mixed bag of everything that doesn't include mental problems. For example, habit of chewing a root all the time, stopping to salute every guard, shouting when angry, blinking unescessarily much, raising an eyebrow occasionally, talking very polite, talking very commanding ("You will have a fine day!") or practically anything else you can think of. Make a macro and hit once in a while when the situation calls for it.

Emo is sooooo last year

Generally, making an emo character is not the best of ideas. There ought to be something in your story that's positive as well. A character with an optimistic view of life is so much easier to stick around with than someone suicidal.

Roleplaying the character

Now, let's say you have a wonderfully interesting, or plainly dull backstory. The most important part is how you roleplay, not how well you've written the story. Here's some general advice:

Listen more than talk

In a group of at least 3 roleplayers, if someone speaks more than listens, it means that the group's turned into a speaker and two listeners. Avoid that.

Be subtle with traits

A good roleplayer will be subtle about their traits and problems. They're something that you remember the character by, but shouldn't occur too often. If you do it too often, you'll start annoying others. I'd like to make an example from one of the best roleplayers I've ever met in WoW (hope you don't mind); A shaman that heard the spirits speaking to her. Once in a while, the combat log would say "Shacklya whispers to herself." What happened? She roleplayed that she replied to one of the spirits speaking to her, which no one else can hear. When asked about it (in character), she would explain that she was replying to a spirit which spoke to her first. And she did that once in a while, sometimes seldom, sometimes often. Never more than about once a minute. Ingeniously simple. Everyone that meets her will remember it, and I don't think anyone would be annoyed by it. And it can create great plotline hooks, depending on what she's discussing with the spirits for the moment.

Create stories/plots with solutions

Many roleplayers like to make large plots and stories. Great! As long as the rest find it entertaining, no worries. The problem, though, arises when you've created a plot that doesn't really include any input from the other roleplayers. It's really frustrating to "participate" in a character-driven plot when you can't do anything at all to affect the outcome. Be flexible! If a given character is possessed and someone tries something good, let them succeed. Don't just wait and eternity and then present *the* solution, which they never could've done.

Create positive plots as well

Practically every plot I've seen in WoW is some sort of negative. Try to create some positive plots as well, or at least some that has light points. Go to a pub and drink yourself silly, for example. Can lead to a lot of interesting roleplaying without demonic interference.

And a word of respect to my master...

Aside from Shacklya, the best roleplayer I've ever met on Earthen Ring have to be Cavran. Unfortunately, he's no longer playing, and hasn't for quite some time. His interest in WoW was killed by various bad roleplayers. Bah. Salutations, Cavran!


  1. Imagine, if you will, a group of friends sitting around-out of the way in an empty house, quietly RPing. Guild RP = win!

    All of a sudden a demon possessed 'troll' (night elf) stumbles into the house and completly takes over the scene.


    Next week. Same group of people, same place...and someone ELSE walks in. Screaming. Demon possessed.


    I wish I was kidding, but that really happened. Just mention demon possession around me and I still stab things.

    Anyway. Good post!

  2. Wow! And I thought regular servers were bad.

  3. I am suddenly very glad I am not on an RP server despite the fact that I enjoy table top/face to face RP.

  4. Well I thank you for the compliment, but I wonder who on earth I've stumbled upon here...

    Cav ;)

  5. Reading through the blog here, just found this post in the archives. Hope you don't mind me adding it to my RP Guide page, it's a very helpful read.

    Continuing to read on from here as well. I'll let you know what else I find.


  6. Go ahead. I'd forgotten I wrote this article, and found it rather interesting to re-read it despite being the author. I'm glad someone else will as well.