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The Narrative of the Player Character: Lore, RP, and You

August 31, 2011

Please welcome Shizukera, author of Flavor Text’s first guest post! We’re super excited to have her, and she’s written a great post about how roleplaying characters fits in to the player’s narrative experience in WoW. You can find Shizu on her own RP blog, Confessions of an Altaholic. Enjoy the post!

As a roleplayer, one of the biggest challenges I face is how to fit each character’s individual story into the world of Warcraft.  When I first began roleplaying, this mainly involved scouring established lore to make sure my characters fit into the story that had already been established and to avoid making any blunders – and that, as it turns out, is the easy part!  Things really get interesting when that shiny new character goes out and begins interacting with the world, and that’s what I’m going to address today:  how to reconcile your character’s individual story and personality with actual in-game progression such as leveling, quests, instances, and even raiding.  I’ll also talk about server lore – how roleplayers on individual servers can develop their own substories that fit into or alongside the official story but stand separate from it.

I.  PvE, RP, and You

When cross-server LFG was first introduced, I saw a forum post in which someone actually asked, “I wonder what it’ll be like to run with people from RP servers?”  My initial wiseguy response was that it’s really no different than running with anyone else, but the question actually is an interesting one.  Do RPers really walk everywhere and never break character?  Do we quest in character, or do we just ignore it?  And what happens when you get to those quests?

That’s right, those quests.  You know the ones.  Nesingwary and his endless thirst for animal parts.  The Kirin Tor torture quest.   All those quests that for whatever reason, your – or your character – cannot abide, so you skip them.  Or you have to do them because you want the Loremaster achievement, or because Cataclysm-style questing won’t let you skip them, but your stomach churns because you hate them that much, or your character’s stomach churns because there’s no way he or she would ever do it.

It’s really easy to feel like the story’s got you written into a corner, especially when you’re going through zones that make heavy use of phasing, but your character’s RP story is ultimately what you make it and if a quest is really problematic, it can be worked around.  You might have smacked down all those animals to get the Nagrand Slam achievement, but who’s to say your character didn’t smack that guy and walk away?  Personally, I want my characters to really be affected by what’s going around them, so I like to leave in as much of the questing experience as possible and see how the character reacts to what they’re required to do and how his or her worldview is affected as a result of those actions.  This can even vary from character to character, and I do have at least one who’d say “hell no” to certain quests and walk away.  But I would also say that if you as an RPer wish to treat questing as out-of-character, or you do one and say “Yeeeeah, there’s no way she’d have done this,” go for it!  Just as no two people go through the world the exact same way in real life, no two characters in WoW will travel the same path, and your character’s story and experiences are ultimately what you make them.

As for instances and raids, they’re actually a lot easier to handle than you might expect!  Look at it this way:  Could an enemy as powerful as Kil’jaeden or Kel’thuzad or (soon™) Deathwing really be brought down by just 10 or 25 people?  I mean, we aren’t just talking about the Big Bads themselves.  Remember, we wouldn’t be just walking  through the front door and finding these guys sitting nekkid on the sofa.  They’re ready for us.  They’re prepared.  They may even be baiting us and awaiting our arrival (hi Arthas).  They know we’re coming for them, and they’re going to pull out all the stops to make sure we don’t get to them and kill them.  Obviously you can’t claim to have killed said Big Bad all by yourself in single combat, but 10 and 25 are in-game numbers – there’s nothing at all to say your character couldn’t have been part of the battle to take those guys down!

And no, we don’t usually run things in character.  Not unless it’s planned that way.  The gear we pick up is the shizz though!

II.  Server Lore:  What Does It Mean??

As roleplayers and guilds become established on their servers, substories develop.  RP guilds often have storylines they play out, sometimes they interact with other guilds on the server, and over time those stories can even become part of the server’s collective memory, at least among the players who’ve been there for a while.  (For me, the paedus comes to mind.)  This is what I call server lore – the substories and relationships that develop on a server when RPers interact with each other.  These stories can be as simple as being the folks who run the local tavern or being part of the city guard, or they can be long-term storylines open to any RPer on the server.

In addition, guilds and roleplayers who’ve been on the server long enough sometimes gain a certain recognition on their servers.  For example, when I first moved to Earthen Ring, I put Shizu, who was working toward becoming a demon hunter, in a guild called Netherbane.  They’re a small guild with a very specific theme:  it’s a school for demon hunters and their allies, led by Tharion Greyseer.  I was impressed, not only with the guild and its members, but also by the fact that they seemed to be recognized as the demon hunter guild on the server.  Anyone who had questions about demon hunters and how to become one knew to find Tharion or someone else from the Netherbane.  Then I realized people from off server, like me, seemed to be directed toward the Netherbane too.  I found out about them through a thread on the RP forums, and I know several others who came from other servers too.

It takes a lot of work to make this sort of thing happen.  If you want your guild to run the Pig and Whistle, your members need to be there to run things during busy RP times.  If you’re looking to establish a Stormwind Guard guild, be sure your members are present, patrolling and doing the things city guards would be doing.  Even if you just want to be known as a guild with good RPers in it, be sure you and your members are familiar with the lore behind what you’re RPing, and be sure to read your quest text and be aware of what’s going on in the game world.  Remember, RP is what you make of it, but that larger story is going to have an impact on the world and the characters with whom you RP.

Have fun with it!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2011 2:35 pm

    Great post – my initial thought was to pity the RP server players who have to play with the rest of us! Kind of like when the adults have to play with the kids. I know its not all like that, but the charm of a full RP team sounds wonderful.

  2. September 27, 2011 1:23 am

    Shizukera & Fellow Texters,

    Oh my Elune! Where in the world of Azeroth have you been? There is an ongoing tale being crafted by a bard, albeit working ever so slowly to flesh out all the details, over at A Druid’s Doodling.

    The saga as it is being played out would greatly benefit from reading this post to truly appreciate and understand what it is to walk in our toughened leather boots. Honestly I am looking forward to hearing, or reading rather, what some of the first experiences were in fulfilling a quest assignement or on the perils of running a dungeon with four other adventures. A story is only as rich and alive as the characters in it.

    I would be honored and I believe equally improved if your talented story telling selves would stop over and see if the story so far is being conveyed in a way that would make the Ancients proud. There is much to be told still.

    Be blessed in the Emerald Dream and the waking world as well.


    Draccus Moonsayer

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