RP and You, a Beginner’s Guide – How to RP

Back with another set of basic rp tips! So here you have your character, with a name that suits them. Now what? Roleplayers that have been doing this for years would probably laugh at you, but it’s actually a really valid question. How do you explain roleplaying to someone who’s never done it before? There’s a few things to keep in mind.

#1 – You are your character. Think of it like acting on TV or in a movie. It’s called ‘roleplaying’ because you’re quite literally playing a role. The difference between acting on TV or in a movie and roleplaying is that while actors in television, movies, or plays have scripts to work from, roleplayers do not. It’s all improvised, and it’s all off the cuff acting like improvisational theatre. If someone says something to you, you want to respond not as you, the dude typing on the keyboard would respond, but as you, the draenei/troll/warlock/etc would respond. There are two distinctions when you roleplay that you really need to pay attention to – being In Character, and Out of Character, otherwise known as IC and OOC.

IN character means that the things you say and do are not the actions of you the player, but rather you the character. OUT of character means that at the moment you are not roleplaying and the things you say are coming from you, the dude typing at the keyboard. It’s hard for some roleplayers to determine what is in character, and what is not, so roleplayers generally like to denote the fact that they are out of character by putting brackets around their words, ((like this)). If you see someone putting brackets around whatever they’re saying, there’s two things you can immediately assume – that they’re a roleplayer, and that the comment they just made was OOC.

#2 – Who is your character? I also like to call this ‘what’s your character’s back story?’ You’ll see me make reference to stories, both your own and others, at several points in the RP guides that I’ve cobbled together. The idea of who your character is and what their back story is most often the part that stalls a lot of people – they don’t really know where to begin.

When you are making your character, keep in mind where they are coming from, and where they have been. Who are they? How old are they? Where did they come from, and where are they going?

In the case of Night Elves, you have more than likely been in the world MUCH longer than say, a human or a gnome or a dwarf. As most Night Elves only RECENTLY lost their immortality, chances are you are really old.

In the case of Orcs, you have more than likely been born in Orgrimmar or surrounding areas, making you VERY young, or been around for the move from Eastern Kingdoms to Kalimdor, giving you an interesting series of hardships. Possibly you were around for the original move from Draenor to Azeroth, giving you a unique perspective on things.

If you are a Troll – oh lord, do you have a boatload of possible lore to work with, as your race is possibly one of the oldest ones in the game. There are a zillion different tribes you could be from, each with a different and distinct history – some defined, some not.

If you are a Forsaken, you aren’t really any older than the events played out in Warcraft III: TFT, or thereabouts.

If you are human, depending on your age you may or may not remember what happened with Arthas, the fall of Lordaeron and everything else from that time period. I had a lot of fun playing a character that had absolutely no idea what had gone on in the Plaguelands – when she finally arrived, she thought she was simply going home. What she found there changed her life permanently. What was really a blast was that everyone else played along – nobody would tell her anything about the plaguelands, and when she asked how things were up there, people just got decidedly and ominously…quiet.

If you are Tauren, chances are you’ve lived a pretty quiet life and were possibly around for the first arrival of Thrall, when he helped Cairne against the centaur.

If you are a Gnome, more than likely you were around for the destruction of Gnomeregan.

If you are a Dwarf, you’ve probably been around for ages. Ages and ages.

If you are a Blood Elf, you more than likely remember the fall of Quel’thelas, unless you are very young.

I highly recommend, if you are serious about giving your character a plausible back story and you know little of Warcraft Lore, that you take a look at the History and Lore section available on the World of Warcraft website here: http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/story/index.html#history

This summarizes the events in the previous Warcraft games, and gives a look into some bits of lore that you may or may not be familiar with. It is not 100% accurate, as some bits of lore have been changed here and there to suit what the writers are coming up with now – but it’s more than enough to give you a good look at the world you are living in.

Now, you’ve got a few choices ahead of you. Do you write a detailed back story? You can if you’d like, every nuance of where your character has been, and work forward from there – or as an alternative option, you can give your character very little back story.

In the case of Spook, my undead priest, she is very much aware of when she was raised as a Forsaken. But if you ask her about her history as a human, there’s very little she’ll tell you, and she’ll more than likely gracelessly change the subject. Whether that is because she doesn’t remember, or simply won’t tell you is unknown. She’ll gladly tell you everything that’s happened to her after being awoken as a Forsaken, however.

And that’s the balance that seems to work best, in my opinion – sure, write that big old back story if you want to, but don’t give it all away. Keep some of it to yourself – it keeps your character interesting, and gives you an infinite well of things to pull from for future stories. What if your dwarf has a huuuuge back story involving the Explorer’s Guild, but nobody really knows about it – until one day something occurs that upsets the dwarf and that bit of back story can be revealed? Keep in mind that a good book never gives away the entirety of the plot at the beginning of the story – the same applies to characters.

The other thing to watch for is who your character is. Sorry, but no matter how much you wish it, it’s highly unlikely your character is ever going to be the secret heir of Stormwind’s throne, or Thrall’s forgotten sister who is the ‘real’ Warchief of the horde, etc. I realize there is some appeal in making a character appear ‘important’, but keep this in mind:  it is infinitely more interesting to have a character with no remarkable background, whose life becomes remarkable as you play. If your character is already important beyond all reason, there is little for them to strive for.

A character, however, that has little going for them beyond a well-rounded back story and history of where they came from, is a much more appealing blank slate and can be made important over time, giving you something to do and your character something to accomplish.

#3 – RP Mechanics 101! So HOW do you RP? Well, that part is pretty easy. Walk up to someone and start talking in character. You don’t want to be random about it – but if you see someone doing something interesting, or overhear a conversation that your character could interrupt, then go for it. Come up with a reason for your character to talk to other characters. Maybe they just need directions to a different section of the city. Maybe they’re looking for someone, and asking people if they’ve seen them. Maybe they like the hat a particular character is wearing. ANYTHING can be a starting point to a conversation!

Talking to people is pretty simple. There’s several different ways to ‘speak’ to a person.

a. Type in /say, and then say whatever’s on your mind. Keep in mind that what you say while using the /say command is literally what you are saying out loud.  In other words, don’t type in what your character is doing or what they look like, just what they’re saying. Remember that players standing next to or near you will be able to read/’hear’ whatever it is you are saying. There’s a limit to how many characters you can use in say – usually if I reach the end of the limit (if my characters are being REALLY chatty), I’ll mark the end of the sentence with a ‘–‘ to let people know that there is more to follow, like so:

Right, so I was in Dalaran the other night and there was this druid walking around in catform – you know, I don’t really know why they don’t walk around like normal people but ANYWAY the thing was parading around pouncing on rats – hey maybe that’s why it was wandering around as a cat, maybe it just wanted dinner or–

–something. Maybe it was hungry. Maybe…I’m sorry, what was I saying?

What you type in /say is usually visible as a word balloon over your head. It’s a good way to remember that what goes in /say is what comes directly out of your mouth.

b. Emotes. Type in /em or /me, and then continue with your sentence. You know those emotes you can do in-game, like ‘Shade bursts into dance’ or ‘Shade pokes her belly and giggles’? It’s just like that, only you’re constructing your own. You can use this to simply write what your character is doing, like so:

Shade blinked, confused.

Or you can expand on it:

Shade blinked, confused. There was no reason for the cat to be dancing on the table of all things, and it confounded her. But far be it from her to say anything.

Or you can add dialogue to it as well, if you’re feeling really advanced:

Shade blinked, confused. “All right kitty. What’s with the tippytapping on the tabletop?” she said, frowning in irritation. “I was going to eat that orange,” she whined, watching the cats’ paw merrily squash the small fruit with careless abandon.

Keep in mind if you are adding dialogue when using an emote, you’ll want to put quotation marks around it to denote it as being spoken, rather than an action your character is performing, or a thought.

The other thing you want to be wary of when emoting is that you aren’t giving away too much information. Someone would be able to see you frown in irritation, someone would be able to see the confusion on your face, someone would be able to see you bite your tongue, but someone would be highly unlikely to see you think ‘geez that cat is an utter bastard’, and you probably shouldn’t use that in an emote.

c. And then there’s /yell. The /yell command makes your character literally yell out loud, and anyone in the general area will be able to see what you are shouting. This should be reserved for small doses. Keep in mind, just because you are yelling, doesn’t mean you are typing in all caps. Honestly? You should avoid talking in all caps at all costs.

d. One more! The /whisper command. This command will send a whisper to whoever you tell it to. You use it by typing in /whisper or /w followed by the name of the character you are trying to whisper to, and then the text you want to whisper them with. So a whisper to Shade telling her to please stop talking would look like:

/w Shade STFU.

Your character can whisper to other characters, your character can be whispered at, and the only two people that can read it are you, and the person you’re whispering with. I would recommend if you are whispering to someone in the middle of a group of people, that you also emote something along the lines of /me leans over and murmurs something in Shade’s ear. That way, the people around you know that there’s whispering going on, even if they don’t know something is being said.

With the basic mechanics of how to talk to someone, an idea of who your character is firmly planted in your head, and firm knowledge that you ARE your character while you’re roleplaying, you should be well on your way to striking up some interesting conversations. See you next week for more RP tips and tricks!


1 Comment

  1. Wyrm said,

    02/02/2010 at 10:43 pm

    By the time of Cataclysm, Orgrimmar would only be 7 years old. The playable Orcs wouldn’t have been born there or they’d be playing as a little Orc child.

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