Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcome Back, Kotter—er, Goldgrit

Without a steady reinforcement of guildmates, friends, or other social interaction, it should come as no surprise I put my RP toons down for a while to focus on my "regular" toons on non-RP servers. I'm quite proud of the progress my warlock and her guild have made. This week she should have the first phase of the legendary staff in her hands.

As a change of pace from progressive raiding, some members of our guild had decided to try roleplaying on the opposite faction. Lo and behold, they chose the same server on which I already had toons, including Sapsorrow, whom I've blogged about before, and Alicera, pictured right (with her oversized fox companion). I'm not sure how long the interest will last; they may grow tired of it after a while. However, I am happy to see these characters again, much like reacquainting with old friends. I also suppose there is no excuse not to continue blogging on the subject for as long as I am again active in RP, especially as my lack of overall experience still makes me "newb." :)

Unlike my approach with Sapsorrow and Wizgear, with whom I tried full-time roleplaying, my Horde characters have been allowed more out-of-character (OOC) time for the sake of practicality.

I have also once again enjoyed playing an opposite sex character in a Goblin warrior named Goldgrit, who is a self-described "womanizing old fart." Unlike the other races, Goblins lend themselves strongly to humor and outrageous expression, so much so as to be stereotypical. Their in-game emotes are accompanied by a Brooklyn accent; they are capitalist profiteers in the extreme.

On my more serious characters, such as my single-minded (paladin-hating) Farstrider ranger and my gullible, vegan druid, I run into the trouble of making them boring by making them too stiff, too serious, or too bored themselves. (In retrospect, this may be in part to a lack of purpose or direction—for the time being, they merely exist.) On the other hand, Goldgrit can easily be the life of the party: he's obnoxious, loud, laughs easily, and carries a cheese-factory's worth of pick-up lines (which he never expects to work and is therefore never disappointed). Using the SpeakinSpell addon, I've integrated a number of insults into his attacks; he's flagrant, and sometimes outright disgusting.

Now, the same and opposite problem is beginning to arise in my perception of my new favorite Goblin, however, as he is all jokes and bad taste. It's easier to interact with others with his humor, but I worry he is equally two-dimentional, incapable of being sensitive or serious.

A large portion of my fear of seriousness is rooted in the cookie-cutter "emo" character histories I read in characters around me. Every other character I run into has lost a spouse and is hideously battle scarred. I'm reminded of so-called past life regression stories. EVERYONE was or is related to a historical figure and has some fabulous insight or powerful, tragic story. No one is a nobody. If I met an "every man," I would have met something truly unique, as these seem extinct. The game is designed to make every player a "hero" of Azeroth, but when everyone is special, no one is. At the very least, no one is original.

I hope to be disappointed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Conversations and Letting Go of "Me"

What very little experience I've had in the last week and a half of RPing has mostly been conversation. Typing speed is an evident drawback.

Having spent some time as a fiction writer, I can't help but see RP through the writer's lens. When you write and are showing your work to others to read, it becomes quickly apparent that there are two very different speeds of reading and interpreting your work: your own speed, which is slow and often based on your typing and writing speed, and that of the reader, who by comparison blazes through the work and potentially reduces its size and scope in the process. Ideally your critical beta readers will show you the gaps and flaws of your work—those things to which you were blind while you were in the thick of writing it.

Now add to this elements of theatre and social psychology. You write for only one character in a dialog with other characters who each are directed by another writer in a collaborative dance. However, you likely did not discuss the subject or direction of the dialog before you started writing, and you will not be able to edit it. On top of all that, there still exists the need to be accepted, the fear of rejection, and the desire to make the best impression when meeting a new person. No wonder we newbies are terrified of approaching others to RP: whether it's real or imagined, there's so much pressure!

I wandered into a tavern in Stormwind, normally unmanned by NPCs, but this time run by two players RPing the roles of host and waitress. I played along as best I knew how (with my experience in western restaurants, as I had never been served in a medieval market to my memory). The gentlelady offered me a haunch of meat for what I knew to be at least five times the cost from any NPC vendor.

What do I do? Everything in me, Rachel, the girl typing away behind the balding little gnome is screaming "What the hell? Are they trying to rip me off? Do they think this is the alt of a very rich level 80 on the same server?!"1 And all at once, I've run into a problem. I knew I was getting ripped off, but did my character know? How would he know? Does he visit Stormwind's taverns enough to know their rates?

I apologized for not having enough money and instead, offered my own wares to the waitress "as a tip and to help with the business": conjured muffins. It's good to be a mage.2

I felt like I cheated. I didn't even entertain the idea that my little gnome might be gullible. I was too mad about the idea that I (or my toon in my stead) was being swindled.

I've seen people with sketchy back stories, and even some "die-hard RPers" with no visible back stories at all. I wonder if they know their stories and simply choose not to readily reveal them or if they're figuring it all up as they go along. If the latter is true of them, I wonder how often they run into a problem like mine and how well—if at all—they can draw the distinction between themselves and their characters.

In preparation for future such quandaries, I've been deciding, bit by bit, how much my characters ought to know about the world and therefore, how much they don't. Currently, the most naïve of these is Sapsorrow who is exceptionally young for her race (just over two hundred years old—not yet a true Night Elf "adult") and is exploring the world prematurely. Already, she finds her way into trouble,3 and I have to fight the little urge to impose my omniscience on her and protect her from her own ignorance. Yet, because of this whispering conflict between my brain and the entity I've created before me, I feel a familiar thrill: a story is unfolding. I think I want her to struggle, learn, and overcome, and become a different person by the end of her story. I wonder how it will unfold.

1Typically, players will reach the maximum level with one character before starting another. They will use the resources of the max-level character (money, access, tradeskills, etc.) to supply lower level characters with an abundance of them.
2Mages have the ability to conjour food from thin air (using up magic resources instead).
3Moonbrook is actually a human town overrun with bandits.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Description and Backstory

From my last post:
The short and sweet answers to these from the forums and other sources are:
  • "Say, 'Hello.'" — Okay!
  • Look at your partner's description or background for ideas.
  • Don't be afraid to go out-of-character (OOC) and ask for help from your partner, especially if you're new. When you need to leave, just say something like, "It was a pleasure to speak with you, but I have pressing errands."
  • Elitist assholes are (apparently) few and far between. Let it roll off like water off a duck's back: you wouldn't want to interact with those people anyway. Most people on said server are very friendly.
Concerning that second bullet: the World of Warcraft does not provide a place within the game for you to write your own description and history. However, from the forums I've found addons (software that provides additional help, information, shortcuts, or enhancements to the game) that are specifically made for role playing. FlagRSP2 displays your RP experience and your current RP status (in or out of character). MyRolePlay provides in-game character sheets in which you can type your character's physical characteristics (height, weight, eye color, physical description) and personal history.

Although I've already had a few interactions with people through role play, I'm still very shy and wary. Right now, my favorite thing to do is find people who have the addons and read their descriptions and backstories. On the other hand, I'm consistently disappointed by the number of players who have these modifications and don't bother to write anything.

Here's what you'd see if you looked at mine:

No specific first, middle, or last name given yet, although "Sapsorrow" will either be a nickname or a surname. I don't know enough about Darnassian to confidently give her a familiar name.

Title: Novice Druid, Apprentice Botanist and Scribe
With these addons, you can create your own "title." I had intended to leave mine blank for now, but after seeing several "apprentices" around, I thought this might be an acceptable way for others to see my profession choices (herbalsim and inscription).

Character Description: The young druid's clothes are well worn and humble, and dirt is caught in the hem of her skirt and under her nails. The expession of her face is fixed in contemplative thought.
Others' are much more elaborate, detailing everything from the varying color in the strands of a character's hair to the length of a favorite weapon. There's also no shortage of descriptions commenting on how beautiful/curvaceous/handsome/perfect a character is. It may be the cynical postmodernist sitting on my left shoulder talking, but I can't help but wonder if it's a form of compensation. The more unusual or original descriptions interest me more, if for no other reason than their deviation from the "norm." There's also less chance of Mary Sues erupting from them. Regardless, my own description feels anemically short. I'm hoping as I spend time in this character's shoes and interact with others that I'll discover what else I'd like others to see when they look at her.

Motto: "The very earth affords us life. Should we not repay each other in kind?"

Character History: Though intrigued by the possibility of entering the Emerald Dream herself, Sapsorrow feels a strange barrier within her own slumbers . . . one she fears will prevent her advancement as a Night Elf Druid. Her "verdant" dreams are those of grassy plains in a far away, but very present land. She has yet to decipher their meaning.
My characters may never be able to meet each other face to face (they're all on only one account), but I can't help but think they should somehow be connected to each other—even across factions. When I wrote this description, I had in mind a druid or shaman of the Horde (the opposing faction) who also had difficulty reaching the Emerald Dream, though I haven't decided if they will share the same soul or be connected by other means.
(history, cont.) She abhors killing beasts, but feels duty-bound when the necessity is clear and is an ardent vegetarian. She is otherwise peaceable and helpful to all living creatures, be they beast, elven, or even orc. Unliving things, however, disturb her.
Somewhere in the making, I decided this girl is going to be absolutely nothing like me. I'm a die-hard omnivore, and I'm not delicate. I've never been partial to healing types in stories or in game; even my priest on another server is more skilled in the vampiric Shadow arts than in either of the healing schools. I've presented myself with interesting challenges though: I can't get my cooking past 50 because Sapsorrow won't touch meat, my choice of armor is limited because she's embarrassed by revealing pieces, and I pass up certain plants if I don't think she can get to them without having to kill a creature in her path. I have felt the temptation to cry, "OOC!!!"* and blast everything away—the easy route—but it's not difficult to knock that temptation down either. After all, I'm not here to raid or even to level. Those objectives will always be secondary. My primary purpose here is to RP. Sapsorrow plays a different game, and I'm here to understand the rules, not break them.

My interactions have been limited, mostly due to my own inhibitions. Recently another female Night Elf began a conversation with me at an inn. Her descriptions implied heavily that she was not of pure Night Elf descent. I took that to mean it was something I had permission to inquire about; however, each time I brought it up, she shied away from elaborating on it. I also tried to bait questions from her based on my public notes—"I wonder if I shall ever see the Dream."—but she didn't bite. Real life called me away from the computer sooner than I could ask her if I had done something wrong. I worry that I came on too strong or pitiable.

* OOC is short for "out of character." On role playing realms, players are expected to be in character unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Why This Blog? Why RP?

One year ago:

I've never really understood modern poetry. (For those of you who are already screaming "Off topic!" please bare with me.) Rhyming I got to a point. Like most of us, I grew up with Dr. Seuss and nursery rhymes. But free form, Shakespearean sonnets, and nearly all the bulk of "literature" (excluding Edgar Allen Poe) could have just as well been written in another language. The metaphors are often too obscure to be of any use, and the subject matter is so far removed from application that it is entirely alien to anything regarded as "real life."

I took several poetry classes simply because I didn't understand it. I wanted to. After all, so many people seem to understand/enjoy/interpret/write it that surely there must be something to it. I decided that even if I didn't get to the point where I liked it, I would at least ensure I could understand it and those who relished in it.

Fast forward to now:

Although free form still isn't my thing—Kudos to the poets who can write this and write it well; you are few in a million who attempt it with any success—I find that I am in love with the modern sonnet and the darker subjects they often envelop. As for the rest of poetry, I think I can appreciate it now. I know its mechanics and meanings, and it doesn't seem such a foreign thing . . . Occasionally, it's poignant. Those poems become my favorites.

I had said in another blog that I would never role play (RP), and for what I thought was a good reason. It is very difficult to turn my inner editor off whether I'm looking at my own work or someone else's. Grammatical errors cry out, "This person doesn't care about the subject matter or you!" and poorly thought out and juvenile thoughts leap from the page, dig a grave for style that would otherwise be pleasant and enjoyable, and dance circles on it.

I said I would never RP, but for the same reasons I took poetry classes, I'm going to try it.

I'm also putting my experience into a blog, so that if anyone else is wondering about RPing, or is afraid to, they may know they're not alone and may have an idea of what to expect. That said, every player is different, every guild is different, every server is different, and every game is different. If you're thinking of role playing, do some research and read up on each of those aspects to better prepare yourself for your own experience.

Meet Sapsorrow:

My Night Elf druid, Sapsorrow, whom I specifically created to try out role play.
Sapsorrow, a Night Elf Druid.

I've already made a point to visit some of World of Warcraft's official forums to prepare: specifically World's End Tavern (a large, general forum for role play buffs) and on Wyrmrest Accord, a forum for the specific realm (server) on which I've made this character. The atmosphere in the forums has been encouragingly pleasant and welcoming. Several "newbies" such as myself have posted concerns, and all have been met with adequately and with a welcoming attitude.

My main concerns have been (and at this post, still are):
  • how to initiate an rp experience
  • what to say when you don't know what to say
  • what to say when you've run out of things to say or need to leave, and
  • am I going to be clobbered senselessly for not knowing every inch of lore within the game?
The short and sweet answers to these from the forums and other sources are:
  • "Say, 'Hello.'" — Okay!
  • Look at your partner's description or background for ideas.
  • Don't be afraid to go out-of-character (OOC) and ask for help from your partner, especially if you're new. When you need to leave, just say something like, "It was a pleasure to speak with you, but I have pressing errands."
  • Elitist assholes are (apparently) few and far between. Let it roll off like water off a duck's back: you wouldn't want to interact with those people anyway. Most people on said server are very friendly.

So far, this has been true, but I've only just started and my interactions with other players have been few and far between. More to come.