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re: Role-Playing in an MMORPG

The World and its Story
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Fundamentals of Role Playing in Role Playing Games

So you want to know more about role playing in a role playing game. Maybe you had a bad experience before and are taking a second chance and looking, maybe you are new, or maybe you have some misperceptions and want to try to find out the facts for yourself. By the end of this guide, you should have a comprehensive understanding of what role playing in a role playing game is all about as well as how to enjoy it yourself.

So why Role Play in a Role Playing Game?

Because it’s fun! It takes the game to a whole new level. It takes what was once a simple game and gives it an all new depth. You can become lost and immersed in the game and enjoy the story of the game it’s in a certain fullness that you may not normally experience. It really is a surreal experience that takes what the game offers and puts it in a whole new light. What would you rather have; a broken down junker for a car or that Lamborghini or Ferrari?

Why experience some of what the game has to offer, when you can go to that next level and really play the game? Try it for yourself and see, that’s the best advice anyone can give. The more you do it, the more you can interact with the game, and the more you’ll find there is to do. You can even have role play events in game based off of the games background story and the games mechanics. The only limits to this in the end is your imagination.

What are Role Playing Games and where did they come from?

The golden question. If you want to understand something truly you need to know the truth about it. The first ever role playing game was a table top game called Dungeons & Dragons originally published in 1977, by TSR, created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. D&D became massively popular in the 80’s, which spawned many other table top role playing games, such as Champions, Gurps, Traveller, and many others. These games evolved into an electronic format and became console games, PC games, and eventually MMORPG’s.

At their roots however, table top role playing games were played at a table with friends. The players all create characters using dice and the games rules. One of the people playing the game assumes the role of the Dungeon Master or Game Master and describes to the rest of the players what their characters see and also plays the role of any other characters, creatures, or monsters that the players encounter while on their adventure.

The point of the game is that it is an interactive story. You can go anywhere, or do anything. If you burn down the library, don’t expect to find it there tomorrow. In these games players gain the ability to become true heroes, interacting with the world around them; slaying dragons, rescuing fair maidens in distress, or saving the world from dastardly villains.

How do table top Role Playing games differ from MMORPG’s?

MMORPG’s are very much the same in many respects. Instead of a Dungeon Master or Game Master you have the game itself, which shows you the world. You can see it graphically; you can talk to the other characters and physically see them. It moves from a world that you could only see in your imagination to a more visual world that you can see and hear. The downside to this is that you no longer can interact with the world the way you could in a table top role playing game.

You no longer have the limits of the human imagination, whereas now you have the limits of the game and what it was built to do. However, where the Dungeon Master or Game Master may be limited by the game and its design… the characters are not.

You can still interact with the world as a character, you can still make change as you interact with other characters, and you can still play within the games mechanics to bring about change.

So how do I role play in an MMORPG?

Well it all starts with your character. You may be saying, well “what character?” That’s a good question actually; what character? Role playing really is nothing more then interacting with the world around you as your character. That’s it. Just like any table top role playing game. It all comes down to the story; interacting with the story of that world and the events that go on in it. That’s it really in a nutshell, it’s just that simple.

Odds are if you are reading this you have probably role played before and didn’t know it. If you ever designed a character for an online game before and gave it a theme, talked a certain way or with an accent when you played the character, or even designed that character to fit with an original idea or concept that you had.

So how do I make my character?

The first thing you need to do is come up with an idea or a concept for your character. If you’re playing a fantasy game and you have to choose a class for you’re character, you might want to have a reason why you’re character chose that class. Again, it all comes back to the story. What is the reason you’re character is what he or she is? Everything has a reason behind it. Ask questions about your character to help give your character definition. Everything should have a reason behind it.

Your character might want to act a certain way. Why is it that your character acts the way they do? You can categorize it into traits and quirks. Traits are mannerisms or how your character may act. Is your character warm, friendly, cold, aloof, snarky, courageous, cowardly, dashing, quiet, bold, always making jokes or funny comments, etc. Quirks are things like your character likes the color red, is a vegetarian, prefers guns to melee weapons or vice versa, etc.

But again, remember everything has a reason for this. It all comes back to a story. Once you define a reason behind everything, you’ll find your character has a story. You may enjoy it so much that you’ll have a hard time putting the character down. You can take all this one step farther in the game by adding equipment or costumes to your character that better fit their story. For example if you were playing a knight in shining armor, you could wear full plate and carry a shield and use a sword. In a super hero game if you were playing a patriotic hero you might have a red, white, and blue costume.

The Character Hook!

Every character should have a hook or a shtick that makes them stick out. The hook is nothing more then that one central point behind the character that makes or breaks them while tying into the overall theme of their character. This is that one thing that really makes them stick out and helps give the character overall definition. For example if you were playing in a fantasy game and decided to play a swashbuckling character, you might decide to play him romantic and make him speak with a French accent. The hook in this instance is the French accent.

Other examples of character hooks might be a mute character that communicates solely by using emotes (covered later herein), an angel who has lost their wings for committing some sin and seeks atonement, to talking a certain way and using certain slang words or descriptions when you speak as your character in game.

Character Inspiration & Naming Your Character

Look at your favorite books and movies and think about the characters for a second. All those characters all have their own stories behind them. They have reasons that they do the things they do, and some may even be named certain ways because of their story or the ongoing story in the book or movie. Use those as a good example whenever you need one when you’re creating your own characters. Those are the best guides you will ever have.

You’ll want to name your character too and that is often the hardest part of making a character. All in all remember one thing; the name of your character should make sense. Odds are if you wouldn’t see it in a movie or book that was meant to be taken seriously, then don’t use it. Sometimes however the name will be something that needs to tie into the story of the character such as a surname for a fantasy character that may be semi descriptive, or in a super hero game the name may actually reflect what powers and abilities that hero has. You can find any number of name generators out there online. Remember if you get stuck you can always ask for suggestions.

Write it all Down

Remember everything always comes back to the story. A lot of times you may have an idea and you might not be sure if it really is that good of an idea. Writing down all the ideas for your character often helps. Remember how it always comes back to the story? You can start by taking your ideas, and writing a story about your character, taking those ideas and flushing them out in the story.

So you’re not a good writer? So you’re new to all this stuff. So what? Everyone is new at some point in time. It doesn’t matter if you have been doing this for years on end or if you just started by reading this guide. You get better by doing. The real role players out there will respect you’re effort and accept you by that and those are the ones that you’ll want to spend your time with.

Interacting with others

When role playing your character in game, always do what the character would do. Pour into that the things you enjoy. If you’re character is someone who is a foreigner from another land, they might not understand the customs. For example a barbarian sitting down at a table with elves might not bother with utensils but just reach over and grab the food off the table eating with his bare hands while belching openly while slurping down a flagon of mead.

Always act as you’re character might act and make choices your character would make. If you were a wizard and faced with two choices, one which required brute force or another which required a more thoughtful process, you may likely chose the later. It all comes down to your character quirks. You might decide you don’t like something or someone.

For example that same Barbarian may be distrustful of magic because he and his fellow clan mates don’t understand magic. So when he encounters wizards in game he may group with them but always eye them suspiciously and view them with hesitation. Have fun with it, that’s the point! The interaction isn’t just for the story and you, but between you and all the other people playing around you. Just think of it as a virtual party.

Using Emotes

All games have emotes in them. You’ll have to look at the games documentation to find out what emotes do what. Usually there are canned emotes and there are custom emotes that you can perform. Again the commands to do the later are usually listed in the games documentation. However the case may be emotes are a valuable tool for role playing in role playing games. In some cases you might want to add emphasis to a line of text that your character is speaking so you may want to attach an emote to the end of that line. For example the barbarian in the other example, “I will help you mage, but I do not trust you *makes shifty eyes at the wizard*”

When in doubt asterisks make for a great way to do emotes, by putting them before and after the emote in the given example above. You’ll find that using emotes in games is a great way to express your characters emotion and thicken role playing in role playing games. You can do everything from smile, to frown, to showing anger, and so much more by using emotes. You can also express physical actions out through the use of emotes such as shrugging or kicking over some object as an expression of frustration.

In Character & Out of Character

In character or IC and Out of Character or OOC are the two methods of communication in online role playing games. In character simply is most normal and common communication for people that role play in role playing games. Role players who break character typically type OOC before their comments to let other role players or people know that they are talking out of character. For example, “OOC now I am not interested but thank you for asking”.

Remember that a little OOC is good, too much however can be a bad thing. Always remember that people play the game and people are very much as “out of character” as it gets. Never push things too far and always go with the flow while playing in character and use common sense above all. Common sense is the best guide you can ever have. Of course sometimes you may need to reference to some people that you are being IC as well in case they are confused for whatever the reason. Again in such cases, let common sense be your guide here.

Do’s & Don’ts of Role Playing

1. Always role play based off of the world and the setting. Generally it’s not a good idea and is often frowned upon to take other works from movies, tv, books, and other games and try to play them off in the game. For example, trying to pass yourself off as a Jedi Knight in a fantasy or super hero game obviously wouldn’t work very well. The super hero game will have it’s own back-story which doesn’t include Jedi Knights and obviously as they are science fiction in origin it would be a round peg in a square hole for a fantasy setting. They two just don’t mix. Always follow the story.

2. Play the game; always remember your character is limited by the mechanics of the game as to what he or she can do. You can’t forcibly push someone around against their will even in role playing. That person can always ignore you and walk away if they choose to do so. If you catch someone in a PvP area however and give them a beating, you’re well within you’re rights however to brag about it later in character or even write a story about how badly you beat them, along with anything else you might have done once you defeated them.

3. Never make someone feel uncomfortable with your character and always be a team player. Loners never have anyone to role play with. You can always role play with people and have a good time but never take it so far that you start upsetting the people playing the characters or none role players. You can always find a reason to play with people and always find a reason to keep the role play for your character at a level that’s comfortable and friendly to those around you. Remember people will always role play with you if you are pleasant and enjoyable to be around. Give them something to remember and they will be back for more.

4. Never brush off or push away non role players. This is probably the biggest cardinal sin of role players that occurs. Not everyone starts out as a role player. At one point in time, you were not a role player, you didn’t understand. Sometimes there are even role player haters out there that hate role players because they had a bad experience with another role player that took a snobby attitude with them or was condescending towards them so they assume all role players are the same way.

Show them it’s not true by your own actions. You can do it, you have the power in you to make a difference and make change. By showing acceptance towards non role players you can prove to non role players and yes even the role play haters that not all role players are bad and that it can be a very fun thing that enhances the game experience and makes it all the more fun.
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