THe Mechanics of Basic Roleplay
in World of Warcraft
by Richard “Tharion Greyseer" Powell
Roleplaying in World of Warcraft can be a very daunting thing to some people. Not only are you attempting to break into a community that can sometimes be, shall we say, “critical" of other roleplayers, but there is also the weight of all the lore that some feel is necessary for a good backstory. To many new roleplayers (RPers for short), this can be even more stressful than a standard day job.
I have noticed over the years that most RPers who try to guide others begin with helping them develop a detailed backstory. While noble, I feel there is a very important part of World of Warcraft roleplaying that is often taken for granted: the basic mechanics of speech and emoting. I hope to address some of these aspects in this article.
The Art of the Performance
RPing is not just about having a good backstory for your character, nor is it just about talking in-character about specific events or story arcs. RP also includes the actual performance of your character, and as a performance, it is important that you give it the attention it is due.
Perhaps the most basic way to do this is to be sure that your spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar are correct to the best of your ability. You are performing a role for others, but are still reliant upon their interpretation of that performance. A lack of proper communication skills can lead to incorrect interpretations, which can lead to problems down the road.
I should note here that “lack of proper communication skills" can be a detriment in day-to-day life, as well.
Like with any other form of communication, a poor expression of the language can suggest that such things are unimportant to you. This can, and often does, color a person's impression of both you and your character. It may not be “good" or “right", but it does happen.
When it comes to a textual medium like WoW roleplay, we lack the visual and aural cues that exist in real life. Because of this, we need to be certain that we are careful when conveying and interpreting communications.
Dialogue and Actions
One of the most important things to realize is that the /say channel (typically white text) should almost always be in-character. This is for things your characters say, and it is something that anyone within a certain distance can hear. On an RP server, this is treated as character dialogue. Keeping /say in-character is, in fact, used to be one of Blizzard's core rules for an RP server. Choosing to continue to abide by that rule helps retain in-game immersion.
Other roleplayers see white text and assume it represents what your character is speaking aloud, and it is important to keep this in mind. Some people like to roleplay in a more prose-like fashion, including emotes in their white text, or dialogue in their emote text. While generally acceptable, this can be a little jarring to those unused to it. Our minds tend to associate the certain text colors with certain voices. White text is the character's voice, and orange emote text is the unseen narrator's voice. Mixing the two can break the immersion of the scene rather quickly.
Sometimes you may have to go out-of-character (OOC) in /say to inform a group of people something reasonably important. This is fine, but please be certain to mark the dialogue as OOC in some way. There are many ways to mark OOC speech, but personally, I use double parentheses:
(( Like this, for example. ))
Similar to white text, the orange text is reserved for emotes. These are the things your character does. This is why, when you use /e to type out a custom action, the game automatically places your character's name in front of it. For example:
/e nods his head reluctantly.
will result in
Tharion nods his head reluctantly.
Keep this in mind and construct your emotes accordingly. I have seen a few odd emotes along the lines of:
/e Breaking out of his chains, he rushes at the demon!
This would result in other people seeing:
Tharion Breaking out of his chains, he rushes at the demon!
A better construction of that action would be:
Tharion breaks out of his chains and rushes at the demon!
There are also a few built-in emotes, many of them animated, that you can use to help you through an interaction. Learn these and use them when appropriate. Just be certain that you actually use them somewhere in isolation first, because many of the built-in emotes come with animations or sounds that may run counter to the mood you are trying to evoke.