Due to a devious and perfidious assault by Hurricane Edouard upon the Texas coastline, your daily dose of one Anna or another is tragically lacking today. However, not wanting to let her readers down, the author of this blog searched high and low to find insightful, witty, and valuable input from leading lights of the Feathermoon community. And when she couldn’t find any of those, she asked me.
Today’s guest post on Too Many Annas is supplied by the player behind Tarquin ap Danwyrith, boss of the Wildfire Riders, fearless leader of Totally Raids Inc, and general nogoodnik. The vast majority of Tarquin’s raiding experience has been on his rogue, who is also his primary roleplaying character. Enjoy!
So regular readers of this blog have heard a great deal by now about the concept behind TRI – an endgame raiding haven for roleplayers, frequently operating in character and encouraging RP chatter during downtime (or hell, during pulls since we’re mostly just mashing one button.) You might justifiably wonder, how the hell does that work? With the amount of administration and action required to keep up a good pace through 25-man content, it can certainly be challenging, but even a power-obsessed, micro-managing raid leader of uncertain stability and infrequent sobriety can manage to incorporate his raid time into his character’s roleplay and vice versa.
To that end, a few tips, tricks, and little-known facts related to the synergy of RP and content, and how you can make them meet halfway!
A common misconception, discussed by Anna in her excellent appearance on Twisted Nether, is the nature of roleplay as a bunch of people sitting around Ye Olde Taverne, making small talk in funny accents. That’s one facet of the experience – RPing a character in WoW isn’t just putting oddly-spelled words in the mouth of an avatar. You’re telling the story of a person in another world, and if that story doesn’t contain some of the things unique to that setting then what’s the point? For me, the basis of RP is going into a situation (whether developer content or player-created) and asking “What would my character do here?”
Raiding is a pretty powerful tool for that. By design, 25/40-man raids in WoW have almost always been where you find the Big Bads of Warcraft lore, and taken part in (eventual) plot advancement. There’s literally hundreds of named bosses through the various instances who might have a reason to draw a character’s ire – but just as many who might not mean anything. Why would a night elf druid risk his life in Stratholme, or a Forsaken warlock bother to free Outland from the dominion of Kael’Thas?
An answer to these questions, even if it’s as simple as “profit” or “friendship,” can be a great tool for developing a roleplay character. And for the deeply personal motivations, like a veteran of the Battle of Mount Hyjal returning to face his past, or a young trollish patriot seeing what’s become of her idol Zul’jin, setting an RP goal can give you as a player a good reason to check out content that might not otherwise hold a lot of excitement for you.
The post-raid counterpoint to this is making your character’s achievements part of their story. A level 70 character has probably fought things that your average citizen of Azeroth might not believe existed if they hadn’t seen the head mounted on the city gates. Working dungeon and raid achievements into your ongoing story and figuring out how they’ve changed your character can be a great roleplay tool.
The problem with this, of course, is that we can’t all be the Slayer of Onyxia. It’s an inescapable limitation of an MMO, especially one as big as WoW – until the plotline advances (with the next expansion, no doubt), the boss you killed Saturday will be there again on Tuesday, and someone else will kill it Wednesday and be prancing around Stormwind with its severed body parts. This is the point at which we get creative. A few ways to work ingame achievements into RP without opening up a tedious debate on “god-modding”:
- Start small. There are literally thousands of unique named mobs in WoW, any of which could be significant in your character’s story if you so choose. Back in the early days of WoW, it was exceedingly profitable for rogues to go solo farm Archmage Doan, the final boss of the Library wing of Scarlet Monastery. I did some runs like everyone else, and after Blizzard nerfed the profitability of the runs, decided to work that into my story. Tarquin went and did the job on Doan on government orders, and this was one of the ways he made his name as a reliable assassin. (Of course, this came back to haunt him later.) Not exactly entering my character in the annals of legend, but still a named character that other players are familiar with and can use as a point of reference.
- Think on a large scale. Maybe you didn’t strike the killing blow on Nefarian as thirty-nine of your friends looked on, but you were in the ranks when Thrall’s Horde invaded Blackwing Lair with an army of thousands to put an end to the Black Flight’s dominion. Maybe you aren’t a Champion of the Naaru because you personally put an end to the Pit Lord Magtheridon, but for your service in the Sha’tar-led siege on Hellfire Citadel that, among other things, put an end to a certain Pit Lord. When our characters are fighting monsters on that scale, there’s room for a whole lot of people to get involved.
- Substitute. This is particularly common when working with gear that is very clear evidence that you have, in fact, killed a certain boss. The GM of my old guild was the proud owner of a Blackhand Doomsaw when that was a pretty cool thing, but when we were doing UBRS runs at least a couple times a week, he couldn’t well proclaim the death of Rend Blackhand (“He’s standing right there!”) So he wrote a short scene in which his paladin faced one of the bloodthirsty, badass personal bodyguards of the False Warchief, caved his head in with a hammer, and took his weapon, a replica of Rend’s own big ugly Doomsaw like every other one of his bodyguards used.
- Compromise. In a similar situations, a longtime friend of mine is currently trying to figure out how to justify her matched pair of Warglaives of Azzinoth. If anyone has the “right” to say “So guys, I killed Illidan,” it’s her – but when she’s got a whole raid’s worth of RP buddies currently working their way up the T6 ladder (and bringing one of her alts along on occasion), why would she wanna lock them out? So she’s working on a similar explanation for her weapons as my “Substitute” story, one that proves her character’s inherent badassitude and justifies her Scary Orange Text without conflicting with her friends’ roleplay. Similarly, if I ever run into a character for whom Archmage Doan is an important figure in their personal story, I’ll have to get very creative very quickly - which is the most fun part of roleplaying.
So you know why your character’s going to Tempest Keep. You’ve got a story waiting in the wings about your epic duel of sorcery with High Astromancer Solarian. And then the moment you set foot in the instance, you’re too busy sheeping every pull and explaining the fights to a sub mage and buffing AI on that one idiot hunter every time he dies to even think about roleplaying. So how do you work IC interaction into a time-sensitive activity like raiding?
It might be counterintuitive, but one of the best aids I’ve found to RPing in raid is Ventrillo. By getting everyone in TRI on Vent, we’re able to call pulls, direct boss fights, and otherwise communicate quick raid information exclusively on voice chat, thus freeing up /raid for IC communication without making reaction times too slow. The downside to this is that we’ll frequently end up with idle chatter on Vent during trash which, while generally okay, is a distraction from the possibility of RP and something I’m trying to cut back on. Similarly, using role-specific channels (buff assignments in healer channel, that sort of thing) frees up space.
Of course, clearing space for roleplay doesn’t help a lot if you don’t have the time to do so. Part of the problem is the attention and pure button-pushing required to type even a short phrase when you have other buttons to press; no raid leader wants to hear “Sorry I let my tank die, I was crafting a witticism and didn’t have time to hit my heal.” Play around with playstyle and dialogue – for instance, if I’m having a conversation on Tarquin, I’ll see how many words I can fit in between instant attacks and just play it off as him grunting out-of-breath phrases between stabs. (Or just interrupt the sentence with “Bugger this!” and hit Adrenaline Rush.) I know a hunter who, if feeling chatty, just positions his mouse over Steady Shot and starts typing. And our healing lead has a tendency to rotate who actually has to tank heal on trash pulls, so the backup healers get a chance to play around and chat a bit (or just go get a beer.)
Another way to spark conversation or add RP flavor to a raid is the use of macros and addons. Everyone on an RP server probably knows at least one of those people who has every single one of their abilities bound to some flavorful macro, and it gets annoying really quick hearing the same battle cry every 5 seconds. There’s a few addons designed to avoid that sort of thing, like Segui (the current iteration of Speakeasy), which lets you add multiple macros to the same ability, give them an (extremely low) % chance to activate, and also macro conditions like a certain % of health or scoring a killing blow. TRI’s own gnarcoleptic gnome administrates a similar mod called Roleplaying Helper!
Going back to that “two guys in Ye Olde Taverne” trope that I mentioned earlier, you sort of have to consider what these characters would even be talking about during a raid. Is there time to sit down, start a campfire, and emote a bunch of elven snuggling? Are we going to hold up the raid so someone can deliver a twelve-paragraph monologue on their personal grudge against Teron Gorefiend? The answer, in both cases, is of course a resounding hell no.
Look at it this way. Your character is here on a mission, or a job, or what have you, risking his or her life to a varying degree against the forces of darkness (or forces of the profitable) and depending on 9 or 24 or 39 comrades for success. We don’t have time to putz around – we’re too busy being Big Damn Heroes. I’ve been known to IC chew out raiders for chatting about nonsense when we’re supposed to be killing things. It’s very entertaining.
There’s still a lot of ways to get a conversation going during raid. Regarding macros, I remember a warlock back in the MC days who had various one-word epithets bound to her various curses, such as “Suffering,” “Despair,” and of course “DOOM!” This wasn’t particularly annoying since she wasn’t spamming the curses, and it led to a lot of IC banter – just imagine how your character would react to a creepy, white-haired woman hissing “Anguish!” at things. (My personal favorite was one of our other warlocks, who started saying things like “Fuzzy ducklings,” “Warm cherry pies,” “Wholesome matrimonial love,” and then bound the name of our buttmonkey rogue to Curse of Weakness.)
And remember, like you, your character is likely invested in winning more than he is in being witty. (Well, one hopes, anyhow.) During a boss fight, a particularly tricky trash pull, or any time where you’re hard pressed to chat without letting down the side, it’s safe to say that your character is also too busy fighting for her life to engage in Princess Bride-style banter or yell at her rival halfway across the room.
Like any other form of IC interaction, roleplaying in a raid is just a matter of putting yourself in your character’s shoes. It’s just that those shoes happen to be leaving bootprints on the dust of ages in a forgotten tomb, or filled with a pint of murloc blood.
Running TRI as a roleplay raid takes a little bit of extra work, narrows our recruitment pool significantly (though I’m certainly not dissatisfied with the caliber of people we’ve picked up through active recruiting) and probably takes up a few minutes of time every day that I suppose could be enough for one more boss attempt. But it makes Thursday & Friday nights a little different, a way to weave together player-created content and developed game content, and for me, an eminently enjoyable experience well worth the effort. Anyone with an interest in roleplay oughta give it a try sometime. Never know what might happen in there.
Thanks to Anna for giving me the space to pontificate, and for running this excellent resource for both the raiding & roleplaying communities – and of course, for healing me when the concept of “don’t stand in the fire” proves too difficult. And thank you for reading. Your regular shamantastic service should resume shortly!
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