Written by | Posted October 24, 2014 – 12:01 pm Elevation

Squire Benjamin William Sullivan stood in the middle of Light’s Hope Chapel in his underpants.

Actually, it was white linen pants and a shift, but the effect was approximately the same. The little chapel was warm, on the edge of …

Going Beyond “Mostly Dead”
comment 1 Written by on October 17, 2012 – 8:39 am

I mentioned a bit ago when we were talking about how important a good villain is, that there’s more than one type of death in an RPG, and to be very careful with permanent character death.

I stand by that statement. Be VERY careful with permanent character death.

The laws of magic in game are such that there’s two kinds of dead.

“It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do… Go through his clothes and look for loose change. - Miracle Max, The Princess Bride

Mostly dead” can be interesting to RP. Getting the absolute snot beaten out of your character can be, in a sort of twisted and macabre way, fun. They have a lesson to learn, or a growth experience to encounter, or just a chance to recouperate and take a rather forceful break. Beat downs are part of RP, and when you’re RPing in a raid or instance or PVP situation, “mostly dead” is a fixable sort of thing. A quick trip over here to the spirit healer and everything’s back to how it should be, and you deal with injuries as you see fit, depending on the situation.

But “all dead”… well, permanent death you can’t fix so easily.

With the possible exception of killing a character to rez them as an undead (because you want to faction change, or because zombies), permanent death should be permanent.

It sounds a little flippant to say it that way, but I’m being very serious when I suggest that you really think about all the possible consequences of actually killing a character.

For example, killing a character because you’re quitting wow doesn’t always work out how you’d think.

If you’re a solid part of an RP community, there will likely be a fair amount of RP around your character’s death, followed by your character becoming part of the guild lore. At which point, if you decide to come back to the game, it is VERY HARD to resurrect them in a way that won’t a) be ridiculous and b) make people angry. When people put in a lot of time and energy getting past a character’s death, having them magically show up 6 months later is more than a little bit offputting.

You’ll end up having to either negotiate a massive guild retcon (to deal with all the stories where your then-dead character had a featuring role being dead and to address everyone’s having gone through the grieving process over your character) or start over with a new character (even if you just name change the old one) and re-build the connections and friendships in a new way.

Both ways are hard, and they can put a real damper on the excitement of coming back to the game. If you leave in an open ended way (retirement is always a good option, random disappearance works too), you can return and enjoy being welcomed back. You can always start a rumor of your character’s untimely death, fill it with possible inconsistencies, and leave people to sort out their own conclusions, which gives you the option of coming back two years later with a story all ready to tell.

Killing a character because you just “don’t like playing them anymore” is also fraught with potential pitfalls. What happens if, next expansion, situations arise where that character would really fit in? What happens if they radically change your class, and you can’t wait to try it out again?

Obviously, I’m pretty leery of killing people off in interactive situations like RP. (If you’re writing a novel, feel free to disregard this advice. Then it’s just YOUR story, and you can do whatever you like with your characters.)

It can be very powerful to kill off a character in a story, and that can add a lot of weight to the storytelling. Maybe that means rolling up a new alt with the intent of getting them killed. An alt that you’ve played on and off can pretty safely be eliminated (especially if they’ve languished in your character selection screen for two years). A main character, though, is much harder, and generally when people talk about killing off characters in big stories, it’s characters they – and everyone else – are attached to.

It boils down to being really careful about making decisions that you can’t reverse easily.

Gaming is weird, and people come and go, leave and come back all the time. In the last seven years, I’ve seen people leave the game because they start having kids and will never have time, only to have those kids hit preschool and suddenly they have time again. I’ve seen people start school and quit WoW, only to be back for the next expansion. I’ve seen people quit because their significant other couldn’t stand them gaming, only for them to be back when the relationship didn’t last. I’ve had my own health crisis, that took me away from blogging and gaming for the better part of an entire expansion.

If you know you’re going to be gone for awhile (or possibly for good), it’s natural to want to have a reason for your character’s disappearance. However, it’s probably better to write up a story to wrap up loose ends in a way that leaves open the possibility of coming back. You really never know what the future will turn up.

For me, a lot of this concerns maintaining a sort of gravitas around permanent death.

We play in a magical world where there really is such a thing as “only mostly dead.” Real, actual death is rare, and it loses its effectiveness if we’re constantly killing and resurrecting characters as a way to manufacture drama. Sure, a death can be dramatic – it’s a powerful statement and a powerful thing to write and experience. Do it too often and it becomes cheap, losing the power it has to hold us and create strong emotions and stories.

I think it’s wise to avoid situations where people start to wonder if your character really is dead or not, or how long it will be before they’re magically alive again (but not Undead, of course). Anything that is overused can become cheap, and in a world where we cheat death on a daily basis, it’s important to keep what little severity we can for death as a plot device.

We may joke about leaving bodies in the canals, but our characters are constantly bound up in the business of bringing death to foes. This is World of Warcraft, after all. When its one of our own that has died, there’s a weight there that I find important to hold on to.

Having death be legitimate keeps our characters human.

We’re working to write believable, real characters in an often unfathomably unrealistic, magical world, at some point there has to be some depth to their experience. Our characters have all had to come to terms with the idea of being bringers of death in some form or another. Being on the receiving end needs to balance that out in some way. Otherwise, death loses its value, and we lose some of the humanity of our characters.*

While death is a huge part of our characters’ everyday experiences, real character death is rare to nonexistent in game. Use it sparingly, if at all, and keep in mind that there can be strong OOC and IC consequences both for killing off a beloved character and for trying to resurrect them later.

*For the record, I feel similarly about pregnancy and babies in RP. Life and death both need to have a certain level of believability for our characters to remain human and real. RPing through a pregnancy is a Big Life Event, and results in a Baby. Babies are not things to be taken lightly. Perhaps Bricu can guest post about Naiara sometime. 

A little kindness can go a long way
comment 1 Written by on October 16, 2012 – 9:51 am

Just a quick reminder, as you go forth and conquer all the new content and find new avenues for RP:

Be kind to the people you’re playing with, even if the RP is not to your liking.

New expansions always bring out new players and bring back old players looking to try new things. When you start delving into RP, you never know when you’re going to find a really young player, or a new player, or someone who is taking their first tentative foray into storytelling. Nobody starts out good at this; I know I certainly didn’t. Thanks to kind players who guided my miserable, lore-bending attempts at character creation, I stuck with it.

Of course, you don’t have to stick around and participate all evening in RP that makes you crazy. You can excuse yourself while being kind about leaving, offering advice (if asked) and directing people to public RP events and forum information.

Building the type of community that welcomes new RP is a big deal, and something I think is particularly important. RP can be hard to find; it’s not dead, but it’s certainly underground in a lot of places. The only way to keep those communities vibrant is to keep them growing, and that takes a certain amount of patience as you work with new players to see who’s going to fit (and who would be a better fit elsewhere). Unkind words or a reputation for being rude to people who aren’t fitting in is a really fast way to stagnate a community.

So be kind. Stay true to your character, but use OOC conversation if your character has a tendency toward abruptness or rudeness.

Build community.

Merrily we ROLL along
comment 1 Written by on October 9, 2012 – 8:09 am

A few notes on how things are going in Pandaland…

  • An Xei is level 16, and finally has her heirlooms. I’ll eventually be healing with her, but since I don’t plan on leveling through LFD, I figured a DPS spec would be faster and easier. I still want to get her in for RP, but that may just be a matter of time, since I’m not willing to miss out on stuff with Aely! Favorite thing about monks? ROLLING.
  • Aely is about halfway through 88 and about halfway through Krasarang, which is also just not thrilling me as a zone. I keep hearing about all the cool stuff later on, so I’m anxious to see all of that. The Riders and Associates are fielding a lot of 90′s, so I don’t want to dally too long, even if I’m not planning to raid.
  • Angoleth will likely be the next character through Pandaria, with the intent of gearing her as a possible raid sub. We have too many paladins as it is!
  • Anaxandra has her full kit of heirlooms too, and will be doing more dungeons when I can fit them in. My goal is to actually max a Horde character this expansion, and I’m having fun being a frost mage. Hopefully some RP there as well, though admittedly a Goblin is a little outside my usual RP skill set!
  • I need to try this pet battle thing. It looks like stupid amounts of fun. I’m not even sure why I haven’t tried yet! I know there’s got to be a strategy, but hopefully I can level up several of my favorite pets and just be silly with it. And capture an adorable raccoon from Pandaria…

That’s most of what I’ve been up to. I’m always amazed at how fast people chew through new content with a new expansion. I’m always slow the first time through, and doubly so this time it seems!

Friday 500 – Catchphrases and Mannerisms
comment Comments Off Written by on October 5, 2012 – 11:07 am

This week, instead of a list of questions for the Friday Five, we’re going to look at a ficlet prompt. The rules for ficlets are pretty straightforward – this is flash fiction that turns out less than 500 words. Like a story appetizer or little afternoon snack. Write up a response and post it to your blog or forums, and leave me a comment so I know where to go look!

Does your character have a signature phrase, one-liner, idiom, or particular turn of speech that is identifying or makes up part of who they are? Do they have an unusual and identifying mannerism or an attachment to a particular item of clothing, armor, or weaponry? It doesn’t have to be obsessive or even quirky, just one little identifying trait that makes up part of your character.

For example, Aely’s use of “Dinna fash!” is a sort of identifying phrase for her, Annie Mae always has a flower in her hat, and one of the characters in my D&D group is known for wiggling his fingers and saying “Magic, m–f–ers!”

Now, take that little idiom, mannerism or catchphrase and use it in a really quick ficlet – less than 500 words. The goal is to flex your writing muscles around a part of your character you already are familiar with, to help cement them in your head.

Links in comments please!


October 24, 2014 – 12:01 pm

Squire Benjamin William Sullivan stood in the middle of Light’s Hope Chapel in his underpants.

Actually, it was white linen pants and a shift, but the effect was approximately the same. The little chapel was warm, on the edge of …

Introducing the Newest Anna

June 29, 2014 – 4:39 pm

So I’m not really in a position where I should be creating alts. This, of course, does nothing to deter me from making alts when the inspiration strikes. I’ve been really enjoying my Alliance hunter, and she’s my raiding main …


November 19, 2013 – 4:46 pm

Bad things are happening in Stormwind – and beyond.

The Hand of Lothar, they call themselves.

Yva Darrows was their first target.

Tirith and Aely were their second and third.

They have since… expanded their reach and escalated their methods …


November 13, 2013 – 9:59 am

The cathedral bells stop ringing overnight, except for chiming the hours. Three bell strikes, and Angoleth padded softly around another corner of the Cathedral District, staying carefully in the shadows. Trained ears picked up Mogget’s soft breathing – nearly inaudible …

Riders in Lordaeron – Memory

November 7, 2013 – 1:33 pm

(Written by Jolly, Tarquin, and Annalea)

The highlands of Lordaeron were not for the faint of heart; be it the putrescence of the Scourge’s long-lingering remnant, or the rock-strewn hills and valleys that made farmers out of only the most …

Riders of Lordaeron – Logistics

September 13, 2013 – 7:11 pm

(With Tarquin and Annalea)

Once more, four people made their way through the thickets and hills of Lordaeron, this time in the crisp chill of late morning, seeking after the Rider. Aelflaed had snatched what sleep she could while Chryste …

Riders of Lordaeron – Problematic

September 11, 2013 – 9:47 am

(With Tarquin)

She hadn’t wanted to leave Jolly – not so soon after finding him again – but once away, it took about five minutes for Aely to figure out she had a problem.

That problem had just announced that …

Riders of Lordaeron: Arrangements

September 9, 2013 – 10:05 am

It was an uneasy goodbye for him, but it was agreed by both he and Aely that a stroll back to Hearthglen would not be very easy to explain, nor would the explanation needed for the three Argent soldiers once …

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