September 3, 2010 – 9:37 am
Krizzlybear, over at Frost is the New Black, made a post recently about how Gnomes are treated in WoW. It’s loosely referenced to the gender/feminism discussion that’s been circling the WoW blogosphere, but takes a very Azerothian twist. One that, I have to admit, comes very close to my own roleplay.
This is probably going to be a scattered sort of post, so bear with me. There’s a lot to unpack, and not all of it is really easy to explain.
Krizzly’s three points are that, in WoW and according to the official Lore, Gnomes are presented as nerds, asexual children, and avatars/footballs/comic relief. All three of these can make it difficult to roleplay as a Gnome in serious situations, because people are expecting one of the three. Annie Mae and Duugvilder both challenge those conventional ideas, as do several of the Gnomes in The Boomstick Gang (A Gnome/Dwarf RP guild on Feathermoon). It can be difficult to skirt the stereotype lines, especially when you have a character who has quirks and a sense of humor.
Finding the balance between being true to the race and class of the character while still being strong enough to stand alone as a character is hard. Why?
Because stereotypes are easy to roleplay… at first.
It’s easy to roll up a Gnome Warlock, make him super eccentric and crazy, a tinker in his spare time, give him a speech affectation, and show up to RP night for laughs. But that Gnome Warlock will be boring after a few nights. Without a story, a personality, or something that makes the character more than just a stereotype, you’ll eventually get bored. (And other people will get bored too.)
The same can be true for other races, but I rarely see another race whose stereotypes are so pervasive that you can quite literally make an entire character solely based on the race stereotype – evidence that the WoW Lore is pretty consistent about how all Gnomes are a certain way. An inebriated, beer-loving Dwarf is a start, but it doesn’t get you very far… and Dwarves are diverse enough in game that you can really branch out from there (adventurer Dwarves, mining Dwarves, historian Dwarves, hunting Dwarves*). Same goes for a nature loving Tauren – you can’t RP for much more than an evening just being nature loving. You can, however, RP for quite a long time just being a nerdy, tinkering obsessed, eccentric, socially awkward Gnome.
One of Krizzly’s commenters makes the following statement, and I think it’s pretty representative of how Gnomes are viewed in RP environments as a whole. Syl says:
They’re the race I can identify with the least, even though I think they’re a lot fun as NPCs.
What makes Gnomes fun as NPCs is their eccentricity. They’re funny. The Gnome living in the turtle shell in Northern Bloodmyst is funny. The first Gnome NPC you meet as a newly minted Gnome or Dwarf sends you out to find the tools he lost when he got attacked by Trolls. When Hallow’s End comes around, people will get turned into Leper Gnomes.** Even the in-game music associated with Gnomes is comical and lighthearted, and obviously mechanical (Tinkertown, Gnomeregan). The Stormwind, Ironforge, Orgrimmar, Darnassus, Thunder Bluff and even Undercity themes all have elements of heroic or grandiose themes (even when they’re being spooky), and are often warlike and percussive. Even Troll music is known for the drums and really cool, unusual instruments (Zandalar Island, Zul’Aman).***
In a story, it’s easy to toss in a Gnomish NPC – there’s a formula to follow and you can create a humorous character interaction quickly without having to invest much time into actually playing as that character.
However, once you start actually playing Gnomes, you realize there aren’t a lot of actual Gnomish characters to look to for inspiration, and all of the lore centers around their being nerdy, eccentric, comic relief (Wilfred Fizzlebang, Millhouse Manastorm).
Gnomes are relatively new to the Azerothian scene, and they don’t have any historical references like Trolls or Elves, or even Draenei (who have a similar problem with lack of background info). There are no Ancient Gnomish Civilizations – or even current Gnomish civilizations, the Gnomes are a scattered race, living in another city’s capitol. High Tinker Mekkatorque certainly seems to imply that he’s a badass… but we just haven’t seen that yet (Operation Gnomeregan, please!). When you add in the Gnome-punting, silly voices, and Gnomes-as-food jokes, it starts to get kind of discouraging.
So what is an aspiring Gnome roleplayer to do?
The only way to manage, long term, is to branch out.
You create characters that touch lightly on the mold without being so close as to be carbon copies. Duugvilder makes jokes with Tarquin constantly any time Tarquin makes kick, throw, or punt references in casual conversation. Annie Mae isn’t really that fond of tinkering, and she’s distrustful of most magic… but she can take care of her guns, and she’s an excellent blacksmith. The Boomstick Gang Gnomes that I’ve interacted with each have their own take on what it is to be Gnomish, while still having distinct personalities and backgrounds.
Of course, there is the element of size.
Annie Mae is a Gnome Warrior – and she’s about 3 feet 6 inches tall. How does that work? Well, for her, it means she relies on her horse (Nutmeg) a lot, and it also means that she’s pretty acrobatic when she needs to be. She’s small but strong, aware of her own limitations, and not afraid to figure out how to use her size as an advantage. She even makes short jokes about herself – but that’s as much a defense mechanism as anything else.
But a Gnome Rogue could easily be incredibly sneaky. A Gnome Warlock might have a stand off with one of the larger summoned entities that a Human Warlock would have less trouble with.
There are definitely obstacles to Gnomish RP – not least of which is the heavy-handed lore trends that seem to push Gnomish characters into a particular box. And that doesn’t even touch on the general awkwardness that surrounds playing an adult Gnome who has the potential to be in an adult relationship.
It is possible though, with a healthy dose of creativity and a willingness to explore/push the boundaries, and ultimately very rewarding. Annie Mae is one of the best characters I’ve created, and I’m looking forward to some of the new events (Operation Gnomeregan, Please!) to see how she reacts and responds.
*Typing Dwarves that many times in a row makes it not look like a word anymore…
**Of the other costumes, “Human” is the racial default – for pirates, ninjas, and ghosts. Even if you’re a Tauren, you have a Human Ninja form. The “Cool” costumes are Human. This is largely a “it’s easier to make them this way and just have one form” thing.
***Neither Gnomish nor Trollish thematic music has made it onto any of the WoW soundtracks so far either, BOOOOO.
August 31, 2010 – 4:44 pm
Read Part 1 – Meticulous – here.
The rain continued well into the night. Annata sat flipping through a tiny, leather-bound book, her room illuminated by several candles and one rather smoky lamp.
Family Costa – a vast network of third cousins, step-sisters, nephews-in-law, and the like. Matriarch: Bella Costa; Children: Aniello, Joseph (“One Finger Joe”), Bartolomeo, Maria. Usual business: smuggling, black market goods, underhanded dealings. Generally tolerated by the authorities due to an uncanny ability to keep everything quiet and a few discrete, generous donations to the Stormwind Guard. Operates out of the Trade District.
She made a small note in the margin: Joey, Julia.
“And I am too old for you,” she thought with a wry grin.
Three days later, on the Stormwind Docks, Julia Gravano watched for new arrivals.
New she-wolf headed your way – silver in the black. Asking questions about the Sticks and Stones. Looking for work. Tell Mama I say “no more cheese.” – Joey
She picked out the woman, sitting on a shipping crate off to one side and carefully monitoring the proceedings, and found herself the target of a very pointed stare. Julia pulled on a neutral expression.
“Can I help you?”
“Probably. I’m looking for Julia.”
“Well, you found me. Did you want something?”
“I spoke with your cousin Joey out in Lakeshire. I’m looking for a spot of work, though not hauling boxes.” The Ravenholdt badge flickered through her fingers again, and Julia’s gaze wavered between the badge and Annata’s face. After a few moments of indecision, she spoke again, her voice less guarded than before.
“How much do you know about Stormwind?”
“Plenty of official history, not enough about how things really run around here. Anything I should know?”
Julia peered at the middle-aged woman for a moment. “The weather’s been rough on the business this summer.”
“Autumn’s always been better for this thing of ours.”
Julia’s expression relaxed visibly. “True enough. Well, Brass Ben’s trying to open up a business again, but he’s had trouble with regulations. Otherwise, we’re operating business as usual. Ginger Dan’s been on the down side since he lost a ship last month. Oh, and Ap Danwyrith is back. He waltzed back into town after the Great Northern War ended, and nobody’s heard a peep from him or any of his people since. Rumor has it his Underboss – Bittertongue – is even out for a commission from the Guard.”
Annata arched an eyebrow. “Really now…” She paused a moment. “Just one more question and I’ll get out of your hair. Any new scuttlebutt about the Stonemasons?”
Julia’s face darkened, and she hesitated slightly. “Nothing new in months. Any news from up North?”
“Lots of rumors, but nothing substantiated, which is partially why I’m here. Some of the reports are even mentioning Beve Perenolde again, but I’ve got my doubts on that front. Syndicate holdings are stronger since the Alliance forces went North and left them pretty much unattended.”
“Is Falconcrest still up to the usual?”
“As only he can be, yes.” Annata hopped down off the crate. “Now, where’s the best place around here to get a hot meal and some decent coffee?”
The younger woman smiled. “Most of us prefer the Gilded Rose these days, if you’re not particular about who comes in and out.” She lowered her voice. “And if you want Arathi liquor, the only place in town that sells it is the Pig and Whistle, unfortunately.”
It was Annata’s turn to offer the appraising glance. “Noted, and I owe you a good turn. If you’re ever up where the Ravens fly, tell them “The cauldron never runs dry”. They’ll take care of you.”
August 27, 2010 – 8:45 am
Three immaculately manicured fingernails drummed lightly on the table, followed by a slightly disquieting thump where the fourth should have been. The woman sitting at the table appeared more to be deep in thought than overly vexed, so Joey Costa decided to take a chance.
He turned the chair across from her around and straddled it. “You’re the lady in from out of town, ain’tcha?”
The clicking stopped.
“I am, what’s it to you?”
“Just makin’ nice. It’s raining like the world’s about to end, so we’re likely to be here a bit. Figured I’d say hello. Name’s Joey Costa.”
She arched her eyebrows in a gesture that reminded him so much of his aunt it was uncanny. “Anna, and yeah, just got in from Southshore.”
“Here on business?” Costa took a swig of coffee.
“Of a sort. Looking for work, mostly. Since the war ended, folk have gotten restless up there. Figured I’d try my hand farther south.”
Her accent was faint, and somewhat hard to place. “What kinda work? There ain’t much here.”
She smiled at him suddenly, patronising and cat-like. “Trust me, there’s plenty here. I’m just not sure I’m cut out for a small town like this.” The woman flicked her fingers slightly, and a Ravenholdt badge appeared – and disappeared just as quickly.
He turned on the charm. “Well, then you just head to the City, lady. That’s where everything happens.”
“Figured as much. I’m also looking for information about a couple of lukewarm leftovers from what remains of the Stonemason’s Guild.” She sipped her own coffee, a wedding ring glinting in the firelight.
“Well, I ain’t really the person to be askin’, and of course, those are questions of a delicate nature anyway. Tell you what though, Stormwind Docks aren’t a bad place to start. My cousin’s there, and she’ll know who to ask. Her name’s Julia.”
After a long, uncomfortably appraising look, the woman stood up. “I’ll do that, and thanks.” She turned to head up the stairs, paused as if to say something, and then thought better of it.
Costa watched her until she’d disappeared into the dark hallway.
The bartender flashed him a shit-eating grin. “She’s too old for you anyway, lad.”
August 25, 2010 – 11:45 am
Every year, near the end of the dog days of summer, a group of wonderful people on Feathermoon get together and throw one of the longest-standing recurring RP events on the server.
The Rose Ball.
This year’s event will be held at the Waygate in Sholazar Basin on Friday August 27th at 6pm Feathermoon Standard Time (US-Pacific Timezone).
(This is the 7th Rose Ball, the first one being held in December of 2004!)
The Rose Ball is the culmination of weeks (or more) of effort from a group of people dedicated to putting on a truly one of a kind RP event. Cross-faction and open to anyone who wants to come, you’ll find storytelling, plays, dueling competitions, riddles, pet battles, and a raffle to win a really awesome prize – this year’s being a figure-print bust statue of the winner (past prizes have included cool TCG items and other swag).
The only rules are basically Don’t Be a Dick. Just show up unflagged and have a good time. Since this is a cross-faction event, there is a certain level of diplomacy involved, and even the usual PVP guilds show up unflagged and often help to keep the peace. Anyone is invited who can get to the event location – this one is in Sholazar – either by their own power or via warlock transport.
It’s a really unique event, very fun, and if nothing else, it’s a fun time to hang out with friends (and make new ones) and show off your favorite RP outfits.
Since the invitations were mailed, Ms Chelody Smallwing has announced that the storytelling contest theme is “Holidays” – any holiday celebrated in Azeroth counts, so long as the story is “fictional” to Azeroth. Only short stories are accepted, as there are usually a lot of participants, and nobody wants to be there until 4am!.
Arrens and Aely will be there, and you should come too – there’s something for everyone, whether you want to participate, hang out with friends, or just watch the festivities. It’s a low pressure event, since there is usually a very large gathering, so even if you’re only comfortable talking to one or two friends, there’s fun to be had and fun people to meet. (And of course, you don’t have to participate in every event – Aely usually gets in on the Riddles contest, and loves to hear the storytelling, but neither of us is very interested in dueling!)
Hope to see you there!
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It really …
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