January 26, 2010 – 8:00 am
This first post in my week of Guest Posts is brought to you by Haemon Shadowind, known generally as Shad: tree healer extraordinaire, occasional tank, distributor of <3s, and always awesome. Enjoy!
Hi, Anna’s other readers! I’m Shad, and this is my first blog post ever. Anna asked nothing at all of me, and I wrote this anyway. Let’s see if she notices.
On to the meat (or delicious baked goods) of the post.
How to start a character can be a conundrum. Some people have the fortune of having a character walk into their head, fully formed, introduce themselves, and demand to be played. Mostly, though, folk start with something a bit more bare-bones. Do you roll the toon first, and let the personality naturally build itself? Do you sit and write out a huge backstory before you ever even see if the name you want is taken? Do you start with a few ideas and roll with the punches?
The Gimmick is a common basis for a new character, for both new and old RPers. Particularly for the new, there is great appeal in implanting an RP hook in your character’s backstory: something to make you stand out from the crowd, a shiny facet of your gem of a character about which people will ask and gasp and be struck with awe.
What is a gimmick? To apply a fairly broad definition, it’s the end to the sentence “I think I’ll make a character who…” That next phrase can be just about anything, from “is a vampire” or “lost her parents in a horrific fire” to “is a human with a dwarven accent” or “is absolutely perfectly normal in every way, shape, and form.”
The term “gimmick,” of course, brings with it a lot of negative connotations, but to make it clear I don’t think of this as a bad thing, I’m going to begin an extended similie.
Character gimmicks are like homemade cookies.
Fun: Both gimmicks and cookies are pure fun, from beginning to end; fun to create and fun to enjoy, unless you’ve really botched them up. It’s a fine line to walk between leaving them half-baked and burning them, but you’ll probably get a good feeling for it after a few tries.
You are not inventing the cookie: You are also not reinventing it. You are not even inventing a new flavor. Your gimmick has almost certainly been done before, be it the tortured death knight or the gleeful death knight, and I promise there are thousands of secret worgen from Darkshire out there. To quote many a more cynical blogger, You Are Not A Special Snowflake, and neither is your character trait.
Your flair makes it awesome: On the other hand, just because it’s not new, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it well. Like with recipes, it’s okay to steal so long as a) you’re not feeding it to the person from whom you stole it, and b) you add a little something of your own to it. What can you do to play it better than you’ve seen it played before? Make sure you’ve got an answer to that before anything else, because it’s your treatment rather than the trait itself that really makes the mark.
Some cookies were never meant to exist: Okay, so you could invent a new one. Some people enjoy the taste of bologna, Swiss, and mayo. No one, however, would like that taste in a cookie*. For a taste like that, you go to sandwiches. Likewise, not all plotpoints mesh with every universe. Night elves are not Drow, no matter how much you want them to be. Arthas has no sons. Or daughters. So you’re not one. If you go about making a cookie that does not belong in the cookie realm, expect to find yourself limited to interaction with people who have very eccentric tastes.
Man cannot live by cookies alone: This, in mine opinion, is the most important point in my ridiculous comparison. So you’ve got a great cookie. You’ve done some awesome piping work with the icing. It looks amazing. But it’s not a meal. If you eat just the cookie, you’ll be hungry. If you make a bunch of cookies, and eat them all, you’ll feel downright ill. So it goes with a character. You can build a character around a gimmick, yes, but you have to actually build the character. Leave it as a gimmick, and it’ll feel empty; fill it with multiple gimmicks, and it’ll go bad fast. Make your character a meal–a whole person–and your gimmick will be a delicious dessert.
So the questions go to you: Have you ever seen a gimmick or cliché done well? Or have you seen one done poorly, and thought about how you might do it better? If you’ve got a gimmick character, how much have they grown? Do they still retain their original gimmick?
Are you hungry now?
*I realize that making a blanket statement such as this one merely invites contradiction. Should you think I am wrong here, I challenge you to eat such a cookie.
January 25, 2010 – 10:52 am
The next part of the Dark Summoning story is up – reader beware, things just got a little darker.
January 25, 2010 – 9:34 am
Starting off this week of guest posts, I’d like to introduce Falconesse from WTT:RP. She’s an awesome RPer and author, and I’m always amazed at her ability to take a really difficult, nuanced subject and turn it into a clear and easy to understand blog post.
While this subject isn’t nearly so heavy, it’s still excellent – and one that hits close to home. As a healer, I very /very/ rarely join random dungeon groups, PUGs, or join in when people are asking for help filling a group, because so many times “Hey Anna, can you come heal <instance>” turns into a multi-hour headache. But as DPS? I’ll go every time. (Still doesn’t mean I like putting groups together on my own though!) Enjoy!
Not long ago, Cynwise asked a very interesting question to the twitterverse:
Anyone else have trouble asking for a dungeon run but are perfectly happy to give one? It’s not like this isn’t a social game or anything.
My immediate reaction was “Oh, hell yes.”
It’s a little silly, isn’t it? I’ve been playing for five years now, and love the people in my guilds to pieces. My husband plays. Several real-life friends play; Yva’s been my best friend since way before WoW came along. I’ve grown very close to people who live scattered across the country, none of whom I would have met if it wasn’t for the game. I’ve flown out to visit them, some have flown out to stay with us. We’ve exchanged phone calls and Christmas presents. We’ve leaned on one another when real life started hurling lemons.
In my head, I know that, at any given moment, I could call out in a channel full of my guildmates and get something together. I know that I could poke Bricu — who’s been my partner in crime for going on three years now — say, “Hey, let’s go run a heroic,” and he’d say yes. Yva’s just a phone call away. I could shout into the other room, and Gharr would heal or tank something for me hordeside. There are ten people on my gchat list right now I could ask to run a dungeon with me, and that’s just among the friends whose lights are green.
But will I ask any of them?
/shakes her Magic 8 Ball
Outlook not so good.
So why don’t I?
The most obvious answer, I suppose, is lack of confidence. Setting up groups, explaining fights, understanding how other classes work, I’m not very good at any of those things. If we head into a dungeon and things go pear-shaped, I feel like having the little crown on my avatar’s head means I ought to be able to figure out what’s wrong and get it sorted. Even if I’m running with a group of people who already know what they’re doing — and most of the time, the other four people in my group could run the instance in their sleep — I feel like it’s my group, therefore it’s my responsibility to see that it succeeds.
Right alongside the lack of confidence is shyness. Yup, even with people I’ve known for years. They’re not in a dungeon right now, not setting up their own run? They must be doing something more important. Maybe they’re RPing or farming or questing.
Of course, when I’m out farming or questing, I’m often happy to volunteer for a dungeon if someone else is putting it together. When I’m RPing, I’ll usually decline, or check in with my RP partner to see what they’d like to do. Even so, if I’m willing to take a break from whatever I’m doing for a dungeon, wouldn’t others do the same when I call out?
/shakes the 8 Ball again
Signs point to yes.
Right. So. What can we wallflowers do to get up the confidence to put our own runs together? Here’s what I’ve got. Let me know what other suggestions you have!
Start small. Recruit just ONE person to do something, someone you’re already comfortable with. Go up against an elite mob (Chillmaw might be a good one), pop into Wintergrasp, even meet at Cantrips and Crows for some RP. Most importangly, do something fun — are you both 80? Revisit some old-world dungeons and see how far you can get two-manning them.
Ask a friend to co-lead. Do you have a friend who’s not at all shy? Let them know what you’re doing, and ask if they’d be willing to back you up. (Hint: They probably will.)
Start easy. Call out for dungeons you’re comfortable with, ones whose fights you know well enough to explain if need be. If you’re not sure about all the mechanics of a fight, it’s okay to say so; someone else in your party can probably help out. If you’re all shrugging at a mechanic, there’s no shame in looking up the fight on WoWhead, WoWWiki, or other sites that have strategies.
It’s okay to give someone else the hat. Putting the group together doesn’t always mean you have to call all the shots. Often, I see the tanks given the lead so they can mark targets. If you are the tank and you’re not quite sure which mobs need to die first, see if someone else in the group is willing to mark the pulls, or at least let you know which ones you should be marking.
Do a little research on other classes and roles. You don’t have to know every single ability for every spec for every class, but it doesn’t hurt to talk a little shop, either. Do you have a friend who loves to roguespam? Has your RP partner been playing a resto druid since launch? Ask them to give you a rundown of their key abilities. If you’re in a raid, chances are you’ll hear the names of spells and abilities banded about while fights are being explained. Listen for them, and (when you’re not mid-bossfight!) look them up, or ask a friend who plays that class what those abilities do. What does Tricks of the Trade do? How does Shield Wall work?
Do a little research on the dungeons. Once you’re ready to put together parties for harder content, read up on the boss strategies that are out there. There might be a few different ways to get past a fight. Be ready to adapt if you need to — talk it over with your party if something’s not working.
The most important thing, as always, is to have a good time. Run dungeons with people you know, and with whom you’re comfortable. If you take someone who gets upset at every wipe, you’re going to come out of the instance more frazzled than you were before going in. That defeats the purpose.
Fill your group with friends, RP between bosses, and, most importantly, have fun!