Friday, November 18, 2011

On Character

Not the personality trait, no.

There's a couple letters in MMORPG that kinda hang - the whole "Role Playing" thing. Some people can treat World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, the upcoming The Old Republic, or whichever their MMO of choice is as a numbers game - bigger numbers forever, all the time!

Metagaming is okay, you know? Munchkin out, munchkins, keep on trucking, 'coz we love you too. (But if you roll seven RIGHT NOW, our love for you is double all weekend)

Kerain North, as drawn by @Outbirk

For some, the Role Playing may stop at the "get better gear, be better at game" - but, for others, they may have a personal attachment to characters they play. Might make stories for them, even!

I've felt bad about the recent offerings because I dump more fanfiction than anything useful here - but it felt like a good conversation piece!

What about you? Do you think of your "toon" as a character? Do you put thought into their motivation? Their history? Do you do this for every character, or just for your favorite?


  1. I don't ever create backgrounds or histories for my characters beforehand. I prefer to let game experiences/quests/etc. fill in those blanks, and let their personalities/characters sort of blossom from there. I don't do it for every character, though. Right now the only actual RP-ish toon I have (besides Fabulor...) is my DK.

    Also, I don't RP at all on Rades. He's not so much a character as an ingame representation of me! So when we get to those quests where you have a choice, it's never "What would my character do" but rather, what would *I* do. In this, I find it refreshing to have a 100% "honest" character like that. :D

  2. When we first started playing WoW, I really enjoyed inhabiting my characters, thinking about their stories, and keeping in the spirit of the role I was playing. Over the intervening years, however, I have grown more jaded, and now I no longer really do that -- the only thing left of my initial impulse is a vestigial desire to feel emotionally connected to my character, which I do by choosing a suitable appearance and a name that clicks.

    The brutal truth, though, is that WoW isn't really an RP game. It seems as if the majority of its players fall somewhere between "uninterested in RP" and "actively hostile toward RP", with only a small tail of players who are very serious and dedicated to playing roles in game. What story there is -- and that's precious little -- is a thin porn-like veneer of story, and the designers at Blizzard miss no opportunity to tarnish it with cheesy pop culture references, silly gags, poop quests, or cut-to-the-screwing plot devices. There are a few really brilliant moments of storytelling wheat hidden among all that chaff, but they're not especially prominent, and often overlooked.

    That said, the real detractor is the player base. Playing a role is difficult when you're surrounded by a mob of pimply-faced teenage kids who mock a person in character as if they were a morris dancer reciting Shakespeare in the K-Mart parking lot on a Saturday night. It's hard to maintain immersion amid the trolling and "lol butts lol" that characterizes so much of the public communication in a massively-multiplayer game.

    But it's okay that WoW isn't really an RP game, because it still has a lot of fun aspects besides that. So when I say I don't RP in WoW anymore, I don't mean I hate the game. I don't. I've just learned to accept its limitations, and found ways to fulfill my love of role-playing elsewhere. Single-player games like Skyrim are a lot more immersive, and there's a whole world of plain-text interactive fiction that does a much better job of letting you scratch that role-playing itch than anything in WoW ever does.

  3. I love making stories for characters, even if it's just giving them a little personality, from joking around about Avras being a sleepy kitty, all the way on up to developed RP characters like Deiter and Kirian.

    I don't run around in-character all the time or anything like that. Even on an RP server, I usually just chill OOC unless I know someone wants to play with me. Part of this is to avoid awkwardness, part is because, well. If I was IC all the time with Kirian, I'd never get anywhere because I'd be RP walking all day.

    So, in-game, the characters are more or less avatars for these characters, to me. They have stories that occur with people I like to write with, written outside of the game.

    That said, doing certain questlines or dungeons and thinking about them from an IC perspective- such as the Oracles quests in Sholazar, or running through MgT on Kirian- even if they're not parts of his "story", thinking about them from that perspective can make them very different. The Oracles become, well, still slimy creatures, but they just wanted to live in peace in their little swamp-forest until the Scourge stomped through. Doing those quests as a human or Blood Elf add a new level to it when the dying Oracles say they don't understand why it's happening, what they did to make these Scourge kill them.

    I know it's kind of dorky, but I like playing like that. It makes the world seem less like "I need to kill 12 bears for x amount of exp" and more "these bears are all plagued, and we have to cull them. I'm sorry. ;~; ".

  4. I think for me it depends on the character. I have personalities figured out for most of my characters--probably no backstory, but I know how I think they'll respond to people (Raz and my DK are snarky, my priest is fairly quiet, and my mages are sort of fun (the 85) and quiet (Kor)).

    Raz is probably the only character I've done any development with--I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I play him most. Some stuff I haven't fleshed out--I may think about it, but I never note it anywhere for anyone else. I finally got around to outlining some things about him, and I think it probably benefited me the most? It helped me find holes in my thought process for Raz.

    My character development doesn't come from questing and stuff--I acknowledge that quests are done, usually as a way to earn money--but I don't put any thought into them IC'ly--I may think about my personal reaction after the fact, but I never think about Raz's reaction to a quest I've done.

    I don't usually RP in game--my guilds get to see some of my IC snark, but I don't draft prose in gchat (nor do I draft prose in general). Most of the character stuff is kept out of game and available for some people who I write the character with.

    The one fun thing I find about writing is that I just go with how I feel the character would react at that exact moment. It's led to some interesting moments (for all involved) where I've written something and been happy with it, and then I get a "holy crap, I can't believe that Raz responded that way," response back. Then I step back and think "okay, how would he react to what he's just done? Does he feel remorse or glee? Is this normal for a reaction from him? Did something drive him to respond in this fashion?"

    One of the things I like about Raz as a character is that he is very spur of the moment and reckless in his actions. So he can be passionate about his feelings on something, and then step back and realize that maybe his reaction was a bit to abrupt or hostile and then he has a moment where he feels remorse for his actions.

    I enjoy flawed characters and Raz is definitely flawed :)

  5. I have several characters that have thought-out personalities - Effraeti, most certainly. She went from totally like me (her Shaman persona), to an internally agonized anti-hero (once she became a DK). I have yet to figure out which half of her I prefer. Hopefully, her DK side, since there is no turning back. ;)

    Then, I have characters with basic concepts fleshed out - like the ladies of House Wolfsbane. They are similar, yet different, which comes with being related.

    I play on an RP server now, but I do not RP very often. I like the idea, I like the lore, I like the characters and I like crafting stories for them. In fact, occasionally, while waiting for a dungeon or BG to pop, I will catch myself unintentionally eavesdropping on an in-progress RP happening nearby. But it is still... uncomfortable... for me, as I have noticed that RP encounters tend to seem somewhat silly from an outside perspective.

    That makes me seriously wonder what crazy things people think of me for writing them. lol

    ~ Effy