Role Play
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Role Play: How to encourage roleplay

Way, way back when I first started playing this game, I began on a PVE server. It was where my friends were located, and that was really all I needed at the time. I didn’t know, initially, that there were even such things as RP designated servers. So I wrote little stories for my characters. I built up their backgrounds and fashioned them into the kind of character I wanted to play — although my first rudimentary efforts were tremendously terrible. But it worked anyway — I was raiding, I was writing stories, people seemed to like those stories, life was good! Until the raid guild broke up, at which point I was left with a choice — stay put, or roll an alt somewhere new. (This was, of course, before paid server transfers were even a thing.)

I ended up dropping my beloved raiding character and hopping over to an RP realm to try something completely new. I figured if I liked writing stories so much, maybe I’d like the actual roleplaying part, too! And maybe that was an easy decision for me, but sometimes there are people out there that may be interested in roleplaying, but not quite ready to make that leap — which is where today’s email comes in.

Atanae asked:

There seems to be a number of “secret role players” out there. Folks who have their characters’ stories, who “RPvE” (role play versus environment), so to speak. Many times, these folks are intrigued by the idea of actually taking the plunge on an RP server, but are too daunted to take that first step.

How would veteran role players, entice these nascent role players into taking the plunge? How do you address their fears that maybe they can’t “improv” RP dialog well, or that their back story isn’t “good enough” or that they may unwittingly commit any number of rp etiquette mistakes as a new RPvP (role play versus player) character?

Not every secret role player may be willing to take the plunge for other reasons, but I think that the daunting first step that can so easily become a mis-step is a barrier to entry for folks who may otherwise find experiencing WoW as “digital D&D” a refreshing alternative.

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Hopping into roleplay

As a former “secret roleplayer,” that first step is less of a step and more of a gigantic leap. I left my old server and went somewhere new almost out of necessity. There weren’t any other really hardcore Horde raiding guilds on the server I was currently on. I didn’t have a lot of options. All I knew was that there was something I enjoyed doing, and other people seemed to enjoy my doing that thing. Since I wasn’t having fun on my old server anymore, it just made sense to hop to a new one, where I could do that thing I enjoyed as full-time as I wanted. Why not? Either the move would pay off, or I’d go find another game to play.

But while that decision was easy enough for me, it’s not that easy for everyone. Sometimes, the prospect of being social and talking to others is a daunting one — more so if it involves creativity. If you’re just asking someone to run a dungeon with you, or craft an item for you, that interaction has a purpose that’s already been defined. You know how that situation is going to play out in advance. Sure, there might be slight deviations from what you’re used to, but the end result is usually the same. When you’re roleplaying, that defined purpose just isn’t there. You’re expected to make it up. That’s scary enough all on its own. But you’re also opening yourself up for judgment by others, and that’s also a mildly terrifying prospect to plenty of people.

Become a Watcher

Writing stories in that whole “RPvE” environment, as you put it, isn’t so bad — because you aren’t interacting with others. You can choose to put your stories out there for people to see, or you can keep them private. If people judge those stories, so be it — negative feedback isn’t fun to get, but you can always step back, take a look at that and improve. Getting that negative feedback in real time as you’re writing? That’s way harder to deal with.

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Encourage without pressure

Unfortunately, it’s really hard to nudge someone to take that first step, largely because it’s just that daunting. But just being an encouraging presence helps immensely in cases like this. Let the person know that you like their work, if they share these stories and interactions with you. If you know of any good roleplaying events going on, invite them along to observe. If they want to participate, they can jump in — but it’s not necessary. No pressure, and no potential judgment going on, just sit back and watch the stories unfold.

Being able to sit in and observe can be an immense help for people that have never roleplayed with others before. It gives them an example of what roleplaying looks like, a quasi-guideline to follow if they want to interact. And if they’re looking for a fairly cut-and-dry guide to roleplaying basics and terminology, we have one of those available right here.

What you can’t do — as an outside observer — is try to push or force that person to jump in with more traditional RP. You don’t want to make them feel pressured or stressed about something that’s supposed to be fun! If they have questions about their character’s back story or lore in general, go ahead and answer them. Don’t critique unless you’re specifically asked for critique.

Stay positive

You can’t really force anyone into traditional kinds of roleplay between players. But what you can do is be a positive force in your roleplaying community for people like this. If you see something that you like, don’t be afraid to pipe up and say so. I don’t know how many new friends I’ve made and stories I’ve started just by sending people a quick whisper to let them know I liked their character description or back story.

It can be difficult to make that step from “secret roleplayer” to full fledged participant in the roleplaying community. Sometimes people don’t want to take that step — and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Everyone’s got their own way of expressing their creativity. But sometimes, all it takes for a person to make that leap is the knowledge that there’s a friendly person or group of people waiting on the other side.

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