Role Play: Character knowledge and you
There’s no need to have some kind of unnatural, all-encompassing grasp of Warcraft lore to create a roleplay character — you can simply come up with a very basic back story and hit the road, chatting with whoever comes along. But for those roleplayers who are also major lore buffs, what might seem to be an immediate advantage may not be after all. Character knowledge is kind of a double-edged sword in that aspect. You might know everything under the sun, you might be a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Azeroth’s history … but your character isn’t likely going to know all of that.
Consider this: You, as a human being, do not know all there is to know about the world around you. You’ve got some areas of expertise, sure, you’ve got some things you’ve got a basic, rudimentary knowledge of, but there is plenty out there that you don’t really have a handle on. More to the point, there are a lot of things out there that you aren’t even aware you don’t know about. Although Warcraft‘s world is comparatively much, much smaller, the same can and probably should be applied to your character as well.
What your character knows
To help determine this, you can make a few lists, or simply spend a little time thinking it over. What does your character know, as an absolute? What class are they? If they’re a certain class, then they’ve got a certain set of skills they are very, very familiar with by now. Paladins are likely very familiar with the history of the Light, in whatever form their race happens to view it — Sunwalkers are going to have a different perspective than a human raised in Stormwind, after all. Warriors likely know more about the care and use of different types of weaponry than anyone else on the planet. Druids and Shaman both see the natural world through a slightly different set of eyes than most people would.
If your character has a few professions they’ve learned, they likely have a pretty good grasp of anything involved with those professions as well. An herbalist will know what different plants look like on sight, what they do, where they grow, while someone who doesn’t have that profession may not actually know — or care — about any of those things. An engineer is going to have a good handle on basic mechanics, possibly with a specialization in explosive devices, or robotic devices, depending on whether they’ve chosen to focus on Goblin or Gnomish engineering. Leatherworkers probably have a rudimentary grasp on beast lore, simply by merit of what has a better hide, a zhevra or an elekk.
And then there’s the matter of how much of a scholar your character happens to be. Do they study history? Are they heavily involved in politics? Do they pay attention to the matters of other races, or are they wholly concerned with their own? Are they deeply invested in books and the written word, or are they more apt at reading people and situations than most? Do they know anything about the opposite faction, beyond whether or not that faction is effectively kill on sight? Do certain things hold their interest over others — do they have hobbies they enjoy?
What your character doesn’t know
Given everything we’ve just gone over, now you get to answer the question of what your character doesn’t know, and this can be approached from the same angle, really. Generally speaking, whatever is on this list is going to be the opposite of what you see above — a Rogue isn’t going to really have an expert’s understanding of the history of the Light, a Warrior isn’t going to have any kind of affinity for the natural world in the way that Druids and Shaman both possess. A character who isn’t a scholar isn’t going to know much about the history of the world around them, a character who doesn’t deal in politics really won’t understand or care about the finer nuances of Alliance/Horde relations.
What sort of knowledge limits has your character established over time? Are there certain areas of study they simply don’t understand, and more importantly, have no interest in understanding at all? Does the idea of learning plant properties bore them to tears? Where did your character grow up — were they isolated from the rest of the world, or in the thick of everything that was going on, with a natural curiosity to absorb as much information as they could? Were there ever any moments where they tried something new and failed miserably?
Setting these kind of guidelines helps round out the kind of person your character is — the scope of their knowledge, and their understanding of that scope. Maybe that interesting scar on their face is from a moment in which they determined that arguing with a drunk orc over the bar tab is a terrible idea. Maybe they’ve learned enough of politics to have some really strong opinions about how Gilneas should be dealt with in the future. Maybe someone betrayed them at some point in the past, and they’ve learned that automatically trusting people isn’t such a good idea — or maybe they haven’t had that lesson just yet.
Out of the scope of knowledge
The last part of this little exercise involves a little more critical thinking, because you’re essentially trying to establish what your character doesn’t know they don’t know. What do I mean by that? I mean the things they are so wholly unfamiliar with, that they aren’t even aware that these things in fact exist. A human born and raised in Gilneas likely has little to know knowledge of the draenei, especially since Gilneas was only introduced to the Alliance a few years ago — draenei history and culture is likely still going to be a very foreign thing.
Likewise, a pandaren born on the Wandering Isle or even Pandaria is going to have a very limited knowledge of the other Alliance and Horde races, not to mention faction politics in general, by simple merit of being so isolated for so long. Whether or not they choose to learn more is entirely up to them, but their impression may be colored by the amount of fighting that both factions brought to Pandaria’s shores. There are plenty of characters out there that may never have encountered, interacted with, or even thought about the Titans and Titan technology, or the origins of their species.
By establishing these limits, you’re grounding your character in the game world and consequentially making them a little more “real.” A person out here in the real world isn’t going to possess an expert’s level of everything under the sun, it makes sense that a character in Azeroth works in much the same way. Figuring out where these gaps in knowledge exist also helps you pinpoint areas of interest for your character to pursue — maybe they don’t know anything about Gilnean history, but they’d like to find out. Time to hunt down a worgen and ask!
Letting your character learn
What this exercise does is offer you a lot of potential talking points with other characters. Maybe your character knows nothing about herbalism, but they meet someone who is an expert — maybe it gets them curious. Maybe your character isn’t fluent with certain periods of history, and they meet a history buff. Maybe your character doesn’t really know much about another race in their faction, but they decide they want to know more.
And for players that don’t have that all-encompassing grasp of Warcraft lore, this exercise can effectively highlight what parts of lore you maybe want to get more acquainted with over time. If you decide your night elf has an extensive knowledge of history, that tells you that a quick trip to Wowpedia to do a little research might be a good idea. If you decide your character wants to know more about trolls and the loa, you can either fill in the details yourself, or find a troll roleplayer and ask them about it. It’s a good way to engage with other people.
While the Warcraft world might seem small to some, to our character it is just as massive as the real world seems to us. And a lack of knowledge isn’t a bad thing at all, it just means there’s plenty more to learn. That learning process is just as valid a part in your character’s life as any heroic deeds they happen to perform along the way.
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