Role Play: Race change and roleplay
Anyone can pay for a race change in World of Warcraft, if you’re looking for a change of scenery. But for roleplayers, this becomes a slightly more complex issue. While players that aren’t roleplayers can just switch at the drop of a hat, for those that roleplay, there’s a bigger problem involved: mainly that you’ve spent a lot of time and hours invested in developing and roleplaying a particular character. Sure, you want a change of scenery, but what does that mean for the character you’ve created?
Fellow columnist Dan O’Halloran spurred this line of thought when he asked, “How would you justify paying for a race change from an RP perspective?” It’s a good question, and while he’d originally intended it for the Queue, there’s enough to talk about here that we might as well tackle it in the roleplaying column.
Justifying a race change
You don’t necessarily need to “justify” paying for a race change — after all, if you’re tired of playing a certain character, there’s nothing stopping you from changing things up a little. It becomes a little more difficult decision for roleplayers, though, because usually that character you’re looking at swapping for a fresh new face is one that has spent at least a little time in Azeroth, and probably interacted with more than a few people along the way.
And because of that, they’ve got established stories, and may even be involved in current stories with friends or guildmates. If that’s the case, you’ll want to at least let your friends know that you’re planning a race change, just for courtesy’s sake. If your character played a major role in that story, then people may need to shift or otherwise figure out a way for your character to make some kind of swift exit.
It’s not really a case of justifying the race change to yourself, as it is being considerate of the people you regularly roleplay with. On roleplay realms, the character you play isn’t just another DPS or healer in the raid rotation — they’re a fictional character with a history and relationships. While a race change won’t really affect something like raid or PVP teams, it’s going to have some pretty major consequences for a roleplaying group.
Integrating a race change into your roleplay
There’s a few different you can do this. One of the most difficult — but arguably the most fun — is to try and incorporate the race change into your roleplay. In other words, your character is still the same character, with the same backstory and events in their life. But one day they wake up and find that they’ve suddenly been swapped from the person they grew up as, to a very different face in the mirror. That’s bound to be a shock for any character!
But the fun lies in developing a story around the race change — and in a world like Azeroth where magic is present, almost anything is possible. Were they messing around with magic they shouldn’t have tampered with? Did they stumble upon some kind of cursed item? Did they make the wrong mage angry? Was this some kind of freak body swap with another individual? Or was this a spell they cast themselves, with the deliberate intent of changing their race? How do they cope with that different face in the mirror? What do they do?
The difficulty of this particular method of handling a race change isn’t in coming up with the story. It’s in whether or not your friends and roleplay partners will accept a story that is, admittedly, just a little out there. But again, we’re living in a world of magic where virtually anything is possible, so this shouldn’t be too difficult a pill to swallow. And if you come up with an interesting premise surrounding the race change, it might even make a fun campaign to play around with for a while — tracking down the person you swapped bodies with, or trying to find some way to change yourself back, or even just trying to come to terms with accepting your new persona.
The other options all pretty much involve keeping a non-RP action — paying for a race change — separate from your character. In other words, dropping the character you had, and starting a new character from scratch. Again, this is the kind of thing you want to discuss with anyone you’re currently roleplaying with, so that you can come up with some kind of suitable exit for your character before you make that race change.
Alternatively, you can keep your character backstory, and simply change the identities of everyone in their past. Rather than Night Elf parents, suddenly they grew up in a family of Pandaren. Instead of being raised in the wilds surrounding Nordrassil, they were raised in the wilds of the Jade Forest, or the Wandering Isle. You can keep a lot of your character’s important history, and simply adjust it to fit the “new” you, without having to come up with an entirely new character from scratch.
Of course if you’re doing that, you definitely want to fill in anyone who has played a part in your character’s story to date — particularly if it means that suddenly a childhood friend they grew up with in Nordrassil is no longer a childhood friend. This kind of back story manipulation doesn’t just affect the choices you’ve made, it plays a large part in the character development of the people you play with, too. It might require a little more work on their end to make your new story fit.
And some people might not want to make that story fit, either. Although a race chance may be fun for you, it may mean that you’ll lose a few roleplay partners as a result of the change. So really, when you’re talking about “justifying” a race change in terms of role play, what you want to pay attention to isn’t necessarily how the change affects the character you play, so much as it affects the world that character plays in.
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