Role Play: Taking a roleplaying break
We had a pretty good question on this week’s podcast regarding how to handle taking breaks in roleplaying — whether or not you weave breaks from WoW into the narrative of your character. I’ve got my own methods for handling these kinds of situations, but it seemed like a good opportunity to talk about roleplaying breaks in general — how to handle the situation both in and out of character, and what to expect when you return. Legion won’t be launching until the end of August, so it’s entirely likely that some people will want to take breaks from roleplaying in between now and then.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from the game — real life always comes first and always should come first. You shouldn’t feel like you’re somehow obligated to continue playing if you don’t want to. And honestly, pushing yourself to continue playing when you’re not really feeling up to it isn’t a good idea in general. The quality of your roleplay can take a nosedive if your heart’s not in it, and forcing yourself to play is a quick trip down the path of total burnout. So how do you handle things in-character and out-of-character if you want to take a WoW vacation?
Handling a roleplaying break in-character
There’s a few different ways you can handle an in-character break. The way I prefer, and the one I mentioned on the podcast, is to simply have my character inform anyone else they’re roleplaying with that they need to go because some sort of private matter. No details are necessary, and your character can simply say “I’ll fill you in when I get back,” in order to leave things open-ended. It gives your character an immediate out, and it lets other players roleplay their own scenarios for why your character is leaving if they want to. But it’s not necessary or required for them to do so, because they can simply take your character’s word at face value and ask them what happened when they eventually return.
If you want to leave your friends with more to think about or play with while you’re gone, you can always set up a convenient abduction. This leaves your disappearance a little more defined, and it gives your friends something to do while you’re away — they can roleplay the hunt for wherever you’ve gone, identify and track down the villain that took you, and make the whole thing into an event if they want to. With this route, you may be leaving for a while, but you’re also giving your friends something to do while you’re away — a trade-off of sorts that might be a little more appealing than a simple “see you later.”
I’ve also had friends who took the route of having their character die. This was mostly reserved for cases where a player wasn’t really sure when, or even if they’d actually return. With this route, the characters your friends play can go through the grieving process and mourn the loss, and then move on from it — but if you do return, it means you’re going to have to patch together some kind of really good reason your character came back from the grave. If you already know that you’re going to be back eventually, and when you’re going to be back, I wouldn’t really recommend this route.
Handling a roleplaying break out-of-character
While you’re going about the process of figuring out what your in-character reasons for taking a break are, make sure you handle the break situation out-of-character as well. If you’re in the middle of a story with a group of friends, it’s just common courtesy to let them know that you won’t be participating for a while. This lets them prepare for your break, and if your character was required for any future events, they have time to figure out how to re-work said events with someone else instead.
Be prepared for some backlash — while most people are pretty understanding about that whole real life coming first thing, there’s always a chance you’ll run into someone who’s upset that the roleplay they enjoy is suddenly going to be missing. If you run into that kind of situation, don’t let them guilt-trip you into staying — if you need a break, you need a break. Simple as that. Let them know that your heart really isn’t in it right now, and that you’ll be happy enough to roleplay with them again when you return.
You don’t have to let people know that you’re taking a break, of course. But it’s just common courtesy to do so — generally speaking, it’s not a good idea (or polite, for that matter) to burn bridges on your way out. And the better you handle the situation on your way out the door, the easier it’ll be to get back into the swing of things when you do eventually make your return.
What to expect when you return
When you come back from that break, regardless of how long it is, you want to handle the situation both in and out of character as well — let people know you’re back, re-introduce yourself to the group. Keep in mind that while you were away, your friends were roleplaying without you, and there’s probably a lot to catch up on. If you left the group with an “I’ll explain when I get back,” use that opportunity to have your character fill everyone in on exactly what it was that drew them away in the first place, and how the situation resolved.
But before you do that, you might want to have your character ask about what happened while they were gone. This lets other people do the talking for a while, and gives you a good update on any important events that happened in your absence. It also has the bonus advantage of getting you back into that roleplaying mindset, in case you got a little rusty while you were elsewhere — you can ease back into things without feeling blindsided about anything that might have happened while you were away.
Don’t expect things to be exactly the same when you come back. You can certainly take a break whenever you like, but your friends aren’t obligated to put everything on pause until you come back — they’re invariably going to have found some other things to do. It’s up to you to re-integrate yourself into their roleplay and figure out where your character fits. If you were considerate with your departure, you shouldn’t have any issues getting back into the swing of things in no time.
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