Guide to roleplay for newcomers

If this guide seems familiar to some of you, it’s a rewrite from the old forums, where I posted the guide years ago.

The School for Kids Who Can’t RP Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too.

So… You joined a roleplaying server. Perhaps you have been around for a while, maybe you just arrived. Hopefully you got a little curious about it, what are those weird people talking about anyway?

“Greetings milady, how are thou?” is a sentence no orc should ever say.

However, it can be tough to know how to act on the roleplaying scene, if you have never tried it before. I personally made many of the following mistakes, back when I first started roleplaying, and today, I am going to try to give a few pointers back, to spare you newcomers from doing the same mistakes as I did.

This is by no means a deep guide – It is merely a place to start.

First off, a small warning. I strive to avoid too many spelling errors, but alas, I am not speaking English as my native language, thus I might make a few mistakes here and there, please poke me for clarification if need be.

Table of contents:

  • Vocabulary and terms

  • OOC and IC – what does it mean?

  • Names

  • Building a char background

  • Making your first emotes

  • Combat RP

  • Do’s and Don’ts

Vocabulary and terms

-Background-

A characters background is usually a story, short or long, made up by the player behind the character, and hopefully within the boundaries of Lore. A character background is all that you cannot see, by looking at the char itself. For instance, my char here is a combat medic and 30 years. That is a tiny part of my background.

-Combat RP-

When people speak about combat RP, they can be speaking of several different things.

Combat RP as a term usually indicates PVP fights with the opposing faction. PVP fights can be with limitations or without, but due to roleplaying reasons. Combat RP can also be emote fights with your own or the opposing faction. Emote fighting with the opposing faction is somewhat rarely used, due to the limitations of cross-faction communication.

-DM event-

A DM event is an event, where a player gathers some of his friends, and act as a sort of Gamemaster, setting a frame for the evening. The event arranger will often speak in raid warnings, explaining the incidents as they happen, and possibly ask people to roll to determine outcomes of a fight.

-Emote fight-

An emote fight, can be various different types of fighting. Often it is recognized by the lack of game mechanics, as people do not actually duel, or toggle on PVP. Instead people use their words to describe the fight in emotes.

“Player A grins slightly, as he stares at his opponent. He lifts his sword above his head, and thrusts it downwards, seeking to carve into the gnomes shoulder with a loud grunt.”

-Godmodding-

When a player is able to kill another player without consent, or to turn immortal in combat. Rp’ing as a god.

-Immersion-

When roleplayers speak about immersion, they are talking about burying themselves in the scenery, letting the surroundings feel alive and pretend they are actually present in WoW. If a guy disrupt an ongoing roleplay, he might be accused of breaking immersion.

-Loldodger-

This is a derogatory term to describe a person who refuses to take damage during a roleplay situation, which, if it happened in real life, would cause an injury. To give an example, Person A, shoots Person B. Person B is faster than a bullet, and ducks, allowing the bullet to pass without harming. I will explain more about this in “Combat RP”

-Lol’ler-

This is another derogatory term, often said by roleplayers, to describe their opinion regarding a player. It is often used about non-roleplayers who seeks to disrupt roleplay.

-Lore-

When roleplayers speaks of Lore within WoW, they usually are speaking about the public history of the game. Blizzard tells us, that Thrall travels to Kalimdor with his orcs at a certain point in the timeline; hence to follow lore, we should accept this as a fact. Blizzard has made some changes during the years however, which has led to the roleplaying books being deemed non-canon. This means, they cannot be taken as facts any longer, but merely as inspiration. The other books are still canon however.

-Mary Sue-

A Mary Sue, is briefly spoken, a character who is a bit too amazing and perfect to believe. A Mary Sue, might be a better fighter, cleverer, more attractive, more experienced yet more youthful than everyone else. (There might be other definitions outside of the game, but in my experience, this pretty much covers people’s usual meaning of the label)

-Poweremote-

When people forces an action onto you, or turns immortal. - See also Godmodding.

-RP-

I hope that you knew what this meant, back when you joined the server. RP is an abbreviation for Roleplay, and is the reason we have different server naming rules, and act strange at times.

-RPG-

RPG is an abbreviation of roleplaying game, but is not to be confused with RP in WoW. Usually when people speak about RPG, they mean a line of books made by Blizzard with the intent to create an actual game outside WoW. See also Lore.

-RP gear-

Usually roleplaying gear is used as a label, to describe the transmog, you wear while you RP. Your char might be an angler, and overalls, a fishing hat and a fishing pole would then most likely be your RP gear. It can also be a uniform, rags or a nice dress; it all depends on your background.

-RP hub-

The term RP hub, usually describes a location in game, where roleplayers tend to gather. It can be Silvermoon, the Cathedral in Stormwind or similar.

OOC and IC – what does it mean?

When people start speaking about OOC or IC, they are abbreviating the terms “Out-of-char” and “In-char”. To be In-char, means that you are roleplaying actively, pretending to be your char. If you are Out-of-char, it means you took a break from roleplay, perhaps to do a raid or a battleground.

Be careful not to break immersion or disrupt RP, if you choose to go OOC.

Addition by Wainwright:

The importance of keeping In-character and Out-of-Character separate.

Say Character-A dislikes your character. They have insulted, argued or the two of you have had a heated debate and disagreed.

This does not mean the player behind Character-A hates, dislikes, or has any issue with -you- as a person.

Remember all views In-Character (IC) and should be kept In-Character. Just because s/he said your mother was a marmot and your father smelled of snowberries, doesn’t mean you can or should contact them in an Out-Of-Character (OOC) channel; (whisper / guild / party / raid) and spew bile forth unto them.

As an actor in a improv play, ensure your character reacts as -they- would, not as you would. This should vary between characters, the way my human priest reacts to a situation would be vastly different to my grizzled undead’s.

((The prime example I can think of this is myself and my fiance. Years ago we were in a guild together, and my character -loathed- his, to the point that sarcastic viscious quips from my character were a daily occurance, always pointing out “her” (his characters) faults, failings, and flaws. Not once did this cross over to OOC. In fact it was frequently his aim to see how badly he could tick off my character, and laugh himself stupid at the rebuff.))

My two cents to this excellent comment:
It can be a lot easier to roleplay a personality far from your own. It does not hurt as much if anyone hates your brawling, filthy pirate IC as if someone hates on the char which is an exact copy of yourself. I’ve seen people getting IC and OOC mixed so many times, as criticism IC feels personal. If you struggle with this, try another personality type.

Names

As a roleplayer, you should consider your chars name. It might come off as a bit odd, if you name your night elf Gronk, and your orc Myvealeas Featherarrow. Similar, people might deem you less than serious with a name like McDonalds, Ikillyou or Pewpewmage. The last couple names might even be in violation of the roleplay server naming rules.

Choose a name carefully, and make it a part of your story. How did your char receive the second name or nickname?

If you have doubts, how to choose a decent name, look at NPC’s, and make your own char a name with a similar ring to it. Be careful not to name your char Garrosh or Thrall though, as people usually frown upon people copying major Lore characters.

Building a char background

As you begin to roleplay, you might be surprised how elaborate some players are, with the backgrounds of their chars.

This often happens, after roleplaying for years, where your char is affected and developing through RP.

I would recommend one thing mainly, when you start out with RP:

KEEP IT SIMPLE.

The shorter background you have, the less grave lore mistakes you can make. You get a feeling of RP, before you slowly start moving your character in the direction you wish.

One small warning here; be careful not to claim ownership of a major lore event, or a major Lore character. Stating: "I killed the Lich King, and I am a personal friend of Thrall" - will make people frown.

The reason is, that it makes little sense if all thousand roleplayers claim to be the one true friend of Thrall; hence it’s better if no one does. Use more vague terms, like “I fought in Ice Crown/Northrend” and people will be fine with it.

For instance, my chars usually start out as a few words scribbled on a piece of paper “Warsong orc, in her thirties, likes to sing, paranoid about goblins, picks her nose” – could be a first description. This is enough to get you started in RP, and you can simply jump into RP right there. If you want your char to come more alive, you might however want to add more layers.

An example of a layer, added to a char:

My own old char (now dead) hates fel, despite being a Blackrock orc. This is mainly due to a fel orc killing her little brother back in the Outlands. This might or might not be known to other roleplayers over time, but it affects how my orc responds to warlocks and demons.

Furthermore, consider if your background is consistent with lore. Check if your chars past fits with the timeline.

I often meet orcs, who are forty years, yet claims to have been born in Durotar. As it is not nearly as many years since the orcs arrived in Kalimdor, it makes the background a bit wobbly. If you know an experienced roleplayer, ask them to read your background, most are happy to help out or direct you to a nearby lore geek.

Finally a small tip regarding char creation: (Kudos to Turrask for the addition)

Racial stereotyping/commonplace practices does not necessarily have to be taken to full account.

“Just because you’re this and that, doesn’t mean you -have- to stick to such morals. An Undead is viable to experience the light at an expensive cost just as a Goblin whom prefers to stick with noble intentions that do not involve coin.”

I fully agree with this - You don’t have to be a brutal, stomping orc, or a cannibalistic troll. - Often the more interesting char concepts is found where people goes against the norm - within reason.

Making your first emotes

First off, the very simple technical explanation: If you wish to make a

personalized emote, instead of the simple /blush /wrath and so on, you simply type /e.

“/e wrinkles her nose in disgust”, will once you hit enter; translate into “RoleplayerX wrinkles her nose in disgust.”

There is a lot to consider, when creating your first emotes in roleplay. In this section, I will attempt to guide you through some of the thoughts you might benefit from considering before you jump into roleplay.

Emoting is storytelling, but short stories.

Try to create an emote, which tells a story. You can write, “RoleplayerX hits Gronk” – but you can also choose to write, “RoleplayerX peers at her opponent, grinning slightly as she thrusts her fist upwards, aiming to slam it into Gronk’s jaw in a brutal uppercut.” The latter might be more amusing to read for spectators watching a spar. However! Limit yourself. A well-written combat emote, or reaction to a roleplaying session, should never fill more than 1-2 emotes. It is not fun, having to wait fifteen minutes to receive a wall of text, in the middle of roleplay.

Once you get the length of the emote right, consider what you write. It is usually frowned upon, if you force damage or death onto another character, without permission. The most common ways of giving an opponent choice, is by simply adding “attempts”, “tries”, “aims” and similar to your emotes.

To make an example:

“RoleplayerX bites Gronk brutally, ripping his throat open” – this emote states that Gronk now has an open throat, which might kill him. It hardly gives Gronk any choice. Gronk might get angry, name you a Lol’ler and log off.

“RoleplayerX leaps towards Gronk, attempting to bite him, hopefully ripping his throat open” – indicates my intentions, but leaves the ending open for Gronk to reply. Gronk can duck; run away or even take the bite, if he wants. Gronk will reply, and you can continue to have fun roleplaying.

An emote usually describes an action of some sorts. Try to avoid sharing thoughts in an emote.

Another example:

“RoleplayerX ponders why Gronk looks so angry. She thinks, he might hate her, and starts crying.” – In this example, I am sharing my inner thoughts, which Gronk could not possibly know, unless Gronk can read minds.

A better way to go about this would be:

“RoleplayerX peers at Gronk with a funny expression in her face. She appears to be pondering for a moment, before she suddenly bursts into tears.” – In this example, I share my reactions, but leaves it up to Gronk, to be surprised and ask RoleplayerX, why on Azeroth she is suddenly crying. Instead of metagaming, I add a chance for a reaction, and thus for RP to happen.

Combat RP

You are relaxing in Orgrimmar on your orc, when a person approaches you, and starts naming you a weakling, stating you could not beat a gnome.

Are you going to accept such an insult? Your char might be the type to simply flee, but odds are, a bloodlusten orc would choose to beat the loudmouth up.

There is generally two ways of fighting in RP. Pure emote, or Rollfight.

Pure emote allows for more free roleplay, as you choose whether you should take a beating. It can create much more interesting fights, but on the other hand, it can turn forced and awkward, if both fighters refuse to lose the fight.

Rollfights helps to determine a winner. You may lose, you may win, and it is all up to your luck. This on the other side might be a bit odd, if a grunt beats a blademaster, as lore wise most grunts would hardly be a match for a blademaster.

A simple Rollfight, functions like this: A number of HP is agreed – often three or five. Player A emotes an attempt to attack Player B. Both rolls, and if Player A rolls highest, his attack is successful. If Player B rolls the highest. He avoids the hit. Player B then describes how he avoids/or takes the hit, and how he retaliates. Both roll again, to see if the retaliation is successful. When you take a hit, you lose a HP. When one of you reach 0 HP, the fight ends, often by one yielding or getting hurt to a point where the fight cannot continue.

Talk to your opponent, and choose the solution, which fits your tempers and desires the best. A roleplay fight should be fun for both of you.

Do’s and Don’ts

Finally, I would like to share a few tips, to avoid you some trouble. There is some written and unwritten rules, which most roleplayers respect.

  1. Do not cause injuries or death to a player without acceptance from said player. Be careful if you are a healer, and your choice not to heal could force death upon the player.

  2. Aim to stick within Lore. Many roleplayers will frown, if you claim to be a 20000-year-old Night elf Sith spewing fire in Orgrimmar.

  3. Avoid making yourself too special. Yes, you can claim to be a half-orc from an extinct clan, with perfect skills in fighting, raised by night elves, who is so physically attractive, both genders cannot resist you. Will it make it more fun to roleplay with your char? Not so much. Often people likes the underdog more.

  4. Speaking OOC in /s and /yell is very much frowned upon on a RP server. Speaking OOC with brackets around ((like this)), is not any better. Speaking OOC in any emote “/e – I am going AFK guys… see you later!” is equally bad. Use other channels, whisper, guild chat, general channel if need be.

  5. Avoid metagaming. Metagaming means, that you as a player uses information, you have OOC, in an IC situation. Your char should respond due to the information your char would have, and not due to you knowing anything lore wise or due to having read the background of a player.

  6. Involve people in your RP. Do you see the lonely guy watching? Ask him something to get him involved. Roleplay turns funnier the more you are.

  7. Consider getting the addons MyRoleplay/Total RP 3. They’ll bring another layer to your char creation, and help you to connect with other roleplayers.

Finally – I have nothing more to add, than wishing you all, many fun and good times with roleplay. If you have further questions about anything, never hesitate to poke me in game, or post on the forums.

RoleplayerX you nub! You forgot to mention this and that!

I have most likely forgotten a lot of other great ideas, suggestions, tips and advice.

Do not hesitate to share them in your replies; I might add some of them to this guide, with kudos to those suggesting them of course. After all, more heads = more ideas.

45 Likes

Just to add a little bit on the Mary Sue thing:
The problem with these types of characters isn´t necessarily the fact that they are better at something, or even special, but rather the reason behind this. Often, these types of characters are made because people creating them want to have someone special, who is above everyone else and is loved by everyone because of how amazing they are. They want their characters to be center of the story and end up causing everyone around them to dislike the character.

Do you want to make a really young, yet pretty capable mage who started studying magic as a little kid, but because they spent literally their whole life in Dalaran, don´t know anything about the world except what they read in books and have absolutely no skills besides magic? That´s great, because it allows you to RP interesting scenarios, especially in situations where you can´t rely on the magic and suddenly, you are absolutely useless.

Do you want to make a really young, yet pretty capable mage because you are going to be awesome young wizard like Harry Potter (or more like Hermione Granger if she was better at Defence Against Dark Arts) and you will deal with every problem and will be awesome? You are doing it wrong.

7 Likes

Fantastic guide for beginners, good to see it here, but if I may add a point I think wasn’t covered?

The importance of keeping In-character and Out-of-Character separate.

Say Character-A dislikes your character. They have insulted, argued or the two of you have had a heated debate and disagreed.

This does not mean the player behind Character-A hates, dislikes, or has any issue with -you- as a person.

Remember all views In-Character (IC) and should be kept In-Character. Just because s/he said your mother was a marmot and your father smelled of moonberries, doesn’t mean you can or should contact them in an Out-Of-Character (OOC) channel; (whisper / guild / party / raid) and spew bile forth unto them.

As an actor in a improv play, ensure your character reacts as -they- would, not as you would. This should vary between characters, the way my human priest reacts to a situation would be vastly different to my grizzled undead’s.

((The prime example I can think of this is myself and my fiance. Years ago we were in a guild together, and my character -loathed- his, to the point that sarcastic viscious quips from my character were a daily occurance, always pointing out “her” (his characters) faults, failings, and flaws. Not once did this cross over to OOC. In fact it was frequently his aim to see how badly he could tick off my character, and laugh himself stupid at the rebuff.))


Anyway I am babbling, TL;DR, people play this game for fun.

If their imaginary friend says or does something that would offend your imaginary friend, then by all means, play it out In-Character, but don’t take it personally or lay into the other person behind their screen.

In-character and Out-Of-Character can be viewed, as it should be, as the putting on or taking off as a costume, not a pure extension of yourself.

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Nice guide, thank you!

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A very good point, thank you so much for the addition.

I’ll add it to the guide with credits to you.

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Another thing that popped up into my mind after reading Wainfright´s reply:

Create a character that will get you roleplay, not a character that may look awesome on paper.
Your character is a grizzled warrior, veteran of many battles, scarred by them, maybe even with some PTSD. You did your duty to Stormwind and you are now trying to settle down, get a job, maybe even find a wife, but years of horrors you witnessed in war made it pretty difficult for you to form bonds or talk to people outside of your unit. But you are now in the city and maybe it is time for new beginning.

Nice character concept as far as I am concerned, but let me ask you one thing: Why would someone like this approach random people on the street and start talking to them? And why would someone like this join a military guild?

This is something I have seen many people (including myself) do and it leads to two outcomes:

  1. You end up doing something that is out of character because in the end, people don´t RP to create great characters, they RP because they want to RP.
  2. You end up staying true to your character and losing opportunity for a lot of RP.
    Of course, there is third option, completely changing your character as part of RP, but why bother with this when you can start with character that is already able to participate in huge variety of RP events/situations?

Second thing, also connected to Wainwright´s comment, is about OOC and IC when it comes to interractions between characters:

Every good roleplayer knows to separate IC and OOC, but if you only know them IC and act like an a-hole, they are not going to have any reason to RP with you again.
Now, let me explain. Imagine that you come to someone on the street, you start talking, maybe other people join and after two minutes of smalltalk, the other person tells you you are an idiot.
What would be your reaction? I think most people would either start arguing with said person, insult them back, tell them to leave or just leave themselves.
As I said before, goal of RP isn´t to create interesting characters. If you want to do that, go write a book. Goal of RP is to RP and if you do walk-up RP as someone who is straight up a**hole, you are either going to get RP where people insult you back or they will walk away.
And even if player behind the computer enjoyed it, people want to keep their characters consistent, which means they probably won´t greet you when they see you on Cathedral Square week later. They will just keep walking, because their character had one interraction with yours and it was unpleasant, so why would they talk to you again?

Does this mean you should RP 100 versions of pope Francis? Nope, not at all. But you need to keep things balanced. If your defining character trait is “he acts rude”, you won´t get far.

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Good points here. a**hole characters and shy/introvert/silent characters are better to save for when you have more experience as a roleplayer, as they can be tough to maintain. It’s doable though, so if it’s your biggest dream, don’t worry. You can always make such a concept later on. It’s just not advisable for a new roleplayer.

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Have a :blue_heart: from me, you magnificent Alliance scum!

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Time to be ‘that guy’.
You added char twice :stuck_out_tongue:

But otherwise I see merit in this guide, good solid advice. I think it is always good to remind people that RP is a group effort, you do not RP alone, so keep in your mind that you are not the main character, you are one story in a sea of others.

PS: Rollfighting is best fighting, keeps it interesting :wink:

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Thanks for the heads up - I’ll edit it right away.

Damn, that was a fast reply xD

Heh yes. It was a coinscidence - I just finished some dailies and checked the forum.

Nice guide, friendo!

I’ve noticed that a lot of people tend to walk into a populated area, and then just stand around. A lot of people have something like “approachable” in their RP addon of choice, which is fine. Sometimes, people play characters that don’t want to talk. Sometimes, they play characters who just prefer their friends, or whatever. But sometimes, people just don’t feel they know how to approach others themselves, because they wouldn’t know what to say.

The Conversationalist’s Handbook to the rescue: https://eu.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/1503480515

It’s on the old forums, but nevertheless, I think, an excellent guide for people who want to play reasonably personable/curious characters. Or just want somewhere to start when approaching others.

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Nice! I really appreciate this guide. I use it whenever I met new RP’er. I help them as much as I can to get used to the RP world… Some listen but there is also those out there who dosent seem to even want the help. Which is sad. :frowning:

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Still perfect resources!