Friday, January 6, 2012

Where is that d20, Anyway?

I’d say about 99% of the time I play WoW, I forget about the ‘RPG’ part of the ‘MMORPG’ label.  That’s neither a good nor bad thing, it just is.  I don’t play on an RP server, and there are just enough metagame pop culture-ish jokes in Azeroth to prevent me from being completely immersed in the story.  Oh yeah, and there’s the little fact that nobody else is RPing, either.

It just struck me how strange that was, given my RPG roots.

I’ve been playing RPGs for 30 years, dating back to the day a friend of mine offered to show me this cool game he’d started playing called Dungeons and Dragons.  Those early days were filled with homemade dungeons with a lack of plot and story, and plenty of “you open a room an inside are…. Three Red Dragons!” 

(What was the Loot chart for a Red Dragon, anyway?  Something like “Q” or “S” on the table in the AD&D 1st Edition Monster Manual?)

We were too young to know any better about the story, given that we were in the Sixth Grade and we’d skipped the plot and flavor text in the old Keep on the Borderlands module and gone straight to the Caves of Chaos.  Kill the monsters, get the loot.

Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

I’m not exactly sure when, but sometime during my high school years the story became very important to my role playing.  The most important question you could ask a player –why—infected me, and I pushed myself to provide reason and logical underpinnings to my gameplay.  Ever since, I’ve played and/or GMed a story driven campaign.

They why don’t I roleplay more in WoW?

You know, I don’t have a really good answer.

Some of my toons –Q, Neve, and Tom—I have a backstory for, while most of the others are just, well, there.  I created some of them to address a need (Balthan to try out the Dwarf Paladin, Adelwulf the Warlock/Worgen, etc.) and others just for the hell of it.  Still, my big three toons do have a (semi-cohesive) story in my own mind, but I don’t act on it.

The game doesn’t really lend itself well to RP-ing without investing significant effort.  Blizz has spent a lot of time incorporating pop culture into the game, and while that may be amusing to me as a person, it also is the metagaming equivalent of throwing ice water in the face of an RP-er.  Even if you manage to avoid that pitfall, tools used to simplify life in Azeroth will throw you out of the RP zone too.  As Souldat once remarked on a post of mine about RP-ing LFD, it would be hard to RP when you’re ported into an instance on the fly.  Compound that with potentially four other players who aren’t interested in RP-ing, and you get the point. 

I’ve read several posts over the past few years about how RP-ing is an endangered species, even on the RP servers, and I can understand why.  In a sense, WoW is a victim of its success, in that even RP servers have significant populations who are more interested in the metagame rather than the world itself.  Their subs pay the bills, so Blizz can’t complain, but in a sense it makes the game smaller than what it could be.

Still, RPing does survive in WoW. 

I have a low level toon on Wyrmrest that I created just to check things out.  When she entered Silvermoon City that first time, she was hailed by a higher level toon passing by, asking the time of day and whether I needed assistance. 

“Just point me in the direction of the nearest inn,” I said.  “I’m tired.”

The Tauren did just that, and wished me well.

I sat back in my chair and smiled.  All was not lost.

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