You want to roleplay a character with style, pizzazz, panache -- and class! No matter what race or faction you are, your class is going to have a big impact on who you are and how other people perceive you. How you integrate it into your character can, in turn, give you something distinctive to share with other people.
Usually when we think of roleplaying a certain class, we do so with that class's lore in mind. But our WoW characters all have many spells and abilities that they rarely take advantage of in roleplaying. Admittedly most class spells are geared towards combat, when roleplaying is hardest -- you seldom have time to type out interesting phrases while fighting for your life. Unless you get an addon like RP Helper 2 to help you utter pre-planned phrases automatically (and sparingly enough that it doesn't get annoying), roleplaying during combat just isn't very feasible. So, sadly, roleplayers usually leave their sparkly spell effects totally unused while interacting with other roleplayers outside of combat. Even with the game mechanics as they are, however, it's not always so difficult to use some of these spells in roleplaying as one might think.
Although people have a tendency to separate the video-game and the roleplaying into two mutually exclusive activities, in fact each of these aspects of WoW can greatly enhance the other. Roleplaying gets a whole new visual excitement when it transcends the same word balloons and talk animations we use every day. When someone comes along with an innovative use for a spell or character animation that we had never thought of before, it gives you a memorable impression of who that character is. In fact, using spells like this is a special way that online roleplaying sets itself apart from every other sort of roleplaying, and it is an essential skill that every WoW roleplayer would do well to master in his or her own way. In this article we will look at the different ways that druids, hunters and mages could use their class spells to greater effect in their roleplaying.
Shapeshifting is one the most obvious RP abilities in the game, and yet many druid roleplayers hardly use it at all to help develop their character. Shapeshifting isn't just a neat trick druids can do -- it's a profound manifestation of their philosophy about life and relationship to the rest of the world. How would a druid come to terms with becoming an animal for the first time? Can he or she talk while in animal form? Is his or her consciousness exactly the same no matter which form the druid is in?
A druid friend of mine once had a strange condition, where he would change into a cat whenever he was afraid, and while he was a cat, he was really a cat, unable to remember his night-elven identity. Another druid might maintain his or her identity while at the same time expressing thoughts and feelings in a remarkably more animalistic way, hissing while in cat form, growling while in bear form, or cawing while in crow form, for instance. A restoration druid might take inspiration from Lord of the Rings' Treebeard, speaking to trees and treants, taking care not to be "hasty," and reciting poetry in a deep and wooden voice while in tree form.
Another aspect of druidic culture is of course religion. Druids need not only say things like "Elune guide you," or "Go with the Earthmother," to one another, but can also utter short prayers to their deity of choice, and use the Tranquility spell as a way of expressing the serenity of prayer. Perhaps Hurricane could express a druid's righteous anger as well.
Hunters have a lot of abilities involving arrows and bullets, many of which require enemy targets. Unless you duel someone, of course, you can't use these on friendly players. But the fact that hunters have pets is itself a great source of interesting roleplay. That's not to say that every hunter pet out there should be a permanently polymorphed lover from long ago, or an enchanted talking cheshire cat (complete with the disappearing act), but there's a lot to say for any hunter whose pet responds imaginatively to the goings on around it rather than merely standing to the left side of the hunter looking cool all the time. As I've said before, you can use the PetEmote addon to help streamline this: let your wolf pant and bark like a dog; let your owl hoot and turn its head around 180 degrees; let your ravager make spooky sounds and behave strangely. If you want, pick a pop-culture reference for your animal and run with it: anything from Ladyhawke or Lassie to Aliens or Harry Potter (and the talking to snakes). Don't overdo it, but make it just enough for your character to seem more alive and hunter-like.
Also there are some other hunter abilities that can be used sparingly in roleplay. A particularly expressive hunter could use Feign Death to express his horror at a particularly bad pun, for instance, or change aspects while claiming that the sounds these spells make are his masterful animal calls. A hunter who prides himself on tracking might use the various tracking abilities to point out where enemies are likely to be before his friends can actually see them, stopping to examine supposed animal tracks, for example, and pointing the direction the animal supposedly went. It's a lot more immersive than just clicking on the minimap, and it heightens the feeling that you're actually trekking through the wilderness on an adventure.
Mage spells are blessed with lots of style and pizzazz, perhaps more than any other class, and it's a shame that they don't use it more often. I wouldn't be displeased to see more frost mages like that gnome I mentioned before -- cursed with a perpetual head cold that makes every sneeze like a Frost Nova -- but that needn't be the only way a frost mage could distinguish herself. Perhaps she sometimes gets so very cold while using her spells out in the wild that she occasionally freezes solid (with Iceblook) and needs her friends to summon a campfire to help thaw her out. Perhaps her water elemental is a former Hydraxian Waterlord, quite grumpy about being employed in her service.
Likewise, a fire mage could be something of a pyromaniac, lighting the environment on fire whenever she thinks no one is looking. The Dragon's Breath ability could represent the occasional satisfied burp of a fire mage as well. An arcane mage might be excited and jittery much of the time, thoroughly addicted to arcane magic and prone to bursting with arcane energy in order to release it when she's had too much. Your mage could even take enormous pride in the delicious flavor of her conjured bread (or... cake!), or exclaim about the exquisite magical science of portals (saying, "This was a triumph! I'm making a note here -- Huge Success!"). There is so much potential for a mage to use her spells in interesting and quirky ways -- the only excuse not to is if you take your character too seriously for any of that "quirky" stuff.
That's all we have space for this week, but next week All the World's a Stage will look at some of the spells of priests, paladins, rogues, shamans, warlocks and warriors can use their class abilities to greater roleplaying effect as well. Do you have ideas or suggestions about class spells in roleplaying of your own? How do you light up your environment with your spells in roleplaying?
(Continue reading the next week's article...)