One of the greatest problems people have with roleplaying in WoW is that the game has a tendency to spread people out all over Azeroth working towards disparate goals, and that makes it hard to sustain a roleplaying environment. Roleplayers can gather together in a meeting place of some sort in order to roleplay, but doing this every time isn't feasible -- inevitably, we want to go questing, get loot, and actually play the game too, all in different places.
So the majority of roleplayers join roleplaying guilds of one sort or another, and use the regular guild chat channel as their default in-character roleplaying channel which people can participate in no matter what they're doing in the rest of the world. Most guilds tend to imagine that their hearthstones (or some imaginary gnomish device) can act as walkie-talkies of sorts and allow everyone to communicate over great distances, no matter where they are.
Today, however, I will share with you some of the ways this solution falls short, and take a look at a better way to make roleplaying work in a guild, no matter what level you are or what you want to do with your game time. This idea can seem strange at first, but in the end it can provide many roleplaying opportunities -- allowing you to alternately build your RP stories, build up your character's levels, gold, or gear, or do all of these at the same time.
Player housing is a state of mind
The idea is what I call the "guild hall" (mainly because that's what my guild calls it). It represents a space in Azeroth where your characters can spend time. It could be a simple space you can actually visit in-game (such as that apartment in Cutthroat Alley in Stormwind), or it could be an imaginary floating citadel rising high above the clouds of Netherstorm, mapped out with multiple floors and rooms, reachable only by a magical portal. Your guild hall should be a place that suits your guild in theme and style, but it needn't be a place you can actually get to, nor even necessarily one that actually exists.
It's main function is not as a place for you to hold guild meetings, but a place where all the chatter in your guild chat channel can take place. Any time you speak in guild chat, you speak as though you are inside the guild hall, doing whatever it is you do there. You may be running around the mountains of Northrend fighting yetis, but as far as your guild (and your roleplaying) is concerned, he or she would actually be hanging out in the guild hall, reading a book, chatting with friends, conducting experiments, or doing whatever it is that your character would do when he isn't killing yetis, zombies, or other assorted evils.
How is it possible for your character to be in two places at once? Wouldn't anyone who tries to imagine such a thing implode from the forces of dimensional paradox? The answer, I find, is no, it's actually pretty easy to do, often easier than other methods of roleplaying in guild chat -- here's how.
The game is the game, the story is the story
First of all, it's important to realize that the game and all its inconsistencies are utterly unavoidable. Some things are going to make sense in terms of a story, while other things are just what you have to do if you want to play a computer game. Often the best way to keep roleplaying in such a game interesting and fun is to work with or around the gaming inconsistencies openly.
For example, there is no teleconferencing in Warcraft lore -- no plausible magic or technology that would enable characters to chat with each other freely no matter where they are in the world. Roleplayers have to add on some sort of strange magic or technology to make a universal communication technology work. The thing is, this sort of communication is not really suited to other aspects of the Warcraft story -- otherwise why in the world would quest-givers ask you to carry messages and whatnot, if they could just plug in a hearthstone and talk to somebody themselves? You do find things like remote scrying devices that let you see and communicate with images of people at a distance, but these are usually stationary and require some serious magic to produce -- would everyone in your guild have portable versions of these? If so, would each guild mate be seeing images of their entire guild all around them as they run around fighting monsters? None of this is to say that appropriate technology for Azeroth couldn't be imagined, just that at this point Azeroth doesn't seem to have it, and adding it in feels a bit awkward and ill-fitted to many aspects of the story.
How to hang in the hall
The guild hall represents a much more Warcraft-like solution. Generally, your roleplaying guild chatter will be in character, while your roaming about in the world would mostly just be gaming, though both could be in character if you wanted as long as you just keep them separate and suppose that they are happening at different times. Suppose, for example, that you're out doing your daily quests and you start roleplaying with your friends in your guild hall. On the one hand, your character is out there fighting monsters and stuff, but no one is there with him, so it's not really relevant to his character unless one or the other quest is particularly interesting to you for some reason. Daily quests in themselves are usually rather repetitive and don't fit into a roleplaying experience very well -- so don't worry about them! Just do quests, enjoy the game as a game, and roleplay that you're character is actually in the guild hall, chatting it up with his guildmates.
While in the guild hall, you can type out your emotes and actions with special brackets (like <Zorbac smirks> or *Zorbac sheds a lonely tear* or whatever your guildmates prefer), and convey a lot more through these sorts of actions and body language than could ever be communicated through a universal communicator of some sort. Instead of being limited to presumed sounds your guildmates would be able to hear, you have the full range of human interaction that you can write about when your character does something, and can therefore interact much more freely.
Suppose you happen to be doing your quests and you run into another roleplayer you know. You both strike up a conversation and have fun roleplaying and questing at the same time. You can do both the World RP and the guild hall RP at the same time, just as novelists sometimes write flashbacks and the regular story all at the same time -- it's not that hard, and you get to decide whatever you like about whether the World RP or guild hall RP happened first. If it starts to feel a bit complicated, you can just write that your character excuses himself from the guild hall for a while to run some sort of errand while you focus on your World RP experience. When that's finished, you can just have him come back to the guild hall and ask his friends what he missed.
Has your guild tried roleplaying in an imaginary guild hall? Did you have any negative reaction to it, or was it mostly positive? If you've never tried it, do you find it hard to imagine?
How do you fit inscription into the lore and into the life of your character?