The basic idea here is that in order to ferment roleplay, you have to start it yourself somehow. You can't simply expect to walk into Mordor all in-character and hoss with your well-thought-out plans and storylines, expecting to find a town full of roleplayers. No, my friend, you're usually going to have to get it started yourself. Let's just assume that "if you RP it, they will come." Once you get the roleplay started, you'll find other roleplayers showing up around you.
There's two main avenues for you to create roleplay around yourself. First, you can use emote spam. This can be annoying if you overdo it, but I will try and explain some ways that emotes can be inviting to other roleplayers, without turning into a passive-aggressive emo fest. Second, in-character speech in parties and raids will take you a long way. It functions like emotes, but speech has its own pitfalls to avoid.
Jump behind the cut and let's chat about how you can be a successful roleplay troll.
The first method I brought up was emote spam. The trick to this method is avoiding the annoying, self-aggrandizing kind of emote, but still publicizing the informative, roleplay based emote. I once referred to this subtle method of trolling as being similar to emitting "roleplay pheremones." If you get the method right, your fellow RPers will recognize your inclinations, and respond in kind.
A traditional way of knowing whether you're "emoting right" is to gauge whether you're emoting information which anyone could easily tell by looking at you. For example, "Dudeguy walks with a slight limp, as if his right knee has trouble supporting his girth" is a solid, simple emote. Anyone watching Dudeguy stroll around Dalaran will see the limp, and there's no secret information here.
Let's compare that emote to "Dudeguy hides his broken, bleeding heart, his stoic visage masking the inutterable misery of his soul." There's a couple problems with this example. First, no one simply looking at Dudeguy would know he has a broken heart. If they know his heart is bleeding, the description should be restricted to "Dudeguy has a visible chest wound." I would also warn against language like "stoic visage." One man's stoic is another man's crying baby. Adjectives like "stoic" can lead to a lot of interpretation, and isn't a demonstrable fact. The whole "inutterable misery of his soul" is so overwrought that I don't think even Edward Cullen could pull that bit off.
Lastly, let's evaluate "Dudeguy walks with a little swagger, shaking his hips as he rocks through Silvermoon." The phrase "swagger" is interpretive, and falls prey to the same problems as "stoic" in the above example, But "swagger" is a fairly well-known phrase, and generally implies a sort of cocky bounce in someone's attitude. I think the phrase would probably be okay in most circumstances. And "rocks through Silvermoon" is risky, since it's definitely a poetic phrase. But I think an experienced roleplayer could do well with this emote.
Time your emotes so that your audiences sees you use them, but don't emote so often that people get annoyed. In groups or raids, pop out an emote before or after each boss kill. Party members are probably paying attention to chat around this time, and there's almost always someone bored while waiting for the pull to happen. This is a good time to advertise your roleplay predilections.
Another good emote tip, when you're trying to encourage other people to play with you, is to use emotes which encourage interaction. For example, as you walk across a bit city street in Stormwind, trying something like "Dudeguy stumbles as he walks, dropping his package of groceries on the cobblestones." This instantly encourages local players to respond to your emote. They could help you pick up the dropped items, or perhaps mock you for your clumsiness.
Ultimately, emotes are one of your best tools to advertise yourself as a roleplayer. This is not only because of its direct, roleplay nature, but also because it's a great way to encourage others to get started as well.
In-game speech is actually very similar to emote spam, but it has slightly different perils. I really don't often come across roleplayers who are into godmoding their in-character speech, because. . .well, it's just speech. It's hard to make that mistake with the spoken word. However, there are some nuances of speech that I see put off new roleplayers, and this is the stuff you want to avoid if you're trying to drum up some in-character action.
There's a habit of many experienced, knowledgeable roleplayers to "overlore it." Overloring is much different from knowing the lore of WoW. This is kind of a tricky subject, so let me step through it. Web sites like Wowwiki have a wonderful guide to some basic Thalassian. (Thalassian is the language of the high elves and blood elves.) Veteran roleplayers will reach for these guides to add further depth to their roleplay -- instead of saying "Hello!" to each other in the streets of Silvermoon, they'll say "Anaria shola." (That means "Speak your business." Thalassian isn't really a cute and cuddly language.)
That's an awesome touch of depth for people steeped in the lore of WoW. But if you're trying to drum up some roleplay by greeting your fellow party members in a raid, then I'd stick to easily recognizable language. Heck, I'd even consider avoiding the time-tested "Well met" until you've gotten to know people. "Good day, I'm looking forward to our adventure" is a good example for getting started.
I know that probably seems like fairly pedestrian language, but remember that our goal is to troll up new roleplayers. You don't want to start out alienating people by latching on to a particular interpretation of the game. Invitations to discussion should be simple and easily answered. Another good example might be, "I've never cared much for the blood elves. They smell of wine and lies." (It should be a no-brainer when I say not to insult the races of your fellow party members, as that's likely to be a turn off.)
Questions are usually a good way to get started, also. "Why have you come to kill Sartharion?" could be a good question in a server PUG, since there's a lot of good ways to answer that. You might see someone answering "I hate dragons, they killed my dog/brother/family/sister/dreams." Or, you might someone simply saying "I hear he has gold, which should be in my pocket." Of course, if your fellow raiders simply answer your request with an item link, then you can probably rest assured they're not here to roleplay.
At the end of the day, trolling up roleplay using in-game speech and emotes will net you at least a few new contacts to get started. You should be consistent and regular with these techniques. If at first someone is uncertain that you are actually trying to find roleplay, they'll quickly be convinced after seeing you perform emotes several times.
Good luck out there. Me, and my character Dudeguy, wish you the very best of luck.
All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations, and ironies. You might wonder what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, or to totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying, or even how to RP on a non-RP server!