Free for All: RP in FTP?

Roleplay is a funny thing. Its definition can change over time and can adjust for each world that it is needed in. In a game set in modern society, there wouldn't be much that would not be out of character besides mentioning things that do not exist in that specific version of a modern world. If you get into a heavy fantasy game, though, you would probably avoid any modern references or phrases for the sake of staying "in character." And no, "thou" and "thus" are not needed. "Hello, how are you?" will serve just fine.

Roleplay is becoming a lost art, though it seems. Most players are in the tavern just long enough to grab the quests. Standing in front of the bank, an old hot spot for roleplay, has become a spot to show off new armor or mounts instead. This doesn't stop me from trying, though, but in my own subtle way. I don't want to scare anyone off, and certainly not some 15 year old kid inside a free to play game.

Yes, that's right, there is roleplay inside free to play games.

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I'd like to define how I see roleplay, first. For me, I prefer to play my character not as an actor on a stage, or as someone else that I am not, but as myself. Although I have never existed on a planet with 3 moons or on one that is populated by dragons, I can imagine what that character would be like with my personality type; outgoing, a little wacky, someone that can't sit still and yet has a pretty hard grasp on his mortality. I don't play characters that seem to know more than I would, or that are more powerful that I could ever be. I picture everything about me like my intelligence, my wit, my food preferences, and assign them a loose rank in my head.

I am about a 7 in intelligence. Seriously, I'm actually a smart-ish fellow.

I am about a 4 in looks. I'm average, and would be forgettable if not for the loud mouth. Thin, though.

I am about a 8 in survivability. I have lived perfectly fine while touring with bands in old vans, sleeping on couches scraping by paycheck to paycheck. While my situation has definitely become better, I reached this level because of my survivability.

So that's how I play my characters. In many games, this is easy. There are many free to play games that give you just as many, if not way more options to customize your character and their abilities than any subscription based game. Mabinogi, for example, allows me to be good at what I am good at, to be average at everything else, and to be downright horrible at others things. The curious fact that free to play games can be frequented by, at the very least, teenage audiences, actually seems to allow me to get away with talking as a character would.

For example, during a play session in Mabinogi the other day, I met a player that was running on the ground while I flew overhead. I landed in front of them and asked "Need a ride, stranger?" They hopped on, and we talked as we flew. They used the standard >.< emotes and threw in plenty of "lul's" but I kept referring to the world, the Lore, and even asked them to be navigator. "Hold the map." I said.

The moments of silence afterward indicated that they sat behind their keyboard wondering who the hell they had just grouped with.


"Hold the map?" they asked. "Yes, you're the navigator" I said "..tell me which way to town." Soon after they were giving me instructions on which way to go, and we even explored other areas with her holding the map and me pulling the reins. I did not even have my mini-map open, and we arrived safely.

In a game like Free Realms, roleplay is almost a silly notion. After all, the world is set in a virtual playground more than in a continuous world, many would say. When you take a moment and explore around, though, there are huge sections of lore in the caverns, the NPC conversations and in the quest text. It's short and sweet, but it's there and quite deep. There are actual roleplay groups in Free Realms, and I even attended one of their storytelling events. It has given the game an entirely new depth that I think many players are missing.

I can see why many players do not roleplay, or do not even know what it is, in free to play games. After all, they can always roll another character or even make another account. The characters in many free to play games cost nothing and, seemingly, are worth nothing. But the higher quality free to play games offer just as much depth as other games like World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online. It's not really a case of the payment model, it seems instead to be a case of someone starting to roleplay while others follow suit. In fact, I have rarely met a player that would not enjoy a little roleplay with me as long as I do not try to go over the top, using lingo and words that only hardcore lore buffs might know. I just take it easy, talk like I would normally in real life, but avoid discussing topics like "Housing bubble." Keep an eye out for opportunities, and try out some roleplay. I think you might find that players enjoy it even in free to play games.

Oh. Before we go for the day, I would like to take a moment to introduce a project I have been working on for a while. I want to take you along with me as I explore free to play games. But be warned, I move fast. The idea is that I pick a free to play title and announce it along with my character name and server, and you can join me in game. I will stream the game live in the morning, from 10 AM to 12 Noon Central time, USA Monday through Friday. Don't worry, if you cannot make it I will be playing the game at later times as well. In another column we will discuss the game and give our newbie impressions of it. I am open to suggestions, but for now I am going to pick the old reliable game of Mabinogi. You can grab the client and make an account easily and completely for free. My main characters name is Beau, I am on the Mari server, and if we get enough players together we can make a guild!

Look me up, and let's go exploring. Follow me on Twitter @spouseaggro so you can catch any updates or playing times!
This article was originally published on Massively.