Much like any other segment of WoW, RP has been seeing a decline in activity as we lead up to Cataclysm. Expansion burnout is no fun -- but unlike PvP and PvE players who are simply getting tired of old content, the RP population now has a whole host of new and interesting things to play around with. Cultists running rampant, odd devices found in Ulduar, the Warchief taking off for parts unknown, elementals everywhere ... All of these things provide some really interesting hooks for roleplay.
Your character may be involved in his own personal interactions with other characters, but you shouldn't forget that there's a whole world around you to play with as well -- and as of 4.0, that world is making itself known in a very big way. While personal interactions are all well and good, how your character feels about the world around him and the events going on can also be a really good resource for engaging roleplay, especially if your character's opinions differ from those around him. This kind of conflict creates a dynamic, emotion-charged setting for roleplay. In light of recent events, these are things your character by all means should be talking about; the events affect everyone. Let's take a look at what's going on in Azeroth and how this can be interpreted by various characters and races.
First off, major cities on both Alliance and Horde side are dealing with the sudden appearance of cultists who are going on and on about the end of the world. While a player could simply play the easy "These guys are all crazy!" route, there are several other tactics that can lead to cool bits of roleplay. Think about your character -- is he the type that would easily dismiss reports of the world's end, given all the earthquakes that have been going on lately? Would he eagerly hunt down the cultists in an effort to expose them?
Alternatively, your character could buy in to all the bizarre preaching and decide to join the cult. Easy enough to do -- after all, a quest sends you to go talk to the cultists and join the cult. Who's to say you can't simply stay there? And what would your friends and family do about it? Playing out the situation from the standpoint of the NPCs who beg someone, anyone to find their lost loved ones could be interesting.
Speaking of the world's end, how about those earthquakes? They've been getting steadily worse. Do they affect your character at all? A shaman or a druid might be more in touch with nature, but by now, anyone can see there is something seriously wrong with the world. What's the cause?
Astute characters who paid attention may remember Brann Bronzebeard speaking to the machines of Ulduar during the Tribunal of Ages event and put two and two together. If the Titans did not destroy the Old Gods because it would in turn destroy Azeroth, yet here, we heroes merrily destroyed two of these Old Gods ... well, then it's possible we've brought this on ourselves, isn't it?
More interesting than that is what exactly we could do to "fix" this situation. Do we let the Old Gods take over the world? Do we contact the Titans ourselves? Do we find another method to imprison them? How can we, as mere mortals? This catch-22 leaves players with endless amounts of material to figure out.
If you don't wish to follow that route, there are plenty of ways to take existing lore into consideration. Perhaps the draenei who crash-landed on Azeroth caused some sort of natural disturbance, and we're finally seeing the real results of what they've done. Maybe the corruption that's been seeping into Teldrassil since vanilla is finally getting to the point that it's not just affecting the tree -- it's affecting the world. Maybe these are the angry spirits of Ashenvale striking out at the orcs that have been decimating their forests. Or perhaps it's some sort of final revenge exacted by the Lich King, now that he's been defeated.
Conspiracy theories and throwing around blame are two ways to create some really dynamic RP, because it fosters conflict -- and that's what RP is all about. Remaining in a static, idyllic, peaceful universe ultimately ends up being unsatisfying. Why not spice it up a bit?
Faction leaders! Once upon a time in vanilla, you rarely saw any faction leader outside of his or her assigned "spot." Thrall was in Orgrimmar, Magni in Ironforge, and everyone else was exactly where he was "supposed" to be. Starting with The Burning Crusade, there's been a dramatic increase in the travel time of our faction leaders, and now they're as actively involved in what's going on around them as we, the players, are.
In the real world, there are a couple of things that you're never supposed to discuss in polite conversation: religion and politics. In roleplay, these are exactly the sorts of things you want to talk about. Why? Because it fosters a lot of volatile emotions and tensions, and these sorts of things make for interesting roleplay encounters. With the recent activity of the Alliance and Horde faction leaders, there's plenty of political intrigue to talk about.
If you're Alliance, you've been dealing primarily with Varian Wrynn during Wrath of the Lich King. What did your character think about his performance during the war? Was the leader your character saw during the Battle for the Undercity the kind of leader you should follow? Were Jaina Proudmoore's actions in that scenario necessary? Do you believe in Jaina's idyllic world where the Horde and Alliance get along, or do you believe in the brute force tactics of Wrynn?
If you are a dwarf or a gnome, what do you think about all of the messing about in Ulduar and the revelation of gnomish origins? Is your character appalled at the efforts of the Explorer's League, or fascinated? Do you believe the past is best left alone, or do you yearn for more exploration into the world's secrets? If you roleplay a gnome, how does your character feel about learning that your species originated with robots? Are you delighted with this information, or are you secretly wishing we'd never uncovered it? Do you thank the Old Gods for the Curse of the Flesh that made you what you are today, or do you secretly loathe what it's done to you?
If you are a night elf or draenei, are Varian's actions something that the peace-loving Naaru or Elune would condone? Is Varian following the path of the Light? Does your draenei character feel that your race is integrating well into Azerothian society or that you are being ignored or, worse yet, feared? As a night elf, most Alliance focus from vanilla until present day has been on the Eastern Kingdoms. Do you feel that night elf society has benefited from their entry into the Alliance? Have the night elves gotten anything worthwhile from the association?
As for Horde members, you get to deal with the fact that your Warchief, the one who led you to Kalimdor, is now stepping down and letting Garrosh Hellscream take over, if temporarily. How does your character feel about Garrosh? Have the changes you've seen, from the depressed orc in Nagrand to the vicious leader of the Horde forces in Northrend, been good or bad in your character's eyes?
Trolls also have the return of the Echo Isles to look forward to. How does your troll feel about that? Or if you've witnessed the events in Thrall's chambers in Orgrimmar, what does your troll think of the somewhat heated exchange between Garrosh and Vol'jin? Is your troll a supporter of Garrosh or of Vol'jin? As far as the orc population goes, are you a supporter of the path of war and conflict that Garrosh seems to be leading us to? Or do you still stand beside Thrall, believing that peace and compromise are the best options?
The Forsaken have a large role in the upcoming expansion. If you are roleplaying a Forsaken character, are you a supporter of Sylvanas? What do you think of the Lich King's defeat -- and more importantly, now that the Banshee Queen's vengeance has been carried out, what will the Forsaken do? Was your character a supporter of the new plague that brought about the Wrathgate? Were you a supporter of the Royal Apothecary Society, or were you horrified at what transpired? How will you deal with the mistrust and loathing that the other Horde races seem to have for you now? How will you atone for the sins your race has committed?
Blood elves may seem like the least developed of the Horde races, but they still have a gigantic amount of information to work with. The Sunwell, font of all arcane powers for generations of blood elves, has been re-ignited -- but not with arcane energy, with the powers of the Light -- Naaru Light, the same Light the draenei have been following for thousands of years. How does your blood elf feel about this? Are you OK with the fact that your race's salvation lay in the hands of a draenei? Are you still angry about the betrayal of Kael'thas, or were you a supporter of the former "Lord of the Blood Elves?" The Horde seems to be ignoring the blood elves for the most part; how does your character feel about this? The major supporter of the blood elves' inclusion into the Horde was Sylvanas. Given her people's actions at the Wrathgate, is your character still willing to trust his or her Forsaken allies, or has that given way to something else?
As for the tauren -- if you have not read The Shattering, I recommend you do so, as your faction leader is about to change, and the repercussions of that should be noted. Tauren have a unique connection with nature, so the anger of the elements should be of concern. If you play a tauren, are you concerned about the anger of the elements? Are you suspicious of the Grimtotem who live in Thunder Bluff? Do you think the earthquakes are a result of angering the spirits, and if so, why have the spirits been angered?
Keep in mind that roleplay isn't just about what your character thinks about himself; it's also about the world around you and how that world affects your thinking. Having played on the PTR, I can say with certainty that it's only going to get more chaotic in coming weeks, which leaves roleplayers with a million different options to choose from.
All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. Let us help you imagine what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying or even RP on a non-RP realm!