The new expansion is officially here! Generally speaking, the launch of a new expansion heralds the arrival of a lot of new players -- and the return of players that haven't picked up the game in quite some time. I had a friend of mine confess that he'd like to get back into roleplaying now that the new expansion has launched -- he lost touch with it somewhere during the Wrath raiding frenzy.
But the same question applies to players that are brand new, and players that have returned to the game after an extended absence -- just how do you get into RP again, after you've been away? Better yet, how does a new roleplayer get involved with roleplay? What's the best way to get yourself set up for it, when you've never tried it before? What do you do when the population of the roleplay server of your choice is likely full of people that have already been roleplaying together for years? How does a returning player find a good roleplay server to start with?
First off -- use the realm list to find the servers that are designated as either RP or RP-PvP. Occasionally you can find a lone roleplayer or two on a PvE server, but most roleplayers are on RP servers because that's what those servers are made for. As far as choosing a server goes, most suggestions I've heard both in game and out all have the same thought behind them though the words may vary from person to person -- ultimately, it's up to you. Nobody can tell you which roleplay server is "best," they can just make recommendations based on their experience.
But if you're asking a complete stranger if you're going to enjoy interacting with people on a server you have no familiarity with -- well, who's to say whether their answer is right or wrong? Invariably the answer to "Is this a good roleplay server" is "Yes" -- because the people answering have been there forever. It doesn't mean you're guaranteed RP the second you log on; and it doesn't guarantee that you'll particularly like the roleplay environment.
The best way to find the roleplay server that best suits you is to just try it out. You don't have to level to 80; you don't have to level at all if you don't want to. Roll an alt, install a roleplay addon, take your level one to the populated city of your choice and just hang out, in character. Observe the people around you, take note of any spontaneous RP going on; see what the general vibe of the server is. Look for RP descriptions on the players around you -- are there a lot of them? A few? Try interacting with people that have roleplay flags set to "available" and see what they do. If you like the feeling of the server and the people playing on it, check out the realm forums.
Most realm forums for roleplay servers will have a list of RP guilds, events, or even just roleplayers themselves. Check out the lists and see if there's a guild that looks like it's a good fit for you -- or check out the list of roleplayers and take a look at the quality of the descriptions, and whether any of those characters look like people your character could get along with. Be picky, if necessary -- you can afford to be picky at this point. Choose what looks best to you.
Sometimes roleplay servers will have server forums of their own for roleplayers -- player-hosted forums where roleplayers can feel free to schedule events and post character stories and information. If the server you're looking at has one of those, check that out too. See how active it is, and if the stories are stories you enjoy.
You can post an introduction story on the realm forums if you'd like. If the server you've chosen has a thread where roleplayers can post descriptions of their characters, go ahead and add your character to the list. If you're looking for a particularly kind of roleplay guild and there doesn't appear to be one listed on the realm forums, post a thread and ask. Most roleplay servers are full of incredibly friendly people -- and most roleplayers will gladly point you in the proper direction if you're a little lost. Just ask!
Once you've picked a server to call "home," you can either transfer your character there if you have a character on a different server, or you can just roll a character from scratch. Again, install some roleplay addons -- check the post from a few weeks ago for some addon suggestions. Now it's a matter of leveling your character, and seeking out interaction with people. If there's a roleplay guild that looked interesting to you, find a few characters from that guild and strike up an in character conversation. For more on the basics of roleplaying, take a look at the Roleplay 101 article.
The common trap that roleplayers fall into whether they're experienced or brand-new, is something I call the trap of self-imposed solitude. If you're designing a character to play and that character is a loner, you've just written yourself out of potential roleplay opportunities. Why would anyone walk up to, much like strike up a conversation with, a character whose RP description talks about how they are a loner, or otherwise intimidating in appearance? This isn't to say that you can't make one of those characters -- but keep in mind if you're going to roleplay a loner, it's up to you more than ever to make those initial first contacts.
One of the common complaints heard on roleplay servers all over the world is that "RP is dead." More often than not, it's not really dead -- but those complaining that it is aren't really looking for it or being as proactive as they could be in regards to creating roleplay. The first rule of creating roleplay is that you cannot wait for the roleplay to come to you. You have to be willing to create it -- otherwise, it will be dead for you, and the only person you can point the finger of blame at is yourself.
Think of it in terms of real life. If you are at a party where everyone is talking and having a wonderful time, and you're standing in a corner staring at people and not making any effort to speak to anyone, well that's no fun, is it? How likely is someone to approach a random stranger for no reason whatsoever, especially if they're standing to the side and not speaking to anyone? Not very likely at all. You can't be afraid to just strike up a conversation and say hello!
You have to create those first moments of roleplay yourself. It doesn't have to be anything grand or spectacular, it can be as simple as finding someone who is in character and asking them for directions to someplace random. Make a comment on the weather. Ask if they happen to know any good pubs or restaurants in the area. If you're out questing, have your character casually talk about the situation at hand, and ask their character's opinion.
On the other end of the spectrum -- don't be too forward when you're making first contact with people! Yes, everyone's RP descriptions are usually available to read; but make sure you can identify what your character sees, and what they wouldn't know. Most roleplay addons offer a section where a player can type in a summary of their character's history. Be aware that this section is information that your character wouldn't really know in detail, and don't assume your character knows everything about everyone right off the bat.
There are limits and lines with this, however. If someone's history has plenty of detail of heroic feats they've accomplished in the past, you might have heard of them from somewhere. Not in terms of pure detail, but by reputation -- that they're an accomplished warrior, or veteran of Northrend. Speaking of Northrend, that can also be a good way to strike up a conversation. Ask if they were in Northrend, or Outland, or any of the past events of the game. Don't grill other characters for information, keep it casual.
Another great way to create interaction is to take the role of the wandering storyteller or bard. Plunk yourself down in a public square -- keep it away from the bank and auction house, where non-roleplayers are invariably doing business and may stop to harass you -- and tell a story. It doesn't have to be long story, but a good tale told in a fairly populated area can get some good reactions from people.
There's other alternatives as well -- why not try a traveling salesman? Wander the streets of populated cities and hawk your wares in character. The drunken rambler is another option; head to a bar in a populated area, have a few drinks and start commiserating with the barkeep. Don't pick a fight, because roleplayers can be iffy on the subject of in-character fighting, and you don't want to create a poor impression right off the bat.
You don't have to have to go into your character's life story, nor should you! Talk about politics. Rant about Garrosh's lack of interior design skills. Get huffy about Deathwing's destruction of the Park. The key here is to draw people to you by being amusing, not irritating, and when people have warmed up to you and you've made a few friends, then you can start creating conflict if you wish to.
Getting back into roleplay is as hard as you make it. If you're open and friendly to the people around you, you'll soon find yourself right back in the thick of things. Remember to keep an open mind and be respectful of those around you, but don't hide in the corner and expect roleplay to find you. Seek it out, instigate it, and have fun!
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!