Your days are numbered.
It takes you a moment to realize that's all that's in the letter you just opened in your in-game mailbox -- that, and the Hangman's Noose ("It's shiny with blood!") attached at the bottom. You flick open the guild roster, but nobody's online yet. You run the sender's name through the Armory, only to come up with ... nothing. You're not involved in any active roleplaying storylines, and you can't think of anyone you've roleplayed with recently who seems threatening in the least ...
Fine, then. You take it to the forums. You're met with the usual banter for a page or so -- but then another player reports that a friend received a similar note. Then another shows up. And another. Before you know it, the entire realm, Alliance and Horde alike, is roiling with intrigue. Hundreds of players are sucked in. Who are the letters from? What is the threat striking again and again at seemingly unlinked players? What is behind the unfolding string of horror unfolding before you?
Who is The Broken Doll?
Guild The Eyes of Old
Realm Moon Guard (US – Alliance)
WoW Insider: What is The Broken Doll storyline? How did players get involved, and what did they do?
Dalavesta: The Broken Doll was a psychological-based horror [storyline]. It was a title for a series of events that multiple people joined, played, and influenced. It was a storyline crafted by the participants -- but more importantly, it was crafted for them.
Players got involved by a few different ways. Most of the time I just picked out people I randomly saw RPing and sent them an in-game letter! But once people began to post about it on the forums, the people who commented or just made mentioned that it "looked cool" were quickly swept into the storyline.
Read the forum posts about the mysterious letters:
A lot of what was posted on the forums has to do with fact sharing. People posted maps, clues, reposts of letters, but more importantly, a lot of the posts were short stories of different events. The first post about the mysterious letters started out as people talking about the weird person with the silly name The Broken Doll sending them eerily on-point messages. It soon evolved more. It got its own in-character and out-of-character channels on both Horde and Alliance, some of which still exist today and people continue to use to foster roleplay and connections.
Very intriguing! Can you summarize the storyline?
Difficult, but I'm sure I can manage it! The Broken Doll is a psychological-based thriller based around how many of these heroes once treated a dimwitted and overweight girl. After suffering a psychological break, she has looked to make sure that everyone and anyone will feel just as miserable as she did and still does. The Doll is plagued by a disorder commonly known as multiple personality disorder, even though the term is outdated.
The story revolves around finding out who the Doll is and destroying her, but also trying to save what redeemable parts are left. More important is the fact that the story offered characters a chance to evolve, to change, to grow, and to do so in a respectable storyline that would offer dozens of chances to be the hero.
That sounds ... epic. How did you come up with the idea for this event?
OK, don't laugh, this is pretty bad ... I wanted to get rid of the gray items in the guild bank. So I thought I'd just send them out to people, attach creepy letters onto them. I had actually seen someone get a weird mail and they posted about it on the forums. I just copied the idea but I did it in mass.
A man who only wishes to be called Sir Lord Cuttlefist actually came up with the name. It stuck, and it became a huge center of my interaction with the server and many others. As for the Doll herself, I've always loved psychology, and I study behavioral psychology for fun, which means that the science behind an evil mind was amazing for me.
How did you move the story forward? What was your role as the woman behind the curtain? How much was preplanned, and how much depended on in-game interactions and developments?
The story was never set in stone, and to be honest, I didn't participate -- at least, I tried not to. I used an alternative account to post on the forums but also to lead events in game, which was really hard to do as a level 1 running around trying not to die. Over time, I got one or two people to help me run the events, but even they didn't know that I was the doll! I simply told them I was a messenger to speak for her when supplying a brief overview for events.
Generally, events were really loose on design. Everything was in the hands of the heroes and their reactions, which is what we wanted. We'd give them tasks, clues, and it'd be up to them to figure it out. If they didn't, the story didn't progress -- or they'd get an angry letter, which was always fun! Events were normally based around a location or a magical item or something they were looking for in order to find the identity of the antagonist.
How many players participated?
Too many to count. Dozens of guilds from Horde and Alliance participated. I had sent out quite literally hundreds of letters. I couldn't really answer this question just because I couldn't always appear to be in the know; the more I participated, the more fishy it looked. But even people outside of the events participated. It was a floating rumor around Stormwind. Sometimes I'd fly by, catch an emote or two of people talking about it, and snicker to myself.
Sort of. Last night, a Blizzard representative contacted me. He explained that he wanted to see all of the events both myself and my guild had done. He didn't explain what all he intended to do with it but, and I don't have any high hopes that I'll get anything from Blizzard for this. But that'd be cool, huh?
And out of all of this has come a machinima trailer and upcoming video series! How will the video series tie in to the RP series?
My hope is that the video series really ties into the RP series, that it fills in holes and gaps in the storyline. This entire story was originally made without plans to reveal myself, but players were a lot craftier than I had intended. While there is only one antagonist, the heroes are the spotlight, and that's what we want to do for the series. We want to show off the individuals who lived, died, were beaten within an inch of their lives and came close to becoming heroes and vanquishing what they saw as a great evil!
So who's involved in that? And is there anyone else who deserves a nod?
There was Paul Frigon, our composer, who had to put up with me whining and would jab me relentlessly about the machinima, as well as Wazop, who was nice enough to actually make the machinima. It took more time to find someone to edit the trailer than it did to actually do the first set of events! Then there were the players themselves, Veresia, Argilla, Osuro, and so many more played major roles in helping me run this. Some people helped me send letters, and really I'm sorry if I missed anything that helped me with this. Everyone who participated made this storyline what it was!
The Broken Doll has inspired more than one delightfully creepy storyline. We hear it's taken on a life of its own in new, different events, is that right?
Well, the Hallow's End Project is just one of few. We did 13 server-wide events over one month. My guild, The Eyes of Old, does a lot to try and do multiple server-wide events, though it's not always easy, seeing as we play the bad guys in character. We do annual costume contests for the server, and we just opened up our new Secret Santa project we plan to run every year.
To top this off, we have a monthly server-wide event that draws in a few hundred people known as Grinning Skull, a market where you can buy BoE epics for a few gold coins, and the realisim of a fantasy market comes into play -- dice games, card games, exotic robes, silks, furs, even a pet vendor! And a strange lady in white with a mysterious ability to tell fortunes rather accurately! Grinning Skull is an event we've used to raise over $300 for charities, as well as holding PvP tournies and giving away time cards every month. Our events are always about fun and helping the community.
Sounds almost impossible not to find something of interest to participate in. So what's ahead? New storylines, new machinima ...?
I've always got new storylines in mind for the Broken Doll series and plan to undertake more when I'm able to. It likely won't be for another couple of months, though, and I'll be sure to post it on the forums.
But right now, I've got one big project that's in the works and I'm willing to share. It's called Project Nemesis. It'd be a machinima tribute to Lovecraft, the poem Nemesis being my favorite piece he's ever done. We plan on taking this poem, having a reading of it done, and animating it. A lot of it can be easily adapted to WoW lore, but more importantly, the Old Gods, Lovecraft's biggest gift to this game. I still need a voice actor and an animator, though!
How can players get involved?
The easiest way to get involved is just to ask. I'm online a lot (Dalavesta on Moon Guard US-A), and I'm always available to speak to people, be it about a new storyline, how they can get involved, art, voice acting, video editing, even parody music ... whatever it is! Joining our guild means getting a first-hand look at how these things function; it means being able to play the bad guy and not just participate in these stories but being the person they love to hate.
Alternatively, if getting into touch with me in-game is difficult, you can contact me at AzerothOnline.net through my admin account there. And of course, you can always use the realm forums, which I browse every day. We always have a recruitment topic up, and you're more than free to ask and discuss things with us there. I'm never out of reach, and I certainly hope that people feel like they can speak with me on anything -- I'm always up to discuss things, idle banter or the serious stuff!
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from a player battling Alzheimer's disease to Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn), gaming industry insider Liz Danforth and El of El's Extreme Anglin'. Know someone else we should feature? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.