A new expansion means several things to roleplayers. There's the thrill of new content and new areas to roleplay in. There's the change in storyline to something fresh and new. And of course, there's the introduction of new races or classes depending on the expansion, something that offers a new outlet for creativity as far as roleplay is concerned. With Cataclysm, we not only got two new races, but we got several new race and class combinations that weren't possible before, which opens the door even wider on making character changes.
For most roleplayers, the choice of what to do comes down to rolling yet another alt to roleplay with. For others, attachment to their main character and that character's story might suggest a different option altogether. Race change services have been around for a while in World of Warcraft, and although most players change their character's race and don't really give it much though, it becomes an odd situation for roleplayers.
So how do you work around a race change when you're a roleplayer?
The easiest solution by far is to just call it quits with your main character's storyline and start a fresh one with a fresh character when the race change goes through. No, your character's name doesn't have to be changed for this -- after all, there are plenty of people running around the world with the same names. What it does require, however, is a fully fleshed backstory for that new character and some sort of reasonable end for the old one.
The reasonable end isn't just for your benefit; it's also to help the people you've been roleplaying with, too. If they have a logical closing point for your current character's exploits in Azeroth, they know where to take their characters from that point onward. If, on the other hand, you simply race-change with no explanation given, they have to come up with a hasty reason as to why your character is no longer around -- and not many players find that a fun thing to do.
On your end of things, this gives you a big, final "The End" to tack onto your main character's story, which allows you to move on more easily with what your new character is up to. And that's going to be a bit of work at your end, as far as establishing that character's presence. Where did they come from? Why are they out and about in the world? What's their history -- or do they even know their history to begin with?
And that's the other thing you have to watch for if you choose to start over with a race change -- what to do if you change your mind and want to change back again. When you're creating that final story for your main character, you don't want to make it too final. Character death isn't necessarily advised here. Instead, I suggest rolling out the old "I'm going to retire in a cabin in the woods" chestnut that works remarkably well. It establishes someplace that that old character has gone to and leaves it open-ended as to whether or not they'll eventually make a return.
Which means if you're a finicky roleplayer who changes their mind a lot, you haven't shut the door entirely on that character. You've just mostly left it closed with a crack so you can get back in, if necessary.
The other alternative, of course, is to work that race change into your character's story. There are several reasons why a character would change appearance, ranging everywhere from secret plans of spy work and espionage to simply wanting to see how the other half lives. Working with a race change isn't a particularly difficult thing to do, but you have to come up with a plausible reason for it to happen.
Thankfully, World of Warcraft has several different things within its universe that can be used to explain away a race change. Perhaps there was simply a transporter malfunction that went horribly wrong. Perhaps your character decided to have a bit of plastic surgery. Perhaps they decided to mess around with some strange technology from days of Titans past, or perhaps they were meddling with magic that they oughtn't have touched.
I had a character that, over the course of playing her history, I decided ought to have a race change in Cataclysm. The character was a mage who, much like Medivh, was obsessed with knowledge and obtaining all the knowledge she could cram in her head. However, the threat of her own mortality weighed heavily on her head, and she was desperately seeking a way to become immortal or at the very least extend her life to the point where she could learn as much as she possibly could.
All in all, it gave me several windows of opportunity for roleplay. First, I had the fact that I had a mage who turned into a kaldorei -- and kaldorei mages were not only few and far between, but they weren't particularly liked or trusted by the rest of night elf civilization. Second, I had the interplay with her close friends and family, who would suddenly have to reconcile the fact that this character now had pointy ears and purple skin. Third, I had all the potentially awkward and amusing moments of said character trying to fit in with kaldorei society and failing miserably at all attempts to do so.
This never actually came to pass, as I stopped playing the character some time before Cataclysm ever came out. But it's one example of how a little creativity and using some in game explanation can plausibly explain a sudden change in race.
Regardless of the way you handle the decision of roleplaying a race change, the most important thing you need to do is keep your friend in the loop of what's going on. If you're planning a race change, you may want to let your friends and roleplay partners know that you're planning to do so, especially in the case of starting a brand new story, instead of weaving it into your main character's tale.
If your character's time on Azeroth is coming to an end or if they're planning an extended vacation or retirement, the people who actively roleplay with that character ought to know about it. It's partially so that they can wrap up whatever loose ends their characters had with yours, before you character goes away. But it's also just the nice thing to do. Abruptly departing with no explanation leaves your friends with a great big, gaping hole in the storylines they roleplay. Letting them know before you depart is just the polite thing to do.
Above and beyond this, you can explain whether your character is dead or has simply gone to quietly fish in the mountains away from the rest of the world -- and that way your friends know whether their characters should be grieving or simply moving on with their lives.
In addition, you may want to give them the basics of the new race you are playing and where that character is from. This will let you set up some potential roleplay scenarios right off the bat, so you aren't lost in the middle of nowhere with no roleplay to be found. It's just a matter of common courtesy and a matter of making sure the roleplay you love doesn't vanish into thin air just because you're wearing a different face.
Race changes are now an inevitable part of World of Warcraft, and when new races are announced, you're certain to see a character or two make the switch. If you've been thinking of making the switch yourself, I'd recommend it. If nothing else, it gives you a fresh way to look at the world around you and injects a new perspective into your roleplay. And don't feel bad if you change your mind -- after all, nothing in roleplay has to be permanent.
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!