As a gnome RP'er and a bit of a lore junkie I was wondering about a few things. First off how exactly would one go around RP'ing a non-Panderan monk? I ask this since Mists comes out soon and I haven't seen an All the World's a Stage on it and based on some of the Realm Forum posts on my realm I am not the only one wondering this.
Well, Coggling, I'm certainly happy enough to answer your question. It's a good one, too. Roleplayers take in several different factors when creating characters, and the monk class is one that takes a bit more attention to detail than most. So let's go over the basics of the basics and see what roleplaying a monk is all about when you aren't a pandaren.
The monks of the world are a martial-arts based class of fighters whose primary attacks are done with their fists. Despite the fact that they're pretty much defined by that unique fighting style, there's actually a lot more to monks than just fighting. Although the Warcraft RPG sourcebooks are no longer considered canon material, they still hold a little information about monks.
Monks are considered studious people who live a fairly simple life. Of course, there are two different types of monks in Warcraft. There are the monks that follow the Church of the Light, and there are the monks of the pandaren. To make it perfectly clear, the monk you can roll and play is the class based on the pandaren style of monk, not the followers of the church. The church monks are pretty much scholars to a fault, and as far as we know, they don't really go for extreme combat. They'd much prefer hanging out in Northshire Abbey.
Pandaren wandering the world of Azeroth are from the Wandering Isle, not Pandaria proper. This means that monks in the world of Azeroth are being trained in the style of combat particular to the Wandering Isle. You aren't going to see any Azeroth characters trained by the Shado-Pan. Not only are the Shado-Pan restricted to Pandaria, they aren't terribly keen on outsiders in general, and it's doubtful they would suddenly decide to train an outsider from level 1 onwards.
Instead, all monks trained in Azeroth are being advised and taught by pandaren from the Wandering Isle who have chosen to share their unique fighting skills with the rest of the world. All races, both Alliance and Horde, that can choose the monk class now have a pandaren waiting in their respective race's starting zone who will share the wisdom of the monk class with any who choose to pursue it.
Because of the mechanical changes to training, it's been explained in game that monks learn new abilities as they follow their path in the world. It's not a matter of being shown a new attack; it's a matter of mastering one's skill in such a way that one is enlightened enough to realize a new skill. Monks are highly honed and in tune with both themselves and the world. Much like shaman or druids, they are just as connected with the world as they are with their place in it.
However, monks do not use magic. Their mastery is based solely on that innate connection with the world and their surroundings, along with the harmonious balance between the two. It's a sort of spiritual awakening that is based more on philosophy, balance, and schools of thought than pure use of mana and the arcane or mana and nature-based magic. The monks of the Wandering Isle come from two different schools of thought that are similar in goals but not necessarily how to obtain those goals. You can read more of that in a recent column regarding pandaren roleplay.
Because monks are being trained by pandaren, this places them in a very specific spot in the timeline. All monks began to appear and be trained after the pandaren started showing up in Azeroth -- which means that monks really didn't exist for the rest of Azeroth until Cataclysm was over and done with. Unless you are a pandaren from the Wandering Isle, you've likely only just begun the path to being a monk in the past few months.
This means that it's easy enough to determine when your character chose to become a monk but not so easy to determine what they were before they became a monk. Obviously, new players have a choice, and for roleplay purposes, your character can be as old or as young as you'd like him to be. If he's young, perhaps he's survived and come of age as the cataclysm played out and now wants to begin his life as an adventurer.
If your character is older, however, you do have to keep in mind all that's gone before and how this fits into how old you'd like your character to be. I've done a series on character timelines for the various races of Azeroth, and if you're curious what your character would have done or known about prior to suddenly deciding to take up the ways of the monk, it's a good jumping-off point. Remember, we don't know exactly how many years have passed between the end of Cataclysm and the beginning of Mists, so keep that in mind as you're placing your character within the timeline.
The biggest question regarding roleplaying a non-pandaren monk, however, is simply why? Why would your character choose to follow the path of a race that was largely considered by many to likely be something of a myth? Why would your character choose to follow this particular school of training based on scholarly thinking, harmony, and enlightenment? It's pretty much a subjective question, and it really depends on what kind of character you're creating.
For an Alliance character, it may be something he decided to pursue in order to regain balance after so many years of horrific war and loss both in Wrath and in Cataclysm -- a way to obtain a kind of spiritual inner peace that has been ripped away during all the years of combat. The Alliance has been through much in the past several years, and it's not unreasonable to assume it has been taking a toll on Alliance characters of every race.
For Horde characters, it could be a simple wish to forge new alliances, to learn the ways of the pandaren in the hopes of convincing them to join the Horde's cause. Alternatively, it could be a way to quietly deal with the pressure of living under Hellscream's reign, which has been far from a happy one. The Horde has had nearly as much pressure as the Alliance during Cataclysm, the major difference being that the source of the pressure is internal rather than external.
Or, factions entirely aside, your character could just be looking for a new way of life, a change from all he'd previously known. Perhaps he finds himself drawn to the pandaren and their ways, which are a stark contrast to any other race in Warcraft right now. Perhaps he's simply curious about the pandaren and wishes to learn from them and teach them in kind about his race and customs.
Regardless, the monk class opens up an opportunity to pull off a different kind of character entirely. Because of the placement in the timeline, this is an excellent opportunity to reboot your character, leave the original class behind, and pick up the ways of the monk. When death knights were introduced, a popular recurring theme with roleplayers was killing off their main character, whoever that happened to be, and having them reborn as a death knight. It made for some intense psychological roleplay, not just for the newly created death knight but for those they left behind, the characters that had to come to terms with their new role in life -- or rather, un-life.
With monks, the same opportunity exists, just in a slightly different fashion. Your main character doesn't need to die in order to become a monk; he simply has to have a moment of inspiration that causes him to want to make the change. And while it could simply be a moment of whimsy for your character, consider that it could also be an emotional investment, the end result of some internal struggle that your character has been dealing with.
Regardless of the reasons, roleplaying a non-pandaren monk isn't a particularly difficult task, as long as you remember where they are in the timeline. You aren't going to see a blood elf monk who has been a monk for 20-some odd years, nor will you see a human monk who has been training since he was a little boy. As long as your timeline placement is correct, you can begin to assess what exactly pushed your character down this unique and challenging path. With a little creativity, a non-pandaren monk can be just as interesting, entertaining and unique as those with fur and paws.
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!