Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain
The easiest way by far to deal with quests and questing is to simply disregard them altogether. Quests exist in game for a purpose -- they offer XP and rewards to players and shuffle them along the path to level 90. As something that is purely a game mechanic, there is no reason you need to take all those quests and tasks you've been assigned into account from a character perspective. As far as your individual character is concerned, their journey through Pandaria may be very different than the experience of anyone else.
But there is a caveat to taking this route of roleplay. You have to decide what exactly your character has been up to while everyone else has been leveling. Where did they go? Who did they meet along the way? What kind of adventures did they have? If they weren't helping the pandaren, who were they helping? More important, just what was their motivation on Pandaria, anyway?
While you're answering those questions, you have to be extremely careful to watch what you're doing and make sure you don't run into potential god-modding
or Mary Sue
territory. If your character had his own set of adventures, those adventures need to be believable but not overdone. Meeting the pandaren and trying to establish some sort of friendship or mutual understanding is fine; however, crossing the line and saying you've been declared the new hero and leader of the Shado-Pan is decidedly not.
It's fun to give yourself the freedom of making up your own story, and it's a creative exercise in its own fashion. The only thing you have to watch for is that you don't go too far -- and be aware that some roleplayers may not like the idea that you aren't sticking to the script. If you decide to take this route, you'll want to keep in mind that making up your own story may be fun, but it may also potentially limit your roleplay.
Follow the yellow brick road
Alternatively, you can take each quest and treat it as something that is happening to your character and an experience that they are going through. Quests may be just a game mechanic designed to get your character from point A to point B, but Blizzard has taken care to wrap these game mechanics in stories that are incredibly engaging and serve as a way to bring your character into the story surrounding the game.
Because of this, you might be well advised to follow the story that the game is laying out for you. Assume that everything you are accomplishing in game is something that your character is accomplishing and run from there. The only issue with taking this tactic is the sheer number of quests you will complete on the road from level 85 to level 90. There are a ton of new zones and an equally large number of quests to complete.
Rather than trying to keep track of every single last thing your character has done, you may want to instead focus on one or two areas in the questing path. Pick some quest chains that may have particular meaning to your character, quests that affected him in a profound and meaningful way. This isn't to say that other quests are less important, of course -- it's simply that the other quests had less of an impact on your character.
Taking this route makes it much easier to keep track of what your character is doing and how they have been affected while traveling throughout Pandaria. Some may say this is even easier than simply making up your own character's history, because the guidelines have been set in place for you. But that isn't always the case, particularly when quests don't mesh with the person your character happens to be.
Oh what a world, what a world
While it may seem simple enough to just declare that your character has completed errands for this faction here or that faction over there, it's slightly more complex than that. Some quests may have you doing things you don't necessarily agree with -- things that your character wouldn't be caught dead doing. After all, what noble adventurer in their right mind is willingly going to go pick up piles of poop? Why would your character be following a warmonger's orders if they are a pacifist at heart?
That's where following the path of quests gets tricky and also where creativity fully comes into play. You could flat-out declare that this is something your character would never, ever do. Or you could take the other route entirely. Instead of asking yourself, "Is this something my character would reasonably do?" change the question to "What would it take to get my character to do what these people are asking of him?"
Suddenly, the questing game becomes a puzzle, one that will give you a much deeper look into your character and just who that character happens to be. Maybe they'd never pick up a pile of poop -- unless the money was right. Maybe they'd never willingly follow a warmonger -- unless there was something in their lives that forced them to take that road. Maybe they'd never help a pandaren -- until they realized doing so gave them some sort of a strategic advantage.
Quests may exist to propel your character forward in game, but you can also use them as a way to propel your character forward in development as well. Things like how they react in certain situations or how they interact with strangers can change in a meaningful way. And it doesn't take a major event. It doesn't take the world's end. All it takes is one well-placed quest that makes your character think about who he is, what he is doing, and his place in the world.
It's a world that's suddenly gotten a lot larger with the introduction of Mists
It can be tricky to work your average everyday quest into your roleplay, but it can also be a really fun exercise in creative thinking, if you let it be. Whether you decide to take the path that Blizzard has defined for you and work it into your character's life story or you decide to take the path of the wide-open road and decide where your character has gone and who they have seen, a new expansion provides a marvelous opportunity to change who your character is at his fundamental core.
Although we may not be fighting the end of the world, this is hardly the time for our characters to slack their way through the world. The conflicts are getting larger, not smaller. And perhaps because we aren't dealing with giant dragons bent on global destruction or undead kings bent on devouring the souls of the dead, Mists
is giving us a lot more to work with on a fundamental character level than any expansion before it. This time, the conflict isn't with the dangers of the world. It's the conflict of ourselves, of who we are, why we fight, and where we ultimately are meant to be.
It may seem like heavy stuff, but Mists
also gives us enough lightheartedness to compensate for these weighty character decisions. Whether you choose to acknowledge the quests or not, remember to have fun along the way. In the end, that's what roleplay is really about.
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