All the World's a Stage: 2008, year of the living roleplayer

David Bowers
D. Bowers|01.05.09

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All the World's a Stage: 2008, year of the living roleplayer
So there I was, celebrating the New Year, when I realized just how long All the World's a Stage has been around. It's grown from an idea in the back of my head, to a pet project, into a full-fledged resource for roleplayers -- and it's still growing! Even after 68 weeks-worth of content, there's still so much to write about! It goes to show, if there's a topic you love, you should really write about it, because doing so makes you love it even more.

Now, looking back on this year of writing, it strikes me that some things have changed, while other things have stayed the same. Some articles seem just important and relevant to today's concerns as they were when they were written, and many feel like they could use a bit of updating.

Just about a year ago, for instance, All the World's a Stage took a look at "The past, present, and future of roleplaying," which addressed the popular conception at that time that "RP is dead." We don't hear that so much anymore, do we? It seems many of the roleplayers have gradually been shifting around since then, grouping up into small communities on their old servers, or else transferring to a very few realms with a good reputation for roleplaying. Recently, I just transferred over to a new server and was thrilled to see how many roleplayers were hanging around the streets of Dalaran. RP isn't dead at all -- it's just got itself together now instead of being scattered all over everywhere. Congealed, as it were.

"Something to remember me by," my first article of 2008, was also my first article in this column to get over 60 comments -- not just "Noob, u suck!" comments either! I was impressed by the number of readers that had genuinely interesting things to add, usually sharing their own characters' idiosyncrasies and quirks. These quirks weren't necessarily "unique" so much as they were "memorable" and helped people to get a better sense of a character, even after just one or two meetings. That was the first article in this column to really give me the feeling of an intense conversation between the readers and I on a topic we all loved. We weren't just arguing a point back and forth, or going on about tangential issues -- we were sharing knowledge that all of us valued and benefited from. Ever since then, that same sense of sharing has been the goal I hoped for in nearly every article.

"There's something about Mary Sue" addressed one of the issues that seems to bother roleplayers most -- when they see someone playing a character in ways that person doesn't even realize are outlandish and totally unbelievable in the context of the Warcraft lore. Most commonly this happens when people try to add their own elements of fantasy and lore which aren't so compatible with the Warcraft setting (i.e. Vampires), or claim some close relationship to a major Warcraft story character that doesn't make sense (i.e. Arthas' ex-girlfriend), but really it's any sort of attempt to catapult one's own character into the spotlight at the expense of all others. If I had anything to add to that article today, I would warn people that everyone has a different interpretation of what "Mary Sue" means. Sometimes you may try to change someone with the best of intentions, but in the end just come across as a mean person with useless criticism. If you're going to tell someone that they are a Mary Sue, beware that you may be treading on sensitive waters and it might just be better to let the issue slide.

"Ten Commandments of Roleplaying" was a blast to write, and it's also a handy reference to look back on now and then. I claimed the right to modify it as time went by, but even now that it's been 9 months, I don't think there's anything I would change. The comments seemed to show that even though people placed varying levels of importance on each of the "Commandments," and in some cases would have phrased them differently, we all more or less agreed on them as a general body of principles that roleplayers should follow. They arise naturally out of roleplayers' needs when interacting with one another, and for the most part, they are universal.

The 3-part series on "Finding Roleplayers" was an attempt to help solve that perennial problem we often have, of finding people we like to roleplay with. Finding roleplayers isn't that hard, but finding ones we really connect with can sometimes be surprisingly difficult if you don't get lucky and stumble into a great group. Now that I've transferred to Moon Guard recently, I find myself once again looking for a new group of friends. Hopefully my own advice will be useful to me!

Alex Ziebart wrote a great guest-piece for this column, "Descriptions done right," about how to write good descriptions for the hallmark roleplayer's addon, "FlagRSP," which lets other players see a bit of extra information about your character, especially what he or she looks like. It's an excellent resource for players new to the addon, as well as experienced roleplayers who are just looking for new description ideas and techniques.

Michael Gray also wrote an excellent guest-article, "Sacrificing spells for the story," about those roleplayers out there who are so very immersive in their roleplaying experience that they will ignore certain spells entirely if those spells don't fit with their overall vision of who they want their character to be. A holy priest may ignore shadow spells, or a shadow priest may ignore healing spells -- they may never even train them at all! It seems crazy from a gameplay perspective, but Michael treats the subject with an even hand and shows how for some people it makes perfect sense.

Matthew Rossi, as usual, broke the mould in his guest-piece with an awesome introduction to something few of us ever thought of doing: "RP on a non-RP server." With his wit and casual style, he showed us that roleplaying is something you gotta just believe in -- when you get into character, put yourself out there and have a good time, chances are people will get caught up in it with you to one degree or another and come along for the ride. It's proof that roleplaying isn't something that happens because there are RP servers -- it happens because people put some passion and creativity into it to make it happen.

The ongoing series on roleplaying your race and class within the lore of World of Warcraft has been the most popular set of articles in All the World's a Stage, because it meets a real need that roleplayers have. There are lots of things a player needs to know about the lore in his or her character's background in order to roleplay well; otherwise you find other roleplayers at best don't know what to say to your character, or at worst -- heaven forbid -- look down upon you with all manner of harsh criticisms. So this series of lore-guides for roleplayers, not to far from completion now, aims to collect the basic info they need to roleplay well into one concise place, and give us a chance to discuss it. It's really hard to be concise sometimes, because the lore is so intense in many places, but there are always interesting opportunities to reflect on our characters' histories and get a better idea of what it might be like to live life in their shoes. After all, that's what roleplaying is all about.

I'll leave you with one of the articles that I enjoyed writing most, because it showed me how sometimes the art of roleplaying teaches you something about life in general. Sometimes just acting out your fantasy character in WoW encourages you to understand new concepts, gain new skills, develop new attitudes, and acquire more positive qualities in a way that actually improves your real life -- it gives you this amazing "Wow!" feeling that makes you glad you play this game. That happened for me when I reflected on some things and realized that neither my character, nor myself, are ever the "Center of the universe."

All the World's a Stage actually began with a special three-part series of articles, called "WoW is a Work of Art" which eventually got expanded to become a major part of David's Master's thesis in his university. But the first post in the actual column was called "All the World's a Stage: and all the orcs and humans merely players," when at first it seemed like it might be possible to make every post's title another witty spoof of a quote from Shakespeare. (As you can see here, titles haven't always been so easy to write!)
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