Now, I'm well aware that on RP servers people raid in character all the time, and have elaborate mechanisms in place for how to do it. That's fairly awesome, but as I said, I'm not on an RP server. So when at 2 AM last week I floated the idea to some friends that we raid Naxx - 10 as our characters, I expected to get shot down. I've managed to for... er, I mean encourage roleplaying when running people's alts through BRD or what have you through sheer force of personality before, but I knew that people often view raiding as very serious business and furthermore, people who don't RP often get uncomfortable with the idea and try and play it off as weird to actually pretend to be the digital avatar you're spending all that time and effort getting pretty pixels to wear.
Luckily, perhaps due to my deranged enthusiasm, perhaps due to the raucous nature of my friends and their friends (some of which I didn't even know) we ended up with nine people willing to drag some toon or another through Naxxramas in the spirit of the thing.
The first rule of roleplaying a raid with people who've never done it before is commit, commit, commit. As the defacto raid leader, I had to stay in character every second, even when distributing loot. Since we were using vent, this meant I felt the need to actually come up with a voice for my tauren after almost three years of playing him. I went with as close to Ron Perlman as I could get, which really isn't all that close. Since I already knew that his personality is fairly naive, calm and friendly, I simply did all of the loot as if I was everyone in the raid's big brother. "Now, Killazan, do you really need that pair of shoes? You're a troll, after all. I know how it is, I can't keep the bottoms on my shoes either."
Turns out yes, Killazan did need the shoes. I think. Honestly, I couldn't understand the astonishingly thick accent her player came up with but thankfull dice rolls don't have accents.
When calling out polarity shifts on Thaddius, when calling out interrupts on Kel'Thuzad, when distributing loot, even when asking for a res because I got excited and Bladestormed in the middle of a trash pull and died, at all times I had to try and keep that calm, unshakable and as deep and gruff as I could get it voice going. Frankly, one of the things I've noticed in my time playing the game is that often, the biggest barrier to roleplaying is the fear of embarrasment. When people see that you're not only not going to make fun of them but are willing to be made fun of yourself, their discomfort level goes down and their inner ham comes out.
Face it: everyone loves a little spotlight now and again. We're not all good actors, but we're all willing to be the center of attention from time to time, even if it is by busting up the entire raid by trying to stealth in and pick an abomination's pockets.
"Hey, I do it all the time in Undercity."
"Do you always die horribly when you do it in Undercity?"
"Sometimes the abominations decide I'm cute and rename me George, but thankfully they have really bad short term memories."
Another thing to consider when improvising RP of this sort is, run with other people, not over them. David's talked about Mary Sue before and in this concept it's important to remember that you can't just declare yourself the super awesome king-god master of all you survey, especially since the mobs are only concerned with whether you can kill them or not. Also, try not to push any ideas that will really annoy other players, and be willing to back off if you do anyway. In the three late night runs I've managed since this idea came to me, one player (a rogue) really didn't like the shadow priest's insistence that they went to school together and that the rogue did poorly in every subject. Thankfully they worked it out by the rogue's insistence that the Shadow Priest was just jealous that when he died, at least no one had strapped his head together, but it could have ended poorly.
There's also the fact that you have to buckle down sometimes to consider. Sure, you want to try and keep in character and have fun, but at the same time, if you actually want to kill things and someone calls out "He's casting, get ready to move away from each other" then it's time to do that if you really want to get to loot him. There's plenty of good rp reasons why you wouldn't stand next to someone with a negative charge when you're positively charged, but in the end you don't actually have to come up with one at the time.
Honestly, I have a lot of fun when I can actually get one of these runs together, which is sadly not terribly frequently. I think it's possible to get too caught up in stats, balancing gear, DPS or threat per second or healing throughput and stop playing the actual game because you're playing a statistical metagame the whole time. Do we have the tanks? The healers? How's our DPS? Can we take down Thaddius before the enrage timer?
It turned out yes, we could, after six attempts, but not with nine people. We had to for... gently encourage a friend who was about to log off to come in, and thankfully he was game enough that he did the entire fight as a sea captain. Yes, that's right, hearing someone yell "Ahrrr, ye lubbers are gonna feel me hunger for blood!" as he hits the Bloodlust button can make you actually hurt yourself laughing, I now know from experience. No, no one knows how a tauren shaman ended up as a sea captain, but it was a fast and easy character hook and it worked out. And his improvised sea shanties (mostly involving rolling grass and kodo's and bottles of rum) were an instant hit over vent. "I'm an old sea dog from the vast Mulgore sea so step out of the shadow fissure or ye'll answer to me, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum if you die to the floor then I'm calling ye dumb!" There was more swearing, but this is an all ages blog.
I heartily encourage anyone, even people who have never roleplayer, who aren't on RP servers, and who don't know the first thing about it to take a vacation from the 'serious business' of raiding once in a while, put on some character (you've been playing that guy how long? You must have some ideas for what he's like) and do a run through the Obsidian Sanctum, Naxx or even Maly. I mean, Ulduar's coming out soon, why not kick back and relax while you may? You may discover you're actually a sea captain or that abominations like to cuddle you and stroke you and call you George.
Hey, I got a nice walking stick out of it, and laughed myself sick. That's pretty much all you can ask for, right? Well, okay, I'd also like a pony, but those alliance jerks are hoarding all the ponies. Luckily, I know a sea captain I think I can convince to help me liberate a few. For The Horde in character sounds like a fun use of an afternoon.