Wasteland Diaries: Roleplaying Beyond Thunderdome

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|03.19.10

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Wasteland Diaries: Roleplaying Beyond Thunderdome
It's the end of the world and I feel fine. Actually, better than fine. I feel flippin' fantastic! I'm free to pursue any course, achieve greatness, carve out my niche and kill things with impunity. And I'm going to pass the time getting together with other Wastelanders and put on a little community play for the locals!

Wait, what?

Wasteland Diaries is not always about the joys of mass murder and uparmored cars -- there's also a softer underbelly of this column that needs lotion and care. Fallen Earth is a terrific place to game, for sure, but it's also experienced a rise in an activity that many assume belongs strictly in the fantasy genre: roleplaying.

This week I want to peek in on those rascally actors who are injecting the post-apocalyptic world with flavor and verve. Roleplay is not just for elves and fairy princes; gruff men and women sporting biker leather and a sawed-off shotgun have thrown their creative talents into the pot as well.

Roleplay: Easier Than You Might Think

I'm going to make a pretty bold statement here: roleplaying in Fallen Earth is far easier than in many of its MMO counterparts. How come? Most other MMO worlds take place in a completely fabricated setting or one derived from an IP. In either case, they have a load of baggage in the form of lore and language that have to be learned before you can slip into roleplay without sticking out like a sore thumb. Some players find "fantasy speak" intimidating and are prone to either overdoing it or not doing it enough. Others have difficulty injecting their personality into a character in a world that is vastly different from our own.

See where I'm going with this? For all intents and purposes, Fallen Earth's world is our world. Sure, it's the future and has a bit of an "alternate timeline" thing going, but the people are more or less like us. Objects are familiar, places are familiar, and characters speak just like we do. Transitioning into roleplay in this setting feels more natural, and -- as a plus -- nobody's expecting you to master words with an overabundance of apostrophes or drawn from King James English.

"Get thine hands off mine dune buggy! Forsooth!" Pshaw, forget that! A hearty "Buzz off, scum!" will do just fine.

Don't take my word for it either -- Fallen Earth won a Massively staff award for Best Capacity for Roleplay in a 2009 MMO just a few months ago. Our own Shawn Schuster testified that "Fallen Earth was made for roleplayers, as the world is just so open-ended. What better place to rewrite the plot of the world than a game where it's all been wiped out?"

RP Your Way To Weight Loss

So if Fallen Earth's world is pretty much like ours, then isn't everyone RPing just by playing the game? No, not really. The fundamental point of roleplaying is to create a character that isn't you -- although her or she may certainly share qualities -- and, y'know, "playing" a "role" in that world. In some cases, the character could be utterly unlike you; you may be a shy person, but the character is played as bold and brash.

Think of your toon as a character in a book you're writing. The looks are already set, via the character creator and gear (although you may outfit your avatar according to what you'd think he or she would wear). So instead, focus on three things: background, personality and motivation.

For your background, keep it simple, make it memorable, and don't go overboard. How did your character get to be where they are now? Sure, everyone's a clone, but what happened before that, before the end of the world? Were you a farmer? An abandoned orphan? A disgraced rock star who's slumming it in the gutters?

My rule of thumb when it comes to personality of any characters I write is to pick two defining traits on which to focus. Cheerful and resilient. Grumpy and selfish. Angry and heroic. Shifty and snarky. The traits can be complimentary or they can be at odds with each other (I find the latter make more interesting, three-dimensional people). It may help to pick a faction that your character identifies with and figure out how they might fit in with that subculture as well.

Finally, your character needs some sort of motivation for the future. Why do they feel the need to progress through the zones instead of just staying at Midway and working at a store? What's driving them forward? Maybe it is a need for redemption, a quest for riches, a curious mind looking to solve the mysteries of this broken world, or even revenge.

The key is to get all of this in your head so that while you play it, it's like you're writing the novel of this character's story just by going through the game. The more you internalize his or her background, personality and motivation, the more natural it will be to express that through your character's actions and speech.

Fallen Earth RP Resources

If you'd like to learn more about RP or hook up with an RP clan, here are a few places I'd recommend checking out:

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