It will all be new again
This probably goes without saying, but when Cataclysm is released, vast swaths of the game are going to change. And most, if not all, of Azeroth will forever be altered. As Deathwing lays the elemental smackdown on the known world, landscapes will be torn asunder, new quests in new zones, and the whole thing will be a new enchilada.
The raw amount of new and different content will open up hundreds of thousands of new experiences. If we consider roleplay is motivated by a character's interaction with his environment, it's easy to see how tons of new interactions will be opened up. These new opportunities for interpretations and interactions are increased exponentially.
This is the most important thing Cataclysm will bring for our roleplay. The new and different content will give our characters a whole new world to explore again. While you probably won't have same wide-eyed wonder you had when you first explored Azeroth, it will still be a fresh place to experience.
Lots of new characters
Fresh blood is key to roleplay. Especially if your roleplay troupe is predicated on the idea of sitting around a bar, having drinks, and just randomly talking, then adding new characters to that mix is critical. Otherwise, all your stories, dark secrets, painful tragedies, and epic baggage will be displayed and depleted quickly, leaving you nothing to talk about.
And, besides. Goblins and Worgen. Two whole new races will bring a brand new dynamic to roleplaying. You get all the cool "getting to know you" stuff, and who knows what further factions shifts will happen as a result. Draenei are the default "big, tough brute" race right now for the Alliance, for example. When the big, furry wolf-men hit the street, will that stay the same? I can't imagine that it would. And will the displaced draenei warriors be resentful or bitter?
This kind of conflict is the stuff roleplay is made from. Embrace it, and stir that conflict into your stories.
The drums of war
I had hoped Wrath of the Lich King would be a great expansion for the war between Horde and Alliance. And while tensions have certainly increased because of Wrathgate. Wintergrasp has been engaging as Horde/Alliance conflict. However, as necessary balances have changed the game play in the faction zone, Wintergrasp has become a kind of PvP-flavored ping-pong match as much as actual war.
But in Cataclysm, Garrosh will have his day. Does anyone think that lil' Hellscream's going to take control of the Horde, and not find every possible reason to go get some war on? Garrosh isn't a spark in a powderkeg. He's a lit match, doused in lighter fluid, tossed into a powderkeg wrapped in fireworks.
The radical alterations to the lands of Azeroth will make resources finite. The people of the world will be frightened. So, do the math. Finite resources, fear among the populace, and leaders who can't trust each other. Oh yeah, war's coming. And it's going to be awesome.
A sustained, real war between the factions will fuel the vital roleplay that suffuses World of Warcraft. Front line stories, war room stories, tragedy stories. Just about every kind of story imaginable will once again echo through the forums and blogs. Hell, even Casablanca is actually a war story.
Players will be back
In the end, though, the most important thing Cataclysm will bring back to roleplay ... is all the other players. Let's be honest. It's the tail end of an expansion. If you're a raider, you've raided. Icecrown Citadel has been out for six months. It's now the summer; players have stopped logging in to the game. They're out tubing, biking, and playing with puppies.
Without these players around, the game loses a lot of charm. Even roleplaying can't keep self-sustaining interest going if there's nobody around to play with. But, when Cataclysm hits the ground, players will return to the game in groves. They'll be questing, raiding, and most importantly ... roleplaying.
All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. You might wonder what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, or to totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying, or even how to RP on a non-RP server!