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All the World's a Stage: How Blizzard supports roleplay


"Blizzard doesn't support roleplay."

I'm not pointing any fingers, but I come across that statement from time to time. The phrase usually shows up when someone's getting their disgruntled on about how Blizzard clearly never enforces the roleplay naming policy. But you also see this phrase get trotted out when someone wants to illustrated how you rarely see a "content patch" focused on roleplay issues or such.

The phrase tires me out whenever I see it. It's a rather hackneyed complaint that presumes a whole lot about why people play the game, why they roleplay and even how they roleplay. In some MMORPGs, you can barely interact with the environment and spend the whole time in a single pose or two. In Dark Age of Camelot, I'm pretty sure we could only sit or stand. But I have great memories of roleplaying in DAoC.

But, still, it might help if we took the time to review some ways in which Blizzard does support roleplay. If we can count some of our blessings, we might have a better idea of their existence.

Someplace to sit

It might not seem like much, but there are a lot of places you can simply sit down on a bench or chair. You can pull up a seat at a table. While this little touch is fairly meaningless to raiders or PvP players, the simple ability to park your kiester means all the world to a roleplayer.

The racial sit emotes would look silly for serious, serious conversations. When you're talking over deep and meaningful angst, it really helps to park your bottom on an actual chair. There's just a sense of gravitas associated with taking a load off your tired dogs and focusing on what your roleplaying partner has to say. I'm thankful for the ability to sit.

Upper floors

In the same token as having someplace to sit, you'll find many inns and buildings in capital cities and questing zones are endowed with a second floor. You run upstairs to see a bed, bookcase and other sundry trappings of an "upstairs." And pretty often, there's not any actual point to that floor. It's just there for ambiance and flavor.

Really, though, almost all the things in the game that are simply "ambiance and flavor" are roleplay things. Raiders and PvP players might not think of these things as escapist trappings, but experienced roleplayers should understand that anything that enhances immersion is helping to convey a roleplay atmosphere.

Books to read

Most of the books sitting around actually support important World of Warcraft lore. Other books, however, are just quirky little pieces of background. Lore and roleplay are intrinsically tied together. You can't have an actor without a setting; similarly, you can't have roleplay without a convincing universe in which to interact.

Still, I like the idea of characters hanging out and reading. It's little bits of news and story to talk about, especially if you're the kind of roleplayer who avoids talking about quests. (Some folks do that to avoid the problem wherein you killed Arthas, and he killed Arthas, and she killed Arthas -- but none of you killed him at the same time.)

Vanity pets

Vanity pets aren't likely to be the keystone to raising your roleplay to a whole new level. But these flavorful little buddies do a lot to add color and interest to individual characters. Maybe your dwarf is a kitty-loving kind of guy. Your orc might want to rock out with a roach. Since there are so many different non-combat pets, there's really a lot of opportunity to expand your repertoire.

These vanity pets also serve as great fodder for emote-based roleplay. You can enrich your actions by describing how your pet reacts to the local environment, and of course, how you react to your pet. You can pet them, stroke them and talk to them. Little props always enhance your immersion and interaction, so vanity pets are just awesome.

Roleplay clothing

If you've not cruised around the vendor establishments in Dalaran, I suggest hitting the tailor shops. Within, you'll find a dozen different items for your character, none of which have any bonus stats at all. If the game is simply about getting your stats as high as possible, it would be difficult to explain these items.

But the reality is that roleplay clothing means the world to those of us who just want to play dress up with our characters and hang out in Dalaran. I have a bank alt entirely dedicated to interesting tops and bottoms that aren't soulbound; I make up the occasional new outfit and send it out to whichever character I'm playing at the time.

Naming policy

While I know it's fashionable to complain about Blizzard's not enforcing the naming policy, there are a couple problems with that issue. First, we don't know whether the policy is being supported in any given individual case. Blizzard is made up of rational people, and a rational person gives a transgressor the opportunity to mend his ways. Game masters can't just willy-nilly ban every player who runs afoul of the naming policy. Instead, they must engage the opportunity to educate a new player and help that player find his way into the loving folds of roleplaying.

Second and more importantly, the roleplay server naming policy supports roleplaying because exists in the first place. There are rules about how you can name a character who exists on a roleplay server. And while Blizzard's enforcement of the rules might not be perfect, Blizzard does issue some enforcement. If Blizzard were truly without care or support for the roleplaying environment, it would not do even this much. The simple fact that rules exist shows Blizzard cares.

All the World's a Stage is your source for roleplaying ideas, innovations and ironies. Let us help you imagine what it's like to sacrifice spells for the story, totally immerse yourself in your roleplaying or even RP on a non-RP realm!

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