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All the World's A Stage: If someone asks you if you're a god ...

Anne Stickney

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. In World of Warcraft, that player is you! Each week, Anne Stickney brings you All the World's a Stage with helpful hints, tips and tricks on the art of roleplay in WoW.

Last week, we talked about the perplexing perfection of the Mary Sue and how to spot whether or not you're creating that type of character. While Mary Sue characters can be irritating, it's easy enough to ignore a player who isn't up to your standards of roleplay. After all, wherever there is a good universe to work in, you're generally going to find a handful or two of Mary Sues, blissfully wandering around and generally oblivious to the world around them.

It's those players who step over the lines of polite interaction that tend to cause more irritation among roleplayers. Godmoding, or powergaming as it's sometimes called, is pretty much what it sounds like -- playing god. Though Mary Sues can sometimes create characters that are invincible or extraordinarily powerful, there's a difference between Mary Sues and godmoders. While Mary Sues can be content with keeping their immense powers largely to themselves, godmoders will attempt to manipulate the world around them -- including the actions of other roleplayers.

How does godmoding work?

There are a few different types of godmoding, from minor to major. The most minor of these lies in the RP descriptions that people write for the characters that they play. When writing out a description, you're supposed to describe what a person viewing that character would see. When you start adding quips along the lines of "A chill runs down your spine and you shudder in fear at the sight of this fearsome creature," you're taking the reaction away from the observer and writing it yourself. That's essentially what godmoding is -- altering the universe around your character, with no regard for the reactions of those around you.

The most drastic kind of godmoding comes in roleplay, particularly in combat. When playing out combat situations, the godmoder will write out the results of his actions without consulting whomever he happens to be roleplaying with. An example:
/em cries out in fury, drawing his sword and charging at you. You crumple at his assault and lie in the street dying as he walks away, the problem having been dealt with.
What makes this godmoding isn't the fight itself; it's that the person taking an action isn't waiting to see what the other player's reaction is -- he's simply writing it out for the other player. This completely takes away any kind of freedom for the other roleplayer to respond. By doing this, the roleplayer is escaping any repercussions for his actions.

Players who profess to be all-powerful, omniscient, or otherwise at a distinct advantage over other roleplayers can also be a source of godmoding. If a player uses out-of-character knowledge to try and manipulate other characters around him, it falls under godmoding, because it's really not something that player's character should be intimately familiar with.

Not every powerful character falls under the godmoding label, however. If it's a case in which that character has a distinct advantage because of his or her knowledge and there are no repercussions for having that knowledge, that's generally where the line is crossed from roleplaying into godmoding.

And then there are the players who godmode by simply stepping in. Common examples are roleplayers who run into an inn and then declare that they've set it on fire, or roleplayers who will walk up to random characters and emote punching, hitting, or otherwise touching them for no reason whatsoever, or roleplayers who state that they've killed major lore characters -- for example, a character who claims he is the one who dealt the final blow to Illidan, the Lich King, or Kael'thas.

In most of these cases, it's simply a matter of roleplayers looking for attention and thinking that this is the best way to go about getting it. They don't understand that what they are doing is disruptive or wrong; they just want to roleplay any way that they can.

How do I deal with a godmoder?

Some godmoders are easier to deal with than others. In the case of godmoding RP descriptions, I don't really recommend that you ignore these players outright. Some of them may be quite good at RP, and their godmoding may be restricted to their descriptions, nothing more. Check the rest of their description, and if the writing is the kind of quality you like, give them a shot. It's better to be polite than unkind, after all. If you happen to make a new friend, you can gently point out what needs adjusting in their description, cross your fingers, and hope they don't get offended. If it's a friend of yours who has done this, then there shouldn't be a problem with politely bringing up the fact that his description seems to be falling towards godmoding.

As for those who tend toward being disruptive, like setting an inn on fire or slapping your character out of nowhere, it's up to you whether or not you ignore those actions. However, if you do choose to do so, sending an out-of-character whisper to the player and explaining why you are ignoring their actions is the polite thing to do. If they refuse to leave, you can continue to ignore them -- and if they get too disruptive or abusive, you can report them. I don't really recommend reporting someone unless he's harassing or being deliberately abusive, but in extreme cases, it may be warranted. The general rule of thumb is if the player is deliberately interfering with your gameplay in order to annoy you, it's probably a good time to report.

For characters who profess to be all-knowing, having an out-of-character chat with the player behind that character can help clear the air. If you aren't comfortable with that player's character knowing intimate details about your character's life, say so. More importantly, ask why he is using that out-of-character knowledge -- is there a specific reason, or is it just to make his character somehow "better"? If he protests or tries to continue roleplaying after you've told him you aren't comfortable with it, it might be a good idea to put him on ignore.

In the case of godmoders who attack you and harm your character without giving you a chance to respond to their actions, again, you can choose to simply ignore them, but a whisper explaining why is polite. Before you up and ignore these players, though, it may be worth it to ask them why they did what they did -- especially if the attack was completely unwarranted in your eyes.

Making a fight fair

Conflict, combat, and RP is a tricky topic, because there's no really elegant way to do it. It's one thing for a character to beat up a mob while questing or a boss in a dungeon; it's another thing entirely when that character is fighting another character. So how do you fight in roleplay without running the risk of godmoding?

Establish limits Before you even think about engaging in a fight with another roleplayer, think about what your limits are as far as fighting goes. Is it okay if your character gets hurt? Is it okay if he gets wounded, lose a limb or are otherwise scarred? Is it okay if he dies? Knowing what you're comfortable with in regards to your character is just as important as making sure you aren't stepping on the other player's toes.

Open communication Talk to the person you're fighting with out of character, and find out what their limits are. Is he okay with getting wounded, scarred, losing or potentially dying? Yes, this takes a lot of the freeform out of the RP. But in a game where you easily get attached to the character you play, you may not want to risk losing that character in a silly random battle, especially if you've poured a substantial amount of time into developing that character. The same goes for the person you're roleplaying with.

Battle plans If you and the other player are in agreement, you can plan out the fight in as much detail as you like. You can nitpick down to the fine details if you choose, but I've found the best way to keep as much freedom in the RP as possible is to simply agree on the end of the fight. "Okay, both characters will walk away alive, but your character is going to hurt mine, and it's going to lay him up for a few days." Once you've agreed on final outcome of the battle, you can play the fight out whatever way you like, as long as the ending is the one you agreed on. This leaves a lot more room to play with.

Roll the dice If you're wanting really random battles and you don't care about the outcome so much, use the built-in dice. When one character attempts to attack the other, both players can simply type /roll 10, and whoever has the higher number has the upper hand. Since the results are completely up to the dice, this guarantees a "fair" fight in that neither player really has an advantage in the situation. Just make sure your opponent isn't using loaded dice!

Dueling The dueling system in game can also be used to solve roleplay conflicts -- but it's not really the most fair way to go about it. A roleplayer may not have any experience at all in PvP. Or one player may vastly outgear the other. Or one player may vastly outlevel the other. That said, if both players are okay with dueling to solve an issue, go right ahead! Actually using abilities and spells can be a lot of fun -- and if you want to make the ground a little more equal, fight in RP gear that doesn't give you any stat advantage. A rousing bout of fisticuffs can be a lot more fun than simply typing out emotes!

Addons There used to be a really neat addon out there called Rollcraft that was specifically designed for in-game fighting between characters. To my knowledge, it hasn't been updated for Cataclysm, and I haven't been able to find any other addons specifically for roleplaying fights. With that in mind, if anyone has any addon suggestions for combat situations, feel free to comment on this post and fill us all in!

Correction vs. condemnation

When dealing with godmoding players, keep in mind that more often than not, they don't even realize what they're doing is wrong. Much like Mary Sues, godmoders are often roleplayers who simply don't have a lot of experience with RP. The roleplay community of WoW is relatively small, and I think that all players should be given a chance to get into roleplay. It's better to foster correct roleplay than to shut people out of the community altogether. The more the merrier, after all!

With that thought, rather than simply shutting down players you observe godmodding, taking the time to sit down and talk to them about what they are doing and why people are offended by it is often a better tactic. Much like instances and raids, players respond a lot better to constructive criticism than abuse -- if they're doing something wrong, it's better to point it out and offer suggestions on correcting the problem. The worst that can happen is that they'll end up ignoring you in the process -- but you can't say you didn't try.

In the end, it all comes down to being considerate to your fellow roleplayers. Situations that involve godmoding can quickly become heated, so keep a cool head, an objective mind, and try to come to a resolution that will make both sides happy.

And if somebody asks you if you're a god ... just say no.

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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