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All the World's a Stage: Time for a roleplaying reboot

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. Have questions about roleplaying, or roleplaying issues? Email me -- I'm always open to suggestions!

A few weeks ago, we discussed what you can do when a roleplayer in your social circle suddenly transfers servers, takes a break, or quits the game entirely. It's a sad situation, but it does happen, and knowing how to handle it when it happens can be useful information. But above and beyond the need for figuring out character situations when a character has left is another possibility. What if your character was so involved with the character who left that trying to compensate for the loss of your friend seems like an impossibility?

Or what if you've written yourself into a corner, and you can't seem to find your way out of it? What if your character isn't what you had in mind when you began playing it? What if your character really isn't getting along with anyone else, leaving you alone with no roleplay in sight? What if your character doesn't make you as happy to play as you thought he would? There's no point in playing a character that makes you unhappy, and playing a character who makes you miserable can leech into real-life situations and moods, whether you'd like it to or not. If you're just not happy with how your character has turned out, it may be time for a reboot.

When it's time

It's hard to come to that decision, especially if you've put a solid amount of time into developing and playing that character. It's even harder if your character still has friends or family that you relate to or plots that you're involved in. Before you decide to reboot, ask yourself -- is it the character that's making me unhappy, or the situation that he happens to be in right now? If it's the situation, that's going to be a temporary problem and one you can solve through RP -- figure out how to get him out of it, and take steps to do so.

Storylines Storylines are temporary, and they aren't meant to drag on forever. If a storyline isn't making you happy, talk to the other players involved and see how they feel about what's going on. Chances are, if you're bored or unhappy, they may very well be bored and unhappy too -- and they'll be more than willing to come together and find a way to get out of the current storyline and into a new one that will make everyone happy.

Relationships This is a little trickier. People can sometimes get attached to people they roleplay with, especially if the two characters involved are in a relationship of some sort. Whether married or just dating, those two characters exist as central parts in each other's stories, whether you like it or not. If you aren't happy with the relationship aspect of your character's life, you need to sit down with the other player involved and let him or her know. Again, if you aren't happy, your partner might not be happy either -- and working out a way to resolve the situation should be something that's handled through discussion, not by simply up and disappearing.

You may encounter some resistance if there's out-of-character attachment lurking behind that in-character relationship. If this is the case, be gentle, be kind, but be firm about where you stand in the situation. An in-character split leaves both sides potential for all kinds of roleplay, but roleplaying a breakup may be difficult to do. Figure out what would work best for both you and the person you're roleplaying with, and see if that situation can be salvaged.

Reputations Sometimes characters get a bad reputation -- a reputation of being a villain or a bad person, no matter how hard you try to roleplay otherwise. Or you may suddenly come to the conclusion that the reason nobody is playing with you is because you've unwittingly written a Mary Sue without realizing it. Or your character may have accidentally offended one of the more popular characters on the server. If you feel that your character's bad rep is unwarranted, try talking to those who think your character is somehow "bad" and figure out why they feel that way. Sometimes all it takes is an out-of-character apology and explanation of your character's bad behavior to set things right.

You'll note the common theme here is talking. Roleplaying is all about communication, whether it's in-character chatting or out-of-character discussion. Up and disappearing without a trace can leave a lot of people hanging, so if you're considering a reboot, you want to let people know and write some sort of ending for your character. But if logging on to your character and playing through his life isn't making you happy, it's probably high time that you shelve him altogether and start from scratch. You pay $15 a month to play the game -- you should be getting enjoyment out of that $15, not frustration, anger, or sorrow.

Reboot the outer you

Once you've made the decision to reboot your character, it's time to start from scratch. Back in vanilla and before the days of paid services, the only "real" way to reboot your character was by simply rolling a new one and leveling from the ground up. This may not be an appealing option to level 85 players who have spent a lot of time leveling and gearing their characters. Thankfully, you've got some options now that make a reboot relatively quick and painless.
  • Barber shop The barber shop is ideal for those who don't want to spend any real-life money on a reboot. Simply visit the barbershop in one of your local cities, change your character's hairstyle, accessories, and hair color, and you're good to go. If you take this route, keep in mind your character will have the same name floating over his or her head -- and you may have to explain the change in appearance as a complete character change to those you roleplay with.
  • Name change Back in 2007, Blizzard introduced the paid character name change service. It costs $10 to change your name from whatever it is to whatever you want it to be. This, combined with a trip to the barbershop, can give your character a fresh start with an entirely different name and a different appearance to go with that entirely new character you're creating.
  • Character re-customization If you'd like to change your character's face and skin tone, the character re-customization service can allow you to do that. The cost is $15, and it includes a name change. Paying for this option will let you go back to the character creation screen you saw when you first made your character and make any adjustments you want -- even allowing you to switch from a male to a female character or vice versa.
  • Race change If you really want to make a brand new start, changing your character's race may be right up your alley. Tired of playing a dwarf? Race change him to a human and start from square one! This service costs $25, but it includes everything in the character re-customization process. You can change gender, name, appearance, everything -- including race. The only drawback to this option is that if you are playing an Alliance character, you will remain Alliance. If you are playing Horde, you will remain Horde.
  • Faction change In 2009, Blizzard introduced the faction change service. Much like every other character customization service available, this includes a gender, race, name, and appearance change -- but it also allows you to switch from Alliance to Horde and vice versa. The cost is $30 for this service. Keep in mind that if you wish to switch factions, your achievements, mounts, and reputations are going to switch with you -- and you may lose some reputations in the process. Thankfully, Blizzard's got a handy guide to faction changes and what exactly will change available on its website, so you can check out the list before you make the leap and see if it's something you really want to do.
  • Re-roll The last option is to simply re-roll. If you aren't particularly attached to the fact that your character is a higher-level character, if you don't really care about achievements or items he may have gotten, maybe it's time to try making a different character altogether. This option also allows you to change your character's class -- something that isn't a paid option and probably never will be. With this option, you've got the freedom to make whatever race you want, whatever class you want, on whatever faction you want, without paying a dime. You'll have to level your way up the ladder to 85 again, but leveling in Cataclysm has been streamlined and made much less of a grind -- and with heirloom items available to assist with the leveling process, getting to level 85 can be pretty painless.
Reboot the inner you

The other part of a reboot is the background and story behind that character. The character creation process should be one you're familiar with already -- coming up with an appropriate backstory and fitting your character into the Warcraft timeline are things that we've already covered, along with avoiding the dread Mary Sue syndrome. But what you really want to put focus on and take a good long look at are the things that made you unhappy playing your previous character.

Those things are the things you want to avoid when creating your new character, so you've got to identify them and make that change from the ground up. Was your character's attitude too sullen or obnoxious to get you any RP? Try creating a character with a happier set of circumstances. Did relationships get in the way of enjoying RP? Maybe you should look at creating a character with an established relationship to someone -- not a player character, an NPC, or someone off the scenes who never really has to come into play, someone put into place simply to take your character "off the market." Was it a storyline involving a particular issue that played heavily in your character's life? Avoid using that issue when creating your new character, and try something else on.

The most important thing to do when rebooting a character is to let the people you roleplay with know what's going on and what you are doing. If you are taking your character out of an existing storyline that people are playing through, tell them you are doing so. If you are removing a character from a relationship, let the other player in that relationship know that you are doing it.

Create an ending for your character. Whether it's a dramatic and honorable death or a simple, quiet retirement to the middle of nowhere, give other players in your social circle an end to your character's story that they can work with. It'll give your friends the closure they need, and it'll give you the closure you need, too -- the ability to close the book detailing your character's life. This will allow you to restart without questioning what else could have happened to him if you'd only stuck around.

The decision to reboot isn't really one that should be taken lightly. It's not just your character you're rebooting; you're also changing the lives of the other characters he's interacted with. But if you're not enjoying your character's time in Azeroth, sometimes it's better for his time wandering the world to come to an end and another person's story to begin.

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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