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All the World's a Stage: Roleplaying groups, government and organizations

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.

We're going to take a break (just a little one, I promise!) from the plot point series this week, because I've had something else on my mind that I wanted to chat about. Roleplaying isn't really a solo activity. You can roleplay by yourself, but that's hardly any fun at all, unless you're writing fan fiction or something along those lines. It's a social activity -- and generally speaking, the more people you have involved, the more fun it has the potential of creating.

Roleplay guilds are one way to guarantee you've got a group of like-minded roleplayers, whether your guild is a themed guild centered on a particular plot or simply a handy collection of players who would like to RP. But sometimes you don't want to join a guild for one reason or another, yet you'd still like the camaraderie that roleplay has to offer. What do you do at that point? How can you be social without the hassle of being in a guild? The answer is organized activity -- the sort that doesn't require a guild tag to participate.

Organized roleplay is limited only to what your imagination will allow -- the possibilities are endless. Today we're going to look at a small handful of different types of situations, what you can expect, how to plan them and what stumbling blocks you might find along the way. It's a small handful, but feel free to leave comments with suggestions of your own if you've got them!

Special occasions

Have a favorite in-game holiday that you'd like to celebrate? Why not organize an event around it? Favorite events that I've seen or participated in include masquerade or dress-up events for Hallow's End, truly gigantic feasts for Pilgrim's Bounty or Winter's Veil, or even gift exchanges for Winter's Veil. I've seen organized orphan runs to exotic locations for Children's Week and date auctions for the Love is in the Air festival. All it takes is a holiday and some planning and promoting -- and maybe a few contests to draw people in.

The good The benefit to this kind of event is that it's a one-time activity -- you don't have to do it multiple years in a row if you don't want to. It's a good way to dip your toes into the wonderful world of event planning and see how you like it, but there's no obligation to continue if you find that the event has gotten out of hand. Promote the event on your official realm forums, or if your server has its own dedicated roleplay forum, go that route to drum up some interest.

The bad Watch out for allowing the event to get out of hand or too large for just you to handle. In the case of costume contests or other contests going on during the event, you'll probably want to recruit people to help you; this can sometimes be a pain if people would rather participate than help run things. Offer goodies to those who want to help, and you may find yourself with more volunteers than you can handle. Make sure you've got a good location picked out, one that isn't so far away that low-level roleplayers can't reach it, but one that isn't in the middle of a busy area where you might find yourself griefed by non-roleplayers during the event.

The ugly Remember the griefers? That's something you have to watch out for no matter what kind of event you're planning. Luckily, Blizzard has a report function, and reporting people for roleplay griefing on a roleplay server is perfectly appropriate. Another thing you may find are people who are annoyed about the outcome of any contests you may run. Make sure you have a group of neutral judges to do the judging at any contest you happen to be running, just to make sure results are fair.

Scheduled events

Scheduled events are activities that happen on a scheduled basis, be it once a week or once a month. Some examples I've seen on various roleplaying servers include fishing excursions (weekly events where people just sit down, fish, and chat in character about what's been going on in their lives); scouting events where players go to lower-level zones, do the quests contained in those zones and roleplay them out as they go; or historical tours where players are escorted through an area and given a tour of the history of that particular area. Storytelling circles are also a frequently popular activity.

The good The nice part about events like these is that they happen on a regular basis, so people can attend and keep coming back if they like how the event was handled. On the planning side, no contests are necessary for events like these, and you can easily run them on your own, with perhaps an assistant to fill in if needed. The roleplay during the event need not center around the event itself -- but perhaps a bit of history revealed during a tour will affect one character differently than another, or perhaps something interesting will be revealed during a regular fishing conversation. The point of these events is to give an excuse for a large gathering of roleplayers, and then let the resulting roleplay fall where it may.

The bad Eventually, you're going to run out of locations. Thankfully, World of Warcraft is so huge right now that it's unlikely that'll happen any time soon. You may not have as large of a group as you'd like at first. Don't worry. With events like these, word slowly gets around, especially if it's a good event. You will be tied to a schedule, and you'll have to meet that schedule, so it's a bigger obligation than a simple holiday event. Make sure you've got time in your schedule to do this kind of activity before you set it up and start it going -- or make sure you've got a willing assistant to fill in if you find yourself suddenly having to miss a week or two due to real-life obligations.

The ugly These events are fairly low-key on the ugly front, but you still have to watch for griefing, though it's not as likely at a weekly event as it is at a one-time holiday bash. With events like these, roleplayers may not know each other or be familiar with individual styles of play; patience is key. You may end up with a mix of experienced, seasoned roleplayers and roleplayers who are completely new to the scene and simply want to experience some roleplay. This can create sparks, so establish some rules about treating players with respect at the outset. Keep an eye on the roleplay, and moderate if things are getting out of hand.

Leveling groups

These kinds of gatherings can be fun but tricky to pull off successfully. The point of a leveling group is that everyone is leveling at the same speed -- and there's usually some kind of a common theme that unites the levelers as one group. I've seen groups that consist of all one race, groups that are united under a common banner, or even groups that have unique rules like only wearing gray or green gear, using a common naming convention, or sticking to a certain continent or area for leveling. It's all up to you!

The good What's fun about these groups is that you progress at exactly the speed you set. Since everyone is leveling in the same area, it immediately gives you a common subject to talk about while roleplaying. This makes it an ideal kind of situation for beginning roleplayers, because there's no question as to what to talk about. If they're at a loss for subject material, they can just look at the latest series of quests that were completed. Experienced roleplayers may enjoy the challenge of combining leveling and roleplaying, as well.

The bad The biggest problem with leveling groups is that if you wish to add dungeons into the mix, you're automatically limited in group size and class. You'll need at least one tank and one healer, and then there are just three spots left. Other headaches can include scheduling -- trying to find a common time when everyone can be online and leveling at once. You can try to fit leveling time into everyone's schedule, or you can simply set a limit for weekly leveling (like no more than five levels a week), and then schedule a group meeting at the end of the week that everyone can sit down and attend.

The ugly The main problem with a leveling group is that you are restricted to the slowest leveler in your group. Some people level quickly; others take their time. It's up to you as organizer to set a pace that is challenging but not too overwhelming. The other thing to watch for is to make sure that you don't have a superman out there leveling faster than everyone else is. The whole point of the activity, after all, is to level together -- that's what everyone is in the group for!

Government organizations

This is an extremely tricky topic, and honestly, as far as I'm concerned, this is one of those areas that you shouldn't touch unless you're an experienced roleplayer with an excellent grasp on lore and on keeping drama mamas in check. Each race in World of Warcraft has its own structure for government and ruling, and some players like to create government groups -- organized groups that set laws and do other "important" tasks in the day-to-day lives of their respective capital cities. In some extreme cases, I've seen groups or entire guilds dedicated to running a fictional government for a fictional kingdom that doesn't actually exist in lore.

The good It's not necessarily a bad idea, and it does manage to draw a group together. Not only that, but it offers a chance to dig a little deeper into the lore of the game. You can examine just what makes a city or a government tick. Taking a position on a council or otherwise noble circle of government can be fun -- and again, it gives that group of roleplayers something common to talk about. Running a government offers a chance to set up established rules and ranks, giving roleplayers a structured path to follow. Some roleplayers thrive under that kind of structure.

The bad Any time you dabble in anything considered major lore, you're going to be dealing with potential headaches. There are those out there who consider the lore to be a sacred thing, and they may look down on any attempt to run or "control" it. There are those out there who laugh at the thought of a fictional kingdom and consider the whole concept ridiculous. This is what you are going to have to deal with if you start one of these organizations. Some people may be fine with what you are doing and wish to participate; others will refuse to acknowledge that your government structure or fictional kingdom event exists. None of these are bad -- everyone's got their own beliefs when it comes to roleplaying -- but you are limiting your group's interaction with others, and you need to keep that in mind when you set up something like this.

The ugly Your government isn't real, and your fictional kingdom isn't real -- not in established lore, and not in the eyes of roleplayers who follow that established lore. What you have to consider when you create a group like this is the fact that there is a line between running a fictional government and godmodding. The moment you try and influence players that are not in your group and force them to follow whatever rules you made up within your group, you are godmodding -- and that's something that should be avoided at all costs. The problem with a group like this is that it is intrinsically exclusive; you can't include those that don't follow your rule set. You may run into people who will simply ignore whatever roleplay you have to offer, because that roleplay doesn't fit into established lore. It's something to keep in mind. If you're okay with this, then go ahead and put together your group -- but make sure that all members are also aware of this and on the same page.

In general, the point of creating a roleplaying group, organization or event is to foster roleplay, both for yourself and for those who want to participate. It's a big job -- a lot bigger than you'd think when you first consider putting an event together. If you're looking to get your feet wet with organized roleplay, try a one-time event and see how it goes over and how comfortable you are with running it before trying to create something bigger. Don't bite off more than you can chew.

Make sure you have rules established for whatever type of event you are creating and that all participants are on the same page. More importantly, make sure that participants are following those rules -- and if they aren't, do something about it! Keep in mind the limits of your roleplay, and don't try to force an event or organization on those who don't wish to participate. Roleplay should be a social activity, but it should never be a forced activity. It should be fun! So go out there and have fun with it.

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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