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How to keep roleplay fresh in the face of an expansion

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.

Hearing news of an upcoming expansion can be both exciting and frustrating for a roleplayer. Exciting, because of course there's going to be new places to explore, new storylines to consider, new outfits to collect, and of course about a zillion new spots for roleplay. It's frustrating, however, because despite knowing all of this information and getting excited about all the news, there is little that you can actually do in game about said news until the expansion is actually here.

A glut of information about things to come is both a blessing and a curse to a roleplayer for exactly that reason. You yourself may know everything there is to know so far about Mists of Pandaria, but your character is clueless in the meantime. It's the kind of information that can invigorate roleplay or kill it entirely, depending on how you look at it.

What your character is aware of

As a roleplayer, it is your due diligence to make sure that your character doesn't know anything he or she shouldn't immediately have a clue about. So any information regarding new classes, new locations, and new races -- every last bit of it of all that information -- is information that your character isn't going to know about. Nor should he. Giving him that knowledge treads a little too close to godmoding for most people's tastes. But there's another reason not to address that content until you experience it -- the unknown.

Playing with all possibilities of what is to come has the potential to write your character into a corner you can't back out of. The truth is, we really don't know much about what's to come in Mists of Pandaria at all. We haven't gotten the standard big bad villain reveal that we've seen in every expansion to date. Instead, we've got something that feels like the original trailer for World of Warcraft -- a land of conflict and strife, with no particular clue as to what we'll be facing.

Pretending your character knows everything of what is to come is basically presuming that you know what the story of the next expansion is going to be before you get there. We don't have that information -- and while whatever you make up may sound good in the meantime, if the expansion hits and the stories you've expected simply don't occur, your character is going to be left in the lurch as a result.

Incorporating what you can

Instead of focusing on a race we've never encountered and an island we've never seen before, you can choose instead to lead your character down the path that will lead them naturally into the next expansion. In the case of Cataclysm, it was possible that characters familiar with the elements or magic would be aware that something was vaguely amiss, but the true nature of that peril was the unknown factor. We as players knew it was Deathwing, but our hapless characters simply knew something wasn't quite right with the earth, and that was an element that could be played with.

In Mists, despite not knowing what the big bad villain of the expansion is going to be, we do have one bit of pertinent information: There is going to be a larger focus on the conflict between Alliance and Horde. This is something you can quietly begin to work into your character's story. How does he feel about the opposing faction? Has the opposing faction done anything in Cataclysm that particularly sets him off? Is he diligently working toward peace?

There's been news that Theramore will be destroyed at some point in the future. If your character is at all familiar with Theramore, this is something that could have a profound effect on that character once it actually occurs. As Alliance, it's a matter of how often you visit the town, whether you have friends or family that call it their home. As Horde, it's a matter of whether or not your character is aware of Jaina Proudmoore's attempts at peace and how your character feels about that.

It's a subtle kind of guidance, but it will begin to set your character up for some serious roleplay once the expansion comes into play. There's no real need to have your character "know" everything before an expansion launches. You as a player can instead quietly start directing your character down the path that will be most eventful once the expansion arrives.

Beware of burnout

But there's another thing you as a roleplayer have to be wary of when taking new expansion information into consideration. In looking at all of the new stuff that will be available, it's easy to get lost in the excitement of all that information. Getting lost in the excitement is all well and good, but don't forget that this expansion isn't coming immediately. Some players can get so wrapped up in the new expansion news that when they go back to their character in "right now" Azeroth, that character and any current storylines he has in progress simply pales in comparison to the all the new stuff.

This can quickly lead to burnout if you're not careful, not because there's anything wrong with your character's current situation, but because you've just seen the grass on the other side of the fence and it looks amazingly green in comparison. Keep in mind what you are seeing from BlizzCon is just preliminary announcements, and don't get too caught up or invested in that material -- after all, it can change between now and whenever we have that expansion in our hands.

Don't let that excitement get to you too badly. Remember why you love to play your character and what you love about what's going on with that character right now, and continue to enjoy your experience with him. Remember that we still have plenty of exciting material to play with in Cataclysm; Deathwing's not dead yet! Remember that we have the transmogrification feature to look forward to in Cataclysm -- something that almost seems tailored to roleplayers. And don't forget about the new dungeons that are coming out as well.

Be fluid with your roleplay

We as roleplayers have a different kind of view when it comes to previewing content -- it's not just new dungeons and features to play with, it's new story to explore. It's hard not to get excited, and it's equally hard not to try and plan ahead. Gently beginning to set your character's focus to the appropriate areas is fine, but if you sit down and plot out everything that is going to happen to your character once the expansion hits, you're asking for trouble.

Rigid structure is something that can work in some roleplay situations, but part of the fun of roleplay is the fluidity involved, especially if you're roleplaying with a group of people. Knowing what is going to happen to your character, plotting it out in advance leads to expectations out of the people you're roleplaying with. If they don't fill those expectations, you're going to be left feeling unfulfilled. If they do play out your expectations as written, there's no surprise to the roleplay, which again can leave you feeling unfulfilled.

Keep it fluid. React to those around you, and you'll see them react to you in turn. Play with the spontaneity of situations, and take joy in the unexpected. Don't try to force situations; simply let them play out as they will. Half the fun of roleplay is puzzling out just how that character you created is going to react to a given situation. Let yourself have fun with that.

Though new expansion information is fun to read through and it's exciting to learn a little about what is to come, you shouldn't let it seep too far into your roleplay. Take all that information in, get excited about what is yet to come, but keep in mind that you still have everything between now and then to experience, first. Don't let your character get too far ahead of himself, and take things one day at a time -- you'll see the peaks of Pandaria in due time.

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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