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Why public roleplay is a critical part of roleplay servers

Anne Stickney

All too often, I hear stories of roleplay realms with dwindling roleplay populations -- realms that can't seem to get back on their feet and make roleplay flourish. These realms try everything under the sun to cultivate roleplay, from creating roleplay websites dedicated to providing roleplay information to having monthly meetings discussing the roleplay situation on the realm. Yet there's still something that keeps people from rolling characters on these realms and sticking around for the long term, while other realms continue to flourish.

That something is present on these flourishing realms in abundance, and it's the reason people flock to these realms and stay put. It's roleplay, pure and simple -- available in every tavern, every Auction House, every city and every town. Hundreds of players run around with roleplay addons that advertise their roleplaying status, and you'll see characters happy to speak to each other in /say, having intriguing conversations and in general, just being a presence.

If your realm has lost the throngs of roleplayers it once had, how do you get them back again?

The attraction of public roleplay

Having toured the various roleplaying servers out there in WoW, I can easily see at a glance which ones are thriving and which ones are in a state of decline. It's a matter of whether or not roleplay can be easily found out in the open, in high-traffic areas. A potential new roleplayer isn't looking for events or planned moments of roleplay. What a new roleplayer is looking for is quite simply roleplay, period. Like it or not, if new players create a character on a roleplaying realm and cannot easily find any roleplay, they're going to assume that the realm is deserted and leave.

New roleplayers are completely blank canvases for the most part, and like most players in this game, they don't want to spend hours poring over various realms and their merits. What they want to see is roleplay happening out in the open in front of their eyes the moment they log in and stroll into town. If they don't see any evidence of it, more often than not, they aren't going to look any deeper than that. They're simply going to go find another realm where they can find that happening and stay put.

If your realm is in a state of decline, go to a local area with a lot of players present and take a stroll. See how much roleplay you can find. Don't join channels, don't look at the forums -- just take a walk and look around. It's likely you'll find that all of these populated areas are empty, that there aren't really any people standing around chatting with each other in /say. If this is the case, consider the position of the new roleplayer and how they would feel coming into a situation like that. It's not very welcoming, is it?

Activities and planned events

While planned events and activities are nice to have around, they are exactly as successful as the number of people that attend them. If they're taking place in an out-of-the-way area, these events aren't really going to attract the attention of new roleplayers who are trying to find it. And all the events in the world won't help you if roleplayers can't actually find these events and participate in them. If you're having an event, don't just announce it on forums. Let people know in game, too. Use global channels or send in-game mail to let roleplayers know.

Better still, have that event in a higher-populated area so that any new people that happen to stroll by can sit in and participate. A new roleplayer more than anything else is looking for visible activity, and stumbling across a storytelling event, wedding, or even just a group of friends drinking in a bar and partying the night away is far more likely to stick around.

But the most important thing to events like this is that you want to make new roleplayers feel welcome in the environment. Don't turn them away from an event if they don't happen to have a roleplaying addon. Send them a tell, ask them if they're a roleplayer and point them at some addons they can try out if they'd like. New roleplayers don't necessarily know about addons or even protocol at events. If they'd like to simply sit and observe, let them.

Forums and in-game channels

Many roleplay realms have specific in-game channels created for the purpose of chatting with other roleplayers and setting up roleplay events. If your realm has a channel like this, stop for a moment and ask yourself how new roleplayers find out about the in-game channel. Is there a forum post about it? Is it talked about in general chat? Are new roleplayers told about the channel's existence if they happen to pipe up in a tavern or at an event?

A lot of roleplay servers also have roleplay forums set up that aren't on the official site. Again, how do new roleplayers find out about them? Is there a forum post? Are they told about the forum? More importantly, is that roleplay forum active? Are there a lot of roleplayers on it, posting all the time? If your unofficial roleplay forums don't have any activity, it could either be a symptom of realm decline, or it could be that roleplayers just aren't really aware of that forum's existence.

Speaking of forums, what does your official realm forum look like? Take a quick scan at the front page of the forum. How many posts on the front page are actually dedicated to roleplay? How many of these posts are simply guides, and how many are actual stories, open RP threads, event announcements, or discussion about character development? How many are posts calling for meetings, and how many are dedicated to actual roleplay?

A realm forum is just as much a reflection of a realm's activity as the actual activity level of the realm itself. If your realm forum hasn't got much in the way of roleplay going on, it's an unspoken signal to new roleplayers that there isn't much going on. And if that's the case, they're going to stay away.

Engaging in public roleplay

Here's the biggest issue I've seen with declining realms. They may have roleplaying guilds -- they may have some very excellent roleplaying guilds with some very accomplished roleplayers in them. But these guilds don't roleplay in public. Players will roleplay with friends, and they will do so either via whisper or party chat; they won't engage in open conversation in /say. Players or guilds will flat-out refuse to chat with new roleplayers, instead choosing to stay within their own private circle of friends.

If your realm is in a state of decline and you are one of those who doesn't wish to roleplay in public, you are directly contributing to the problem rather than solving it. All the meetings and events in the world will not help a roleplay realm in a state of decay if there is no active, public roleplay going on in visible areas. And if you are upset about the state of your roleplay realm yet you choose not to engage in public roleplay, you need to ask yourself why.

Is it because of griefing? Are you reporting griefing as you happen upon it? If you don't report, nothing will happen. I've seen many players complain that Blizzard does nothing about griefing, and these players no longer report griefing incidents because of it. If you don't report it, Blizzard doesn't know it's happening. Sure, there may be some cases where nothing comes of reporting griefers -- but if you don't bother to file a report at all, you're essentially throwing up your hands and giving up.

Giving up

And that seems to be the major problem on most declining realms -- the roleplay community as a whole has thrown up its hands and given up. Blizzard doesn't police roleplay realms to make sure everyone is participating, nor does it police to make sure everyone is following the rules. It is up to the community to police themselves, and it's easier than ever to do with the new reporting feature. If you see a character running around with a name that isn't roleplay appropriate, don't just let it slide, report it.

Likewise for players that are harassing or griefing roleplay events or activities. If someone is disrupting an event or a scene, report it. Have everyone involved in the event report it. If a single person reports, Blizzard doesn't really know if it's a case of actual griefing or just an argument between two players. If several reports come in about the same incident, something will be done about it.

As a roleplayer in a roleplaying community, you have to realize that realms designated for RP were made for you. It's up to the roleplaying community to keep that realm alive, and it's up to that community to keep non-roleplayers in line. While most non-roleplayers are fine just quietly doing their own things, others go out of their way to disrupt or harass the very people the server was made for -- and those players should be reported every time they do so, without question.

Roleplaying realms are fickle things. A realm can be alive and well one month and completely dead the next with little provocation. It isn't Blizzard's responsibility to patrol these realms. Blizzard depends on the roleplaying community to report offenses and help keep the realms happily alive with roleplay and devoid of griefing.

Though realms in a state of decline are sad to see, they aren't well and truly dead until the last roleplayer on the realm hangs up their hat and heads for somewhere new. It's up to the roleplaying community to show new arrivals that roleplay is still active and alive by taking the roleplay to the public, rather than waiting for the public to find them.

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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