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When is it OK to drop character while roleplaying?

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.

If you're engaged in roleplaying, you're in character. This means for all purposes, you're pretending you are the character you're roleplaying. So every spoken word, every reaction, and every moment you're playing, you're playing as that character actually out there in the world of Azeroth. Sound difficult? It can be -- but that's part of the fun of roleplay. Figuring out how your character would react to the various sights, sounds and events of Azeroth is just part of the puzzle and a lot of the fun, a bit like improvisational acting.

There are some roleplay groups and guilds that insist on being in character from the moment you log on to the moment you log out. There are others that ask for guild chat to be kept completely in character. And there are plenty of others that have various degrees of requirements ranging from rigidly in character to just casually roleplaying when and where you feel like it. But those are requirements of roleplaying guilds, and not everyone belongs to one of those.

If you haven't got a guild giving you guidelines to follow, how do you know when it's OK to slip in and out of character?

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In character or out in dungeons and raids?

I've been in a roleplaying guild where roleplaying was carried right into dungeons and even raids. Was it fun? To a degree, sure! Did it work? Absolutely! Since it was an all-guild group, we could take our time and roleplay in between trash pulls and bosses, talk about why we were there, what we were doing, and how what we were doing affected us. There were even points where dungeons or raid zones were actually part of a roleplaying storyline. A character would find themselves needing to explore one of these mythical places, and the guild would join in to help out.

It worked, but the common factor was that it was an all-guild group and we understood what we were doing before we went in. With advents like the Dungeon Finder and the Raid Finder, players will find themselves placed into groups of completely random people. Some might be roleplayers, but more often than not, they aren't. In cases like this, I would honestly recommend that players drop character for the purpose of the raid or dungeon. This isn't really so much a roleplayer vs. non-roleplayer argument as much as it is simple common sense.

Most non-roleplayers that jump into the Dungeon Finder or Raid Finder aren't looking to act out their character; they're just looking to complete the dungeon or raid as efficiently as possible. It's hard to accomplish that if you're typing out what your character is saying or thinking in party chat or /say. If you feel like you really would like to keep roleplaying and you're with a roleplaying friend, keep your roleplay to whispers and at a minimum, just for the sake of convenience.

The difference between an all-guild or all-roleplayer group and a random group is just a matter of control. With an all-roleplayer group, you have the control over how fast things are pulled and when to take breaks. In a random, if you take a break to have a chat about what just happened, you're disrupting the playtime of others. Doing that is a quick way to get yourself vote-kicked from the group. The same idea can be applied to Battlegrounds and Arenas as well.

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Roleplaying in general chat channels

One of my fondest memories from my time on the Scarlet Crusade server involved The Darkspear guild, a guild of all troll roleplayers who were really, really amazing at what they did. Every now and again while tooling away in Orgrimmar, I would catch one of the Darkspear roleplayers posting in trade chat, entirely in character. How did they go about it? They roleplayed that they were nervously speaking through a megaphone-type device to peddle their wares. It worked, and it was utterly charming to boot.

These days, it's not as easy to find roleplay out in the open and in public locations on some roleplaying servers. The really vocal majority on the server are simply players who speak out of character in general channels. If they're roleplayers, they save the roleplay for face to face, guild chat, or party chat. In some cases, realms will have their own in-character roleplay channels that anyone can join. Does that mean you shouldn't roleplay in public channels? Absolutely not -- on a roleplay server.

A roleplay realm is designated as roleplaying for a reason. Roleplaying is downright encouraged on these realms, and choosing to roleplay anywhere on that realm -- even a general channel -- shouldn't bring you any hassle or griefing. If it does, you are well within your rights to report any griefers. You aren't doing anything wrong, you're on a roleplaying server engaging in roleplaying. If people have an issue with that, then they are quite possibly playing on the wrong realm entirely.

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Roleplaying in public

I've talked before about public roleplay and why it's important to the life of a roleplaying server. If you aren't roleplaying in open areas, new potential roleplayers have no idea that roleplay is even going on at all -- and that can drive them away from a realm faster than anything else. Should you always be in character when you're speaking in public? If you're roleplaying, absolutely. Any out-of-character conversations can either be placed in double brackets ((like so)) to designate you aren't in character or taken to whispers or party chat.

If you log on and you aren't in the mood to roleplay, however, that doesn't mean you need to say hello and roleplay with anyone who approaches you. You can always send them a whisper and politely let them know that you're up to things that have nothing to do with roleplay at the moment. If you're feeling friendly, offer to add them to your friend's list or let them know it's OK for them to add you to their friend's list for roleplaying at a later date.

Just because you're on a roleplaying realm doesn't mean you have to be in character every moment that you're online. If you're feeling tired or not up to roleplaying, you're not required to do so at all. But have respect for your fellow roleplayers and keep the out of character commentary to a bare minimum, if you aren't really wanting to engage in roleplay yourself at the moment.

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Dropping character while roleplaying

That said, I've seen far too many situations at the local tavern that go something like this: One character says something in character, and another character takes offense. Or two characters are having a conversation in /say about something or another. A random roleplayer pops in and either takes offense to what is happening or decides they disagree with whatever opinion is being stated and begins speaking in brackets, out of character, to both roleplayers. The tavern quickly dissolves into a group of people arguing with each other out of character.

Sure, the conversation is noted as out of character because of the brackets. But all that out-of-character public conversation is disrupting whatever roleplay might be going on. If you've got a disagreement with something, send a whisper. Don't clutter up the roleplaying area with loads of out-of-character chatter. It's a matter of consideration for your fellow roleplayers.

In addition, if you're happily roleplaying and you fall into a situation that seems like it's getting out of hand, drop character. Stop what you're doing and have a conversation with your roleplaying partner to address the issue before moving on. In cases like this, it's far more important that you are comfortable with what's going on than staying in character and trying to get out of it.

Although roleplaying realms are designated as such, there are still plenty of people on these servers that don't actually engage in roleplay at all. For these players, following the above rules would be advised. Don't interrupt any roleplay that happens to be going on, try not to disrupt a roleplayer's time spent in character, and have respect for the roleplayers on your server. The reason your realm is a nice place to be is because it is a roleplaying realm full of roleplayers; be nice and above all, respectful to the people that made your realm what it is today.

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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