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The challenge of roleplay in the face of Warlords

Anne Stickney

Roleplayers have to dance around a lot of lore in order to make their stories plausible and believable. While not everyone is concerned with being 100% dedicated to known canon material in their roleplay, the announcement of Warlords of Draenor brings up a lot of concerns and questions for those that are. The somewhat unorthodox method of time-travel used in the expansion leaves many players wondering exactly how to handle the situation -- and on top of that, we've been told we'll be stranded on Draenor, presumably with no way to get back to good old familiar Azeroth at all.

So how do you reconcile what's about to happen to your character? Do you ignore the main storyline of an expansion that hasn't been released yet, or do you embrace the idea that your character may not be able to return at all? What kind of challenges are roleplayers going to see in Warlords of Draenor? More importantly, is this something your character should be addressing now?

Warlords and the current timeline

In the current timeline, there's absolutely no reason for your character to have even a hint of what's to come. While we as players know what to expect, our characters have no way of knowing events that have yet to come to pass. Depending on how you choose to interact with in-game timelines in your roleplay, Garrosh Hellscream is either a: Still under siege in Orgrimmar, and it's a bloody, long battle with an unknown conclusion, or b: Garrosh has been defeated, and is being held in an unknown location awaiting trial.

Clever players might realize that the visions brought to them courtesy of Kairoz on the Timeless Isle clearly show Garrosh's location -- the basement of the Temple of the White Tiger. But in game, Garrosh isn't there yet. In game, Garrosh hasn't been brought to trial, and nobody knows exactly what's going to happen to him when he is presumably found guilty, no questions asked, for the havoc he brought to Pandaria, not to mention the horrific deeds committed against the Alliance.

As far as our characters are concerned, after the Siege, Garrosh has been locked away. We can't see the future -- we have no idea that Garrosh will escape. In fact, at this point in the timeline, it's likely that Garrosh himself doesn't know that he's going to escape. So as roleplayers, we should simply continue with whatever storylines we happen to be toying with, our characters oblivious to the train wreck that's slowly approaching when Warlords is released.
Conflicts of roleplay in Warlords

Once Warlords comes out, it's an entirely different story -- and the questions and concerns plaguing roleplayers are completely legitimate questions. Our characters might not know what's coming in the future, but we as roleplayers do. As the Mists expansion comes to a close, it might be a good time to talk about future events, either with your roleplay guild, or with the groups you normally talk to for roleplay.

Are we going to be stuck back in time? Short answer? Yes -- at least for a little while. What we've been told at BlizzCon is that we will be traveling through the Dark Portal to prevent the Iron Horde from coming to Azeroth. This has been repeatedly referred to as a "suicide mission" -- something we're not expected to return from. So we may very well see ourselves stranded in Draenor. But keep in mind we don't know the full story of Warlords just yet. We could find a way back by level 95, or we might not see a way to return until the final patch of the expansion. We simply don't know yet.

Will we see alternate versions of ourselves? If you are a draenei or orc roleplayer, and your character was born and raised on Draenor, then the answer could potentially be yes. However, we've been told repeatedly that we will not be running into alternate versions of ourselves. How, exactly, that's going to play out is as yet unknown -- but Blizzard's been very clear about it. No duplicate us to run into and gawp over, no potential paradoxes or other time-travel tangles to be seen.
Potential solutions

Warlords is looking a little confusing for roleplayers, particularly with the "surprise" nature of Garrosh's escape, and our subsequent journey to Draenor. With all those factors in mind, here's what you should be asking yourself and the people you roleplay with now, before everything comes out.

The nature of being stranded Given the current storylines playing out in your guild or with your group, how are you going to handle the fact that some of your higher-level members may potentially disappear for good? Are you going to wrap up all current storylines before the expansion happens? Are you going to include the event in your roleplay? Working with the lore as it stands and having people suddenly disappear with no apparent hope of return could potentially be some interesting roleplay, both for those stranded on Draenor, and for those left behind.

Will your lower-level roleplayers consider their comrades deceased, or simply lost? Losing friends might be just what those lower-level roleplayers need in terms of a cause to spur some quick leveling -- preparation to go and find their lost friends. Those stuck on Draenor have their own dilemma. Do they try their best to make Draenor a home, or do they try to find a way back? Do they view the situation as hopeless, or are they tenacious enough to keep trying to find a way home?
Another option is to ignore the stranded portion of the storyline, or find a way around it. Azeroth is a planet where magic is pretty common, after all. Hearthstones could be modified to warp through the alternate timeline and take people home, or a good mage might be able to find a way to create a portal. If you go this route, you don't have to worry about storylines being interrupted -- although it does ruin any potential for what could be some pretty cool roleplay.

Emotional impact While most roleplayers won't see this come into play quite so heavily, orc and draenei players may want to look at this situation, and look at it hard. Draenor is a chance to go back in time and potentially fix what once was horribly broken, or to enact some sweet revenge on those that wronged them. It's not exactly the history we're accustomed to -- it's a chance to go back 35 years or so and see the world as it was before its destruction.

For orc roleplayers, the puzzle of the Iron Horde should be interesting. Consider which clan your orc supposedly came from -- what is that clan doing now? Does your character agree with the idea of the Iron Horde, or do they see it as a slightly different version of the corruption that turned their skin green in the first place? How do they feel about Garrosh's escape? Did they come through the Dark Portal to put a stop to Garrosh's plans, or are they quietly hoping they can just settle in on Draenor and pretend the last 35 years never happened?
For draenei roleplayers, the situation is a different one. What happened on Draenor was nothing less than the attempted extinction of your entire species. You've seen, in Outland, the results of that devastation. You've seen what it did to your homes and villages, your temples and holy grounds. You've experienced loss the likes of which many races simply can't comprehend. And now you have a chance to go back and either fix it, or re-experience all the grief, all the sorrow, in the hopes of seeing Draenor whole. How does your character handle that situation? How will your character handle seeing all of those places restored?

The last option is a very different one, but for orc and draenei players, it might be something to consider. While we have been told there will be no duplicates, there is nothing stopping you from playing two different versions of your character. On Draenor, your character is simply who they were 35 years ago, before the devastation, with no knowledge of Azeroth at all. On Azeroth, they are who they are in the present -- and have no intention of crossing over to Draenor. You're still roleplaying one character, but at two different points in their lifetime. And for those that may call your character friend in the present, it might be an interesting story to see how they interact with a version of their friend that has no idea who they are.

While we don't know, as characters, what is coming in Warlords, we've been armed with enough information to consider potential future storylines, and how to best handle them. The important thing to consider, if you're roleplaying in a group or guild, is how you're going to handle the situation together as a group. The next expansion is absolutely dripping with roleplay potential -- it's up to you to make sure that everyone is on the same page to take advantage of it.

For more roleplay hints, tips, and general character development information, be sure to check our Complete Guide to Roleplay in WoW.

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