Posted by: Sean | September 18, 2008

Role-play Guilds; why a concept matters

One of the strangest things I’ve noticed in the World of Warcraft is the phenomenon of role-play guilds who have no story. You know how it goes.

[1. General] [Imagm] New Warriors of the Guild recruiting! We’re a heavy RP guild looking for members in all races and classes.
[1. General] [Katafray] That sounds cool! What’s the story behind your guild?
[1. General] [Imagm] Huh?
[1. General] [Katafray] I mean, what kind of group is your guild?
[1. General] [Imagm] We’re a role-playing guild!
[1. General] [Katafray] Never mind.

Sigh. It’s frustrating, because in a lot of ways these guys are good role-players. They often have a great command of dialogue and the actual mechanics of play. But for some reason they can’t make that connection between the game mechanics and the game story. But a story is important. It governs the notion of how guild members interact, what guild meetings look like, what kind of open-for-all RP events you might throw, and how you handle the in-character chat channel issue. Above all this, the biggest reason is simple: Without a concept, there’s no in-character reason for all of your characters to hang out.

And there are so many good concepts! You can easily think of a bundle without any trouble:

  • A Trade Guild: The original notions of guilds were trade associations, so why not make up a guild based around that same notion? This concept works wonders for groups who don’t really have any major goals over thatn roleplaying itself, since while it doesn’t lend itself too strongly to raiding or PVP, it accomodates both in-guild meetings (trade association meetings to discuss pricing issues, supplies and general gossip) and open-RP events (sales days) well, plus, it’s a great opportunity for the crafters to have a chance to shine. In-character chat channel ideas aren’t quite so strong in this concept, but the idea of some engineering based solution makes a degree of sense.
  • A School or University: Jess and I have done this one ourselves, and we’re not the only ones. It’s a doozy of a concept, one of the best because it works so well for pretty much everything. Raiding? Excursions. In-guild meetings? Classes or teacher discussions. Open-RP events? Open days! If you’re a magical university (ala Hogwarts, but for adults) then you can have magical devices for in-character chat channels, or maybe even a school only long-distance telepathy spell, which has to be learned. (That way you can have fun with new students trying to get it right.) The only thing it doesn’t quite handle perfectly is PVP – Unless you have a rival school guild in the other faction. Then they’re clearly sporting events. You get extra points if you even have cheerleaders for them, /dancing in the sidelines.
  • A mercenary outfit: If you’re a hardcore PVP-RP crew, then a set of mercenaries is one of the best setups that you can develop. There’s a clear sense as to why you exist, you can hire yourself out to other groups for raiding, and you have a built-in-mechanism for PVP of any sort: Just say you’ve been hired. In-guild meetings as easy to imagine, with discussion of current contracts and battle strategies; while open RP events could be either dueling demonstrations to show skill or the like. (A really fun entry requirement to the guild may be to beat one of the current members in a duel to prove your worth at one of these events.) There’s not quite the same justification for an in-character chat channel, though.
  • The Renegades: Grr. As a Midnight Reverie, I have to give The Blacktooth Grin their due; they’re a fantastic PVP-RP guild, and they use this device. The notion is that they’re a breakaway political sect, one who doesn’t agree with the Horde/Alliance. They may be allied to the dissenters in Theramore, wanting to take the fight more directly to the orcs, or (like the Blacktooth Grin) focused on smashing the humans again. This has a lot of potential for guild meetings but it lacks somewhat in open-RP events. If you don’t want to host those, though, it’s brilliant for PVP-RP because you have an open mandate to participate in Battlegrounds and world RP.

There’s any number of options, and all of them can be fantastic. The point with all of them, though, is that they provide context. They link the role-play lore with the in-game guild mechanic. As such, they are emphatically better than some amorphous “RP guild”. If you’re playing a role-play guild, then give it a story.

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Responses

  1. I used to be the guild leader of a pretty hefty military-based guild known as The Regiment. One of the things that I loved about the guild was its background and history, especially given the mixture of eclectic individuals within the guild. The co-leader and original found sat down with me when we were creating the guild to flesh out a story and explain why a kal’dorei hunter with heavy ties with the Sentinels would pair up with a horribly wretched cantankerous former priestess of Elune to form a military organization.

    I really liked researching the role of light infantry while trying to come up with an idea for the guild. I enjoy dabbling in military history and the description suited how combat functions within World of Warcraft.

    A while back a good real-life friend and I wrote out a huge book of notes on an all-gnome guild we wanted to created. It was steeped in mysticism, melding the twin gnomish obsessions regarding magic and technology with the drive to reclaim Gnomeregan. It was styled after a number of cults and we decided that we’d meet in the back alleys of Ironforge dressed in similar robes to whisper amongst ourselves in Gnomish while speaking reverently of our leader (who would be the World of Warcraft equivalent of a NPC and would weave all sorts of things for the guild). I was always disappointed when the idea flopped due to his absence.

  2. Hi Cyrna! Man. I’d have loved to have been a part of that second guild. That’s awesome.

    Good to hear from you again, by the way.

  3. So true. I hate how many guilds just seem generic, with no real hook or story behind them. We started a guild on Steamwheedle Cartle called the Sword of the Argent Dawn.. Our story was that we were a special military unit commissioned by the Argent Dawn to serve as a front lines defense against the Scourge invasion. We were more distrustful of the Forsaken the Argent Dawn, and took great pains to hold them in check in Arathi Basin. It was a neat way to build off an existing organization but tweak it in a way that made us a little different (no Forsaken in our ranks, more focused on battlegrounds instead of just running quests in the plaguelands).


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