Posted by: Sean | September 30, 2008

On the Unity of Trading Card and Role-Playing Gamers

Maybe Blizzard know more about what role-players want than we originally thought. Because you know something? If it does turn out that a higher percentage of the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (hereafter referred to not as the WoW TCG but instead as Betty, because I’m contrary like that) players are role-players than non-Betty’ers, then heck, maybe Blizzard is on to something, since those suckers have some of the best role-playing items in the game.

Don’t believe me? Yesterday I had the supreme pleasure of watching another role-player put on a clinic in how to use the Path of Illidan as a role-playing tool. Normally, I’m not a fan of demonic possession plots; they’re too melodramatic too often for more liking, and I dislike splitting a character in two. (I’d rather develop one character twice as much, and yes Jess, I broke that rule with Ligradi the Mad Undead Baron. In my defense, the ‘normal’ Ligradi barely ever shows up.) But this guy put on a terrific show, using the Eye of Kilrogg to represent the demon when it was separate from his body, and the Path of Illidan to show when he was possessed. And though it was questionable lore-wise (as I understand it, Warcraft’s ‘demonic corruption’ is less about a separate entity inside you than it is a malevolent drug that gives you unbelievable strength in exchange for the world’s worst mood swings) it was an effective, brilliant scene. In a particularly nice touch, the demon-possessed character didn’t pace around, so that the footprints could show. Instead, he simply stood in place, letting the green fire swirl around his feet.

I have a theory about which items role-players tend to love. There’s really two criteria. First, it has to be generic. Something that’s uber-specific really doesn’t help, which is why the somewhat maligned Brazier of Dancing Flame was a flop for role-players. You just can’t take it out of its original context much; as an artiact of the Midsummer Fire Festival. By contrast, the small fire elemental you could obtain has lots of possibilities – You might have summoned one once while trying to summon a Water Elemental. (“Yes, yes, aitihasha before elohune, except after chali. Rookie mistake.”) Maybe it burned up your wand once and now it just weirdly follows you about. If I can ever obtain one for my gnome, it will be the result of a strange accident while she was trying to make Fire Goggles. There’s lots of options, is my point.

The second thing that the item needs to do is either provide a role-playing ‘hook’, provide an illustration of an existing role-playing scenario, or both. As an example of the first, the Steamy Romance Novel does its job beautifully. Think of how many reactions people can have to seeing you read one! And what about you? Are you abashed, trying to hide it once spotted? Deeply amused, quoting some of the more ridiculous passages? Unashamedly aroused, quoting some of the more salacious passages? (These may or may not be the same passages as the ridiculous ones.) As such, it produces hooks for role-play.

However, it’s the second example that the above Path of Illidan example shows. The hook here was already extant in the role-play; he’s been possessed and we were now caught in the tricky position of trying to work out how to resolve the situation. But his use of those green flames and the glowing green eye made it real. It stopped just being words on a screen and felt like a full-blown scene.

And doing this stuff well is seriously hard, man. Total Biscuit likes to talk about how machinima is a new art form, how hard it is to make the game do what you need it to to produce a scene, but now try doing this in real time, with only one take, and while not knowing what half of the other participants in the scene are going to do! As such, we role-players adore anything that allows us to make scenes more cinematic on the fly.

Which the Betty stuff does! Nearly all of the bonus items from Betty fit both of these requirements. Off the top of my head, I can think of:

  • Perpetual Purple Firework: You can’t go wrong with fireworks for expressing a whole wealth of emotions, from excitement to surprise to sudden staggering lust. (Sims reference. Woohoo!) Even an epiphany can be signaled with fireworks. Try a macro to use the firework and say, “Eureka! I have it!” at the same time. Even your character’s movement when they’re sending up the firework seems to fit.
  • Ogre Costume: Say hello to an instant monster NPC! The beauty of an ogre is that they can fit just about anywhere, and could be used as a bodyguard to another character, a charging random monster to break up a role-playing event or just about anything.
  • Bananas, the Rocket Chicken, or the Baby Hippogryff: We’ve mentioned before how fantastic mini-pets are in role-playing, and all of these are excellent examples. The Baby Hippogryff, in particular, is something that any Night Elf could use to tremendous effect. I’d love to play a Night Elf hunter with one.
  • Papa Hummel’s Biscuits: Much like the example above, except with special effects! Forget just making a pet big as a joke, save it up for when your worg pup should be getting angry with another player and then feed him the pet treat on the spot, noting, “Oh, for the love of the Earthmother. Now you’ve made him mad.” An excellent illustrative tool.
  • Picnic Basket: Brilliantly obvious for any romance plot. An excellent way to set up a scene. (As a side note, I highly commend a small area north-west of Stormwind for romantic liaisons. Just go west from the main gates and make your way up the cliff to a beautiful waterfall, with a great view. You’ll need to slaughter a few dozen Defias bandits along the way, but that just adds dramatic appeal.) Note: This entry was edited for correctness. I got confused between two similar items.
  • Fishing Chair: “You’re not going to just fish there all day, are you?” “Ya. That’s wot I was tinkin’, mon.” “You lazy bum! There’s undead to be fought!” “…” “Oh, bloody hell. Wake up.”
  • Personal Weather Machine: Anyone who’s watched Charlie Brown should be able to work this one out.

Sure, some of them aren’t as great – I’m not sure how I’d go about working a Spectral Tiger into a role-play, but 90% of the Betty stuff is absolutely brilliant for role-play. And if it turns out that more role-players than non role-players are into Betty, then it shows that perhaps Blizzard is thinking about where they put their role-play stuff after all.

And who wouldn’t be into Betty? She’s way cooler than Veronica.

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Responses

  1. “I’m not sure how I’d go about working a Spectral Tiger into a role-play”

    Shame on you, your trusty Saber cat died defending you or simply died of old age, if your a long lived Night Elf. And its devotion to you, won’t let it rest until you can join it in the afterlife(whatever that is in WoW). And you don’t know how to work it in… 😦

    But really, I am surprised you couldn’t see the RP potential in the Spectral Tiger. What I listed above is just the tip of the iceberg really. As you could of found its spirit wandering, and it has joined with you until you can right whatever wrong has made its spirit restless. It could be one of the Nightsabers who died in the Great Sundering, and its spirit cannot rest from such a death & wanders Darkshore as seen by the many Ghost Saber’s who do the same. Or it could be, who knows what. With it being a ghost, really the possibilities are endless just like with the Ghost Saber’s, that Hunters can take as wonderfully RP enriched pets.

    However, for the subject at hand. I do think, the card game does offer quite a bit of RP potential as evident above by just the Spectral Tiger card alone. There is so much one could do with what is offered, especially those even more familiar at the art of RP’ing and the lore. I know one card I got my eye on is the Saltwater Snapjaw, so I can get that adorable Riding Turtle for a gnome Mage I want to make.

    And some you left out that I think deserve a mention be the Imp in a Ball, which could provide lots of hilarity as Imps are just so fun, and this would give non-warlocks, the wonderful displeasure of their company. Then there is the Goblin Gumbo Kettle, which has some interesting potential for a little get together and RP events ala the Darkmoon Faire. The Paper Flying Machine Kit, which be a nice toy to play with. And there is the D.I.S.C.O which let you have a nice dance party. Finally, a justification for naked female dancing…or not lol.

    Its just a shame, we have to get to Landro Longshot to redeem this stuff, damn him and his corner on the market. But hey, he is a goblin so what else would you expect. 😀


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