Posted by: Jess Riley | January 13, 2009

Theme Week ATST: Depth Through Visual Detail

Originally, this post was going to be on the respective penis sizes of the different races, as I just can’t let an invite like that go by without comment, but Blogatelle informs me that his posts are not to be taken strictly seriously, and if I were to do this, I would be removed from the writing team. (Blogatelle Edit: My phraseology was quite clear that penis jokes would be permitted. Penis posts are still not permissable.)

I’m sure most of you know by now that I really love to push the matter of details in your roleplay – if you don’t recall my many and varied posts on the subject, check our character development tag; there’s plenty accessible there. That’s all well and good, to have plenty of added details in your concepts, but, piggy-backing on Sean’s recent post on clothing for roleplay purposes, I’d like to investigate the matter of details that you can show visibly, rather than just through text.

Clothing is obviously the primary one – after all, it is probably the first thing that you take note of when you see someone. However, it’s far from the only one. Details such as the hair and skin colour you choose can lend a lot to your character as well, but that’s also fairly limited. After all, you only deal with this once (more often for hair, if you have plenty of money to spend at the barbershop), but really, it’s a one-shot point and then you’re done with it.

On the other hand, there are things you can show through your character model rather than through text – things like walking, running, where you sit, among other things.

Games like World of Warcraft require a lot of moving from place to place – frequently, quests will require that you walk halfway across the zone to kill something, for instance. Now, if your character is the slow and steady type, does it make sense for them to be running across the zone in this case? Not really. Of course, I have the greatest sympathies for you if you get bored walking everywhere – I’ve had two characters who walk at a measured pace rather than run, and I changed their speed every time I felt I could get away with it without messing with the roleplay, to save myself dying of boredom at my keyboard. This is fine, and I have no problem at all if you decide that their desire for a measured pace just doesn’t trump your boredom – but it is something to consider.

Another point that might come into play here is that of mounts. If, up until level 30, you’ve expressed that your character isn’t terribly comfortable with animals, how do you reconcile that with a mount? If you’re Alliance, you could hop on a Mechanostrider instead of a ‘real’ animal, but besides that, what can you do to show discomfort? You could make a plot out of learning to ride (something which I would recommend in any case, incidentally), but more in the moment, you could walk at different paces to show that the mount isn’t quite obeying you, or (if you wanted to get really detailed about it) use the ‘jump’ command and move erratically to show that you’re not as in control as you might like.

Of course, these things can be fun, but they can also detract from questing or running with a group – so if you’re planning on doing any of thee things, you might want to make sure it’s alright with the group you’re with. Entering a dungeon or approaching the boss may not be the best time to roleplay being thrown from your mount and having it run off into the sunset without you.

Let’s say you’re not actually out questing, though – assume you’re in an Inn roleplaying, or something similar. There are still a variety of ways you can let your character get across through movement rather than emotes, if you’re thinking that way.

Consider a group of people who enter an Inn and sit at a table. A female character who is very preoccupied with manners and proper etiquette may choose to take the seat at the head of the table nearest the wall – so she can see and be seen, you see. A male character with similar preoccupation with etiquette may insist that a female character who wouldn’t usually care ought to sit in that seat, for similar reasons. When a female stands and leaves the table, an impeccably polite gentleman would rise from his seat also – something which you don’t even need to emote, just show by standing up as she does, and then taking your seat again.

If you’re not sitting down at all, but standing and talking, a lot of information about your character could be shown through whether you pace back and forth, stand still, or some other behaviour. Finding a seat and sitting down, even while everyone else is standing can indicate tiredness, while pacing back and forth can indicate boredom, stress, anxiety… a whole variety of possibilities.

A personal favourite of mine is epitomized by a scene I played the other day, I was playing my troll – she had agreed to meet an orc in Razor Hill, but she arrived several minutes before he did. Rather than just stand and wait for him in the middle of the room, she curled up in the bed and went to sleep (it was the end of a long day, and she was tired and sick of waiting). It ended up being used to great effect in the scene.

What most of this comes down to is the simple point that you do not have to just stay still and let your words speak for what you’re doing – to some extent, there are ways to give people the idea of what’s going on without having to type a word – and this can sometimes be more effective than typing the same thing without showing it at the same time.

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