Posted by: Jess Riley | January 24, 2009

Level Advancing, Character Advancing?

One of the things that you have to take into account if you really want to up the realism in your roleplay is that you start with an incredible amount of combat ability. We’ve talked about this, and the implications for roleplay before.

We haven’t really discussed, however, the matter of levels and how they relate to roleplay. As you play more, your character gets stronger and better – they’re no longer talented amateurs, they’re killing machines. How does this relate to the way you roleplay?

A lot of people ignore the early levels in their roleplay and don’t actually up the intensity until they’re at the level they want to be. That’s fine, but others, like me, prefer to keep up the roleplay from the very beginning. This means that as you play through the game, your character evolves from a relative weakling to a buffed up superhero-esque soldier. How, if at all, does that relate to the way they’re actually played?

Consider a few things, here:

One, after that much fighting and training, you will not be the same. A naive farmgirl will not be the same at level one as at level eighty; by the time she’s trained that much, she has seen a lot of bloodshed, experienced a lot of things, gone to a lot of different places. She will be much more worldly at level eighty than she was at level one – there’s really no way to get around it.

Two, if a part of your concept was poor combat skills, there’s no way you can justify that after a certain number of levels. The fact is that, however skilled you are at the beginning, that by level eighty you haven’t picked a few things up. It’s impossible to ignore, at this point: you have grown, you have learned. You can’t keep being unskilled and naive forever.

“But wait!”, I hear you cry. “I don’t want my character to grow out of being naive and a bit clumsy. How on Azeroth can I justify this while still experiencing all the game content?”

The short answer is simple. You can’t. It’s perfectly natural to want to stick with the character concept you’ve come to love, just as it’s perfectly natural to want to explore as much of the game content as possible. The thing is, though, that without some handwaving (or only exploring the content out of character), you can’t have both. By any measure of realism, someone who can band together with some fellows of equal level and kill one of the Karazhan bosses isn’t just a clumsy, naive everygirl – they have to be much more than that.

I fall into the same trap, myself. By any rights, a level 61 Forsaken should not be surprised by very much – she should be used to killing others for reasons that vary dramatically in morality, if nothing else. And yet, occasionally, I still fall into the trap of treating her like the innocent schoolteacher who grew up in Tyr’s Hand before it became a Crusade town, and not like the skilled killer she has grown into.

It’s difficult to let go of a character concept, even when they have developed to a point where their original concept just doesn’t fit anymore – especially when you haven’t had a chance to actually roleplay a lot of the milestones that you would have faced.

You can always handwave these things and pretend like they’re not really happening – people do it all the time, and if you’re careful, it’s perfectly justifiable. However, I think it makes for better and more well-rounded characters if they are allowed to grow and evolve with time and experiences.

No one stays the same forever, not even fictional characters.


  1. Death knights are pretty much exempt from this, in my mind. Their “relative weakling” stage is long gone by the time you get control of them.

    Starting at level 55 has many benefits.

  2. Thank you again for reading my mind! Every article I read here makes me nod my head and say, “Yes! Finally! I’m not the only one!”

    Could this discussion be furthered with the implications of levels between characters. I have encountered many role-players that flat out refuse to acknowledge level in their plots or interactions. I also encounter top-level players who feel their experience bar is an excuse to god-hand others into submission.

  3. This is a great idea and everyone should do it. And I find its helpful that when you start your character, that you don’t set too much in stone and develop your character more over time then before you have ever birthed them into Azeroth. As this makes the growth of your character more fluid and easy then if you said my character is this & that and that is all there is to it. Because it can be kind of like painting yourself into a corner, if you go too far with character development in the beginning.

    @ Sagaril

    While, yes starting at level 55 has its advantages. You still are a weakling in the sense that you are just beginning to get a handle on the amazing powers you have received in undeath. And you of course still have a lot of growing to do until you reach level 80. So for death knights, the journey of growth is just shorter not non-existent.

  4. Perhaps “partially exempt” would have been a better choice of words. They’re still a weakling compared to GRAND MARSHAL COOLSWORDORROTH, CONQUERER OF NAXXRAMAS!, certainly, but level 58 is still extremely powerful.

    In any case, it’s a difficult subject, because it’s hard to tell where the line of gameplay-and-story segregation is.

  5. @ Sagaril

    Oh yes, a level 55 be very powerful. In fact, someone that level could kick most of Azeroth’s butt pretty much. But still, quite a bit of growth be left depending on how your character was before changing into a death knight.

    Like they could of been a young upstart with some talent or an experienced soldier. So once becoming undead, the younger characters that still had a lot of of life that had not been experienced yet, now have forever to do so. And for the older characters, who experienced much will now experience even more with their new found immortality.

    So ultimately, there be the nice sized growth in the necromatic powers of a death knight as well as an infinite level of growth for the individual who was turned.

  6. I know I am coming at this a little late. But I am curious what you think. Oh and before I go on Mega Dittos from Moon Guard US.

    I have just recently started leveling a adolescent human female priest. I plan to take her Shadow. One of the things that is becoming a little difficult in role-playing her is the acquisition of new spells and abilities particularly shadow based spells.

    For all accounts very little is known about shadow spells in general. Some propose its just the inverse of the Light – powers from the Void if you will. Others that it is malignant some how tied to the essence of evil.

    In any case, how do you go about having your characters learn, specifically less-than-well documented phenomena like shadow casting?

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