First of all, let’s start with the bad news. I did not win the Blizzard Creative Writing Contest . This means no interview with the story team for the ‘blog. Alas.

Cheerfully, however, I was a runner up! This means that I get four books (signed) and… well, that I was a runner up. Still, I’m proud of this. It also probably means my story will see the light of day either online or otherwise. We’ll see where that goes.

Now, on with the show!

— —

David Bowers has yet another great freaking post up on WoW.com. Seriously, how does he do this week in, week out? This time it’s all about layers and background; the need to have intriguing surface details but depth underneath. All very true. I dispute (as I have in the past) that you need to plan all this out up front. A lot of back story can be filled in as you go. Still, it’s all very good and I like his “surface, inside, core” criteria. Read it all.

See this guy? Dont be this guy!

See this guy? Don't be this guy!

Because there you will see an admonishment: Don’t be a lone wolf. It’s good advice, because lone wolves are notoriously difficult to play. As David says, the lone wolf is basically all inner material with no surface to draw someone in. They tend to be gruff, difficult to get to know.

But they can be played.

To be fair, David never says you can’t, and there are three ways to do this. Without any help straight, with friends straight, and subverted.

Before we talk about them, let’s ask: What is the core appeal of the lone wolf archetype?

  • He’s a badass; bad version. Role-playing geeks (particular guys, but a lot of ladies too, I notice) love the self-reliance of the lone wolf. He needs no-one! He does just fine on his own! You guys would break in the woods, but I never would. I’m the lone wolf! You guys need me!

    Um. Kind of lost myself there. Hold on.

    Not every geek gets into the whole Lone Wolf thing out of some subsumed need for respect. (Both from others and from self.) But some unquestionably do, and it’s worth asking if this is the reason you’re doing it. If it is, well, reconsider. Everyone in World of Warcraft is a badass. Nearly all of them are incredibly self-reliant and sharp.

  • He’s a badass; good version. OK, but he’s a badass! Dude, he needs nobody and he kicks ass and women find him irresistible. Or men find her irresistible. Or women find her irresistible. Whatever. The point is: The lone wolf is bringin’ sexy badass.
  • He’s mysterious. The true Lone Wolf has no real backstory. Wolverine’s (as Wolverine is a good example of a Lone Wolf) past is mysterious, difficult to pin down, and no writer worth his salt would be stupid enough to try and fill in that backstory with, say, a prequel movie or whatever. This means he maintains his mystery no matter what. While there may be endless conflicting rumours of his history, none will ever emerge as the truth. And that’s a good thing. Think about it. Imagine if Lone Wolf badass Darth Vader had been given a full back story and we found out that he was just some whiny kid who got pissed off. Could you really maintain the awe you had for him before? No. Thankfully, nobody would ever be stupid enough to give Darth Vader a prequel, either.
  • Sean is just a bit bitter. OK, done. Back to the analysis.
  • Underneath is a gentle soul. People often see the ‘lone’ part, but miss the ‘wolf’. The lone wolf would by nature be part of a pack, but his pack has been wiped out. He’s been hurt and can’t join a new one because he distrusts it. Underneath the Lone Wolf is an abiding sadness, which is why he has such a romantic power. When gamers try to play the Lone Wolf, this is the quality they miss the most often. But it’s essential. To go back to our examples, Wolverine was ultra-protective of Jubilee/Rogue. Darth Vader’s turn to the light side in no way undermined his Lone Wolf badass status: It was a fulfilment of it. At its heart, the Lone Wolf is a wounded archetype.

So what do you get at the core of all of this? Reputation. The Lone Wolf’s ‘surface’ is never told by him. It’s told by others.

This gives you the hard way of achieving this: Earn it. No help, played straight.

Before you begin playing the Lone Wolf? Buddy, you’d better be level 80. Ideally, you should have a title. A hard one to get. Say, Vanquisher, Conqueror or Justicar. You should then start acting mysteriously. Show up at open role-playing events but stay at the fringes. Keep your FlagRSP flag on (and NO! BAD PUPPY! do not make your character a Mary Sue. Lone Wolves are rarely even ruggedly handsome – They’re older, scarred and cynical.) so people can see you’re a role-player, but speak little and emote often.

Try hanging out in lower-level areas. Show up unexpectedly to help out lowbies who get in trouble. (Especially lowbies with role-playing flags.) Play up the lone wolf schtick there, too.

This is one thing I do think players who play Lone Wolves forget. You can be awfully expressive with emotes. If you want to be the strong silent type, then make sure you write great emotes that really let you act with your body. Don’t join a guild, but try to end up associated with one, doing raids or PVP with them. Lake Wintergrasp is probably a great place to earn your Lone Wolf status.

If you think this all sounds like a lot of work, I concur.

That brings us to option number 2: Fake it. Play it straight, with help.

You should still be at level 80 before you begin trying to play this role, so just power-level through and then show up with your guild, ready to play the appropriate role. But, and here’s the key point: Get your friends to start a whisper campaign. Essentially, let them play you up as the total Lone Wolf badass. Heck, they may even have fun with coming up with more outlandish ones. Meanwhile, you play your part as the Lone Wolf, hanging on the periphery and leaping in to save ass. Easier, but still potentially difficult. I mean, if nothing else, you got hella lead up time in there. I’m still not level 80 with anyone. I’m not even level 70 with anyone.

Which brings me to best option, to my mind: Subvert it.

Play the guy who wants to be the badass loner, but fails. Play the lovable loser with way too much self-importance.

Insist loudly that you are dangerous and mysterious, and then run screaming from a level one hungry wolf. Sure, it’s not got the same cachet as playing it straight, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun, you can do it right from the get go, and there’s a lot more quirkiness and surface to it. And hell, once you hit higher levels and begin to grow into your myth, you can even play it out to others. The fun thing there will be the smirk on your friends faces, who know the Lone Wolf’s past.

Whatever you do, don’t neglect the deeper levels. You need those inner layers to give your character sustainability beyond the initial moment. If you’re playing it straight, find someone you can open up to. If you’re subverting, give your character some noble traits. Give yourself room to play.

And have fun. As always with role-play, that’s the main thing.

Posted by: Sean | May 26, 2009

Addon RP Roadtest: WoW.com

There are a lot of different road-tests for addons out there. Most look at sensible things like performance, utility, and memory usage. Here at Blogatelle, we have a different perspective. A role-players perspective. We just want to know, how can we use it to improve our role-playing experience. We’re a little like a supermodel shopping for a phone – As long as it lets us communicate better and look hot as we do it, we don’t care about silly little features like cost per month. (We’re also awesome at similes.) Today? We’re looking at the brand new WoW.com addon.

So what is it?

The WoW.com addon is basically a social networking tool for World of Warcraft, and it’s the first one of its kind as far as I’m aware. What it will do is track various things that you do and then posts it up to a website like, oh, I don’t know, this one. Every time you level up, it will post that you did so to the web page. When you get an achievement, it will say so. If you like annoying your friends, you can make it mention every freaking zone that you enter.

You can also do a few other things, like use it to put up screen-shots automatically (to return to our supermodel analogy, it has a built-in camera) and make in-game blog posts.

What’s in it for us, role-play wise?

The big thing that we immediately saw at Blogatelle was, of course, the chance to use it for in-game blogging. The in-character journal is such a great idea for role-play that we can’t believe we haven’t covered it here at Blogatelle before: But it’s truly a great one. It’s a useful tool for getting more in touch with your character, deepening the characterisation a little and understanding what makes them tick. It can also be hella entertaining if you post it online. (If you have an online in-character journal, let us know, we’ll link it here.)

Automatic screen-shot uploading could also be really fantastic for RP events. It would let you play cameraman, snapping everything of interest and lobbing it all up in real time.

Finally, you could always just use it to advertise your RP event.

How does it perform?

Unfortunately, we’re not seeing the utility in its current form.

While it’s still a viable avenue for in-character journaling, doing this from in-game is not. The in-game editor is more akin to Twitter than WordPress, and while you could have some fun twittering your adventures away, it’s really just not the same. I had a go with Jol’rin, my troll priest, and as you can see it’s just not that deep. I’d need a lot more text to get into his headspace. You can blog from the page with more detail, and so what might be viable is a mixed proposition: Use WoW.com for in-character blogging, and the addon for some quick thoughts.

That said, this brings us to problem #2: It’s not in real time. It uses an executable file that you run after your play session, which then uploads everything. This is a real buzzkill, it would be a lot nicer if it could run in the background (that is, you run WoW.com’s addon first, then start up Warcraft, and it just puts up screenshots/blog posts in real time) and keep everything moving. It’s still useful, but for screenshots not much more useful than, say, Flickr. Or for ‘blogging, WordPress. It’s definitely not Twitter, despite the short post lengths.

In conclusion?

It’s not bad. Certainly it’s a surprising move for WoW Insider, but the lack of immediacy is a real killer. We’d like to see a bigger input window for the in-game blogging tool, and maybe bold/italics/underline options. We recognise you can’t put in everything; lua has its limits. But something that let us sit down and write out a full letter would be nice. The screenshot facility is actually pretty useful, we have to admit.

It would also be neat if we could more easily have a character focused web page. Give the web page some more customisability and flexibility – Let us make an URL which is just blog entries for one character, as an example.

Still, it’s a brave effort. We’ll give it a B overall, and a C for role-players.

Dying sucks. We do it all the time in World of Warcraft, of course. One of my non-role playing goals is to reach level cap without a single death – Somehow I doubt I’ll ever do it. I’ve tried to reach level ten without dying and never managed it once. But how do you handle death in character?

We’ve touched a little bit on this before, but what I mean is more the emotional aftermath. Dying is, after all, the terminal event… or should be. To come back from it is miraculous. How do you handle that?

Four ways suggest themselves to me. I’m sure there are others.

  • Oh my god! I died! I could have been dead forever! The first plausible reaction I can see is fear, horror, and insecurity. Dude, you just carked it. You felt your spirit leave your body and, presumably, assumed it was all over right then and there. You knew you would never get to say goodbye to your loved ones. That so many of your dreams would never be. It was over. That scares anyone, and just because you miraculously came back doesn’t take away the fear. You’re huddled in a frightened mass, you become more nervous, and maybe even get a little more wary of getting back into combat. But then again;
  • Oh my god! I died… and I came back! IN YOUR FACE, DEATH! Some people go the other way. Dude, not even death can stop you, it seems. You’re officially badass. Far from being cuddled up in a huddled mass, you’re now enjoying life more than ever. I mean, hell, you could go at any moment, but so could anyone. You’ve had an epiphany on how important it is to enjoy life while you can, and now you do more than ever. Alternatively, you may get even more reckless. Why not, right?
  • Eh. You get used to it. The problem is, of course, that some people die a lot. My undead warrior dies all the time. Sooner or later, ennui has to set in. Death, well, yeah, it happens. What I don’t think some role-players do bring across, however, is how unnatural this attitude is. Does it have other consequences? Once you’ve stopped caring about dying, for god’s sake, how do you remain human? Does callousness set in quickly afterwards as anyone’s death stops meaning anything? This is, make no mistake, a realistic approach. And many thanks to Anna, whose description of this approach inspired this whole column. But I think you definitely need to think about what this approach means if you use it.
  • Actually, I never died. I got a concussion from a heavy blow and hallucinated, but I recovered alright. This is the other approach I use, with Fulthruttle. A devoted atheist, she refuses to believe in anything she can’t see personally, and life after death would be one of them. Sure, she’ll accept resurrections work. If she’s been resurrected by a priest or paladin, etc. then she’ll accept she died. But a spirit healer? Come on. What a silly superstition. Now, here’s the key to making this one work: SHE’S WRONG. I see so many people play this straight, with the idea being that they didn’t die… which would make more sense if it didn’t happen constantly. If you couldn’t come back at a graveyard.

People do die in World of Warcraft. The one thing you cannot do is deny this. (In my opinion, I know some disagree.) How you come back, however, can be different… and fun.

ps. Sorry for being away for a few days. I’ve had eye problems that have kept me away.

Posted by: Sean | May 19, 2009

And now, for something completely different…

I’d like you to help me out with a little thought experiment, and… if we’re lucky, maybe follow this up into reality. Which would make it the second follow-up, since this is itself a follow-up to our post on hybrid guilds and the Wildfire Riders. (Not raiders! Riders!)

Anna herself commented She noted that they’re been misrepresented somewhat – The guild was pure role-play, but they were supported by Totally Raids, Inc., an in-character raiding group that spans guilds. Now, to me, this ends up being six of one, half a dozen of the other – The fact that TRI is an in-character raiding group means it more or less is a raiding group and a role-playing group. (And it makes me want to start an alt on Feathermoon – Hey, Anna! Whatya think about me starting up that mage concept I suggested to you there?)

But it does suggest a nifty possibility: Divide the two. You’d belong to a guild devoted to one, but belong to an informal network for the other.

So, my questions to you, dear readers:

  1. Has this already happened? Can anyone point me to (besides TRI) a raiding network designed to let people role-play in guilds, or a role-play network for people who want to raid with their guilds?
  2. Which would work better: A raiding network for role-players, or a role-playing network for raiders? Why?
  3. What would be the issues surrounding setting one up, and making it work? How would you communicate with your network members?

I can think of a few answers. I think an RP network would work better; you don’t have to worry about which dungeon you’re targeting, roles, etc. You just need to keep setting up events. A custom channel and a good website could go a long way for communications.

But what do you think? What problems might we face?

Consider this an open thread.

Posted by: Sean | May 18, 2009

How to Run: A Party! Woo, yeah! Partay!

It’s Spring, and Summer is fast approaching, and maybe you’re thinking about throwing a pool party as a role-play event. And if you’re not, why not? There’s lots of great lakes and areas to hold a party.

Oh, you’re not holding it because running parties is a huge pain and they tend not to be fun at all?

Yeah, I don’t blame you.

Sigh. It says something that running a fun murder is easier than running a fun party. The problem is the basic structure of a role-play event, which we’ve discussed before:

  1. Periods of closed role-play, in which a leader of the event directs others in order to advance the plot of the event; which are interspersed with;
  2. Periods of open play in which everyone is invited to do their own thing, so that everyone gets the chance to role-play and enjoy the event.

Parties are really big on the second, and short on the first in real life. If it’s a birthday party, at least there’s some structured events. Presents get opened, speeches get made, etc. But a party for the sake of a party is really about everyone showing up, doin’ their thing, and having fun. This is difficult in Warcraft because, well, in real life? Getting a bit drunk is fun. In Warcraft? Eh, not so much. In real life, roughhousing about? Fun. Warcraft? Well, you can duel, I suppose. But it’s not as carefree.

The fact is that Warcraft is a universe designed for raiding, PVP and usual MMORPG stuff. That’s where the fun is. It’s not the kind of fun that screams “Part-ay”.

That said, it can be done. Here are a few tips.

  • The new Cooking Items are a blessing. Fish Feast is perfect for a lakeside swimming party. The other feasts have similar value. Yes, they’re not like a mage table where you can pull food from them, move over, sit and eat, but hey, you can pretend. These suggest large amounts of buffet style food, which is much better than our old technique for food distribution: Having servers trade food items to people.
  • Engineering toys are awesome. Three words: STEAM TONK, BABY! Steam Tonks are dead cheap to make, they’re a hoot at any party, and best of all: Non-engineers can use them. A must for every party.
  • If you’re going to run games, run ’em quick. At one party, I thought we could play a game wherein we’d need to name various lore characters in Warcraft, a typical party game. It bogged down FAST until another person at the group suggested grossly speeding up the timer, to maybe 5 seconds. Keep games moving. You’d be stunned how much longer things take in Warcraft.
  • Consider letting the Darkmoon Faire run your party for you. Seriously. They have tonks, a cannon, cheap booze and other fun available. They’re a great place to throw a party.
  • Consider making your party a smokescreen. This is one of the best ideas. Don’t run a party as a party. Run a party as part of a wider plot. Have someone secretly murdered with a pen. Plan elaborate hand-offs of illicit artefacts there. And if they do, let others discover it for extra fun.
  • Relax. Parties in Warcraft don’t look like parties in the real world. Don’t stress that your party isn’t going right. People are probably having more fun than you’d think.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. – Matthew 6:24

This post is inspired by Anna’s and Falconess‘s guild, the Wildfire Raiders, winning WoW Insider’s Guild of the Month for April. The Wildfire Raiders are, no question, a staggeringly good guild – They do lots of role-play, they kick the heck out of end-game with Totally Raids, Inc. and they organise live meets.

In short, they are, like most role-play guilds, a hybrid – They do role-play but also enjoy raiding. And why not? The game has a lot to offer, and you’d be a fool not to make the most of it…

But then there are the niggling issues of hybrid guilds.

This is, once again, pulling from my experience with my own guild – Who I hasten to add are a great bunch of people. The below examples aren’t based on problems we’ve been having (at least, not all of them) and we get by the problems. But I don’t think anyone would deny the problem exists. Much as the quote above suggests, hybrid guilds attempt to serve two (or more!) masters, and this choice works its way into every little part of guild operation.

For example: Recruitment.

Let’s say that you’re an RP/raiding guild. When you’re recruiting, which skill do you put higher? Great role-players do not always make great raiders, and vice versa. Indeed, there’s some reasons to believe it’s often an inverse relationship. (“For Elune’s sake, you little twit, wear some better gear!” “Go to hell! My warrior is a master of the art of farqyhoo and this is the best armour his religious beliefs allow him to wear!” “BUT IT’S CLOTH!”) Some people really are great raiders and role-players, but often it’s a case of excelling in one and being OK in another.

Now, there’s a number of approaches to this. You could say, flat out, “We’re a role-playing guild first and foremost; if you don’t role-play, you don’t come in.” Which is fine, but I hope you enjoy frustration in raiding – Even if you do have a core group of great raiders, you will quickly find that core more and more wants to play with each other and ‘leave the deadwood’ behind.

You could divide it up. Raiders over here, role-players over there, and there will be some crossover. Will there? Like it or not, one group or the other will tend to predominate. People have friends. The role-players try to pull in more role-players, swinging the focus to their end. The raiders do the same. OK, you say, fine. To balance it up, we’ll close off recruitment to one or the other for a while. Great: If you can tell from an application if someone’s really intending to raid or role-play more. (Hint: You can’t.)

And in the end, this kind of approach can end up not with one guild, but two under a single banner. It’s a difficult problem to resolve.

Or how about scheduling?

We all know it: There are prime times in Warcraft. (Roughly, I’d say, about 8:30-9:30pm EST on weekdays, and weekends.) These are the times when most people in America (for American realms) are home from work, yet not yet asleep. It’s when the most number of people can, and will be on.

So which gets scheduled, Binky? Do you put your RP-focused guild meeting on at that time, thus ensuring that the majority of the guild can attend it and the most role-play can be generated? Or is that when you make your raid attempt, so that you can get twenty-five people ready to hit Ulduar?

Now, the obvious answer is: RP raids. Yes, but even there, you begin to have to make choices. Do you choose optimal strategy, or story? Do you take time for story, or try to finish the raid as fast as possible so you can make another run, and get the better gear?

In the end, there’s no good answer to problems like these. You can only manage. And it’s worth noting, most guilds do!

If I had to offer some advice, I’d say this:

  1. Prioritise, don’t divide. Don’t be an RP/raiding guild. Be a raiding guild who role-plays. Or a role-play guild who also does some raiding. Make it clear from the outset which focus your guild has, and if you (as an officer) begin to sense it shifting, bring it up when you sense the shift. Organise a discussion about that shift.
  2. If you shift, redefine. Let’s say you do sense a shift from raiding to role-play. The storylines are kicking up, less and less people are logging on to raid and more and more want more scenes for role-play. Or vice versa. If you’ve agreed the shift has occurred, consider formalising it. Rename your guild, redesign your web page. If it’s a major shift, don’t pretend to be who you’ve always been. Let players who aren’t interested in role-playing bail with an excuse.
  3. Create officers for each branch, but make sure they’re interested in both branches. You don’t want to create camps. But you do want different groups to feel represented. So make a raiding officer (who is a role-player) and a role-play officer (who digs raiding) to not only voice the concerns of those who feel left out, but to help explain to those people the motivations of the other side.

Running any guild is hard. Running an RP guild is arguably tougher, since very few are ‘pure’. But if can be done.

And congratulations to the Wildfire Raiders for doing it.

Posted by: Sean | May 14, 2009

Quickie Post: The Most Popular Races

Hi gang. Not a lot of time to post today, but thought you might find this fun.

Race Shift toward race on role-play realms Race Number of Hits on Play File
Blood Elves +2.43% Blood Elves 4,384
Night Elves +1.18% Night Elves 3,575
Draenei +0.67% Draenei 3,176
Humans +0.65% Undead 2,929
Trolls +0.44% Human 2,892
Gnomes -0.03% Tauren 2,349
Orcs -0.38% Troll 2,285
Tauren -0.39% Gnomes 2,040
Undead -0.99% Orcs 2,009
Dwarves -3.62% Dwarves 1,974

Discuss.

Posted by: Sean | May 13, 2009

Do It Different: More Shamans

I miss my Awesome ‘Blogging Seat, but I seem to have found one that’s nearly as good. Enough to make me nostalgic.

Why, it seems time for an old favourite. Let’s get into the Do It Different! It’s time for more shamans!

The Archetype: Jess seemed to have trouble pinning down an archetype that worked for both Horde and Alliance, so I’ll give it a go: The archetypal shaman is the ‘touched’ character, half-listening to the spirits and half to those around him, a shepherd of his people and a warden of the spirits, but forever torn between both. That works neatly for the Horde (and explains some of the slowness Jess observes) and it also applies to the Draenei, who’ve learned this tradition from their own outsiders, the Broken. She is right, though, in that the standard way to play a shaman is as someone slow, thoughtful and a little weird.

Alternatives: The Young Rebel: For two races (trolls and draenei), shamanism isn’t an ancient tradition: It’s downright recent. Here, it flies in the face of an older religious belief and is considered radical and unusual. So play that up! The Young Rebel, at heart, is a rebel without a cause. He’s less angry at an issue of society than he is with a perception that the entire society as a whole is flawed. If he’s an idealistic young rebel, that’s because he can’t understand why the society just can’t get itself together and solve its damn problems. (Ahh, the idealism of youth.) If you choose this avenue, then play up how you believe that shamanism “represents a new path” that can fix the problems in your society. Alternatively, it he’s more just a spoiled little brat, he’s mostly angry with how society doesn’t recognise him as the apogee of creation. Instead, play up how dangerous and mysterious shamanism is, and do your best to make you look threatening. Best spec: In either case, probably enhancement. This character likes to get mixed up in the combat.

The Old Loner: Once upon a time, the Old Loner was a great hero to his kind. He was a powerful Frostwolf Orc shaman, or a Tauren of great wisdom and strength. He took up the mantle of protector, and did it well. But at some point, he failed. Maybe a great catastrophe occurred because he couldn’t placate the spirits. Maybe only one person died, but they meant something dear to them. Either way, the great shaman fled, becoming bitter and angry at his failure. He now skulks about, doing small tasks (quests) for people for the money he needs to survive, but no longer does he see himself as a worthy protector of his people. And yet, he still knows someone has to be. So how does he deal with that? Does he rage against his own advancing years, trying to protect from the shadows? Or does he latch onto a youngster, and try to create the next champion? That’s up to you. Play the Old Loner with few words as possible; he’s less Obi-Wan Kenobi than he is Roger Murtaugh. Grunt rather than say yes. But underneath it, try to convey a deep sense of duty and regret. Best Spec: Tough to say, but I’m going to pick Elemental. It’s a classic, and this guy is a traditionalist.

The Oddball: OK, so you talk to the spirits. That’s normal, sort of, for a shaman. That’s their job, right? Cool. So you also talk to animals. Um. Well, maybe you can do that. Shamans are mysterious. But then you talk to your totems. And give them names. Yep, it’s official, you’ve gone ’round the deep end. Trapped between seeing the life beyond eyes sight, you’ve begun to see spirits everywhere, even where they aren’t. The thing is, you’re no less powerful for it. And since a certain degree of eccentricity is acceptable in shamans, you kind of get a pass. Sort of. The fun of this archetype is in making people unsteady. They’re relying on you, and you’re a nice person, but you’re so wholly unreliable that you put everyone on edge. If you can do so without pissing everyone off, occasionally take a fight ‘off’ as you talk to a tree, just to get the idea across. Best spec: Restoration. Would YOU trust this person to keep you healed? Hell no. That’s why it’s so much fun.

OK, it’s time for some real world politics to kick this off. Don’t worry, we’ll be swinging right back into World of Warcraft very soon. But did you know that the performance of the president that you first got the chance to vote for has a really strong chance of setting your political affiliation for life? Seriously, it’s true. I read it on the internet. It’s pretty clear that our political beliefs do get fixed by our first time being involved with the process. So, this leads to the question: What about in Azeroth?

For example, Thrall is considered to be an exceptional leader of the orcish people. It stands to reason, therefore, that if you play a young orc, he’s likely to be very pro-Thrall, and more loosely will be more inclined to reconciliation, diplomacy, and a more defensive, less aggressive Horde. Those orcs who are a little older are the most likely to disapprove of Thrall – Orgrim Doomhammer was a very popular leader, but his philosophy was a 180° flip on Thrall’s. But old orcs (the few who’ve survived) are likely to be quite pro-Thrall as well; they came of age during the time of Ner’zul, who isn’t as well liked on reflection. (Those who remember him as the deeply spiritual, charismatic leader of the Shadowmoon Clan may be less pro-Thrall.)

Or how about the humans? Bolvar Fordragon was very well liked, and his death was a tragedy for the Alliance. Young humans who came of age while he held the stewardship of Stormwind may well be actually quite opposed to Varian Wrynn, whose anger and hostility grossly opposed the stoic Fordragon’s approach. And it’s likely that they’ll find quite a bit of agreement with those who came of age during his first reign, which ended in rioting in the streets of Stormwind. But depending on how Varian does in the end (and he has his defenders) it could be that the youngest of humans (Like, say, your new character?) may instead find him a heroic figure, heralding a strong young crop of humans with a belief in militancy, strength, and warrior culture.

I could go on for all the races (I’m particularly intrigued by the gnomes and their democratic society, and how that works out) but really, what I’m more intrigued by is the basic political dynamics of the races. Warcraft hasn’t gone into this much at all – It’s far more interested in international politics than internal politics, but what of it?

Without wanting to steal her thunder, perhaps this is a Friday Five the lovely Ms. Anna could develop. Do you approve of your current leader? If not, who would you want instead? Who was a good leader you used to have?

But in the end, I leave such things to her. She’s much better at that than me.

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that amaze us.

Yesterday, Jess and I finally got around to doing the Outland Children’s Week quests. (This is the first year we’ve had characters at high enough levels to do so.) Jess had already done the quests earlier in the week, but agreed to come around on them again so we could role-play it out. This created a fairly neat dynamic in that there was one orphan between the two of us; this prevented it from becoming a repeat of the Grunth and Gurk show, which happens with our orcish orphans. The general dynamic is: Jess’s character spends most of her time trying to stop Grunth and Gurk from laughing at explosions and yelling ‘tally ho’ constantly, while my character causes explosions and yells ‘tally ho’ constantly. Good times.

But in order to try and vary things up a bit, I adjusted the balance for Salandria the Blood Elf orphan. First, as noted, there’d be only one orphan, not two. Second, because Grunth and Gurk loved the crazy explosion prone undead baron, Salandria was going to hate him. She’d like Jess’s mage instead. Finally, where Grunth and Gurk were dirty screaming boys with low intelligence, Salandria was going to be smart and prissy.

You will note that not one thing in that above paragraph had any justification beyond, “It’ll be fun for role-play.” See, that’s me. I don’t tend to think about backstory, or reasoning. Much like my undead warrior, I rush in yelling, “TALLY HO!” and let the chips fall where they may. Jess, much like her undead mage, is more careful about these things. She actually tends to think about backstory and the like.

Our first trip out was fairly non-eventful. We rode through Terrokar Forest to Zangarmarsh, and crossed over to Sporeggar, stopping at Zabra’jin along the way. Jess had to stop and go out to buy food at this point, so I played some Plants vs. Zombies and waited for her to come back. When she did, I leapt in media res into a debate with Salandria about how slavery was wrong, and we should be freeing the enslaved gnome. I emoted her reply as an infuriating, “Why?” Jess’s character, frustrated with having to babysit two children, informed my character that Salandria wasn’t that bad, and then vice versa.

You will note, again, that so far I’ve yet to justify any of this. Why is she so unfazed by slavery? (“I dunno. She’s a blood elf.”) Why does she dislike my undead warrior so much? (“He smells.”) Why is she fonder of Jess’s character? (“She doesn’t smell as much, and she does magic.”)

So we went to Sporregar, and enjoyed the little cut-scene. Then it was on to the Throne of the Elements, and (as she always does), Salandria immediately ran up to the big-ass fire elemental and burned herself. My warrior rushed forward to try and pull her away, and Jess’s character rushed up immediately to find out what was going on and – because she hates my character – Salandria lied immediately, “He burned me!”

What happened next truly floored me.

Jess’s character demanded I apologise, and chastised Salandria – Not for lying, but for being so mean to my character. My character, of course, absolutely refused. He’d done nothing wrong! That was it, he decided. He was leaving, and it could be up to Jess’s character to return Salandria to the orphanage.

The two PCs had a brief argument. Jess’s character brought up an incident with Grunth and Gurk, and whether or not they’d been put in danger by bomb explosions. (The argument, “But they’re BOYS. They can handle a fireball!” failed to persuade the female fire mage.) She retorted, “It’s true, it’s hard to deal with high spirited girls. I’m sure she’s doing it just to be annoying. She couldn’t possibly be acting out because she misses her father, like she keeps sniffling about every day at the orphanage.”

And my mind was BLOWN.

I’d never put that into Salandria’s character. My thought was that she was just an annoying, prissy blood elf girl. I enjoyed the idea of her getting into arguments with my ramshackle, decaying warrior.

But I’d never considered why she’d act that way. Jess did.

From that point on, our role-play took a different tone. Salandria continued to be a brat, but my responses were more measured as my character understood why she was acting how she did. And by the time we reached the Caverns of Time and she got rushed by soldiers, she was genuinely thankful for my warrior drawing sword and shield and protecting her rapidly. She still LIKED Jess’s mage more, but my warrior and Salandria left with a measure of respect for each other that wasn’t there at the start of the arc.

And THAT made for a terrific scene.

Bravo, Jess. Maybe you are right about the need for depth after all.

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