RoleCraft: Expanding RP
By Jim Moreno

Two of my favorite MMORPGs, World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online, are nearing major expansion releases (Wrath of the Lich King and Mines of Moria, respectively) which will increase overall gameplay on many levels. New lands, classes, races, skills and professions, and many other elements will be added, promising to greatly augment and enhance the richness of each game world, and sure to also increase the pasty whiteness that is the MMO gamers’ flesh.

Change is a gameplay factor that is constantly on the minds of us roleplayers. For the most part, changes are adapted to and improvised with on the fly during normal and specific RP events. However, changes on the level of such a drastic degree, as with a full-scaled expansion, should have a lot of RP thought and preparation put into it as early as possible before the expansions’ release. Doing so can help create quality RP where their may have not been any before, or where an opportunity for RP was missed.

MMORPG expansions bring on a bevy of additional content changes, usually encompassing roughly the same features listed earlier. So, let’s look at some changes forthcoming in these areas for these two MMORPGs and contemplate ways they can be roleplayed. I hope to make the examples wide-ranging enough to also be fitting for any MMORPG and expansion applicable. I’m mainly usingWoW and LotRO to compare a specific game distinction that exists between them. Let’s start there.

The canon for Lord of the Rings was created long before the Warcraft universe, and even PC games and gaming, was constructed. Decades of books, movies, tabletop gaming, just to name a few, have helped to grow LotR into a vast and extraordinarily vivid world-within-our-world. It’s this fact that allows LotRO gamers to easily search for and find needed information regarding any aspect of that world, including the subject of the forthcoming expansion, Mines of Moria. This established information also allows roleplayers to smoothly find fodder for their RP, in such areas as history, geography, culture, knowledge, and the general everyday life of their characters. Since this info gathering can be done way before the expansion is released, roleplayers have the opportunity to be well suited for a smooth RP transition into all the new changes.

On the other hand, World of Warcraft came to be not all that long ago. Although it is rather impressive the world they have built and populated in a few short years, the lore and history resides mainly in three real-time strategy computer games and a small library of fan fiction books that have been written since WoW’s release. Which leaves the burden of relating that history to in game means, and Blizzard has done that in a most excellent manner, to a point. Being able to find the history of the world within that world is awesome, and helps roleplayers actually feel like their characters are learning, versus player knowledge simply being passed on to and through a character.

So, what are some specific changes to LotRO that will be coming with the Mines of Moria expansion, and how can they be roleplayed? For one, the addition of new territory, here being the actual Mines of Moria, can simply be roleplayed as having always been there, and there would be nothing wrong with having previously made mention of them in RP conversations. As stated above, the entire world of Middle-earth has long been established. It’s not like Moria didn’t exist one day and suddenly appeared the next, even though in game mechanic respects that’s exactly what’s happening. Here’s how I RP reason it: Moria has been a dead tomb for many years now,unbeknownst to much the outside world, even to dwarves. With the Fellowship now having entered therein, and the denizens of Moria being drawn to Sauron, the pot has been stirred, so to speak, and Moria has re-emerged on the maps of freeps and creeps alike.

Northrend is the new land to be featured in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for WoW. It comes about through Blizzard working Warcraft lore and events that happened in the previous game Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Before the WotLK expansion was announced, anyone but the most ardent Warcraft loremasters would be hardpressed to state any facts about Northrend itself. This lack of earlier information is no obstacle to the competent roleplayer, who may simply hear (or tell) of rumors of a far off land of ice that is now being connected to the mainland through a new harbor in Stormwind, or via zeppelin towers outside of Orgrimmar and The Undercity.

Players with scholars of ancient history may suddenly be finding lost tomes of knowledge that vaguely mention Northrend, and perhaps even the known inhabitants of the land. Sailors and pirates in Booty Bay and Ratchet may be whispering from darkened taverns about seeing new creatures and ships on the line, and about seeking adventurers for hopes of plundering the riches of a new land. Priests, druids, and witch doctors may be receiving bad portents of things to come while in prayer, meditation, or from rolling the bones. All this and so much more can be employed by roleplayers to ingrain their characters more into these upcoming world events long before they arrive.

In regards to explaining in RP terms the multitude of new skills, professions, and spells arriving with the expansions, I’ll share two of the notions I’m using: necessity and evolution. My WoW character Arsonite Tinkerboom, prestigious member of the Enlightened Assembly of Arcanology , Alchemy, and Engineering Sciences, has for years been experimenting with thousands of elements and materials in an effort to correct an personal matter with his being. While he has yet to be successful in that endeavor, his efforts have not been wasted, for sure. He has devised and found quite a few very useful spells that up until now (i.e., the release of theWotLK expansion) he has not publicly presented.

That’s one result of the evolution example I’m using. Another is much akin to the same game mechanic that is already in game, where an alchemist has a chance of discovering an new potion, elixir, or transmutation recipe with each attempt thereof. I widen that concept to include all skills and profession traits. To me, it makes sense that if you work with something long enough, you’ll learn new things about it. Hence, in MMORPGs, that means new spells and powers, be they with a weapon, piece of equipment, or within your character. Simple!

To paraphrase the commonly known quote by Plato, necessity is the mother of invention. In RP terms, this means that something new will arise in response to something else new, like a new class of character unexpectedly in the public eye in direct response to a new class of creature. How this comes about in RP is entirely up to theroleplayer . It could be as simple as praying to the gods for a better way to oppose the new threat and receiving their gifts of blessings, or by creeping down to the crossroads and making a deal with devils. However it happens, it is bound to happen, and has possibly beenprophecied since ages past. Roleplaying the introduction of a new class (and race) is open to the imagination of any and all enterprising roleplayers.

Of course, these are but a few of the methods available that roleplayers use in rolling new game content into their everyday world. What other methods are there? What ways have you used to accomplish the same goals in your favorite MMORPG? I welcome your thoughts and ideas, either stated here in the Comments section, or sent directly to me at RoleCraft at gmail dot com. You may also feel free to contact me in game if you wish. Role on!

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