RoleCraft: Just My Imagination

A long time ago, when I was a kid playing with other kids my age, we had this thing we’d do whenever we got together. It usually started with someone saying something like, “Hey, let’s pretend we’re…”, and suddenly, we transformed ourselves and our view of the world into something fantastical and wondrous. We became cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, samurai and ninja, a Star Trek Away team, Jedi Knights, and once, we were mystical super heroes who used classical music as our weapons. Those are of course just a few examples of play sessions I took part in, and I’m betting those of you my age, older, and possibly younger, can maybe relate with me on a deep and personal level.

Imagination is one of the greatest elements the mind is capable of. While the amount of knowledge that the brain can hold may be finite, it is imagination that completely removes any limit to what the human mind can ponder and believe. Merriam-Webster Online calls it a “creative ability”, and it is an ability that everyone possesses, albeit some seem to have a much greater grasp on how to use it.

Roleplayers are such people, I believe. I think (the use of) imagination is the key factor that separates roleplayers from non-roleplayers, and also helps to tell the difference between roleplayers and hard core roleplayers. RP in our beloved MMORPG’s begins not in the game, but in the mind, the imagination, of the player playing the game. The game simply helps (or should) with the ability to physically see what our imagination can project.

As for those of us who seem to have no trouble expressing our imagination through our gaming, much of what I’ll say here may be old hat, common knowledge. If so, perhaps you’ll still find something new in the following suggestions for those less skilled in the use of imagination for building and making better use of your imagination in RP.

I like this line in the Imagination entry on Wikipedia: “A basic training for imagination is the listening to storytelling (narrative), in which the exactness of the chosen words is the fundamental factor to ‘evoke worlds’.” I couldn’t agree more. There are a ton of resources from which a person could pull imaginative ideas from, but none I think more important than the reading or hearing of stories. I was a voracious reader as a child, on up until a few years ago. I am still constantly reading nowadays, starting and finishing about three books a month, but that is nothing compared to my youth, when I would easily go through the same amount during a normal week. I read everything I could get my hands on, no matter the subject or genre. I’m a bit more picky in my adult life about what I read, but the fact remains that I read much and often. I wish to pass this along to my fellow roleplayers, young and old, as a primary tip: Be specific when reading to strengthen your imagination.

Roleplayers are readers. Simply put, all this means is you should match what you read to the game you are looking for RP help in. For instance, if you are looking to broaden your RP imaginative tools for WoW, you’re in luck, for there is an entire library of books to choose from, available at the official Blizzard Entertainment Online Store. Fiction books, the trading card game, the tabletop roleplaying game, and official strategy guides, all are top potential items to use in cramming your imagination full of the lore, facts, and general information about WoW, which will only help you in creating and playing some high quality RP in your game sessions.

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This same method can also be used no matter what genre your favorite MMO happens to be. If you play sci fi MMORPG’s, like Star Wars Galaxies (for which there is also a huge mass of books written to peruse) or Anarchy Online, then stick with sci fi books. Many classic authors, like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, are themselves the inspiration for many of today’s top game makers, so why not get it straight from the source? Of course, that’s not to forget about some of today’s top sci fi authors, for which Orson Scott Card comes first to my mind.

In traditional fantasy gaming, of course one of the first names to come to mind should be J.R.R. Tolkien. If you don’t know what world famous books he wrote, then you are in need of more help than I can provide. I dare say roleplayers would consider it an atrocity to meet someone calling themselves a roleplayer who has never read The Hobbit or any of The Lord of the Rings books.

To pay homage to a couple more very notable authors here, I ask you to not forget Madeleine L’Engle, who wrote the brilliant book A Wrinkle in Time, and Robert Jordan, author of the fantastic Wheel of Time series. Both authors passed away this year, but thankfully gave us some excellent and profound worlds and characters to mentally experience. I highly suggest you go read any and every book from these two you can find.

Now, to be sure, there are hundreds of other authors I could mention here, more than a few for every MMORPG setting and style that exists today. If you have such a question or need help with this, by all means, feel free to email me, I’m happy to help. Though my focus in this article is about reading, don’t of course forget about other imagination building media, like music (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd), movies (The Matrix, Lord of the Rings), TV (Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who), and even other games, from traditional RPG’s (Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft the Roleplaying Game), to CRPG’s games of yesteryear and today (the Ultima series, Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, and Oblivion).

Imagination is certainly a key element in our RP, but more than that, it is a vital instrument in our daily lives, as long as it isn’t taken to the extreme. So, when you think you may have ‘hit a wall’ in RP’ing in your favorite MMORPG, take some time out to feed your imagination, expand your mind with a good book, and just pay attention and enjoy a good story through the vision of your minds’ eye. I don’t believe you’ll regret it. Role on!

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