Adventuring is the name of the game in MMORPGs. It’s one of the strongest reasons so many people play them, for the ability to wander some fantastical land doing good (or evil) deeds dirt cheap, and just having fun playing a really good game. However, there is an immense cliff to beware of if you follow that trail, one I see so many players walk right off the edge of. Players who have ever said they are bored in game may have fallen off this cliff, lemming style, and not even known it.
Much of the standard fare in MMORPGs can be routine, especially after you’ve played the same race and class more than a few times, or waded through the same quests over and over. Even roleplayers are known to struggle with this cookie cutter gameplay, and with keeping their characters from looking and acting just like every other character in game. What to do? One sure way to avoid the pitfalls of routine is to realize that there are many other classes in game besides adventurer. It’s time to become a professional roleplayer!
By professional, I’m talking about taking a closer look at the professions and secondary skills that are normally there as extras to support an adventurer-focused character, and find ways they can become your character’s primary focus.
What is your character’s class? Probably something like priest, soldier, burglar or samurai, depending on your game. The way many MMORPGs are designed, these all fall under the “adventurer” class by default. To gain experience points to increase your skills, and often to reach the next level, you are expected to take that character out into the wilds, questing, battling, and saving various damsels in distress, that sort of thing. These activities require skills and spells probably built into the your character’s class.
What about cooking? In all the MMORPGs I play, I’ve never had a character die from hunger. It’s not a needed skill, and many players never spend a single copper or a single second training it or other secondary skills. Such a skill is widely designed to be a support skill, something your character can do to enhance your adventuring ability, but doesn’t have to. Cooking, skinning, jewel crafting, first aid, fishing, and many others can be taken out from under the shadow of the game classes and roleplayed as being a class unto themselves.
I could long lament about how none of the MMORPGs I know of have the perfect balance between adventuring and secondary skills. Instead, I have examples from three different MMORPGs showing the way they do secondary skills, and some ways they could be made to be the focus of an RP character.
Starting with the most popular, WoW is really the game I think in drastic need of such a character. Probably more due to the sheer number of players, WoW is where I hear the outcry of “I’m bored!” more so than in any other MMORPG. That’s not to say that the entire game wouldn’t benefit if Blizzard made their next new character class, oh, let’s name it the Artisan, a class focused on creating many types of unique items, or taking items already in game and upgrading them to be more powerful, or more useful. For instance, I’m hoping that player housing does indeed find its way into WoW. If and when this happens, the Artisan class is one I can see being of great use in creating furniture, artwork, tapestry, yard ornaments, anything that players may want to stock and decorate their houses with. The class would not be forced into venturing out into the wild in order to obtain their materials and tools of their trade, “forced” being the key word there.
WoW is currently the most difficult MMORPG I’m aware of in which to RP a profession-based character, simply because the game does indeed force players into adventuring. Difficult, yes, but still not impossible to do so. There are 13 professions and secondary skills available, outnumbering the nine classes, and that fact mixed with some imagination makes for ample opportunity. Playing a non-adventure WoW character means that you must find other ways of retrieving the materials needed for your profession. The first place to look is, of course, the Auction House. If you’re like me, and you know the AH to be nothing short of the legalized extortion that it is, you too probably stay far away from it. Excepting cases of extreme roleplaying need or desire, I stay out of the place, preferring to do business with other roleplayers or NPC shopkeepers.
That being said, the AH might just be a fine place for a profession-based character. Thinking of it as a secure warehouse, where the character keeps the most difficult to find and most valuable items that they don’t wish to keep in their personal vaults, is quite alright. Just be prepared monetarily for the price and costs of the items within.
The best way to overcome the material-gathering conundrum is to build or find a social network of fellow roleplayers in game. You might know that such cooperative entities are called guilds in WoW. In real-life historical times, guilds were not built around people who only wanted to PvP, or raid, or whose membership was restricted to gnomes. They were focused on professions, like artists, musicians, alchemists, blacksmiths and the like. In the years I’ve been playing WoW, I’ve yet to see a guild built upon the profession premise. Would such a guild work and thrive in game? I think so, yes, but I have not seen it nor tried it to say with positive certainty. Yet.
So, say you want a character for the sole purpose of roleplaying as a leatherworker. There are two ways you could go: Start off at level one and simply ignore the class moniker that follows you around in plain view of other players, or play an adventurer who has hit level “X” and retires from that life to become one. Whether you are in a guild or not, it would behoove you to either become an apprentice to a leatherworker of higher skill, or hire yourself an apprentice or two. This opens up a fantastic RP opportunity! As an apprentice, set yourself up to being the one who gathers only the best/softest/cleanest coyote hides. Hire an apprentice who lives in or knows Nagrand, and who is able to collect premium talbuk hides. Many of the other items that drop from such felled creatures can be sold to a character roleplaying a cook or an enchanter. The chances for an incredibly deeper RP fellowship abound when with profession-based characters, and can be just as fun as with a group of adventurers.
Speaking of fellowships, Lord of the Rings Online has a much better crafting system than WoW, with the added bonus of being able to earn titles, which greatly increases the RP fun factor. In WoW, you need an RP add-on like FlagRSP2 in order for your character to be publicly seen as a profession-based character. LotRO has these automatically, so when you advance to Journeyman and Expert Farmer, you can choose that title to be shown in public.
In LotRO, it is also much easier to step away from being an adventurer and play a profession-based character. There are still quests to accomplish to advance a profession or skill, which may or may not require you to be proficient at wielding a sword to protect yourself, but the forced option isn’t so heavy as it is in WoW.
The daddy MMORPG, Ultima Online, has perhaps the best option for roleplaying a profession-based character, in my opinion, for the simple fact that the game is not level-based, but skill- based. Players do not earn experience points for killing a creature, and there are no levels to go through, which also means there is no level cap. If you used a sword to kill with, then your sword skill increases. Likewise if you instead used a staff, or your fists, or magic. This is also how the professions and skills are handled. Do you want to be a miner, or fletcher, or tinkerer? Then go mine, make arrows, or craft clocks, and that skill will increase the more you practice it to show your prowess at it. Once the skill is high enough, your title will also change to publicly reflect it!
Where UO shines and makes it worthy to roleplay in this style is the ability to have your own shop, and I mean literally, not just in the RP sense. In WoW and LotRO, it is your character that will have to fill his inventory and brave the bustling crowds of Stormwind or Thunder Bluff to stand and hawk your wares. In UO, you can actually purchase an NPC that you may place out in the world and fill their secured inventory with whatever items you wish to sell. Other players striding by may click on that NPC and purchase items, with their gold going directly into your bank, and you never even have to be logged into the game!
How to make this translate over to LotRO and WoW? Hire a salesman, or RP as one. Stand out in one of the many crafting halls and busy intersections to be found, and sell away. Dress that character in something special, have them use fireworks, create specific macros with a cleverly-written sales pitch, anything to attract more attention. Yes, I would even say this is one of the rare times I would actually endorse the use of scantily-clad dancing female characters, as long as it’s fitting to do so!
So, there are some thoughts on roleplaying a profession-based character. Far from complete, mind you, but hopefully enough to help out. I have permission to mention this upcoming RP event in WoW (Blackwater Raiders server), so if you care to see an example of roleplayers rolepaying their professions up close, or wish to help with / participate in, then mark your calendars!
A note meticulously written and tacked to the outside wall of the Orgrimmar Auction House reads:
Fellow members of the Horde…
The Burning Tusk Tribe is hosting a Trade Faire in the Valley of Spirits, Orgrimmar on Sunday, May 4, between 12:00 P.M. and 2:00 P.M. It is felt that this would be an excellent opportunity for those that enjoy working with a craft to show what you can do and sell your wares to other Horde members. All crafts are welcome to participate. And if you are a miner, a skinner, or a forager, this would be the perfect opportunity to make contacts with those that regularly peddle their wares.
May the Spirits smile upon you and watch over you.
And may you role on!