Much of the knowledge, skill, and ability to roleplay a believable character in MMORPGs comes from inspiration. Experience is perhaps the best tool to employ in order to feed inspiration. Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever truly experience what it’s like to be a stalwart defender of Stormwind, to walk the magnificence of Thorin’s Hall, or attempt a stealthy infiltration of dungeon Destard to face off against the dragon Rikktor. That’s one reason I’m a gamer.
Lately, I’ve come upon the apparent fact that there are many MMORPG gamers, including many roleplayers, who have played very few other games, if any. I am aware of more than a few of my fellow roleplayers whose very first foray into roleplaying, and even gaming, is with their current characters in LotRO and WoW. To me, this is a very surprising find, considering I am of the first ‘gaming generation’, and many of my gaming friends are younger (some much more so) than me. The gaming I refer to in this article is primarily PC gaming, though I certainly don’t exclude console games, board games, live-action gaming, and of course the traditional RP games like Dungeons and Dragons.
I was telling my RP friend Wendy a couple days ago about The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and how I easily roleplay my characters therein. Oblivion is the best and most current game I can use as an example, even though the game was released in 2006. Oblivion is a huge game, with an incredibly large and open world, and is a great game for RP. Simply remove the massively-multiplayer and online aspects from an MMORPG, and you could have Oblivion. The game, that is. Aside from speech, if you ever want to give yourself a test to find out how much of a roleplayer you (think) you are, make Oblivion your testing ground. I think you’ll be surprised at what you find out about yourself and your RP style.
As I said, roleplaying is very easy in Oblivion and other like single-player games, as long as you can project and transform your own thinking into thinking like your character. To me, it’s no more difficult than roleplaying in MMORPGs, with the added benefit of never having to come upon gold scammers, RP griefers, atrocious leet speak, or anything else that hinders you from staying in character.
Oblivion begins with your character in prison, and an event sets in motion your escape and gives you a quest, which you may or may not undertake. I’ve created four solid characters who have all gone through that event, and immediately after finding freedom, I stop and think, why were they in prison in the first place? Once I have that in mind, I then ask myself, what if any bearing does that fact have on what I will do next? Those two questions have been more than enough for me to create a distinct and different personality for each, thereby allowing me to play through the very same game, yet experience it in four unique ways. Remember, Oblivion is a two-year-old game, yet not once has it ever been old or boring for me. Safe to say I’ve gotten my money’s worth.
Outside of actual roleplaying, just looking at the core of a game like Oblivion can provide a wealth of RP materials to improvise and adapt into your own RP. From concepts of character design (Oblivion has an awesome character creator interface), learning about some new races (ten found here, some familiar, some not), a wonderful feature called Birthsigns (which would be great for explaining some of those difficult-to-RP items and magical abilities), and excellent in game interpretations for magic and alchemy. Combat and stealth-focused roleplayers would I think also do well with seeing what Oblivion has to offer, and taking what’s useful to employ in their own RP play styles.
Speaking of stealth, if you really want to learn more about how to better RP a character with this trait, then find yourself copies of the Thief series. Yes, again, older games, but none have yet to be made since that do stealth better than this series. In both WoW and LotRO, I’m amazed at how many rogues and bandits creep about in stealth mode with their RP mode turned off. Simply because the game mechanic allows you to walk down the middle of town while ‘invisible’ doesn’t mean that you should, especially if you consider yourself to be a roleplayer. Not only are they really good games, but they instill a real sense of what it means to seek and stay in the shadows, to strike quickly and precisely, and how to fade away from sight and away from danger when the time is right. Perfect points that every stealth roleplayer should take to heart in learning and using.
Roleplaying inspiration doesn’t have to come from games with a first-person point of view. I sincerely hope that all my gaming friends have played the Fallout series of games. If not, you are missing out on one of the best adventures in gaming history. Taking the series as a whole, the storyline, atmosphere, gameplay, and RP influence is unforgettable. For example, there is an NPC in Fallout 2 that is one of my favorite of all time. Named Sulik, he’s reminiscent in both look and speech of a tribal witch doctor. His voice is the one I have in my head as also being the voice of my WoW character Wichdocta, even though the mannerisms are different. Really, any game you play has the potential to have a character with some idiosyncracy that you may remember, and there’s certainly no RP law against using them for your own characters.
Furthermore, some games exist which may seem to be as far from RP as possible, but are so only to the unimaginative. Games like Half-Life, Team Fortress 2, Starcraft, and even Civilization have one or more items that can be copied and pasted into RP for the right character. When creating the personality of my gnome mage Arsonite in WoW, I went back and played through the original Half-Life and wrote down all the lines the scientists blurt out, which deal with specific examples of engineering and scientific chatter. I played a few Starcraft scenarios, paying attention to what the Firebat units spoke. I even threw in a couple of Gandalf lines from The Fellowship of the Ring movie. To this date, no one has yet to whisper me saying they recognized any of Arsonite’s words. They’re not meant to be original, more of a way I show my honor and adulation for all the things that fire my RP imagination. And, hey, they work!
There are of course many other games that could possibly inspire your RP. More old games, like Myst and Deus Ex, and just as many newer ones, like Neverwinter Nights and Bioshock. Playing lots and lots of games has given me a vast rock solid base from which to draw much of my RP inspiration from. Many of my fellow roleplayers have not been so fortunate in building their own knowledge base of gaming as I have, so I am glad to share some games I currently play and have played in hopes you may also play them and be inspired in your own right. So, what offline games have been of great RP inspiration to you? What memorable characters, methods of speech, imaginative skills, classes, or races, or wondrous locations have you funneled into your own RP, and how? I look forward to hearing your answers, and until next time, role on!