Like many other long-time PnP gamers my age, I had no idea the real portal I opened when I cut the seal on that Dungeons & Dragons red box back in 1980. So many wonderful years of being a main character in hundreds of adventures, surrounded by best friends and soda cans – memories which I hope never die.
It was much the same feeling on the first day I logged into a friend’s Ultima Online account in late 1995. It had been a couple of years since my last D&D session at that time, and I was itching to get back into some quality roleplaying. UO allowed me to do just that, and once again I found myself surrounded by friends, albeit in the virtual sense. MMORPGs have been a most excellent substitution for feeding my RP hunger when time and place have become barriers to gathering a classic D&D party.
Fast forward to February 2006, when Dungeons & Dragons Online was released. Care to guess what I was doing? You know it! I was incredibly excited with the prospect of playing the perfect matching of two of my favorite gaming genres. Finally, the greatest RP game on paper will now also be the greatest RP game online!
Huh? What do you mean there are no roleplayers in DDO? You can’t play Dungeons & Dragons without roleplaying, right? I mean, it’s named after the game that spawned millions of RP components that can be found throughout the gaming world, online and offline! WTF?!
Even today, on the eve of DDO’s four-year birthday, roleplayers still clamor and lament the depressing lack of RP aspects in game. To date, the only thing that looks like it was built into the game specifically for roleplayers is a Bio section. Granted, there are also locations and activities where roleplayers may assemble around, but that’s about it. Quite an astounding and mind-boggling fact, made even more so when you realize the makers of DDO (Turbine) are also the makers of Lord of the Rings Online, which gets my vote for being the best MMORPG for roleplayers online today.
So, with DDO now gone the Free-to-Play route, what if you’re one of the new gamers logging in looking for and expecting, as I did, that this is the game where RP is sure to be found, and being sadly disappointed? Well, there is RP to be found here, but finding it has proven to be most difficult.
I suggest starting off your search by reading the Roleplaying In DDO community created guide, found in the Compendium section of the official DDO website. It is a very good primer for DDO roleplayers looking to understand how to transmogrify such things as gaming stats, user interface, and locations into something more RP friendly. Emotes and interacting with NPCs are also briefly touched on. There’s another well-informing guide here, Love and Marriage In Stormreach, which was written to help players better understand how to RP relationships and weddings in game, if you’re into that sort of thing. Last but not least, I highly suggest reading the guide Avoiding Culture Shock Travelling From Pen and Paper to Xen’drik. It’s a well-written piece designed to help smooth the transition for players coming into DDO directly from tabletop D&D. Perhaps if I’d read this before starting up DDO, I might not have been so dazed and confused at not finding any RP. Nah.
Eberron is the setting for the world of DDO, so doing some reading about the place you’ll be adventuring in is always a good thing to do. The Eberron Wikipedia page has a brief overview, but if you have the funds to spare, I would go for the Eberron Campaign Guide. It is written specifically for the PnP version of D&D, and it’s probably overkill, but info on persons of interest and historical background on the lore of the land make it a worthy buy.
Fellow MMORPG news site Ten Ton Hammer has an article that may also help here. A Roleplayer’s Guide to Alignments was published just before DDO launched, but the info is still a handy reference for new players not familiar with alignment.
I found a very interesting forum thread during my searching over at Codemasters’ official Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach section. ‘A serious thread about roleplaying in DDO: What can be done?’ is an 11-page discussion about what’s possible to foster RP aspects in game, with all posts written in 2006, just after DDO’s launch. There are some novel ideas mentioned, yet, sadly, which have not been implemented in game, and may never be.
Now, as for directly finding roleplayers in DDO, well, that’s no simple task. It falls on your shoulders to do what you can to get the RP ball rolling in game. However, there may be some small amount of help to be found on the Guild Matchup section of the DDO forums. Be prepared to do a lot of reading here, since there’s no easy way to just pick out the RP guilds from the mass. You could also do a search through the forums for the keyword ‘roleplayers’ and see what results that nets you. Pay attention to who is also looking for fellow roleplayers, and what server they play on, and contact them.
Of course, there is the tried & true method of asking around in game on the various chat channels there. I’m honestly thinking this may be your best method, at least until someone comes up with another more suitable.
In all the reading I have done, I have yet to come upon a quality answer as to why Turbine chose not to invoke specific RP components into DDO, of all games. It’s simply a confounding puzzle to me and other roleplayers. I for one would love to know Mr. Gygax’s thoughts on the matter, were he still on the Prime Material Plane with us. Any game that carries the Dungeons & Dragons name should be overflowing with roleplaying elements. Period. Nonetheless, roleplayers are a hardy and imaginative bunch, and I’m certain that they can create and have created at least a small amount of RP in the game. If you happen to know an important resource I’ve missed, or just want to talk about roleplaying in DDO (or any MMORPG), enter your thoughts into the Comments section here, tweet them to @RoleCraft, or join the RoleCraft Facebook Group and sound off there. Until next time, role on!