I was a teenager around '78 or '79 when I read a review of Dungeons & Dragons in the NY times, and harassed my mom till she bought it for me for Christmas. I was thrilled with the idea of a game that was played almost entirely in your imagination. As a budding writer, I couldn't imagine anything more perfect. It was part acting, part writing, part scheming, part watching the vivid pictures that unfolded in your mind as the DM described the dungeon and we reacted to it, and part sitting round the table with your friends, eating pizza and laughing uproariously at the latest prank that someone played on the DM or each other.
Since then I gamed PnP on and off (mostly on). At one point I even got paid (I kid you not!) to DM for a homeschool group. I only discovering MMORPG's in the last year or two. I was pretty much bewildered that DDO didn't put the focus on the RPG part of the equation. Fortunately, I was picked up by one of the largest RP guilds on Sarlona, and learned that there WAS space for RP in DDO - but you have to make it yourself.
Now an officer for my guild, I was rather amazed when I started getting tells asking "what is RP and how do you do it?" Recently I read a guide suggesting that someone should write a guide on RP, so I figured, "why not?" The below is a compilation of my own experiences as well as tips from articles by my guildmates. I hope you'll add your own suggestions to make it more comprehensive.
Why Should I Role Play (RP)?
Well no one says you have to. In fact, DDO in its current incarnation neither encourages RP nor discourages it. It's a matter of personal preference. Some of us enjoy immersing ourselves in our character and the world. Others treat DDO as a strategy game, with them trying to outwit the DEVs, and still others see it as a beautifully graphical version of Wack-a-Mole.
One thing I can say, is that RP'ers will be far more likely to accept those who want to try odd builds, or even "gimped" characters, so long as the player themself is happy with them. Many of us remember the days when there were no "point buys" and you rolled a straight 3d6 for each stat, often leading to some challenging builds.
For some, role-play is the heart of D&D, others find it slow and boring. All I can say, is try it and see if it fits you. Be willing to suspend your disbelief and step into a world that is built of more than just the pixels on your screen and the commands on your keyboard. Try it. You might not like it, or you might find it as addicting as potato chips - you can't eat just one!
Creating Your Character
I won't talk numbers here. This is absolutely NOT the guide to "creating a character that can beat the Titan single-handed". Set your stats however you want, but as you do so, consider the stats you have that are especially high or low. Maybe you've got a character with high wisdom but low intelligence. So you might decide that he's one of those guys who just has a "gut feeling" regarding the right way to proceed. High INT, low CHA? How about your standard geek? I'm really smart, but I'm just a ditz in social situations. I'll probably stammer and drool when the pretty girl comes along but when you need that brilliant master plan for outsmarting the end boss with no tools other than a wad of bubblegum and some sparklers, I'm your man!
The DDO bio page has some challenges. Mostly regarding its filter, which will make you work hard to write something that passes its censors. However, ignore that for a moment, and imagine the bio you'd write without that. Pull up your notepad or just sit down with your imagination and focus on your character's beginning moments. What was their home life like as a child? What made them want to go adventuring? You might combine that thinking with your stats. For instance, maybe a character with low CON and STR was sickly as a child or picked on by bullies. Perhaps your high CHA, STR, DEX ranger was the captain of his worg-ball team. Stats aside, maybe your parents were killed by kobolds as a child, so you have an insane hatred/fear of them and want to get even. Why did your character become a paladin? Was it because he was raised in an orphanage by clerics who promoted his aptitude as a fighter? Or did he commit some egregreous sin and then find this as a way to make amends?
We all grow up with certain challenges that affect how we deal with the world around us. IRL I was horribly shy with folks I didn't know, and barely spoke above a whisper with them. At the same time, if I knew you well, I would allow my intelligence, leadership abilities and scheming brain to show, and before you knew it, I'd drag you into some sort of trouble, "cause wouldn't that be fun?"
One of my guildies plays a cleric who is self-deprecating to a fault. She's constantly apologizing for her every thought, speech and action. Most of my very-self-actualized characters want to smack her senseless. "Geez you're allowed to have an opinion, ******!!!"
Another guildie plays an evil old wizard. (So what if evil alignments aren't presently allowed in game, that's how he plays it.) That character is sarcastic beyond belief and after spending about 10 minutes with him you'll be plotting revenge and he'll be warning you about getting turned into stone.
Another friend plays a thief. (Oh excuse me, they're called rogues now! Gotta stay politically correct!) Even if he actually knows the quest inside out and backwards, he'll approach a chest and do a thorough search. "Because *I* wouldn't leave a chest out here in the open without trapping it."
Phobias and Foibles
Does your character run and scream like a girl when he sees spiders? Do the undead give him horrible nightmares? Will he hate elves with a passion (and be summarily rude to any in the party) or make rude comments about anything that’s the color pink? Maybe he’s a snobbish connoisseur, and will only drink the finest Galhada Distillate.
Perhaps your ranger mourns and says a prayer for the dead when he has to kill wolves or other ordinary animals? Does your foppish paladin kvetch and moan about anything that gets on his shiny clean armor? “Oh my! It’ll take weeks to get the stink of the sewers off my new gloves!” and “Ewww I have sand in my boots!” Or play a bard that speaks in rhyme as often as possible.
Your Own Catch Phrases
"What's up, Doc?" "I'm hunting wabbit. Hehehehe!" "Up, up and away!" "Elementary, my dear Watson." "Exit: stage left." For those of us who've been exposed to them, these phrases immediately call to mind Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Superman, Sherlock Holmes and Snagglepus.
Does your character sound like a sweet southern belle? A Bronx street fighter? Does he answer with a clipped upper crust British accent, a redneck twang? Reading many good novels, you can often tell who's speaking without all the "he said/she said" just by the words the characters use. When your character is faced with a dangerous trap or a diabolical plot, do they say, "how extraordinary" or "wow man, that stung!"?
I once played a "Druish princess" a halfing Druid with a thick Jewish-Brooklyn accent. (Having grown up in NY City, I can do that accent without even thinking about it.) "Oy vey, there you are trampling across the forest trying to find the orcs, and you don't even bother looking for tracks. Don't mind me, I'll just sit under this oak tree in the dark until you bother asking me for my aid."
Giving your character a voice of their own lends flavor and individuality to your character.
Don't worry if you can't actually "speak" that particular accent, as long as you can portray it reasonably in print. Most RP groups rely on text chat - but more about that in a bit.
What does your character want out of life? Is it their desire to eradicate evil in any form? Are they greedy rogues who care little beyond the contents of the next chest or the pockets they can pick? Does the potential reward of a new spell send them into conniptions of bliss? Might they be a fallen hero, trying to make up for past misdeeds with present good ones? Or are they merely looking for a good story to tell over a round of ale?
How Would I React If . . . ?
Now that your character has his personality fleshed out, let’s ask a few questions about how he’d react in certain situations.
What if . . .
You were told to bomb a ship? (My paladin had to be convinced by the other party members that this wasn’t an unpaladinly thing to do.)
A PC asked for an item that you’d pulled from a chest? (You as a player might have no problem letting them have it, but how would your PC react?)
Your employer sent you to retrieve an item. You braved a den of thieves to get it, and when you returned, he stiffed you on the gold he’d offered and told you to keep the lousy signet (+1 Heal, whoopee!)?
Another PC made fun of your weaponry? Would you snarl at them? Challenge them to a duel? Ignore them? Make snide comments about their gear/personality/character class?
You were told that a man’s wife had been kidnapped by kobolds? Would you race in to save her, or decide that you’d get around to it eventually? Or call him a wimp for not rescuing her himself?
Feel free to make up more “what ifs” if you desire.
Role Playing Conventions. & Setting Up for RP
No I’m not talking about going somewhere in a funny costume, and hoping to get a chance to hear Gary Gygax speak. (Though if you’ve run Delera’s you might not be so hot on that idea ) When you’re in a quest with other Role Players, it’s polite to speak mostly in character. However there are occasions when you need to say something that is out of character, or OOC.
In Character Chat
Most folks put OOC chat in double parenthesis, such as “((brb bio))” or ((wait – need to adjust my pack)). You might also see someone preface their remarks with OOC or IC, which stands for “in character”.
Many RPers do not wish to use voice chat, and sometimes don’t even use headphones. Generally this is because they feel it breaks the mood. Imagine going into a quest with someone who purports to be a nobleman’s daughter, but when you hear her voice, her accent is pure hillbilly. If you can actually role play your character in voice, then check with the rest of the group. Personally, I love it, but some folks have a problem with that.
There are times when things are moving fast and furious, and it’s usually seen as okay to break in with voice chat. For example, one of your party members is about to run headlong into a trap. Feel free to get on VC and say “trap!” or if you’re lost somewhere behind the group and you get attacked, its faster and easier to scream for help on VC.
What is NOT seen as okay is long winded VC or typed chats on anything not pertinent to the quest and RP, whether it’s the latest debacle with wife/hubby agro, or the +5 Vorpal Longsword you found in the auction house.
“Aliases” are DDO’s terms for macros, and a great way of getting your message written swiftly with minimal typing. To make an alias go to your “general” tab and type:
/alias ;string1 “string2”
For string1 substitute the letters you want to type for your shortcut. For string2 substitute the sentence you want it to print out.
/alias ;tr “/p I sense danger ahead.”
When you type in ;tr you will say that sentence in party chat.
Emotes add a bit of fun and expression. Perhaps you want to cheer a member of your party who just vanquished an enemy or got a great pull from a chest. Just type /cheer into the chat tab. So that you can see your own, and other party members emotes typed in party chat, make sure to set that window to accept emotes.
You can find the full list of presently available emotes by typing in /emotelist in the general chat tab.
Of course there are many emotes that aren’t readily available. You might want to show, for whatever reason, that your character spins in circles till they become dizzy and falls down. The general convention used for this is to bracket your emote in stars (*). So:
*Hellebore spins in circles until she becomes dizzy and falls to the floor.*
Finally, It’s Time to Role Play!
Finding An RP Party
Occasionally you’ll find a group that is already LFM and specifies that they are holding an RP quest. However this is a rarity. Be sure to put RP or Role Player in your LFG notes, so that other RPers can find you. Generally you’ll need to create a party for RP questing yourself. Just make sure that you specify “RP questing” in your LFM, and explain your rules to the rest of the party before you go into the quest.
Sarlona and Thelanis are both unofficial RP servers, and it’s easier to find RPers on those servers, but we have plenty of folks on those servers who don’t RP as well. Although I haven’t checked out too many servers, I’m sure that there are RPers on most, to a greater or lesser degree.
Find an RP guild. On Sarlona, one of the biggest RP guilds is my own beloved Lightstorm’s Dragonslayers. Check your server forum to see what available guilds might suit your needs.
The way my guild quests is that we go through each room, and after we’ve cleared it, we stop and give everyone a few moments to role play before moving on to the next area. Yes this DOES take longer than normal questing. However RP is generally not about zerging and getting through content fast. Instead our goal is to slow down and enjoy every moment. The imperative here is to make sure everyone is given ample time to contribute, comment back and forth, and have a good time. A typical scenario might be:
Algothang the Cleric: /cheer “Well we shown that wizzie right good.”
Idran the Rogue: *laughs* “And I thank you, Algo, for rescuing me once again. Those nasty skeletons nearly killed me there, but for your good graces. Oooh, and what have we here? [Idran finds a chest and even though it’s not likely that it’s trapped, does a search.] Well it seems to be safe. Foolish. If I were to leave a chest around, you can be sure I would have trapped it.” [Idran opens the chest.]
Burgee the Fighter: [Pulling his loot from the chest] “Ahahah, Bracers of Ogre Strength! Finsh, you are doomed next time we duel.”
Algothang: “Izz no problem Idran, I’z there for you as you is for me.”
Finsh the Sorcerer: *quirks his brow* “Oh really, Burgee? Next time we duel, please remind me to transform you into the toad that you are inwardly.”
Rondal the Paladin: “If all of you thugs are finished looting, you might care to recall that we have a sacred mission to finish. Shall we?
Play It Like It’s Brand New
Another thing our guild does it to take each quest and pretend we’ve never been there before. First off, if anyone is new to the quest, it helps them by not revealing secrets, and thus ruining many of the fun surprises that happen along the way. Even if everyone’s been through the quest twenty times before, it’s still fun to go through it as if it were a new experience. After all, in PbP, how many times would you duplicate a quest?
There’s a razor fine edge to handling this. You don’t want to put your party in danger, and at the same time you desire the illusion. If you’re running with someone new to the quest, then please don’t “ruin” it for them. For instance don’t say, “the wizard ahead casts fire spells, let’s all buff”. Instead, try “I feel there is a challenge ahead. I’ll do what I can to offer you some protection.” Or if you’re running Von2, you might say, “Gee these walkways look scary. Lets be sure we don’t fall off!” The good news here is that RP quests usually run slowly enough that there’s generally more time to warn someone if you sense a trap or other danger.
There are many circumstances we typically come across in DDO that can easily be rendered in an RP tone. Here are a few common ones:
Found the shrine: “Ah, this might be a good resting place later.”
I need to go shrine: “My friends, I’m weary. Think you we can find a place to rest?”
What quests are you planning?: “Have you found any work?”
I want to do X quest: (Describing the quest info) “Well, Lesto wants me to retrieve this gem for him. He seems to think it’ll be a piece of cake so long as we don’t stir things up by killing all the prophets.
I need to log: “‘Tis time I retire to my apartments. ((Gotta log guys, thanks for the party.))”
Going to repair: “Ah, how sad, my trusty bastard sword has been nicked. I must run and take care of that.”
Going to the tavern: “I’m feeling quite thirsty.”
After being rezzed: “How very strange, I had an odd dream that I was a ghost . . . . “
Backpack is full, give me a moment to readjust inventory: “Hold a moment, friends, this backpack is getting heavy.”
Feel free to add to the list..
Making What You Can of DDO
Once again, although DDO was created under the aegis of the name Dungeons and Dragons, it’s not a RP specific game. RP is certainly possible, but you’ll have to make it happen for yourself, as it’s not, at this time, part of the programming.
Knowing Your World
In any RP game, having an idea of the world’s history, mythology and natural cycles will help you further immerse yourself in the world and aid role playing. In a recent PbP (Play by Post) game I joined, my character is a druid. Wanting my druid character to be attuned to the planetary cycles, one of my immediate questions to the DM was, “What’s the moon phase, right now?” And since he didn’t know, I ended up creating an entire calendar for his campaign, complete with holy days for the gods, harvest festivals and more.
The DDO world is based on the Eberron campaign world. While I’m no expert on that world myself, I’ll include several links which will allow you to research that.
RP in Taverns and Public Areas
My guild holds occasional RP tavern events to satisfy our need for RP and public events designed to introduce RP to the general public. We’ll buy each other drinks, and pass them via the trade window (if you don’t need it, you don’t have to consume it – just pass it back to them when you “buy” them their round. For appropriate suspension of disbelief, pretend to talk to the barkeep first.)
Taverns are a great place to role-play. You can “meet” folks from your guild you’ve never run with and talk about your respective bios, or tell your friends a yarn about the latest quest. If you’re a bard, play a tune and make up some funny lyrics. (Perhaps something you’ve written for a friend in advance.)
PVP brings out some additional opportunities for RP. In fact the ONLY time I PVP is as part of RP with my guild. You might challenge a close comrade to a friendly duel or pretend to be insulted by something another person says and challenge them to a fight. Unlike fighting pre-programmed mobs, who generally only come up with comments like “Yark!” and “Kobolds always hate you,” a good RP PVP battle is a lovely excuse for insult trading. And with or without PVP a great insult war a la Cyrano can be a blast.
The first time I held a Morning Tea (my term for guild sponsored open-to-the-public Tavern RP - I hold these in general chat with the idea of attracting other RPers) I found a rusty old warforged standing in a corner of the Phoenix Tavern. After pushing the buttons on his breastplate, I found that I could activate him. He immediately began to look for his master (dead some time back) and we spent the next hour running around the Marketplace playing hide and seek. *Laugh* don’t push the wrong button or he might attack you.
Keeping It Friendly!
Some of the suggestions I’ve mentioned, such as insult fests, PVP and dwarves who hate elves (and vise versa) or cranky old wizards may sometimes cause confusion if folks don’t realize you’re role playing. If you’re RPing with someone who doesn’t know you well PLEASE send them a /tell letting them know that you’re not actually mad at them, you’re role-playing. There was one incident where a character who RPs a very snide rogue managed to inadvertently insult another person (who took it to heart, sadly) and got very upset over the matter.
You’ll also occasionally find folks who aren’t interested in role-playing and will get bored and frustrated if you try. Either go back to “normal gamer mode” or find another party. Or just keep the RP light. Chat away in RP mode, but don’t expect everyone to go along with it.
Interacting with the NPCs
Okay, I realize that you can’t REALLY interact with DDO NPCs at this point. They have a limited amount of responses and there’s only so much you can do or say regarding them. However you can certainly use them to color your world as you role play.
For an example of this, how many threads on this forum are devoted to “I hate Coyle” messages. Some of them get quite creative regarding his reasons for zerging ahead with no armor and a club, including pejoratives as to the circumstances of his birth, and the many reasons that he must hate you to act the way he does. “Because your mother dresses you funny.”
Apply that imagination to all the DDO NPCs and they become fodder for RP between your characters. For example:
“Guard Jung is looking for his badge - again!”
“I swear, that drunkard is constantly missing things. Is that any way for a Stormreach guard to behave?”
“Aww give the guy a break. He’s hankering over that lass who spends all her time on the ramps near the Dinghy, and she won’t give him the time of day!”
So call me crazy. I make up stories for the NPCs and I talk to my summoned Hell Hound. If DDO won’t bring RP to me, I’ll bring myself to RP.