Over the years I have written a series of articles concerning life on Role Play servers offering bits of information to help others have a more rewarding RP experience. Here you will find those articles in one convenient place. As more are added they will be included here.
Role Play 101: Overcoming "First Contact Fear"
In one of my previous articles I touched on the concept of First Contact Fear and how it can hamper quality role play. However it is more powerful than we may realize and continues to plague RPers all over. Especially RPers who might be new to the server or to the game and have no others to support them in their enceavors. I hope in this article to dig into it a little deeper and to provide some insight into it as well as offer useful tips and strategies to overcome it and find that RP you’re craving.
What Is First Contact Fear?
I could give a detailed psychological analysis delving into the inner heart and soul describing in highly technical terms what it is…. But I won’t. I’ll keep it simple and it may not be what you’re expecting.
Simply put, First Contact Fear is a fear of rejection. Many people may describe it many ways but it is that fear that when you try to talk to someone they won’t respond or they will respond negatively. The fear that you will look like a fool and their opinion of you will be marred. That fear that they won’t like you or want to rp with you.
It’s that knot in your stomach when you first see someone and think that you might want to rp with that character. That nagging feeling that you won’t know what to say. That total blankness that crosses your brain when you try to think of a reason your character would want to interact with that other one, or even how they would go about it.
Don’t worry; many role players have been right in that same spot, including me. It is difficult to overcome this fear but it can be done. So let’s get started.
The First Step Is Honesty
Maybe that leaves you a bit puzzled but give me a moment to explain. Honesty isn’t just something you offer to others; it is also something you must give yourself. Be honest and it will make the process easier. Be honest about what you want. Analyze your own thoughts, your character, what direction you want that character to go and move from there.
Do you want just a brief interaction or do you want someone you can meet up and RP with again? Do you want someone to just hang around with on occasion or do you want a romantic interest? Do you want someone to go fishing with? To fight with? To stalk or be stalked by? Do you want someone to talk books or magic or animals? There are any number of things that you could want for your character. The first step is knowing what you want and being honest in seeking it.
If you know what you want, the next part is easier.
Have a Plan
I see it so many times; someone wants to meet another character, talk to them, whatever, but instead of approaching, they just stand off to the side watching or just wander back and forth. And then they are disappointed when the target they’re watching doesn’t respond.
Interaction works two ways and most people I know are not psychic. They can’t respond if they don’t know you want to interact. That fear can be so strong though! Shyness can suddenly beat the most skilled role player into the cobbles. It’s always a good idea to have some sort of plan.
I try to have a set of “canned” approaches in the back of my mind. Things as simple as casually bumping into someone (literally, /em bumps into %t) or something more bold such as complimenting their shirt or simply commenting about the weather. These are the easy “canned” types of openers that you can write down on a list if you have to so you have them when you walk up to that character and suddenly FCF sneaks in and steals away whatever it was you were going to say. Heck, even that can be an opener if played right. “Oh my. I had something I was going to say to you but it has completely slipped my mind what it was! I’m sure it was interesting and entertaining so perhaps given some time I’ll remember it. My name is XXXXXXX by the way, and who might you be?”
These don’t have to be spectacular, hugely original (though original will get you more points) or even particularly amusing. They are simply something to get the conversation started. After that, it is a matter of keeping the conversation moving.
Sometimes spontaneous RP requires a bit of planning but after that initial contact is made, it goes much easier.
OOC RP Requests
Everyone wants the magic of random RP that grows into something cool. It’s fun when it happens because of its unexpected nature. But sometimes it just doesn’t happen. You cannot contrive random RP; if it is contrived, then it isn’t really random, now is it? So don’t stress out if you’re not getting loads of random rp. It happens! And that means we must resort to other means to meet people.
On both Alliance and Horde side there are channels for the RP community: /forthealliance and /forthehorde. Opinions of these channels vary and results can be a mixed bag. But they are a suitable place to start, especially on Horde side where there is no role play hub like Stormwind.
So it’s very simple how you use them: /join *channel* then say “Anyone up for some RP?” Sometimes you get folks, sometimes you don’t. I had an elf that got knocked out, tied up, and shoved in a tomb by responding to such a request. That was an interesting night! Then there have been other nights where that statement was met with dead silence. It happens. Don’t lose heart!
Do you see someone in town you want to RP with? /whisper “((Hey, would you like to RP?))”. It’s okay. This is perfectly acceptable. If they turn you down, don’t lose heart! They may have something else going on, coming up or might not really feel up to it today. I am a die-hard RPer and there are days when I just want to go blow crap up and nothing else. So if you’re turned down, don’t get disheartened, just keep looking!
Request RP Button on ERN. Here on ERN there is the Request RP Button. Once described as “Like the poke button on Facebook… but useful.” It is a tool for letting someone else know you want to RP with them. Use that to make your RP request.
Keep Your Chin Up
Spontaneous interactions don’t always work. I wish I could tell you that every time you will have a lovely and fulfilling RP session and log off for the night thinking “Damn! That was fun!” but I would be lying.
Sometimes they just don’t work. It isn’t a failing on your part if you tried, it doesn’t mean nobody wants to RP with you or you’ll never have friends. It doesn’t mean you should be disheartened by it. It just means that it sometimes doesn’t work. So you keep your chin up and move on.
If someone doesn’t respond it could be a number of things; they could be afk and the tag hasn’t popped up yet. I’ve done that a number of times; had to rush away from the keyboard to respond to a cat doing something they shouldn’t be doing only to return to find that someone tried to rp with me while my character just stood there and stared blankly at them.
Always assume the best until proven it is the worst. So don’t assume someone didn’t respond because they didn’t like you, but simply something else prevented it. It happens. That’s normal.
Watch Out For Spam Loss
It is really easy to lose interactions in channel spam! This is so common that it pains me to think of the number of good leads that have likely been lost in channel spam. I personally, ditched all the public channels such as Trade and LFG my first week in WoW and have never looked back but lots of people do use them, then there are channels like FTA, group, guild, raid, etc. So likely most people have plenty of text movement on their screen!
Be aware that things can and do get lost in it, especially in high chatter areas or events. If a response seems to be taking a really long time, don’t assume they’re ignoring you, ask in /w if they saw it. Likely it got scrolled completely off the screen while they blinked or something. I’ve said it in other articles and I will continue to preach it; Communication! It is so important in RP interactions and understanding what is going on.
EDIT MAY 2012
Removed the section about the Request RP Button feature on the old site.
Pulling it all Together
Making that first contact can be scary. Especially if you’re new to the server or the game and don’t really know anyone yet. I’ve been there and I do understand. There is hope though and there are ways to get past it. I would encourage others to post more tips for making first contact below and offer ideas to fellow role players that might be struggling with First Contact Fear.
Thanks for reading and happy role playing!
Role Play 101: Hosting a Role Play Event
Role play events come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Planning such an event should be fun and rewarding but never scary. And a successful event will be fun for the organizers as well as for the attendees. Over the years though I have heard many people say things like “I don’t know how to organize an event” or “I’m no good at that sort of thing” or “I’m not creative enough”. I’m hoping that with this article I can help others see how easy and fun planning an event can be.
Let’s start at the very beginning of the process and follow it all the way through to the end.
It usually starts as a tiny little thought: I want to host an event. For many it never gets past that single line screaming for attention as worry and doubts creep in and smother it. However if you take the time to fan that tiny flame of an idea you might find it more worthwhile than you could ever believe.
But don’t jump too far ahead in the game. Before you set that time and date, you need to know what kind of event you’re going to hold. There is a variety of them to choose from and every one of them can easily be customized to suit your likes or the likes of those you want to attend. Figure out what kind of event you want to host first.
• Scripted RP Event
I haven’t much experience with these because I prefer to let RP happen rather than trying to script it out, however there are some types of events that some form of idea how you want it to flow would be useful. One such event would be the wedding of two characters. Another could be a major plot point in an ongoing storyline that has to happen in a specific way in order for the story to reach a pre-determined conclusion. Whatever the case, make sure those attending understand that it is a scripted event and how tightly or loosely you want the script to flow. You might not be terribly amused by the warlock that shows up at the wedding to perform his blood ritual RIGHT NOW.
• Small Gathering
This is just a simple “Let’s get together, have a few drinks and talk” sort of events. Probably one of the easiest to pull off on short notice. Usually this type of event is pretty free-form and intended to be pulled off without lots of advertising. Maybe a post on your guild forums or a couple announcements in guild chat then you show up with a few drinks to pass around and engage in in-character conversation.
• Large Gathering
This is just a generalization because there are many types of events that can be thrust into this category. A beach party, a naked relay race, a fishing derby, a formal-dress ball. These and many more can be large gatherings and require a bit more prep time and advertising than the small ones.
• PVP Event
This is the type of event where you bring the two teams together for combat. Whether it is just a large battle between the two teams or there is a specific goal in mind (capture the hill or prevent the escape of the prisoner or something along those lines) this type of event works better if there is a person on each side to coordinate. Be aware too that PVP events tend to attract buffoons looking to ruin everybody else’s fun, so be ready to deal with that as well.
Once you’ve decided to follow through with the idea and have a general idea of the size of event you want to host, decide if there is a theme or reason and what that might be. A beach party might be just an excuse to get out in the summer sun and have fun. A fancy dress ball may be in celebration of a specific holiday. A PVP event may be a capture the zone event or may have a story about someone being held captive by one team and the other team trying to break them out. Use your imagination and be creative, but don’t over complicate it either.
You also need to decide if this is going to be an event for only one faction or if you’re going to host a cross-faction event. Personally I tend to host mostly cross-faction events to give the greatest number of people the ability to attend. Depending on the type of event you are running, though, cross-faction may not be feasible, nor even believable. If you want to host a party to celebrate the glory of the Horde, it isn’t likely the Alliance would be welcome.
When hosting a cross-faction event, however, I recommend having a co-organizer on the opposite faction to act as contact for that side. Don’t worry. It isn’t as difficult as you might think to find a co-organizer. Put a post up on your realm board or on some of the other forums that are tied to your server. There is bound to be someone just as eager to see your event pulled off.
Location is going to go a long way in making sure your event is fun or a headache. If hosting a cross-faction event, be sure you choose a location both factions can get to. If you want to include lower level characters, once again, be sure they can get to it easily or make arrangements to have a warlock on hand for summons. Creatures in the area can be a pain as well. If you’re near a creatured area, make arrangements to keep it cleared or just host in an area that is monster free. Usually the monster free option is preferable.
Speaking from experience, lighting of the zone can make a difference too. Moonglade is a fantastic zone with no wandering monsters that is open to both factions, though having a warlock for summons is a good idea for low levels. While the lighting of the zone might be great for setting the mood for a specific event, it is not very good for screen shots and has a tendency to make that spectacular red and orange dress the oddest shade of gray.
Be sure you look at all the factors of a location before deciding that is a great spot for a party.
The Time And Date
You’re getting to the point when you want to set the time and date! Getting closer to announcing that spectacular event! As with anything, though, think it through before you set that time and date. On a Wednesday morning at 7:00 am may not be a time to get a broad audience. If it is a guild only event, consider the time blocks when the largest number of guild members are on and would be free. Remember, they are more likely to skip a round of dailies for your RP event than they are to skip a weekly raid.
If this is an event you’re opening to the whole realm, consider the prime playtimes. While each realm has its own time corresponding with real life timezones, not everyone on the server will be on that same time zone. I always recommend placing an event to cover the widest range of players possible. Something set at approximately 7:00 PM Central time will be 8:00 PM Eastern, 6:00 PM Mountain, and 5:00 PM Pacific. While pushing a little early start time for Pacific and a little late for Eastern it is not unreasonable and will likely be able to catch the broadest range of people.
When planning a date be sure you check around to make sure you’re not going to be overlapping on some other major event, whether it be a role play event or a Blizzard event. As an example, during the introduction of the Quel’danas dailies and the goals that had to be met, it was difficult to lure anyone out to events until that one was complete. Also some realms have large annual role play events planned or weekly role play events. If possible, try not to schedule on the same night or time as these already established events. When faced with a choice between what they know and what they don’t, most players are going to choose the event they are familiar with.
Truly it is not a dirty word. Sure you might get a few dirty looks if you walk through the streets of every city for days on end spamming your event, but you do need to get the word out somehow.
If it is open to the realm, go put up an announcement post on the realm forum. I always recommend about a week to a week and a half in advance with careful (non-spamming!) bumps occasionally along the way. If you place it much further in advance than that, people lose interest and forget. If you place it much closer to the event, you run the risk of not enough people seeing it.
Be sure to put it up on your guild forums. If you have a guild and if they are supportive of events, post it there. Let your friends know. Find any joint forums that are tied to your realm as well. If there are any in game calendars that are in use on your realm, get it added. Announce it in in-game channels (but don’t spam!). Keep the message fresh, get the information out there, but don’t do so much of it that people are sick of hearing about it before the event even arrives.
Hammering Out The Details
This is where the odds and ends fit in. Where you think about all the little extra things. Things such as do you want to have food there? Drinks? Fireworks? Smoke flares? Heavy leather balls? Prizes?
If there is a co-organizer, are you both on the same page with what time, date and what each one of you is in charge of? Do they have supplies? Have you set up a method of communication during the event just in case such as Skype, Vent, or some level 1 alt on a second computer that you can use as a translator?
Is there something that must be kept on schedule? Are there going to be multiple items on the schedule? Are others aware there is a schedule?
If there is a contest, do you have the rules clearly defined before starting? If it is a PVP event, have the rules of engagement been clearly stated?
Be sure you put thought into all of the aspects of the event and try to anticipate any questions or issues that may come up. You will not nail them all, but the less you have to deal with during the event, the better it will be for everyone.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Probably the most important thing to remember about any event is if you think it is going to be too big or complex for you to handle on your own, do not be afraid to ask for help. Talk with your guild or with other guilds you know. Talk with friends, talk with other well known role players. Ask for advice or for others willing to help shoulder some of the tasks of the event. The more tasks that are divided out, the easier it is for everyone involved.
This is the most important part of this. Have fun. It is just a silly event. An excuse to bring others together in game to have fun in a place doing something that doesn’t involve killing the same snake or pig or naga over and over and over again. It is not meant to be something you stress out over. If it doesn’t work out, oh well! It happens that way sometimes. Just focus on having fun and others around you will pick up on it too.
Role Play 101: The Other Side of the Pixels
I’m going to touch on a subject that all players, not just role-players, should keep in mind. It may seem like it has nothing to do with RP and therefore has no place in this series of articles, but I assure you it does. It has a very firm place in all interactions we have online and I hope people will read it and take it to heart.
Who Am I? Who Are You?
Hi. My name is Merly. I have brown hair and hazel eyes. I like to read, write and play video games. I have good days and bad, ups and downs; I have feelings, dreams, hopes, even a few scars. I play a mage in World of Warcraft.
In other words, I am a human being on the other side of that computer; a real person with real feelings that can be damaged by carelessness. Just as I am sure you are too.
It’s a tragedy that so often that fact is forgotten or blatantly disregarded in a world that conducts so much of its business, communication and social interaction online. We may be utilizing a heartless machine to communicate, but the being doing the communication is still human and should be treated as such.
Sometimes it’s far too easy to forget that person on the other side. Many times it is incredibly easy to misinterpret something that was typed or to type something that seems fine at the moment but might act like a fiery brand on the temper of the person on the other side. Other times it is far too easy to hide behind the Great Wall of Internet Anonymity and be an ass.
Verbal vs. Electronic
While a study in human nature determining what the exact percentage of our communication is nonverbal is nigh impossible, fair estimates put it firmly somewhere between 85-95% with 93% being the most common approximation. So that means that approximately 93% of the meaning of our message is conveyed through nonverbal cues; tone, volume, inflection of voice, facial expression, body language and eye contact. Literally hundreds of messages can be conveyed through half a dozen spoken words by the nonverbal signals we send.
Our world is moving deeper and deeper into the digital age. The average person conducts somewhere between 40-60% of their daily communication electronically, either by email, text, chat programs, social networking sites, etc. Each year that amount increases as electronic communication becomes faster, cheaper, easier. Our youth grow up in a world where instant, anonymous communication is the norm. Yet none of those forms allow for nonverbal cues.
Now considering the message conveyed in the two previous paragraphs, is it any wonder that it is so easy for drama, cruelty, depression, anger and frustration to explode so fast and so painfully over the internet?
The Great Wall of Internet Anonymity
It really is easy to hide behind internet anonymity. That dark little voice in the back of your head that reminds you that person doesn’t know you. You don’t know them. You don’t have to look them in the eye, you don’t have to acknowledge their feelings, you don’t have to witness the pain you cause. We are empowered by being anonymous.
This freedom from having to acknowledge others as sentient beings with viable feelings and emotions that should be respected leads to hordes of people across the cyberverse that display little or no regard for others. They don’t know that elf/troll/dwarf/noob/pug personally so they feel no responsibility to treat them with common courtesy.
I’m sure there are a number of people that have stopped reading by now or will stop shortly but think really hard. Examine your behaviors and really look at them. Consider them from the other side of the computer.
“Noob.” “WTF! Dumbass!” “You suck!” “OMG you can’t heal/tank/dps!”
It’s so easy to type. It is so easy to picture the fingers typing the message. But when the same messages are directed back, they don’t feel very good, do they? You feel angry, hurt, confused. It’s even easier to lash back because we feel justified in our anger. “They started it! I’m going to finish it!” syndrome.
Sometimes the messages are more subtle. How we type a phrase always has the chance of being misinterpreted. Wording is a very tricky matter if you don’t pay attention.
Study the three following sentences and see if you can pick out which one is the best and why the others might cause problems even though they all say the same thing.
#1 - “If you don’t pick up your dps you’re going to get kicked out.”
#2 - “You even going to try getting your dps up, noob?”
#3 - “Your dps seems a little low. Do you need some help figuring out why?”
#1 – The other person has just been threatened. It might have been meant as a warning or advisement, but the more common interpretation is going to be seeing it as a threat. Being threatened causes a person to become defensive; feeling the need to defend/protect themself. The most common reaction is going to be to strike back.
#2 – The other person has just been insulted. When typed it might have been meant in a joking way however there are no nonverbal cues to communicate that so the more common interpretation is going to be as a deliberate and cruel insult. Once again, the person has been put on the defensive. Most common response is likely to be the same as the threat.
#3 – It should be obvious that number 3 is a more correct path to prevent hurt feelings and explosive drama. I hope to many it is, but it’s also easy to forget. In number three it has been communicated that there may be a perception that something is wrong and there is an offer to figure out why this is so. There is no accusation, no insult, no threats.
Nobody responds well to threats, insults, accusations in any form. Always think about what you are going to type before you hit that enter key, sending it into someone’s face.
One should never feel justified in cruelty. You may be stuck in that group of idiot puggers. Sure, someone may be acting like an ass. Does imitating that behavior make us so much better?
In-Character Is Not an Excuse
What does any of this have to do with Role Play? It has quite a bit actually. You see I can’t tell you the number of times I have witnessed someone using role play as another wall to be cruel. One more excuse to hide behind. Not only are you anonymous behind a computer, you have yet a second face to use as a shield. One that is imaginary.
I have seen “characters” mob another one with hate filled comments carrying on for days to the point where the receiving player is so hurt and upset they lash out, hide, quit or engage in defensive behavior. Then the phrase “Oh it was IC hate” is flippantly tossed out as if that makes it all better.
I, myself, have been the target of in-game hate mail thinly disguised as role-play from not only an anonymous player but character as well. Insults bordering on OOC or some of them blatantly OOC meant precisely to be cruel and cause damage. Hidden behind an excuse of “but it’s in character”.
IC anger/hate/maliciousness/cruelty should be understood and explained before ever beginning. If it happens spontaneously out of the blue, communicate with the other person and make sure it’s okay. Discuss it and maybe come up with a fun plot, rather than one person feeling abused. If IC hate/anger/drama starts to hurt the player, they need to speak up reasonably about it and the other party needs to be willing to drop it and move on to something else. Period.
The moment a player expresses that a role play behavior directed at them is bothering them out of character, the other person needs to stop and the players need to consult. Maybe a compromise can be found, maybe the characters just need to not be in the same stories or they need to pretend the other doesn’t exist. Either way, it cannot be allowed to continue. The player’s needs always outweigh the role-play.
Don’t think that someone is being too sensitive because one character abusing their character bothers them. Our characters are extensions of some part of ourselves. Whether the character is the law abiding paladin, the pocket-picking rogue, the puppy-sacrificing cultist, they are the creations of the player. They are that player’s work. When creating a character for role play or writing we always put a bit of our heart, our soul into that character. Without it we could not make that character seem real.
However even that tiny little piece of ourselves that we build into each character can cause pain and we need to be aware of that. Courtesy is not so difficult. If you want to interact with someone’s character, especially in a negative way, it is basic courtesy to communicate with them. Especially if it seems feelings might be getting hurt in the interaction.
Whether in role play, in groups, on the forums or in chat, it is important to break down that wall. Don’t use the Great Wall of Anonymity as an excuse to be an ass. Courtesy is not so difficult. Kindness goes a very very long way. One tiny bit of kindness could improve a person’s day one hundred fold, prevent weeks of drama, and does it really cost so much to spare?
It doesn’t take very long to examine what you type before you do so. Let’s put faces back on the person we communicate with.
Hi. I’m Merly. It’s a pleasure to meet you and I hope we can be friends. I will be kind to you even if I feel you are not kind to me because I know on the other side of that screen, we are not so different.