Roleplaying Flags and How to Love Them

To a roleplayer in any MMO, many people might find the character model they’re using a bit limiting. In SWTOR, we don’t really have this problem. We have the option of giving our characters cybernetics, various skin textures, tattoos, or even certain scarring. We can even adjust the weight of the character. We have the body type option in LotRO, also the option for minimal facial customization, but if we want our characters to have anything past that, we’re out of luck. The same goes for WoW in that we only have minimal customization options for our characters.

So what if the image of the character we have in our heads doesn’t match what our characters actually look like? What are we as roleplayers supposed to do then? And, for that matter, how are we supposed to let other roleplayers know we’re roleplaying at all? For some, walking through a major city is a good enough indicator, as is talking to various NPCs. For others, however, this might not be enough. This is where flagging yourself as a roleplayer can be incredibly handy.

Turbine: Supplying Helpful Tools for the Roleplaying Community

In LotRO, this is very easy to do. By default, the names and various sundry things that display over our heads appears in yellow or greenish-yellow text. If we type /rp on into the chat panel, however, the text over our head changes to white, indicating that we’re roleplayers. You can type /rp into the chat panel to see if you’re flagged or not if you aren’t sure whether or not you’ve set it.

Engeled demonstrating how nameplates look with "/rp off" (left) and "/rp on" (right).

Turbine also decided to be wonderful and give us a biography screen. In this screen, you can show off your parentage/children (providing you’ve been adopted by another player or have adopted one, yourself), and you even have a spot to detail your character’s personal history. While many roleplayers in LotRO use it for it’s intended purpose, others still tend to take advantage of the space and write out a detailed description of their character’s physical appearance. I have yet to figure out how I want to take advantage of the space, so, for right now, it’s left blank on both of my characters.

Warcraft, Addons, and You

However, while Turbine was wonderful and built these tools directly into the game for us, Blizzard has not. If we as roleplayers in Azeroth want a similar tool, we have to utilize addons. At first, I didn’t know addons like this existed, but I downloaded one, it opened up a whole new aspect of roleplaying for me. I fell in love with them, and if you’re a roleplayer in WoW, having an addon like this is kind of a godsend, especially if you’re on a server where non-RPers coexist with the rest of the roleplaying community. If you don’t have one already, I highly recommend that you download one and play with it.

If this is your first time looking into one of these addons, I’d recommend starting off with either MyRoleplay or FlagRSP2/FlagRSP Cataclysm, if only because these tend to be the most commonly used roleplaying addons in the Warcraft community. There are other addons you could use, as well, but as I have no experience with them, I’m going to keep myself from talking about them. When it comes to choosing an addon for these purposes, however, I can’t really recommend using one over all the others out there as I’ve found that it’s really a matter of personal preference. Most of the flag generating addons are able to “talk” to each other, so you should be able to read all the flags you come across regardless of the addon you choose. Take your time, investigate the various RP addons, and choose whichever one you like the best.

After you’ve made your choice, install them as you would any other addon you use in WoW. Then, the next time you boot up the game and get ready to have fun in Azeroth, you’ll be ready to roll and you can start filling things in! However, you don’t have to fill out all those blank areas right away. Personally, I like to take some time to make sure my description for the character is solid before I fill in anything. Therefore, the first thing I tend to do is fill in the character’s surname if the character has one (or given name as the case may be) and set my flags, and I’d recommend you do this, too. After all, you can put in a description at any given time, but letting people know if you’re in character or not is one of the first steps to initiating random RP.

Your Character’s Description

So you have your options on how to input your character’s physical description. The question now is how do you go about writing it?

You could do something as basic as “what you see is what you get”, implying that your character looks exactly as s/he is on the screen or you could go wild and crazy. Some even choose to put in their character’s backstory into their description, but I’d personally caution you against doing that. After all, your character doesn’t have their history written on their clothing (or do they?). Remember that no one would know your character’s entire life story just from looking at them. However, MyRoleplay does have a “Background” field that you can choose to put your character’s history into if you were so inclined. (I never do.) You can get away with this in the space Turbine provided for us, as well, but I would not recommend doing this outside of the designated areas unless you want to have other roleplayers look at your flag with some confusion.

Personally, my character descriptions tend to be a bit on the briefer side, a paragraph or two at most, and are limited to my character’s physical description only. Think about what others would see, smell, or hear when they come upon your character. If your character is one of the Forsaken, does his/her bones creak when they walk? Perhaps the character smells of the earth or like mold or your character wears various things in their hair that clack or jingle when they move. These are the things you’d definitely want to include, as descriptions like these are used to engage another RPer in your character prior to actually initiating conversation. In real life, a person’s opinion of you is set in their minds just from that first glance, so make it count!

A look at the MyRoleplay interface (which blends nicely into WoW's existing interface) and Adaret's description.

Now, are there things to avoid? Certainly. I already suggested not putting your character’s history into their description, so I won’t touch on that again. However, there are other things. For example, you can see that Adaret’s description above has some extraneous descriptors that I could take out and lose absolutely nothing. This is a milder example of purple prose, or very extravagant and flowery writing, and isn’t exactly something a lot of people would want to try to slog through. Nor, for that matter, is thesaurus abuse. Examples of this would be writing “orbs” in place of eyes or something like “puce” in place of “green”. You don’t want to have to make someone break out a dictionary just to be able to understand what you’re trying to say. To see an example of this all put together, please take a look at this wonderful example crafted by one of my friends on Thorium Brotherhood of her character, Dariahn (please note that this is a parody and is no way reflective of Dariahn’s actual flag).

Another common thing I see people doing when it comes to their flags is saying how the other person reading your flag is supposed to feel when they look at your character. This is godmodding (which I will touch upon in another post) and is generally frowned upon. No one likes being told how their character is supposed to act or how they will react to certain things. Without going into a godmodding rant, however, I will simply leave you with this: Do not do it.

Keep in mind, however, that all of this is just a suggestion. I’m not saying that you absolutely need to have an addon to roleplay, that you have to flag yourself as a roleplayer, or that you need to write your description a certain way. However, these tools do make finding other roleplayers infinitely easier, and if you’re stuck for inspiration when it comes to writing your own description, you can hunt down other examples very easily just running around one of the major RP servers out there and seeing what other players have come up with. Ultimately, though, your character’s description is entirely up to you, so remember to have fun with it.

Cause and Effect

In the real world, when you do something, there are going to be consequences for your actions. As a little child, I didn’t realize this, and, one day, desperate for sugar I felt my parents were depriving me of, I lifted a package of candy from the local supermarket when I had been dragged along to “help” with shopping for food. However, I didn’t make it out of the store with it. When my mother found out, she was angry with me and made me go to the customer service counter to pay for it. I was, of course, very upset (mostly because I had angered my parents and didn’t quite understand why). However, I also learned a very important lesson that day: you break the rules and there would be some sort of punishment.

“But, Thyanel!” I can hear you all cry. “What does your childhood larceny have to do with a blog about roleplaying?”

Well, you see, folks, I learned something very important from the above incident, something that has actually stuck with me through all my interactions with people both in the real world and over the internet (both real and imaginary). Your actions have consequences, regardless of whether or not you like them. Thus, ladies and gentlemen, today I’d like to introduce you to a very important concept: In Character Actions have In Character Consequences (henceforth abbreviated as “ICA = ICC”).

Unlike what some people might think, the virtual world you play in is similar to the real one. Just as in the real world, everything revolves around the simple concept of cause and effect: you say/do something (the cause) and someone else reacts to it (the effect). This isn’t something that can be waved aside just because you don’t like how it works or don’t like the way the other player is doing something. The fallout might not be to your liking, but you still have to deal with it. I cannot stress this enough: it isn’t going to go away just because you don’t like it.

However, say you do get into a situation where you realize you don’t like where things are going. What do you do then?

Say things are going badly for you and you don’t like it. Take a look at the entirety of the situation. Take a moment to figure out how and/or why your character got into this in the first place. Do you just have a grudge against the other player? If so, you probably should step back and take a minute to realize that IC does not equal OOC. There are other ways to handle your OOC grievances with the other player; getting into IC fights with the other player’s character is not the answer. But the main question to ask yourself is this: is there development to be had?

Should your character get into a fight with another character, perhaps your character will realize they aren’t nearly as badass as they thought they were. What happens then? Does your character brood over it or do they hunt down someone else for training so they can become as badass as they want to be? Say you leave your guild because things have happened and the entire guild now thinks of you as a traitor. Do you still keep tabs on your old friends and help them out in spite of it? Will your old guild try to hunt your character down and kill them?

In a more personal example, Adaret killed a man some time ago, someone who had been her friend since her living days in Lordaeron. Her guild has yet to learn of this. Should they find out, she’s going to be on an even shorter leash with them than she already was due to being undead. I have two options: either she ragequits (which is hardly IC for her) or she sticks it out in an attempt to assure them that she has no intention of killing her guildmates. Option two is more IC for her, since she only joined up to show the Horde they still need her people. But now, if they do find out, there’s development to be had, development I’d most certainly look forward to should fallout happen regardless of whether or not I’d like how all of this goes down.

The thing to remember, ladies and gentlemen, is that while things might not be going to your liking, there’s always a way to change that so you can have fun playing your character. Complaining about what happened isn’t the answer; pretending it never happened is also not the way to go. Finding the development that will come from what you’ve done is. Remember, every interaction is a way to further character development in a game like this. Embrace it and accept the things to come.