Roleplaying 101: A crash course on Characters

Wyrmrest Accord
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<insert exodar crash joke here>

- Table of Contents (You're reading this, right now.)

- Introduction
- What this aims to accomplish, and for who
- What is "Great Roleplay" and a "Great Roleplayer"?
- Lore Accuracy
- Start from the beginning, and finish at the end.

- Goals: What do I want?

- Step One: So many choices, what to go for first?
- A shattered mirror: all the pieces of the character that make a whole
- What's my Story?
- Who do I know?
- What do I do?
- What -am- I?

- Step Two: Socialites and Interacting with the Public
- Racial Backgrounds and Stereotypes
- Social Mores and Laws
- Radicals (fanatics) and Moderates (conservatives)
- Who shaped my opinions? (The effect of family on perceptions)

- Step Three: An Empty Mind
- Filling your Character's Head
- Emptying your Character's Head
- Personality Traits
- Physical Habits and Mannerisms

- Step Four: An Empty Life
- I've got personality but no lifestyle!
- Real world activities vs. "What I can do in WoW"
- My class, and how it relates to me
- My professions, giving me more than a fat/empty wallet.
- Using class and profession to add to a character's dynamics.
- Touching bases: How class and profession relate to my society.
- Education: What do I know, and who taught me?
A final wrap up to your character's story.

- Step Five: Hey everybody, come see how good I look!
- Physical Appearance and Characteristics
- Start big, then go small
- Descriptive words
- Touching bases (again): Society and tattoos, piercings, ect.
- Describing my Garb (what do I wear?)
- Affiliations and Dressing (who do I know and how does that effect my dress?)

- Final Step: Affiliations and my place in the world
- Who am I now? (ranks, titles, and other affluential tomfoolery)

- In closing:
- Final Tips
- From Hero to Zero: How good characters fall to pieces.
- A thank you


Roleplaying 101 - Yet another jerk telling you how to play your game. An Introduction:

Welcome to roleplaying 101! This will be yet another thread where someone tells you in a stuck up and haughty manner why you suck at rp and how to fix it. It's your $15 a month, so by all means ready the flamethrowers and burn this thread to the ground.

In all seriousness if that's your views, feel free to go read another thread. If you want to learn, well hopefully I can teach you something in my handful of years of roleplay. If I can't teach you something, well I can say I tried. And if I can't say that, I can at least say I wasted a good chunk of time facerolling this keyboard for you all.

For those of you that dislike long threads: that's too bad. I'm writing this thread for a guild myself and a friend are planning on creating after seeing some of the roleplay within this server and deciding we wanted to control our exposure to the community in order to create a roleplay environment rich in immersion and character development that pertains to lore accuracy.

If your reaction at this point revolves around the word "elitist" you're probably right.

For those of you who I haven't chased off yet: lets cut to the chase! The very...very long chase.

What this aims to accomplish, and for who:

Who am I talking (typing) to in this thread? To anyone who wants to expand their roleplaying character to be a rich and developed individual, who feels like a real person who actually exists in the "World of Warcraft". Someone who grew up here, developed their mind here, and would contribute to the society here.

Who this doesn't pertain to:

  • People who play "just to have fun"

  • People who use the excuse "It's my $15"

  • People who don't roleplay

  • People who could care less about lore, immersion, and realism in roleplay

  • Ghostcrawler (everyone seems to hate on his watercooler posts, so I might as well kick him in the kidney while he's down!)

  • What this thread aims to accomplish is to be a comprehensive guide to creating a character who is fully developed and inserted into this game's lore. This thread may not be for the casual roleplayer or someone who is not really interested in making a basal rp character to throw bombs in the pig and whistle, and stare harshly at all the non-paladins in the Cathedral, or ERP as a female draenei.
    What is a “good roleplay” and a “great roleplayer”?


    -To assume the attitudes, actions, and discourse (of another), especially in a make-believe situation in an effort to understand a differing point of view or social interaction.

    Following the above description is a little misleading. We're not just here to figure out someone else's point of view (but that is a BIG part of it) we're also trying to have fun.

    Some people find it to be fun to play as an elf/dwarf/(gnome would go here, but they aren't people)(insert filler here) Worgen, so they do so. But what makes a good roleplay, or a great roleplayer?

    Good roleplay has immersion. It means you really feel into it. You don't even notice the real world around you. Your connection to your character's mindset is instantaneous. You're drawn in. Like a good book where you can't stop turning the pages and hours might pass without you realizing it, you become “in the zone”.

    Great roleplayers create immersion and situations that promote it. A big part of immersion is to be able to believe what is going on. This doesn't mean it all has to be serious, after all, humor is a big part of life and you can be just as immersed in a fun situation as a serious one (time flies when you're having fun after all) but it does require some things.

    Good roleplayers tend to follow lore, and promote roleplay that fits within the world. They draw others in, and have rich vivid characters that don't detract from other player's fun. They're there not only to entertain themselves, but others. Great roleplayers build off each other, and in the end can even draw in the most shy, quiet roleplayers to become enlivened in their presence.

    I make no promise that I can do that for you, but hopefully this thread can improve us all to be a little bit better in doing such things.

    Lore Accuracy: Your pre-first step to making a character


    -the body of knowledge, especially of a traditional, anecdotal, or popular nature, on a particular subject: the lore of herbs. (or warcraft)

    –noun, plural -cies.

    the condition or quality of being true, correct, or exact; freedom from error or defect; precision or exactness; correctness.

    Now that we're on the same page, any and all lore I refer to in this post comes from one of three sources:

    1. WoW-Pedia or WoW-Wiki
    2. Quests/NPC Dialong in the WoW Game
    3. Anything found on the main world of warcraft website. (NOT the forums)

    Why is lore accuracy important you might ask? Why do I need to learn all of this stuff? And how does this pertain to my character?

    Lore is extremely important in a roleplaying game. It's one of the biggest parts of roleplaying in the first place. Without following lore, and having some kind of structure, the roleplay found on WoW would be little better than that found in some roleplaying chatroom (the horror days of yahoo chat rp) and we'd have goku running around stormwind doing...whatever it is he does. (not that we don't already have that, but that's what we're trying to fix here.)

    Why do you need to learn it? Well to put it short:

    No matter how badly you desire it, your night elf does not share the same values as you. Your gnome does not like Justin Timberlake. And dwarves do not watch Snooki on T.V.

    Everything about you: what makes you mad, happy, sad, what you would and would not EVER do, laws you follow, things that make you embarassed: That's all defined by the world you live in.

    Asking why you need to learn the lore of this world in order to roleplay in it, is like asking why you need to know any history or laws before becoming a politician. You need to know something about the world before you can be a part of it and affect it. (insert "lol politics")

    Everything your character is, has been shaped by the lore they're a part of. They aren't you, because you didn't grow up in Darnassus/Ironforge/The Red Dragon Flight (dragon rpers please press the back button now).

    And last: how can you learn this lore?

    It's pretty simple. There's a handful of ways you can do this:

    First, go to WoW-Pedia/Wiki and just search the race, and the class you want to be. Read.

    Feel that? That's learning. Like a muscle that hasn't been used in ages, that burning sensation in your brain (is probably a serious infection, go see a doctor) is knowledge being forced by the bucketful into your brain.

    Another good way to learn about lore is to ask more experienced players, or, simply, to play the game. Read the books you see in game! Read your quests. Don't just numbly accept quests, run off, complete them, turn them in, all without reading. There's good stuff in there! (sometimes) Quest in character. Decide where to go based on who your character is.
    Start from the beginning, and finish at the end:

    By now you might be asking yourself where you start, and how to tackle this monumental task. After all, what I've been essentially leading up to is that you're about to take in an entire other society, and use that society to develop a whole new person. A new human being/night elf/dwarf (gnomes aren't really people) who grew up here and reacts as if they grew up here, and has a decent idea what's going on.

    My only suggestion is this:

    Start at the beginning, and finish at the end. Don't skip around. This thread is in a certain order for a reason. Don't start by going "I want a paladin in the argent dawn." start by figuring out who he is. Guide his creation, follow his society, and figure out how he -got- to be in the Argent Dawn, not the other way around. You can't change society to fit your character, make the character fit in the glove. (OJ)

    Now, if you're still reading this (are you awake?), feel free to read the rest of this guide below. Or not. After all, you can just start flaming a sentence in. Everyone else does it!

    Goals: What do I want?

    So, lets get down to business!

    Before you even start making a character you need to look at yourself. What do you want from this game? What are you expecting?

    Your character needs to be something fun for you, not some job you do on a daily basis to rub in other people's noses about how awesome it is. If you aren't having fun, you're doing it wrong. If your means of fun doesn't include lore, and serious roleplay, then again, this isn't the thread for you. If it is however, start by asking yourself: “What do I want to roleplay?”

    Do yourself another favor, and don't answer that as “A badass with a high rank, epic title, and who everyone worships and listens to no matter what, because he's just that awesome. Cool leaks from every pore on his skin, and he gets all the girls. He's skilled with every weapon, and can blow you up with a flick of his finger because he's epic mage man.”

    Mary Sue:

    - A Mary Sue in literary criticism and particularly in fanfiction (your roleplaying character is essentially a fanfiction character of the warcraft world!) is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader.

    Nobody wants to rp with that. Set some realistic goals. Want to play a war hero of the alliance that's seen it all and is a grizzled war veteran? Be ready to play an older character. You aren't a war hero at 22. You might be a veteran, having seen war, and fought, you might even be a hero of the land having defeated some great evil, but you aren't a general. This is called realism.


    1. Interest in or concern for the actual or real.
    2. The tendency to view or represent things as they really are.

    Keep it vague at this point. You aren't fleshing out yet, you're jotting down what -you- hope to get from this, not what the character will be. That comes next.

    Step One: So many choices, what to go for first?

    Here's where we finally start making some choices. Vague as they might be. Remember, at this point we're starting bold, big, and broad. We aren't doing defining touches yet. If you were painting a picture, right now you're priming the canvas and once it's dry, painting a solid background color. That's it. There isn't even a picture here yet.

    Always remember when going through this: big to small. Details will come later.

    A shattered Mirror: All the pieces that make your character a whole.

    It's been stated before, but I'll reiterate it here:

    Your character is a part of this world. Not yours. Be ready to leave behind your preconceptions and worldly views and to replace them with the conceptions, viewpoints, and ideals of your character. That's part of being a good roleplayer, and making a good roleplay character.

    Remember, we're starting big and working small. Here's an overview of how we're going to create this character:

    Figure out character goals. Broad ones. (I want to be in the Argent Dawn. I want to be a great necromancer.) Character Race and Class (I am a Night Elf. I am a warrior.) and who the character will most likely be affiliated with in the end (Argent Dawn, duh.) and what the basis of my story is (I was the child of a farmer...).

    In the end this is all going to be vague. This is on purpose. We want bold, blunt statements right now.
    What's my Story?

    We want to lay a basis for your story. A foundation if you will. Here's where you're going to place the very first building block of your character. Anything prior to this is what -you- want. Now we're going past you, and into this new being, this new living person, and what they -are-.

    What is their story? Keep this short and sweet. A sweeping general statement works best at this point because later, once you understand them better, you'll fill in all those blanks.

    (I am the only son of a somewhat poor human farmer. Seeing the paladins leaving the cathedral I wanted to one day be a hero like them, and protect the people. A simple life was not for me.)
    (I am a homeless man living on my own off whatever the land provides for me. My family was never paid for helping build Stormwind, which has left me embittered towards the populace.)

    Who do I know?

    At this point all of these choices fold into each other. Broad to specific:

    Broad Story Background leads to Known People leads to What I do (perhaps one of the people you know taught you!) to What I am (specific race, class).

    Who do you know at this point? Start basic, and the most basic is people who are close to you.

    Friends, family? Don't be another brooding orphan on the Stormwind streets, don't be afraid to give your family some life. Get letters from your father from time to time. Send stuff home to help out. At this point it can be easy to go hog wild (you rated this thread a...) and start building family members (My mother is ill and I send money home to help with her treatments. My brother's friend is a doctor who treats my mom but pockets some of the money because he's greedy...) but try to keep it basic.

    My father is a farmer. My mother stays at home to raise the children and care for the home and cook. My sister is ill with a sickness.

    Once again, bold sweeping statements. If you want to flesh them out, wait! Don't make the mistake of building background characters who don't fit your societal and personality conceptions that you're giving your character. Build him first, then use him and the things you learned making him to fill in everyone else. Right now you just need a general idea!

    What do I do?

    Basic basic basic. Don't think of this in terms of class yet, but aspects of such things. If you're planning on making a warrior, then what does your character do before he becomes a warrior that makes him fit for that lifestyle and leads him to it? How does that impact him after he becomes that and specifics come later.

    Warriors need to be physically fit, how did you become strong? Strength doesn't come naturally, no matter how much you want to believe it. You work for it.

    Were you a sailor? Did you do back-breaking mine work day in and out? Did you work at the port and carry heavy crates into town, and from town to the docks to load onto ships? Let ideas flow, but don't get lost in them. Eventually you'll take all of those ideas and weave them together into the tight net of an amazing character.

    Now: I carried crates every day in the harbor, in order to help pay the rent for our meager home in Stormwind. My father drank most of my profits so I had to work extra hard to keep us fed and sheltered.

    Later: My father's alcoholism embittered me to the taverns of Stormwind. My long days at the docks led me to have great work ethic, making me willing to work towards things I really believe in. Providing for my family in place of my father made me selfless and able to endure the hardest parts of life.

    What am I?

    Now we get more specific. What are you? Are you an elf? A human? This might already be decided, but fill it in a little more. Were you poor? Wealthy? What class are you? A warrior? How skilled? Are you a mage? How did you get into the academy? How did you afford classes to learn magic?

    Jot down some vague ideas. Keep them floating for now, nothing is set in stone. How you grew up, where you came from, what you are, all modify the society you grew up in. A warrior is a warrior, there's ideals and traits for your character there, but they all add in to the wonderful world of society. Where you grew up. And that's what we're covering next.
    Step Two: Socialites and interacting with the public.

    So now you've got your character's rough background. You might know who he is, what he does. You might even have some idea who his friends and family are, and how he got to be what he is today. But all of that has to be filtered through the lore and impacted by the area he grew up in. Society plays a major role on shaping us for who we are.

    Racial Backgrounds and Stereotypes

    The nature defending elf, the dwarf who drinks and is boisterous (an' 'e speaks loik this b'cause he's got an accent y'see.) all of those are stereotypes of fantasy races. Stereotypes can be good and bad. Good because they give a sense of racial identity, and bad because it can trap novice roleplayers into becoming copy/paste versions of the race rather than developed characters in their own rights.

    Your race has a broad background that determines who they are, and how that shaped them. Each race has their own society, maybe even two. The one they present amongst themselves in their cities, and in their home lands, and the one they present to the alliance as a race. Read your race's background, try to find social qualities they'd have as a people, then expand on it to figure out what they would think of other races.

    As an example, we'll do Stormwind humans:

    The first thing I would do, is look up Stormwind, and Humans.

    What I find interesting and relevant under Stormwind:

    Largest human city of Azeroth.
    Named after the sudden squalls created from the ley-line pattern in the surrounding mountains.
    The city-state controls and influences other territories (Redridge, Elwynn, ect.)
    Primarily a human settlement, has a number of high elves, ironforge dwarves (bronzebeards), and a few night elves and gnomes as permanent residents.
    Fully backs the alliance.
    Stormwind City is the home of the Academy of Arcane Sciences, the only remaining school of wizardry in the east, and the Cathedral of Light, the philosophical capital for those who follow the Holy Light.
    Bolvar Fordragon recently was regent of Stormwind, until the recent return of Varian Wrynn.
    Stormwind was betrayed and infiltrated by Onyxia in the form of Lady Katrana Prestor.

    What I find interesting and relevant under Humans:
    Being a short lived race, humans strive much harder than other races to achieve great heights in their chosen fields.
    Humans are the most populated race in Azeroth.
    Humans value virtue, honor, courage, and pursue power and wealth.
    The population of humans once numbered in the millions, but now is in the hundreds of thousands due to war with demon corrupted orcs and plagues of undeath in the northern kingdom of Lordaeron. Human population was dropping steadily, but recently it has been steadily climbing.
    Humans are naturally proud and ambitious.
    Most humans prefer an orderly society and wish to live in towns and cities.
    Most humans do not understand the reverence for nature that races such as the night elves and taurens have.
    Human cities are bustling and busy. Outside of the city, commoners cut wood, raise crops and livestock, and mine ores and stone for use in construction. In the city, tradesmen create goods, merchant trade goods, and nobles sit in their castles making important decisions on the running of the kingdom.
    Humans do not understand technology as much as dwarves and gnomes.
    The burning passion in humans has made them some of the most powerful mages and able to wield the holy light in ways unimaginable.
    Humans are named at birth, while their surname (last name) bears some significance on the family line's accomplishments.

    Comapring the two lists, we can see that they match up in several places. Humans, short lived, want to build big and build impressive. Stormwind is the largest city they've ever made, so it fits their desire to leave a lasting impression on the world. They master things quickly, and once they set their sights on a goal, have a burning passion to do they best they can at it. All of those traits listed above tell you a plethora about the race, and could be used to put twists, and flavors into your budding character's ideas.

    (My poverty striken farmer father only drove me further in wishing to be a paladin. After I saw them, I would stop at nothing to become one of them. I spent hours on end reading books, acquiring books, and even making fake wooden swords to train with. It was this burning passion, and unyielding desire to be one of them, that eventually earned me the notice of Garreth Silvershield, a Stormwind paladin. He took me in, and changed my life forever...)
    Social Mores and Laws

    Mawr-eyz, noun

    -Ways of living, thinking, and acting that are of central importance and are accepted without question embodying the fundamental views of a group (or society)

    Social Mores and Laws are two different things. A more is more of a societal view of what is okay and what is not. Breaking a more will get you weird looks, but breaking a law will get you in trouble. Sometimes, mores and laws go hand in hand. One such example would be murder. In our society it is both illegal, and immoral to commit an act of murder. People are uneasy around murderers, and dislike them. That's society shaping your views. In another society, someone who murders another in a right of manhood might be viewed as a hero or celebrated.

    Mores and Laws play an extremely important part in creating your character. It defines what they find taboo, acceptable, and defines what they themselves will and will not do. If your character lives in a society that finds homosexual activity taboo, and has a more against it, your character will more than likely not approve of any gay couples he comes across, regardless of your viewpoints in the real world.

    A great roleplayer can suppress his own social mores and opinions, and play his character fully through the character's societal stimuli and mores, acting on them, and playing them out.

    If playing a dark, evil character, who delights or even finds pleasure in murder and sadistic acts makes me evil in real life, someone needs to search Stephen King's back yard RIGHT NOW.

    A good roleplayer realizes that this character is not them, and can act out anything this character might do. Look in your character's society, the society of his race. What mores would they have? What laws? Can you find any examples in game? In the books? On the wiki? If so, how does your character view them, and why? How did society shape your character's personality?

    Radicals (fanatics) and Moderates (conservatives)

    Once again we come to the problem of all things being a double edged sword in roleplay. Thankfully, people in society are so diverse that we prevent the common problem of copy/pasted individuals in day to day life. This occurs in roleplay as well. Even your society is influenced by your own views. Both go hand in hand, spiraling in on each other in a circle. One changes the other changes the other. Like a snake swallowing it's own tail.

    Every society has it's people who take the views that are imposed upon them, the mores and laws, and twists them to a degree. These people are radicals (fanatics) or moderates (conservatives). People who are radical tend to take something and blow it out of proportion. A human who takes the racial trait of appreciating valor to a radical level, may hate, or look down upon those who are not valorous in all things.

    The opposite of that is moderate people, conservatives. Conservatives can go one of two ways: they can approve so much of the status quo (the standard social mores of their race) that they do not wish for it to change in the least, lest they deviate from the safe path, or they become radical in their own sense, that the status quo is not enough, and it needs to be receeded further. This can even cause xenophobia (a fear of outsiders) in that they may not share your same views. You may be wary of elves, fearing their long lives in that they might not share many human ideals that you grew up with and came to depend upon.

    Who shaped my opinions? (family effects on mores)

    As strong as society is, another major playing point in developing your character's opinions, views, and personality, are those of his family. A family may be radical or conservative in relation to the society it is in, just as much as the character is. Perhaps your family is -why- you're that way. Was your family so radical, that you saw them as crazed extremists, thus fueling your conservative lifestyle? Or did your family conform to society's expectations, and fit like a glove, driving you to a radical lifestyle to escape the social norm?
    Step Three: An Empty Mind

    Now that we have some understanding of the society that your character grew up in, and the people around them, we need to understand the character itself! That's the most important part of your character is his own thoughts, feelings, and personal mores that impact how he acts. Society, family, everything influences how this might develop, but your character as a whole is how your roleplay. You assume your character's mindset, and decide what they do, and how they react to situations based on their thoughts and who they are. In real life you might not flinch at all at a spider, but if your character is terrified of them he might scream and flee like a child.

    Filling Your Character's Head
    Now we're getting to the finer details of your character finally. Now that we understand the big picture (family, society, race, history) we can pick those apart to make a truly interesting and realistic character. Looking at everything your character had around it growing up, how it grew up, and what it became, what did that do to impact how he thought? I could type for hours on this part, so I'm going to give you some guidelines and leave it at that, because the concept of how your character thinks is so vast that it's almost limitless.

    How does your character react to other races? Other people? Other classes? Other social classes (rich, poor, common, noble)? You have to think through of all these things. However you don't need to make a tell-all list. If you understand your character enough, you can pull these out of your head without a moment's hesitation when put on the spot. Once you reach this level of connection with the roleplaying persona you create for your character, you're taking the first steps to roleplaying mastery.

    How did all the things your character experience in his life effect what he likes to do? Did it change them? Or does he still read all the books he can get his hands on, just like when he was younger? Did the harsh reality of the adult world drive him to drink? Or is he able to face the dark future of the cataclysm with grim determination? Is he a commoner seeking to be a hero? Or a person forced into the shoes of heroism, who just wants to live a normal life, but can't because of the greater forces in the world acting upon it?

    All of these things provide depth and dimension to an otherwise flat and boring character. Toss in the societal inputs, family, and your character becomes real, and deep. He becomes a part of the world he lives in rather than just a character that goes to the Pig and Whistle to toss bombs and get in fights. Add depth to your character, and people will react to it.

    Emptying your character's head

    But you just told us to fill it! I know, I know, and to every rule there's an exception, and a contradiction, and a lawyer that knows how to turn it into a profitable lawsuit, but that's not what we're here for.

    What I mean by empty your character's head, is to ditch all your real life, real world emotions, thoughts, social mores, and the like, to truly mesh with the character. Some people might be appalled by the person who can roleplay a horrendous murderer who would do atrocious things such as kill an unborn child. But those who can truly roleplay those things out, have reached a mastery of roleplaying material unseen by probably 99% of the server's roleplayers. They aren't sick, they aren't terrible people in real life. In fact they may be some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. But they can sit down, clear their head, and become something truly terrifying, and hideous. Or the most awe inspiring and valorous person you'll ever meet. Or a charismatic tavern keep who could talk you out of your deepest secrets, and stash of gold coins. Clear your preconceptions and everything from the real world. You aren't in warcraft, your character is. And you are not him.

    Personality Traits

    Your character has all of these thoughts, these conceptions, but who is he? What is his personality? Now that you understand how your character thinks, and how he reacts and to who he owes loyalties and hatreds towards socially, you have to figure out how he is personality wise.

    Does he flit around like a social butterfly? Always willing to make new friends? Or is he a lone wolf, sitting in the corner enjoying a drink at the end of the hard day, wanting to just relax and unwilling to partake in the tavern banter. Does he say what immediately comes to mind no matter what? Or is he thoughtful, speaking only when he finds it suitable?
    All of these things flesh out a character's personality. Without personality your character is a blank slate, a list of what society made a human warrior (or elf mage, or dwarf paladin) into, and how he feels about things. But that's all that is, a list. A personality is how you project those things to everyone around you. Even the dark brooding and evil death knight who doesn't want to be spoken to has personality traits. If he didn't, he wouldn't have a reason to not wish to speak to people. Perhaps one of the traits he has is guilt over the people he killed while under the control of the lich king, so now he pushes people away to avoid hurting anyone else.

    Physical Habits and Mannerisms

    a habitual or characteristic manner, mode, or way of doing something; distinctive quality or style, as in behavior or speech. “He has an annoying mannerism of tapping his fingers while he talks.”

    Habits and mannerisms allow us to take something mundane the character does, and make it memorable by adding flair to it. If my character just leans against the wall when he stands there, it's pretty mundane, but if he flips a coin while doing it, or frequently spits to the side of him, it becomes more memorable.

    Some of the most common mannerisms a character might have is an accent. Most roleplayers in WoW pick up on this easily and accent their character's speech to add some depth to their characters, but this often isn't enough to save a poorly constructed character in the first place.

    Add some habits and mannerisms to your character's basic actions to make them more memorable, but don't over do it: too many mannerisms, and it just bogs down what your character does, becomes hard to remember them all, and makes them more annoying than memorable. Nobody likes the rogue that has to add something special to every. Single. Post. They. Make. In roleplay.

    Step Four: An empty life

    Wonderful, so we've got your character a family, a society, a race a class, how he got there, some background information, how he thinks, acts, speaks, and all that jazz. But he's still incomplete. He's a person, he's got personality, but he's still lifeless, because we haven't given him a life yet.

    Nobody in the world does what they do twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Not even adventurers (you'll eventually run out of quests, trust me, they aren't infinite) do that. So what does your character do in his down time?

    I've got personality, but no lifestyle!
    Or: Real world activities vs. What I can do in WoW

    Too many roleplayers limit themselves unwittingly by being a stickler for things they can do in WoW's setup. So many times I've seen roleplayers describe what their character does in their downtime as what their professions are. “I'm a miner.” “I'm a alchemist”. That's wonderful, so your character has two things now: adventuring, and a job. But what do they do when they aren't busting their butts off for the future of Azeroth?

    Look around you in real life. Think of all the things people do in their down times. Some do carpentry. Some garden. Some people fish, or just go driving around. Some like to hike through the countryside. There's a veritable mountain of activities your character can enjoy beyond what WoW's profession system offers.

    Don't take me wrong, I'm not saying it's bad to have your character's professions as part of their character as a whole, because it's not. But be sure to add other things in, so they aren't just a workaholic. (unless they are of course!)

    My class and how it relates to me.

    This entire time we've focused on what your character was, and what he was becoming, but now we're taking a look to the present and the future. Now that your character is what he wished to be (mage, warrior, druid, ect.) what changed? Don't forget the significant impact a new job can have on a person in real life. Working a job in real life can change you in subtle ways without you even realising. Working a factory job might even have a less subtle effect, such as you beginning to support worker's unions and worker rights.

    Now that your character has reached their goal, what changed? Did their daily habits change? Did they pick up some new routines? Now that they're a warrior are they more worried about their physical fitness, so they do laps around the canals in Stormwind every day?

    Just as society impacts a character's mentality, a class can impact their daily routine and lifestyles.
    My professions: Giving me more than a fat/empty wallet.

    Remember when I said not to use your profession as the only basis for your character's day to day life? Well don't forget to use it either. Your character's professions are just that: professions. They do these things in day to day life as a job. A job to support their lifestyles. A character might say they got all their vast amounts of gold from adventuring, but would it be more interesting if they got all their gold from being a particularly prolific miner? Maybe there's a dark secret on how they got all their wealth; did they stumble upon a rich lode of ore? Or is there something more underhanded? Only you can come up with fun and interesting stories for your character, but don't forget, profession can tie in as well, in big or little ways.

    Using class and profession to add to a character's dynamics:

    So you're a warrior, and grew up in Stormwind. You train daily, practice your forms, then get lunch at the Pig and Whistle. Then you relax for a few hours, maybe read to keep your mind sharp, then go for an afternoon jog. All of that's interesting, but why not take it a step further?

    Tie in with your profession: You're a warrior out of necessity. You were a common miner, working for the kingdom in a poor lifestyle, then the kobolds came. You fought tooth and nail, and barely survived. Bloody pick in hand, you come out of the mines battered, bruised, but alive, and realize you might have a bigger destiny. Certainly you don't have to use a pick or a weapon that looks like a pick in dungeons (after all, in dungeons you might not be roleplaying and might just be having fun playing the game for once.) but you could definitely walk around with a pick, and roleplay as if the pick were your only weapon. A kind of self made legacy item if you would.

    This can be applied to almost any kind of story, with enough of a twist. Your character became such a renowned herbalist that he drew the attention of the local druid circle, who noticed that his garden grew so well not because of a surprising knack for botany and a green thumb, but because you drew on the power of nature unknowingly to grow your plants.

    Touching Bases: How class and profession relate to my society.

    In roleplay, it's much easier to have immersion and to feel involved when there's something in front of you that can be, in it's own setting, believable. In real life, magic doesn't exist, but if you suspend disbelief, and realize in Warcraft, magic IS real, then you can rationalize, and believe in a mage casting fireball.

    It goes the same for all walks of life. Look into it: Does your race have a particular viewpoint on certain classes? For example: Druids that are Night Elves are mostly male. Warriors are mostly female by lore. So your story probably wouldn't be that your night elf female was a respected and high ranking warrior then decided to quit and become a druid, not without good reason. It'd be the real life equivalent of being a respected company CEO and quitting to work at McDonald's: without circumstance, you probably wouldn't make that decision on your own.

    So look into it, and don't forget your society. Would your character be an engineer? Would your character be a warrior? If so, how does it effect them in society? If it seems to not fit, don't fret, just get creative! So long as the creativity is believable and not completely crazy, people will accept it. Your night elf became an engineer after an inventive gnome showed him how it could be used to care for plants and animals instead of just blow them up? Wonderful. Just remain logical, and never forget you can always ask the roleplaying community for ideas. Some people will be more than happy to help. (Ignore the trolls!)

    Education: What do I know, and who taught me?

    So you're a warrior (yes, I'm using warrior a lot), but when someone begins talking about astrology, he hops into the discussion without pause, citing extremely advanced astrological knowledge. How does he know that? It isn't something he “just picked up along the way” more than likely, so who taught him that?

    It's useful to have somewhat of an idea as to your character's intelligence. Do they know math? Are they good at it? How about biology? Geology? Geography? Did they get formalized education? Or do they only know what they picked up on the farm? Did they have a teacher? Not every character in Azeroth is a scholar and knows every last fact about the third war (though is sure seems a lot of them fought in it for some reason!).
    A final wrap up to your character's story:

    Know how fun it is to quest sometimes? Or delve into a new dungeon? Why not give that excitement to those around you. It's great for character development and fun for all involved, even you! You get to be a storyteller, and lead people around, let them find out things, reward ingenuity and out of the box thinking with details about your character!

    Not every piece of background information has to be told straight from your character's mouth. Perhaps if he wants to be a Stormwind guard, someone might find out that he's tried, and failed several times to become one in the past through a little research of their own. Hint that there's something more to lead people on to look into things.

    Perhaps your character is an orphan (cliché alert), and is looking for his parents. Maybe other characters can get involved, and help with the search for them, finding bits and pieces of information along the way that your character couldn't put together himself. Let them solve the puzzles, and give you the information in character. Sure you know the answers yourself, but just leading someone around talking is less fun, than if you lead them to important places, give them clues, and let them draw conclusions. You don't even have to have a set storyline path, maybe you adapt to your audience, waiting for them to suggest what might happen next, and you take the best answer: “I think he might have been arrested and thrown in the Stockades. After all, he does seem to be a ruffian and a defias supporter, and if you haven't seen him in so long...”

    Step Five: Hey everybody: Come see how good I look!

    So now you've got your character as he is: his life and mind and background are so full of great information and storytelling, that they're bursting at the seams, and you've sworn to yourself that if I mention “society and how it influences {x}” one more time you'll stab me...

    (P.S. I will mention it a few more times, and no matter how much you kick and scream, I will drag you by your ankles back to it. No matter how much you want it to be different, your character is a part of society in WoW and you're a much better roleplayer if you accept that fact and make your character fit in rather than making him a six armed troll that's disguised as a human.)

    But how does he look? We're finally to the smallest part of your character: physical details. Small as they may be (a wrinkle on your forehead is pretty small) they're a big part to your character, and can be used just as much for storytelling and background as anything else.

    Physical Appearance and Characteristics

    Your character can be just as interesting as a Stormwind City Bum or the most influential Stormwind City Politician with the right roleplaying story, background, and persona. We've already covered that though. Don't forget: Not everyone is super important and great. On that same note: not everyone is super beautiful and sexy. (only the erper's are: looking at you draenei women with “extra long flexible tails”).

    Your character can be just as visually appealing (but maybe not beautiful) if he was described as a “scarred war veteran with worry wrinkles on his forehead, a recent fading bruise over his left eye, and slightly graying hair, peppered with youthful black” than if he were a “Strong, well built young man, with no shirt on, a perfect tan, and flowing blonde hair, his well oiled skin glistening in the sun as he swings his axe into the tree and...” you get the point. Don't forget, just as a personality can make you a mary sue, so can a bad physical description; nobody is perfect. We all have physical flaws in some way shape or form.

    Start Big, then go small
    You've seen this phrase before, and just like society, it will come to haunt your dreams and rule over your life. I've seen so many people get lost in the translation of putting what they want their character to look like, all because they've got so many details they want to put down, and can't think of where to start, and thus lose most of them.

    Start bold, big, broad, then work your way down. Do it in categories even, you don't have to do all the big descriptions first then move smaller. You could just as easily describe your character as having tan skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, as starting with tanned skin, and working on scars, tattoos, and the like before moving on to hair, hairstyle...
    Descriptive Words
    Write down everything you want for a physical description, then look at it. You're not done yet. You've written down blonde hair, medium length, brushing against his shoulders but he sometimes pulls it back.

    That's bland. So kick it up a no-


    Always look at your description and add some spice. A lot of times it can use some. Too much description can be bad though, so find a balance. “Blonde waves of sun-bleached hair frame his square-jawed face and brush his shoulders as the breeze blows” is much better.

    Touching bases (again): Society and tattoos, piercings, ect. And how you want to kill me if you're still reading this. (society society society)

    This is more of a reminder than a full thought out point of character creation but don't forget the impact of your lifestyle, background, job, profession, and SOCIETY on your character's appearance. It all can effect how you look. A miner might be more muscular than a herbalist. A mage probably isn't very strong unless he has some interesting background and a odd profession. Society can change how your character looks as well: for example, night elf facial tattoos, and tauren nose rings. Troll masks! I'm done now, I won't mention society again.

    (*crosses fingers behind back*)

    Describing my garb: What do I wear?

    So you've got a rough and tumbled human warrior with a mining background who grew up on a farm and now has a vendetta against kobolds much like M. Night Shyamalan has a vendetta against making decent movies. Now we're just missing a couple of finishing details!

    Your mind is set, your body is set, but you're naked. Unless that's one of your character's shticks, he's probably gonna need some clothes. But not just any clothes, -his- clothes. What does he in particular wear? I mean, after all, he probably doesn't march around in armor all the time, so what are his normal clothes?

    Does he wear well pressed robes, inscribed with a sigil of the Kirin Tor? Does he wear off-duty guard regalia? It's all up for you to decide, and is as easy as following the guidelines for physical descriptions. Start big (describe a shirt) and go small (add buttons, pockets, ect.), and then look at it, and decide if it needs descriptive words added (wrinkled shirt!).

    Affiliations and Dressing (who do I know and how does that effect my

    Hey farm boy, don't forget you grew up on a farm. That probably is the biggest base as to what you wear. Sure you've probably got a fancy warrior academy uniform somewhere, but is that really what you wear all the time? Even in leisure?

    Also, don't forget the impact society has on your clothes! Look at the npcs!

    *flees for his life*

    Final Step: Affiliations and my place in the world

    So your character is dressed and mentally prepared, and has a story, a background and makes sense, ready to go right? Well, yes, you are, but you can add some other things as well!

    Certainly now that you're character is here, it'd be nice to give him some aspirations right? Something to aim for? Maybe he doesn't want to be just a human warrior (kobold maimer, hater of society). Maybe he wants to be a Stormwind Guard? Or a member of the Argent Dawn? Maybe he wants to crush the defias? It's always good to have short term goals, but a long term goal is great as well. Make it something that can't be completed fully, such as “I will study and categorize all the strange creatures I see.” or “I will explore all the strange places in the world.” something that will still give them a push and a goal when they have no short term ones so they don't suddenly flounder.

    This is where affiliations come in as well. Affiliations give your character a nearly unending supply of short term goals. There's always something to do for the Stormwind Guards, or the Earthen Ring. But don't simply say “I'm a member of the Earthen Ring” or go out and grind rep and act like you're best buddies (not only would that prevent character development, but it'd look odd if one day you showed up and suddenly you were best friends with a group. Yeah, it takes you maybe a day in WoW to get exalted, but in real life it'd take months maybe years to earn true trust from a group like that. You don't become a trusted government worker over night!).

    Set your character up in roleplay to have joined the group. Have them support ideals. Don't forget how this might impact their thinking, ideals, dress, and everything. Have them work at becoming closer to them. Maybe give them little rp goals, have them attempt to convert people, or search for help in dealing with day to day problems the group has. If he's a Stormwind guard, maybe he'd get a few people to help him round up the kobold problem in the mines outside of town. Sure you can solo them at 85 like they're nothing, but it's still more fun to do it with friends, and it promotes roleplay.
    Who am I now? (ranks, titles, and other affluential tomfoolery)

    So now that you belong in the world, and have everything done, what more could you do? There's one final step of detail you can add to a character, and that's titles, or ranks, or other such things. Don't ever just make yourself a Guard Captain of Stormwind without supporting it with roleplay (after all, the more people that support you as a guard, the more influence you have. If you just show up, nobody will listen to you if you try to arrest them, but if 50 people back you up as a guard, and say “yes he's a guard” then you'll have the pull to actually accomplish something!

    Don't be afraid to go off the track either. Maybe you're a vicious murderer, and the people of Elwynn Forest begin to speak of rumors of a murderer that stalks the misty nights and mornings of the woods, and you become known as “The Elwynn Ripper”. That's a title you didn't even give yourself, and it has more meaning. Be sure, like all things, that the title adds something to your character, and isn't just a shiny bit of gold fleck you threw on to make them seem more important. After all, that gold fleck is meaningless if it doesn't have something to back it up, and when it does, it's a million times more important.

    In Closing:

    I realize this is getting quite long, and that I probably will have to edit it twenty times because of errors people will find in it once they read it, but it's basically all I know about how to make a roleplaying character. I hope in earnest that this will help people make better, more interesting characters that follow lore and add to the world rather than just throwing bombs in the Pig and Whistle because they're bored and have nothing better to do. I also hope this helps some people who were struggling with roleplay become better roleplayers.

    Feel free to contact me in game if you have any questions or comments, or email me at with any questions or comments as well and I'll try to get to them all (as well as answer the replies to this post!).

    Final Tips

    Above all, this game is about having fun. If serious roleplay isn't your idea of fun, don't think I'm talking down to you, or saying you need to be better at roleplay. This guide wasn't made for that.

    Always stay true to what you want your character to be. Don't let anyone else tell you how to play your character. Accept tips, accept criticism, but if you really don't want to change: don't.

    Perhaps my biggest personal rule for roleplay is easily shortened into an acronym: ICA = ICC. In character actions = In character consequences. There's too many people who are afraid to let bad things happen to their characters. Lighten up! Bad stuff drives story too! Would it have been interesting to read Lord of the Rings if there was no danger? No bad stuff happening?

    From Hero to Zero: How good characters fall to pieces

    Last but not least, avoid these pitfalls: they can ruin a great character INSTANTLY.

    Just as too many descriptive words can ruin a character's appearance, too many affiliations, titles, or “great heroic deeds” can make a character seem Mary Sue'd.

    Be polite OOCLY even if your character isn't. A rude player can make people not want to play with even the best roleplayer or character.

    Don't start a group, and say they're feared across the land, or known well, or any of that. Not even if it's a guild. Earn your name. Like a title, it's worth more in the end. I could care less if your 15 person guild named <Evil people of Stormwind> says it's well known for it's crime and murders. If I don't hear about them, I don't fear you, and won't think you're legit. Associating with groups like this can also kill your roleplay character if you aren't careful.

    Overall, just try to have fun, and try to make sense. Logic is your friend. If in doubt, ask others, and take opinions.

    A Thank You

    For any of those who've managed to read this far without falling asleep, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to read all of this, especially if you can help me improve on it. I'm not claiming to be the end all of “how to roleplay” threads, but I'd like for it to be a large comprehensive knowledge base for roleplayers to use and learn from if possible.

    Some info about what you just read:
    Time spent creating this: 10 hours
    Number of words you just read: 9,627
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    Number of people I think will read this entire thing: 10

    Copyright: This entire post was written and originally made to be posted on the World of Warcraft forums and is owned by its author. Please ask before placing this post on any other website. You do not, can not, and will not have permission to edit it in any form.
    Thread now open! Feel free to post!
    Read it. Liked it.
    Numbah one!
    Sir, this is super duper cool. Coming from a complete RP scrub, I think i learned something from here. Thank you :D

    EDIT: Good call Orican, I hadn't even thought of that :#. Sticky'd!

    ...for a sticky. In all seriousness, this is one of the better, more comprehensive guides I've ever seen. Good work!
    Read, enjoyed, you win a pizza.

    *Places pizza on table*

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