With Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) currently in closed beta events, and the announcement that it'll be on all the next-gen platforms, I thought this would be a great time to discuss role playing (RP). Most of our community in The Elder Scrolls (TES) is used to role playing a single character meant for a singular purpose. This makes you special and unique, this means you are everything the world needs at that moment in time. In the massively multiplayer online univers (MMO), this is not the case . . . not even in the slightest. I will be refereing back to World of Warcraft (WoW) a lot for examples during the remainder of the post, here.
Let's start with the single player environment. When you play a game like Oblivion or Skyrim the whole world is waiting for you to enter it, even if it doesn't know it. Your character is everything to the story, you are the chosen, the prophesied, the ultimate fighter, etc., etc. Without you, and only you, all of Mundus could face certain destruction. That's quite a god-complex to give a player. However, in the single-player environment, it's required to make the game compelling to the masses. For those in our community that RP, this makes for a very unique chracter that stands out among the rest of the denizens.
To be fair, this should be. As I said, it's required in a single player game. Who would play all by themselves in a world as massive as Skyrim or Morrowind if you were no different than the Census Officer that checked you into Vvardenfell, or the shop keeper that bought all your things taken from the sewers during your prison break in Oblivion? It would make for a very boring game!
With all of that said, let's talk about ESO for a moment. The online gaming community, especially the Rold Playing Game (RPG) genre, is meant to house a wide assortement of "heros". You, as a hero, are not special. There are many heros with similar origins to your own, and many more with something different, but none of you are inherently bigger or better than the next. In WoW your hero fights along side major names from lore and canon, these are the major players, they are the ones enacting all the big events. You are their backup, nothing more! Take Cataclysm if you want a more specific example, the end-game content was meant to show the story of Thrall becoming an Aspect (a special being, immortal and timeless) long enough to complete the set of Aspects to defeat a fallen Aspect. Deathwing, the fallen Aspect, was bent on destroying the world. He had to be stopped, and it was the ultimate test of the entire group of Aspects, and required a combined effort between the two factions (Horde and Alliance) in order to complete. They came together to watch a great leader ascend to an even greater stature. Your character in all of that did not defeat Deathwing, therefore it should not be in your RP background or bio. Yet so many people do it, even though it's not true or anywhere near accepted canon. They will also usually have some hugely out of proportion backstory to along with it.
- He was born of a Blood Elf and an Orc, his great uncle was a Gnome of great size. He can change his form to match any of his bloodline, and will often be seen riding a flaming horse bathed in rainbows. Though blind, he is able to see by sound and can feel things move around him. He will sometimes be wearing leather armor, though he prefers plate. This may seem odd for a Rogue, but this Rogue takes the brunt of the damage when he isn't sneaking around for the fun of it. He named his swords Pain and Sorrow, both are two-handed greatswords that only he can weild. They are magically imbued to respond to his touch, and he can use them as though they were light as daggers.
This an example of what has come to be called 'Snowflake RP". Far too many people think this is acceptable and okay. If you ever tried using this then you'd be laughed out of the RP session. It is one thing to be the biggest and baddest and most unique in an age in need of a hero, but it is quite another to do so in an age filled with them. You are only as unique and special as the hero standing next to you at the shop, or the blacksmith, or front lines of the battle for Cyrodiil. Snowflake RP, or GodP as it is sometimes also called, is not the correct form to take in an online location as we will be moving into with ESO.
What kinds of things shoud you remember while getting ready to play and RP in ESO?
- There are very, very, very few half-breeds in canon.
- You are not a Dwemer in disguise.
- You are not a Falmer evading the degredation of your race.
- You are not any more special than the Man, Mer or Beast that lost their soul to Molag Bal yesterday.
- You are probably not the tallest Bosmer in existence, nor are you the shortest Altmer ever known.
- Your Nord is not Tiber Septim.
- Your Nord's son will not be Tiber Septim, either.
- Play the game as though you were just another amazing denizen who got put into a bad situation and had to rise above.
- Giving yourself a dramatic and traumatizing experience is not a bad idea, just don't go overboard.
- Just because you write it down somewhere, doesn't make it true.
- Be reasonable when thinking of a backstory.
- Your biography should not be word for word for everyone to read, you should only list major events that people would know (if your character was involved in a major battle, but not the that they were the hero of it).
- Descriptions are important, be open to getting better words than 'tall' and 'hefty'.
There is so much more that can be said about this, I've actually already shortened this whole blog post by half just to make it so it's not like reading War and Peace! If nothing else, please take away this one thing; You are a hero, but so is everyone else, and only the major players from canon (the ones that have their names on walls and in books) are the unique characters. You do not sculpt the world around you, you only help the people around you make the difference.