The Birth of a Character (Part I)

Commentary: Well, I’m not as happy with this one as I was with the last but I think it might at least provide some inspiration for people trying to think of what they’re going to RP once launch happens. Again, this could also be used for general RP or writing purposes.

Original Link: http://www.teso-rp.com/home/m/9324622/article/1562867

Part II

The Birth of a Character

by

The Human Floyd

Every eager TES fan has been fantasizing about what kind of character they will make once they finally get to play ESO. Whether you like to play the same type of character in every Elder Scrolls game or prefer to mix it up, whether you roleplay or just like to game in the world of Nirn you have some type of attachment to the characters you make. For us roleplayers, a character is more than just a set of skills and some cool armor. We like to put a lot of detail into our characters, most of which can’t be outwardly seen. From hobbies and religious beliefs to quirks and peeves, a roleplay character is a medley of, well, characteristics which you get to create. Most of these details will evolve as you develop your character through roleplay but the birth of every RP character begins with some sort of concept or thought behind it.

The following is a two part article in which I’ll be sharing some of the elements of my RP characters I like to think about before I being playing them. As always, everyone roleplays differently – I’m merely sharing my perspective in hopes that it might be useful for some readers. It’s also something I love to discuss so let everyone know your thoughts in the comments below.

Part I – Backstory and Perspective
Every RPer comes up with at least something of a backstory for their character. History is a large part of what shapes them. It can be a lot of fun to share backstories IC over the campfire after a few meads. Because whatever history your character has obviously takes place on Tamriel, it’s useful to know the lore that affects their story. This is an immediate turn-off for some would-be RPers. Especially in Elder Scrolls, lore can be hard to collect and learn. People get intimidated by the massive amounts of information they must read in order to be accepted by the lore-worshiping RP community at large.

Some people are okay with this and jump into RP with the intention of learning as they go, which is great! I know some will disagree, but a new RPer getting some detail of lore wrong isn’t the end of Roleplaying As We Know It. A kind, informed correction (through whispers or personal chat, no need to call anyone out and embarrass them) is all it takes! Other new RPers will chose to have their character somehow get amnesia and forget their backstory. This is a great way to learn as well. I’d love to see someone RP as the evil wizard who keeps stealing PC’s memories, allowing people new to ES lore a chance to learn up while they seek her/him out to ‘regain’ their lost memories.

For those of you who are new to ES lore, or who just want some additional information about their race or whatever, here are a few useful links:

How to Become a Lore Buff – this is an incredibly useful link put together by Lady Nerevar of the Bethesda forums which goes over pretty much all the basic stuff you need to know. It’s a long read, so if you’re not the type of person who just sits down and devours lore, skip it for now or just use it as reference. Otherwise, have at!

The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages – Around since TESII: Daggerfall, the UESP collects information from every game and source available to us to make concise articles on everything Elder Scrolls. Their lore articles can be very useful and contain information you won’t find so easily elsewhere.

ShoddyCast’s Lore Series – There are a lot of lore video series out there but this one is easily my favorite. Providing lore through entertaining narrative and pictures, the ShoddyCast’s Lore Series is an easy way to start getting into the lore of the ES games. I especially recommend the episodes on the Nine Divines and the Daedric Princes to both those new to the lore and those of us just needing a refresher course.

Now, onto what to think about while creating your character. Personally, I like to start with a pretty simple, straight-forward history. Here are some of the basic hackstory questions I like to answer before I hit the character creation button.

1. Family
Your character’s story most likely begins at birth, but I like to have at least a very basic idea about my characters’ parents to build upon. Siblings could also be considered but I don’t usually go farther than coming up with how many there were and how my character fit into the age scale. Being the firstborn might mean they are entitled, or very responsible, for example. Or it could mean nothing, that’s up to you. Now, as for parents, were they nobles? Somehow involved in religious establishment? Maybe they were poor and had to steal to survive. Tamriel is a dangerous place, are they both still alive? Did your character even know them? If so, how’s their relationship now? Adoption is common enough in some cultures, too. Or maybe your character wasn’t raised by their parents but an entire village, or guild.

There are so many possibilities. Possibilities within possibilities! That’s what’s so great about RP, it’s limited only by the human imagination. It can be overwhelming even, to try and come up with something that you like. That’s where lore comes in handy. Depending on your race, your character’s parents might have raised them a lot differently. I imagine Dark Elf parents wouldn’t be very warm and cuddly, though they do value family. An Orc child is likely raised by his whole clan, not just two parents, and would be instilled with clan values early on. A little research on a race’s characteristics can really help give you ideas for many of these questions. It’s really up to you how ‘traditional’ a character’s parents and upbringing were.

2. Upbringing and Important People
Having a general idea about your characters’ upbringing can really help you shape who they are. Some people reject their past, and how they were raised, others may embrace most of it but reject certain memories. A particularly traumatic event could haunt them to this day… or be the source of their strength. In addition to events, it can be fun to come up with significant characters in your backstory. Aside from family, your young Breton must have had some friends while growing up in High Rock. Maybe some old elder she looked up to? Or a mean orc kid who would bully him? It can go far beyond childhood, depending on how old your character is. Lovers, employers, rivals, slaves, war buddies, you can create as many characters as you want to enrich your backstory. I like to stick with two or three important people to start with. As always, I usually develop these characters and add plenty more as I come up with things while roleplaying.

It can make for a more involved, novel-like RP experience if you find someone to actually play characters with connected pasts. It’s usually pretty easy to come up with a reason to connect characters who are already established but if you and your buddy make a pair of characters together and connect them from the beginning it can be incredibly fun. With RPers I’ve played with long enough, I like to “remember good times we had growing up”, improvising a story together as our characters reminisce. Of course, it’s usually best to discuss any major backstory elements they may have shared before you start spouting off your ideas in /say.

As stated, race and region have a lot to do with how your character may have been raised. Of course, there are always exceptions. If you feel your story would be better if your character was an Argonian born in Black Marsh but raised by lost Wood Elves, more power to you. But having an explanation is essential, otherwise your concept is weak and unconvincing. I like to stick a little closer to lore, personally. I find that having a fairly ‘typical’ member of a certain race doesn’t actually restrict my character from being unique or interesting, as some RPers think it might. Adopting the traits of my character’s race into my RP makes me feel like I’m more a part of the game world around me, like I’m seeing through the eyes of a ‘real’ denizen of Tamriel.

3. Trade/Skills
Anything from battlemage to farmer, miner to mercenary, your character’s skills are usually directly tied to their backstory. It’s easy to say “I have 100 Mining so I’m an expert miner”, but pulling that off in a genuine way through RP requires some knowledge of actual mining. Or at least the ability to fake it in a convincing way. Tying their skills to their backstory will help make your claims of your characters’ Destruction magic prowess a lot more convincing. It’s also a lot of fun to roleplay the entire process from clueless noob to a practiced adept and beyond, especially if you can get someone to roleplay your trainer or master.

You don’t have to be limited by game mechanics when adding color to your backstory. I had a tauren character in WoW who was primarily a healer but also distilled whiskey. Game mechanics didn’t allow for that but he would talk about it and offer “pretend whiskey” (as if having an animation for it makes it any less pretend) to his friends. I would then use emotes to describe the taste and burn. Your character could have any hobby or skill that fits into the lore and setting of the game. But how did your character gain these skills, how long has he been practicing them, is he particularly talented or just average? Maybe he’s terrible at one thing but very talented in another field. Varying degrees of competence in different character skills is realistic and fun. I usually only acknowledge two or three of my character’s in game trade skills like blacksmithing and alchemy. Otherwise I’d just have all the same skills as every other PC out there, which isn’t a fun.

4. Bias
Everyone stereotypes someone, even if they don’t intend to. The poor think the rich are selfish and pompous, the rich think the poor are unmotivated and trashy. The religious think the nonbelievers are heathen, the atheists think the religious people are nuts. Those are all extreme examples, but even someone who is very open minded most likely harbors strong opinions on something, even if it’s just a concept. Realistic RP characters will have some biased opinions about other races, regions, lifestyles, guilds, specific people, politics, philosophy, etc. Even if they hide some of these thoughts, only showing them in unintentional or subtle ways. They might not even know about they’re opinions are unfounded or unfair. Now, biased don’t all have to be negative, nor should they. Maybe your Wood Elf has found that he’s always gotten along really well with his cousins from Summerset, though I don’t see how anyone could get alone with those pricks. 😉

Political views and racial stereotypes are often heavily influenced by what race you play and where they live. You’d be hard pressed to find a Nord who doesn’t think very highly of the rugged Skyrim lifestyle and not so highly of elves and beast races. And it’s safe to assume most everyone will have a negative opinion (at least in some ways) about the other factions in ESO.

5. Beliefs and Ideals
Roleplaying religious characters, for me, is very fun. I like to play fervent zealouts once in awhile but simple followers of a faith or ideal are just as fun. Unless your character is doing it in secret, most people on Tamriel won’t look too kindly on worshiping the “wrong” gods. Depending on what region you’re in, your character might have to keep their beliefs secret or risk being ostracized. Except in Morrowind, dadra worship is usually outlawed. Every race has their own versions of the Eight Divines (remember, Talos hasn’t come around yet) and worship them in their own ways. Again, figuring out what gods your character’s race tend to worship will take a little research.

Ideals have a lot more wiggle room but they will probably be influenced by whatever god(s) your character worships the most devoutly, at least to some degree. Followers of Kynareth tend to be tree huggers while worshipers of Boethiah believe in chaos and change. But the gods don’t have instructions for everything. Family, honor, compassion, accumulation, revenge, what does your character value and what don’t they care about? Do they see morals as a waste, a clear set of rules or a subjective path? Would they kill an innocent to get a job done? Would they die to save a stranger? A person’s beliefs are never black and white, and are very individualized. Having a character with a wide spectrum of morals, ideals and beliefs allows you to explore different points of view that you maybe hadn’t considered before. Even if you don’t agree with them, you might come to understand them better by playing a character who does.

Alright, that wraps it up for Part I. Thanks for reading, stayed tuned for Part 2 and feel free to continue the discussion in the comments. After all, RP is all about Perspectives!

Why Waste Your Time Roleplaying?

Commentary: Here you have the first article I’ve written regarding RP in the upcoming game The Elder Scrolls Online. But it could also be viewed as a general overview of some of the main reasons people like me “waste” our time with roleplay. I’m pretty happy with it, and the response was generally positive. Can’t wait to publish more on RP in ESO!

Original Link: http://www.teso-rp.com/home/m/9324622/article/1492365

Official Tamriel Chronicle Feature: http://www.elderscrollsonline.com/en/news/post/2013/05/21/the-tamriel-chronicle-issue-8

Why Waste Your Time Roleplaying

By

The most common question I’m asked by my fellow gamers about roleplaying is, “What’s so fun about standing around pretending to be an orc when you could be killing sh*t?” To people who have spent enough time engrossed in their roleplay story this question seems ignorant or even insulting. After all, there’s a lot more to RP than typing out in-character (usually abbreviated to IC) conversations in /say. But I think it’s a great question, and very valid. I mean, what are video games for but an adrenaline rush and audiovisual orgasm? If you want story, read a book or watch a movie. If you want story in your video games then watch the cut scenes and read the lore, right? Maybe, but RP is a lot more involved than that.

There was a recent thread on the forum asking the TESO-RP community what motivates them to RP. There seems to be a pretty standard consensus here (and among countless RPers I’ve talked to) about the reasons why we stand around pretending to be fantasy characters. In this article I’m going to go over these reasons and take a deeper look at them.

1. Escapism
Any form of storytelling is an escape from real life. You don’t usually watch a movie or play Skyrim so you can spend some time thinking about your job or school. But RP is a little more of an escape than just playing a video game. When you create a character and start to develop him/her/it you find that there is more and more to remember about them; their personality quirks, likes vs. dislikes, past, opinions on other PCs, the list goes on and on, man. Unlike your mom’s birthday this information isn’t hard to remember – because it’s fun! Though, you do find that RP takes a lot of brain-power if you’re really into it. This alone can force your brain to focus and pull you deeper into the world you’ve escaped to.

Roleplayers are writers, and writers generally have good imaginations. When I’m roleplaying I imagine my character as a real person and try to see their facial expression and physical qualities not represented by the game avatar, like scars, a backpack, a pipe or a lantern. This, combined with the thought required to make your characters’ actions fit with who you’ve created them to be (and who they’ve evolved into) makes roleplaying an incredibly immersive experience at times. Add epic music, good graphics and believable environments into this and you can trick your brain into thinking you are a hunter stalking prey or a mage teaching his apprentice how to cast spells, at least for a few hours.

Anyone can immerse themselves into a game world – you don’t have to be a roleplayer to do that. But RP adds that little extra pull which makes the setting seem so much more alive by making you part of that setting.

For some, this all-encompassing escape is desperately needed. A lot of people mentioned on this forum, and from experience I can tell you, roleplayers often come from shitty home lives and use RP to get away from that. Personally, this hasn’t been true for me but I can see why it draws in so many people who want to escape from their real lives. Of course, there is a healthy balance when escaping from the problems life presents. Like all forms of entertainment, there is potential for abusing roleplay and ignoring real life entirely but I’m not here to judge. Everyone walks their own path.

For me, RP has always provided an escape when I needed it, but that is possibly its least appealing attribute. In fact, I find RP tied to my daily life in more ways than it is separate. I might go into that more in a future article but for now here’s one example:

2. Writing Practice
Getting good at writing is like getting good at talking to giiiiiirrrllllss. At first, you’re going to come up with some shit to say that’s just stupid and embarrassing. You think its good before it leaves your mouth, then look back on it later and cringe. But the only way to get good at talking to vaginafolk is to just keep doing it, and observe yourself carefully so you can see what you did well and what didn’t go so well.

The nice thing about practicing your writing skills through RP is that you don’t have to dedicate yourself to finishing a story or crafting an entire novel. RP is instantaneous and lasts as long or as briefly as you want it to. It’s the lazy, easy way to write!

As soon as you put out a /say or /emote it begins its ascent up the chat and will soon disappear into cyberspace. If you do something you think is stupid or poorly written it doesn’t really matter because it will soon be gone. There will be countless more opportunities to “do well” and you have the immediate opportunity to fix your mistake and learn from it. That said, roleplaying alone won’t train you to write a novel, but it really does help with character building and dialogue.

3. Being Involved
PvPers, Raiders and RPers all have their respective communities which serve as a big part of what keeps people playing the game. No one can argue that most gamers are more attached to the friends they make in MMOs than the MMO itself.

The unique thing about the RP community is that it has two sides to it. Everyone you meet has their character and who they are out of character (OOC). You might know all about one and nothing about the other. I don’t try to get to know most people I RP with OOC because I feel like it immerses me more if I don’t have that knowledge. But I love forum communities and find that I always make new friends of people I spend the most time RPing with. Chatting with people OOC can be just as fun as roleplaying with them.

It’s always kind of exciting to run into a PC who you’ve talked OOC on the forums or vise versa. It can be even more exciting to meet a character you’ve heard rumors of. There are always “famous” people who are either really impressive RPers, are especially active on the forums or have some guild related fame. This is just the nature of humanity – some will be in the spotlight for better or worse. Either way, I have to admit to some feelings of being “star-struck” when getting to RP with “famous” players. And this isn’t really a rare occurrence; the RP community is small enough that it will happen if you play enough.

It’s exactly because it is so small that individuals can make a big difference in the community. Whether or not they get recognized for it doesn’t really matter to me, I’ve heard some say, “Our server could benefit from this thing. Let’s do that thing!” and sure enough, if you have the will you can noticeably affect a large group of fellow players.

For example, back on WoW I had a friend who decided that Razor Hill was a great place for Horde roleplay to occur. He spent some time just hanging out there IC, smoking his pipe, cooking boar meat, having discussions with the grunts, making offerings to spirits, etc. Eventually people started to recognize this old orc shaman hanging around a town pretty much no one roleplayed in at the time. He would always try to connect his story to that of the people who would RP with him there. He involved tons of RPers in various plots relating to and based around this small orcish town in the middle of the red Durotar sands. Instead of just passing through to pick up a quest or sell their grey items, people made connections to one another and created epic stories together. Because of my friend’s efforts, Razor Hill went from an empty town filled with blank-faced NPCs to a living, breathing village with an ongoing plot of its own.

Any RPer can make a difference. It just takes passion, time and energy. People are proud of their plots, characters and personal RP histories. For us, roleplaying is something that can only be experienced, not explained. It doesn’t have to be standing around the capital city chatting IC. If you want adventure, go make it! But that’s a discussion for another time.

For today I’ll wrap up by saying that we roleplay for the same reason the artist paints and musician plays. RP could be seen as unproductive because there’s no physical evidence of its fruits but, like RP itself, the products of it are subtle and entirely personal. We roleplay to better ourselves, to observe and test out ideas, to see from different perspectives. Roleplaying is art, philosophy, socializing, meditation, writing and gaming all wrapped into one. It can be complicated and even time-consuming if you want to get really involved. But like all things, you get out of RP what you put into it. For some, it’s just a pass-time. For the hardcore RPers, it is a state of mind.

If you haven’t roleplayed before and are curious about it, hit up my inbox. If you don’t have an account here shoot me an email: muppetdo@gmail.com. I have plenty of resources to help you get started and can answer any questions you might have. But the best way to see if roleplaying is for you is to just jump in and try it!

I hope you all have a great rest of the week and a kickass weekend. Thanks for reading!

Prologue

Commentary: Oh, the prologue. The cock-teasing prologue. I’m happy with what I have for it, and I feel it sets up the novel nicely, showing that it will be kind of cosmic and deeply thoughtful, but I worry that it doesn’t really draw the reader in. It might even bore you! I often think that I’m just over-analyzing it (what writer doesn’t do that) and I should just leave it. I would like to throw a little more detail and some clarity in at some point too. What do you think, dear reader?

Prologue

     In a distant part of the all encompassing vastness of outer space a light appeared amongst the other trillions of lights speckling, blotting and endlessly spinning throughout the cosmos of this universe. This light was different than the others, however. It did not come from a boiling star or the reflection of a massive sphere of condensed carbon. No, this light was its own. It appeared in an instant in a place in space further from Earth than any light seen by humankind. Yet even so far from all we know this light was by no means at the edge of our universe. Rather, it was somewhere in the middle of all the mass taken up by the rocks, planets, stars and galaxies. The center of the entire universe, mathematically speaking.
     From this incalculable center the light shot off. It moved on its own accord, switching directions at will with no friction to hinder it. To any onlooker (if any being has the power to see something moving so quickly) it would appear like a stylized lightning bolt streaking its way through the black emptiness of space towards any object, however small. It struck tiny space rocks with millions of years of inches behind them as they slowly floated along, drawn further into the darkness by some unknown force. As the light hit them it would circulate throughout their entire mass, touching each molecule at speeds that cannot be measured.
It was searching.
     After scanning through a cluster of hundreds of space rocks it zipped through space again, moving towards a large, spherical world. Crossing the distance of a solar system in an instant the light struck the cold, lifeless rock. It moved straight through the crust of the planetoid without damaging it or even altering its makeup. The miles of stone remained unbroken as the light passed through them and into the core. From the molten sphere the light spiraled outwards until it again reached the crust and burst forth to the next object.
     In a universe of slowly changing geology and eternal sources of light and energy this bolt searched at speeds unseen to this place since its dawn. It was virtually the same moment the light arrived that its search began to bear fruit.
     Life.
     Countless beings smaller than blood cells with simple directives and creatures large enough to topple canyons with complex understandings, dreams and emotions. Life. Everywhere. Billions of souls inhabited this universe the light had found. It scanned them all, collecting everything there was to know about the various animals, plants and even people who lived across the stars in this universe. Some were strange and complex even up against the vast knowledge the light carried with it. Others were simple yet beautiful in their ways. Some beings were incredibly diverse between individuals while others might as well have been clones of their counterparts.
     And the universe itself! The light marveled at the rotating worlds, the cycles of energy from stars to plants to insects to creatures to the world and into plants again. It had seen many places and witnessed the creation of worlds far more complex even than this one. But the light was impressed. Emotion boiled within it as it marveled at the beauty of our universe as one would a fantastic painting.
     The light had scoured existence for years as uncountable as the souls. It had blinked into one universe after another, exploring all there was to know, searching for the answers it sought. The light had encountered beings and places which followed rules and operated in ways entirely unknowable to those of us with flesh and blood. It had seen places where there is no physical, places where logic went by different rules, places where everyone was a god and places where everyone was a slave to a single master. As the light viewed our universe it compared it to memories of other existences and ways of being. And it was impressed.
     That’s saying something.
     Yet the longer it scanned the more it began to worry. Something was amiss. This place was not entirely as it was created to be. Some corruption had sunk deep into the very fabric of all that was here. The same corruption the light had been seeking in the beginning was here too! It was patient but excited to see if there was something to learn here. Despite this excitement it controlled its desires, taking the time to scan every nebula, tree and atom in case there was something hidden here.
     The being flowing through the makeup of the universe did not sense the corruption through any of its great facilities. Each time it scanned something the light gleaned all there was to know about that thing, including the entire history of the very matter of the object from the dawn of time until the destruction of our universe. Time here was malleable for this being. This universe of ours was one in more than can be counted. Its rules did not apply to the light, who was from somewhere deeper in reality than our own existence. But even with the control it could exert the light did not sense this corruption.
     Yet it knew there was something wrong here. This place was designed by a creative hand of great potency – a single being stronger even than the light. Someone with the skill to create this universe had once dwelt here. A project so massive took time and energy, even for a god. More importantly, it took maintenance. Such universes as ours are so vast and complex that their own weight tends to fall in upon themselves after time. The light had seen several universes abandoned by their creators. The same thing always happened.
     The universe the light had found was ripping itself apart. Slowly, but surely. At some point in the distant future it would expand unto its breaking point and everything would rip apart. Even the smallest atoms would essentially pop and be destroyed forever.
     Where was the creator? The light searched galaxies and the space in between over the course of several hundred Earth years until it had no where left to look. Not a single atom unturned. The creator of this place was missing.
     As the light had suspected. The evil it sought had something to do with this. As it watched the creatures of one planet build their first cities and utilize their first tools the being in the light knew it had to save the souls here – for they too would rip apart if they were to stay here. And without the creator to withdraw them they could not leave this doomed universe. Oblivion lay before them if something was not done.
     But the light did not have the control of this universe like its creator. No one but the creator itself could alter it at will. Still, this being had seen more in its time than almost any other in all of everything that is everywhere. Ever. Resolve filled the being as it started to work to save these souls from their eventual fate.
Its search would have to hold for now.