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Meddling in Roleplay: You're not the Hero
by Harlwystyr, Writer — Category: Editorials
Post #162708
[Image: YourenottheHeroBannerv1_zpsaf6d5919.jpg]

You're not the Hero

A cornerstone of the Elder Scrolls franchise has been its focus on the hero-role, as well as prophecy, mostly linked to the Elder Scrolls themselves and the insights they give into the world, be it past, present, or future. As such, the player is used to being treated as a special individual, but what happens, then, when the franchise branches out into the MMORPG market, where the player will not be alone, but rather surrounded by people who think as he or she does? To explain this, let us first have a look at the purposes and the dealings of the heroes of the past Elder Scrolls games.

The hero of Arena - who may or may not have been called Talin and also known as the Eternal Champion - travelled the Empire of Tamriel to gather the pieces of the Staff of Chaos, and went down in history as the person who rescued the emperor from Jagar Tharn's plot. Simple hero-kills-evil-wizard story. Next, the hero of Daggerfall - known as the agent - got involved in the politics of the Iliac Bay and ended up causing an event that came to be known as the Warp in the West, or the Miracle of Peace, in which the political map of north-western Tamriel was dramatically changed. Likewise, the Nerevarine, the Hero of Kvatch, and the Dragonborn (of Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim respectively) all had a larger impact upon the face of Nirn.

With this in mind, let us remember that Zenimax have acknowledged that several heroes are needed at the time of the Elder Scrolls Online. In fact, a promotional trailer, narrated by the Prophet, directly tells this in the following quote:


The Imperial Throne sits empty.
The Dragonfires cold; unlit.
And from every corner, darkness grows.
Now, ancient enemies band together.
Unlikely alliances are forged.
Old ambitions rekindled.
And as enemies rise faster than allies,
salvation cannot come from one hero alone,
but from many.



If the game developers themselves state that there will be multiple heroes, why should it be implausible and beyond reason that the roleplayers should, indeed, roleplay themselves as these heroes? Well, I will try to explain this in the following example:

(This section will be heavy with spoilers regarding the Daggerfall Covenant. Read at your own peril!)

Once you have completed the tutorial in Coldharbour, you're sent directly to the first major city in your faction's home province. In this case, Daggerfall in the region of Glenumbra. You are instantly treated to a city that's alive and buzzing like a metropolis that has its fair share of problems to deal with, and many NPCs will point you towards recent troubles in the street, as well as rumours of assassins, and the whole shebang of medieval fantasy clich├ęs.

In the city, you're tasked with rescuing a farmer's prize pig, study a few murder trails, and eventually, you manage to save King Casimir Deleyn of Daggerfall from the assassins of the Bloodthorn Cult. Ok, so what exactly is the problem with this in a roleplay context?

Well, the whole argument against NOT being the hero is obviously that you've bought the game, and like everyone else, you wish to be treated equally, and argue that the quests are an extension of the game itself, and thereby the established lore. Problem is, roleplay, as mentioned in the previous article about classes and their functions, is reliant on the key component of immersion. Immersion, in turn, is largely depending on realistic argumentations of reason and faithful portrayals of a story.

[Image: KingCasimirv2_zps33aef29e.jpg]

Keeping this in mind, we got to ask ourselves the question - How many times will the Bloodthorn Cult attempt to assassinate the king? Well, obviously, they're pretty dumb villains if they stop only after one attempt, but seeing as the playerbase of ESO - and even so just the roleplayers - number in the thousands, we run into a problem. What realistic approach and reasoning would lie behind tens of thousands of assassination attempts done at the king's life by the same people? I'll answer that for you - none.

For those of you that would argue that the King of Daggerfall is an exception, due to his important role in the lore, allow me to state why this rule extends to even the most humble farmer of High Rock or Skyrim. The fundamental basics of roleplaying a character lies in the character concept (his personality, his background, and so on). Now, your character might have friends who are farmers, whom he have helped in the past, but it can never be a canonical farmer like an NPC. The NPC in question, for instance, could send you to retrieve his prize pig, and much like the King of Daggerfall, there's only so many times that scenario is plausible. For example, why would a farmer that knows tens of thousands (or just twenty) of heroes need to constantly recruit new people to search for his pig, even if that pig should wander off tens of thousands of times?

So what is the ideal approach to roleplaying a character in an MMORPG universe that is relying so heavily on quests to give you content? Ironically, the answer comes from ignoring the raiding system in World of Warcraft - and hold your torches and pitchforks so I can explain this very odd observation!

In World of Warcraft there are plenty of raids of varying importance - from slaying Illidan (who poses no immediate threat to Azeroth) in his Black Temple of Outland, to defeating the dreaded Lich King atop Icecrown Citadel (who most certainly poses a very real threat to every race in the established lore of Azeroth).

But how does this explain anything about the ideal setting for roleplaying your character without quests or in-game, canonical content? Well, as any veteran (or just reasonable) roleplayer from World of Warcraft will tell you, no one took the individuals who claimed to have been in the raids in-character seriously, because of the impact they had and the repeatable nature of them.

First of all, the Lich King, for example, when defeated was replaced by Bolvar Fordragon in possibly the worst in-game cinematic ever made - but I digress - and the viewer was told through the story that no one must ever know that the Lich King continued to exist through Bolvar; but rather that they both were dead. Now, if people roleplayed they were there, they all have to roleplay characters with the EXACT SAME MINDSET as to how they should be approached. Basically, they all had to believe that the people of Azeroth were better off with a lie than the truth.

Secondly, as the content is repeatable, (and seeing as everyone should be treated equally), that'd mean every single roleplayer who killed the Lich King in the raid were entitled to claim themselves as one of his slayers. Soon and surely enough, this number would grow to the hundreds of thousands - and I need not explain why this is silly.

[Image: Arthasv2_zpsa8b1a37d.jpg]


The Roundup


Harkening back to sense of immersion - what did people do? Simple, they never roleplayed themselves as heroes, and all was fine. I can with certainty say to any of you out there who plan on roleplaying the "hero of ESO and the conqueror of Coldharbour", or the Vestige (as the character is known as in an Out of Character fashion) that you'll be running face-head into a brick wall. The same goes from claiming that your character knows an NPC (from the lowliest farmer to the High King of Wayrest himself). Instead, humble yourselves to a non-canonical role, and you're one step closer to doing the right thing and providing yourself and others with enjoyable roleplay!

The joys of roleplaying a non-canonical character are many, and one does not need to use PvP and PvE accomplishments to form one's concept and shower it with titles or tales. Instead, a good way to create a character is through stories of your own making, interacting with others through roleplay to form your character's personality (and in turn help others do the same), and, to quote dear Horizon Seeker: "you build your characters on your own creativity, and there's some deep sense of satisfaction in doing so".
The following 15 users Like Harlwystyr's post:
Archaic Dev, Archmage Alator, cadian13, Hobado, Isilmo, JandeV, Kilivin, L'kir the Khajiit, Lurgahk, Poldano, Ri'Do'Ja, Shadowfox, Thorfinn, Triskele, Vesperae


Comments on Meddling in Roleplay: You're not the Hero
Post #162714
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Aldmeri Dominion
Bosmer
Very nice article. It definitely raises some concerns, questions, and solutions for role players.
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Post #162740
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Redguard
This is important, and not just for ESO; it goes for any roleplayer, in any game. It kind of reflects what I briefly wrote in my Seven Steps-article. Great job, Harl!
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The following 2 users Like Triskele's post:
Archaic Dev, Vesperae
Post #162846
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Breton
There's a slightly different approach, or rather, a variation on the approach, that could be typified by the response to any self-described hero: "Yeah, we're all heroes here, have a beer." With that kind of attitude, or perhaps something of your own own invention, RP-breakers can be subtly taught by RPers in-role. I have to include myself as a potential RP-breaker, because I don't consider myself all that skilled at it, and could use some guidance and example.

Fortunately, TES provides plenty of lore for accommodating those who are evidently not in role. It's entirely plausible that they have just been wandering about the Planes of Oblivion, under an illusion spell, partaking of hallucinogenic agents, and so forth.

Also, my experience of the single-person games is that NPCs do not always treat the player as the exceptional person he or she has become. This may merely indicate a somewhat limited design of NPC AI, but its also a reminder that not everyone you meet may think of one the way one thinks of oneself.
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Post #162948
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Altmer
I fully agree with all the points you made Harlwystyr... Though the WoW references lost me a teeny bit as I have never played it (Plz no kill me everybody...)
Also the final two paragraphs are almost precisely what I believe in when Rp-ing in any game... :)
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The following 1 user likes Isilmo's post:
L'kir the Khajiit
Post #163508
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I doth declare this is exactly what I've practiced on the rather unpopular game, PlayStation Home. That game is full of roleplayers, and showed me the ropes on things. After a while, I became a Khajiit thief roleplayer within THAT realm - what I aim to become. I will not claim huge titles, because those who do don't know how to even act as that title. I will stick to being a petty thief along a certain road I will select, and try to mug other players or civilians. This would be a minor role, yes?
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Post #163509
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Breton
(March 25th 2014 04:16 AM)Lkir the Khajiit Wrote:  I doth declare this is exactly what I've practiced on the rather unpopular game, PlayStation Home. That game is full of roleplayers, and showed me the ropes on things. After a while, I became a Khajiit thief roleplayer within THAT realm - what I aim to become. I will not claim huge titles, because those who do don't know how to even act as that title. I will stick to being a petty thief along a certain road I will select, and try to mug other players or civilians. This would be a minor role, yes?

It is indeed a minor role! Although, you could easily roleplay the leader of a group of highwaymen or so. The only important thing is that your concept has no direct influence on the canon lore; through NPC relationships, or impact on the world in a manner that's noticable.
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Ri'Do'Ja
Post #164054
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Altmer
So I'm guessing if one were to speak of his character's past in-game (not limited to just what they've done, but maybe including such deeds), it would be best to speak in general, rather than specific, terms?

For example, instead of claiming to have helped "Mr. Bob Farmer with pig issue," would it adequately serve roleplaying purposes to simply state "I aided a farmer in retrieving some lost livestock in these parts two months ago"? Is it enough to simply be vague about the who and what and still mention it, or should I just avoid discussing past actions related to a developer-written quest altogether?

I'm interested in roleplaying a character in ESO, and I haven't done so since DAoC pre-TOA era, wayyy back when. I find these articles very fascinating and helpful in preparing a role!
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Post #165510
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Bosmer
Congratulations on making it into the Tamriel Chronicle, issue #52. You are a yearlong addition! You also got in for one of your stories!
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Post #165961
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I don't think you necessarily need to role play the story when you can make your own within the lore.
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