Roleplaying: A Hidden Culture in World of Warcraft

Back in the late 1970’s and through the 1980’s, Dungeons and Dragons increased in popularity.  This was in part because of it’s ability to have players fill the role of a heroic adventurer.  Acting out the characters personality as they developed their avatar in the game environment was fulfilling for many.  While I still believe there is a reason to resurrect the traditional tabletop roleplaying game, World of Warcraft does provide an excellent opportunity to develop a character in a similar manner.  Roleplaying in a realtime world is different, but can be just as fun.

Dungeons and Dragons

From the beginning, there has been a demand for roleplaying in the World of Warcraft universe.  Many traditional RPG players have transitioned to video games, passing from Everquest to Ultima, many landing finally on World of Warcraft.  The game has a few built in  elements that make it possible to carry out an existence in Azeroth, such as empty houses, inn’s with beds and cooking areas, and even back alleys where you can live out your shady dealings.

Roleplaying Community

The roleplaying community in World of Warcraft is a secretive one for a few reasons.  Hiding away on the roleplaying servers, these players get offended or distraught if non-roleplayers or anti-roleplayers ruin their immersion.  When roleplaying, I often find myself leaving trade and general chat (channels often used by players when speaking out-of-character), and sticking to /say or /yell to communicate.  This allows for a more realistic, “proximity chat” effect.


The Lion’s Pride Inn is less of an inn and more of a strip club on the Moon Guard server.

Servers that are well known for roleplaying are not necessarily the most respected.  For example, the Alliance side of the roleplaying server Moon Guard is known for its erotic roleplaying (ERP) in the Goldshire tavern, the Lion’s Pride Inn.  The inn has essentially been transformed into a strip club for all intents and purposes.  For more traditional roleplaying on the Alliance side, players should check out Wyrmrest Accord.  Horde roleplayers can check out Wyrmrest Accord as well, or Earthen Ring.

Roleplaying Addons

Many players also opt to use one or several roleplaying addons.  These include MyRolePlay and Gryphonheart Items.  MyRolePlay (MRP) adds an interface to allow players to fill in details about their character not previously available in the game.  These include full name, age, height, weight, eye color, race, description, and history.  You can also add a short blurb about what your character is up to, and what your character’s job or title is, as well as what “house” they hail from.  This addon also allows you to see other players descriptions quickly and easily, and changes the character tooltip that pops up when hovering over them to show their MRP information.


MyRolePlay adds numerous descriptive features for you to effectively flesh out your ideal character.

Gryphonheart Items (GHI) is an addon that I’ve not played much with, but it adds a secondary inventory that allows the creation of roleplaying items to be used in acting out storylines or developing your character that much more.  The system even allows the items to give a “buff”, which adds an icon that shows up to other GHI users in your buff bars.

Tips for Roleplaying

When playing World of Warcraft, you have to be aware of the fact that most people play it for the entertainment aspect, and not necessarily for roleplaying.  For this reason, even roleplaying servers may be populated with players who have no interest in it, or even despise it.  Blizzard has a policy that allows players to effectively report players who go out of their way to ruin a players immersion by talking out-of-character (OOC) in proximity chat channels.  Things as small as bad character names (i.e. Hordepwnz) on roleplaying servers have been escalated to forced name changes or account suspensions.  If you see something that truly ruins your immersion, don’t hesitate to report it, but don’t expect Blizzard to police roleplaying servers for things like this: it’s simply a reactionary policy.


Players often use proximity chat to roleplay with other people.

Other tips for roleplaying involve how to properly use chat channels.  Guild chat, general chat, and trade chat are often considered OOC by default, while /say, /yell and /em or /me are often used for in-character chat.  When roleplaying in a private setting with a group, party chat is also often used for in-character conversations.  When speaking out of character in a proximity channel, it’s customary to use double parenthesis ((like this)) or simply ending the line with a double right parenthesis.  This allows you to get across an OOC apology (if your character is rude), or simply to ask a game related question.

Roleplaying Jargon

When getting into roleplaying, some words or phrases are often thrown around.

  • Storyline (SL) – This is a type of event where a person or group of people will invite other players to act out a detailed storyline that was developed by one of the players.  This is most like a traditional Dungeons and Dragons campaign, where the group leader comes up with a story or adventure for the group to take part in.
  • Walk-Ups – This is the type of roleplaying that develops when your character approaches another character randomly, and begins to roleplay a conversation or interaction.  Many roleplayers invite walk-ups, where some others are often busy or determined doing something else, or acting out a storyline.
  • Erotic Roleplay (ERP) – This is a more mature type of roleplaying, often found in taverns, where players will roleplay intimate encounters or erotic events.  This is not traditional Medieval Fantasy roleplaying.
  • Out-of -character (OOC) – This, as the phrase describes, is any chat that takes place when you are not speaking as your character.  This is often used to describe plans for a storyline, or to chat with another person playing the game, rather than acting out a character.
  • In-character (IC) – The opposite of OOC, IC chat is normally done in proximity chat or yelling, or when actions or emotions are involved, using the emote commands.  IC chat also takes place in party chat for things like storylines.
  • Roleplay Walk – This is achieved (by default) by pressing the / key.  It makes your character walk normally, simulating a typical walking speed.  Many full-time roleplayers will use the Roleplay Walk to walk around inside buildings to be more realistic.

In summary, if you enjoy World of Warcraft, but are getting bored of the constant grind and dungeons, roleplaying might be something interesting for you to do to get you into the game.  It’s a very accepting community as long as you treat them with respect, and roleplayers are often willing to help beginners develop their characters, as there is a dwindling number of players willing to go full-time roleplaying.  On the other end of the coin, if you enjoy roleplaying, but have never given it a shot in WoW, it can be fun and fulfilling, just as much as Dungeons and Dragons or other tabletop games.

For more tips on roleplaying in WoW, check out the WoWWiki guide to roleplaying.