Character Development: Lore, Restrictive or Freeing?
By Shannon Doyle (Leliah), OnRPG Journalist
Through my many years of roleplaying I’ve met all sorts of people. Some of them love games with deep lore and enjoy making a character that fits into that world. While others find lore to be too restrictive. I have a friend in City of Heroes who will only roleplay in City of Heroes because she likes being able to make any character she wanted without restriction. She also plays Rift, and SWTOR, but she won’t roleplay in those worlds. On the other hand many, many years ago I created a chatroom roleplay that gave the players the ultimate freedom. They could create any race they wanted. But ultimately everyone wanted to play humans or cat people. Then there are people in the middle, like me. I love roleplaying in City of Heroes. I can make just about anything I want. But I also love the lore of The Secret World and Rift. And I make my characters fit the setting that is given to me. There is also another type of person. The person who will ignore the story and setting and make the character they want. They choose to only use the bits of the story they find useful. I’ll try not to get too ranty about those sorts of people, but they really bug me.
I’m not saying that games like City of Heroes or Champions Online don’t have lore or backstory. They just allow for more flexibility. Because a super hero can be anything, with any origin. So in those sorts of games I think a lot of people find roleplaying easier. At this point in my City of Heroes life I’ve played well over 60 characters, and roleplayed all of them. And yes, I do love being able to take advantage of the freedom the game gives me. After all what other game can allow you to have a catgirl, an angel, an alien and a plant/human hybrid all in one roster? The freedom is liberating. So why is it I’ve seen a million Wolverine clones. And even more Sons/Daughters of Statesman? Why can’t people embrace the freedom given to them?
The best roleplayers can embrace the lore and use it to create the foundation for an amazing character. The way I see most MMOs is that they’re a story. A book which we have the pleasure of stepping into. We should respect, enjoy and cherish what has been given to us. Which is why I cringe anytime I see someone playing a half Elf/half Kelari person (In Rift you can’t have biracial characters. Except in the case of Bahmi and Humans.). Or when I hear about players in WoW having Death Knights who are very much alive I roll my eyes and wish you had to sign some sort of thing saying you will obey the rules of the game.
So where does that perfect balance come in? Is a lot of history and lore a hindrance or a blessing? Is this something that depends on the person? I think it very much does depend on the person. Some factors are how good a person is at roleplaying, how creative they are, how willing they are to use what is presented. I think another important factor is how long a person has been gaming and roleplaying in particular. I don’t mean actual time, since I’ve been roleplaying for 15 or so years now at this point. But I think for everyone there grows a point where you just want to do your story. Now, maybe MMOs aren’t the best place for that. But it is a very big medium these days. Especially since the death of chatroom roleplay.
Worse even more than ignoring the lore and rules of a game is playing a world that doesn’t, shouldn’t exist in the game you’re playing. I’m looking at you WoD and Dresden rpers on Virtue. These really are the sorts of things that belong in their own game/chatroom. I’m not talking about the people who do it as a joke. I thought it would be amusing to have characters from Rift somehow find themselves going through a rift into the plane of City of Heroes. Ultimately I never made the character but it amused me for a time. I have seen an amusing application of something similar to this that I think worked very well and I accept. A group of friends many years ago at this point created characters in City of Heroes on a server they don’t normally play on. That’s nothing to write home about, right? Well these characters were actually meant to be characters in a super hero game that were being played by the main characters of the people who were playing them. It’s like MMO inception!
Embrace it, ignore it, twist it to make it your own, there is no denying that MMOs give you the ultimate freedom. Just remember that you are responsible not only for the quality of your experience in the game but also the experiences of everyone you interact with.