In Middle-earth, The Role Plays You

Much has been said about the community in Lord of the Rings Online, about how helpful it is, about how generous it is, and about how generally mature, at least relative to World of Warcraft.

And, in general, it is true enough.  There are always a few problem children around, but the ratio of good to bad is pretty reasonable.

And nowhere is this more true when it comes to role playing in game.

In WoW, on the Lightninghoof, a designated role play server, nothing gets the 13 year old boys (those either physically or mentally 13) using the word “gay” or “fag” faster than somebody role playing in Orgrimmar.

And I have seen this sort of active hostility towards role playing quite a bit in WoW.

Not that I am big on role playing in-game.  But I try to be… role play compatible.  I tend to go with character names that are not too disruptive to immersion in the game and I will hold up my end of things if I end up in a situation where role play is happening.

In LOTRO though, role play seems to just happen, whether you plan on it or not.

For example, the other night, Potshot was working on his cooking profession in the game.

While some recipes can be cooked at the oven in the crafting hall.  Other recipes, trail food specifically, need to be cooked over a campfire.  But unless you are near an NPC campfire, you have to buy kindling (wood all over the place, buy you have to buy kindling!), which can get expensive when you are a low level character.

I offered to get out my hunter, Silinus, to help him out.  Hunters get a skill that allows them to create campfires without kindling.  Free fire, so to speak.

So I met up with him by the gate in West Bree, over by Harry Goatleaf, and started a campfire.

Within a minute though, several people joined us at the campfire.

Room Around The Campfire

Granted, this is something of a high traffic area, but I think everybody who passed stopped at the fire for at least a moment to see what was happening.

Potshot kept working on his cooking… maybe people were expecting treats.  Meanwhile, the instruments came out and dancing, or at least clapping along with the music, ensued.

Next play 'Classical Gas!'

And you may say that well, sure, on the main road out of Bree you light a fire, then you exclaim surprise that you attract a few passing role players, how silly of you… or me.

But I am pretty sure these guys were not role players.  One had what I would call an immersion breaking name, while the other was in a kinship called ‘Stoners R Us.’  (But we’re ‘Murder for Shire,’ so I can’t really criticize.) And, of course, I have seen this sort of thing happen before.

I think this is more of an indicator of what draws people to LOTRO.

As a game, LOTRO has been called a WoW clone without quite the polish and with a few more boars. (Boars do seem to be rampant in Azeroth as well.)  And without the backdrop of Tolkien’s work, it would be hard pressed to differentiate itself from the crowd of fantasy MMORPGs.

But the fact that it is Middle-earth, the land of Tolkien, changes the way people play the game.  Unlike Azeroth (or Norrath), the lore and legends of Middle-earth are generally known already to those who come to play the game and are, to some extent, why they have come to play the game.  They likely want to feel they are a part of that world.

Which leads, I think, to a somewhat different player culture in and around the game.

Not that all of this leads to some blissful player nirvana.  The game still has its mental 13 year olds.

But some things, like role playing, seem to be generally accepted as part of the game.

7 thoughts on “In Middle-earth, The Role Plays You

  1. Thomas

    The most silly kinship names from the Nimrodel server: Pull my Finger & Shellfish Baskets, no joke. I assume they don’t RP.

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  2. Bhagpuss

    I made the mistake of choosing a roleplaying server for my couple of months in LotRO. When I go back for the F2P version I’ll be re-starting on a non-roleplaying server.

    I love light role-playing of the kind you describe and do it in all MMOs I play. I don’t however, like being followed around by elven or hobbit stalkers sending me repeated, increasingly hysterical tells badmouthing me for choosing not to invite them to my group just because “you have to let me join or you’re not roleplaying and this is a RP server”.

    This happened to me several times, to the point where I became convinced that the RP ethos of the server was to roleplay some strange type of collectivist cult. It also led directly to me cancelling my LotRO sub and going back to EQ2, where in comparison people have considerably better manners.

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  3. Cedia

    I hate weirdos who give we ancient and dedicated roleplayers a bad name. :(

    LotRO does have the best roleplaying out of all the MMOs I’ve played, but I find the gameplay itself a bit lacking since I prefer PvP (or RvR as they call it in Warhammer).

    Yes, I am one of those very odd ducks – someone who PvPs in character. And I’m over 45 and I’m female. Yay for being an island. *sigh*

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  4. Ysharros

    “Role play compatible” — I am going to have to steal that. Easy as I find it to RP in tabletop games, it’s always been much more difficult for me online, for various reasons.

    But I certainly don’t object to it, I RP back at people who RP at me, and I never try to get in the way of others getting their RP on.

    Good term!

    More on-topic, I miss those semi-spontaneous player gatherings in games. We’re too damn busy riding the theme-park rides these days (most of the time).

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  5. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    The one thing that makes standing around in LotRO stand out is the instruments. There’s something about being able to play a tune that draws a crowd. Even if it’s not exactly keeping in the theme (some of the tunes I have handy are the Tetris themes, which sound pretty cool on a lute…), it’s nice to stop for a moment and listen to someone play a bit. Turns any group of people into a small festival. :)

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