In the early episodes of “The Elder Scrolls Off the Record,” one of the ways our hosts recommend playing the Elder Scrolls is by role-playing your character. Most players will just create a character and hop in the game, but a select few will truly create a character. Yes, the creation tools in The Elder Scrolls are very detailed and deep, but merely choosing the outward appearance of someone doesn’t “create” them. The creation of backstory, familial ties, and an overall personality truly give the game a sense of depth that it otherwise wouldn’t have.
The Lore Involved
While the choices and history of this person are totally up to you, the game world itself with directly influence your character development. Obviously race, geography and so on are already established in the game, but there are also certain events that can have an impact on why your character is the way he/she behaves in game. Some one who RPs an Argonian may not be so kind to Dunmer NPCs or Player Characters due to the treatment the Argonians have suffered in the past. Or maybe your Argonian is the exception to this attitude and therefore is an outcast to the rest of the denizens of Black Marsh. Because of the Lore behind this race, it will effect how you should play your character.
Any good game world has an established base completely devoted to learning the lore behind the game. Any highly detailed world for that matter has a group of fans devoted to studying everything there is to know about this secondary world. This is the hallmark of a truly great series. Take me for instance: my Twitter handle is LOTRLore. You can probably guess what I am constantly in search of: more information regarding Tolkien’s Middle-earth. In fact, LOTRO is a great example of a phenomenal base in which to successfully role-play. The continuity and reverence to the established cannon by the author is the measuring stick by which all other fantasy worlds are compared. The Elder Scrolls is no different. While being one of the most highly detailed and consistent game worlds, it still has a lot of empty spots to fill. This is where you can come into play.
The Elder Scrolls Online does establish a major conflict in the timeline of Tamriel: Molag Bal with the help of the Necromancer Mannimarco, has stolen your soul and you are on a quest to reclaim it from his. Along the way you will help others in need by completing deeds and quests. But that’s where it stops. It is up to you as a player to create another reason why you play. Why does your character help innocents? Is it because they have vowed to a dying relative to always do good in this world? Another example could be that your heavily armored knight is fond of crafting metals due to a sister who perished when the Imperials attacked. This drives you to become the best craftsman in all of Tamriel. So many possibilites, but it’s up to you to discover them.
Why Should I Role-play?
While most people when they picked up the single player games created a character and got on with the story, eventually the drive starts to simmer as to why you are playing to begin with. This happened with me. My first character in Skyrim was an Imperial traditional “Sword and Board” character with no purpose other than to complete quests and fill time between work and sleep. After a few weeks I noticed I started getting bored with this character. While I was having fun playing the game itself, the way I was playing caused me to lose interest. By that time I had just stumbled upon what was known then as “Skyrim: Off the Record.” A tip from Joe and Evarwyn saved my gameplay for this character and helped in the creation of two more people to play with. The tip was simple: role-play, or you might lose interest. Why is your character driven to greatness? Is your character good, evil or both? Was there a fall of grace that influences your Breton’s change from specializing in Restoration to Destruction? Creating a character and role-playing them adds a layer of depth to the game that the developers cannot add for you. Yes, building the appearance of the character you will be spending the next 100+ hours looking at is deep and complex, but are you building a character you would want to spend those hours with?
Role-playing also allows the creative juices flowing, especially in RP circles. Establish a group of friends with a common purpose and the fun becomes even more. It’s an experience that just cannot be replicated in any other game genre on the market at the moment. Sure, your Skyrim character is totally BA with his Necromancy-dagger wielding self, but with no one to share it with in the end it just becomes just another combination o
f pixels on your screen. The MMO adds another element that the single player games just cannot: human interaction. With other people to share in your RP sessions, not only does this allow for you to include more characters to your story, but forms friendships that will last because of your mutual love for storytelling.
A Custom Way of Storytelling
Everything in The Elder Scrolls Online screams “customization.” From the weapon and armor combination you choose to play as to the alliance and guild you join, every step of the way you are telling the story of your character. Each swing of your swords adds another note to the symphony that is your character’s life. So why not add an element of storytelling to this great game? While the game itself will tell a story all it’s own, your choices from the time the opening cinematic assuming there are any, ends till you click the “log out” button in the game will determine the type of experience you have. Are you following a character who’s sole purpose in life is to root out Evil and Necromancy where it may dwell? Or perhaps you are hunting down a den of Vampires to avenge the loss of your betrothed, whom they killed. What ever the story you give, this will constantly make the game seem refreshing and new.
Piggy-backing on this, to finish the story with my original Skyrim character, once I heard someone suggest making a full on personality and character history, I tried it with my Imperial. He was in Skyrim because he fled political persecution by the Imperial government, only to be picked up in Skyrim by the guards at the border. Once freed, thanks in part to Alduin’s help, he joins the Stormcloaks as a way of fighting back against Imperial rule. Knowing that the Thalmor were the true reason why the Empire acted the way they did, he sought a way to rid Skyrim and eventually Tamriel as a whole from the Thalmor plague.
Because I was able to set this story up, it made me play my character in such a way that instantly brought life back into a game I was thinking of shelving. All of my characters have intricate backstories, such as my Destruction Assassin Nord who fought for the Imperials, or my heavy-armored Redguard just trying to earn enough money to send back to his family in Hammerfell.
This is in fact much more interesting when you have more people joining in the storytelling fun. ESO will provide that to it’s players. The fact remains this: will you join in the RP revolution and truly immerse yourself in this world? Or is this just another game to sink time into? No matter the choice you make, it in the end isn’t the wrong one. That is the joy of MMOs and the Elder Scrolls series in general: Play the way YOU want to play. The developers just give us the tools to glean more and more enjoyment out of a project they spend hundreds of hours carefully cultivating. Who knows, maybe you guild’s story is so good, it will forever be written down as true Elder Scrolls Cannon. That is beauty of it, and why you can catch Eldalye Ancalima, Altmer Archer and Illusionist forever fulfilling his goal in reclaiming the White-Gold Tower for the Elves. Won’t you join me?