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Much of the knowledge, skill, and ability to roleplay a believable character in MMORPGs comes from inspiration. Experience is perhaps the best tool to employ in order to feed inspiration. Personally, I don't think I'll ever truly experience what it's like to be a stalwart defender of Stormwind, to walk the magnificence of Thorin's Hall, or attempt a stealthy infiltration of dungeon Destard to face off against the dragon Rikktor. That's one reason I'm a gamer.
Lately, I've come upon the apparent fact that there are many MMORPG gamers, including many roleplayers, who have played very few other games, if any. I am aware of more than a few of my fellow roleplayers whose very first foray into roleplaying, and even gaming, is with their current characters in LotRO and WoW. To me, this is a very surprising find, considering I am of the first 'gaming generation', and many of my gaming friends are younger (some much more so) than me. The gaming I refer to in this article is primarily PC gaming, though I certainly don't exclude console games, board games, live-action gaming, and of course the traditional RP games like Dungeons and Dragons.
I was telling my RP friend Wendy a couple days ago about The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and how I easily roleplay my characters therein. Oblivion is the best and most current game I can use as an example, even though the game was released in 2006. Oblivion is a huge game, with an incredibly large and open world, and is a great game for RP. Simply remove the massively-multiplayer and online aspects from an MMORPG, and you could have Oblivion. The game, that is. Aside from speech, if you ever want to give yourself a test to find out how much of a roleplayer you (think) you are, make Oblivion your testing ground. I think you'll be surprised at what you find out about yourself and your RP style.
As I said, roleplaying is very easy in Oblivion and other like single-player games, as long as you can project and transform your own thinking into thinking like your character. To me, it's no more difficult than roleplaying in MMORPGs, with the added benefit of never having to come upon gold scammers, RP griefers, atrocious leet speak, or anything else that hinders you from staying in character.
Oblivion begins with your character in prison, and an event sets in motion your escape and gives you a quest, which you may or may not undertake. I've created four solid characters who have all gone through that event, and immediately after finding freedom, I stop and think, why were they in prison in the first place? Once I have that in mind, I then ask myself, what if any bearing does that fact have on what I will do next? Those two questions have been more than enough for me to create a distinct and different personality for each, thereby allowing me to play through the very same game, yet experience it in four unique ways. Remember, Oblivion is a two-year-old game, yet not once has it ever been old or boring for me. Safe to say I've gotten my money's worth.
Outside of actual roleplaying, just looking at the core of a game like Oblivion can provide a wealth of RP materials to improvise and adapt into your own RP. From concepts of character design (Oblivion has an awesome character creator interface), learning about some new races (ten found here, some familiar, some not), a wonderful feature called Birthsigns (which would be great for explaining some of those difficult-to-RP items and magical abilities), and excellent in game interpretations for magic and alchemy. Combat and stealth-focused roleplayers would I think also do well with seeing what Oblivion has to offer, and taking what's useful to employ in their own RP play styles.