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Follow along with me as I describe this all-too-common event that seems to have taken root amongst many MMORPG roleplayers. Characters team together to venture forth into a dangerous local dungeon, or instance, as they are perhaps better known now. All in character, the group meets in town, gathers supplies, mounts up, and rides off to the location. They know each other well enough to be comfortable with each other's play and RP style, so the conversation goes smoothly during the ride. Dismounting at the instance entrance, last minute instructions and buffs are shared, and drawing their weapons, the group charges forth with their clan / house RP warcries , bravely and boldly crossing the threshold into the instance. Once inside, and for the entire time it takes until they exit, not a single hint of RP is executed by any of them. It's as if the instance entrance has an 'RP block' on, instantly denying players who enter in the ability to roleplay. In case some may not be aware, this is simply not the case. Which brings up the question, what gives?
Hear me now and believe me later, there is no reason why roleplayers cannot and should not engage in the same high quality RP within an instance as without. Personally, I'm not at all knowledgeable as to where the notion started from, but I absolutely aim to crush it here and henceforth. More than that, I want to share with fellow roleplayers why I think instances are the best places for RP, and provide some tips on how to take on these adventures with RP in mind. I hope they help!
In preparation, think about real life for a minute. I know, it's painful, so I'll make it quick. When you have ever taken a planned vacation, or experienced a sudden emergency, how did you act or react? Did you abruptly stop being human, cast aside the personality you've been developing all your years, or quickly turn into an automaton? I daresay you didn't. In fact, at least in my experience, such times in life have been where I have witnessed the truth about what it means to be human, both from others and in myself. So, it stands to reason that your characters could very well act and react in similar fashion, especially when faced with the duress that can and does occur within an instance. An orc who walks about displaying an aloof attitude in public could easily become the most heroic protector ever seen when confronted with the dangers present in an instance, or vice-versa. Take a look at the example of Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. In that entire mythos, humans are known as weak and frail, especially in spirit and fortitude. Boromir is no exception, and for most of his time with the Fellowship, doesn't do much to quell those fears about him. That is, until it comes time to battle the uruk-hai orcs in an effort to save the lives of two little hobbits. It's during that fleeting moment in his life when the true character of Boromir shines. I ask you to please keep that example in mind the next time your character enters an instance in your favorite MMORPG, and see how your thoughts about RP may change.
I've read comments from many roleplayers, and been verbally told by an equal number of roleplayers, that the greatest reason they don't RP in instances is because there's just too much going on at once. What with combat, concentrating on playing your class and skills to the best of your ability, and trying not to wipe, there's just no time and place to fit RP in. Bollocks! I submit that any excuse why some think it's much too difficult to instance RP is a self-induced reason, and has very little to nothing to do with the environment. I think MMORPG's make instances a bit too linear for the most part, which in turn causes many players to develop the 'hush-n-rush' attitude, whereas the aim is to get through the instance in as short a time as possible. I hope for enjoyment's sake that no roleplayers fall into this trap. If you have, consider this article my way of dropping the rope down to you.
On the flip side of the above example, I've also come to know that roleplayers are often looking for out-of-the-way locales for RP events. I've scouted and keep track of such locations myself, where I can gather with fellow roleplayers away from horrid gold spammers and other players who don't know (and/or don't care) how rude and obnoxious it is to /yell across the entire zone on an RP server. Well, the way instances are designed, you'll not find a more remote area in game, period. Just think: it's you and a few of your closest roleplaying friends, and some bad guys. That's it! Pick your favorite communication channel(s) without fear of other players stepping on your comments. Even chatting with your friends becomes easier and more fluid, and affords the use of /say chat without it being visible to some jerk who decides to come over do their best to ruin your attempt at a fun time. These are but a couple of reasons why the closed environment of an instance can and should be prime places for your RP.