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By Jim Moreno
Two of my favorite MMORPGs, World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online, are nearing major expansion releases (Wrath of the Lich King and Mines of Moria, respectively) which will increase overall gameplay on many levels. New lands, classes, races, skills and professions, and many other elements will be added, promising to greatly augment and enhance the richness of each game world, and sure to also increase the pasty whiteness that is the MMO gamers' flesh.
Change is a gameplay factor that is constantly on the minds of us roleplayers. For the most part, changes are adapted to and improvised with on the fly during normal and specific RP events. However, changes on the level of such a drastic degree, as with a full-scaled expansion, should have a lot of RP thought and preparation put into it as early as possible before the expansions' release. Doing so can help create quality RP where their may have not been any before, or where an opportunity for RP was missed.
MMORPG expansions bring on a bevy of additional content changes, usually encompassing roughly the same features listed earlier. So, let's look at some changes forthcoming in these areas for these two MMORPGs and contemplate ways they can be roleplayed. I hope to make the examples wide-ranging enough to also be fitting for any MMORPG and expansion applicable. I'm mainly usingWoW and LotRO to compare a specific game distinction that exists between them. Let's start there.
The canon for Lord of the Rings was created long before the Warcraft universe, and even PC games and gaming, was constructed. Decades of books, movies, tabletop gaming, just to name a few, have helped to grow LotR into a vast and extraordinarily vivid world-within-our-world. It's this fact that allows LotRO gamers to easily search for and find needed information regarding any aspect of that world, including the subject of the forthcoming expansion, Mines of Moria. This established information also allows roleplayers to smoothly find fodder for their RP, in such areas as history, geography, culture, knowledge, and the general everyday life of their characters. Since this info gathering can be done way before the expansion is released, roleplayers have the opportunity to be well suited for a smooth RP transition into all the new changes.
On the other hand, World of Warcraft came to be not all that long ago. Although it is rather impressive the world they have built and populated in a few short years, the lore and history resides mainly in three real-time strategy computer games and a small library of fan fiction books that have been written since WoW's release. Which leaves the burden of relating that history to in game means, and Blizzard has done that in a most excellent manner, to a point. Being able to find the history of the world within that world is awesome, and helps roleplayers actually feel like their characters are learning, versus player knowledge simply being passed on to and through a character.
So, what are some specific changes to LotRO that will be coming with the Mines of Moria expansion, and how can they be roleplayed? For one, the addition of new territory, here being the actual Mines of Moria, can simply be roleplayed as having always been there, and there would be nothing wrong with having previously made mention of them in RP conversations. As stated above, the entire world of Middle-earth has long been established. It's not like Moria didn't exist one day and suddenly appeared the next, even though in game mechanic respects that's exactly what's happening. Here's how I RP reason it: Moria has been a dead tomb for many years now,unbeknownst to much the outside world, even to dwarves. With the Fellowship now having entered therein, and the denizens of Moria being drawn to Sauron, the pot has been stirred, so to speak, and Moria has re-emerged on the maps of freeps and creeps alike.