Roleplay: we've all done it. Whether it's kissing up to a boss you want to stab in the eye or something you do with your significant other, we've all presented ourselves in a manner that suited the situation. However, in MMOs, it's a bit different. Usually thought of as people who "talk funny," role play is nothing more than playing your character as if you were them and if the world they live in were real. You don't say "afk" in real life unless you're on voice chat with someone or a weirdo, and you don't talk about taking hit points when you skin your knee. It's not hard, and can usually be enjoyed by most people when given the chance. I should know, since I recruited some hardcore pvpers into an RP guild in Darkfall. No easy task, let me tell you!
And that's the odd thing. PvP and RP usually aren't seen as related. In fact, when most games launch RP servers, unless the game is full pvp (like EVE or Darkfall), the default for RP servers is PvE. Personally, I got into role playing as a mechanic for fun. Be a racist and kill all the elves, or be a hero by patrolling the town you live in. It's not hard, and it can be a lot of fun. But when I role played, I was seen as an oddity. I could, GASP, get non-RPers to join in, even when I "talk funny." You'd think that'd make me some sort of RP god, but in fact, I don't get along with many RPers.
Part of this stems from many RPers aversion to PvP. They don't like losing control of their character. Part of this is the "Mary Sue" crowd who claim to be gods among men but think "keyboard turning" is a tactical secret as opposed to an incorrect playstyle. I always assume that these people are into pure escapism, but I never undestand why one would do this in a social environment. I think these are the people who give RPers a bad name, but there's another group that does this: scripters.
Some folks script RP events. Maybe 15 people show up to an event. They're notified that a lvl 6 warlock is going to kidnap a lvl 60 priestess and that the others must come to her rescue. If you vomited a little in your mouth, that's fine, I do the same thing. This, to me, seems like better ammunition for a MUD or creative writing class, or possibly acting school. It's partially because everyone knows what's going to happen and simply acts it out. Even if you have FFA PvP, there's no way the level 6 can honestly "kidnap" the level 60. There's a game mechanic that sorta makes that tough. What you end up with is, at best, surprise dialogue. When people talk about MMOs being an expensive chatroom, this is what they're talking about.
So what's left? Tossing out the script, diving into pvp. Think for a moment: when was the last time you typed out a threat to an NPC and had it respond? In fact, when was the last time you even heard about RP involving PvE? Most WoW guilds will tell you that raid time is not RP time. Why? It costs time, yes, but mechanics are a huge issue. How do you explain constantly killing the same named NPC again and again and again? Unless the game's lore's good (Oh Asheron's Call and lifestones!), it's pretty tough. The same applies for pvp: why can my lvl 2 WoW bank character come back from the dead but no priest could rez Cairne Bloodhoof? However, pvp involves reactions.
We've all run into combat and yelled "For the Horde" (alliance don't count, since language restrictions are applied to ensure that we can never communicate, meaning they are glorified robots, right? ;P ). That right there's RP. When you see that, some small, guilty part of you cheers "YEAH!" But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
I was playing Asheron's Call with 2 friends on Darktide, the game's free for all pvp server. A man ran up to us on our way to a town and demanded that we swear fealty to him, or face his wrath. Yup, you guess it, he was an RPer. However, the mechanics were in place. In order to join a guild in AC, players literally had a button to place themselves underneath another player. We decided to go for it, but to role play as highway men.
We swore fealty to the stranger and said that we were tired travelers who had lost our supplies. Without weapons and armor, we could not help spread our patron's name, so our "leader" proceeded to hand us out gear. Once we had that, we told him that as kind as the gifts were, we were too weak to fight the local wild life off. Our leader proclaimed he was a mage, and could make us more powerful, so he buffed us. Crossbows ready, we asked if a mage were powerful enough to enchant our aummunition as well. Our leader wasn't on to us yet, and proceeded to enchant all three of the quarrels pointed at him. Despite his level advantage, our leader had made us just strong enough to execute the plan.
All three of us fired on our leader at once. Right before he died, my friend yelled "We will not serve under a weak fool!" We broke our oathes officially and looted the body, taking his crown, his robes, and a few other trinkets we sold for ammunition before arriving at town.
Upon arriving at town, we were suprised to see our former leader, talking to his other followers. We had used the enchanted arrows, but without his armor, our former leader was a prime target. He shouted "Traitors!" but died again, dropping more loot for us to sell, while our former co-vassals provided us better armor and weapons, some of which had been improved to combat us. We were feeling pretty smug by now, and ran into the town. We gave the few people shopping a warning, saying that the town was ours, but few took us seriously, so they also died.
One of my friends decided to scout the outskirts of the town while myself and my other friend hide in a second level building that overlooked a popular shopping area. Anytime someone came, we shouted "Move and we kill you!" Most people obviously died, but one person literally gave us the shirt off his back to live... and we killed him. The reason he had given us so much? He was had a very large amount of money on his body. We were bad.
The last guy, though, was probably someone we really should have let go. On the other side of town, at the respawn point, was the shirtless man, yelling about bandits in town and letting about how much we'd taken from him (essentially, he was offering a bounty). At first, people thought we were harmless RPers that could be easily handled, but we ended up taking them out. By this point, we were feeling like real highway men. We'd tricked a man out of his gear, taken a town, held people at, crossbow-point and robbed them, and now had bounty hunters after us. Of course, once you kill the bounty hunters, people call in the real deal.
By this point, the 3 or 4 naked people who didn't run away had called in friends from the surrounding towns, but we didn't know this yet. All we knew was that the shirtless man was warning anyone who came near the town about the "bandits." Most saw the other naked people and avoided the town, slightly spoiling our fun, until one didn't listen... or so we thought.
The guy was 15 levels higher than us, but we'd already taken out folks of a similar level. We were communicating via speaker phone (didn't have access to voice chat at the time) so we had done some sneaky things, but we weren't ready for this. The new "victim" came within range, but we couldn't kill him instantly. He ran towards a part of town we couldn't see from our hiding spot, and few people used that vendor anyway. We ran outside and saw an open door, so we figured we knew where the guy went and that he was trapped.
We searched the ground floor and then the second level before hearing the door shut. We ran down, thinking our next loot pinata must have been hiding in the cellar. We were... partially correct.
In our blind spot, the shirtless man had gotten 9 people, with gear, to hide in the cellar. The door had been closed, but the cellar group had come out thinking they had heard the door open. Both sides paniced for a moment, just staring at each other, before my friends and I bolted (at which point, someone said, out loud, "That's them!").
We ran from the town and didn't look back. One of my friends had invested a lot of his points into dealing damage and absorbing it, at the expense of his run speed. He... sadly didn't make it out a live. We survivors knew of a nearby dungeon that had a level restriction on it, in that people over a certain level could not enter it. We ran straight for it, and the shirtless man realized our plan, shouting it to his allies, but we were too far ahead of them. We entered the portal to the dungeon.
Now, unlike most modern day dungeons, AC's were not instanced, but simply a different place on the map that required the use of a portal. The mob that came after us was unorganized and came in one at a time, and we slew them. My friend and I stood at the entrance of that dungeon for nearly 10 minutes, our dead friend silent, increasing the tension as my other friend and I had to wait and see if a friend or enemy had come through the portal. We nearly shot him, but right before he materialized, my friend said, "Don't shoot!"
We all ran deep into the dungeon to a relatively safe place to talk about what happened. Apparently, our friend that died found the shirtless man looting his body, and had chased him towards our dungeon hideout, all while our friend yelled "thief!' Turns out the high levels who couldn't get into the dungeon had forgotten who was the thief and who wasn't, and had killed the shirtless man. My friend thanked them, gave them a little bit of the vast amount of money we had earned, and told them they could leave so he could hunt in piece.
Now, some people might say "You were griefers." Some might say, "This is just pvp, not RP." Some might even say, "What's the point?" What we had here was text-book, unscripted, RP PvP. We saw a situation and reacted to it, in character, fully utilizing game mechanics (and some very liberating ones at that!) to create a story we haven't forgotten.
I personally don't do this in other games, or at the very least, it's much less severe. My other friends have since become huge carebears and won't be found on anything but a pve server. I've had some other fun scenarios, but this one's one of the better ones that show how natural, and fun, this sort of playstyle can be.