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Breaking Character

A series of articles on MMORPG roleplaying from an avid MUD player.

Author: lsomb

Character Building: Race

Posted by lsomb Tuesday August 7 2012 at 2:49AM
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In my previous post, I covered basic character creation decisions such as name and gender. In this one, we'll be looking at something slightly more complex: race. For those of you who play in fantasy or sci-fi games with multiple options for race such as Achaea, your character's race can play a large part in your his or her upbringing, background, and traits, as well as how others might interact with him or her in the future.

The choice of character race can be foundational to designing a good roleplaying character, whether you want to work within established archetypes or intentionally subvert them. Of course, you may choose to place very little emphasis on your character's race, especially if you play a game in which either your race is the default race, or society is composed of mingled races. However, why give up an opportunity to expand on such a fundamental aspect of your character? Even if you play a popular race such as humans in most MMORPGs, you can still keep racial RP in mind: are humans seen as the superior race? Does your character discriminate against other races? If you live in a melting pot society, what kind of conflicts can arise from the meeting of separate cultures? Alternatively, even if your dwarf lives a life mostly similar to his or her elven kin, are there any family traditions or small things that he or she might have or do from his or her heritage?

Let me use the race Mhun from Achaea as an example. Although Mhun (a race similar to and originally descended from humans, for those who don't play) are quite common and mostly culturally assimilated in with human society, there are still avenues open for racial roleplay. Even though your Mhun family might have been living in the city for several generations, you don't have to disregard their original Moghedan heritage. Much as the descendents from immigrants in the real world still retain their culture, your character, too, could keep some beliefs that his or her family has passed down. Your Mhun could still use expressions about water in his or her everyday speech, or dislike wasting it as a result of the desert environment from which all Mhun originated. As with name and gender selection, researching your game's lore for racial history is important for when you determine character background in the future.

Remember also that character race, like gender, comes with its own set of preconceptions. Dwarves are expected to be comedic, jovial, or blustering, while elves are elegant and mysterious. Playing with and against these stereotypes can be interesting, but also remember that your character is an individual shaped by race, not a caricature.

We'll be covering professions and classes in our next post. Stay tuned, and if you find yourself intrigued by what I've mentioned briefly on Achaea, why not hop by and start a character on one of the Iron Realms games?