I've never really spent a lot of time RPing in WoW. I did a lot of D&D gaming when I was in the Army, and spent a good portion of my youth playing games like Shadowrun, GURPS, Cyberpunk, etc. While the rules systems varied, the basics were always the same - for a time period, you were that character. People reacted to you differently, NPCs (and PC's) responded based on stimulus, and your world was immersive. Especially with a good GM. Heck, I even tried my hand at a few LARP games just to see what it was like.
I discovered that I was never as good with the RP side of the games as I was with the nuts and bolts. I could min/max a character in a game system I just picked up in nothing flat. I was the guy you turned to for memorized rules, or questions about how a certain feat/spell worked. I just couldn't get into the acting out of the part. I always thought this was odd though, especially since I love improv, and have zero fear of winging a presentation in front of 10,000 people (though admittedly only 1,000 were in the room - let's hear it for webcasting).
Telling my story
I've always been able to picture a story or tale in my head. I can imagine the fear of actually fighting the Lich King, the splendor of TKE, or the horrors of fighting Yogg-Saron. I can't put them to words though, and I often wonder why that is. I assume, in part, that it is because as a healer (especially a Paladin) I'm standing in the back mashing my HL button, tossing out the occasional Judgement or Hand of X. If you read any of the WoW (or 40k as I've been doing recently), the scenes never play out like they do in a game.
Of course, that's precisely because it's a game, that this works. It doesn't make sense, from a story point of view, to read about someone channeling the Light into healing spells for 30 pages. It might get a line or two of mention, but then you're on to the more interesting parts of the encounter. In a game we heal the tanks to full as quickly as possible, but in a book the hero takes real damage that generally isn't instantly mitigated. How boring would that be to read otherwise?
Of course the villians and monsters in books aren't as scripted as a game boss. I don't see Ragnaros actually tolerating a bunch of healers in the back. He'd toss a mountain of fire on them and ignore the pesky tanks. Think of fighting a dragon (because we all know that's possible, at least on Fridays), do you really think a powerful being would stand there and irrationally attack one person? Probably not.
I can work through these things though, and still picture the story. Here though, was the single most RP killing moment that I've ever had.
Be vewy vewy quiet. I'm hunting humans.
Anyone who's leveled a Horde toon through Taren Mill is familiar with the Hillsbrad farmer quests. You have to go back and forth between a farm and a mine, killing off various soldiers, farmers, miners, etc. At one point you're even tasked with bringing back 30 skulls (and no, I'm not going to challenge the logistics of getting 30 heads, much less 30 skulls in a world where I can use magic). No, instead I'm thinking about that human farmer, and his reactions.
Now Hillsbrad is obviously no stranger to the various creatures that Azeroth has to offer. Dalaran is just north of this particular farm, and Archimonde himself leveled that city. There's Orc internment camps nearby, and Southshore itself was founded when refugees fled from the First War. It's one of the only surviving human communities of Lordaeron, and they do their best to keep the Scourge and the Syndicate at bay.
Suffice it to say, the humans that make up the Hillsbrad area obviously have to be made of the sterner stuff. They spend their days toiling the fields, with the occasional raid from the Scourge/Horde/Ogres, etc (plus all the murlocs and naga - /shudder). All of this though leads me up to the following moment.
The RP moment
Suppose I'm one of these farmers, working on my apple tree (or whatever that grove is there). I hear the galloping of a horse approaching, and probably don't pay much attention to it. After all, there are couriers, Alliance adventurers, and we have guards to watch our backs. Suddenly a wave of heat rolls over me, and I turn to see the guy working next to me - someone I've known all my life most likely - become bathed in HOLY FIRE. There's a Forsaken (or is it Scourge? How fast can my brain work?) female standing there chanting something, moments before an arc of blinding light slashes across him, rending a terrible wound.
Charging blindly, body still in flames, Jim rushes his attacker wielding just the farm implement he was working with. Lesions and boils are already starting to show on his body as a plague begins to eat at his flesh. Swinging with the desperation granted to a doomed man, Jim's strike merely glances off his attacker, as a final lash of light slashes through him. Jim falls, succumbing to the fire and disease, having failed to even disrupt his attacker.
At the same time, I see a giant cat materialize out nothing and begin to rake little Johnny. Blood is flying as the catlike creature shreds Johnny's skin and clothing with his giant claws. John's attacks are easily dodged and batted aside as he's finished off with a ferocious bite to the throat.
Sorry guys - I gotta go
Now in the game, this farmer would rush me or the druid, in what is obviously a vain attempt to thwart our attacks on his little community. Like his friends, he would be quickly dispatched, with nary a missed step. Personally, I say the hell with that. If I'm that farmer I'm running as fast as I can to the guards - they don't pay me enough for this nonsense. I mean, I just saw Jim bathed in FIRE, plus some magical cat thing just ATE Johnny. You can have the homestead, I'm moving back to Goldshire.
I respect the RPers who can separate the game from the RP. I just have problems with the aspects like this, or when you're in say a dungeon and the mobs don't come running over while you're having a bar fight just out of agro range. I mean, really, Gruul doesn't come running down to kick the raid's collective tail when you engage his cronies?
This all works wonderfully for the game, and it doesn't ruin the play in any way. It just becomes difficult to make a story out of it, partly because there's no fear. Of course, the books aren't nearly as dark either. Maybe that's why I really have gotten into the 40k books. Nothing like a Tyranid assault to really drive the fear home.