((The RP XP with MJ #52))
I recently sought counseling for my altoholism. I finally realized that 20 characters was enough, especially when I came up with a cool name for them.
“The 20 Twenties.”
Yup. I have Twenty characters of level 20 or higher, all bound together by a legacy too complicated for the built-in legacy chart in SWTOR. Where RP is concerned, the connections between The 20 Twenties are as complex as the webs of an Eberon spider. They include relatives, distant relatives, rivals, marriages, school relationships, partnerships, business ventures, contacts, employers, slaves, hires, underbosses and adoptions.
I call it “Casting.”
If you enter into an RP scenario with me, even if it’s just a casual BARP, chances are a conversation will rotate back to one of these connections, and if your character has connections of their own… well, we just put together a cast for our own personal episodic content. Let’s say my Trooper has a brother who knows a Jedi who can get your Smuggler’s sister out of jail. The stories will write themselves if you have multiple characters with connected backgrounds.
BUT HOW DO YOU KEEP IT ALL TOGETHER
I’ve had friends in game who shake their head at the notion of having more than two characters. They say it’s hard enough to keep the backgrounds straight on just one of them let alone twenty! Yet any time they RP with one of my characters, traits remain consistent, my characters “remember” previous conversations, and stories continue unhindered as if each character really does have a mind of their own (rather than all of them being crammed into my Swiss cheese of a brain).
Here are a few ways you can keep it all together, with some tips on making your RolePlay fresh even when you’re switching from one character to the next.
The most obvious answer is to simply keep notes. Some RPers I’ve connected with say they keep a note pad or Post-It notes next to their computer. They jot down character traits, snippets of conversation, references for call-backs, etc. But as time goes on—especially if you have more than one character to keep straight—a lot of recycled forests will dry up, and you’re going to have the mounting problem of indexing and being able to find an old note on the fly.
I recommend the note method if you have fewer than five characters, particularly if they’re not closely related. Buy a five-subject notebook like you’d get for school and turn each character into a “subject.” You can even draw a line down the center of the divider pages for a two-column quick-reference where you keep “likes” and “dislikes” or a list of traits that will be a consistent part of your characterization regardless of who you’re RPing with or what story you’re writing. For example, if your character “speaks with an accent” or “swears a lot,” you’ll want to keep those references at the front of your notepad so they’re a consistent reminder for that character. I have a Twi’lek Jedi Knight who happens to be deaf. He reads lips and senses vibrations in the Force, but I have to be careful not to have him respond to sounds or conversations out of his line of sight. “Deaf” is at the top of his character sheet.
ORDER OUT OF CHAOS
If you’re an old-school RolePlayer like me, you probably remember the days of Dungeons & Dragons, pencil-and-paper RP that included a Character Sheet that held information similar to what you find if you tap C to pull up your SWTOR in-game character profile. But, in addition to abilities and technical facts and figures, you might have a section for personality or references to traits related to your character’s race or background. The old pencil-and-paper character sheets you’d buy at a hobby or comic book store were great for keeping information concise because they’d have boxes and lines that kept your pencil scrawls organized. The problem is you’d have to copy everything to a new sheet once you started wearing eraser holes through the paper.
Fortunately, you can accomplish the same thing electronically. Keeping an “e-notebook” not only saves paper and desk space, it’s convenient to have on screen in front of you (either on a secondary monitor or in the background just an alt-tab away). You can use Microsoft Word, Notepad, Open Office, InDesign, or any other program for word processing or note keeping. Open Office is a great example of one you can download for free—if you want something beyond your computer’s built-in note pad—with the capability for organizing tables, columns or charts with boldface, italics or even color-coding. Every word processor I’ve ever used lets you easily find a reference with a simple key stroke that opens a search window (typically Ctrl+F for “find”). Just be sure to be detailed so you can easily locate your references.
I actually use my swtor-life gmail account for all my characters. I created an email for each one and simply save it in my drafts folder. In other words, I wrote an email to myself without hitting “send” so I can just click over to the drafts tab in whatever browser I’m using (wherever I’m using it—even on my phone or Kindle). Until Google suffers an unlikely server disaster, I know my characters are safe. Even so, I periodically copy/paste my drafts onto a word processor and store them on my computer.
Here’s an example of one of my e-notes:
(TWI’LEK – M – L18, A35 – [+Artifice/Arch/Treas]) >>>>>> * Jedi Knight Daelu’mi’sarvas*
RP NOTE -
HE IS DEAF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
FORM OF ADDRESS: POLITE AND CASUAL
QUIRKS: READS LIPS
HOBBIES: Articulate Crafting, Metal and Macrocircuitry
FOOD: Munch-Fungus (as a stew, broth or bread)
DRINK: Ysanna Branyak Juice (A potent ration. He usually enjoys one glass per day)
BORN: 35 Years Ago (GS21385) on Abregado-Rae to Micah Sarvas (Hum) and Na’lon’a (“Horwi”/Twi)
GREW UP: Spinara Plateau, Carida
EDUCATION: Carida Academy / Carida Basic Education
OCCUPATION: Librarian/Teacher: Order of the Ysanna Protectorate, planet Ossus.
BOSS: Master Leppapor, a Bith Librarian from Clak’dor VII
HOME: Tython, Jedi Instructor’s Camp Outside Kalikori Village
Qyzen Fess = n/a
C2-N2 = “C2-O7″ [aka. “Seven”] (Came with the ship)
The first line includes all the “game info” I need to know, including crafting skills and level. Each of my characters’s “sheets” contains the same queues for easy reference. If another character asks, “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” I can easily remember that I’m a teacher and that I came from the planet Carida, but as you can see a character sheet allows you to go into greater detail. I only need enough to trigger my own memories and E.U. knowledge to flesh out this character even more. For example, the reference to Spinara Plateau and Carida Academy are enough to remind me that Daelu came from an orphanage on the rogue world until he was adopted by a Bith Jedi. You’ll also notice that I don’t use Qyzen Fess in RP and that I’ve re-named my ship’s droid to make him my own. As Daelu grows in level and gets more companions, I’ll create backgrounds for them as well.
Be sure to use prompts for things like “Quirks,” “Hobbies,” and “Phobias” to add character to your persona, even if your character is a Dark Sith bad ass. My most vile character is a Sith Lord with an extremely nasty disposition. Here’s an example of how his QHP prompts might look:
QUIRKS: Uses the word “indeed” frequently.
HOBBIES: Collects slaves.
PHOBIAS: Bodies of water.
A Sith Lord afraid of water? Why not? Maybe he almost drowned as a child—shoved into a swamp on Hutta and left for dead. Otherwise, I play him as a tough guy with an unstoppable will. Adding a fear or weakness to your character humanizes them and gives them a dimension that comes out in your RP. It makes them a believable character. Consider this: Do you have a cyborg character? Where did the cybernetics come from? How were they injured (or were they born that way) to require artificial enhancements? Does your character have a scar? How did they get it, and did the deep mark on their face lead to a fear of something? Maybe your character was burned in some kind of plasma explosion, so now they have a fear of fire. Something to consider.
A simple way to keep character relationships in order is to create a chart like this:
With twenty characters to keep in order, a chart like this makes it easy for me to follow at-a-glance where all my connections come from and how they’re related.
If you only have a handful of characters, check out the built-in legacy tree on the Legacy tab in-game. BioWare obviously had RolePlayers in mind when they devised this handy reference tool which lets you relate your characters across faction as children or parents, siblings, rivals and more. The only reason I created my own chart is because I needed to refer to more specific connections like acquaintances from a training academy, or former master-slave relations.
KEEPING TRACK OF RP
Ok, so now you have a note system to keep track of your characters’ traits, personalities, history, visited locations, even phobias. How do you keep track of the characters played by other players in-game?
The Friends Tab in SWTOR lets you add notes so you can keep track of how you met someone or notes about that person’s personality or their character’s relationship to yours (consider the possibilities of combined legacies and having marriages, siblings, parents or rivals between you and other players).
My notes on the Friends tab look like this: “RP 10/16/13” and that’s it. I have more extensive notes on my computer tied to that date. Here’s how it works:
I have a document on my computer that references RP. With twenty characters, all of whom I RP with, you can imagine how complicated and complex the relationships and instances can go. I can go more than a week between playing one character or another, so this guide helps me keep everything straight. Using the search function of my processor will instantly show me what the last RP session was with someone else’s character—or if I even know them at all. For example:
10/2/13 (Wed a.m.) – Meurika, Sanzara’li
Began a business chat with Sanzara’li when his pet Lethan approached. Meur inspected his property, then they talked about possible joint business ventures.
9/30/13 (Mon a.m.) – Elayo, Ventak
They are reunited after being separated for awhile. He gives her a bracelet of emeralds.
9/27/13 (Fri, p.m.) – Meurika, Sanzara’li
Meets Sanzara’li, an imposing slave trader for the Empire. They have several things in common, particularly a taste for blood soup.
9/23/13 (Mon a.m.) – Meurika, Zedra
Meurika returns to Korriban on business and meets an instructor there. Zedra enlists Meur’s help in locating one of her lost students.
(NOTE: Any relation to the characters mentioned above and in-game characters is coincidence. I made them up for this example.)
Meurika’s Friend’s List next to “Zedra” will have the note “RP 9/23/13.” Searching for that date on my RP note document will bring me to the two lines above that will remind me who Zedra is and what Meurika and she did. Likewise, if I search for “Elayo” and see all of that character’s RP dealings, I can see that she received a gift on 9/30. The next time Elayo and Ventak RP together, I can emote her adjusting the bracelet or admiring it in the light. If you use this method of memory-boosting, just be sure to keep it simple. There’s no reason to go into long exposition. You really just need enough to remind you what your character did, with whom, and when.
FAIR WARNING FROM THE GUILTY
My name is MJ and I’m an altoholic.
I love my characters. I love their interrelations as well as the histories they share with other player characters. The downside of my massive legacy is that it makes me inadvertently selfish. How often can I RP twenty characters and how deep can their relationships go with others, especially if my in-game time is already limited?
Don’t bite off more than you can chew when establishing relationships with other characters in-game. I’ve been on the receiving end of whispers in-game like, “((Hey! Where have you been? I haven’t seen you on in almost a month!))” to which I have to admit, “((Sorry… I was involved in a story with another character in the other faction)).” Don’t assume that everyone else has as many characters in the pot as you.
One way to keep everyone happy is to be open about your play style. I typically let people know that I may be on another character, invite them to “friend” those names, and shoot me a Tell if they’re interested in RP. I also make sure that I only get involved in deep multi-episodic stories with one or two (at the most) players at a time and give them the priority until our stories have concluded. Likewise, I’ll warn other people I RP with that I may bounce from character to character, and I let them know the hours I’m typically in-game. Above all, I never allow myself to fall into a situation where I have a character “living” on another character’s ship, or vice-versa. Imagine being “stranded” because the other person hasn’t logged in to that character in a long time.
((The RP XP with MJ appears every Friday exclusively here on swtor-life.com. Feel free to contact MJ directly with your RP stories or questions at swtorliferp(at)gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @MJswtor))