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Archive for September, 2013

Practicing Your Characterization with PRP

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 27. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #49))


I enjoy PRP.


No, it’s not another form of “ERP,” and it’s not some kind of bastardization of PVP and RP. PRP stands for “Personal RolePlay,” and it’s a term I use to describe the act of RPing alone.


Yes, I realize that RP is a social activity. In fact, BioWare counts on it. Most, if not all, of the developer-made activities that might invite RolePlayers (Flashpoints, for example) deliver Social XP in exchange for being grouped through an RP scenario. And, yes, I also realize many of you “spacebar” through Flashpoints, especially if you’ve done them a million times. But consider that group actions like Flashpoints are made to give you RP options and ways to demonstrate the level of your character’s alignment. Do you pull the lever and eject the engineers into the void of space, or do you find the long way around? These are great opportunities for you and your RP partners to demonstrate in a live scenario just how good or bad (or indifferent) you are.


But what about the solo players?


Granted, you won’t find as much flaming or whining on the forums about the “Solo Game” as you will about PVP and other issues, but there is a contingent of gamers who are in it for the PVE alone. Some of them enjoy RP from time to time, but due to conflicting schedules—or simple shyness—they often spend their time in SWTOR engaged in RP alone.




If you’ve been following my column for awhile, or if you’ve RolePlayed with me on the Ebon Hawk server, you know the level of importance I place on characterization. Character, more than story, is what drives really good RP and gives breath to your two-dimensional avatars on the screen.


PRP gives you the opportunity to work out your characterization through practice. It’s no different than an actor running through his lines of dialog in front of a mirror, or a PVPer testing out weapon combinations or timing cool-downs against a practice dummy. PRP lets you work out accents, practice your typing speed, flesh out combinations of different languages or exposition, and it lets you get inside your character’s head so that you’re already fully versed when you step into an RP with others.




Well, it just so happens that SWTOR has given us companion characters to dress up, outfit, and fight with. Like the PVPer’s practice dummy, our “living companions” can serve as the mirrors we practice against. Companions offer up lines in PVE that let us play out our “light” or “dark” tendencies. Different companions respond according to the characterizations given to them by BioWare’s talented writers, and that gives us the stage to play out our own character’s guilt, remorse or glee in any given situation.


Did your Sith Warrior shock Vette or refrain from shocking her? Was that really how your character would act, or were you just building light or dark points? PRP demands that you react to PVE situations completely IN-CHARACTER regardless of how you might respond if the situation were played out in real life. I recently came across a situation with my selfishly-chaotic smuggler where I had the opportunity to free, or kill, a slicer who just gave me valuable information. My previous two smugglers let the slicer go, thankful for the intel and more than willing to play fair after getting paid. It was a difficult pause before I clicked “3” on the conversation wheel and ended an innocent life with my latest smuggler. But, hey, it’s what he would have done. It was In-Character.


You can also engage in personality practice by chatting with your companions on the privacy of your own ship. Or, if you’re willing to let your PRP lure in other RPers and give you the chance to build up a group of RP partners, you can do so in public. All you have to do is hold a solo conversation with your companion, playing both parts, to test yourself and how your character responds. Incidentally, this is also a good practice for trying out different personalities. If your Bounty Hunter doesn’t see eye to eye with Mako, playing her role as well as your Hunter’s lets you stretch more creative muscles and see things from another character’s point of view.


Here’s an example of solo dialog you might play with:


[Brollax] says: “I’m not too sure about this Balmorra business.”

[Brollax] says: M: “What are you talkin’ about, Brollax?”

Brollax makes a sour face and grumbles, “I’m just sick of it. It’s just one war zone after another.”

[Brollax] says: M: “You’re not going to give up, are you? Again?”

Brollax glares at Mako. “You’d better back off, kid.”

[Brollax] says: M: “Kid!? If it weren’t for me you’d still be stuck on that slime ball Hutta!”


You, as “Brollax” speak for both you and Mako (aka. “M”). In this scenario, you’re getting into an argument with your companion, playing with both your own developing character and Mako’s. Naturally, you would substitute the name (or nickname) you’ve given your companion to separate and individualize them, keeping in mind there are thousands of Makos already out there. You can also use impersonal pronouns the same way the game dialog uses them when referring to you. “Captain,” “Sith,” “Padawan,” are spoken dialog substitutes for your character’s name. You don’t have to use direct address, and there are different ways to show that you’re speaking on behalf of your companion (finally, a good reason to NOT have chat bubbles). You can use various keyboard triggers to show when you’re speaking on behalf of an NPC: [Name], ~~, ||, >>, etc. to show that it’s your NPC speaking and now you.




I can’t tell you how many times I took a break from leveling on Korriban to stand on the edge of a cliff to gaze out at the mighty statues of long dead Sith, wondering (in my character’s voice) how they must have lived, how they must have ruled, and what they did to succeed, or fail.


PRP doesn’t have to be an “active” activity. Just rolling your mouse wheel forward until you’re in first person view, and taking a look at your surroundings—seeing them the way your character would—is enough to help you establish your characterization by putting you in the mindset of your avatar.


You, the player, may see Ord Mantell as a battle-torn planet with objectives and PVE points. Your Smuggler may see it as a landscape of opportunity and ways to make money off every bomb drop and every scrap of undelivered medical supplies or rations. Your Jedi may see it as the front line in a battle between the noble freedom fighters of the Republic and a band of rebellious upstarts. Your Consular may see it as a sad battle-worn planet where the locals are doing all they can to defend themselves against an invading Republic army that doesn’t belong there in the first place. And your Trooper may see it as home, feeling a swell of pride and job security, an place to do some good and make a difference.


I invite you to step inside your character’s head the next time you log into the game and try some PRP for character building. Use your fancy new chair-sitting emote to sit and chat with Vette or Treek or Lord Scourge, or just go to a far corner of Tatooine and gaze out at the twin suns the way Luke did in A New Hope.


Granted, Mark Hamill may have been pondering his next scene or what George meant by “suns,” but Luke Skywalker was thinking about being stuck on that stinking moisture farm so far from the rest of the galaxy, internally bemoaning Biggs and dreaming of his escape from the tyranny of Uncle Owen.


So, what would a “personal moment” be like with your character?


((The RP XP with MJ)) appears right here on AND NOWHERE ELSE! You can contact MJ directly by writing to him at swtorliferp(at), or you can follow him on Twitter @MJswtor, or follow the off-game exploits of his smuggler Elayo on Twitter @Elayo_Horwi.

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How to Deal With Time, Age and Destiny in Your RP

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 20. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #48))


There’s one aspect of RolePlay that can put RP “purists” as well as casual RPers on edge. It’s something we typically take for granted in the real world, but it’s also something that we stress about: deadlines, dates, anniversaries, calendars, aging…


In short: Time. Age. Destiny.


Do your characters grow old? Should they? Do they age the same way you do, faster, slower or not at all? How do you handle changes in the game history? Do you adapt with them, set your own or ignore them all together? No matter how you address the passage of time, the important thing to keep in mind is to make sure you and your RP partners are all on the same page.




Realistically speaking, 7 p.m. on Tatooine isn’t 7 p.m. on Nar Shaddaa. The clock we all know and love is based on the 24-hour rotation of our planet, divided into 12-hour a.m. and p.m. cycles. Every planet’s rotation, real or imagined, is different. Some may have longer days, others longer nights. And it follows that weeks, months and years won’t be as we’d expect either..


Fortunately, the Star Wars universe exists in a fantasy land that lets us launch from one planet and land on another “a little later.” Star Wars is about the mythology, characters and story. It’s not hard science fiction.




Remember, it’s about the story and the character. Saying, “I’ll meet you later on Voss,” or “Meet me in three hours at the spaceport” are viable terms when you consider the following:


“Meet you later on Voss” infers that the passage of time and the established appointment are understood as part of whatever story you’re spinning. More specific units of time (“Meet me in three hours”) are perfectly acceptable if you’re in the same general area–or even on the same planet. You can simply suspend disbelief when it comes to persnickety issues related to time zones and “daylight savings time.” When using units of measure like minutes, hours or days locally, it’s understood that you’re referring to “local time,” and you can safely assume that everyone knows that an hour on Taris is equal to 47 minutes on Tython (yeah, I made that up), the same way you can safely assume that everyone speaks “Basic.”


As for longer periods of time, I make general references to the local moon (or moons) by using the word “cycle.” If a character says something like, “I haven’t been to Ord Mantell in three cycles,” you can assume it’s a span of time roughly equivalent to a three months “local time.” You can still say “year” or “years” and no one will bat an eye. Our favorite galactic farm boy whined about wanting to go to the academy “this year,” and Uncle Owen referred to an academy “semester,” so generalities are all understood no matter where you are.




As for hour-by-hour “clock” references, Trooper and Agent classes can probably pull off “military time” quite easily. Having your Havoc Squad Sergeant tell another trooper, “I’ll meet you at the bunker at 0700” is perfectly fine for indicating time in-character. It sounds good and it makes sense. It doesn’t have to be exact relative to the location of the sun on whatever planet you’re on (as the day-night cycle is static no matter where you are). Making specific references to a 12-hour clock, however, tends to break immersion and pull you out of the fantasy of the situation. “Let’s meet back at my ship at 8 p.m.” The terms “a.m.” and “p.m.” are Latin references “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem” referring to before and after mid-day. They’re too real-life specific and don’t fit in the Star Wars parlance. Chances are, if your character refers to an a.m. or p.m. time, the other players are likely to get confused and think you’re speaking about time outside the game. You can easily replace specific times with the more general use of hours and minutes. “Let’s meet back at my ship in three hours.” Period.




When you designed your character you undoubtedly had an age in mind. Whether you’re playing a “punk kid” 21-year-old Smuggler, a 33-year-old Imperial Operative, or a 54-year-old Jedi Master, you have a very specific chronology from which to work. Your characters began their journey in the Old Republic about 10 years after the Imperial sacking of Coruscant. Based on that, you know your Smuggler was only 11, your Agent was 23 and your Jedi Master was 44 at the time the Treaty of Coruscant was blown away in a wave of Imperial fire.




While nearly every reference to Star Wars time uses “BBY” or “ABY” (Before/After the Battle of Yavin–with the understanding that this was the first really big event in the first Star Wars anything ever), it doesn’t fit in “our” time. There’s no way anyone would know a battle will take place near Yavin 3,000 years from now. Fortunately, we have a similar reference to use in the Old Republic: BTC and ATC (Before/After the Treaty of Coruscant) is an acceptable reference. That’s roughly 3653 BBY, BTW. The Treaty of Coruscant, which lead to the sacking of same, would make “today” 10 ATC. That means our 21-year-old Smuggler was born 11 BTC, or eleven years before the Treaty of Coruscant.


I personally prefer to use the “Galactic Standard Calendar,” which was founded some 25,000 years before the events of Yavin, and 22,000 years before the time of the Old Republic. Going by GST (Galactic Standard Time), the Treaty of Coruscant happened in GS21400. That may seem like a lot of numbers, but isn’t it more “universally specific” to say your Smuggler was born GS21389 rather than 11 BTC? Another problem with using ATC/BTC is that not all sentient societies would necessarily recognize the Treaty of Coruscant as a universal constant. It’s not based on the movement of stars and planets in the galaxy. It’s a historical reference. As earth-shattering as 9/11 was to the Western World, I doubt the rest of the world would appreciate time calculations based on B911 or A911. Can we honestly say that the Chiss Ascendancy, as independent as they are, would openly acknowledge the Treaty of Coruscant as a basis for measuring the years?


Think of the GS calendar as the “metric system” of time in the Old Republic. Everyone uses it. To mark events in your character’s life based on the Galactic Standard, just work backwards from now. “Today” is… GS21410.




If you’ve been playing (and RolePlaying) the same character since SWTOR’s launch in 2011, your character has aged 2 years. True or False?




In an ongoing fantasy story, heroes and villains are (or should be) ageless. Frozen in time, your feisty female trooper will always be 24 because that’s how you envision her. Age brings on aging, and who wants to have a character celebrate their “over the hill” birthday or realize that they’re no longer the spunky teenage Smuggler you created them to be. That mystique of that character is gone. You should also consider that time probably stops, or skips a period of time, when you’re not in game.




You can maintain the “age” of your character by using vague references out-of-character. If another character asks, “How old are you, bounty hunter?” you can reply OOCly with “((He’s in his 20’s, but I don’t have a specific age in mind)).” Or, you can answer ICly with a story about how your character was orphaned and never knew his age, and never celebrated a birthday. You can also pick an age and stick with it. It’s doubtful your character will be asked more than once how old they are by the same person. The adventures you weave together are what’s important, not your birthday.


It’s generally good practice to have an understanding between you and your RP partners that you’re aging (or not aging) your character. One example of where you’d need to have a joint agreement is if your character and another, played by a different player, get married and have children. Let’s say you want your children to become “playable characters” sooner rather than later. It will mean a drastic change to take your 21-year-old Smuggler to 39 in order to play his 18-year-old son. Granted, there’s a lot of fun you can have by building a rapid legacy, but you’re also removing a lot of world experiences from the father or mother characters. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons.




I saw this happen in another MMORPG: A female character approached a male character and proclaimed, “I’m your daughter!” It threw everyone for a loop because we just celebrated the birth of his daughter in an RP the previous month. Huh!? The player could have used “magic” or “weird science” to explain the rapid growth of said daughter, but — despite everyone else wanting to maintain the current age of their characters — decided that, no, she grew up, went to school, and now was a full-grown adult. Needless to say, the new character’s relationship came into question, or was flat-out ignored, by others.




NO SPOILERS: I’m telling you now that I just made up the following examples with nothing spoiled game-wise…


Let’s say that you play a Sith Pureblood Assassin from Level 1 to Level 55. You enjoy the whole span of the PVE story from your entrance into the Sith Academy on Korriban all the way to (I’m making this up…) the Right Hand of the Emperor. Naturally, if you’re RPing a story with friends, you’re likely NOT the Emperor’s Right Hand. It’s more likely you’re a group of Sith, or maybe have an apprentice-master RP going on. Cool. But let’s take that to another level. What if, during the PVE part of the story, your Assassin (when he reached Level 45), pulled the trigger on some kind of (again, making this up…) super weapon that blew up Tatooine! From Level 45-55 Tatooine ceases to exist as a destination for your character in PVE, even if you can still visit it outside the regular flow of the game.


Granted, that’s a ridiculous example, but you can substitute known NPCs like Malgus or Satele for the planet of Tatooine and you’ll get the point I’m making.


If you’re RPing with another Sith character who’s living pre-Tatooine-kaboom, say Level 21, how do you reconcile the two timelines when you’re RPing together? Do you spoil the story for your Level 21 friend, or do you pretend your Level 45 “incident” never actually took place?




The best answer is to utilize the universe of the Old Republic without getting too specific. Generally speaking, you should RP every character understanding the game history as you knew it from Levels 1 – 15 or so. Your world is the world you create through the RolePlay with the game universe serving as your “living Wookieepedia” of reference material. Think of the Old Republic universe as your ongoing world, ruled by Satele Shan, Darth Malgus or Nemro the Hutt the same way you would if you were playing an RPG that took place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s understood that Darth Vader and Jabba The Hutt are alive and kickin’ and causing all sorts of fun mayhem throughout the galaxy.


How do you handle the passage of time, or the awkward canon of destiny in your RP? Let us know in the comments below, or write to me. I’d love to hear your view. Just remember: if you comment below, NO SPOILERS.


((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively here at You can follow MJ on Twitter @MJswtor, or write to him at swtorliferp[@] RP XP #50 will be more of your questions, so send ’em in!


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Add Variety to Your RP With Unique Race Options

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 13. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #47))


A while ago, I introduced you to “Sentient,” a unique character portrayal in that the player used armor combinations to create a “droid.” In case you missed it, you can find out how to create your own “playable droid race” here. Since then, BioWare has tossed RolePlayers a bone by introducing robotic limb replacements in cartel drops as cybernetic armor pieces. If you’re lucky enough to get an arm and a leg without paying an arm and a leg, you’re one leg up on Sentient.

But what if you’re not interested in creating a droid character? What if you want to take your RP to the next level, but you’re just not keen on the droid thing? What other options are there? RolePlaying as a human, cyborg, Sith Pureblood, Twi’lek or Zabrak is fine, but there are thousands of them out there. Once you’ve seen one former slave Twi’lek, one chip-on-his-shoulder Zabrak, or one Chiss with a superiority complex, you’ve seen ’em all. Hat’s off to those RPers out there who buck the trend and try for something outside the norm. Let’s face it, atheistic Mirialans or Force-deprived (read: “blind”) Miraluka, are pretty rare, but pretty cool to see acted out. The ability to jump Legacy boundaries makes for some fun as well. I recall once seeing a “blind” smuggler (Miraluka character played as a “blind human”) trying to “shoot” a “glass” off another character’s head. Now that’s BARPing at the next level.

I recently did some digging, and found more than 60 unique races in the Star Wars universe that you can create in-game using the human model. In many cases a twist on hair and eye color suffice, but it’s more in how you play the traits of the race that count.

Here are a few I came up with. See if they spark some creative RP possibilities for your next character. Most of these can be created with the baseline human without having to purchase hair or eye options separately.


Homeworld: Lorrd, in the Kanz Sector




Appearance: Medium to light brown skin.

Traits: Skilled mimics who use a sophisticated form of “kinetic communication.”

Canon Meter: Senator Nee Alavar appeared in the prequel films. She was Lorrdian.

Old Republic History: Around the time of TOR, the Lorrdians were involved in a sector-wide conflict called the “Kanz Disorders.”



Homeworld: Hapes, The Hapes Cluster in the Inner Rim




Appearance: Extremely Beautiful (Hapans have poor night vision, so dark eyes might help your persona). Keep in mind that it would be rare to find a male Hapan (though not impossible), and this race was considered pretty uniform in build (body type 2, I’d say)

Traits: Strong willed and independent.

Canon Meter: Mentioned throughout various E.U. publications and games.

Old Republic History: Hapan became a matriarchal society about 1,000 years before the events of TOR. Prior to that time they were dominated by the Lorell Raiders pirate gang. If you’re looking for a strong-willed female character, consider the Hapan.



Homeworld: Arkania




Appearance: Tan skin, white hair, white eyes (will require buying the “white eye” option for humans, although you can disguise your character’s eyes by making your Arkanian a Cyborg with eye-concealing cybernetics). NOTE: Arkanians also have 4-clawed digits. This can be disguised by dressing your character in heavy gloves or gauntlets.

Traits: Extreme intelligence and capable of seeing into the infrared spectrum. Be mindful of “godmodding” with that “extreme intelligence” thing. As with anything new, be sure to explain the traits of your species OOCly to your RP partners before proceeding to give them a chance to respond knowledgeably.

Canon Meter: Mentioned throughout Knights of the Old Republic E.U. fiction as well as carrying a listing in the Star Wars Encyclopedia.

Old Republic History: Arkanians have a rich history dating back 17,000 BBY, so it’s not hard to imagine their active presence around the time of the Old Republic, though I couldn’t find any specific references.




Homeworld: Dathomir, in the Quelii Sector of the Outer Rim




Appearance: Pale white skin, silver or black hair (females). Red, orange or yellow/black markings and cranial horns (males). Use the human model for a female Dathomiri, a Zabrak for a male. I used the platinum blond hair option (extra fee), but you can probably get by with white, light gray or blond.

Traits: If you want to bend time-space a little, you can claim your character was an early version of the “Nightsister society” or the “Witches of Dathomir.” To be a little more vague on the subject, as well as special or unique, by opting for traits involving mysticism or alchemy. You can leave it at that without drawing a parallel to distant future canon.

Canon Meter: Star Wars: The Clone Wars canon. Savage Opress (brother of Darth Maul—and therefore also Darth Maul) were male Dathomiri. Asajj Ventress was a female Dathomir.

Old Republic History: Most Dathomiri history revolves around the Clone War era with references to breeding between Rattataki, Humans and Zabraks leading to the likes of Maul and Ventress. As to Dathomir during TOR-time? I couldn’t find anything solid, but there’s no reason the planet hadn’t evolved along the lines of others. If you create a Dathomirian, be cautious about your character’s background, and steer clear of references to things like the Nightsisters (who, by accounts, won’t be around for another 3,000 years or so).




Homeworld: Kiffu or Kiffex




Appearance: Facial tattoos, otherwise human-like in all other respects. Most of the Kiffar appearances seemed to favor Native American or African American appearances, though the Tonnika sisters from SWIV appeared as Kiffar with light skin and no facial tattoos. Instead, they sported long braided hair.

Traits: Psychometric abilities (They have a unique Force-like ability that allows them to pick up traces or impressions from objects touched by other beings).

Canon Meter: The Kiffar have been in everything from Old Republic E.U. material (Jedi Shigar Konshi in the novel Star Wars The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance) to Star Wars IV: A New Hope (The Tonnika Sisters who appear briefly in the cantina scene). They also appeared in episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Old Republic History: If you dig, you can find pretty extensive references to the Kiffar in Star Wars lore. During the Old Republic, the Empire annexed the worlds of Kiffu and Kiffex, meaning you can play your Kiffar as an Imperial loyalist, a freedom fighter or a refugee.




Homeworld: Berchest (or Mrisst)




Appearance: Characters or markings on their foreheads (I found only certain “scar” options with the Sith Inquisitor revealed something similar to what the Berchestians have).

Traits: Not much is known about the Berchestians. I only included them in this list as an example of how deep you can go into your Star Wars character creation and still maintain a unique “simplicity.” Perhaps having a Berchestian Inquisitor is enough and you don’t need special abilities to stand out in your RP. There are several races like the Berchestians–like Corellians, for example–who seem like “nothing special” on the surface. Then again, remember that Han Solo was Corellian. I’d say that’s pretty special.

Canon Meter: Berchestians are only mentioned in some E.U. materials and games. Wookieepedia has a very small entry about them. They were first mentioned in the Thrawn novels.

Old Republic History: Since not much is known about them, there’s no reason to say they didn’t exist during the time of the Old Republic. Unless otherwise specified, if the race you choose isn’t specifically referenced as not appearing until after the Old Republic era, it should be a safe bet that they were around. Maybe they kept to themselves. Who’s to say?




Homeworld: Zelos II



Appearance: Striking emerald green eyes.

Traits: Zelosians have chlorophyll for blood, and they’re blind in the dark. That’s right, they’re plants. There are a lot of really creative things you can do with a character like this, and imagine the fun you can have BARPing with a Zelosian. (“/e bumps into the man next to him // “Hey, what’s the deal!” // “Sorry, friend. Just trying to get closer to that light.  /sigh.”)

Canon Meter: Mentioned throughout the E.U., particularly in novels and short stories.

Old Republic History: Zelosians make an appearance in Star Wars The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance.




Homeworld: Umbara (within the Ghost Nebula)




Appearance: Pale skin, white hair (males) or bald (females) and white or pale blue eyes.

Traits: Ability to influence others (think Jedi Mind Trick without the Force), ultraviolet vision. If you’re going to use the Umbaran ability of mind control, be sure to clear it OOCly with your RP partner. Explain to them that your character is an Umbaran and what they can do. Be conscious of their character too. It’s possible their character has a strong enough will to resist an Umbaran’s mental strengths, or at least detect them. Don’t make that decision for them. That’s godmodding. Talk it out before you act it out.

Canon Meter: Supreme Chancellor Palpatine used an Umbaran named Sly Moore as his Staff Aide. Umbarans also figured prominently in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, in the Bane novels and various other resources.

Old Republic History: According to Wookieepedia, “Umbarans have had a presence in galactic affairs since the dawn of the Galactic Republic.” One of my characters is Umbaran and I play her as a secretive and meddlesome little spy.




Homeworld: Eshan




Appearance: Chalk pale, or dark skin; white or dark hair, silver eyes. (The dark hair/skin varieties were considered an offshoot of the original Eschani race. Read the Wookieepedia articles on them for more (I’ve included a link below)).

Traits: Extremely good tacticians (almost to the point of predicting an opponent’s next move). The ability to read feelings and emotions during combat. Again, be sure to clear this OOCly before surprising your RP partner with your character’s “mystical prowess.”

Canon Meter: Echani first appeared in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and have appeared in several other E.U. publications from the Bane novels to Star Wars: Darth Plagueis. Rumor has it that the Emperor’s elite red guard were Eschani under those crimson helmets.

Old Republic History: Echani were HUGE during the time of the Old Republic. If you’ve played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, you may recall that many vibroblades and light armor were “Echani” made. I’ve actually come across two RPers on my server who were sporting Echani characters.



(Example: HALF CHISS)





I know there are those of you who will wag a finger and cry “Foul!” to the notion that different Star Wars species can actually cross-breed and create new offshoots. To that, I point to two irrefutable canon references from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The season two episode, “The Deserter” featured a human clone raising a family with the Twi’lek he took as his mate. The Clone Wars is also the canon linchpin for the Dathomir (who were created as a result of breeding between Humans, Zabraks and Rattataki). There are even references in Wookieepedia that point to the Arkanians being related to the Echani. The Clone Wars always had the Notorious G.L.’s thumbs up on everything. So… there you go.


The bottom line is: have fun with it and don’t worry about notions of “canon” unless you plan to break it by creating a black and red Dathomir you name “Darf Mall.” …Seriously. Don’t.


There are more than 60 references to “near human” species in Wookieepedia, so I guarantee you there are probably some really cool ones that you can create using the tools in SWTOR. Look through them, read about their traits and abilities, then see what you can come up with in RP. You can also consider something totally unique like my “half Chiss” pictured above. Pale (blue tinted with a little tweak of his “dark side corruption”) skin, shrouded eyes (because there are no all-red eye options for humans), black hair. Father, human. Mother, Chiss. This is a great solution for those of you out there who don’t have the Legacy cred or funds to create a Chiss character in the class you want, but who want to utilize your vast knowledge of the Chiss Ascendancy.


RESOURCES: There would be too many footnotes to list individually, so I’ll just make it simple for you. Here is a LINK to Wookieepedia’s “Near Human” category. You’ll find expanded information on the races I mentioned here, and more. If you come across a unique race you’d like to share, let me know about it. As an RPing altaholic, I’m always game for more.


((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively on every Friday. If you’d like to share some ideas with MJ, you can contact him directly via Twitter @MJswtor, or you can write to him at swtorliferp-at-gmail or mjtorrp-at-gmail. MJ answers your RP questions every 10 issues of the RP XP, so send them in early and often!

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The RolePlayers’ Cockpit

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 06. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #46))




In the last RP XP I talked about some awesome Star Wars language translators you can find around the Internet. Not long after I posted that column I found myself in some RP with friends who asked me ((OOCly, naturally)) about my set-up. Where do I keep the translator, notes, references and other resources that always seemed to be a click away? I’m a pretty fast typist, but how can I get to so many digital assets without the lag associated with an Alt-Tab? Inquiring minds wanted to know. So, I thought I’d share…


Before I open the door to my RP domain, a disclaimer: Don’t be discouraged if you’re a simple single-monitor Alienware (or HP) gamer. A lot of what I have is definitely considered “optional,” and at the end of this column I share my handy tips for the simplest of RP set-ups.




Once BioWare opened up the customization tools, I started playing with different screen layouts to assist me—and my clumsy monkey paws—with the perfect set-up for Roleplaying, PVE and PVP (if I ever went that far. See my column HERE for my PVP experience).


My RP design settled on a larger map, smaller bars, and a much wider game screen. Since I typically only use my mouse for movement, the action bars didn’t have to be that big. This is particularly true in my case since at least three bars worth of powers are mapped to my keyboard, mouse and game pad. The wider screen allows for a greater appreciation of the beautiful views throughout the game and gives you plenty of room to move your chat box on the fly. RP Pro Tip: Did you know you can move your chat box on the fly? You don’t have to escape to the customization menu to move it. Just grab it by the tab and place it where you want. When I’m in a concentrated RP scenario, I sometimes like to keep my chat box resolution dimmed and place it right over the center of the screen, stretched wide so lines read easily.




If you’re a RolePlayer, you’re typing a lot. Whether you’re a fast typist or a hunt-and-pecker, you’ll save your carpal tunnel a lot of stress if you use a keyboard with a slight ergonomic angle to it. Your wrists should be straight, and your elbows at a 90-degree angle.


I’ve used a lot of different ergonomic keyboards, but the best (and one of the least expensive) is the Microsoft Comfort Keyboard 5000. The ergonomic “bend” isn’t so pronounced that standard keyboard users would be put off by it, the keys are quiet, and the wireless mobility will last you a long, long time on two regular AA batteries.




Gaming mice are for gamers. The bottom line on a mouse is that it should be comfortable for your hand and wrist. I typically use the mouse that came with the Microsoft Comfort Keyboard 5000. It has a smooth scrool wheel and two programmable side buttons. Like I said, nothing fancy.


I used to use a Naga Razer, but I found that all the programming was on the “cloud” and not local on your machine. This caused a lot of lag between button actions and the game, and often made for long load times (of mouse software!) and hit-and-miss programmability. That, and the Nagas are on the small side, even with extendable parts meant to fit any hand.




All right, this is definitely one of those optional things, but I highly recommend it. The N52te is a comfortable fit for your non-mouse hand, has intelligently-placed programmable buttons (the programming for which are all easily accessed through a simple interface and stored locally on your computer), and allows you to switch up configurations on the fly.


One of the greatest programs on my N52te is accessed with a simple twitch of my thumb. A simple downward flick enables “walk” and an upward flick toggles walk/run on or off. If you have a birthday coming up, or can wait for Christmas, be sure to put the N52te on your list. I’ve recommended it to friends who RP, as well as hardcore “gamers,” and everyone loves it.




I understand that not everyone has a 2-screen system (and I’m jealous of you with 3+ monitors), but if you do have a second screen and you’re not using it to enhance your RolePlay, you’re missing out.


My secondary monitor includes widget clocks that give me at-a-glance time zone references (handy for OOC chat with friends who play in different zones). And I have one clock set to BioWare time to monitor those fluctuating maintenance outages.


I also like to keep some on-screen references, like notes regarding my character legacies, a map of the Star Wars galaxy (the one I snagged is from Star Wars Insider. You can find it by Googling.) And, of course, I have the Coruscant Translator so I can easily babble in Huttese, Sith or Mando’a.


Another resource I highly recommend is Google. Keep a browser open to Google and you’ll have one simple access point for everything from, “What do the rank bars mean on Imperial uniforms,” to spell checking to measurements. Not everyone is up to speed on English-Metric conversions, but you can type something like “52 feet is how many meters” in Google and you’ll get an instant answer. That’s handy for RP since Star Wars canon uses the Metric System for measuring. The same is true if you’re not clear on the spelling of a word. As soon as you start typing it you’ll get suggestions for proper spelling.




Ok, not everyone has a smart phone, either. But, if you do, you’ll do yourself a favor by having these apps on-hand. There are a few good SWTOR apps for smart phones, but I’ve narrowed them down to a few favorites I always go back to.




From left to right above: SWTOR Quartermaster, SWTOR Tools, Talent Calc, T.O.R. Codex, Wager 20


The SWTOR Quartermaster is probably one of the most expensive SWTOR apps out there, but it’s well worth it if you’re into crafting—or looking to find a certain tiny item tucked into the game. The QM has more than 52,000 items with the ingredients listed if you’re keen to craft your own.


SWTOR Tools is a great resource for everything from datacrons to companion information. It even has a skill tree calculator. I personally like it for the dossiers on each companion in the game with a very easy chart that tells you what gifts give the best returns.


Talent Calc is phenomenal because it allows you to save your skill trees. I have the skill trees (in progress) of all 18 of my characters. Other talent calculators may offer the ability to “save” trees, but Talent Calc is the only one I’ve used that hasn’t crashed (and lost all my data).


T.O.R. Codex was one of the first apps I grabbed for my iPhone. It’s a handy reference tool for everything from the planets to warzones and includes updated news references (which includes a swtor-life feed so you’ll always have my column with you /grin).


Wager 20 is great for everyone who played and remembers KOTOR or KOTOR II. It’s Pazaak exactly the way you remember it (but without the sounds). It’s a great way to spend time while you’re waiting for a queue to pop, or slow-typing RP friend to respond, or while you’re hanging around a dull BARP while you’re crafting.




I keep a couple books nearby for instance Star Wars reference. If your screen is already too busy with translators, maps and character notes, a good hardback book makes for a great resourc—especially if you only have one monitor to work with. Here are a couple of recommendations (and keep in mind there are thousands more):


The Star Wars The Old Republic Encyclopedia – Includes spoilers, but has a complete run-down on everything SWTOR. It’s great for character and historical references for the time period of the Old Republic.


Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary – Sure it only relates to the six films, but a lot of gadgets and parts and “stuff” are universal. Lightsabers, for instance, utilize the same parts now that they will 3,000 years in the future.




Here’s another recommendation for you, especially if you have the means to pick them up (at about $60-$75) and you don’t want your gaming “noise” to disturb others in your household.


The Logitech H70 headset gives you the simple one-switch capability of moving from your PC to your phone, but that’s the least of its features. The soft over-the-ear cushioned speakers perfectly replicate 3D sound, making ambient and surround sound perfectly flawless.


9 and 10 FLAIR


Ok, definitely not a necessity, but what kind of Star Wars fan would I be without my SWTOR lighting, and action figure or two, and some poster art? In my case, since I had been playing one of my bounty hunters a lot, I hung the Wanted poster from the Season 4 Blu-Ray set of the Clone Wars animated series nearby as inspiration.




My recommendation for RPers who want “full access” to resources while they’re playing the game without the lag or crash that can come from Alt-Tabbing to the browser window below your game is to set your SWTOR preferences to “Windowed.”




Before your groan about the appearance of a Windows frame around your game world, consider these points: First, you’ll find that resolution and performance is enhanced while playing “windowed.” BioWare backs this up. I once put in a trouble ticket regarding my screen blanking out even with mid-range settings on my graphics (I play on a stock Dell Studio XPS). BioWare’s easy solution was to play windowed or windowed-fullscreen. That corrected the problem. And, sure enough, other players in the forums vouched for the success rate of smoother performance with this simple tip.


Second, while you’re windowed, pull that corner in a little bit to allow a narrow strip for a Google pane or your handy Coruscant Translator. Try different configurations to see what you like best, or spring for that cheap second monitor. It doesn’t have to be fancy if it’s just for resources.



((The RP XP with MJ appears exclusively right here on If you’d like to contact MJ directly, write to him at swtorliferp(at), or follow him on Twitter @MJswtor))

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