((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.
BE VAGUELY SPECIFIC ABOUT TIME
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.
CHRONO = WATCH
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.
BBY, ABY, ATC, BTC, GST
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.
HOW OLD WAS YOUR CHARACTER AT LAUNCH?
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.
NO… I AM YOUR FATHER
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 GAME WORLD IS YOUR REFERENCE BOOK
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 swtor-life.com. You can follow MJ on Twitter @MJswtor, or write to him at swtorliferp[@]gmail.com. RP XP #50 will be more of your questions, so send ’em in!