((The RP XP With MJ #16))
Yulel sat on the floor of the cabin aboard the Regail and nervously stroked her lekku. She brought her head tails over the front of each shoulder so she could hold them as she sat on the floor and rocked like a pouting child.
“This ain’t fair, ya know.”
The armored trooper stood in the open doorway of the cabin. He stood alert, his rifle held at port-arms. He wore his helmet so Yulel didn’t know if he was looking at her, at the wall, at the floor….
“You got a name, flatfoot?”
The helmet moved slightly. The electronically-augmented voice came out. “The name’s Wex. Not that it’s any of your business, thief.”
“I ain’t no thief, Wex. I simply acquire things I need without trading credits.”
“And I’m not a flatfoot. I merely arrest individuals who acquire things without paying for them.”
Yulel glanced at his scuffed white armored boots. “Yeah. Guess not. So, tell me, Trooper Wex, how do you feel about being used by the Jedi?”
Wex didn’t answer. His helmet rotated front.
“Oh,” the Twi’lek smuggler winked. “I get it. You know. You just don’t wanna talk about the fact Kendris and Tarik pulled you along to hunt down a Twi’lek girl who supposedly stole a little piece of glass.”
Wex turned to her. “I wouldn’t call the Jen’Hutis a piece of glass.”
Yulel shrugged. “That’s all it is–unless you use it.”
“Yeah, well… it’s dangerous.”
The thin-framed Twi’lek stood and pushed her lekku back over her shoulders, tossing her head like a woman with a long mane of hair. She folded her arms and stood with her weight on one hip. “You really don’t have a clue as to why you’re here, do you, Wexy?”
The trooper didn’t answer, but Corporal Wex was starting to have his doubts about this assignment. He’d already lost some men trying to track down this smuggler and all for what? What did he truly know about the Jen’Hutis? Behind his helmet’s faceplate, he closed his eyes and cringed. He thought about the Consular, Misha Vu-don’s veiled warning about Master Kendris. If this “Force stone” was really as powerful as he’d heard, was Kendris really the one who should be escorting it back to Tython? And what if they’re not going to Tython?
Wex leaned into the hall to look toward the cockpit. He could see Kendris at the controls, but there was no sign of the Zabrak kid, Tarik. The milky wash of space proved they were roaring through hyperspace, but where would they end up?
Where will you end up when the game launches in just a few days?
I thought this would be the perfect time to give you a primer for RolePlaying, including tips and tricks for finding other RPers as well as giving you a brief guide on the ins and outs of RP etiquette.
Let’s get started right away with the “how.”
YOUR FRIEND THE CHAT BOX
The biggest part of your RP will come through the actions you describe and the words you speak on behalf of your character in “Chat.” Everything you communicate will come through typewritten words in the chat box on the upper left part of your screen. The mechanics of the chat box are simple and fairly universal. Tap ENTER to pop into the text input line, then type. That’s all there is to it. The default location where your words will appear is “Local.” You’ll need to switch that to “Party” if you’re with a group. You can also begin with “/whisper” and the name of a character to speak only to them. If you reply to a whisper with “/r” you can then simply hit ENTER to reply without having to re-type the command for whisper each successive time. This is a great mechanic for one-on-one RP. The “Party” channel is not only good for communication in raids, PvP or doing Flashpoints with friends, it’s great for RP grouping as well.
When it comes to typing and RP, there are two types of input: Dialog and Exposition.
DIALOG vs EXPOSITION
I’ve seen two kinds of etiquette when it comes to RP chatter. The common school of thought is that anything you type in the chat box comes from the first person voice of your character unless otherwise noted. You don’t have to put it in quotes or mark it in any way. It’s your character actually “speaking” in the world. Here’s an example:
Wex (Party): I think you should sit down now.
Yulel (Party): Why? You think I’m dangerous?
The other school of thought, and the one I personally use (though I am in the minority on this), is to use quotation marks around anything spoken by your character:
Wex (Party): “I think you should sit down now.”
Yulel (Party): “Why? You think I’m dangerous?”
Either way is technically fine, but if you’re not a fast typist, you may want to save yourself the keystrokes by not using quotes. I only use them because I write a lot of fiction and switch between dialog and exposition on the fly. It’s just how my mind works and it’s more natural for me to do it that way. Unless marked as Out Of Character (OOC) or exposition, anything you type is considered dialog coming out of your character’s mouth, so you can forgo the quotes if you want.
Here are the same examples with exposition added:
Wex (Party): *Glares at Yulel* I think you should sit down now.
Yulel (Party): Why? You think I’m dangerous? *Crosses arms*
Typically, exposition is set off from dialog with asterisks (*). Essentially, any emote you can’t act out can be put between asterisks to emphasize your action. You can type “/shrug” to use the shrug emote, or you can simply type *shrug* to show that your character is shrugging via exposition. It’s really your choice. Some people find navigating emotes into RP cumbersome while others expertly weave it into their RP effortlessly. It’s really up to preference. I personally feel active emotes can break the RP immersion because of how mechanical they are. Using shrug as an example, there are different ways to shrug: both shoulders, both shoulders with hands held palm up, one shoulder, with an eyebrow raise, etc. A perfect example of this is the emote “/cry”. Check that one out next time you’re in the game. Crying isn’t universal and it’s not always that dramatic. Leave the emotes for dance parties and just type out your actions.
Wex (Party): Glares at you, “I think you should sit down now.”
Yulel (Party): “Why? You think I’m dangerous?” Crosses arms.
If you’re using quote marks for dialog, you don’t need to us asterisks to offset exposition. Again, it’s really only preference. If you’re concerned about your number of keystrokes, keep this in mind: you’ll probably be “speaking” more than you’ll be describing actions in RP, so using the commonly-accepted asterisk method is probably the best way to go.
WHEN TO USE EXPOSITION
Imagine the scene you’re RPing as a scene from a movie. In my example, Yulel crosses her arms. If she didn’t, it could change the meaning. “Why? You think I’m dangerous?” could be a nervous question. What if Wex’s apparent paranoia conveyed danger to the Yulel character? What if he’s asking her to sit down because a sniper has a bead on her? By saying she folds her arms, I’m expressing defiance or attitude. Yulel is cocky and she shows it in her actions. Use exposition to emphasize your character’s quirks and emotions.
Wex (Party): *Points at your nose* You have issues.
Yulel (Party): No I don’t.
In the above example you can see the Wex character’s attitude. “Points at your nose” is specific and immediately gives you the picture of the trooper getting in Yulel’s face. You can almost see his facial expression, sense his gritted teeth, the flare in his eyes. He’s pissed and you can tell. Imagine the same thing without the exposition. If he simply says, “You have issues,” it’s conversational. There’s no emotion added to it other than what the reader (the Yulel character’s player) perceives.
Don’t use exposition like you’re writing a novel. If it’s not necessary, don’t do it.
Wex (Party): *Paces the floor a few steps, looking down at his war-scuffed boots as he thinks about the home he left behind, pondering his own life and how he got stuck on such a pathetic mission as this. He looks at Yulel and hates her because of his own situation, hates himself for hating her* I think you should sit down now.
Wow. How long did that take to type? Keep in mind you’re not writing something to “publish” later. You’re LIVE as-it-happens and people are following along. Keep it short and sweet so the RP flows freely.
Even if you’re a fast typist and can make your RP exposition flow like song, don’t overdo it. In the example above, Wex’s player is giving a lot of information that’s inside his mind. How would Yulel know all this? She wouldn’t. ONLY show what the other would see. There is nothing in all that the Yulel player can use. Try this instead:
Wex (Party): *Looks down and cringes* I think you should sit down now.
Covered. Now Yulel can work from that. She can ask why he made that face. She can put a hand on his shoulder. She can even choose to “huff” and ignore his obvious issue or discomfort. RP is all about give and take. You set up something to allow others to react, and you react to the situations they create.
Force-using characters will have the ability to “sense” certain things. They’ll get clearer views of emotions and even be able to determine the empathy of thoughts. “Your thoughts betray you,” is a good Star Wars line that emphasizes that point. Vader could even read Luke’s mind when he discovered the truth about **SPOILER** Leia being Luke’s sister and therefore **SPOILER** his daughter.
In order to read minds or sense emotions, you really have to be serious about the “give and take” thing. It’s not up to the Jedi character’s player to read your character’s mind. That’s impossible unless you cooperate and offer up something he can use.
Yulel (Party): No, I’m serious. I like being here <<You sense she’s lying. She’s scared of Kendris.>>
Tarik (Party): *Smiles* You’re not being serious, Yulie. I think you’re afraid of Kendris
Yulel (Party): *Gasps* How did you know that?
Tarik (Party): *Taps his temple and winks* Jedi, remember?
I used the double “<<>>” to differentiate between exposition, OOC chat and something else. You can use any allowable character as long as it isn’t parentheses or asterisks. As long as your notions are clear, you’re fine. Using “=” to separate “emotional input” is another way to do it. “Mind reading” is not a common RP medium, so be sure you have an OOC discussion with your fellow RPers before using it so they know what you’re doing. You should also lay the groundwork as to what you expect or what you will and will not allow. If you’re playing a Sith Inquisitor with a special concentration on using the Force defensively to shield your mind, talk that out with your Sith Marauder friend and make sure it’s cool that you don’t throw out anything he can’t “sense.”
DO NOT come off as demanding or forceful to other players. You can ask if your character can sense anything from theirs, but if they say no, then make the best of it. It doesn’t make your character less of a Jedi or less of a Sith. It just means you’ll have to work harder at dialog and playing out the scene. Palpatine didn’t sense **SPOILER** that Anakin’s good side would come out and he would be hurled down one of the DS2’s many **SPOILER** chasm-like shafts.
You can also use exposition to show actions you can’t show in the game, or to interact with made up or invisible objects. In the example below, Yulel tosses a ball in the air. There is no “ball” you can play with in SWTOR (outside of Huttball), but you get the idea. This also works with tools, pets, holocoms, artifacts, etc.
Yulel (Party): *Reaches into a pocket inside her jacket and pulls out a small glittering ball*
Tarik (Party): *Notices the ball* What’s that?
Yulel (Party): *Shrugs* Just a toy. I got it from a friend. *Tosses it in the air a couple times*
Tarik (Party): What is it?
Yulel (Party): *Rolls her eyes* It’s a ball, dummy. Don’t they teach you Jedi anything?
STEPPING OUT OF CHARACTER
The generally accepted indicator for chat outside of character is the double parentheses.
Yulel (Party): Yeah, I think I’ll sit down for awhile ((BRB. Phone.))
Tarik (Party): Maybe you should. ((OK))
In this example, the player playing Yulel had to step away from the game to answer the phone. The common “BRB” (Be Right Back) in the double parentheses lets the other RPers know your character didn’t just suddenly “die” or refuse to talk any more.
You can also use OOC indicators to clarify a scene, or as I mentioned earlier, ask for more input.
Yulel (Party): No, I’m serious. I like being here.
Tarik (Party): ((Can I tell if she’s lying?))
Yulel (Party): ((You can tell she’s uncomfortable, but that’s it))
Tarik (Party): ((Cool)) *Leans closer* Yulie, I sense something’s bothering you. What is it?
USING WHAT YOU KNOW TO GET INVOLVED IN RP
Ok, now that you’re armed with the basics, let’s take a stroll down the streets of Coruscant and get into some RP.
HOW TO IDENTIFY AN RPER
If you’re not already involved in an RP guild, if you’re completely new to RolePlay (or MMOs, RPGs or Star Wars), if you haven’t already made arrangements to meet a friend for RP, or if you don’t actually know any RPers, there are a few signs that can look for that will tip you off that the character you’re looking at is controlled by someone open to RP.
They’re walking. If you see a character walking down a corridor while everyone else is running, chances are they realize people don’t “run everywhere” in real life and they’re playing the game “realistically.” They may not be a RolePlayer, but every serious (even casual) RPer I know uses the walk toggle (default “/” on the keypad of your keyboard. NUM LOCK will toggle lock your walk/run on or off). One of the first questions an RPer will ask about an MMO is “Is there a walk toggle?” If they’re not an RPer they could just be locking their walk toggle while sifting through their inventory. But, more often than not, they’re open to RP.
They’re emoting or talking to their in-game NPC companion. If you see someone “Pondering Vette” or “Laughing at Mako,” they’re either just goofing around with the emotes or they’re engaged in SRP (Singlular RolePlay as I like to call it). This isn’t the greatest tell because everyone takes the time to test out their emotes once in awhile, but if you actually see local chat that looks like: “Take this bag of junk and go sell it off. I’ll meet you back at the ship” just before they dismiss their companion to sell off their “grayed out” items, they may very well be into RP. You may not even realize it, but “chatting up” your NPC companion is a form of RP.
They’re openly using exposition in public. One of the easiest-to-spot RPer tells is the “ordering a drink” at an inn, bar or cantina. If you see local chat with lines like: “Orders a tall glass of blue milk,” or “Motions the bartender over and whispers a question,” or “Looks around nervously,” take note of the character’s name, because this person is fishing for RP. If they aren’t already RPing with someone, they’re expositioning openly to see if anyone will take the bait and join them. If you see something like that and want to get into some RP, approach them in-character with a realistic response. If they order a drink, step up next to them and type, “I’ll have what he’s having.” See what happens. If they’re not too shy about jumping into an unsolicited RP, they’ll react. I’ve seen scenarios where everyone seems to be using exposition but no one is biting. That’s because there are two kinds of spontaneous RPers: Fishers and Hunters. Fishers will cast out lines (solo exposition) to see if someone will join them. Hunters simply go from social area to social area until they see the signs of RP, then they’ll jump in and join the fun. Until a Fisher decides to change tactics, a crowded cantina of people ordering drinks and looking around nervously could be pretty monotonous… though entertaining. 😉
They’re asking for it. It’s rare, but desperate RPers might throw out a “((Anyone want to RP?))” in General. I had the idea of joining the stream of “LFG: Esseless” and “LFG: Hammer” with something like “LFGRP.” You never know. Could get a bite. If not, it’s at least worth a chuckle.
They’re already RPing with someone. If you see two characters chatting in-character using the dialog and exposition examples I’ve shown you, they’re engaged in RolePlay. DO NOT JUMP IN. Just as with Forum RP, you have to be accepted and invited.
Which leads me to…
HOW TO GET INVOLVED OR STARTED WITH RP
It’s rude to simply situate yourself into someone else’s story. If you’d like to get involved, there are two ways you can do it without being rude. First, if you see people RPing, listen to them for awhile. Get an idea what they’re talking about. Be an eavesdropper. Then, after you’ve soaked up enough, send a quick “/whisper” to one of the characters and ask, “((Excuse me. I’m enjoying your RP. Would you mind if I joined you?)).” If you’re polite about it and not pushy, you’ll get a response. They may tell you, “((Sorry, this is closed)).” If that’s the case, thank them and move on. They might remember you and look for you later because you showed interest and weren’t rude about it. RPers are performers at heart and will react well to an interested audience. If you get “shunned” from joining an RP it’s typically because those already involved have a story they’re working on. They can’t simply “add a new character” at this point. It could also be a closed guild event or it could be something personal that doesn’t need a “third wheel.”
On the other hand, they may ask you how you want to join or what you could bring to the discussion. Here’s where you test your creativity. “((You mentioned looking for a missing droid. My character used to be a droid salesman.))” or “((I’m good at fixing ships and you were talking about your hyperdrive being down)).” Keep in mind, again, that it could be part of their plot that they DON’T actually find the droid or DON’T get their ship fixed. Don’t be a pest about it. If they were open enough to ask you how you’d like to join, they’re open enough to bring you in. Ask THEM what would work. “((My character is a Jedi with a treasure hunting hobby. Whatever works. I’m open.))”
The other way to try to get invited into an RP scenario is to “RP in Parallel.” What this means is basically to use the Fishing techniques I described above, but tailor them realistically to what you’re overhearing. Let’s use Wex as an example:
Yulel: I’ve never been to Ord Mantell. Is it nice?
Tarik: *Laughs* If you consider a war zone nice.
Yulel: I’m just saying I’d never been there. How would I know?
Tarik: *Smirks* Gee, I don’t know. Watch the holo-news once in awhile. Sheesh, Yulie.
Yulel: *Crosses her arms* Hey, I’ve been busy on Alderaan. I don’t have time to watch the news.
Wex: *Overhears the conversation about Ord Mantell and chuckles into his drink*
That’s called a “drop.” There are different kinds of drops and you can use them anywhere — even if you’re already involved in an RP scene. But, for now, let’s see if Wex has any success:
Wex: *Overhears the conversation about Ord Mantell and chuckles into his drink*
Tarik: *Orders another round for him and Yulie* Why would you even want to go to Ord Mantell?
Yulel: *Looks past Tarik and notices the trooper chuckling into his drink* *To Tarik:* I don’t know. I just asked.
Tarik: *Looks over his shoulder at the trooper Yulie noticed. To the trooper:* You got a problem, Pal?
Wex: Who, me? No. I just heard you mention Ord Manny.
Yulel: Ord Manny? *Giggles at the funny name*
Wex: I just came from there. It’s what my squad called it.
Tarik: *Taps Yulie’s shoulder* There, see. Why would there be troops on Ord Mantell if there wasn’t a war going on?
Yulel: *Raises her voice* I didn’t say I wanted to go to Ord Mantell!
Wex: *Chuckles* Good thing, miss, because your Jedi-looking friend there is right.
Tarik: See, Yulie? *To Trooper* What’s your name? Can I buy you a drink?
Notice how the characters didn’t call each other by their names? Notice how Tarik asks, “What’s your name?” even when the player can clearly see WEX floating over the trooper’s head. Keep subtleties like that in mind. It’s also not obvious by the equipment or clothes of a character who or what they are. There’s a guy in our guild who is playing a Jedi who left the order. If you mouse-over him it’ll identify him as a Jedi Knight though he’s dressed as a smuggler. Don’t assume. When you RP, pretend there is no HUD (except, of course, for your friend the Chat Box).
Rule of thumb: Go by what you see and hear, not by what the game tells you.
Stick to these rules and guides and you’ll be RPing in no time.
Now… go tell a story.
Next week we’ll talk about SWTOR post-launch! Send me your stories! Are you already RPing? Who is your character? What does he/she do?
((The RP XP with MJ)) publishes right here on swtor-life.com every Friday. You can contact MJ directly with tips or comments, questions or to advertise your RP guild. Write to him directly at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @MJswtor. MJ is the RP columnist for swtor-life as well as the editor for swtor-life and swtor-spy. Looking for answers? www.swtor-spy.com. Problem solved. 😉
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