((The RP XP with MJ #28))
Yulel came awake after a short dream about floating on a cloud. It was then she realized she’d been moved, chair and all. She was still on Mannett Point but in a different room of the separatist base. A gruff-sounding man shouted, “And you…. You can untie her once we leave.”
A weak female voice responded, “Yes, master.”
The smuggler forced herself to remain calm. She held her breath and listened as the man left the room. Once he was gone, Yulel flinched at the sudden touch of gentle fingers around her head as the female who spoke removed her blindfold.
When she felt the cloth float away, Yulel gradually opened her eyes to a squint. The separatists had moved her to a small dark room made of bars with an electromagnetic lock. The cell was in a larger room filled with crates and supply canisters all marked for orbital transport.
Joining her in the room were several female Twi’leks, all of them bruised and dressed in tatters of former street clothes or uniforms, all huddled together in a corner. The one who removed Yulel’s blindfold and was now working on the knot at her ankles was dressed as a dancing girl. “Wait,” she said. The girl stopped working on the bonds and looked up at her. The young Twi’lek’s skin was the color of a clear winter sky, her eyes a brilliant green that should have been filled with the wonder of youth. Instead they looked dull and sullen.
Yulel spoke softly with a slight tremble in her throat. “W-What are they doing with us?”
“We are to be slaves for Hadral the Hutt. Master Hadral pays handsomely to–”
“Like hell we are!” Yulel barked and stood up with the chair still tied to her back —
Only to hit her head on the low ceiling of bars above her.
“You cannot fight them,” the blue Twi’lek said. “It is best to behave and avoid bruising.”
“The only thing that’s gonna be bruised around here is a freighter full o’ seppies!” Yulel fumed as she glared at the other Twi’leks, all of them too scared or weak to offer any support to the thought of escape.
So far in the ((RP XP with MJ)) we’ve talked about character building, nuances and etiquette, but we haven’t yet scratched the surface on the main course of RolePlay: The Epic Story. In the coming weeks I’ll walk you through taking your RolePlay to new heights by writing, directing and producing a full-fledged adventure. But, before all that, we’ll need to start creating an open mindset in you, the player, and consider how to build a cast and crew.
You’re a serious RPer. You have at least one character — probably more — with a solid back story, a rich history, goals, dreams, faults and desires. Maybe you even have a story in mind to share with fellow RPers. You’re dying to get a posse of fellow smugglers together to hunt down the vile snake who gunned down your sister in that cantina on Ord Mantell. Or maybe you’d like to form a band of Jedi Knights who could work together at establishing an enclave on Balmorra.
Yeah, those are good stories, but you’re not the only one who has one, ya know. For every smuggler with a gunned-down sister there’s a Jedi with an errant Padawan, an apprentice in search of a master, a trooper preparing for an intense covert ops mission and an Imperial Agent looking for her lost father.
Here are some tips for building a close-knit group of serious RPers who will join you in your story and even inspire greater adventures through tales of their own. If you’re already in a group or guild of RPers who write and perform well together, you’re already way ahead of the game. For anyone else just breaking into serious RolePlay, strap yourselves in. We’re making the jump to lightspeed.
No one goes into an RP setting with an empty slate. No one says, “My character is just a trooper, nothing special. Gee, I hope I run into someone who can give him something to do.” Most serious RPers will be chomping at the bit with something to share about their character’s story, so it’s good to go into every possible RP setting with an open mind and receptive imagination.
Let’s say you’re that smuggler who’s looking to recruit some toughs to help him hunt down his sister’s killer. You walk into a cantina and see a trooper at the bar leaning over a glass he keeps filling and draining (which you deduced from his tells and open emotes). You can tell he’s distraught about something. That can be good and bad. It’s good because he’s no doubt open to another RPer bringing their character up to ask what’s wrong. It’s bad because he’s obviously setting up to unload a heaping pile of his own story. Maybe he’s upset about losing a comrade. Maybe he’s upset about losing his girl. How will your story fit in?
How indeed. The answer is simple and it’s also a great test to see if you’d mesh with another RPer.
PATIENCE, YOUNG ONE
Continuing with the example above, go ahead and make your introductions. Don’t pounce on him with your own sad story if he’s obviously displaying signs of being upset about something. He was the first to emote it when you walked in the room. He has “RP right of way.” If you saw someone in real life sitting in a corner and drying their eyes you wouldn’t plop down next to them and say, “Hey, you know what sucks? I just got audited.” That’s just rude.
Instead, hear him out. Ask questions. Engage in conversation. Pay attention to his story (that’s important, so I’ll highlight it here: Pay attention to his story). You’ll find out why in a moment.
Here’s where the test comes to play. Is he only talking about himself and his hardships, or does he stop at any point and at least say, “What about you? Where you from?”
Pounce now? No.
Continue your conversation, but remember he’s got the right of way. If you happen to touch upon your issue, just mention it in passing. Don’t recruit him into your posse just yet. After all, you don’t go up to someone at a funeral and say, “You gonna be long? I could really use you to help me move some furniture.”
WHEN IS IT YOUR TURN?
Toward the end of this initial RP meeting, about the time one of you begins dropping clues that you’ll be moving on or have to log out, take a mental note on the weight of the conversation. Toward the beginning, it should have been on him and his problems. Toward the end it should be about fifty-fifty. Ask yourself the question in-character: Can I trust this guy? Ask yourself the question out-of-character: Will this guy be fun to RP with? Does he have a cool story you’d like to play into? If you can answer yes to those questions, pull out the OOC brackets (( )) and make introductions, and don’t forget to thank him for the RP. See if you can pick up where you left off. Conclude the meeting in-character and bid each other farewell.
The next time you get together, do exactly that. Pick up where you left off but be mindful of your own story. Find out if he has a plan for his plot. It’s okay to ask him OOCly if he does. If not, ask if he’d like to join yours. Remind him about your posse thing and give him the assurance that your character is willing to help him as well. Let’s say his girl ran off with another trooper. Hey, you’re a crafty smuggler. Maybe you can track this guy down and disable his ship… let the two troopers “talk it out.”
YOU SCRATCH MY BACK, I’LL SCRATCH YOURS
Forming bonds between characters that aren’t familial or romantic is no different than forming friendships in real life. You meet, you find out what you have in common, you share. If your new trooper friend is willing to be part of your posse, be sure he knows you’re “all in” when it comes to helping him out with his story as well – if, that is, he wants to build it into a story. If he’s new to RP and plotting, he may just rather go along for the ride with you. That’s perfect. He’ll pick up a story of his own along the way and you can pitch in on his plot at that time.
It’s all about give and take. Be mindful of tells given by other characters in an open RP setting. Here are some examples of emoted expositions you might see in chat:
“Keeps rubbing his leg and wincing.” … An invitation for you to ask, “Something wrong with your leg?”
“Keeps glancing toward the door.” … An invitation for you to ask, “Waiting for someone?”
“Touches the scar on her face.” … An invitation for you to observe, “Notices she keeps touching the scar.”
These are called “tells” or “drops” and they’re generally subtle signs inviting fellow RPers to join in. In a previous article I also referred to them as “fishing.” Either way, the goal is the same. It’s how RPers draw each other in. It’s also a way you can kick off your story if you happen to be the first RolePlaying character to enter the cantina. If that’s the case, “Say”:
“Looks around to make sure no one can see as he wipes his eyes. He sniffs and returns to his drink as he silently curses to himself.”
If someone comes up and asks, “What’s wrong?” your story begins.
Next time I’ll talk about fleshing out your plot so you’ll be ready once you’ve collected your posse.
((The RP XP with MJ)) is featured right here ONLY on swtor-life.com. MJ is an old hat at RolePlaying and GMing with credits dating back to the original AD&D, but don’t hold that against him. You can contact him directly by writing swtorliferp(at)gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @MJswtor. YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED EVERY 10 ENTRIES WITH THE NEXT COMING UP A WEEK FROM NEXT FRIDAY! Send your questions to swtorliferp(at)gamil.com soon!
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