((The RP XP with MJ #35))
I recently received an email from a fellow RPer who expressed—at length—the same concerns about RolePlaying in SWTOR that I share. They’re not just SWTOR concerns, either. I’ve seen and felt the same rumblings in other MMOs where RP is par for the course. There were a lot of good points in the email, some of which I’m sure I’ll hit at a later date, but for now let’s talk guild events, and the question… Do guild events kill RP?
The reader had several good points about how organized events in an MMO kind of suck the life out of quality RolePlay. Guilds, particularly large RP guilds, tend to schedule “events” and encourage attendance ICly. The problem with these large-scale forays is that they either A) Focus on one character’s story or plot (Even if the story is all-encompassing, it had to have started somewhere, and that person is typically played by the GM guiding the story—It’s their character’s story); or B) Are relegated to “mix and mingle” “dance parties” where ERP hook-ups become the norm. Now I’m not saying that all guilds are like that, but so far I’m batting a thousand on my own personal experiences. If you do things differently—and it works for you—by all means, please share! I’d like to hear a success story or two.
“You can waste time with your friends when your chores are done.” — Owen Lars
To most casual RP guilds, the “dance parties” are a cool way to meet other guildies, recruit new ones, and have casual fun in character before going back out into the grind. Don’t get me wrong. I “get it.” I also think there’s a time and a place for it, especially in casual or part-time RP guilds.
So how is it kill RP?
To answer that question, we need to look at RolePlaying as an art form within an art form. As I’ve extolled upon previously, RP involves character writing, plot formation, background building, interaction and progression. Now, I don’t want to be the guy who points a finger and says, “You’re not doing it right.” The IC mix-and-mingles are a perfectly fine way to maintain guild unity and grow membership, but consider the “reality” of an in-character dance party. If you’ve created a Sith Lord who is plotting the demise of his master while grinding his teeth over the failings of his apprentice still stuck on Korriban, who spends his days hunting Jedi for sport, is he really going to belly up to a bar and say to the Twi’lek slave girl next to him, “So, sweetie… You live around here much?”
I’d say no. If you create a character who was born on Galactic Standard Date 20138, lost their parents in a horrific freighter accident, picked and scraped through the back streets of a long forgotten city on Horuz to earn enough money to make it to the next system, met and fell in love with a young Kiffar woman who was later killed by an Imperial soldier at a checkpoint… you probably don’t want to spend your nights sending Jawagrams, lighting fireworks or emoting belches. I’m not saying your character wouldn’t visit a cantina now and again. Hell, a story like that would lead anyone to drink. But I wouldn’t be far off the mark if I suggested you’re looking for something different, something more. And you’re not going to find it at your guild’s “Dance Event.”
So, am I rallying against the Mix-And-Mingle RP? Not at all. It’s perfectly fine for more casual guilds or guilds that keep RP around as “flavor” between flash points and ops. But if you’re in a guild that takes RP to deeper levels, you’d do much better hosting OOC (Out Of Character) events, or box them into a theme that makes sense to your guild’s charter. If you’re a Jedi guild, for example, you might want to package your mix-and-mingle as a “Council Meeting,” or call it a “Republic Planning Committee Session.” Just keep in mind that such meetings aren’t nightly occurrences.
“Didn’t we just leave this party?” — Han Solo
In larger guilds, the problem of diluted quality RP becomes tangible if you’re creating a story. Having 25 guildies coming to the rescue of a downed smuggler friend’s ship on Tatooine is overkill (How did so many people become involved in a story that works best with 3-5?). If you don’t think the story’s diluted at that point, put yourself in the shoes of Guild Member 24. There’s a good chance Guild Members 1 through 5 (at least) are close. They’ve been together the longest, they write good stories together, they do a lot of PRP (Personal RP) together, their characterizations come out clearly. But Guild Member 24 can’t keep up. Lack of chat bubbles aside, how do your newer members stay focused, stay in the loop, and participate in something so massive?
Scenarios like that can lead to Guild Elitism. Through no fault of your own, your guild becomes “elite” because newer members too shy to be open in chat, members who can’t keep up with your stories, and—worst of all—members who never get the chance to host their own stories, end up leaving… bitterly. That can be a problem if your intention is to be all inclusive to fellow RPers who share your passion for the art.
The bigger problem is that guild story events don’t make sense with that many people, unless of course your story involves a full-scale military assault on an enemy base.
So, how do you have guild story events that include everyone—and make sense—without it degrading into a pointless strain on the chat box? The first answer will hurt: You don’t. The core issue is the quality of the RP. Too many people all vying to get their character’s personalities out in the open will rapidly dilute the story and destroy immersion. Most crafted stories will only need the participation of a handful of people. Take the original Star Wars trilogy for example. The Episode IV “guild” was comprised of Luke, Ben, Leia, Han, Chewie, C-3PO and R2. Their story of rescuing a princess from an evil Empire allowed everyone’s personality to shine through easily, and even they broke into sub-groups from time to time.
“I have a bad feeling about this.” — Everybody.
If you have a huge RP guild and want to give everyone a chance to shine, there are a few ways you can be accommodating. First, create a system that allows for one guild leader per every five to seven members. There’s no rule that says a guild can’t be built from cells of smaller groups. Each leader can then “GM” story events, or members can rotate the Game Master role. To make sure the precepts of your guild are maintained, the guildmaster can call monthly (or whatever period works best for you) OOC meetings to see that everything is running smoothly.
Another option is to make RP in your mammoth group more “viral” by planting seeds and making PRP introductions. Do the Henry V thing; walk amongst your guildies and listen. Pick up on their stories and deliver them to others. Encourage your membership to mingle WITHOUT the party.
In a future column I’ll take a look at BARPing (Bar RP) and talk about how it’s a million times worse for RP than the “Dance Party.” Oooh, did I just get your ire up? Good. Let’s chat.
((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively on swtor-life.com. You can contact MJ directly by writing to swtorliferp(at)gmail, leave a comment, or follow him on Twitter @MJswtor.
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