((The RP XP with MJ #38))
BARPing, otherwise known as “bar RP” has been a staple of MMOs since bars, inns and cantinas were first placed in the gaming space. It’s a simple and well-known precept that characters will congregate around hub areas similar to communal spaces you’d find in the real world. And, ever since the first hairy-chested guy with a gold chain asked, “What’s your sign?” bars have become the stereotypical meeting place for nearly every walk of life.
They’re the place to go to meet new people, hook-up for that one night stand, celebrate a team’s victory (or loss), drown your sorrows, or let your hair down after a stressful day. The bar is where you go to hang out with friends when you don’t know what else to do, host an impromptu class reunion, play games or watch the Big Game, even face off against a rival for bragging rights.
There has been a lot of criticism about the casual nature of RP around a bar, particularly because “cantina chat” is stereotypically the same old song and dance. As I mentioned in the last RP XP, it’s usually the slave girl, the smug smuggler, the anti-Jedi, or the trooper drowning himself in Corellian ale as a way to fight off post-traumatic stress, that populate the local virtual “bar scene.” I’m one of the not-so-outspoken opponents of BARPing because it thins character by reducing interaction to the here and now. Remember that back story you gave your Sith Marauder, about how she turned to the Dark Side by accident because she stole a starship? That’s an interesting story, but will it come up in casual bar chat when all the Bounty Hunter next to you wants to know is if you’d like to take your drinks to his ship so you can be alone? Doubtful.
That said, there are ways you can turn BARPing into a more well-rounded experience that invites deeper levels of RolePlay—yes, like the kinds you hope for in the open world but never find.
KNOWING YOUR MARKS
(How to Recognize Different Kinds of BARPers)
Only interested in ERP—I’m sure you realize that the scantily-clad women gyrating on tables aren’t there because they’re looking for a new apprentice, or that female characters with names like “Ima Slavehoney” or “Gimmieluvin” were born from a long lineage of former Tatooine Moisture Farmers. Most (but not all) of the time, a conversation with these buxom beauties will fall down the rabbit hole of “personal interaction” and a desire to “please you, master.” Likewise, the Smugglers, Agents or “Fallen Jedi” who keep pushing drinks toward female characters with a side chat hinting at “alone time” are generally looking for hook-ups. If all you’re looking for is a “good time,” by all means, enjoy. Just don’t complain when you finally get to be alone with one of these types and they’re not too keen to listen to your story about the time you fell into a nest of gundarks… Unless they think that’s “code” for something else.
Troll Strollers—These folks will make you dizzy. How many times can the same person walk around the same four cantina bars without stopping for a drink? Oh, sure, they’ll vary it a little by riding the elevators up to the VIP level and back down again, even roam around the outer ring. They never say anything, never do anything, but they are on the hunt for RP. Some time ago I talked about the “walkers” (That was before I heard someone in General Chat use the term “Troll Stroller” and I about spit blue milk through my nose at the clever turn of phrase), and the fact that “walking,” like personal emoting, is a sign that someone is acting with their character in a more realistic way—and therefore are likely to respond if approached in a realistic way. It’s easy enough to engage a Troll Stroller in RP. Typically, all you have to do is highlight their character and type /nod, /look, or /smile and you’re sure to get the same back, if not the start of a full-fledged conversation. The hard-to-get Troll Strollers aren’t worth your time if you’re serious about sitting down to some deep RolePlay. If you throw them a “/look” and they shoot back with a “/nod,” and move on without another word, they’re either just spinning their wheels or waiting for the PvP queue to pop—or, they want you to do all the work.
Fishers—These characters are a lot like the Troll Strollers except they stand still. They usually find a spot at the bar where no one is around, or stand at an empty bar. Sometimes they sit (in that strange not-really-sitting-way) in chairs overlooking the bars. Sometimes they stand at the railings on the outer ring of the cantina area. Most of the time, Fishers are quiet. They’re just waiting for that “in,” the moment when they overhear a snippet of RP that holds an interest for their character, or they’re scouting out other Fishers or Troll Strollers for potential chat.
PRPers—Personal RolePlayers can be any of the above, but they attract RP to themselves by giving you something to respond to, typically in emoted behavior or exposition, but sometimes by spoken mumbles of monologue. Examples include: The Twi’lek who acts like they’re being choked or shocked by an unseen assailant, the Bounty Hunter who sharpens his war blade, the Jedi who meditates or practices levitation, the Imperial Agent who “spies” on everyone, the Smuggler who makes racist comments in order to pick a fight, or the person who roams around checking the time as if they’re waiting for something (or someone). These people are good to watch, sometimes very entertaining to listen to, and can offer up some great RP, especially if their PRP line matches up with your own (Like you hate Zabraks as much as the racist Smuggler).
Griefers—These are the guys who make you wonder why they’re on an RP server, and I only mention them here because some actually make periodic (if not horrible) attempts to RP. Griefers fire AOE weapons into crowds, they park their full sized speeders on top of the bars, they dance on the bar (unlike “dancing girls,” they’re typically shirtless guys with some sort of pet following them around), they use foul non-canon language, they speak OOCly and typically with abbreviated “TXT speech,” and they generally make asses of themselves in order to bust up RP moments. My advice is to add these people to your friends list, then use the COMMENT option to notate, “GRIEFER.” Why? Because you may want to pass three days later when the same person steps up next to your character at the bar and engages you in conversation (sometimes Griefers try to blend in with RolePlay only to execute their own form of “knock-knock” jokes by shouting an obscenity or running off mid-sentence after wasting an hour of your time. This is not typical, but I’ve seen it done. You are warned).
INTRODUCTIONS AND TAKING IT BEYOND THE BARP
“Can I buy you a drink?” may illicit an eye roll from the player across the country, staring at their monitor as your character steps up to RP, but it’s not an invalid question AT A BAR.
Here are some other perfectly adequate opening lines:
“Are you waiting for somebody?”
/e notices the lightsaber on your belt and asks, “Are you a Jedi/Sith?”
/wink (keeping in mind that this introduction may be taken as well as it is in real life. Unless you want your character to be branded as some kind of creep, avoid the wink until you’ve made proper introductions).
“Hi. What’s your name?” or, even better, “Hi, I’m (YOUR NAME HERE). What’s your name?”
These are all fairly simple, easy to manage and easy to execute even if you’re relatively shy about RP. Try taking your opening lines up a notch by incorporating your surroundings. Some of these are good opening lines, others are good follow-up to introductions:
“Have you noticed how slow the service is around here? I think these droids need maintenance.”
“Excuse me, do you happen to know when the next shuttle leaves for Sullust?”
“Do you know where I can get a droid’s memory erased around here?”
“The air smells funny. Do you think maybe the atmosphere processors are on the blink?”
“Do you think what I’m wearing is ok for Tatooine? I hear it’s hot there.”
“Excuse me, but I’m bound for Taris in a few days. I heard there’s a problem with rakghouls there. Do you know anything about that?”
“I desperately need to get to Nar Shaddaa. I’m meeting someone about some money I’m owed. Do you know if there are any transports leaving in the next few minutes?”
“Do you happen to know if a model R-29 Aerodust speeder will fit the cargo bay of a Corellian freighter?”
These kinds of openings add extra levels to the conversation right from the start, and they can also give you the opportunity to bring in some of your own characterization. The line about the air smelling funny can be part of a character trait you don’t just “say;” in this case that your character has heightened senses, or at least a really good sense of smell. The active tip here is to USE YOUR SURROUNDINGS. Remember, that you are on a huge space station peopled with aliens, droids and all sorts of personalities among the NPCs.
You may wonder why there are questions about shuttle departure times. Why would your character need a shuttle when they have a ship of their own? Well, maybe you RP that your character doesn’t have their own ship; or maybe they do, but they’re trying to stay under cover. Asking about transportation also gives you the possibility that the character you’re talking to will offer you a ride where you want to go. This opens up time alone aboard their ship where you can exchange background information, forge friendships, or… yes… get lucky, if that’s your thing.
In the next RP XP with MJ I’ll talk about creating involved stories in the BARP atmosphere without interrupting other people’s RP. I’ll also show you ways you can use your legacy to spice up the BARP, and how to lure quality RolePlayers into the open world and away from the bar.
((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively here on swtor-life.com. You can contact MJ directly at swtorliferp(at)gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @MJswtor. MJ answers YOUR QUESTIONS coming up in #40, so send ’em in!
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