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RPing Above or Below Game Level

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 16. 2011.


((The RP XP with MJ #4))


Veetha waited obediently for her master’s order. The Rattataki stayed in the shadows of the U’naril overpass watching as the Republic Troopers ran after the orange Twi’lek girl. Veetha pulled her black cloak tight around her shoulders. The white tattooed skin of her face glowed ghostly in the dim light beneath the hood.


Once the streets quieted and the blaster fire in the distant alleys subsided, Veetha lifted the comlink to her black lips and spoke. “Master, the Twi’lek has not returned.”


The comlink’s tiny speaker crackled. “Verify her presence, Veetha. I want to know if she’s been captured, killed or doubled back. I am in route to your position.”


“Yes, my lord, but–” Veetha bit her tongue as a droid hummed by pushing a hovercart. “But what if she doubles back? I should remain at the overpass to–“


“Find her! And do not question me again!”

Her master’s voice startled her so much Veetha snapped off the comlink, almost dropping it, and stuffed it into a pocket before tightening the cloak around her and heading toward the alley.


Some distance away, in the bar where Yulel met the Jedi Kendris, Lord Darth Tagious pondered his next move from the shadows as the neon lights and music throbbed around him, oblivious to the Sith who would soon raze the tiny port town to find and eliminate a single Twi’lek Smuggler.


Stepping out of the shadows, drawing the gray hood over his scarred pale face, Tagious glided toward the exit. By the time he reached the street, he appeared as nothing more than a black whisp of smoke.


Meanwhile, a block away, Veetha rounded a corner and peered down the alley. Ozone and duracrete dust still hung in the air. She unhooked the lightsaber from her belt and held the hilt at the ready as she moved cautiously forward.


She hadn’t gone more than three steps before a stun blast knocked her into a nearby garbage bin. As she recovered, a solid blow from a rifle stock knocked her unconscious.


The Trooper activated his helmet radio. “Wex, you’re not going to believe this. We have a–“


An invisible force lifted the Trooper into the air, his hands moving to his neck in a futile attempt to loosen the invisible vice that crushed his windpipe.


Darth Tagious appeared from the gloom of a doorway as the Trooper collapsed to the ground next to the Sith’s crumpled apprentice. His rage seething in his red eyes, Tagious grabbed Veetha by the collar of her cloak and lifted her to her feet. “Fool!”


Veetha blinked and slowly came to, her eye already beginning to bruise. “M-Master, I–“


“Shut up! I’ll handle this as I should have….”


Tagious cast his apprentice to the ground, sending her stumbling back over the body of the Trooper.







This week I thought I’d cover RolePlaying above and below your in-game level, how to do so effectively, and how to foster the suspension of disbelief to make your characterization stick. This is geared more toward the starting RPer …or the veteran who has been self-conscious about spending more time in RP and less time leveling their character.


In the opening fiction this week (a continuation from previous weeks) we were introduced to Darth Tagious and his hapless Rattataki apprentice, Veetha. By their descriptions, actions and exercises of power, you’d probably guess Tagious to be a powerful Sith, probably around Level 40 or 50, and Veetha to be around Level 11, if even that.


Guess again. Tagious is played by a relative newcomer to Star Wars: The Old Republic. He just broke Level 12. Veetha, on the other hand, is a veteran since the first Beta rolled out. She’s a power gamer maxed at Level 50 who decided to relax into her first love: RP.


But she’s a wimp! How’d this self-proclaimed “lord” push her around like that?


It’s RolePlaying. That’s how.


For the experienced RPer, this is nothing special. Part of the art of RP is, after all, projecting fiction and suspension of disbelief onto a scenario. For the one portraying a role above or below their character’s actual level, rank or ability, it takes a blend of talent and salability (In other words, you have to be CONVINCING) to make others believe you are something more than your character’s in-game “Level.”


There’s no mistaking Veetha as a submissive, weak, maybe even pitiable and bumbling apprentice. That’s because Veetha’s player has her scaled down to act like the proper underling of the terrible Darth Tagious. She throws in subtleties like bumbling behavior, chilling fear in response to her master’s voice. This doesn’t show as much in Veetha’s appearance and equipment, or even in her powers, as it does in her dialog and exposition.


As for Tagious, his fiction is a little more difficult to pull off given in-game mechanics. The Tagious character, for example, may not be able to hold his own with in-game combat. He may completely suck at PVP. He may even move slower than the other characters around him. He may not even have all the powers he exhibits in RP scenarios. RP, however, involves various levels of subtlety, so if the player is good at making Tagious believable, he’ll come off as a first rate vile Lord of the Sith (at least on the surface) through his actions, his dialog and how he presents himself to others.


Let’s take a look at some of the finer points to consider when RPing above or below your actual character abilities. These guides should help you jump into RP no matter the level of your character.




Let’s start with Darth Tagious because most RPers who consider themselves even “mildly” serious, if not hardcore, will begin RPing right out of the box from level one. As soon as they have a character, a background and someone to RP with, they’ll be ready to go.


For example, what if the story you’ve been forging in FRP (Forum RolePlay – covered in ((The RP XP with MJ #3)) took your Jedi from young Padawan through her trials and into the position of a respected Jedi in your local enclave? How do you meet up with your other friends from the enclave in-game when it launches if all you have is a drab tunic, plain pants and a practice sword?


The answer is that you “just do.” Your story hasn’t changed, and their stories haven’t changed, but chances are that your clothing and equipment — and, to be sure — your abilities have.


An excellent RPer may be rewarded by their guild with a promotion to a higher in-character level. For example, an all-Jedi guild might appreciate your style and talent and ask you to serve as a “Council Member” in their enclave at the level of “Master.” It won’t matter that your in-game skill records you at level 15; RP-wise, you are Master. All you have to do is act like one.


When it comes to clothing and equipment, don’t worry too much about it. When your character is created you’ll be given an array of choices if only just to separate you from others of your class and gender. You can choose the skins that most closely resemble the character you describe in forums or within the bio in your mind. Granted, your Smuggler may not yet have that cool hat you can get later on, but you can always claim you “left it in your ship.” Remember these simple rules: 1) People change clothes. 2) Not all Jedi dress alike. Your in-game starting wardrobe could very well simply be another ensemble among many.


As for equipment, you’re still worry-free. Most RP’d actions with “gear” will be “make believe” anyway, unless the game includes emotes for drinking (using a cup), repairing (using a tool), or showing off (twirling your lightsaber), you’ll simply describe your gear in the context of your RP. For example, “Veetha pulls a comlink from the folds of her robe sleeve and activates her locator beacon,” or “Yulel takes a hydrospanner from her tool belt and begins repairing the landing strut.”


The only caution I have is to avoid terms or descriptions that break the image because they’re out-of-place in the Star Wars universe. Say “comlink” not “cell phone.” Say “speeder” instead of “car.” Say “tool” when you’re using a tool but drawing a blank on something that sounds Star-Warsy. The only other piece of advice: Keep It Simple. If you enter an RP scene beginning with, “((Okay, Imagine my character is wearing super bad ass armor like you get at level 50 because he’s a bad ass and runs his own Smugglers’ Union)).” No. One of the first rules of fiction writing is, SHOW. DON’T TELL. In other words, communicate your character’s RP persona through your actions and dialog, not by holding imaginary expectations over everyone else’s head.




All the same rules apply for RPing under your actual game level, but it will be easier to play down because you already have all the toys (clothing, armor, gear, weapons, powers) at your disposal and can presumably “dress down” as you RP down. All you need to do is refrain from using what you have. If you’re a Padawan who hasn’t yet made his first lightsaber (RP-wise), don’t use the one you received in-game. Refer to an older weapon or none at all, and keep your lightsaber hidden during RP.




I’ve been asked why someone who is a level 50 would want to pretend (RP) to be a lowly (insert class here). The short answer is because it extends the life of your character, gives them room for growth and, more importantly, change.

Here are some good reasons for playing under-level.

• Starting “younger” means you’ll get to forge your character’s growth with things they actually do in-game or through RP.

• You’ll be able to adapt in-game experiences as part of your character’s history and experience.

• It’s easier to join RP groups if you don’t waltz in with a chip of superiority on your shoulder. Humble is good.

• If you’re in an RP guild, or plan to join one, “earn” your place by working up the ladder. Start small. Stay strong. Buld persona.

• Inexperienced classes have their own brand of “fun.” The snarky Padawan, angrily-ambitious Apprentice or the ambiguously-aligned Bounty Hunter can be interesting personalities to explore.

• If you haven’t really thought out your RP persona, starting at an early point of your character’s history gives you time to think about how they’ll develop as well as give you an option to change your mind (people /do/ change as they gain experience and age).


As with anything, communication is key. If you have questions or doubts about playing your character at, above or below their in-game level, talk to your guild leader, a friend or a fellow RPer about it.


The bottom line is, “don’t sweat it.” RolePlay is “writing and directing.” Being something you’re not is par for the course, and that goes for playing outside the game’s dynamics.


RolePlayers are an understanding bunch brimming with talent, creativity and imagination. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


Have a great week, everyone! Happy “Blinking Ewok Day!”


NEXT TIME – RP with Companion Characters.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “RPing Above or Below Game Level”

  1. SWTOR: RPing Above or Below Game Levelon 17 Sep 2011 at 1:35 pm

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  2. Aldricon 17 Sep 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Great read. This is something though I’ve never been able to do in a mmo. Especially when it comes to growth of an RP personae while ignoring the leveling aspect of the game.

    I’m interested in hearing your advice on how to find (or make) such opportunities with strangers in a game. I’ve tried joining a few “RP” guilds over the many years, but none really worked at all. (or maybe it was just me….)

  3. MJon 19 Sep 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Aldric, thanks for the reply!

    I’m sure I’ll be covering more in the future about relationships in and out of guilds (both IC and OOC). As to advice for finding (or making) RP relationships with others in-game, begin by having your character’s personality and back story down. You have to have a ‘self’ before you introduce your’self’ 😉

    In a future column, I’ll go through the countless ways you can introduce yourself to other RPers and how to find them out “in the wild.” Stay tuned.