((The RP XP with MJ #22))
Ord Mantell was generally no place for a crazy Twi’lek girl, especially with all the territorial squabbling between the Republic and the unpredictably superior separatists, but that’s where Yulel ended up.
She waved to the Gand pilot and ducked out from under the hot vents of his ship’s repulsors just as the small vessel lifted off and banked up into the clouds.
“Hey! Idiot! You almost took my head off!” She called up to the receding dot of a ship as it vanished. She pulled the straps of her pack so that it rested snugly against her shoulder blades and muttered, “I know you were in a hurry to leave, but that’s no reason to–“
The blaster bolt whizzed by Yulel’s head and stung her tchun as she twisted and dove behind a large rock nestled in an overgrowth of brush. Bolts continued to thump into the ground around her, crack at her stone cover and blaze through the air as she rolled off her back and scrambled to dig the blaster out of her pack.
A surly voice called out, “She’s over this way!” just before another barrage of fire chopped the heavy brush of foliage around her hiding place.
The shooting stopped just as she readied her blaster. Yulel lay on her back with the weapon pointed at the sky between her knees. She didn’t want to risk getting up or even moving for fear she’d become an instant target again. Instead, she waited for them to come to her.
Through gritted teeth she promised, “Just try it seppy scum… Just try it.”
It feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it? You and some friends get together for a little RolePlay laced with GamePlay and you have a mob spawn right on top of you during one of your big soliloquies.
There are generally three main types of group RP: The Staged Play, The Dramatic Improv and The Productive RP.
The Staged Play is a predetermined scenario you invent between friends where certain outcomes need to be established before the RP begins. “I want to encounter your character on Planet X and have a duel with you, but the loser should get away with their life,” is a simple example of how a Staged Play RP might start. While your dialog and emotes during the duel will be ad lib, the end result of a draw is predetermined. The purpose of this particular kind of RP may simply be to entertain onlookers or to fulfill an action sequence that had been building in your group’s Forum RP, or even to settle a bet.
The only predeterminer of The Dramatic Improv is the location, and that location must be secure and PvP-free. The back corner of a cantina, a dark alley or — better yet — you or your RP partner’s ship interior. There’s no fighting, no necessity for predetermined anything. It’s just a Jedi instructing his Padawan, or a Bounty Hunter trading gear with her partner, or a small group of troopers shooting the bull about their last operation, or a Sith Warrior turning up the charm in an effort to capture the heart of a lovely Imperial Agent. Everything is natural, improvised and typically closed. Like real life conversations, anything can happen. An argument can break out, a deal can be struck, a date can be made.
This article is about the third form of group RP: The Productive RP. I call it “productive” because it’s essentially “playing the game” with some RolePlay and characterization thrown in and pretty much the only way you can actually gain XP while RPing.
BioWare has done such an awesome job with that “Fourth Pillar” thing of theirs that it would be a shame to ignore it and keep all the RP to yourselves. Why not get a group together and RP your way through some Heroic areas or share some class quests? Why not? Because it can be a pain in the lekku, that’s why. The question is: Is there a way to make it less painful?
I get together with my guildmates every Sunday evening and we take a foursome to do just that. We RP introductions between our characters and roll out stories for the trooper, Jedi, Consular and smuggler. It’s been interesting so far. The Jedi is something of a bigoted alien amongst her human companions and has trouble understanding the simple concept of humor. The smuggler, on the other hand, is a brash profiteer who cracks jokes and makes snide comments as the mood strikes him. The chemistry between them is ripe for lighthearted tension or conflict. Meanwhile, the trooper is the strong silent type often distracted by Twi’lek holodancers, though he’s usually all business and pro-Republic no matter the cost. And the Jedi Consular is a young and inexperienced Padawan under the protection of the humorless Jedi.
Sounds like an interesting group, doesn’t it? Lots of possibility for interaction and unique side stories to unfurl on their journey every week. Will the Jedi slip toward the Dark Side? Will sexual tension build between the smuggler and Jedi? Will the trooper break his stoney silence and come to the aide of the young female Consular who is often shaken by the uncharacteristic actions of the Jedi Sentinel assigned to protect her? Will there be jealousy? Corruption? Or will this band of misfits come together with a singular purpose to thwart evil in the galaxy?
Yeah, that’s all blue milk and cookies, but how can you clearly keep all that together when Imperials, Justicars or rakghouls are spawning all around you?
Here are some tips that will get you through the daily grind without it grinding on your RP quality. Understandably, everyone wants to gain XP (Yes, even us RPers), so my tips aren’t made to help you avoid gaining XP or loot. Consider these tips for avoiding world conflict or PVE distractions while you RP. You can always “switch to OOC” and chop through mobs just to get the loot and XP if you want to.
These tips are more for the hard core RolePlayer who likes to enforce realism in their world (it’s not likely a mob you just killed would spontaneously resurrect, in other words).
1. Stick to the middle of the road.
As you move through an area on your class quests you’ll notice that enemy mobs pretty much loiter in clusters off the beaten path. In some cases, you actually have to seek them out to get XP off them. You can avoid them by moving straight down the middle of the street or path. If your RP group is trying to backtrack through an area and don’t want to be bothered with re-fighting your way through, watch for telltale “secret paths” and seams. The docks on Coruscant, for example, are usually loaded with equipment. Did you know you could hug the rail and sneak around behind the crates to get to the mob boss without fighting through the mob?
2. Watch for smoke and bodies.
You may come across an open area with no mobs and think it would be a good time to stop and launch into some RP. Not so fast. If someone had already blazed through, they could have wiped the slate clean, in which case you’ll soon find yourself standing on a re-spawn point for enemies. If it’s a big boss, it could be several long minutes before the respawn, but — boom! — you’re in the middle of discussing the smuggler’s inability to read a map when a 40-ton rogue droid suddenly appears where your trooper is standing. Kind of immersion breaking, ain’t it? Just keep your eyes open. Watch for NPC bodies or heaps of broken smoking war droids or turret debris. Sometimes — especially in the case of bosses — the bodies will disappear several long seconds before the enemy respawns. Sometimes enemies respawn over their old corpses. You just have to keep your eyes open for the signs. And be suspicious of areas that make you think, “This would be a good place for an enemy encounter,” because it probably is.
3. Look for RP “safe areas.”
Get used to taking mental note of where enemies don’t typically appear. The thin gaps between crates and railings on Coruscant, like I mentioned in No. 1, are mob-safe and even break line-of-site. The mid-point of any ramp or incline is also typically enemy-free. Study your main map and look for small junctions or corridors that link two or more giant quest areas. These junctions hold neutral NPCs or even medical supply droids and are the best bet for “take a break to RP” moments.
4. Target everything… just to make sure.
The most perfect example of this sneaky trick by BioWare can be found in Justicar territory on Coruscant. If you left-click an enemy you typically get a red reticule and I.D. that lets you know they’re a bad guy and will shoot you if you get too close. However, there are a lot of NPCs occupying the same area who highlight as yellow or neutral. They won’t bother you unless you attack them first. The sneakiness comes into play when these NPCs dress or act a lot like the enemy mobs in the same area. They generally occupy areas that “bleed over” into the street and cause you to swing wide as you pass through. This invariably “pushes” you into a legitimate encounter. Had you stuck to the middle of the road, you would have gone by these “Informants,” “Loaders,” or “Militia Conscripts” without incident. (NOTE: This tip is useful if you’re playing with Nameplates turned OFF. If you’re a solid RPer I’m assuming that’s the case for you. Floaty names are so immersion-breaking 😉 )
5. Establish a plan of attack in OOC and designate a party leader.
If you don’t have a party leader, everyone will scatter at the first run-in with an enemy mob. Your healer will lose line-of-site or get separated, or your ranged DPS will get trounced when he wanders into a boss zone. Plan out your positions, roles and leadership Out Of Character before moving into an area and you’ll eliminate a lot of these problems. Remember: RPer though you may be, if you plan to do some Productive RP, you’ll have to wear your gamer shoes.
My group is still hammering out the kinks, but we’re starting to find our stride. Flashpoints are much easier to manage with Productive RP because they’re relatively linear and broken into “acts” like a play. Open world stuff can be a little more challenging. I hope these tips help you in your next Productive RP group session. Write to me and let me know how it goes!
Now log in and start writing that next adventure.
MJ’s column ((The RP XP with MJ)) publishes right here on swtor-life.com every Friday. You can follow him on Twitter (@MJswtor) or contact him directly at swtorliferp(at)gmail.com. He strives to answer every email and, if you have a good idea, suggestion or hot tip, he’ll add it to the column.
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