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Published by under Role Play on Jan. 10. 2014.

((The RP XP with MJ #57))


There is a RolePlay technique that’s incredibly easy to perfect and adds countless options to your RP affectations. It’s also extremely easy to master. The technique is called “blocking,” and it’s something you’re already familiar with if you’ve ever seen a movie, play or television show.


Did you ever notice the way people stand or face, particularly on TV in comedies or live audience productions where the sets are essentially three walls with the fourth wall open to accommodate the audience and/or the camera? In the original days of stage plays, directors had their casts play directly to the audience, marking positions for them to stand, angles for them to face, and props or furniture for them to use that would establish their positions on the stage. That’s called “blocking” and it’s used regularly in TV and film. Establishing locations for actors to sit or stand, or setting directions for them to move, helps the cinematographer establish mood and scene (as well as focus and knowing where to point the camera).


The same techniques can be applied to your RP.




Let’s start by examining the stage where your RP will take place. Whether you’re just diving in to some random extraneous BARPing (Bar RP) around a cantina, or setting a scene inside a hangar, spaceport or back alley on Nar Shaddaa, there are some considerations to make based on your expectations for the story. Naturally, you can’t expect everyone in your RP group to understand the blocking technique, but you can at least establish yourself on the stage and use the technique effectively.


If you are hosting the RP, consider the following: Will there be any action to the scenario? Will your RP group expect to move around in this location, perhaps to search for something, or to attack spawning mobs nearby? Or, is this simply a conversation piece with the area selected for mood, perhaps under a chilly mountainside on Alderaan, a dusty cave on Korriban or a landing platform on Makeb?


Make sure you know ahead of time what’s expected of the scene and position your character accordingly. If you are the one hosting or “GMing” the scenario and you’re using one of your own characters as an NPC catalyst for the story, use your character to herd your RP “actors” into the area for optimal exposition. Choose a location for the  mood of your scene. Keep general lighting in mind, whether or not the scene takes place indoors or outside, and whether or not the ambient sound of the location makes sense (the sky traffic of Coruscant, for example, or the thunder and rain of Dromund Kaas). Now that you’re on the stage, set your stance and block your character.


NOTE: Not everyone has a computer with a top-of-the-line graphics card, and even some who do don’t run with shadows turned on. “Natural” shading caused by the shifting shadows of trees or buildings will make for great settings, but they’re also very taxing on your graphics card. Don’t assume everyone you RP with has their shading set to max and their shadows turned on.





As your character enters a scene, or bellies up to the bar, keep natural actions in mind. Bar patrons, for example, may step up to the bar and rest their arms on it, or lean on it, or set their palms on it–perhaps raising a hand to flag down the tender droid. Obviously, these actions have to be described in your exposition using the emote command “/e” prior to describing your action. Since BARPing is the most common form of casual RP, I’ll use that as my basis for examples going forward.


Other actions upon approaching a bar may include looking around the room, checking out the other patrons, or keeping your eyes straight ahead in an unspoken warning that you’re minding your own business. You’ve established the setting, you have your stance; now to consider engagement and blocking.





Here is where many RPers drop the ball because of a missed RP-friendly setting in your preferences.


NOTE: It helps if you set your preferences to “Deselect Target upon Clicking on Terrain.” See below:


Now you can left-click on a character, or some interactive NPCs (like vendors), and your character’s head will turn to face that individual. In some instances, though in my experience it seems random, NPCs will even look back at you. You can cancel the action, or “face forward” by simply clicking on empty terrain.


Many RPers simply turn their entire character to face yours during a conversation. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but even a cursory glance from a distance will make them appear as though they’re staring blankly at your character’s forehead, over their shoulder, or at some point on a far wall. Blocking correctly will increase the immersion factor and make even the simplest conversations seem interesting and cinematic. Just turning a character’s full body to face another can be problematic when you consider different headgear and body type options. While the character creator doesn’t allow for different height options, some avatars are taller than others by default. Clicking on a taller character will actually make your character look up, or down to shorter ones, (as long as you’re not too close or too far away for the mechanic to register).


This comes in handy if you want your character to come off as curious, creepy or intense, depending on how you utilize the left-click on a moving target. Try the left-click on an NPC (like the droids that patrol the space stations) and observe how your character’s head slowly turns to follow them. As long as you don’t click off the individual, your character’s head will snap back and pick them up as they come around for another pass, always keeping them in focus until line-of-sight is broken.





Any time my character is in a scene or conversation, I never turn my avatar to completely face that person (unless the intensity of the scene requires it; for example, if my Sith Lord is getting in the face of his apprentice, glaring down and snarling at him). Instead, try this:


Position your character approximately 45 degrees to the character yours is addressing. If there is more than one character in the group, face the approximate “middle” of the group. You can then alternately left-click on different individuals to show your character’s attention moving from person to person (or conversely, away from everyone to look at something in the distance). This is also a great use for pets. Clicking on ground pets will cause your character to look down and track them, flying pets will cause your character to look up or to the side.


In instances where more than one person is speaking, you can simply left-click on the speaker to show your character turning his/her attention their way. Your character’s head will turn to face the speaker. This will add an extra dimension of activity in groups of three or more to show your character’s involvement even when they aren’t emoting or speaking. Practice different combinations of body facing and left-clicking to see what kinds of effects you can achieve.


In one-on-one scenes, use the 45-degree angle technique to establish “asides.” For example, click on the character yours is addressing and say, “I know what you’re saying about Apprentice Bartol….” Now click off of their character on to empty terrain. “…Someone needs to talk to him.” The effect comes off as though your character is suddenly looking into the distance, as if in a daydream, while they ponder what needs to be done with Bartol.


See? Easy. Now practice your clicking and blocking and let me know how it goes.


((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively on You can contact MJ directly at, or follow him on Twitter @MJswtor. Every email is read, every question answered. MJ is also the author of the e-book Clockwork Looking Glass, a Steampunk adventure fantasy. If you’d like to check it out, click on the ad on this page.

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The Letter Exercise: Happy Holidays

Published by under Role Play on Dec. 06. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #56))

There’s an exercise I do to help me keep characters updated, strong and easily accessible. It’s the same exercise a lot of novelists use to keep multiple personalities from falling apart as they write their stories. I call it The Letter Exercise.


Whether you have one strong character, or a dozen or more characters with varying personalities, desires and goals, this exercise will help you to keep their voices strong and their direction clear. All you have to do is write a letter to yourself AS YOUR CHARACTER(S). It doesn’t matter if you’re putting pencil to paper or opening up a gmail pane, writing yourself a letter from the perspective of a fictional character will help you breathe life into your RP by keeping your character’s voice alive and LOUD.


Once you get into it, you’ll see how easy it is. Start by asking your characters a question, or give them an order. For the purpose of this exercise, I asked each of my characters to send holiday greetings to readers of the RP XP. Let’s see what I — I mean they — came up with. You’ll notice that some of the responses are short; some may even come off as “snotty,” but that’s the whole point of this exercise. Let your characters be who they are. Don’t force them to say or do more than they would naturally. You’ll see what I mean…


DISCLAIMER: The following are the views, opinions or languages of playing characters in Star Wars The Old Republic. They are not the opinions, views or language of MJ. …See what I did there?




Lord Solax of Khar Delba –

“Greetings, readers of this datacron. I ask you all to raise a glass in toast. To power and wealth… kia midwan ir fasuna.” He grins wickedly, stroking one of the crimson tendrils of his chin. “Here’s wishing death to your enemies.” He sits back in a wide throne-like chair. “No, on second thought… stai kash geidamas xela kia tu’iea.” He grins wickedly, translating, “Wishing pain to your enemies.”


Meurika Khar Delba, Apprentice (and daughter) to Lord Solax –

She folds her arms over her chest and smirks, yellow eyes glinting. “Die, worms. That’s the best you’ll get from me.”


Leftenant Rhenda Nivan Khord, Personal Pilot to Lord Solax, Naval Wing Commander –

“May whatever season you enjoy bring you peace in times of war, laughter in times of sadness, and strength where you need it.” She click-snaps her heels together and bows at the waist. “Long live the Emperor, and long may you live as well.”


Elayka’nei’horwi, Slave of Meurika –

“ran dotkot bu yuna see nai che uba tah jedahkacs. Koee uba bai doth waueoo an tee.” ((Here’s wishing you happiness and health this holiday. Be well.)) She bows humbly, averting her eyes and smiling weakly. 

MJ SIDEBAR: Pretty cool, huh? If you’re interested in how to capture authentic Huttese, Ryl, Sith, Mando, Cant or other “real” Star Wars languages, check out my column from August 30: Enhance Your RP with Authentic SW Languages. <- handy link 😉


Captain Teivel Hearse, Hired Slave Wrangler for the Solax Estate –

He nods, giving a two-fingered salute from the brim of his battered work cap. “Hey there. Stay safe, keep your blasters charged, and — if you can — try to avoid the Perlemaian Trade Route this time of year. Pirates all over the damn place.”


Colonel Sevis Adren Hearse-Lekko, Former District Head of the Department of Imperial-Sith Affairs and Daughter of Teivel Hearse –

“How do you do?” She stands straight, tugging down on her uniform tunic. “Enjoy what peace you can as the Imperial Fleet protects your homelands. May the Force free you.” She turns back to the wide viewport of the destroyer, looking out over the milky wash of stars.


Leftenant Mantee Ved, Kiffar Aide to Colonel Lekko –

He turns from his position next to Colonel Lekko and bows slightly at the waist. “Holiday greetings, everyone. I echo the sentiments of the Colonel and wish you all the best. May your lives be filled with the pleasures of the season and your meals be filled with flavour.” He flinches as Colonel Lekko nudges him. “Sorry… It’s an old Kiffar prayer of well-wish–” He stops as he’s nudged again, bows slightly and turns back to stand at attention next to his commander.


Grayce (Gray) “Shiver” Quinlan, Former Apprentice to Lord Solax –

She gazes hard from one red eye, the other covered with a black metal patch. As she runs one artificial black gloved hand over her cheek, she smiles darkly. “I’ll tell you what… I won’t kill you.” After a pause she cracks a smile and mutters, “Merry Sithmas… huh… that’s funny.”


Peryl Lo’Ron, Daughter of Colonel Lekko and Self-proclaimed “The Ghost of Hutta” –

“Hey! How ya doin’?” She smiles showing yellow and brown teeth, a dirty contrast in her powder-white bald head. She scratches at a scab on her neck. “Well, hey… Hope your kills are clean, and uh… well… ya know… all that stuff.” Then she points her fingers like guns and squeaks, “Pew pew!”


Ulla Nymn, Umbaran Assassin Formerly Employed by Lord Solax, Now Working For Sevis Lekko –

At first there’s nothing, only darkness. It could be a shadow between two stanchions on a refueling station somewhere, or a darkness rustling in the trees on the night side of Taris. Then… a flash, a pair of bright white eyes emerge and a soft, harsh, raspy voice says, “Be well. Be gone.”






Jedi Master Kylen Khord-Sarvas, Council of the Taris Enclave –

She bows deeply from the waist. “May the Force be with you this holiday season, and my your family and friends gather around you in the spirit of peace and harmony.”


Jedi Consular Daelu’mi’sarvas, Jedi Librarian and Half Brother to Elayka’nei’horwi and Kylen Sarvas –

“Greetings!” he shouts with a bright smile, turning quickly, his lekku flaring out behind him. Laughing, he says, “Good day to you all, and may peace be yours for your holiday. Um, and may your days be filled with knowledge and your nights with sweet dreams.”


Jedi Knight Kes’eri’ktarloo, Half-Chiss Son of Teivel Hearse and Student of Daelu’mi’sarvas –

“May the Force be with you.” He nods crisply before motioning to his astromech droid to follow, then turns and strides down the main hall of the Jedi Archive on Ossus.


Sergeant Syrico “Trash” Quinlan, Sister of Colonel Sevis Lekko and Half-Sister of Grayce Quinlan, Communications Officer for the 81st Armored Recon –

Laughs and chews the soggy butt of a cigar. “How the hell are ya?” She pulls the cigar from her teeth and sets it aside before resuming repairs on a portable scanner. “Don’t take any munk from any spacers, mind your own kriffin’ business, and have a happy kriffin’ Life Day… or whatever-the-kriff!”


Elayo’lei’horwi, Twin Sister of Elayka’nei’horwi, Half Sister of Daelu’mi’sarvas, Droid Parts Dealer for Czerka Corp. –

“Hiya, mi pateesa!!!” She bounces on her heels, excitedly waving, then crosses her arms and leans against a gleaming protocol droid. “Hey, I hope you have a wizard time this holiday! Cecil and mi will keep the space lanes clear for ya.” She adjusts the goggles on her cap and elbows the droid. “Right, See?”


L-K0, Assassin-Programmed Android Constructed From Colonel Lekko’s Fallen Husband, Cmdr. Tanz Lekko, Reconstructed by the Empire, Liberated by the Republic –

A low hum emits from the grill-like faceplate, the only movement a slight nod.


Ambassador Whardon Lotz, Senator Pro-tem of Kiffex, Father of Mantee, Retired Military Officer –

“It is nice to see you. I hope your holiday celebrations — be they Christmas, Life Day or the Annual Passing of the G’cari M’tril — are filled with love, respect and honor.” He draws a deep breath, smoothing out the colorful robes of state. “Remember to think of others this time of year, particularly those unfortunate souls who find themselves victims of the Empire’s cold annexation practices. If you’d like to help out, a donation can be sent to my office on Coruscant–“


Captain Bendaru “Uncle Benny” Khord, Personal Pilot (and Blockade Runner) for Ambassador Lotz, Brother to Rhenda Khord –

“Hey.” He grunts as he plops his girth down on a crate in the hangar just outside his ship. “Remember what it’s all about: Good food, good friends, good drink.” He winks and flashes a smile.


Fallen Jedi Knight Rejira Lightsong ((Rejira Nightsong Imp-side)), former Jedi Knight –

Pulls back her hood revealing a crown of horns and the thin lines of her facial tattoos. Her yellow eyes blink once, twice, then she bows her head slightly without saying a word.


Lieutenant J.G. Ahmira Gin, Zelosian Republic Naval Reservist, and Freelance Bounty Hunter Working for Ambassador Lotz –

“Hi there, red bloods.” She winks as she steps out into the sunlight on Voss. “You do what you gotta do, then move on. That’s the only way to celebrate anything. Oh… and drink a lot, I suppose.”



I’d like to thank all of my “children” and add my own well-wishes. Whatever you celebrate, wherever it takes you, happy holidays and here’s to a fun filled 2014! I can’t say for sure whether or not there will be an RP XP 57 before the new year. If not, I’ll see you on the other side. There’s only one way to be sure… You have to stay tuned.

Right, Gray?

Lilting laughter, quite unlike a Sith apprentice, then: “Merry Sithmas… That is sooooooo funny!”


((The RP XP with MJ appears on Fridays right here on If you’d like more information about RP, want to know how to get started, or if you’re looking for a supportive RP Guild, drop MJ a line at swtorrp(at) You can also follow MJ on Twitter @MJswtor. Happy holidays, and May the Force be with you!))


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Building Your Story: Casting Call

Published by under Role Play on Mar. 02. 2012.

((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?”

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Cosmetic Gear – How important is it to you?

Published by under Game Mechanics,gameplay,Role Play on Nov. 09. 2011.

As I have shown in a previous article – Is “She” really a “She”? Female Gamers and Gender Bending in MMORPGs – 60 percent of MMO players have role-played. But, even among those who haven’t, I think most can say that they have happened upon that one gear set that really struck them as “perfect” for their character. Either it was perfectly menacing, evil, just, good, sweet, innocent or any one of a million different adjectives, but whatever it was that made it that way, it was perfect for their character.

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Is “She” really a “She”? Female Gamers and Gender Bending in MMORPGs by Daelda

Published by under Editorial,Role Play on Nov. 02. 2011.

NOTE: I wrote this Article originally on October 20th. The next morning, just before I was about to publish it, I saw the Article MJ published on our Site, “The Female Character, The Male Player” which – while not identical to mine, covered much of the same ground. So I decided to hold off publishing my Article, at least for a little while. Well, the topic has popped up again on the swtor Forums, and it has been a couple weeks since his Article, so here is mine. I hope you enjoy.

One topic that I have seen come up again and again on MMO Forums is the subject of females in MMOs and “gender bending” – or playing a gender that you aren’t in real life. A male playing a female or a female playing a male. The old joke goes that GIRL stands for Guy In Real Life – and maybe that was true not that long ago, but is it true today? And does it matter if it is? Let’s start by finding out just who it is that actually plays Video Games – and more specifically, MMOs.

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The Female Character, The Male Player

Published by under Role Play on Oct. 21. 2011.

((The RP XP with MJ #9))

The bounty hunter looked over at the agent as her fingers danced across the controls of the ship. The engines rumbled to life and the entire ship began to shake as the coiled energy above the landing struts began to take offense to gravity.

Jenla Ruf pulled back on the control yoke and punched the switch to retract the ramp and landing gear. She glanced at Boarsch as the ship stopped rumbling and hung in the air a few feet above the spaceport. “What?” she glared, her red Chiss eyes flashing.

Boarsch only shrugged one shoulder. He looked out the forward viewport and considered this tiny planet’s sunset as the ship slowly ascended.

Just above the roof line of the spaceport, Jenla slapped a switch on the console and the ship bounced slightly as it hovered. Then she turned in the captain’s seat toward him. “No. Seriously, Boarsch. What?”

He matched her glare for a moment before drawing a breath. “It’s just that I don’t even know you some times. One minute you’re all dark and businesslike when we’re trying to get the information out of that Twi’lek girl, then we’re having sex–”

“Making love,” she corrected, still glaring but with one eyebrow raised.

“Whatever–then you turn into Jawa jelly when Darth Tagious barges in, then you’re telling me to shut-up.”

The ship continued to hover. She continued to glare.


Jenla blinked. “I love you, Mandalorian. Don’t change who you are.” Then she punched the thrusters on the ship and it lurched forward, angling up and around the spaceport as she checked the scanners.

Boarsch crossed his arms and sighed, turning his glare to the forward viewport.

It didn’t take long for Agent Ruf to find what she was looking for. She identified the flashes of blue and red bouncing off the walls of buildings on a nearby street to be the signs of a lightsaber duel. Grinning, she told Boarsch, “Charge up the main gun.”

“What? What are you–?”

“Do it!”
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Playing Without The Game. The Art of FRP

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 09. 2011.

((The RP XP With MJ #3))

Yulel threw her back against a wall and winced when she pinched her lekku against the hard stone surface. Drawing her blaster, she risked a peek around the corner. There were no
signs of the Republic Troopers who were chasing her. “Next time,” she muttered to herself, “You boys should get lighter armor.”

Slowly, the Twi’lek smuggler backed down the alley, blaster at the ready, and tried to force a mental map to surface in her mind, to give her bearings and direction toward the spaceport and her meeting with the Jedi Kendriss.

At a cross junction in the alley, she stopped and turned to look in every direction. The side alleys were dark and didn’t look to open back up into streets. They led to the service entrances of the businesses here. There was no way she could–

“You! Hold it!”

Yulel gasped and turned toward the trooper’s voice augmented through his helmet P.A. She raised her blaster and fired off a couple warning shots.

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“You have taken your first step into a larger world.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 05. 2011.

((The RP XP with MJ))

First, a quick thank you to everyone who responded to my first article, “A Jedi Walks Into a Bar….” It’s great to see so much response to my intro and the subject of RP. In fact, I was so moved by the awesome questions and comments, I decided to jump the gun on Friday’s article and give you something else to chew over until then. If you’re new to RP, this is for you.

Four Imperial soldiers stood in formation on the action deck of the destroyer Shroud. Only one of them would be chosen for promotion and a field assignment that would grant limitless power through complete autonomy. Only one would be given the position of Imperial Agent.

As the colonel approached to inspect the four officers, each one stiffened even more than they already were.

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