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Published by under Role Play on Oct. 11. 2013.



How to Deal With Time, Age and Destiny in Your RP

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 20. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #48))


There’s one aspect of RolePlay that can put RP “purists” as well as casual RPers on edge. It’s something we typically take for granted in the real world, but it’s also something that we stress about: deadlines, dates, anniversaries, calendars, aging…


In short: Time. Age. Destiny.


Do your characters grow old? Should they? Do they age the same way you do, faster, slower or not at all? How do you handle changes in the game history? Do you adapt with them, set your own or ignore them all together? No matter how you address the passage of time, the important thing to keep in mind is to make sure you and your RP partners are all on the same page.




Realistically speaking, 7 p.m. on Tatooine isn’t 7 p.m. on Nar Shaddaa. The clock we all know and love is based on the 24-hour rotation of our planet, divided into 12-hour a.m. and p.m. cycles. Every planet’s rotation, real or imagined, is different. Some may have longer days, others longer nights. And it follows that weeks, months and years won’t be as we’d expect either..


Fortunately, the Star Wars universe exists in a fantasy land that lets us launch from one planet and land on another “a little later.” Star Wars is about the mythology, characters and story. It’s not hard science fiction.




Remember, it’s about the story and the character. Saying, “I’ll meet you later on Voss,” or “Meet me in three hours at the spaceport” are viable terms when you consider the following:


“Meet you later on Voss” infers that the passage of time and the established appointment are understood as part of whatever story you’re spinning. More specific units of time (“Meet me in three hours”) are perfectly acceptable if you’re in the same general area–or even on the same planet. You can simply suspend disbelief when it comes to persnickety issues related to time zones and “daylight savings time.” When using units of measure like minutes, hours or days locally, it’s understood that you’re referring to “local time,” and you can safely assume that everyone knows that an hour on Taris is equal to 47 minutes on Tython (yeah, I made that up), the same way you can safely assume that everyone speaks “Basic.”


As for longer periods of time, I make general references to the local moon (or moons) by using the word “cycle.” If a character says something like, “I haven’t been to Ord Mantell in three cycles,” you can assume it’s a span of time roughly equivalent to a three months “local time.” You can still say “year” or “years” and no one will bat an eye. Our favorite galactic farm boy whined about wanting to go to the academy “this year,” and Uncle Owen referred to an academy “semester,” so generalities are all understood no matter where you are.




As for hour-by-hour “clock” references, Trooper and Agent classes can probably pull off “military time” quite easily. Having your Havoc Squad Sergeant tell another trooper, “I’ll meet you at the bunker at 0700” is perfectly fine for indicating time in-character. It sounds good and it makes sense. It doesn’t have to be exact relative to the location of the sun on whatever planet you’re on (as the day-night cycle is static no matter where you are). Making specific references to a 12-hour clock, however, tends to break immersion and pull you out of the fantasy of the situation. “Let’s meet back at my ship at 8 p.m.” The terms “a.m.” and “p.m.” are Latin references “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem” referring to before and after mid-day. They’re too real-life specific and don’t fit in the Star Wars parlance. Chances are, if your character refers to an a.m. or p.m. time, the other players are likely to get confused and think you’re speaking about time outside the game. You can easily replace specific times with the more general use of hours and minutes. “Let’s meet back at my ship in three hours.” Period.




When you designed your character you undoubtedly had an age in mind. Whether you’re playing a “punk kid” 21-year-old Smuggler, a 33-year-old Imperial Operative, or a 54-year-old Jedi Master, you have a very specific chronology from which to work. Your characters began their journey in the Old Republic about 10 years after the Imperial sacking of Coruscant. Based on that, you know your Smuggler was only 11, your Agent was 23 and your Jedi Master was 44 at the time the Treaty of Coruscant was blown away in a wave of Imperial fire.




While nearly every reference to Star Wars time uses “BBY” or “ABY” (Before/After the Battle of Yavin–with the understanding that this was the first really big event in the first Star Wars anything ever), it doesn’t fit in “our” time. There’s no way anyone would know a battle will take place near Yavin 3,000 years from now. Fortunately, we have a similar reference to use in the Old Republic: BTC and ATC (Before/After the Treaty of Coruscant) is an acceptable reference. That’s roughly 3653 BBY, BTW. The Treaty of Coruscant, which lead to the sacking of same, would make “today” 10 ATC. That means our 21-year-old Smuggler was born 11 BTC, or eleven years before the Treaty of Coruscant.


I personally prefer to use the “Galactic Standard Calendar,” which was founded some 25,000 years before the events of Yavin, and 22,000 years before the time of the Old Republic. Going by GST (Galactic Standard Time), the Treaty of Coruscant happened in GS21400. That may seem like a lot of numbers, but isn’t it more “universally specific” to say your Smuggler was born GS21389 rather than 11 BTC? Another problem with using ATC/BTC is that not all sentient societies would necessarily recognize the Treaty of Coruscant as a universal constant. It’s not based on the movement of stars and planets in the galaxy. It’s a historical reference. As earth-shattering as 9/11 was to the Western World, I doubt the rest of the world would appreciate time calculations based on B911 or A911. Can we honestly say that the Chiss Ascendancy, as independent as they are, would openly acknowledge the Treaty of Coruscant as a basis for measuring the years?


Think of the GS calendar as the “metric system” of time in the Old Republic. Everyone uses it. To mark events in your character’s life based on the Galactic Standard, just work backwards from now. “Today” is… GS21410.




If you’ve been playing (and RolePlaying) the same character since SWTOR’s launch in 2011, your character has aged 2 years. True or False?




In an ongoing fantasy story, heroes and villains are (or should be) ageless. Frozen in time, your feisty female trooper will always be 24 because that’s how you envision her. Age brings on aging, and who wants to have a character celebrate their “over the hill” birthday or realize that they’re no longer the spunky teenage Smuggler you created them to be. That mystique of that character is gone. You should also consider that time probably stops, or skips a period of time, when you’re not in game.




You can maintain the “age” of your character by using vague references out-of-character. If another character asks, “How old are you, bounty hunter?” you can reply OOCly with “((He’s in his 20’s, but I don’t have a specific age in mind)).” Or, you can answer ICly with a story about how your character was orphaned and never knew his age, and never celebrated a birthday. You can also pick an age and stick with it. It’s doubtful your character will be asked more than once how old they are by the same person. The adventures you weave together are what’s important, not your birthday.


It’s generally good practice to have an understanding between you and your RP partners that you’re aging (or not aging) your character. One example of where you’d need to have a joint agreement is if your character and another, played by a different player, get married and have children. Let’s say you want your children to become “playable characters” sooner rather than later. It will mean a drastic change to take your 21-year-old Smuggler to 39 in order to play his 18-year-old son. Granted, there’s a lot of fun you can have by building a rapid legacy, but you’re also removing a lot of world experiences from the father or mother characters. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons.




I saw this happen in another MMORPG: A female character approached a male character and proclaimed, “I’m your daughter!” It threw everyone for a loop because we just celebrated the birth of his daughter in an RP the previous month. Huh!? The player could have used “magic” or “weird science” to explain the rapid growth of said daughter, but — despite everyone else wanting to maintain the current age of their characters — decided that, no, she grew up, went to school, and now was a full-grown adult. Needless to say, the new character’s relationship came into question, or was flat-out ignored, by others.




NO SPOILERS: I’m telling you now that I just made up the following examples with nothing spoiled game-wise…


Let’s say that you play a Sith Pureblood Assassin from Level 1 to Level 55. You enjoy the whole span of the PVE story from your entrance into the Sith Academy on Korriban all the way to (I’m making this up…) the Right Hand of the Emperor. Naturally, if you’re RPing a story with friends, you’re likely NOT the Emperor’s Right Hand. It’s more likely you’re a group of Sith, or maybe have an apprentice-master RP going on. Cool. But let’s take that to another level. What if, during the PVE part of the story, your Assassin (when he reached Level 45), pulled the trigger on some kind of (again, making this up…) super weapon that blew up Tatooine! From Level 45-55 Tatooine ceases to exist as a destination for your character in PVE, even if you can still visit it outside the regular flow of the game.


Granted, that’s a ridiculous example, but you can substitute known NPCs like Malgus or Satele for the planet of Tatooine and you’ll get the point I’m making.


If you’re RPing with another Sith character who’s living pre-Tatooine-kaboom, say Level 21, how do you reconcile the two timelines when you’re RPing together? Do you spoil the story for your Level 21 friend, or do you pretend your Level 45 “incident” never actually took place?




The best answer is to utilize the universe of the Old Republic without getting too specific. Generally speaking, you should RP every character understanding the game history as you knew it from Levels 1 – 15 or so. Your world is the world you create through the RolePlay with the game universe serving as your “living Wookieepedia” of reference material. Think of the Old Republic universe as your ongoing world, ruled by Satele Shan, Darth Malgus or Nemro the Hutt the same way you would if you were playing an RPG that took place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s understood that Darth Vader and Jabba The Hutt are alive and kickin’ and causing all sorts of fun mayhem throughout the galaxy.


How do you handle the passage of time, or the awkward canon of destiny in your RP? Let us know in the comments below, or write to me. I’d love to hear your view. Just remember: if you comment below, NO SPOILERS.


((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively here at You can follow MJ on Twitter @MJswtor, or write to him at swtorliferp[@] RP XP #50 will be more of your questions, so send ’em in!


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MJ’s Ultimate Guide to BARPing (Part 2)

Published by under Role Play on Jul. 19. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #39))


In the last RP XP  I introduced the concept of BARPing (Bar RP) and introduced some of the personality types you’re liable to run into as you stroll the decks of either faction’s fleet hub, and I introduced a few ways you can strike up an In-Character conversation without resorting to tired old pick-up lines (that only work in a virtual world).


Now let’s take a look at ways to extend and expand your BARPing so it doesn’t become as boring and droll as running Dailies.




So, you wander into the cantina area and the first thing you notice is that the opportunity for RolePlay appears boundless. Even the droidless bars are teeming with activity. Characters of all sorts are standing two-deep, blending into NPCs, and even occupying every piece of furniture in every darkened corner. There are even conversations going on between couples at the railing and in the V.I.P. area. The chat box is a blur.


You hurry to your cargo bay and pull on your best robe and boots. You don your Smuggler’s toothpick and saunter up to an opening and throw out your best…


/e glances around at the patrons and smirks, then he orders a tall Corellian Ale. “And a shot,” he adds.


Two robed figures next to you, a male and female, are engaged in their own chatter…


Tarik [says]: “So why don’t you just leave him?”

Veetha [says]: “I cannot leave him. He is my master.”

Tarik [says]: “But you must follow your heart.”

Veetha blushes deeply. “I must follow my Code.”


Oh boy.


Oh! No matter. There’s a rather attractive rifle-toting woman with long red hair standing by herself next to you. So, you give it a shot…






/e smiles to the woman next to him.




/e smiles to the redheaded woman next to him in the Imperial uniform.




/e smiles to the redheaded woman TO HIS LEFT in the Imperial uniform and says, “Hello, officer. May I interest you in a drink?”


Nothing… Then a moment later she walks away and begins a conversation with the character she was waiting for. You’re not daunted. There’s a lot going on. You have something to offer! Someone WILL talk to you!


But, as the night wears on and more and more people exit for PvP pops, guild opps or private RP in their respective ships, the possibilities seemingly dwindle away. You notice a few conversations going on, some of them “openly private,” some of them “loud,” and others relatively conversational but obviously nothing to do with you.


Is there a way you can interrupt an RP in progress? Isn’t that rude? Can you just walk up to a couple or a group of people and invite yourself in to the conversation?


Sure! What you have to realize is that BARPing is supposed to emulate a real life “bar scene.” If you overhear someone badmouthing your favorite team to a friend of theirs, you have a right to go up and throw your two cents around. If you see two pretty girls chatting and you’re interested in the one on the left, you can politely edge your way over and introduce yourself. If you see a group of guys hovering around a table with the only bowl of pretzels (or ashtray), you can politely excuse your way into the group and take your fair share.


Granted, it’s not always that easy, and BARPing has as many pitfalls as real life. Your two cents can get you a black eye. The two pretty girls can turn on you and start cutting down what you’re wearing or point out that you have something sticking out of your nose, laugh, then leave. The guys hogging the pretzel bowl can bodily kick you out to the curb. Don’t be discouraged. Reactions are fifty-fifty. You could just as easily end up winning the argument, getting the girl or kicking back to enjoy your own bowl of pretzels.


Granted, the conversations you “overhear” aren’t going to be as mundane as what you’ll hear in a bar. Let’s look at an example and how you can pry your way in…


Remember these two?


Tarik [says]: “So why don’t you just leave him?”

Veetha [says]: “I cannot leave him. He is my master.”

Tarik [says]: “But you must follow your heart.”

Veetha blushes deeply. “I must follow my Code.”


Here are three possibilities for entering this chat, hopefully without becoming the third wheel:

OPTION 1: “Pardon me for intruding, but I’ve heard the Jedi are pretty lax on that whole ‘Code thing’ these days… I’m Lord Tagious. Tag to my friends.” (The personal introduction sets you up as an authority and why their conversation interests you. The “to my friends” is typical BARP code for “I’d like to be friends”).

OPTION 2: “Sorry for interrupting… Code?” (Sure, you know what the Jedi – or Sith – Code is, but maybe your character doesn’t. Playing dumb to draw interest makes the other player feel important and gives them the chance to “educate” from the personal perspective of their character’s character).

OPTION 3: “The guy in the robe is right. Why don’tcha leave the bum? …I’m Tag, by the way.” (Pick a side. Be loose and conversational. But end with a grin.)


Keep in mind that you may not always be welcome. Some people don’t get the fact that if you’re conversing or emoting “loud enough” to be overheard, someone may interrupt at some point. If you’re enjoying a good natured BARP, but don’t want to be interrupted, invite your conversation partner to move somewhere else, use a personal custom channel, speak using /whisper, or form a Group and chat that way (it also makes it easier to follow which conversation is yours if you’re in a color-coded channel).




Let’s say your character is a Sith Lord. Let’s say he’s got a chip on his shoulder, a short fuse, and isn’t much for “chit-chat.” He has a blue/black lightsaber blade because you thought it was cool and offset his personality curiously. Let’s say you also have a Sith Marauder who behaves timidly around other Sith. She’s shy around people in robes or armor, but she’s talkative when you get her to open up. Let’s also say you’ve decided to relate these characters as MASTER (Named Darth Zhak) and APPRENTICE (Named Apprentice Felina)…


Tarik [says]: “So why don’t you just leave him?”

Veetha [says]: “I cannot leave him. He is my master.”

Tarik [says]: “But you must follow your heart.”

Veetha blushes deeply. “I must follow my Code.”

Felina bumps into the woman and gasps. “I-I’m sorry. D-did I spill your drink?”


For the sake of argument, let’s say Tarik and Veetha are good RPers and they play along.


Veetha brushes at her robe. “I think I’m ok, hon.” She eyes the pale woman who bumped into her.

Tarik looks at Felina.

Felina keeps her head low and speaks in a low, fear-filled tone. “D-Did you happen to see a large Sith Pureblood come through here?”

Tarik [says]: “There’s lots of those.”

Veetha [says]: “You ok? You look pretty shaken up.”

Tarik moves his robe and rests a hand on his own saber hilt. “What did this so-called Pureblood do to you?”

Felina almost whimpers as she confesses, “I m-made a lightsaber, but my stone was blue… I-I like blue. He never said it had to be red. H-He beat me and took it f-from me.”

Tarik [says]: “That scum!”

Veetha [says]: “You can stay with us, hon. We’ll keep you safe. Here… Let me get you a drink.”


You’re in! That was easy. But say you want to expand the story. Say you want to build intrigue. Say you have an idea for a personal story that these two may be interested in playing in. Excuse yourself at an appropriate time, log out, then come back as Darth Zhak (and remember… he has a blue lightsaber).


Tarik [says]: “I hope she’ll be ok.”

Veetha looks to where the young Sith girl disappeared. “She’ll be fine… I hope.”

Zhak ignites his lightsaber, gives it a flourishing twirl, then hooks it back on his belt. He steps up to the bar. “Black Ale, droid – Now!”


In the silence that follows, Tarik and Veetha may be chatting on their own channel or in whispers, not wanting their RP to be interrupted by the annoying loud-mouthed Sith with the blue… wait a minute….


Tarik looks at Zhak.

Zhak leans against the bar, toasting to the robed couple next to him. “Nice night for punishing ignorant apprentices, isn’t it?”

Veetha gasps, her jaw dropping as she glares at the Pureblood next to her.

Tarik [says]: “We don’t want any trouble, Sith.” He turns to Veetha. “Maybe we should go.”

Zhak [says]: “If you happen to see a pathetic human whelp whining about her lost blue blade, send her to me.” He grits his teeth. “She needs another lesson.”

Tarik stands a little taller. “This human you speak of. What’s her name?”

Zhak glares at the man. “Felina. Why?”

Tarik [says]: “We saw her here just a little bit ago. She was scared to death because of you! Why don’t you pick on someone your own size, you weak excuse for a Sith!”

Zhak threatens Tarik

Veetha elbows Tarik in the ribs ((about the time he gets to ‘saw her here’ – OK if we wind back to that?))

Zhak [says]: ((LOL. Yeah, sure!))

Tarik [says]: ((Sure. Re-posting))

Tarik [says]: “We saw her—Oof!” He grunts as Veetha’s pointy elbow pokes him in the ribs.

Veetha crosses her arms. “We haven’t seen her.”


Kudos to Veetha and Tarik for making the little interruption interplay there. Remember, you can always break character to clarify things or to set-up instances like that. And, no, Tarik shouldn’t have made the assumption that Veetha would elbow him without checking with her first (maybe via Tell). Maybe she wouldn’t want to interrupt him. Maybe she’s spoilin’ for a fight too?


Depending on the scenario you’re trying to set up, you may want to break character to clarify something. In this case, if Zhak is threatening violence (or hinting at some very dark RP others may find offensive), feel free to clarify with a simple line:


Zhak [says]: ((FYI, Felina’s my alt)).




Be careful with this kind of interrupting RP. Don’t let your story overpower the Personal RolePlay that was already going on before you even got there. I’ve been in situations before where something like this starts out as something cool, but before I knew it, I was being introduced to alts who played family members, rivals, enemies, even random characters who knew something about someone else. It gets hard to follow, it’s confusing, and—let’s face it—if it doesn’t include YOUR story, it will only be exciting for so long.


If you played Zhak and Felina in the example above, what would be your next step to keep from being the “annoying third wheel” to Veetha and Tarik?


((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively here on You can contact MJ directly at swtorliferp(at) You can also follow him on Twitter @MJswtor. MJ answers your questions in the next issue, and every 10 columns after that, so write or tweet early and often!

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Building Your Story Part III: Directing

Published by under Role Play on Mar. 30. 2012.

((The RP XP with MJ #32))


Jenla Ruf sat outside the Boarsch home and brooded under the hood of her cloak at the yellow rain coming down and splashing in the rust muddied puddles all over the village on Hutta. Inside, her Mandalorian lover worried over his sister’s existence.


Why bother with these slugs?” the Imperial agent scowled as she wiped the slimy rain from the comlink on her arm, contemplating her next move. “Sister or not… this is a waste of our time.”


It had been weeks since they escaped the Sith surprise attack against the Jedi on Uradis. They’ve been in hiding long enough, but now there’s this, this “personal” wrinkle. Inside, Jenla heard the hushed voices of Margis and Boarsch. He was promising his dying sister assistance, no matter what.


A cold shiver rose in Jenla’s spine. She knew what that meant. Though Boarsch had joked about it at times in the past, this time she felt uneasy. Margis was dying and their options were limited. The agent turned and moved to the doorway. She pressed her ear to the grimy metal.


I’ll reach out to the Republic,” she heard Boarsch say.


And that was the moment Jenla Ruf realized the mistake she made, a mistake she vowed to correct.


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Hot Off The Presses! The Latest Feature on Swtor-Life, “The RP XP” written by “MJ”

Published by under Site news on Sep. 02. 2011.


All fun aside and in all seriousness, today I have the pleasure of Introducing our latest featured writer to the site and the launch of our newest weekly column, “The RP XP” written by our newest staff member “MJ”.

Here at the offices of Swtor-Life we have been trying to decide which area of game play and related topics would be best for us to branch out into for you the community.  You are the heart and soul of why we do this.

We have the normal news style posts about SWTOR like most fan sites do, rehashed from fan site to fan site but, it is still necessary to get that out there to you. We have some funny and witty articles, we have some specialized content focusing on specific areas of game play like crew skills and in game economics to class focused content.

We are pretty well rounded as is but we wanted to add more. We want to add something else that’s specialized in nature, but of a different direction than we have taken you in the past. We want to chart unexplored space here at Swtor-Life while we ride the train leading up to launch and beyond.

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