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Blocking

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

((The RP XP with MJ #57))

RPXPMJ_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.

 

STAGING

 

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.

 

 

STANCE

 

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.

 

 

ENGAGEMENT

 

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:

RPXPMJ_57c

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.

 

 

APPLIED BLOCKING

 

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:

RPXPMJ_57b

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 www.swtor-life.com. You can contact MJ directly at swtorliferp@gmail.com, 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))
RPXPMJ_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?

 

HOLIDAY GREETINGS FROM THE EMPIRE

 

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.”

 

 

HOLIDAY GREETINGS FROM THE REPUBLIC

 

 

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 www.swtor-life.com. 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)gmail.com. You can also follow MJ on Twitter @MJswtor. Happy holidays, and May the Force be with you!))

 

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Keeping It All Together

Published by under Role Play on Oct. 18. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #52))

RPXPMJ_52a

I recently sought counseling for my altoholism. I finally realized that 20 characters was enough, especially when I came up with a cool name for them.

 

“The 20 Twenties.”

 

Yup. I have Twenty characters of level 20 or higher, all bound together by a legacy too complicated for the built-in legacy chart in SWTOR. Where RP is concerned, the connections between The 20 Twenties are as complex as the webs of an Eberon spider. They include relatives, distant relatives, rivals, marriages, school relationships, partnerships, business ventures, contacts, employers, slaves, hires, underbosses and adoptions.

 

I call it “Casting.”

 

If you enter into an RP scenario with me, even if it’s just a casual BARP, chances are a conversation will rotate back to one of these connections, and if your character has connections of their own… well, we just put together a cast for our own personal episodic content. Let’s say my Trooper has a brother who knows a Jedi who can get your Smuggler’s sister out of jail. The stories will write themselves if you have multiple characters with connected backgrounds.

 

 

BUT HOW DO YOU KEEP IT ALL TOGETHER

 

I’ve had friends in game who shake their head at the notion of having more than two characters. They say it’s hard enough to keep the backgrounds straight on just one of them let alone twenty! Yet any time they RP with one of my characters, traits remain consistent, my characters “remember” previous conversations, and stories continue unhindered as if each character really does have a mind of their own (rather than all of them being crammed into my Swiss cheese of a brain).

 

Here are a few ways you can keep it all together, with some tips on making your RolePlay fresh even when you’re switching from one character to the next.

 

 

KEEPING NOTES

 

The most obvious answer is to simply keep notes. Some RPers I’ve connected with say they keep a note pad or Post-It notes next to their computer. They jot down character traits, snippets of conversation, references for call-backs, etc. But as time goes on—especially if you have more than one character to keep straight—a lot of recycled forests will dry up, and you’re going to have the mounting problem of indexing and being able to find an old note on the fly.

 

I recommend the note method if you have fewer than five characters, particularly if they’re not closely related. Buy a five-subject notebook like you’d get for school and turn each character into a “subject.” You can even draw a line down the center of the divider pages for a two-column quick-reference where you keep “likes” and “dislikes” or a list of traits that will be a consistent part of your characterization regardless of who you’re RPing with or what story you’re writing. For example, if your character “speaks with an accent” or “swears a lot,” you’ll want to keep those references at the front of your notepad so they’re a consistent reminder for that character. I have a Twi’lek Jedi Knight who happens to be deaf. He reads lips and senses vibrations in the Force, but I have to be careful not to have him respond to sounds or conversations out of his line of sight. “Deaf” is at the top of his character sheet.

 

 

ORDER OUT OF CHAOS

 

If you’re an old-school RolePlayer like me, you probably remember the days of Dungeons & Dragons, pencil-and-paper RP that included a Character Sheet that held information similar to what you find if you tap C to pull up your SWTOR in-game character profile. But, in addition to abilities and technical facts and figures, you might have a section for personality or references to traits related to your character’s race or background. The old pencil-and-paper character sheets you’d buy at a hobby or comic book store were great for keeping information concise because they’d have boxes and lines that kept your pencil scrawls organized. The problem is you’d have to copy everything to a new sheet once you started wearing eraser holes through the paper.

 

Fortunately, you can accomplish the same thing electronically. Keeping an “e-notebook” not only saves paper and desk space, it’s convenient to have on screen in front of you (either on a secondary monitor or in the background just an alt-tab away). You can use Microsoft Word, Notepad, Open Office, InDesign, or any other program for word processing or note keeping. Open Office is a great example of one you can download for free—if you want something beyond your computer’s built-in note pad—with the capability for organizing tables, columns or charts with boldface, italics or even color-coding. Every word processor I’ve ever used lets you easily find a reference with a simple key stroke that opens a search window (typically Ctrl+F for “find”). Just be sure to be detailed so you can easily locate your references.

 

I actually use my swtor-life gmail account for all my characters. I created an email for each one and simply save it in my drafts folder. In other words, I wrote an email to myself without hitting “send” so I can just click over to the drafts tab in whatever browser I’m using (wherever I’m using it—even on my phone or Kindle). Until Google suffers an unlikely server disaster, I know my characters are safe. Even so, I periodically copy/paste my drafts onto a word processor and store them on my computer.

 

Here’s an example of one of my e-notes:

 

(TWI’LEK – M – L18, A35 – [+Artifice/Arch/Treas]) >>>>>> * Jedi Knight Daelu’mi’sarvas*

RP NOTE -
HE IS DEAF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FORM OF ADDRESS: POLITE AND CASUAL

QUIRKS: READS LIPS
HOBBIES: Articulate Crafting, Metal and Macrocircuitry
PHOBIAS: Spiders

FOOD: Munch-Fungus (as a stew, broth or bread)
DRINK: Ysanna Branyak Juice (A potent ration. He usually enjoys one glass per day)

BORN: 35 Years Ago (GS21385) on Abregado-Rae to Micah Sarvas (Hum) and Na’lon’a (“Horwi”/Twi)

GREW UP: Spinara Plateau, Carida
EDUCATION: Carida Academy / Carida Basic Education
OCCUPATION: Librarian/Teacher: Order of the Ysanna Protectorate, planet Ossus.
BOSS: Master Leppapor, a Bith Librarian from Clak’dor VII
HOME: Tython, Jedi Instructor’s Camp Outside Kalikori Village
SHIP: “Li’Lo”

COMPANIONS:
Qyzen Fess = n/a
C2-N2 = “C2-O7″ [aka. "Seven"] (Came with the ship)

 

The first line includes all the “game info” I need to know, including crafting skills and level. Each of my characters’s “sheets” contains the same queues for easy reference. If another character asks, “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” I can easily remember that I’m a teacher and that I came from the planet Carida, but as you can see a character sheet allows you to go into greater detail. I only need enough to trigger my own memories and E.U. knowledge to flesh out this character even more. For example, the reference to Spinara Plateau and Carida Academy are enough to remind me that Daelu came from an orphanage on the rogue world until he was adopted by a Bith Jedi. You’ll also notice that I don’t use Qyzen Fess in RP and that I’ve re-named my ship’s droid to make him my own. As Daelu grows in level and gets more companions, I’ll create backgrounds for them as well.

 

Be sure to use prompts for things like “Quirks,” “Hobbies,” and “Phobias” to add character to your persona, even if your character is a Dark Sith bad ass. My most vile character is a Sith Lord with an extremely nasty disposition. Here’s an example of how his QHP prompts might look:

 

QUIRKS: Uses the word “indeed” frequently.

HOBBIES: Collects slaves.

PHOBIAS: Bodies of water.

 

A Sith Lord afraid of water? Why not? Maybe he almost drowned as a child—shoved into a swamp on Hutta and left for dead. Otherwise, I play him as a tough guy with an unstoppable will. Adding a fear or weakness to your character humanizes them and gives them a dimension that comes out in your RP. It makes them a believable character. Consider this: Do you have a cyborg character? Where did the cybernetics come from? How were they injured (or were they born that way) to require artificial enhancements? Does your character have a scar? How did they get it, and did the deep mark on their face lead to a fear of something? Maybe your character was burned in some kind of plasma explosion, so now they have a fear of fire. Something to consider.

 

 

CHARTING

 

A simple way to keep character relationships in order is to create a chart like this:

RPXPMJ_52

 

With twenty characters to keep in order, a chart like this makes it easy for me to follow at-a-glance where all my connections come from and how they’re related.

 

If you only have a handful of characters, check out the built-in legacy tree on the Legacy tab in-game. BioWare obviously had RolePlayers in mind when they devised this handy reference tool which lets you relate your characters across faction as children or parents, siblings, rivals and more. The only reason I created my own chart is because I needed to refer to more specific connections like acquaintances from a training academy, or former master-slave relations.

 

 

KEEPING TRACK OF RP

 

Ok, so now you have a note system to keep track of your characters’ traits, personalities, history, visited locations, even phobias. How do you keep track of the characters played by other players in-game?

 

In-Game Notes

 

The Friends Tab in SWTOR lets you add notes so you can keep track of how you met someone or notes about that person’s personality or their character’s relationship to yours (consider the possibilities of combined legacies and having marriages, siblings, parents or rivals between you and other players).

 

My notes on the Friends tab look like this: “RP 10/16/13” and that’s it. I have more extensive notes on my computer tied to that date. Here’s how it works:

 

Out-of-Game Notes

 

I have a document on my computer that references RP. With twenty characters, all of whom I RP with, you can imagine how complicated and complex the relationships and instances can go. I can go more than a week between playing one character or another, so this guide helps me keep everything straight. Using the search function of my processor will instantly show me what the last RP session was with someone else’s character—or if I even know them at all. For example:

 

10/2/13 (Wed a.m.) – Meurika, Sanzara’li

Began a business chat with Sanzara’li when his pet Lethan approached. Meur inspected his property, then they talked about possible joint business ventures.

 

9/30/13 (Mon a.m.) – Elayo, Ventak

They are reunited after being separated for awhile. He gives her a bracelet of emeralds.

 

9/27/13 (Fri, p.m.) – Meurika, Sanzara’li

Meets Sanzara’li, an imposing slave trader for the Empire. They have several things in common, particularly a taste for blood soup.

 

9/23/13 (Mon a.m.) – Meurika, Zedra

Meurika returns to Korriban on business and meets an instructor there. Zedra enlists Meur’s help in locating one of her lost students.

 

(NOTE: Any relation to the characters mentioned above and in-game characters is coincidence. I made them up for this example.)

Meurika’s Friend’s List next to “Zedra” will have the note “RP 9/23/13.” Searching for that date on my RP note document will bring me to the two lines above that will remind me who Zedra is and what Meurika and she did. Likewise, if I search for “Elayo” and see all of that character’s RP dealings, I can see that she received a gift on 9/30. The next time Elayo and Ventak RP together, I can emote her adjusting the bracelet or admiring it in the light. If you use this method of memory-boosting, just be sure to keep it simple. There’s no reason to go into long exposition. You really just need enough to remind you what your character did, with whom, and when.

 

 

FAIR WARNING FROM THE GUILTY

 

My name is MJ and I’m an altoholic.

 

“Hi, MJ.”

 

I love my characters. I love their interrelations as well as the histories they share with other player characters. The downside of my massive legacy is that it makes me inadvertently selfish. How often can I RP twenty characters and how deep can their relationships go with others, especially if my in-game time is already limited?

 

Don’t bite off more than you can chew when establishing relationships with other characters in-game. I’ve been on the receiving end of whispers in-game like, “((Hey! Where have you been? I haven’t seen you on in almost a month!))” to which I have to admit, “((Sorry… I was involved in a story with another character in the other faction)).” Don’t assume that everyone else has as many characters in the pot as you.

 

One way to keep everyone happy is to be open about your play style. I typically let people know that I may be on another character, invite them to “friend” those names, and shoot me a Tell if they’re interested in RP. I also make sure that I only get involved in deep multi-episodic stories with one or two (at the most) players at a time and give them the priority until our stories have concluded. Likewise, I’ll warn other people I RP with that I may bounce from character to character, and I let them know the hours I’m typically in-game. Above all, I never allow myself to fall into a situation where I have a character “living” on another character’s ship, or vice-versa. Imagine being “stranded” because the other person hasn’t logged in to that character in a long time.

 

((The RP XP with MJ appears every Friday exclusively here on swtor-life.com. Feel free to contact MJ directly with your RP stories or questions at swtorliferp(at)gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @MJswtor))

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THE RP XP WITH MJ WILL BE BACK NEXT WEEK

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

RPXPMJ51

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Your RP Q&A #5

Published by under Role Play on Oct. 04. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ))

rpxpmj50

It’s time again for YOUR ROLEPLAY QUESTIONS! And to celebrate the 50th Edition of The RP XP with MJ, we’re going to turn up the heat and have a Q&A that’s hot and sexy, because this Q&A is all about Erotic RolePlay (ERP).

 

I recently got a batch of ERP questions and decided to add them to a couple others I’ve had on the back burner, so turn down the lights, get comfortable, put on some Barry White (or keep it canon with something smooth by Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes) and let’s get started…

 

DISCLAIMER: ERP is for mature audiences RPers. Consequently, some of my discussion here may be frank and suggestive (though I’ll try to tone it down as much as possible). Before engaging in ERP, be sure that you have 1) Established your intentions OOCly, 2) Agreed to the level your ERP will take with your RP partner, 3) Established that your RP partner is an adult. For more on ERP (the do- and do-nots), refer to RP XP #6. In the last Q&A (RP XP #40) I answered the question of how to get out of an ERP if you get pulled into one without permission. In a not-so-related topic, see also RP XP #9 where I talk about male players with female characters.

 

Now let down your lekku, loosen that gun belt, polish that lightsaber. Let’s talk sex.

 

 

How do you enter ERP without looking like a hormonal teenager?

 

An interesting question because a number of ERPers out there are hormonal teenagers. You can usually (but not always) tell by their approach. They’re usually bold, up-front and typically quite crude, though I have encountered one RPer under the age of 18 who approached one of my characters with ERP in mind whose spelling, syntax, grammar, and mature approach made them seem far more mature than their age. (NOTE: I didn’t engage in ERP with them because they were under 18, but I did have an OOC chat with them wherein I encouraged a lot of reading and writing, bolstering the talent I saw in our brief interaction).

 

Before you enter into an ERP, ask yourself this question: Am I doing this because I’m horny and want to have “pretend sex,” or is this part of my character’s development, their nature, or is it part of their world? I’ll come out and say it: You’re not a deep, serious, dedicated, hard core, etc. RPer if your motivations in-game are to satisfy your needs more than your character’s. Approaching someone ICly with a suggestive /whisper because their character is dressed “slutty” is acting like a hormonal teenager. Approaching someone ICly because their character appeals to your character (through an overheard conversation, the way they emote, or the way they carry themselves) is more “realistic.”

 

Also, if your first approach is, “Are you into ERP?” you’re doing it wrong. And yes, I am an advocate against telling people they’re RPing wrong, but when it comes to ERP the lines are different. Unless you just want to practice “sexting,” that’s not the approach you should use. ERP should come up the way intimacy comes up in real life. Your characters should have some kind of interaction leading up to the intimacy. That can be anything from a drunken one-night stand to a long period of “dates” and running Flashpoints together in-character, where friendship becomes more.

 

 

How do you ERP tastefully?

 

Another excellent question. ERP “chat” can range from the downright crude and pornographic to something more suggestive and insinuated, essentially The Spice Channel vs. Cinemax.

 

Even if you and your RP partner have demonstrated that you’re both mature and adult… Even if you and your RP partner have agreed to acting out intimate moments through ERP… Even if the relationship between your characters has grown comfortable… ERP can be ruined with the wrong language and the wrong setting. If you want your ERP to be more serious and mature, consider these rules:

 

~ Avoid Crude Language

 

“S*** my C***,” “L*** my P****,” “F*** me hard,” are all very base forms of sexual communication, and really have no place in the world other than pornography (my opinion, folks). Granted, a heated moment where all inhibitions are out the airlock may arise and heavy breathing will give way to an intensely erotic outburst once in awhile, but there are ways to convey this without breaking immersion with crude language.

 

You can substitute body parts with euphemisms or similes. Instead of referring to male genitalia as a c***, d*** or Johnson, opt for something like “shaft,” “member” or even something colorfully innocuous (though humorous), like “sword” or “tool.” The female t***, p****, or the singularly most crude c***, can be substituted with “breasts,” “sex,” or “tunnel.”

 

Typically, the tone and emotion of the setting will dictate what kind of language you use, but keep in mind that you don’t always have to make direct references to your “member” or her “sex.” For example, the exposition of “/e kneels down,” “/e bends over,” “/e touches,” or “/e lies back” don’t mean anything by themselves, but in a sexual connotation, you can fill in the blanks with what comes next.

 

What about the direct action verbs? Well, since we’re in the SWTOR universe, you can exchange the F-word for the more canonically correct “kriff” (aka. “The K-word”). And again, your setting will dictate whether “ram” or “slam” is more appropriate than “enters” or “slides.” Emphasize your actions with appropriate adverbs as well. “Slowly,” “roughly,” and “delicately” are common.

 

~ ERP, Like Regular RP, is Give and Take, Action and Response

 

I’ll say it plainly: One-sided ERP is virtual rape, even if your RP partner has consented to ERP, shown that they are mature and of age, and the scene has been entered into appropriately for the setting.

 

If you’re familiar with “godmodding,” you should be familiar enough to realize that taking control of another character’s body is no different than disarming them in a duel, hacking off their limb or speaking on their behalf. To that end, avoid presumptions that take control of a character away from another player. When it comes to a sexual act, your RP partner will decide if, when, and how much their character climaxes.

 

 

How do I know if I’m RPing with a male or female?

 

You don’t. Period. Even if a player states that they’re one gender in OOC chat doesn’t make it so. I’ve known quite a few males who pass themselves off as female players, and vice-versa. Now ask yourself if that matters. If you are a male RPer and you will only ERP with a female player, you’re putting the art of RolePlay more on your personal desires than extending your talents to a character you control. After all, what does it matter to your male smuggler that the female ex-Jedi coming on to him is controlled by a guy or a gal? It shouldn’t. If you’re concerned about the gender of your RP partner, NEVER NEVER NEVER engage in ERP. As Yoda would say, “Search your feelings.” Or, in this case, search your motivations for wanting to ERP in the first place.

 

If you, like me, don’t care about the gender of the player as long as their RP is mature, adult and consensual (and makes sense with the character they’re controlling), don’t assume your RP partner feels the same way. I typically clarify that I’m a male RPer if I happen to be playing a female character. You may get the brush off from someone whose intentions are more outside-the-game, but I’ve never been called out for it. Remember, RolePlay is a Community. We’re all familiar with the art. If you get to the point in a character relationship where ERP is around the corner, chances are you’ll be able to address gender issues openly, and if your partner has a problem with it, they’re usually pretty up-front about it and may suggest a “fade out” technique, or politely end the character relationship.

 

 

How do you spot an invitation to ERP?

 

In mature scenarios, a character relationship may get to the point where there is a tender touch, a longing look in the eyes, or even a gentle kiss. The next scene should be considered optional, and this is where the subject comes up. Presuming your characters are in a private setting and it looks and feels like sex may be the next step, feel free to extend the invitation yourself. Even if the other person describes their character as disrobing or moving toward a sexual position or situation, jump into an OOC whisper and make sure they’re an adult.

 

 

How long does/should ERP last?

 

Damn good question, and so glad it was asked. It’s a mistake among RPers who ERP (or ERPers) that virtual sex acts should last a long time. The question of a male’s stamina, the number of orgasms a female character can have, etc. all tend to weigh on an ERP and make it drawn out and boring. Remember, that an ERP scenario is a stepping stone to the larger life of your character. You have worlds to conquer, enemies to fight, Ewoks to feed. Your whole life isn’t about sex (discounting several stereotypical smugglers I know).

 

To maintain a believable stretch of time that doesn’t make your male character seem like a “quick draw,” or your female character seem like an “sex-addictive schutta,” use exposition to extend time without having to wade through redundant comments and repetitive details. If you have to consult a thesaurus during ERP, you’ve been going at it too long.

 

Consider this outline:

I. Foreplay

II. Sex

III. Afterglow (or Aftermath, depending how ‘wild’ the scene was)

 

The actual “sex” part of ERP can take some time, but once it’s established that that’s what’s going on, feel free to say something like, “…continues for ___ minutes/hours” etc. Then move on (presuming, of course, that your RP partner agrees with the established set of time). There’s only so many different ways to describe “rhythm,” “moaning” or “panting.” Cut it short. Move on.

 

SIDEBAR: REALISM

 

During ERP, maintain character. Keep things in mind like self-consciousness, awkwardness, shyness, allergies and fetishes (or responses to fetishes). KNOW BEFORE YOU BEGIN how your character would respond to invitations to different acts or positions, and don’t be afraid to be vocal if you play your Sith somewhat prudish. If one position is enough for her, stick to that in-character. Likewise, consider whether or not it’s been “a long time” for your character and how he/she may respond considering. Is your character promiscuous? Have they had many partners, and are they likely to carry some form of galactic V.D.? Is protection involved? Is it possible your character (or theirs) can become pregnant? As with any RP act, be sure to chat these out OOCly before beginning.

 

 

SIDEBAR: PROTECTING YOURSELF

 

Even if you don’t care what gender your ERP partner is, make sure you get a verification of their age. You can be criminally liable for engaging in sexual talk, connotations or suggestions (even virtual) with a minor. Granted, a clever 15-year-old who writes well can say they’re 20 and you wouldn’t know. Protect yourself by asking them to confirm their age, then take a screen shot of your game screen and save the image in a secure folder on your computer. And, as with anything, the only way to be completely safe and secure is to simply NOT DO IT.

 

Keep in mind that ERP is an OPTION. There are ways that your characters can engage in sexual relations without acting them out. The “fade out” technique is probably the best method.

 

For example:

Bonzor kisses Elysia tenderly. “Let’s take this to bed.”

Elysia kisses him back. “Okay.” She takes him by the hand. ((fade out))

Bonzor ((fade in)) pulls on his shirt and fastens the buttons. “Wow.”

Elysia runs a hand through her hair. “That was… amazing.”

Bonzor grins. “I know.”

 

RP XP WITH MJ WIKI:

Q&A #4

Q&A #3

Q&A #2

Q&A #1 

 

((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively on swtor-life.com every Friday. You can follow him on Twitter @MJswtor, or write to him at swtorliferp(at)gmail.com

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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))

 RPXPMJ48

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.

 

TIME

 

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.

 

BE VAGUELY SPECIFIC ABOUT TIME

 

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.

 

CHRONO = WATCH

 

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.

 

AGE

 

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.

 

BBY, ABY, ATC, BTC, GST

 

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.

 

HOW OLD WAS YOUR CHARACTER AT LAUNCH?

 

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?

 

Irrelevant.

 

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.

 

BEING AGELESS

 

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.

 

NO… I AM YOUR FATHER

 

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.

 

DESTINY

 

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 GAME WORLD IS YOUR REFERENCE BOOK

 

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 swtor-life.com. You can follow MJ on Twitter @MJswtor, or write to him at swtorliferp[@]gmail.com. RP XP #50 will be more of your questions, so send ‘em in!

 

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Introducing: The Playable Droid Race!

Published by under Role Play,Uncategorized on Jul. 05. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #37))

RPXPMJ_37

 

 

No, it’s not the next expansion, and I seriously doubt we’ll see “playable droids” in our SWTORian future, but who says you can’t make your own rules in an MMO?

 

ONCE IN A LIFETIME

 

Here’s a run-down on your typical cantina RP:

~ A Jedi Knight who has become disillusioned with The Code and seeks peace through passion. (Could also be a Sith who has become disillusioned with the Empire and seeks power through peace).

~ A Twi’lek slave/dancing girl looking for a master (or temporary master, or any form of ERP).

~ A Mandalorian who drinks Corellian whiskey through his helmet while spouting phrases in Mando’a.

~ A Smuggler who drinks hard, flirts with the ladies, and swears (sometimes using actual canon swears like “kriff” or “kriffing”)

~ A Soldier fresh off the front lines looking to drown his sorrows (until the next PvP queue pops).

 

Sound familiar? The pain behind your eyes from rolling them so much is almost enough to send you into PvP–not that there’s anything wrong with a stereotype now and again (that’s how they become stereotypical), but you’d like to see something new. Once in a great while you find a RolePlayer who breaks the mold, who creates a character so rich with background, so unique with characterization, so specifically animated, it renews your RP spirit and gives you hope that there’s more beyond the “bar scene.”

 

I was lucky enough to bump into one of these characters while trolling around Vaiken Spacedock looking for a random RP encounter. When my character was “scanned” (Cyborg species emote) by a heavily armored individual who then walked away without a word, my curiosity was piqued. I ran him down and immediately went into a stream of IC incredulity, throwing out my best “Hey! What’s the deal!?” exposition. To my delight, the response was instantly intriguing: “That information is restricted to personnel without authorization.” No matter how I pressed, I was flatly denied and told repeatedly that I was “not authorized to access the unit.”

 

The lack of emoting, the painstaking enunciation of every word… By the moons of Corellia, I’m talking to a droid! Sure enough, this character (whose floaty name identified him (it) as “Sentient” from the guild “Execution”) was a flawless portrayal of an assassin droid, even down to the look—which reminded me of the poor victims Lord Grathan’s cyberneticist on Dromund Kaas. **SPOILERS (for anyone who just picked up the game yesterday)** Remember Captain “Duchess” Sarnova’s quest just outside Grathan’s estate? The one where she asks you to find her missing troops, and you eventually find that the poor slobs are being turned into droids to do the Empire’s bidding? Sentient even had that “look,” though somewhat sharper and more fear-inducing.

 

RPXPMJ_37B

IMAGE: Left – One of Captain Sarnova’s (inset) men converted into an assassin droid. Right – The real deal, “Sentient.”

 

After our brief RP, which was even more inspiring because Sentient refused to be baited into a drawn-out chit-chat (he is an assassin droid, after all, and has programming to follow—no time for idle BARPing), I caught up with him and asked if he’d mind being interviewed for the RP XP.

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH AN ASSASSIN DROID

 

How long have you been RPing?

 

“I must have been about fourteen or so when I first started RolePlaying, though it might be even further back than that. One of the first places I RolePlayed was in an infamous Korean MMO called Ragnarok Online. I don’t RolePlay on any other MMOs at the moment, though I had a brief stint on World of Warcraft.”

 

How did you come up with the concept for Sentient?

 

“When I initially joined SWTOR, I recognized a lot of similarities between the different characters I observed. I always like to do something that would provide me with an interesting challenge. I’d always been fascinated by the concept of artificial intelligence and non-organic characters in video games, for example, Legion in Mass Effect… They can often end up coming across as more human than the human characters—and subsequently acting as social commentary on our own species and its shortcomings. I was not someone who wanted to see a droid class at first, but I believed it would be a welcome addition to the game and one that I personally would love to see. In addition, I’ve always been something of an in-universe droid sympathizer, seeing as most characters view them as nothing more than slaves and tools for a decadent organic culture.”

 

Well said.

 

Do you keep notes on how you believe a droid would behave? How do you keep consistency in the portrayal of Sentient?

 

“Interestingly enough, I’ve never kept any notes, but I make sure to keep the character acting in a subservient role. [I do, however] take regular screen shots of conversations with other characters to form a literal ‘record’ of dialogue and information so I can refer back to it at a later date and pull up that information much like a droid would when accessing memory logs within its internal databanks.”

 

What is Sentient’s background?

 

“Sentient’s creation is one that is marked with a number of underlying agendas, many of which I can’t go into detail about as they’re relevant to an upcoming storyline within the guild. I can provide you with some basic information, however. Sentient was created as part of a secret black project called the ‘Sentient Heuristics Initiative’. The objective of which was to develop an operative that would be infallible and utterly loyal to Imperial Intelligence, and more importantly the Dark Council. No danger of being reprogrammed or brainwashed, and incapable of going rogue as a number of organic agents had no doubt done so in the past. Holowan Laboratories, a well known canon staple, were employed as external contractors to build the actual unit itself. However, just as the project was nearing completion and the unit was just about ready for launch, the entire initiative was scrapped and shut down. All records were destroyed, all personnel involved in its development were quietly taken care of and the unit itself was scheduled to be consigned to the scrap heap…”

 

Now that’s a lot of detail. While it’s not typically necessary to go that deep into your character’s background, the more you have stored up as backstory, the easier it will be to “act” when RolePlaying in the open world. Sentient’s “role” becomes easier for the player to articulate because he knows what the character has been through.

 

What advice would you give to other RPers out there looking to improve their RP, or enhance their RolePlay?

 

“Don’t be afraid to experiement. Don’t settle for something that’s within the realm of familiarity. I also suggest observing other characters and seeing what others have done, and noticing what kinds of characters seem to be more popular. …At the end of the day, RolePlaying is about having fun!”

 

Absolutely!

 

If you’d like to know more about Sentient’s portrayal, his guild, or the possibility to crack his programming in RP, feel free to send him a PM or in-game message. You’ll find him on the Ebon Hawk server.

 

BUILD-A-DROID WORKSHOP

Sentient allowed me to break protocol (pun intended) and share with you his recipe for crafting the appearance of an “assassin droid” based on what I glimpsed from “Inspect Character.” Note, these are only suggestions, and most of the medium and heavy gear (particularly on the Sithy or BH side) look fairly “mechanized.” There is a lot out there to pick up, craft or buy that can be mixed and matched (and now “dyed”) to fit any droid portrayal you want to create. If it looks “droidy,” go for it. Here’s some of Sentient’s recipe:

Head – Polished Marauder Headgear / Ablative Turadium Headgear

Chest – Ablative Turadium Vest

Belt – Black Hole Mender’s MK-2 Belt

I do believe you can craft the head and chest pieces at Synthweaving Level 54.

 

If you come up with your own droid character, let me hear about it! My smuggler is in need of a new protocol droid to replace C2-N2. If you have a special twist on characterization, motivation or appearance, let me know. If you have any RP ideas or “spins” unique to the art and you want to be featured in a future column, drop me a line!

 

((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.

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The Endar Spire Conspiracy (A Role Player’s Perspective)

Published by under Role Play on Jun. 14. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #34)) SPECIAL EDITION

RPXPMJ_35_EndarSpire

The thousands of workers at Rendili Hyperworks had no idea the hand they played in fate as they watched their labors rumble to life. Moorings shook and fuel vents shuddered as the enormous ion engine flutes of the Hammerhead-class cruiser illuminated her berth like four caged suns.

 

And so launched the Endar Spire, the ship of lies.

 

The conspiracy hidden within the corroded and overgrown shipwreck on the surface of Taris begins with questions about her sinking more than 300 years ago. We know that Jedi Knight Bastila Shan was given command of the Endar Spire’s last mission. We know that Revan was aboard, disguised as a common Republic soldier. We know of Revan’s importance to the Jedi Council at the time—the former supreme leader of the Sith, brain-wiped and under the care of Bastila. We know that Bastila’s gift of Battle Meditation made her extremely valuable to the Jedi Order and a prime target of Darth Malak.

 

So why would the Council allow Bastila and Revan to head out alone aboard the Endar Spire to Taris, a world occupied by the Sith and protected by a blockade overseen by Malak himself, especially considering Revan’s defenseless condition at the time?

 

I recently paid a visit to the broken spine of the Endar Spire at the behest of the Galactic Republic, on cryptic orders from a Captain Childress whose detachment of soldiers had not reported back from the wreck. I was curious to see for myself how well the ship’s grave held up, swallowed by the local fauna, a breeding ground for rakghouls, pirates and armed settlers. I had to ask why the Republic would even bother sending a team to an old shipwreck?

 

Exactly. There’s too much going on with the Taris Reconstruction Project to waste manpower on a centuries-old downed cruiser. Or, that’s what I thought until I started putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and realized the Republic wasn’t doing enough to secure the Endar Spire, considering my suspicions.

 

RPXPMJ_35_EndarSpireB

 

So, fully armed and geared up with my trusty sidekick, a smuggler I call “Mr. Funny” because of his penchant for naming inanimate objects (and if I hear one more time about his beloved “Torchy” I’m gonna blast him myself), I set out for the crash site. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was immediately stunned as we crested a ridge of upper city wreckage and saw her, the Endar Spire, surprisingly intact and still maintaining the familiar profile of a Hammerhead-class cruiser.

 

I suppose the first mystery of the Endar Spire is its surprisingly good condition. Not only had the ship apparently survived total vaporization in orbit—contrary to popular belief until this time—it also survived Malak’s savage bombardment of the planet’s surface. The Endar Spire was reported lost days before the Sith glassed Taris, yet here she lay, relatively pristine despite the attack and three centuries of natural and man-made abuse.

 

RPXPMJ_35_EndarSpireC

 

The pirates camped near the wreck weren’t much trouble, and we made our way inside in no time, aiding a small band of research scientists protected by the faltering remnants of a Republic military detachment. Astonished is too weak a word to describe my surprise at finding some of the ship’s functions still operable. After making a mental note to have future upgrades to my own ship done at Rendili Hyperworks, we concluded our short escort mission and returned the research team’s materials to the Republic base camp nearby.

 

RPXPMJ_35_EndarSpireD

 

And that’s when I realized a full-blown conspiracy was in the works, a web of secrets and lies between the Jedi Council and the Republic military dated centuries ago and maintained to this day.

 

According to the officer I spoke to back at base camp, the Republic was only interested in the surveillance footage captured by the Endar Spire during her last moments of life, surveillance of Sith warships that were in service 300 years ago! I knew that had to be a mistake. There had to be something more, and this was just a line the military was giving to civilians stupid enough to serve as volunteers.

 

That’s when I took note of a quarantined field hospital filled with groaning soldiers and workers diminished to pathetic shadows of their former selves, the wraiths of Taris, the rakghoul victims. Did the Endar Spire’s secret mission to Taris have something to do with the rakghoul curse? After all, the slavering beasts had been around since well before the sinking of the Endar Spire, a curse born out of the twisted mind of Karness Muur thousands of years earlier, a curse that seemingly would never die.

 

The ancient Sith mastermind of the rakghoul plague “left the oven on,” so to speak. It was only a matter of time before someone tapped the ghastly abominations haunting the lowest levels of Taris and released them on an unsuspecting galaxy to spread like an unstoppable virus. I believe the Endar Spire’s last mission was to lure the Sith attack, to sacrifice the city planet in an effort to prevent Malak’s Sith from using the rakghouls to their fullest potential.

 

Which begs the question: had the Endar Spire not taunted Malak into the bombardment of Taris, would the rakghoul plague have raged out of control centuries earlier?

 

And why send such an important Jedi Knight to a Sith-controlled world along with the Jedi Council’s most enigmatic prisoner? Taris has always been just out of reach of the Republic. The resources and manpower required to launch an assault on the distant world would attract too much attention; in particular the attention of Malak who was seemingly ignorant of the deadly viral weapon in the deepest gutters of Taris.

 

The solution? Use Bastila to lure Malak’s wrath. She was the only carrot the Jedi Council could dangle in front of the Sith; the Endar Spire the only cruiser capable of getting her as far as Taris. As for Revan, I personally believe he was an expendable asset, unless Bastila was totally unaware the role the Council wanted her to play in the destruction of the rakghoul curse. Revan was given an alias and listed as a soldier aboard the Endar Spire. Is it possible Bastila was completely ignorant of his presence? Is it possible the Jedi Council knew Revan would regain his strengths and somehow rescue Bastila from the very attack they were planning?
That seems far fetched, and unfortunately, many of these questions remain a mystery. All we know of the facts are that Bastila abandoned ship during the Endar Spire ambush leaving Revan to die. Considering her responsibility to him we have to wonder why. We also need to consider the miracle of the Endar Spire’s survival and the Republic Military Machine’s interest in a 300-year-old corroded hulk.

 

Is it possible the Endar Spire’s final resting place holds more than old surveillance images? Could the clue to the Endar Spire’s last mission still be locked within her aging memory banks? Or does she hold something more? Does she hold the clue to Karness Muur’s curse and the secret to preventing a rakghoul pandemic like the one that recently made its way across the Outer Rim to Tatooine? Who is brave enough to find out?

 

((I hope you enjoyed this little “side step.” I present this article to you as an example of TGI (Total Game Immersion). At the very heart of RP is the desire to breathe life into the story first written by the game developer. In this case, I bridged the gap between BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars The Old Republic by stepping into the mind of one of my more curious characters. I hope you enjoyed it. Now… What’s your story?)) 

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Building Your Story Part II: Scripting

Published by under Role Play on Mar. 23. 2012.

((The RP XP with MJ #31))

 

 

The Zabrak Padawan made his way through a back alley of Coruscant’s Old Galactic Market with the body of his shrouded master cradled in his arms. Tarik glanced over his shoulder at the Rattataki woman behind him, barely registering her on-guard posture and the long lightsaber hilt held in her hands.

 

We’re in your neck of the woods, Tarik,” Veetha sneered. “Why all the shadowy back alleys? Tryin’ to make me feel at home?”

 

Because you’re Sith, for one. Because I don’t want to attract the attention of Coruscant Security for another.”

 

Veetha reached out and gently tapped his shoulder. “Aww, that’s sweet. The lil’ Jedi cares about me.”

 

Not for a second. I just don’t want to… have….” Tarik stopped before they got to the cross-street and his arms began to tremble. He lowered himself to his knees, his expression blank, his mouth hanging open as Veetha stepped up next to him and crouched to his level.

 

What’s wrong, kid?” She touched his arm and shook it gently, but Tarik continued staring into nothingness. Suddenly nervous that she was going to be swarmed by Jedi who sensed her presence, Veetha stood and turned, holding up her hilt to defend herself.

 

Yulie,” Tarik whispered.

 

Veetha spun.“What?”

 

Leaving his master’s body in the alley, Tarik stood and suddenly turned the way they had come.

 

Tarik? Where the hell are you going? What about your master’s carcass?”

 

Ignoring her, the Padawan picked up his pace. He didn’t look back as he called out,“She needs me!”

 

Veetha watched him hurry back down the alley, her eyes wide. The Padawan didn’t answer. She figured this Yulel was probably another Jedi – they were always running to each other’s aid, weren’t they? There were two reasons she felt compelled to join him. First, she felt something for him. His determination surrounded by a boyish innocence was somehow …entertaining.

 

Second, she was a Sith’s apprentice… alone on Coruscant.

 

Veetha broke into a run to catch up with Tarik.

 

 

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Your RP Q&A #3

Published by under Role Play on Mar. 16. 2012.

((The RP XP with MJ #30 – Q&A #3))

Since this is a Q&A article (if you’re new here, I do this every 10th issue) and I have a personal story of my own, we’re going to leave Tarik, Yulel and the “MJ Fiction Players” alone this week and concentrate on your questions, especially since one of the questions involves the fiction that kicks off the column each week.

 

My story involves the near destruction of this column and my life in SWTOR. Ok, my wife would roll her eyes and call that the exaggeration that it is, but as a writer/producer/RPer I tend to lean toward the dramatic. The short form is this: This particular article may seem a bit like it was hastily thrown together. That’s because it was. In fact, if this wasn’t a Q&A week, there probably wouldn’t be an RP XP today.

 

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, you missed the dramatic story about my dead video card and loss of a couple day’s work on my pending novel and various editing projects – not to mention the loss of valuable MMO time. The short end is… I found a nice card (and highly recommend the GeForce GTX 550 Ti for anyone on a modest budget and, like me, don’t have what I’d call a “gaming rig”). The card is more than a match for Star Wars: The Old Republic as well as graphics grinders like Skyrim. If you’re shopping for a card, check it out. My old one, in case you’re curious, was a GTS 240 and came stock with my Dell Studio XPS, which is a great machine for creative types who aren’t run-gun-slash-kill gamers. There are gaming machines specifically for that.

 

RolePlayers don’t really need that kind of power though, do we? ;)

 

Now enough about me. Let’s talk about you. On to your questions.

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