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Tag Archive 'RP XP with MJ'

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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Not So Secret RP Spots: Spaceports

Published by under Role Play,Uncategorized on Nov. 22. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #55))

RPXPMJ_55

One issue facing RolePlayers in any MMO is where to find a good place to RP. For an RP location to be “perfect,” it needs to fit three criteria: 1) It’s free of trolls and “noisemakers” who have nothing better to do than disturb your RP session while they wait for the PvP queue to pop, 2) It matches the specifics of the location you have in mind for your story, and 3) You can get to it with minimal difficulty (You don’t want to limit your RP possibilities by establishing a setting on the other side of a field of Level 50 mobs unless all of your RP partners are Level 50 or above. Even then, it can be annoying if conflict is not part of your story at the time).

This week I thought I’d start a new segment on the RP XP where I scout out locations for RP and give you some ideas to play with. Most of the locations I give you will be easily accessible for any character with a starship (Level 15+ depending on class story and how much you have to grind to get there). They’re also fairly open. In fact, my first example is one you probably pass through every day. As far as the first of my criteria for location scouting, /shrug you’ll find trolls everywhere, but anyone you’re going to see in today’s subject are on their way from point A to point B. They don’t have time to stop and AOE into your chit-chat.

SPACEPORTS

For this example I’m taking a look at the Anchorhead Spaceport with a Republic Smuggler, but the examples are the same (or close) no matter your class or faction.

One of the earliest beefs about SWTOR was targeted at the spaceports; specifically, the spaceport design (singular) and how they all look alike. While this is true, the beef quickly became moot as players discovered that the ports weren’t necessarily meant to be social hubs. They’re transit points, and anyone playing the game since launch probably rockets through them on a speeder without giving them a second glance. That’s said, I think it’s sad that more people don’t put the spaceports to better use. I’m talking to you, my fellow RPers.

So let’s take a look at a spaceport located on one of the most iconic planets in the Star Wars universe, and let’s see if there’s any RP that can be done here…

 

55_A

Every spaceport in the game is MASSIVE. Sure, they only have two “rooms,” the main body of the map and your hangar (with one exception that I know of: there’s a lift to a hidden hangar on Dromund Kaas. Datacron hunters know the one I’m talking about). However, “rooms” do not make the space, and there’s a lot you can do with the spaceports in SWTOR. The game architects worked wonders creating the illusion of multiple rooms and levels through subtle placement of stairs, platforms, obstacles and furniture. I’m reminded of BioWare’s Mass Effect game and the layout of the Citadel. It was meant to be a massive space station, but the map itself is rather small. “Unnecessary” corners, bridges, alleys and long or winding ramps gave you the impression that you were in a huge location without actually having to stretch the map out in all directions. Many of the smaller locations in SWTOR are the same. Don’t believe that you can fit something big inside something small? The next time you’re on Vaiken Station’s hangar ring, take a look at the map and note how small the bounty hunter’s ship looks. Doesn’t feel that way inside, though, does it? That’s because it has multiple levels. In many cases, building “up” instead of “out” can create more space to play with.

 

55_B

A quick tour of the Anchorhead Spaceport reveals a central “lobby” and two “wings.” The wings, like the one pictured above, are usually festooned with small lounge-like areas, sculptures, potted plants, customs droids, and usually a good smattering of artifacts that let you know what planet you’re on. The spaceport on the Republic side of Taris, for example, features a hologram of Governor Saresh inviting you to her “lovely” planet and warning you to watch out for the nasty things outside the established safe zones.

 

55_C

Each spaceport features a centralized lounge area. Some, like the Anchorhead spaceport pictured above, include comfy-looking sunken lounge spaces with subdued lighting. These are perfect for clandestine meetings or conducting “business” between a Smuggler and his spice-dealing contact, or a Jedi and her new Padawan. Other ports may fill these spaces with statues or pieces of art. Either way, they’re open for your RP.

 

55_D

There are some great gems planted throughout the spaceports in SWTOR that remind you of modern airports or transportation depots. As far as RP is concerned, note the sparse NPC placement in the terminal pictured above. How easy would it be to establish a scene here? You’ve probably seen characters hop behind the bar on your local space station to serve drinks and act as your friendly neighborhood bartender. How about hopping behind this counter and acting as your not-so-friendly neighborhood DMV employee?

(No offense to DMV employees intended. I’m sure many are sunny and thrilled to do what they do.)

 

55_E

Now let’s take a look inside the hangar. One of the greatest aspects of RPing in the hangar space of a spaceport is also its only drawback: it’s private. If you want to RP with someone else in the hangar, you have to invite them into a group (and don’t forget to check your preferences to allow same instance access for same classes).

Hangar interiors are nearly as big as the rest of the spaceport. There are lounge areas, loading platforms and control centers, many with unmanned computer terminals and sweet locations to stage an RP sequence.

 

55_F

The control center rooms in each hangar are spacious and detailed. It only takes a small amount of imagination to transform these locations into something else. Imagine them as factory control centers, training centers, control towers, commerce centers, hidden bases, etc.

 

55_G

There are a surprising number of unmanned computer terminals and machines inside the hangars. The new sitting emotes could come in handy here as many of the computer terminals are designed so they can be accessed by a character standing in front of them or sitting. Your choice if you have one of the “/chair” emotes.

 

55_H

And let’s not forget the hangar itself: a huge factory-sized space with workers and droids, manned and unmanned machines, computers and load lifters, fuel lines, magnetic loaders and repulsorlift crates.

The trick to RPing in locations like this is to use your imagination. Say you’re setting up a scene where your trooper (and two members of his unit) have been assigned to guard a freighter. Just imagine your own BT-7 Thunderclap as that beat up old Corellian freighter and utilize the hangar space accordingly.

That goes for exterior locations as well. Feel free to draw upon your Star Wars lore and create new locations inside existing ones. Coruscant isn’t the only planet-sized city, especially during the time of the Old Republic. Use the slimy pools and forests of Taris as the swamps of Mimban. Use the sandy caves of Tatooine as the sandy caves of Geonosis. Use the bases on Illum as a hidden Jedi enclave on Rhen Var.

There’s no denying that the world maps in SWTOR are gigantic. Even players who beef about the game have spoken favorably about the immense landscapes compared to other MMOs. The bottom line is this: If you’re an RPer, step away from the bar. Take your RP on the road and forge your own adventure in the galaxy far, far away. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is once you get started.

 

((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively at swtor-life.com almost every Friday. If you want to contact MJ about a story idea, questions about RP, or comment, feel free to reply below, follow him on Twitter @MJswtor, or write to him at swtorliferp(at)gmail.com. He answers every email, message and post. ;) ))

 

 

2 responses so far

Adding Drama to your RP

Published by under Role Play on Nov. 15. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #54))
RPXPMJ_54
First: some ground rules. There’s a huge misconception when it comes to the D-word. Drama often gets a bad rap in the RP community because it’s usually associated with social-political issues within a guild or among your RP partners. “We’re a drama-free guild!” “I don’t have time for your drama!” “Stop being so dramatic!” See? Negative. The truth is that drama is a Greek term that describes action, particularly in fiction. It can include both good and not-so-good performances, bringing to mind the symbol for drama: the masks of comedy and tragedy.
 .
Think of “drama” as adding color to your RolePlay. Drama can allow you to paint a vast canvas of emotion with few words and describe emotes that, quite honestly, BioWare will never program into the game because they’re too complex. How you bring life to your character through drama is what makes your portrayal memorable. It gives you something other RPers will want to flock to. Let’s take a look at some ways to zap some life into your RP through the strategic use of drama in dialogue and exposition.
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DRAMA AND DIALOGUE
 .
One of the major rules of RolePlay is that you have to BE something. Happy, sad, angry, pensive, frustrated, anxious, nervous, etc. The list is miles long. If someone asks you, “How are you?” and you typically respond with a shrug and a mumbled, “Fine,” that’s fine in real life (RL). You have to remember that RolePlay is about action, excitement, adventure and — yes — drama. If you want “fine,” log out and look in a mirror. In SWTOR you’re a Jedi Knight, an Imperial Agent, a Bounty Hunter, or a combination Smuggler/Fighter Pilot. You are the adventuresome character you’ve created. You’re not “fine.” You’re awesome.
 .
Let’s start with this:
[Vemdin] says: “I just got back from Taris.”
[Krebble] says: “How did that go?”
[Vemdin] says: “Ok.”
[Krebble] says: “Just ok?”
[Vemdin] says: “There were rakghouls. I almost got bit. It sucked.”
[Krebble] says: “Bummer.”
[Vemdin] says: “Tell me about it.”
 .
Snore! Let’s break this down piece by piece and see if we can make it more dramatic. It looks like we have a couple of friends meeting up, probably for a Corellian Ale or a caf. Or, considering the use of common earthbound colloquialisms like “sucked” and “bummer,” they were probably drinking Jack and Cokes. /facepalm.
 .
[Vemdin] says: “I just got back from Taris.”
(Good. Vemdin has established a topic. Not too dramatic, but at least it’s a dialogue opener.)
 .
[.Krebble] says: “How did that go?”
(Excellent! A follow-up to encourage more dialogue. Dry, but ok as chit-chat goes.)
 .
[Vemdin] says: “Ok.”
(Did I already say “snore?” This is Role PLAY. Give us something MORE.)
 .
[Krebble] says: “Just ok?”
(That a boy, Krebbs. Make him work for it!)
 .
[Vemdin] says: “There were rakghouls. I almost got bit. It sucked.”
(Even if we forgive Vemdin’s player for not having any working knowledge of how terrifying an actual rakghoul attack is, this is such a blah response — and so totally out of Star Wars characterization — it stinks like the innards of a taun taun’s carcass dropped on Mimban at high noon.)
 .
[Krebble] says: “Bummer.”
(Oh, Krebbs, I had such high hopes for you. I’d say it looks like Krebble took a cue from Vemdin and decided “bummer” was an adequate follow-up for “sucked.” You’re right. Time to hop on your speeder bike and leave the bar.)
 .
[Vemdin] says: “Tell me about it.”
(No. Stop right there.)
 .
So, how can we fix this dialogue? Is there a way to spice it up without using exposition or emotes? Let’s take a look.
[Vemdin] says: “I just… got back from Taris.”
[Krebble] says: “Oh? How did that go?”
[Vemdin] says: “Ehh… I’d rather not talk about it, but if you really want to know… oh, man.”
[Krebble] says: “That bad, huh? Tell me.”
[Vemdin] says: “Rakghouls everywhere. We almost didn’t make it off-planet. There were swarms everywhere. Everywhere!”
[Krebble] says: “You’re lucky you made it out alive.”
[Vemdin] says: “I can’t even be sure I did. They were so /close/ I could smell their breaths.”
Let’s break this one down. We’re still not 100 percent, but this is a huge improvement over our original snore-fest.
 .
[Vemdin] says: “I just… got back from Taris.”
(Unlike actual spoken dialogue, you have to SHOW when you’re pausing by using an ellipse (…). This written pause almost makes us feel like Vemdin is out of breath, or at the very least reluctant about talking about Taris. Oooh, drama!)
 .
[Krebble] says: “Oh? How did that go?”
(All Krebble did here was add an exclamatory question. Both ask the same thing. Putting “Oh?” and “How did that go?” together gives some emphasis to his interest in Vemdin’s story.)
 .
[Vemdin] says: “Ehh… I’d rather not talk about it, but if you really want to know… oh, man.”
(More good use of the elipse, and Vemdin also uses a non-verbal verbalization. “Ehh” isn’t a word, it’s a sound like “Meh,” “Uhh,” or “Hm.” It breathes life into the character and his story.)
 .
[Krebble] says: “That bad, huh? Tell me.”
(Good job, Krebbs.)
 .
[Vemdin] says: “Rakghouls everywhere. We almost didn’t make it off-planet. There were swarms everywhere. Everywhere!”
(He’s really emphasizing “everywhere.” I’m guessing there were a lot of them. “Swarm” is a great noun here because it paints a picture outside the reality. Naturally, rakghouls don’t “swarm,” but everyone can visualize a swarm of bees or hornets. This paints an interesting image and creates a new thought: Swarming Rakghouls. Yikes.)
 .
[Krebble] says: “You’re lucky you made it out alive.”
(Yup. That’s a dramatic observation.)
 .
[Vemdin] says: “I can’t even be sure I did. They were so /close/ I could smell their breaths.”
(Always remember that you have other senses in addition to the ones you use most. Smell and touch are often forgotten in RP. They usually play better in exposition, but as you can see, they work in dialogue too. Also, notice the slash marks bracketing the word ‘close’? These are emphasizers. In written fiction you’d read that in italics (“They were so close I could smell their breaths”). Italics add punch by putting stress on a word or phrase. I personally like the slashes because they make it look like the word is leaning (ie. Italics), but you can also use any of these: *close*, >close>, [close], -close- or CLOSE. Just make sure your meaning is clear. All CAPS typing is generally used for shouting, yelling, screaming or simply being LOUD.
 .

 .
DRAMA AND EXPOSITION
 .
Let’s take our example and punch it up with a little exposition and see where else we can take it. Exposition (ie. “emoting” through description by using /e instead of a canned action) is an awesome tool for bringing life to a virtual situation. (NOTE: The orange type signifies the default emote cue. You get this in game by typing /e.)
 .
Vemdin practically collapses on the bar. “I just… got back from Taris.”
[Krebble] says: “Oh? How did that go?” He turns to face Vemdin, almost leaning back to avoid close contact.
[Vemdin] says: “Ehh… I’d rather not talk about it,” He winces. “But if you really want to know… oh, man.”
Krebble eyes his friend suspiciously. “That bad, huh? Tell me.”
Vemdin is almost breathless as he speaks. “Rakghouls everywhere. We almost didn’t make it off-planet. There were swarms /everywhere/. Everywhere!”
[Krebble] says: “You’re lucky you made it out alive.” He takes a half step back.
Vemdin winces as if in pain. “I can’t even be sure I did. They were so /close/ I could smell their breaths.” He touches a gash torn in his greaves.
Krebble notices the gash for the first time. He rests his hand on his blaster.
 

 .
What a difference! Did you see it? Did you feel it? Let’s do the breakdown.
 .
Vemdin practically collapses on the bar. “I just… got back from Taris.”
(The physical action adds to the elipse, giving us an “emote” that helps to explain the pause. You can easily imagine he’s breathless.)
 .
[Krebble] says: “Oh? How did that go?” He turns to face Vemdin, almost leaning back to avoid close contact.
(The first hint of Krebble’s suspicion that something’s wrong without actually saying it. He leans back to avoid his friend. Notice also that he put his exposition AFTER his dialogue. That’s perfectly fine and doesn’t require “/e”.)
 .
[Vemdin] says: “Ehh… I’d rather not talk about it,” He winces. “But if you really want to know… oh, man.”
(Winces? Uh oh! That’s typically a sign of pain, or at the very least discomfort. We didn’t really get that in the dialogue-only version, but now it’s palpable.)
 .
Krebble eyes his friend suspiciously. “That bad, huh? Tell me.”
(And now he says it: I’m suspicious of what’s going on.)
 .
Vemdin is almost breathless as he speaks. “Rakghouls everywhere. We almost didn’t make it off-planet. There were swarms /everywhere/. Everywhere!”
(Breathless, plus the emphasis on “everywhere.” Double uh-oh.)
 .
[Krebble] says: “You’re lucky you made it out alive.” He takes a half step back.
(Krebb’s paranoia continues to show in his actions; in this case adding distance. They player may actually move Krebble farther away with just a simple tap of the A, S, W, or D, but you don’t really want to put emphasis on anything physical at this point. It’s all about the description and the rising drama in the air through their dialogue and exposition.)
 .
Vemdin winces as if in pain. “I can’t even be sure I did. They were so close I could smell their breaths.” He touches a gash torn in his greaves.
(Another wince, but this time making it clear that he could be in pain rather than just winded or breaking wind. Then, oh boy, he calls attention to something through a physical action the player couldn’t otherwise actually do. There is no /gashtouch emote.)
 .
Krebble notices the gash for the first time. He rests his hand on his blaster.
(No dialogue, but Krebble sets the tone for what could happen next. The drama reaches a crescendo as Krebbs fears that his friend may be infected with the rakghoul plague… and what he would do if it’s true.)
 .
Well, there you have it. A simple, rather blah moment of BARPing becomes the setting for a dramatic confrontation between two friends. This scene could have easily ended on a comedic note if all of Vemdin’s posturing and wincing ended with him dumping a pebble out of his shoe instead of finding a rakghoul gash in his pants.
 .
Keep in mind as you spice up your dialogue and exposition that too much can be a detriment to your RP. Even if you’re a rocket-fast typist, you’re going to bore (or worse, intimidate.) your RP partner by “showing off” with a novel-sized slice of grossly unnecessary fiction. The best tip I can give is this: If you have to use some kind of continuation flag (<c>, +, >>, etc.) because you’ve run out of space, you’re doing too much unnecessary typing.
 .
Vemdin wanders close to the bar, his shoulders slumped and his head hung low. There is a deep resonant breathing from inside the helmet as he approaches his friend, Krebble. Ah, Krebble. He hadn’t seen him in, what <c>
>> three years? No, four. He trusted his friend with his life, but there were certain things he had to hold back and he knew that. Every muscle and bone in Vemdin’s body ached as he shuffled up to the bar and collapsed on its hard duroplast su<c>
>>rface. He removed his helmet and a hiss of escaping air filled the din around the cantina. He smirked and winced, then looked at his friend. “I just…got back from Taris.” He eyed his friend, curious to know how he would res<c>
>>pond to his obvious pain.
[Krebble] says: ((Wake me when it’s my turn)) 
 .

SIDEBAR: Hey, friends of the RP XP. I wanted to take a moment to apologize before getting into this week’s topic. The past couple of weeks kind of steamrolled me with real life obligations. Upon starting the column up again, I swore I’d stick to a tight schedule with a weekly dose of RP goodness, but the godmodders of fate had other plans. That said, I’ll give you my best pouty face and come right out and say it: ((The RP XP with MJ)) may not be a weekly occurrence going forward. I’ll still TRY to have something for you every Friday, but chances are I’m going to skip a week here or there. /kneel /apologize. But don’t give up! There are ways to get more RP goodness out of me. One is to follow me on Twitter @MJswtor. The other is to write to me with your comments, questions or ideas at mjtorrp@gmail.com or swtorliferp@gmail.com. I answer ALL emails.
 .

.

(What are your experiences with drama? Comedy? Have any stories to share about a favorite RP moment? Let me know. @MJswtor on Twitter, or write to me at mjtorrp[at]gmail.com or swtorliferp[at]gmail.com. ((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively on swtor-life.com …ehh… almost every Friday. If you’d like to know more about MJ, RP or getting the most out of your RolePlay, drop me a line.)

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A Captured Moment with Bixlo Benns

Published by under Role Play on Oct. 25. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #53))

RPXPMJ_53.

Welcome to the third “Captured Moment” with ((The RP XP with MJ)), my ongoing nod and /salute to the great RolePlay inspirations found throughout the living worlds of SWTOR’s awesome set pieces and NPC placement.

 

Keep in mind this little aside wasn’t produced, endorsed or even recognized by BioWare. It’s just me doing what every good RPer does: finding those captured moments of “realism” throughout the game and making up my own story to go with it. For the passing gamer, these are nothing more than animated space filler. For me, and maybe you, they’re somehting more. They’re little untold stories, pictures that spark the mind and give you ideas. Like this one…

 

CAPTURED MOMENT #3

WHAT IT IS:

A human male appears to wretch over the golden fountain trough on the lower promenade of Nar Shaddaa while a female Twi’lek looks on amused.

WHERE TO FIND IT:

(-986, 517) “Lower Promenade”, Nar Shaddaa

 

It’s probably one of the first humorous scenes you encountered the first time you played SWTOR: a human male throwing up into the fountain on Nar Shaddaa. Did he just have too much to drink? Did his female Twi’lek companion trigger his gag reflex by telling him the golden water was actually water passed by a Hutt? Or was it something more than that?

 

Bixlo was a business man. A shrewd business man.

 

He was famous throughout the black market networks of over six systems, a finagler whose expertise included bilking the hard earned credits out of the hands of more legitimate entrepreneurs. Bixlo Benns was known from Adumar to Tatooine as “The bahzanka jonsa yae” (The human with the Silver Tongue).

 

Until he met Herr.

 

Specifically, Herr’nika; a Twi’lek dancer and something of an entrepreneur herself. She worked the entertainment circuit from one hovering casino to another on Nar Shaddaa, never dancing on the promenade itself because that’s where she liked to unwind and spend her off-time. Alone. Herr’nika owned several of the larger residential blocks near the Slippery Slopes cantina as well as a controlling interest in the cantina itself. Most of the profits went to Sarthaa The Hutt, but her business was her own and Sarthaa never bothered to check Herr’s books. She was a generous business partner, after all. No reason to dig so deep into a partner’s pockets that you scare them off, or make them an enemy. Sarthaa was smarter than the average Yae with a bahzanka jonsa.

 

Herr’s specialty, and the trade with which she made her fortune, had nothing to do with her own dancing. Herr’nika designed, manufactured and sold holo units that recorded Twi’lek dancers in one club and broadcast them live in another. Revelers in the Silent Suns cantina on Coruscant were thrilled that they didn’t have to pay a cover charge to see a live projection of Mila’noko-Rah dancing for them—even if the actual flesh of her swaying lekku was several parsecs away on Nar Shaddaa. Club owners paid a small fortune for the projectors, and all Herr had to do was surreptitiously place a recording device in a club and calibrate it remotely from her ship. It only took a couple sales on Malastare and Coruscant to make enough to hire a staff to do the dirty work for her. Then all she had to do was sit back and collect.

 

Bixlo Benns fancied himself slightly more shrewd than the average Hutt, and heads and slimy tails above and beyond the likes of Sarthaa. He followed Herr’nika around Nar Shaddaa, listened in as she met with one of Sarthaa’s collectors, observed her tinkering with a receiver just outside the ship she had docked near the lower promenade, and traced one of the signals to Abregado-Rae where she just made a huge sale to a club owner there. After three days of close observation, he decided to make his move.

 

Bixlo Benns was going to get a cut of Herr’nika’s action with the oldest and most trusted technique in the book: simple extortion. He patted the pocket of his pants that held the small datapad packed with the details of Herr’s operation: frequencies, transmitter ranges, exact locations of hidden camera placements. All he had to do was loosen her up with a couple drinks.

 

“Hey, babe,” he smirked as he sidled up next to her in the Slippery Slopes. He nodded to the bartender and motioned to get a refill for the “lovely lekkus” next to him.

 

Herr’nika slid her eyes toward the human and corrected, “Lekku.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“The plural of lekku is lekku,” she said, though Bixlo smiled when she accepted her drink and threw it back. He ordered another for himself and slid closer.

 

“Name’s Bixlo. Bixlo Benns.” He held out a hand. The Twi’lek considered the hand for a moment, then took it, curling her long slender fingers around his. “Herr’nika.”

 

“I know,” Bixlo grinned. He jutted a thumb at himself. “Huge fan.”

 

“Really?” She downed her drink. Bixlo ordered another. Then he got another for himself, determined to match her swallow for swallow and drink her under the table. This, he thought, will be the easiest score ever.

 

Except that Herr’s drink of choice was water.

 

It was less than two hours later that a rather mush-brained Bixlo Benns decided to ply his silver tongue and entice Herr with an offer she couldn’t refuse. They strolled—rather staggered—alongside the band pit and flickering lights of the lower promenade when he stopped and turned to her. “I haff a bidness proposilinition for you, Herm.”

 

“I’m sure you do,” she smirked. Herr shifted her weight to one hip, amused as she started the mental countdown to Bixlo Benns’ pending failure. She started counting backward from twenty.

 

At “eighteen” Bixlo Benns suddenly lurched, made an “urp” sound in his throat, then lost an hour’s worth of Tatooine Sunrises into the golden fountain next to them. The next morning Bixlo would wake up at that same spot, minus his wallet, logbook, the datapad with all the extortion intel on Herr’nika… and his boots.

 

The lesson he learned: Find out what your mark is drinking before you start matching them swallow for swallow.

 

 

 

CAPTURED MOMENTS LINKS

 

“The Tale of the Lost Jawa”

“The Sad Tale of Arlon and Jurie”

 

If you have a favorite “captured moment” scene, screenshot it and send it to me (swtorliferp(at)gmail.com). If you’ve got a story to go along with it, let’s hear it; or if you want to see what I can make up, we can do that too. ((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively on swtor-life.com every Friday. Contact MJ directly by writing to swtorlife(at)mail, leave a comment, or follow him on Twitter @MJswtor.

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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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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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Practicing Your Characterization with PRP

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 27. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #49))

RPXPMJ49

I enjoy PRP.

 

No, it’s not another form of “ERP,” and it’s not some kind of bastardization of PVP and RP. PRP stands for “Personal RolePlay,” and it’s a term I use to describe the act of RPing alone.

 

Yes, I realize that RP is a social activity. In fact, BioWare counts on it. Most, if not all, of the developer-made activities that might invite RolePlayers (Flashpoints, for example) deliver Social XP in exchange for being grouped through an RP scenario. And, yes, I also realize many of you “spacebar” through Flashpoints, especially if you’ve done them a million times. But consider that group actions like Flashpoints are made to give you RP options and ways to demonstrate the level of your character’s alignment. Do you pull the lever and eject the engineers into the void of space, or do you find the long way around? These are great opportunities for you and your RP partners to demonstrate in a live scenario just how good or bad (or indifferent) you are.

 

But what about the solo players?

 

Granted, you won’t find as much flaming or whining on the forums about the “Solo Game” as you will about PVP and other issues, but there is a contingent of gamers who are in it for the PVE alone. Some of them enjoy RP from time to time, but due to conflicting schedules—or simple shyness—they often spend their time in SWTOR engaged in RP alone.

 

WHY!?

 

If you’ve been following my column for awhile, or if you’ve RolePlayed with me on the Ebon Hawk server, you know the level of importance I place on characterization. Character, more than story, is what drives really good RP and gives breath to your two-dimensional avatars on the screen.

 

PRP gives you the opportunity to work out your characterization through practice. It’s no different than an actor running through his lines of dialog in front of a mirror, or a PVPer testing out weapon combinations or timing cool-downs against a practice dummy. PRP lets you work out accents, practice your typing speed, flesh out combinations of different languages or exposition, and it lets you get inside your character’s head so that you’re already fully versed when you step into an RP with others.

 

HOW DO YOU RP ALONE?

 

Well, it just so happens that SWTOR has given us companion characters to dress up, outfit, and fight with. Like the PVPer’s practice dummy, our “living companions” can serve as the mirrors we practice against. Companions offer up lines in PVE that let us play out our “light” or “dark” tendencies. Different companions respond according to the characterizations given to them by BioWare’s talented writers, and that gives us the stage to play out our own character’s guilt, remorse or glee in any given situation.

 

Did your Sith Warrior shock Vette or refrain from shocking her? Was that really how your character would act, or were you just building light or dark points? PRP demands that you react to PVE situations completely IN-CHARACTER regardless of how you might respond if the situation were played out in real life. I recently came across a situation with my selfishly-chaotic smuggler where I had the opportunity to free, or kill, a slicer who just gave me valuable information. My previous two smugglers let the slicer go, thankful for the intel and more than willing to play fair after getting paid. It was a difficult pause before I clicked “3” on the conversation wheel and ended an innocent life with my latest smuggler. But, hey, it’s what he would have done. It was In-Character.

 

You can also engage in personality practice by chatting with your companions on the privacy of your own ship. Or, if you’re willing to let your PRP lure in other RPers and give you the chance to build up a group of RP partners, you can do so in public. All you have to do is hold a solo conversation with your companion, playing both parts, to test yourself and how your character responds. Incidentally, this is also a good practice for trying out different personalities. If your Bounty Hunter doesn’t see eye to eye with Mako, playing her role as well as your Hunter’s lets you stretch more creative muscles and see things from another character’s point of view.

 

Here’s an example of solo dialog you might play with:

 

[Brollax] says: “I’m not too sure about this Balmorra business.”

[Brollax] says: M: “What are you talkin’ about, Brollax?”

Brollax makes a sour face and grumbles, “I’m just sick of it. It’s just one war zone after another.”

[Brollax] says: M: “You’re not going to give up, are you? Again?”

Brollax glares at Mako. “You’d better back off, kid.”

[Brollax] says: M: “Kid!? If it weren’t for me you’d still be stuck on that slime ball Hutta!”

 

You, as “Brollax” speak for both you and Mako (aka. “M”). In this scenario, you’re getting into an argument with your companion, playing with both your own developing character and Mako’s. Naturally, you would substitute the name (or nickname) you’ve given your companion to separate and individualize them, keeping in mind there are thousands of Makos already out there. You can also use impersonal pronouns the same way the game dialog uses them when referring to you. “Captain,” “Sith,” “Padawan,” are spoken dialog substitutes for your character’s name. You don’t have to use direct address, and there are different ways to show that you’re speaking on behalf of your companion (finally, a good reason to NOT have chat bubbles). You can use various keyboard triggers to show when you’re speaking on behalf of an NPC: [Name], ~~, ||, >>, etc. to show that it’s your NPC speaking and now you.

 

TALKING TO YOURSELF

 

I can’t tell you how many times I took a break from leveling on Korriban to stand on the edge of a cliff to gaze out at the mighty statues of long dead Sith, wondering (in my character’s voice) how they must have lived, how they must have ruled, and what they did to succeed, or fail.

 

PRP doesn’t have to be an “active” activity. Just rolling your mouse wheel forward until you’re in first person view, and taking a look at your surroundings—seeing them the way your character would—is enough to help you establish your characterization by putting you in the mindset of your avatar.

 

You, the player, may see Ord Mantell as a battle-torn planet with objectives and PVE points. Your Smuggler may see it as a landscape of opportunity and ways to make money off every bomb drop and every scrap of undelivered medical supplies or rations. Your Jedi may see it as the front line in a battle between the noble freedom fighters of the Republic and a band of rebellious upstarts. Your Consular may see it as a sad battle-worn planet where the locals are doing all they can to defend themselves against an invading Republic army that doesn’t belong there in the first place. And your Trooper may see it as home, feeling a swell of pride and job security, an place to do some good and make a difference.

 

I invite you to step inside your character’s head the next time you log into the game and try some PRP for character building. Use your fancy new chair-sitting emote to sit and chat with Vette or Treek or Lord Scourge, or just go to a far corner of Tatooine and gaze out at the twin suns the way Luke did in A New Hope.

 

Granted, Mark Hamill may have been pondering his next scene or what George meant by “suns,” but Luke Skywalker was thinking about being stuck on that stinking moisture farm so far from the rest of the galaxy, internally bemoaning Biggs and dreaming of his escape from the tyranny of Uncle Owen.

 

So, what would a “personal moment” be like with your character?

 

((The RP XP with MJ)) appears right here on swtor-life.com AND NOWHERE ELSE! You can contact MJ directly by writing to him at swtorliferp(at)gmail.com, or you can follow him on Twitter @MJswtor, or follow the off-game exploits of his smuggler Elayo on Twitter @Elayo_Horwi.

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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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Add Variety to Your RP With Unique Race Options

Published by under Role Play on Sep. 13. 2013.

((The RP XP with MJ #47))

RPXPMJ47

A while ago, I introduced you to “Sentient,” a unique character portrayal in that the player used armor combinations to create a “droid.” In case you missed it, you can find out how to create your own “playable droid race” here. Since then, BioWare has tossed RolePlayers a bone by introducing robotic limb replacements in cartel drops as cybernetic armor pieces. If you’re lucky enough to get an arm and a leg without paying an arm and a leg, you’re one leg up on Sentient.

But what if you’re not interested in creating a droid character? What if you want to take your RP to the next level, but you’re just not keen on the droid thing? What other options are there? RolePlaying as a human, cyborg, Sith Pureblood, Twi’lek or Zabrak is fine, but there are thousands of them out there. Once you’ve seen one former slave Twi’lek, one chip-on-his-shoulder Zabrak, or one Chiss with a superiority complex, you’ve seen ‘em all. Hat’s off to those RPers out there who buck the trend and try for something outside the norm. Let’s face it, atheistic Mirialans or Force-deprived (read: “blind”) Miraluka, are pretty rare, but pretty cool to see acted out. The ability to jump Legacy boundaries makes for some fun as well. I recall once seeing a “blind” smuggler (Miraluka character played as a “blind human”) trying to “shoot” a “glass” off another character’s head. Now that’s BARPing at the next level.

I recently did some digging, and found more than 60 unique races in the Star Wars universe that you can create in-game using the human model. In many cases a twist on hair and eye color suffice, but it’s more in how you play the traits of the race that count.

Here are a few I came up with. See if they spark some creative RP possibilities for your next character. Most of these can be created with the baseline human without having to purchase hair or eye options separately.

LORRDIAN

Homeworld: Lorrd, in the Kanz Sector

47Lorrdian

 

 

Appearance: Medium to light brown skin.

Traits: Skilled mimics who use a sophisticated form of “kinetic communication.”

Canon Meter: Senator Nee Alavar appeared in the prequel films. She was Lorrdian.

Old Republic History: Around the time of TOR, the Lorrdians were involved in a sector-wide conflict called the “Kanz Disorders.”

 

HAPAN

Homeworld: Hapes, The Hapes Cluster in the Inner Rim

47Hapan

 

 

Appearance: Extremely Beautiful (Hapans have poor night vision, so dark eyes might help your persona). Keep in mind that it would be rare to find a male Hapan (though not impossible), and this race was considered pretty uniform in build (body type 2, I’d say)

Traits: Strong willed and independent.

Canon Meter: Mentioned throughout various E.U. publications and games.

Old Republic History: Hapan became a matriarchal society about 1,000 years before the events of TOR. Prior to that time they were dominated by the Lorell Raiders pirate gang. If you’re looking for a strong-willed female character, consider the Hapan.

 

ARKANIAN

Homeworld: Arkania

47Arkanian

 

 

Appearance: Tan skin, white hair, white eyes (will require buying the “white eye” option for humans, although you can disguise your character’s eyes by making your Arkanian a Cyborg with eye-concealing cybernetics). NOTE: Arkanians also have 4-clawed digits. This can be disguised by dressing your character in heavy gloves or gauntlets.

Traits: Extreme intelligence and capable of seeing into the infrared spectrum. Be mindful of “godmodding” with that “extreme intelligence” thing. As with anything new, be sure to explain the traits of your species OOCly to your RP partners before proceeding to give them a chance to respond knowledgeably.

Canon Meter: Mentioned throughout Knights of the Old Republic E.U. fiction as well as carrying a listing in the Star Wars Encyclopedia.

Old Republic History: Arkanians have a rich history dating back 17,000 BBY, so it’s not hard to imagine their active presence around the time of the Old Republic, though I couldn’t find any specific references.

 

 

DATHOMIRI (DATHOMIRIAN)

Homeworld: Dathomir, in the Quelii Sector of the Outer Rim

47Dathomirian

 

 

Appearance: Pale white skin, silver or black hair (females). Red, orange or yellow/black markings and cranial horns (males). Use the human model for a female Dathomiri, a Zabrak for a male. I used the platinum blond hair option (extra fee), but you can probably get by with white, light gray or blond.

Traits: If you want to bend time-space a little, you can claim your character was an early version of the “Nightsister society” or the “Witches of Dathomir.” To be a little more vague on the subject, as well as special or unique, by opting for traits involving mysticism or alchemy. You can leave it at that without drawing a parallel to distant future canon.

Canon Meter: Star Wars: The Clone Wars canon. Savage Opress (brother of Darth Maul—and therefore also Darth Maul) were male Dathomiri. Asajj Ventress was a female Dathomir.

Old Republic History: Most Dathomiri history revolves around the Clone War era with references to breeding between Rattataki, Humans and Zabraks leading to the likes of Maul and Ventress. As to Dathomir during TOR-time? I couldn’t find anything solid, but there’s no reason the planet hadn’t evolved along the lines of others. If you create a Dathomirian, be cautious about your character’s background, and steer clear of references to things like the Nightsisters (who, by accounts, won’t be around for another 3,000 years or so).

 

 

KIFFAR

Homeworld: Kiffu or Kiffex

47Kiffar

 

 

Appearance: Facial tattoos, otherwise human-like in all other respects. Most of the Kiffar appearances seemed to favor Native American or African American appearances, though the Tonnika sisters from SWIV appeared as Kiffar with light skin and no facial tattoos. Instead, they sported long braided hair.

Traits: Psychometric abilities (They have a unique Force-like ability that allows them to pick up traces or impressions from objects touched by other beings).

Canon Meter: The Kiffar have been in everything from Old Republic E.U. material (Jedi Shigar Konshi in the novel Star Wars The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance) to Star Wars IV: A New Hope (The Tonnika Sisters who appear briefly in the cantina scene). They also appeared in episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Old Republic History: If you dig, you can find pretty extensive references to the Kiffar in Star Wars lore. During the Old Republic, the Empire annexed the worlds of Kiffu and Kiffex, meaning you can play your Kiffar as an Imperial loyalist, a freedom fighter or a refugee.

 

 

BERCHESTIAN

Homeworld: Berchest (or Mrisst)

47Berchestian

 

 

Appearance: Characters or markings on their foreheads (I found only certain “scar” options with the Sith Inquisitor revealed something similar to what the Berchestians have).

Traits: Not much is known about the Berchestians. I only included them in this list as an example of how deep you can go into your Star Wars character creation and still maintain a unique “simplicity.” Perhaps having a Berchestian Inquisitor is enough and you don’t need special abilities to stand out in your RP. There are several races like the Berchestians–like Corellians, for example–who seem like “nothing special” on the surface. Then again, remember that Han Solo was Corellian. I’d say that’s pretty special.

Canon Meter: Berchestians are only mentioned in some E.U. materials and games. Wookieepedia has a very small entry about them. They were first mentioned in the Thrawn novels.

Old Republic History: Since not much is known about them, there’s no reason to say they didn’t exist during the time of the Old Republic. Unless otherwise specified, if the race you choose isn’t specifically referenced as not appearing until after the Old Republic era, it should be a safe bet that they were around. Maybe they kept to themselves. Who’s to say?

 

 

ZELOSIAN

Homeworld: Zelos II

47Zelosian

 

Appearance: Striking emerald green eyes.

Traits: Zelosians have chlorophyll for blood, and they’re blind in the dark. That’s right, they’re plants. There are a lot of really creative things you can do with a character like this, and imagine the fun you can have BARPing with a Zelosian. (“/e bumps into the man next to him // “Hey, what’s the deal!” // “Sorry, friend. Just trying to get closer to that light.  /sigh.”)

Canon Meter: Mentioned throughout the E.U., particularly in novels and short stories.

Old Republic History: Zelosians make an appearance in Star Wars The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance.

 

 

UMBARAN

Homeworld: Umbara (within the Ghost Nebula)

47Umbaran

 

 

Appearance: Pale skin, white hair (males) or bald (females) and white or pale blue eyes.

Traits: Ability to influence others (think Jedi Mind Trick without the Force), ultraviolet vision. If you’re going to use the Umbaran ability of mind control, be sure to clear it OOCly with your RP partner. Explain to them that your character is an Umbaran and what they can do. Be conscious of their character too. It’s possible their character has a strong enough will to resist an Umbaran’s mental strengths, or at least detect them. Don’t make that decision for them. That’s godmodding. Talk it out before you act it out.

Canon Meter: Supreme Chancellor Palpatine used an Umbaran named Sly Moore as his Staff Aide. Umbarans also figured prominently in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, in the Bane novels and various other resources.

Old Republic History: According to Wookieepedia, “Umbarans have had a presence in galactic affairs since the dawn of the Galactic Republic.” One of my characters is Umbaran and I play her as a secretive and meddlesome little spy.

 

 

ECHANI

Homeworld: Eshan

47Echani

 

 

Appearance: Chalk pale, or dark skin; white or dark hair, silver eyes. (The dark hair/skin varieties were considered an offshoot of the original Eschani race. Read the Wookieepedia articles on them for more (I’ve included a link below)).

Traits: Extremely good tacticians (almost to the point of predicting an opponent’s next move). The ability to read feelings and emotions during combat. Again, be sure to clear this OOCly before surprising your RP partner with your character’s “mystical prowess.”

Canon Meter: Echani first appeared in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and have appeared in several other E.U. publications from the Bane novels to Star Wars: Darth Plagueis. Rumor has it that the Emperor’s elite red guard were Eschani under those crimson helmets.

Old Republic History: Echani were HUGE during the time of the Old Republic. If you’ve played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, you may recall that many vibroblades and light armor were “Echani” made. I’ve actually come across two RPers on my server who were sporting Echani characters.

 

MIX AND MATCH

(Example: HALF CHISS)

47HalfChiss

 

 

 

I know there are those of you who will wag a finger and cry “Foul!” to the notion that different Star Wars species can actually cross-breed and create new offshoots. To that, I point to two irrefutable canon references from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The season two episode, “The Deserter” featured a human clone raising a family with the Twi’lek he took as his mate. The Clone Wars is also the canon linchpin for the Dathomir (who were created as a result of breeding between Humans, Zabraks and Rattataki). There are even references in Wookieepedia that point to the Arkanians being related to the Echani. The Clone Wars always had the Notorious G.L.’s thumbs up on everything. So… there you go.

 

The bottom line is: have fun with it and don’t worry about notions of “canon” unless you plan to break it by creating a black and red Dathomir you name “Darf Mall.” …Seriously. Don’t.

 

There are more than 60 references to “near human” species in Wookieepedia, so I guarantee you there are probably some really cool ones that you can create using the tools in SWTOR. Look through them, read about their traits and abilities, then see what you can come up with in RP. You can also consider something totally unique like my “half Chiss” pictured above. Pale (blue tinted with a little tweak of his “dark side corruption”) skin, shrouded eyes (because there are no all-red eye options for humans), black hair. Father, human. Mother, Chiss. This is a great solution for those of you out there who don’t have the Legacy cred or funds to create a Chiss character in the class you want, but who want to utilize your vast knowledge of the Chiss Ascendancy.

 

RESOURCES: There would be too many footnotes to list individually, so I’ll just make it simple for you. Here is a LINK to Wookieepedia’s “Near Human” category. You’ll find expanded information on the races I mentioned here, and more. If you come across a unique race you’d like to share, let me know about it. As an RPing altaholic, I’m always game for more.

 

((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively on swtor-life.com every Friday. If you’d like to share some ideas with MJ, you can contact him directly via Twitter @MJswtor, or you can write to him at swtorliferp-at-gmail or mjtorrp-at-gmail. MJ answers your RP questions every 10 issues of the RP XP, so send them in early and often!

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