((The RP XP with MJ #13))
Padawan Tarik sat next to the smuggler Yulel in the passenger compartment of the Regail. His eyes fell upon the Twi’lek spice runner with adoration beyond the simple recognition of her abilities and strength of survival. He dabbed at a scrape on the side of her face with a medicated pad but his eyes remained glazed on the unbroken beauty of her profile.
She glanced at him and he pulled away quickly, blushing and looking down at the Kolto salve tube in his other hand. She said, “You don’t think I should have brought this, do you? You think I should have left it.”
Yulel held up a clear crystal shaped like a chiseled tube no bigger than her little finger.
Tarik smirked and reached up to scratch his head between two of his Zabrak horns. “I don’t even know what that is, Yulie.”
She frowned, her dark eyes pushing at him. “Don’t call me that.”
“I’m sorry.” He stood and returned the Kolto to the medical cabinet next to the cabin’s refresher and washed his hands. “I just miss you. I–“
She stood, tossing the crystal idly in her hand as she smirked at him. “You never learn, do you?” She tapped the hand holding the crystal to her chest. “You just don’t get it. We can’t have a relationship, Tarik. You’re a Jedi.”
He looked down, wounded by her words on many unexpected levels. “I just thought–“
“You just thought you’d help your master bring me to the council on Tython about this.” She held up the crystal. It caught some of the cabin light and glinted.
He stared at it for a long moment, until its beauty rivaled hers. “Is that really it? Is that the Shard of Jen’Hutis?”
Rather than answer the question, she demonstrated. Yulel closed the crystal in her fist and reached out with her other hand toward Tarik’s waist. His lightsaber rattled slightly on his belt, then unclipped and flew into her hand.
Tarik stared, his eyes wide. “It is,” he mouthed.
The legendary Shard of Jen’Hutis was rumored to focus the Force around the individual who possessed it. It would give Force powers to someone like Yulel who had no Force abilities. To a Jedi or Sith… it could be a lethal weapon. Tarik and Master Kendris had been assigned the task of locating the crystal and bringing it to Tython for study.
“Yulie–Yulel… Where did you get it?”
The smuggler reached out, floating the lightsaber back to the Padawan as she offered him a smirk in response. “Out of the crate in the Czerka warehouse. I thought you were there.”
He snatched the hilt out of the air and returned it to his belt. “You know what I mean. I–“
An astromech droid beeped as it rolled up the access ramp. Tarik straightened his robes and Yulel quickly tucked the Shard into the cleavage of her flight jacket. Both of them watched the entranceway as the droid rolled up and turned away from them, then Master Kendris stepped up and turned toward them.
Kendris inhaled deeply and held out his hand toward Yulel. “If you have it, I suggest you give it to me.”
Search all you want and dig as deep into Star Wars lore as you want, you’ll never find a reference to the “Shard of Jen’Hutis.” I made it up.
Gasp! How dare I!
I dare indeed.
If you’re going to engage in riveting and dramatic RP scenarios in TOR, you’re going to need to be creative about the stories and backgrounds you write and the elements you put into them. Beyond RPing into the grind of flash points or operations, you’ll grow tired of the same old “I need to take my droid to get his memory erased” scenarios.
You can’t change established canon and you can’t create new canon that would throw the Star Wars universe into a vortex of saber-buzzing rage.
So how do you “make up” interesting stuff without violating these very basic rules of RP fiction? Let’s take a look at the basics.
THINGS YOU CAN’T DO
CAN’T – Change People
There are three levels of canon-breaking when it comes to characters.
First, and most ridiculously lethal, is the claim that your character IS a canon character. Going through TOR claiming your Sith Inquisitor is Darth Malgus or your Jedi Knight is Satele Shan is just plain stupid. For starters, um, they’re already in the lore and the story… and the game. You didn’t create or write them. So… hands off.
Next, don’t make claims that you’re related to canon characters or that you know them personally. You may think it’s okay because you’re not claiming you’re them, but it’s just as bad to shoehorn yourself into the canon by building connections that would “godmod” your character or give them unfair or unlikely story advantages.
The least offensive of the people-changing canon-breakers is claiming personal knowledge related to the character. For example, even if you don’t say you are Satele Shan, and don’t say you’re her cousin, it’s just as bad to go around saying, “I was with Grand Master Shan during the signing of the treaty on Alderaan,” or even something as innocuous as “Darth Malgus told me a secret.” Writing “insider knowledge” into your character’s story is also godmodding and elevates your character outside comfortable RP. It also intrudes on the character created or written by someone else. You can’t say you were buddies with Revan “back in the day” unless Drew Karpyshyn agrees to it. Only he would know whether or not Revan would be your character’s buddy. While your character will be a hero in the Bioware-crafted TOR story, in RolePlay you’re not much better or worse than those around you.
CAN’T – Change Places
Likewise, it’s not a good idea to make changes to known canonical locations. The Jedi Temple on Coruscant is in ruins during this time period. You can’t claim that you just came from a meeting there and enjoyed the view from the central tower because, um, it ain’t there.
It’s also not a good idea to claim your character owns lakefront property on Tatooine; Naboo, maybe, but the most iconic DESERT planet in Star Wars? Mmm, nah.
Leave places as they are, and in the state they’re in. Can I say I have a case of green moss from Hoth in the cargo bay of my ship? It’s a trick question. The answer is yes. If you dig deep enough you’ll find out some interesting things about the Star Wars universe. Concepts for Hoth that point to the native tauntauns include an explanation for the animals’ omnivorous survival: underground caves where they feed off the fungus growing there. If you have an idea for an RP twist, research it. Chances are you’ll find it in some hidden canon reference.
Do you need that kind of research? Not necessarily. You can use logical considerations without breaking the established norms. Let’s go back to Tatooine. Sure, Tatooine may not have oceans, but the Skywalkers worked a moisture farm. Where’d that moisture come from? Underground rivers? Degrading polar caps? Forced oxygen condensation? I’m sure you can “invent” something that could tap into those ideas, which brings me to….
CAN’T – Change Things
You may be able to argue that lightsabers have adjustable blades because there are references to it in extended universe materials as well as published schematics. The first example I remember from fiction is in Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (Del Rey, 1978). In Splinter, Luke adjusted the length of his lightsaber blade using a control on the hilt.
Do lightsabers have the ability to “fire” their blades like torpedoes? Not by design. And, yes, while they can have blade colors other than yellow, red, green, purple and blue (KOTOR II gave you the option of brandishing a rare “white” or “silver” blade), there haven’t been any references (to my knowledge at least) of a lightsaber firing nano-probe missiles from its pommel, for example.
The point here is that lightsabers are iconic canon. You can probably get away with a lot of things concerning this enigmatic tool, but you can’t change the heart and soul of lightsaber lore. Can your RP include a story about once battling a Sith Lord who used a lightsaber that was constructed into the back of a gauntlet (pseudo “Wolverine” claws)? Possibly. Can you invent a story about aboriginal natives of the planet Wozar mass-producing and brandishing their own lightsabers and selling them to the Jedi? No. Jedi build their own as part of their trials.
THINGS YOU CAN DO
CAN – Create People
Okay, maybe you weren’t Satele Shan or Darth Malgus, but the further you place yourself from them the more believable you can make the connection. If you add an element of doubt to your story, it gives it the realism you intend. For example, you can’t say, “I am Darth Malgus,” but you can say, “I knew this guy whose cousin refueled the shuttle Lord Malgus used after the sacking of Coruscant.” It adds an element of doubt which gives it more credence, and mystery.
That’s an extreme eye-roll of an example, but the basic rule is this: If you feel the need to “name drop” in RP, you’re doing it wrong. RP your character on his or her own merits. Don’t make them something they’re not or draw canonical links to garnish attention. Can you say your grandfather once served on the Jedi Council? Sure. You can even say, “Maybe I can talk to him, and see if he can help us out.” Just remember to leave cracks of doubt in your narrative. Don’t write in an easy fix with the NPCs you create. “Maybe” is a strong word in this example, as is the phrase “once served.” It means he may not be able to help you and your friends, and it also indicates he may not be much help since he no longer serves the Jedi Order.
CAN – Use Places
If you check out Wookieepedia, you’ll find hundreds of referenced locations in the Star Wars universe. Space stations, moons, planets, and most of them are not in TOR. So, saying that your ship was damaged by the cold during a layover at Yuka (13th planet in the Kamino system with very little historical reference) is perfectly acceptable. Why not Hoth? Because Hoth is in the game and you can come and go from there via ship. It’s unlikely the cold alone would cause the damage you describe.
Was your bounty hunter formerly employed by a firm that transported forestry materials illegally from Kashyyk? It’s possible, even probable, and doesn’t “break” anything. Did your smuggler work for a paper mill in a valley on Manaan? …The water planet? Mm, no.
CAN – Invent Things
Let’s go back to my made-up invention of the Shard of Jen’Hutis. Why is it okay for me to create something like that? Because, it passes the RP Personal Canon Checklist:
1. Is the item temporary? (In other words, will it be “lost,” “broken” or discovered to be a “fraud”)?
2. Is the item local? (In other words, known only to those in your party and a few NPCs you create)?
3. Is the item weak? (In other words, not strong enough to rival the Death Star and thereby invalidate #2)?
4. Is the item usable by few (or less) people? (In other words, not a whole army, again not like #2)?
5. Is there a “catch” to the item that prevents you from using it to godmod your character?
You’re probably in good shape if you can answer yes to three or more of those questions. Let’s see how Yulel would answer them about the Shard:
1. Yes. At some point it will be stolen or confiscated (Ooh! Spoiler!)
2. Yes. Only she, Tarik and Kendris know about it (and the Sith hunting her)
3. Yes. It only offers minimal Force powers to the person holding it.
4. Yes. It’s a one-of-a-kind item and can’t be mined, grown or mass-produced.
5. No. But, since it’s only temporary and Yulel has no intentions of abusing the power of the Shard, it’s usable in the story. In an RP scenario I could use Out Of Character (OOC) chat to promise my RP friends that the Shard is an inconsequential tool in the story, an invention to move the plot and nothing more. If, that is, it bothers someone.
Keep in mind that all of this is out the window if you simply make it clear that it’s NOT fact. For example, “I hear the Republic has taken over Kashyyk and they’re building a giant underground ion canon and using the Wookiees for slave labor.” It’s a rumor, a story, a lie, or something that can be disproved. That’s a far cry from saying the same thing is fact and claiming your character was part of the conspiracy.
What’s your experience with canon in RP (good or bad)? Do you have a story or character in mind that passes the RP Personal Canon Checklist? Let’s hear about it. Feel free to run it by me — you can contact me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t want to ruin any surprises with your RP guild mates.
COMING SOON: Before Friday, and the holiday weekend—which includes beta for just about everyone who wants it—I’ll give you a BETA PREVIEW of RP in TOR. What works, what doesn’t, and how cool it really is.
You can contact MJ at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MJswotor
MJ is the editor of swtor-life.com and your friendly neighborhood weekly RP columnist.
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