When I first came to The Old Republic, I came from a culture where if you were new, your character was restricted to a low level of power and authority, so SWTOR’s culture came as a bit of a shock. I could make any character I wanted. I could make a Darth, or a General, or a Master Jedi. I ended up making a very rich Sith and spent the first few months of my time here going around giving out ridiculous amounts of money while trying to solve as many characters’ problems as quickly as I could.
It’s hard not to feel embarrassed now when I think about that. When I see other people doing the same, it’s easy to see where it comes from. People like to be popular, and they like to do good things for other people. It makes sense that in a fantasy world where you can have as much power to do good as you want, you’d instantly go into a glut.
The problem it results in is the same one faced by the first writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I know; it’s a bit of a reach. Stick with me.
Killing characters, I’ve found, is a very touchy subject in MMO-based RP. It’s not hard to get to the root of why. No-one needs to write anything that they’re not happy about writing. So if they’re not happy about their character dying, it probably won’t happen. There are lots of workarounds suited to that problem here, from bending character’s to show mercy, using Star Wars’ super-healing tech, to even saying ‘it was a decoy clone’. Saw that used once. Wouldn’t recommend it. You know the sort of thing I mean. Not wanting to touch that barrier between what could happen.
Dead bodies littering the ground. Debris scattered. Smoke rises.
And what will happen.
A moment in time, utterly frozen, as the puppeteers behind the writers either snap at each other or describe what I like to call the Super-Twizzle.
John Starweaver sees the blaster bolt coming and darts to the side, dodging it!
No-one wants to hit that barrier. It’s an uncomfortable feeling which draws us out of the story and into the reality that you’re borrowing space in someone else’s sandbox and they might not want to share their toys.
So how is it done outside of the MMO scene?
It’s all over now. The fight’s been averted or broken up. The standoff’s stepped down. Would-be foes have parted ways, or someone’s come a cropper. Bittersweet victory, or stinging defeat. Now you need to deal with the Fallout. Victory is easy, though, so I'm going to focus on defeat and stalemate.
You could write it off as having never happened! That seems to be a popular one, in some circles. A convenient retcon as your super-duper über-trooper didn’t win the day. Can’t have your Sith’s pride sting. Best not keep that slip-up by the Jedi on record. Alternatively, you could go with the populist option of shouting, “DAR’MANDA/TRAITOR/HERETIC!” Try to galvanise your own position with whichever Bantha-poodoo buzzword is in, this week. Or snap “((Just you wait ‘til the super assassin-sniper stealth-cyborg (not my alt honest) comes for you!))” If that’s your bag.
I don’t personally advise following that particular trend, though. That sort of cop-out is nothing short of unacceptable. Why? Well, beyond being offensive to other players involved, and some of the laziest and most petty options in the arsenal, you’re also denying yourself the opportunity for interesting character development. Opting-in to stagnation. You know who gains from that? No-one. Not you, not the other guys, not your guildies. Not the impartial passer-by. You’re still right there at Square One. Who wants that?
As ever, mean old Uncle Lisk’s got some examples.
Chut-chut, gizkas. I’ll save the intro wordcount and continue straight on from Part I. Bamboozled? Go ye hence and read it. The groundwork of this and that naturally apply. Abridged: Your character is still mortal. Don’t use the excuse of, “I can do standoff!” to pick a fight. Grancha.
I promised you Lightsabers! Or vibroswords, or whatever. The rules are different, here. There’s less loaded-gun tension involved in having wifflebats wobbling about. You can go a different route, though. There’s more to a swordfight than choreographed sweeping slashes and backflips.
Two opposing characters can be locked in a foxtrot footwork match without ever swapping a blow. This is especially relevant for Jedi, who are required to act only in defense. One could even play it out with the lightsaber switched off but to-hand, for example. For Sith, the motives are different but the actions are the same. Intimidation, show of control, showboating one’s nerve.
As with other methods, the trick is to keep the peril factor balanced between the participants until a verbal solution, de-escalation or third-party intervention can be achieved. Aim to disengage. Play it blatantly defensive in the event of an unrelenting aggressor. Give ground, offer to take a little back, but don’t force it. Show the aggressor they are being acknowledged, even if it isn’t going their way. Whisper. Politely. Mind your manners, even especially if the wermo doesn’t deserve it.
It’s method time.
Alright, gizkas, here’s how it goes. Some gorntbreath sleemo’s just drawn on you. Rumpus is inevitable, but emote-battles are still horrible. What now?
Whisper first. Whisper and say, “Hey, Mr. Gornt? I’m going to play for a standoff, alright?” And then you do that. You play for a Standoff. Standoffs are the business. They allow characters to throw the machismo around and look big and tough, then suddenly land in a position where if anyone does something stupid, it ends badly for everyone. This opens the door for dialogue, de-escalation or third-party intervention.
Now, before we get into method, I’m going to lead with the really important bit: The whole idea relies on the assumption that neither party is bluffing and that all parties are willing to do violence unto the other, but that this is not really what anyone wants. Sing with me:
Don’t call the bluff. Do not call the bluff. Never, not ever. Never-ever. Call not the bluff.
With me so far? Never. By all means, have your character bluff! But, if another character says they will stab/shoot yours, assume right off the bat that they do have the stones and they will follow through, regardless of the consequences. You want to play the bluff-caller? Whisper the player! Ask if there’s any sign that the character is bluffing. Even then, assume that their character is entirely serious about doing violent deeds.
People do dangerous things when they’re faced with peril. A crazy number of instadodge emote battles spring into existence because some stoopa bukee says, “Go ahead! Shoot!” Don’t be that guy. I don’t care how much of a badass you think you are, and the guy who believes he has your character right where he wants them certainly doesn’t.
Let’s talk method.
The idea behind RP is to build in character relationships that help drive a story. Whether that relationship be between enemies, lovers, or allies, our characters all have deep running webs of connections that helps us find and spur RP onwards. But which relationship is the most important to foster and find? The enemy? The ally? Maybe a lover? They all have their own stories and conflicts within, some more violent than others. Are you the kind of RPer to spend your time meeting as many fellow players as possible? Or will you focus on a small group and weave a deep, intimate story?
Sometimes it can be hard to strike a balance when you want both a love interest and a competitive foe, but they also can be interwoven into one with enough balance and communication. It can be refreshing to remain happy in the trials and tribulations of an intimate relationship, but often we seek excitement through other means and other RPers.
Give us your opinions, whether it be your character's or your own. What sort of relationships do you look to foster? Are you a loyal friend? A strong ally? Or a lover? Maybe all of them rolled into one!
I have to beg readers' indulgence with this week's installment. I'd intended to write a case study of plan-driven roleplay, based on my debuting a heretofore un-roleplayed character of mine in the Imperial fleet common areas without slipping into "the cantina." Unfortunately, beginning last Thursday, Real Life has conspired to rob me of most of my usual playtime, and I've only been able to log into the game at odd hours when I've had hard luck finding roleplay partners. Consequently, I've had to rearrange my subjects a bit. I still have it in mind to do that case study, but this week I'm going to talk, instead, about what I believe to be the one indispensable component of good story (and, by extension, interesting roleplay)—dramatic conflict.
At the outset, it's important to acknowledge that this is a point on which reasonable people can disagree. I have heard it argued, quite persuasively, that there is no single fulcrum on which story turns; rather, that character, setting, plot, and conflict all have to work in harmony. Likewise, I'm sympathetic to the idea that strong character concepts are central to good roleplay, inasmuch as without them, our characters are just bunches of pixels. It is not my intention to disparage these points of view, for they're not without merit.
That said, dramatic conflict, I believe, is the straw that stirs the story's drink—and roleplayers seeking to eschew the mundane would be well-served to seize upon opportunities to participate in and create it.
Disclaimer: Everything posted here is either observation, loose fact or opinion. I do not claim to have any official knowledge of any of the below and am not a writer nor authority on Lore for BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The Sith Empire
is not The Galactic Republic
. The first mistake most individuals integrating into the society of the Sith make is believing that the same ideals held dear by the Republic apply within Imperial law. They do not. In the Empire, freedom of belief and freedom of speech are non-existent. Democracy is a scorned, ignorant fantasy. In the Empire, there is only the desire for elevation and through it, the elevation of the whole.
For the Sith, power is the only currency worth maintaining, while strength and cunning are the only assets worth possessing. To integrate oneself into Sith society, one must first understand the core of the culture that is the Sith Empire. In this article, I will systematically outline the nature of the Sith and how one should expect to act if one wishes to survive in the Empire.
Conflict is inevitable in roleplay. Some characters even thrive on it, push for it, orchestrate it. In many ways, it's the difference between character development and character pent-up frustration that is never released. Violence can be motivated by anger, love, revenge, even pity in some of the more strange cases. I've heard it said that resolution of conflict is harder than the ignoring of it, and in a roleplay situation, this is painfully true in many ways.
How, then, do we as roleplayers undertake resolution of these conflicts, especially in the violent case? Do we attempt to talk it over, and, if unsuccessful, how do we then proceed? The largest debate I've seen amongst some of my associates is the idea of Player versus Player combat implemented towards the resolution of conflicts within roleplay. I, personally, have engaged in the action more times than not to settle a fight or dispute -- even at the disadvantage of levels of gear.
Does this practise of game mechanic combat to reach resolution feel right, or wrong to you as a roleplayer? Have you ever indulged and if so, what was your experience? Let us know your feelings on the issue, and whether or not you support or denounce player versus player resolution to roleplay conflict.