Hyperspace Beacon: How to run a roleplay event in spite of SWTOR’s mechanics

I have mentioned before that my community and I roleplay in spite of the game mechanics of Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s not really the fault of the developers of the game; the type and level of roleplay that I do is out of the scope of many of the combat-simulator MMORPGs. In spite of this, my little RP guild makes the most of the situation, and we are able to have a great time. In fact, last night I held an event for the guild where one of the newbies to the guild told me that this felt a lot like playing a tabletop game.

Many people have wondered what roleplay is like in a game like SWTOR. I suspect a lot of gamers have the impression that it’s about flirting with the cantina dancers, and although it might include that some of the time (wink, wink), much of my time as an officer of my RP guild is planning and executing larger roleplay plots for the guild. I don’t expect that everyone’s roleplay works this way, but I would like to give you an example of how an event evening will work for me. Hopefully, I can inspire you to join in some of the fun, or at very least, gain a great appreciation for what RPers do.

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Setting up goals

On my RP guild forums, we have a section specifically designed to discuss events and storylines for the guild. It’s not where we discuss the vision and direction of the guild, but many of the conversations there build off those topics. We call this the backstage area, and only players who are designated GMs (or as we call them, “Favored”) and officers can see this section.

I’m not going to give away the details because it’s still playing out right now, but the overarching premise of one of the plots is that an independent Zakuulan noble has an issue with our guild. The noble partnered with an Imperial Moff, who has an agenda of his own. Together they have been attempting to displace our guild by attacking the stronghold on Dromund Kaas not once but twice. We have also retaliated against them by breaking into IT facilities to extract information and also freeing some political prisoners. These less impactful events then led us into a major event that (in our case) portends the destruction of our stronghold.

Of course, this setup is a bit complicated and ongoing. That doesn’t mean that the one you do for your guild has to be. We have events every week that are one-off events or just small and character-driven. It could be as simple as tomb-diving to find a valuable artifact or invading an Republic base to steal a datacore. Regardless of the scale of the event, there should always be some sort of setup and both in-character and out-of-character goals.

In character, the goal of my event was to escape the stronghold, and obviously, the goal of the NPCs was to take over the stronghold. Out of character, the goal was to give us a reason to change facilities. Of course, your reasons don’t need that large of a scope. Your characters could simply wish to get rich off your relic or find out more information about an enemy by stealing the datacore. As for the out-of-character goal, maybe you just want to hang out with your friends, or maybe you’re trying to establish your group’s storyline. Whatever the reasons, it should be clear to you, and when creating and holding the event that goal should always be in the forefront of your mind. Every action that you do in preparation and in execution should hold to those goals.

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The hook

Every other week, our guild has an event where the goal is for all the general populace of the guild to speak to the leaders of the guild in-character. It is also an opportunity for the guild leaders to inform the guild what their plans are and what each of their departments have been doing. We call this regular event Court.

I decided to use this regular event to kick off my event. Since I’m a guild leader, I can do that, but it also serves the purpose of the original event, too: It gives the guild an opportunity to discover the future of the guild. It’s just that this time the event was a bit more interactive than normal.

So now that you got everyone in one place, how do you hook them into the event? Well, since our enemy in this scenario likes to gloat, I did two things. I placed an article on the front of my guild’s website, making a public in-character statement about what was happening. And then in game, I had the bad guy say this over the comlink during Court.

Lord Shaddoe, I think you know who I am. For those gathered — I’m sure that more are gathered around you right now — I am Count Vastane of the glorious Empire of the Eternal Throne. It is good to meet me. As you might have seen on the holonet, my Empire has now procured your tower for use as a… what was it that I said we needed? Oh yes, a…” The hologram picks up a datapad and clears his throat. “… a skytrooper manufacturing facility.”

He drops the datapad out of frame. “I want you to know that your personnel on the other levels have five minutes to clear the building.” A grin creeps over the man’s face. “However, everyone in this room will have to die. Your security systems have already been disabled and my skytroopers are in the lifts right now.” He points a finger at Shaddoe just as he starts to leave. “Oh yes, my ships are patrolling this tower as well. So escaping via the platform will be impossible as well. Good-bye.” The image blinks out, leaving nothing but emptiness in its wake.

Next week, I’ll give my review of the next SWTOR chapter. But after that, I want to come back to the actual event itself and explain how combat and character skills are easily incorporated into the event and the story. Until then, let me know what you think. Would you like more in-spite-of-mechanics type guides? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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13 Comments on "Hyperspace Beacon: How to run a roleplay event in spite of SWTOR’s mechanics"

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Keraph
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Keraph

I’m an avid RPer and am crazy about player-driven storylines, utilizing current game story in your own way or driving your own written content in a way that makes sense within the game world, and what you’ve described as having done for and with your guild sounds like just the sort of awesome thing I love seeing, so congrats and best of luck on your continuing storyline! Put Count Vastane in his place and lead your fold to glorious victory!

Nate Woodard
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Nate Woodard

Larry! Invite me to your guild, sir! :D I’ve been trying to find someone online that could invite me with zero success for the better part of two weeks!

FacelessSavior
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FacelessSavior

As much as I loathe SWTOR, I loved this article. Glad there’s others out there still carrying the RP torch. Well done sir :)

RogerChristie1
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RogerChristie1

vicariousfan RogerChristie1 Well, except that didn’t come close to happening with CoH, and it really isn’t that hard to balance. Just scale the reward for playing the content appropriately.

schlag sweetleaf
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schlag sweetleaf

Many people have wondered what roleplay is like in a game like SWTOR. I suspect a lot of gamers have the impression that it’s about flirting with the cantina dancers, and although it might include that some of the time (wink, wink),

rainy17
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rainy17

Thanks for the article. I want to look for an rp guild now.

vicariousfan
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vicariousfan

RogerChristie1 very few MMOs have a mission designer for a reason.  They are damn near impossible to balance and take a lot of time to make. 

Not to mention usually when they add a mission desginer it means that the developers won’t make content any more.

swingline2008
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swingline2008

That would be nice but they have spoke on items such as this. Player created content is nearly impossible because they have to be careful not to anger the overseers of the Star Wars franchise.

Karl_Hungus
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Karl_Hungus

You could write a whole series of “..in spite of SWTOR’s mechanics” articles

RogerChristie1
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RogerChristie1

You know what SWTOR could use? A mission designer a la City of Heroes.

karmamule
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karmamule

What an enjoyable article, thanks Larry! 

I’m a big fan of bringing your own imagination to a game, and “fill in the cracks” in terms of what features the game may lack.  We’re already doing some hefty suspension of disbelief when playing games, so it really isn’t that much of a leap to extend that out a bit to supplement the action around you, rather than just passively consuming exactly what’s presented.

When I was very young me and my friends were able to turn a stick into a phaser, a tree into a monster, and a small discolored patch of grass into a transporter pad and had tremendous fun.  Now I have some very robust settings in any number of MMOs that are much closer to what story my imagination is telling and it can make for great entertainment.  It’s great to read articles like this to hear how others are doing exactly that.

tl;dr: Don’t just passively take what they give you, put a bit of your own creativity and imagination into a game and it can make the experience much better.

alexjwillis
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alexjwillis

I’m sorry I missed this. It sounded like fun. I wish my schedule wasn’t so borked. (I still managed to mangle many Republic do-gooders on Alderaan after I did log on though.)

Just gonna say, 10/10 for events like this and for mechanical RP innovations, work-arounds, whatever you want to call them. 
A friend in another Ebon Hawk RP guild (Pub-side) has had good results with “scavenger hunt”-type RP events. Teams will be drawn up (usually in groups of 2), clues given, and a list of items or relay points made. Players have to go to distant points and gather these, and in some cases, duel with a faction rival. So, let’s say you’re on Team A (Empire), and your quest sends you to Hoth in search of [X]. It could be killing a unique mob — which can be screenshotted — or finding a particular landmark — which can also be screenshotted. At some of these things, a third party (usually an officer in Alt form) will be waiting to give the next clue. But my favourite thing about this idea is the “defeat the champion” piece. Participants will have to battle a faction rival who guards a particular thing — again, usually an officer “plant” in the cross-faction. This means participants will have to be PvP flagged and will have to be level 65 (or in a gang of more than 1). Hopefully the person playing the Duelling rival is good at PvP and is geared thusly — requiring more than one person to defeat him/her. At one point, the RP event concluded with a raid on a cross-faction base
as a means to “defeat” the rival player inside the base, which sounded awesome. 

My friend says these things run once every month or two and they are supposed to be good fun. Prizes range from valuable cartel items to cash to guild office promotions.

camelotcrusade
Guest
camelotcrusade

Thanks for the insight and the tips, Larry.  I also RP in SWTOR in spite of the hindrances, and quite enjoy it as well!

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