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For newcomers to roleplay (introduction, how to get started, etc)

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > New Player Help
For newcomers to roleplay (introduction, how to get started, etc)

Phydra's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 10:12 PM | #1
This item is a re-post of a series that ran on the beta/old forums regarding newcomers to roleplay. A number of folk have contributed; either by asking really good questions or writing posts that provide solid insight. Quotes and credits are maintained for posterity (and with thanks to those who originally made them).

As always, I invite questions and am happy to answer to the best of my ability.


We have an active roleplay forum here, but this post is specifically oriented to folks who likely would never visit it (for a number of reasons, some outlined below). This is a post about "how to get started" that doesn't assume anything about your previous experience.

If I offend the community managers (or anyone else), my sincere apologies; I am setting this here because I think roleplay in these places sometimes (often?) gets a black eye for the various shades of stricture, elitism, or downright annoyance that is visited upon those trying to "get started" when a good many around them have either (a) been at it for years or (b) have forgotten what their "noob experience" felt like.

Hopefully, this will be read by those who are curious about roleplay but who either haven't tried it or haven't allowed themselves to do more than be curious because it seemed so daunting.

I admit -- this is a LONG post. It probably redlines the TL;DR meters of many. But hopefully, it will be helpful to those who stick it out and who knows? Maybe we'll see some folks crossing the boundary to join us in roleplay when the game launches.

What is Roleplay?

Ultimately, roleplay in any format is about experiencing something through the eyes of a persona/character; some people use it to explore the lore, others to explore themselves, and most have both motivations in play at any time. (After all, what draws one to play a particular type of character but that it either (a) appeals to something we'd like to be or (b) allows us to explore and experiment with something we're afraid to be?)

What kinds of roleplayers are active in MMOs?

Within the MMO environment, you'll find several types of roleplay and most of them are striated by levels of adherence to the "in character" commitment combined with rules or preferences of approach relating to how to treat things that are not in character, or determine where the boundaries of lore end and thus, where creative liberty can be enjoyed.

Hard Core Roleplayers

Essentially, the "hard core" roleplayers are coming to this as if their character IS THEM; they are 'in character' at all times, and some have rather creative ways of both incorporating real world events as well as references to sustain that. For these folks, it's as much about creative problem solving (i.e., how do I speak of the football game without breaking character?) as it is following whatever story they have decided to employ as their character's "reason for existence".

Moderate Roleplayers

For some, it's less about literally/faithfully adhering to lore/canon and more about exploring the psyche/personality of the character; most times, this involves someone deciding to "play evil" as a concept rather than to any specific end. (Aside: This also tends to draw many who use "playing evil" as an excuse for generally being jerks... not always, but often.)

Casual Roleplayers

For still others, it's more about having a loose framework of a character/persona and using it occasionally or "as the mood strikes" (ex: in character when not hunting/leveling/raiding only).

Mind you, this is hardly the definitive categorization, but it's a pretty good summary for those completely new to things; you'll develop your own labels and opinions as you get into things.

Q: So what's all this I hear about "backstory" and "origins" and such? (Sounds like work!)

Just as we each have the cumulative experience of our lives from which our psychology and preferences and traits spring, so too, one's character has them (or will as one's exploration of roleplay moves from light to heavy). The creation of this initial "backstory" and timeline leading to "present day" (assuming that "present day" in this context means either the day you make your character OR the day upon which you engage roleplay in the game officially) is helpful to have handy; not only to have this information to call upon or share with others so they know what to expect from your character in shared interactions or how to plan storylines for engagement, but also to use as a guideline for character consistency (the "laws" by which your character decisions may be made or dramatically unmade, as the case may be).

As one becomes more serious about roleplaying in an MMO (as a means of engaging creative theater or as a vehicle to socialize with others... e.g., guild quests, shared storylines, etc), one finds the need for some manner of reference material; something that gives a general sketch of the character's personality, history, origins, and primary motivators or philosophy.

Most classic roleplayers (pen and paper in particular) have a fundamental beginning point of the character sheet to guide them; though, depending upon playstyle preferences and the preferences of their groups over the years, they may be more in "action" than "story" (this is a classic conflict within roleplaying circles).

All of this being a long-winded way of saying that when it comes right down to it, getting started doesn't as much mean you have to know all the lore as it does you have to know what kind of character [person(a)] you wish to play.

Defining what kind of character/person(a) you wish to play and fine-tuning "who they are" is what the "backstory" and related items are about.

OK, I think I'm interested, but what's involved? How do I really get started?

It is a fortunate thing that humanity and it's myth/story-telling roots are fairly collective in nature and tend to repeat certain cycles and themes; these cycles and themes are often reflected in the games we play. The Star Wars saga in particular is based heavily upon the myth of "the heroes journey" (Ref: Joseph Campbell) as well as upon the Buddhist Philosophy (Jedi path, the Force, etc) and the use of the conceptual philosophy of Unified Opposites to introduce the Sith (a dusty ol' fart named "Heraclitus" wrote about the the Unity of Opposites, if you're interested in googling any of these terms for additional information).

For MMO players, the process of creating a character, story, et al tends to run in parallel with deciding:
  1. What class/race/faction do you like AND WHY?
  2. What about the other classes/races/factions do you NOT like AND WHY?

These two things provide an easy reference point to drive the discovery of your character's influences, motivations, and most probable characteristics.

If you're not familiar or comfortable with creating such things from scratch, use the above to set your character's roleplay "template"... and feel free to lean on stereotypes; after all, you can always modify them as you go (which also gives you good fodder for growing your character and roleplaying various changes in motivation over time).

Figuring out the above is roughly 80% of the process; the other 20% comes from knowing enough about the game world at launch to:
  1. Place your character within the overall history/timeline of the world.
  2. Explain how they got to where they are when the game starts.
  3. Set forth their primary motivators (in the context of their initial interactions with others, a form or exposition).

Alright, and then? (What's next?)

The rest is pretty much "play as you go" and seeing how far you can take your story or adjusting for it dynamically as events and encounters provide/dictate. If you're feeling ambitious, you can render your daily gaming into a journal, or let the game's story and progression become your character's story (i.e., the epic struggle rendered through their eyes), or join any number of others and have the experience of outside influences and reactions to test and temper your character's mettle (and your own understanding of your character's motivations).

But where do I find roleplay (or people to roleplay with)?

As far as formats for roleplay in an MMO, there are many!

The story-telling hour is a valid form of roleplay.... just as is the tavern (a mutually agreed upon gathering place where any number of things may start or end), but you can as easily engage perfect/total strangers (a particular enjoyment of mine) or craft a character who hangs out in the starting towns and gives a bit of unexpected flavor to newcomers (another favorite of mine).

Most roleplay guilds provide an environment where members become a cohesive unit of collaborative stories that play upon one another (or compete). The variations and possibilities truly are as limited or limitless as you want them to be.

The nice part about MMO roleplay is that you really can do pretty much what/as you will and there are as many types of structures are there are people to create them or support them... but even if/when none of that is there, you can make your own (which is, I think, where the MMO surpasses the nightly/weekly pen and paper group, frankly).

Hopefully, I managed to at least touch the mark of what you, as a complete newcomer to roleplay (who is curious or interested) wants to hear about; but, if not, reply and ask! I'll field any questions and try my best to keep at it until we're all satisfied.

~tips hat~
Need a solid, casual guild? Consider Forceful on Mind Trick - fun, nice, and social, of course!

Too casual? Ok; find the right guild for you here: Guild Quiz!

Phydra's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 10:18 PM | #2
Originally Posted by Deadnovan

I feel the exact same way, I just don't know how to join in...
As a general rule, joining in a roleplay community is the same as joining in anywhere else:
  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. Tell folks what your previous experience is (or isn't).
  3. Admit to the uncertainty... ask for input/help.

These same rules can easily be applied to your character introductions as well! A slight tweak and you're ready to
  1. Introduce your character (basic backstory)
  2. Tell folks what your character's experience (in the world) is (or isn't).
  3. Admit to being interested in being contacted for roleplay... ask for input/help in finding groups seeking folks or events that are open to all.

I'll share a secret with you... just as in any other kind of community, there are folks in the roleplay community who sincerely enjoy sharing the enjoyments they find with newcomers; there are even those whose primary enjoyment is showing folks that the stereotypes are JUST THAT... and that you know a LOT more about roleplay than you may think you do!!

You know when your best friend has returned from "Che Stylee" with a do that you wouldn't subject your dog to wear and they ask you, "What do you think?" You slip into that "supportive friend" role and respond as a support friend would (whether that's nodding and keeping your real opinion to yourself or dragging them to the sink to wash that mess OUT).

Or how 'bout when your boss comes up with some monstrous idea that you are just certain is doomed to failure, but you have to go along and play along because it's the boss? You slip into that "mindless drone" mode and "yessir" (regardless the rant fest that your friend or significant other or pet gets about it when you get home).

Maybe it's the stranger in public, at the local club or store, who just keeps TALKING AND TALKING until you want to give yourself a lobotomy with the closest sharp object... but you slip on that "friendly listener" mask and endure; all the while concocting more and more clever ways to slip away.

I mean, you can come up with as many scenarios as imagination... family holiday dinners (wink), the in-laws visiting, that really uncomfortable interview last week, or whatnot... but they're all examples of times when you've put "who you are" under a mask of "who you think you need to be" or "who they demand you be" or "whomever it will take to get the F out of this situation"... and every bit of that IS roleplay.

For folks like me, it's not as much teaching you something you don't know as reminding you of what you already know and perhaps haven't considered in this light (until now).
Anyone who tells you that you don't know how to roleplay is being obtuse. You're a human and if you're old enough to be reading this, you have the fundamentals needed to be a roleplayer, trust me.

Enjoying roleplay is about taking those social memories and catastrophes and all the things you've observed and learned about "wearing those masks" out there, in the real world, and using them instead for something new, different, and decidedly less stressful.
In two words: For fun.

Joining in within a game environment can be as simple as calling for it in /general chat or as complicated as signing up on some forum and then arriving at the correct place at the correct time. As a newcomer, I recommend the former rather than the latter, particularly if/when you want to encounter (a) folks like yourself to learn with, and (b) folks in the community who enjoy the role of engaging and nurturing roleplayers into the community.
Need a solid, casual guild? Consider Forceful on Mind Trick - fun, nice, and social, of course!

Too casual? Ok; find the right guild for you here: Guild Quiz!

Phydra's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 10:20 PM | #3
Originally Posted by casik

given the games focus on story, do think they will have a feature built in for the sake of storing the "about me" as a way to help facilitate RP or do you think we will have to rely on a third party add-on like in wow. after all going to your mask examples you don't just with out having something to work off.
I really cannot say what they have in place to support roleplay as I am not one blessed with beta access (and it would probably be against NDA to speak of specifics if I were); that said, I would be surprised if they didn't incorporate some manner of "about me" or "profile" block in the character panel given their overt statements about support for story (implying support for roleplay).... I suppose we'll see.

As to add-ons, I'm hopeful they will support open-sourcing of the files for UI skinning and variables related to certain aspects of play so that a healthy community of add-on development can thrive. I think the best example of this to date is actually FunCom's "Anarchy Online" addon community and how they support everything from mapping to mission rolling. Again, I suppose we'll know for sure on 12-20-2011.

I know that the idea of having templated characters for roleplay is something I've not seen anywhere outside the realm of pen and paper (PnP) "pre-rolled" character sheets; while this is an intriguing idea that I think would be helpful to new roleplayers, I've yet to see anyone in the community actually approach such a thing. I think the reasons are manifold - you'd be surprised what it takes to pull together a comprehensive character (by this, I refer to the tweaking and research needed to really get a thorough pass on history, origin story, motivations, etc), this level of charitable activity is rare in any community, and most in the roleplay community seem to be of a decidedly "teach a man to fish" mentality (if you give a man a fish, he has a meal, but if you teach a man to fish, he becomes able to feed himself).

I'll share with you a link to an old character study that I created for use in the Warhammer MMO; a Bright Wizard named "Brazen". Mind you, it took me about a week of research to find out the specifics of the lore needed to this study completed, AND this was not (by far) the total content generated to make her a "complete character": .

That study along with even more research allowed me to create her origin story, which in turn fed not only her in-game roleplay interactions, but also contributed heavily to the independent story of her "life" as rendered in the in-character journals (ongoing roleplay entries).

For those new to roleplay, I would not recommend my process or even a pre-rolled character, the thing that makes your character YOUR character is figuring out how to "play" the character as its own person(a) and that decision process is the result of learning about the world in which the character lives and determining what part of the history has meaning to you as well as how to translate this into meaning and motivation for your character.

I should clarify -- In my opinion, only a fool (or an elitist) would expect a newcomer to roleplay to kick out a complete character study, origin/back story, or regular journals.

The first step for any newcomer is simply to decide (as outlined in the first post) who they want their character to be... all this other is a natural result of progressively developed interest in the character and, if one is roleplaying with folk who understand this, plenty of space is given for such things to unfold as they will.
Need a solid, casual guild? Consider Forceful on Mind Trick - fun, nice, and social, of course!

Too casual? Ok; find the right guild for you here: Guild Quiz!

Phydra's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 10:21 PM | #4
Originally Posted by YesterdaysRepeat
This actually got me a bit interested in testing the waters of MMO roleplaying.

I do the text based/freeform sort quite often, and this new form sounds interesting.
I think you'll find it is not that different at all and, in many ways, quite supportive in that one has a variety of emotes available to support character actions and, of course, the wonderful "/em" for use in freeform expressions (e.g., /me smiles at the thought of a fellow roleplayer joining the MMO roleplay scene).

For those who may not be as immersed in the lore/canon of the Star Wars universe as some of us, there are really good resources to get you started in your research; I'll list a few of my favorites for things like timelines, general information on the universe, and the story as it exists (official "canon"):

General Overview


Overview -
Timeline Gold (extensive!) -

Universe (planetary context)

Overview -

I'm sure there are many other (possibly better!) places to research, but these are pretty good to start.

Need a solid, casual guild? Consider Forceful on Mind Trick - fun, nice, and social, of course!

Too casual? Ok; find the right guild for you here: Guild Quiz!

Phydra's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 10:23 PM | #5
Oh wow, great comments and it makes me smile to think folks are getting jazzed for RP in this game! AND... I got an official "first question" by PM today, so I'm going to quote it and answer it here!

I am looking to either get emerged straight into the RP of the game. How would you suggest a newbie MMO RP gets started?
It's worth mentioning that getting "right into" the RP is pretty simple to do if you're comfortable with who you want your character to be and what your motivation(s) in the game world are to be. (If you're uncertain on these, the preceding posts can help you get it laid out in general form.)

As far as "diving in" goes, my suggestion is to decide that you're going to "be in character" for certain parts of your gaming time (or all of it, if you're up for the challenge!).

This generally requires that you know enough about your character's race and racial history to have a loose idea of how they will react to other races or particular topics. It can also mean you have a certain "style" of personality that you intend to maintain for your character; maybe your character is a "hard as nails" product of the outer rim, or perhaps your character is an "easily intimidated" person in appearance and mannerisms who becomes heroically fierce or loyal in the face of life-threatening danger.... it's your universe to create, this character - you can be whomever and however you like. Use your character to explore personality and ways of being that you admire in others... or use your character to dig up the messiest mass of ugly you ever shuddered at... can you play a beautiful evil? A hideous good? Something in between?

I'll share with you one of my own quirks for roleplay while running around the "newbie grounds" -- I'm usually roleplaying with the mobs. (blush) I make up stories and act them out for no one's enjoyment but my own; sometimes, oddly enough, I'll make a friend who witnesses this weird person talking to #an_orc_pawn (EQ reference) and decides, "Ya know, I bet that person is a hoot to interact with..." You really just never know which direction it might come from.

I roleplay to the NPCs for fun; I toss off salutes and compliments on armor and clothing. I sit in the middle of a crowd and start grumbling about some recent adventure gone wrong, or how sore my feet are, or the foolishness of trusting a Mandalorian peddler, and seems there's always someone around who gets curious enough to ask me something or toss a comment my way (and buddy, let me tell you, it only takes ONE...).

So I guess my best advice to someone looking to get into RP is two-fold:
  1. Don't let yourself be fooled into thinking someone else has to support you for it to be fun. You can roleplay your heart out with an NPC or a mob (and this can be great practice if you're shy about interacting!).
  2. Don't be afraid to just dangle a sweet little hook of commentary out there... you never know who will be happy to snap it up and, next thing you know, you've got yourself some interaction that can lead pretty much anywhere you'd like it to go.
Need a solid, casual guild? Consider Forceful on Mind Trick - fun, nice, and social, of course!

Too casual? Ok; find the right guild for you here: Guild Quiz!

Phydra's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 10:24 PM | #6
Originally Posted by Deadnovan
I have one Finding and applying for a RP guild, is it difficult? :/ and how would I be able to find one, as they seem to be close-grouped now, as in they don't really let outsiders in anymore
A very good question, Deadnovan. I'll see if I can address it for you thoroughly.

When considering a roleplaying guild, the most important thing is that they have the same approach and style of roleplay as you do and, of course, that you feel comfortable with how they engage and interact with you. This will mean different things to different people and roleplay guilds have pretty diverse ways of seeking candidates. Some of the methods I've seen include:
  • The "in character" application and "in character" interview
  • The "out of character" application and "in character" interview
  • The mandatory written (guild forum) "out of character" application followed by an in-game, in or out of character interview
  • And, of course, combinations of any or even all of these, depending upon the degree of structure the guild observes.

I find that many guilds sometimes seem to forget that the application process is a two-way street.

I've seen guilds who make such demands on applicants as to effectively filter out (run off) any but the most enthused and devoted applications. I've also seen guilds that care more for how your write or play your character than who you are behind that character. There are many permutations possible and they all have their own flavor and preferences.

I'd say you should seriously review both their web site (if there is one) or talk to their membership privately before deciding to apply; spend time hunting or roleplaying with them to get a feel for how they are and if you'd be happy with them.

It occurs to me this likely sounds difficult, but it's really not much different than a membership at a gym, or the toastmasters, or even a hobby association. The point here is that any guild who thinks what they think of you is more important than what you do of them likely isn't going to be a good match. Be selective; this is your fun you're talking about!

I'd recommend looking in the appropriate forum for a post by a roleplaying guild to get started. You'll find that the subject line of such a thread will include "RP" to indicate they are either considering or committing to offering a roleplay option to their members.

Generally, you want to have your character outline and a general idea of your character's background ready for this effort. You may also wish to consider your own approach, particular in that most roleplay guilds will seek some manner of in-character interaction with you to determine if your preferences in roleplay align with their own (as should you!).

If doing all this before launch is your goal, the above is likely your best bet. If, however, you're wanting to engage at launch, then it will be much simpler -- just log in and keep an eye on general or recruiting chat for people announcing open recruitment and follow up with the ones that sound interesting to you.

Another good way post-launch to find a solid guild is to hang out in public areas and interact with folks, then follow up and ask to speak to a recruiting officer or the leader of a guild that impresses you.

While there are certainly roleplay guilds who prefer close-membership (referral or sponsorship only for new candidates) and many who combine this with stringent character reviews and even "auditions" depending upon how tightly structured they are or how closely they wish to follow "canon" or the lore of the game world, these are are far from the majority; I would not be quite so discouraged just yet.

Please let me know if I have not answered some aspect of your question, or if any of this sparks additional questions; I'd be happy to help as I can.
Need a solid, casual guild? Consider Forceful on Mind Trick - fun, nice, and social, of course!

Too casual? Ok; find the right guild for you here: Guild Quiz!

Phydra's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 10:25 PM | #7
Originally Posted by Mannock
Thanks Phydra for all the great info.

I have a question (I hope you are still following this thread).

How should I handle the fact that everyone playing the same class as me will have the same story? Say I play a Trooper, everyone will be in Havoc squad, experiencing the same quests. I'm thinking I want to have a different story when I interact with other players, ie my char is part of Couger squad (or whatever), if not, won't it get weird?
How will you be handling it? Any thoughts and tips will be appreciated.

Oh, and same goes for the companions. Everyone will basically be running around with the same looking companions. Won't that be weird too? I plan on just using droids (if that is possible) to avoid this problem.
Generally speaking, roleplayers tend to ignore game-mandated issues like this; but there are games where social armors and the ability to change appearance is provided. I don't know if that's available for launch or if it will be present in future, but either way, you can write your appearance information and companion information as you like; introducing a few distinctions that, while not actually present/visible on your companion, will give others something to use (as well as you!) in your roleplay.

You can also casually refer to these distinctions using emotes or other ways of referencing them; for example:

/me idly scratches the oddly shaped scar that crosses his brow.

/say Well, he used to be a prime example of his species until he got careless with the cooking utensils; he's very self-conscious about the loss of that left lek... we try not to stare.

I hope this is helpful!
Need a solid, casual guild? Consider Forceful on Mind Trick - fun, nice, and social, of course!

Too casual? Ok; find the right guild for you here: Guild Quiz!

Phydra's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 10:28 PM | #8
And finally, a truly grand (and relatively brief) outline/template for you to play with if you're designing your first roleplay character/persona:

Originally posted by Reapyr

Basically, this allows you to create your own character for roleplay and story writing purposes. It allows the reader to really get an idea of what your character is about, who they are, where they came from, etc.

Added below is an outline for character creation. It's purposes will be to give the writer a general idea of what their character set-up should look like. Please remember, though, that this is your character, and you do not have to follow this outline if you do not want to. You may also add to it if you wish.



Middle Name:

Last Name:



Date of Birth:

Place of Birth:

Date of Death:

Place of Death:




Hair Color/Style:

Facial Appearance:

Eye Color:

Body Appearance:

Home Planet:

Current Residence:




Primary Weapon(s):

Secondary Weapon(s):

Miscellaneous Item(s):


Additional Categories:

Bounty Hunter:
Number of Bounties Captured:
Number of Bounties Killed:

Number of Jedi Killed:
Lightsaber Color:

Imperial Agent:
Number of Completed Missions:
Number of Failed Missions:

Number of Sith Killed:
Lightsaber Color:

Number of Shipments Smuggled:

Need a solid, casual guild? Consider Forceful on Mind Trick - fun, nice, and social, of course!

Too casual? Ok; find the right guild for you here: Guild Quiz!

Lutherus's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 10:37 PM | #9
This would make a great sticky. Long to read through, but good. I read the first post, but as a casual roleplayer (and pen and paper for years) i dont feel the need to get through it all hehe. Great for new people interested in it though.

Phydra's Avatar

12.13.2011 , 11:24 PM | #10
Thank you! The original thread was over months, but yes, it's a lot of reading; hopefully, pretty comprehensive and easy to understand for those coming to it with new eyes.
Need a solid, casual guild? Consider Forceful on Mind Trick - fun, nice, and social, of course!

Too casual? Ok; find the right guild for you here: Guild Quiz!