The Concept Spotlight are a series of articles highlighting the probabilities and the role of a particular character concept and theme. Here we talk about what it is, what it does and how it exists in the roleplay setting. From civilians to warriors, the Concept Spotlight intends to touch on every theme in your Star Wars roleplay galaxy. Eventually.
The Party - Part I
From the dynamic duo to the full on raid group, the party was, is and always has been a fundamental aspect of roleplay. The party is your group of characters brought together in order to pursue a common goal, which, traditionally, is to beat the bad guys and liberate the village from the clutches of evil or to deter incoming peril. Whatever your objective is, the best way to do it is with someone at your side. The reader will recognize a common analogy (ab)used throughout this article, used for the good purpose of comparing our method of roleplay to a younger one. As with the previous, this article will be split into several posts to protect you from an eternity in the the god-forsaken plains of text-wall hell.
Then and Now
The first forms of roleplay were designed as a social activity. Get your mind out of the gutter. What I’m referring to is the dawn of fantasy tabletop RPGs, such as the popular Dungeons and Dragons, which paved the way for the video games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and a vast number of other roleplaying games(including one with its own name). The development into a video game reduced the social aspect of the RPG over time and made it an optional function as the story narrative in many games became virtually pre-produced, catering to a single-player experience. There was a time when many popular online games forced player interaction and coordination to progress through story content, but the need (or potential inconvenience) to connect with random players has since taken the background in favour of a single-player story experience. At the time these efforts to force group content on players may have seemed like game-developers hopelessly working to revive or cling on to the tabletop experience, which ultimately caused strain on introverted audiences who wanted to enjoy the game world without being forced to group with noobs.
Such as it was, our means of roleplaying in RPGs has developed in order to cater to the MMO experience and the mentality of a broader community. In tight-knit basement groups of tabletop RPGs your characters could have, Dungeon Master willing, become anything in the game world; from an epic hero to the possible divine. These games were enclosed spaces composed of a select few players and you didn’t have to consider interaction with strangers beyond your roleplay circle. Whereas no Dungeon Master in an MMO has total control over the entire galaxy -- because there are other unattached players within it, whose characters may be impacted by large-scale choices made by the Dungeon Master. Therefore, as separated groups, we have limited our story-telling reach in comparison to the free tabletop experience so that we may accommodate a wider community by shaping and restricting our stories in a way that they do not impose involuntary impacts on other players and characters.
This has since changed the RPG story experience, whereby we can no longer become the main characters in the galaxy without isolating ourselves from the rest of the community. Thus we no longer openly portray the character given to us by the video game narrative and instead choose to create our own smaller character to suit the social aspect of the community. In the same vein, the players surrounding us aren’t in the same dark basement that we are, instead scattered through the basements of different mom’s houses across the entire world.
As a result of this major platform change from the ancient four-legged flat surface to the modern technological computer coupled with worldwide communications systems, we have come to adapt and interact differently with roleplayers and roleplay itself. Our experiences aren’t always pre-planned and the way we enter the world is entirely different, providing more ground for spontaneity. Gone are the days when being part of an adventure or party was mandatory in order to get roleplay when we may now simply be social and cling to hubs where other player characters are seeking a mutual RP fix. To some, the concept of a party has lost much relevance when we can portray a solo badass who does everything themselves, but that only robs them of the benefits of playing in a group and sharing the interactive social dynamic of the party, which deeply enriches the roleplay experience.
The Party Structure
By tradition the adventure group consists of a motley collection of characters -- and in various ways. The old fantasy style roleplay adventure was designed to bring many of its elements to the table--quite literally. Your character make up consisted of the various fictional races existing in the fantasy world, many of which gave birth to the many popular cliches of these races as we see them in fiction now, each of whom had a skill set and specialization particular to their race or class. In this manner, diversity was a fundamental requirement of the party as it was that in their adventures the party would find themselves in need of the unique skills belonging to their peers. Because of this every character had an element in which they stood out from the others, thereby applying importance and relevance to each member of the party.
This method (bar the races, somewhat) remains a considerable source of roleplay under our platform. It creates a need for association and in that way drives characters together under the pursuit of mutual interest. Nobody can accomplish everything alone and (to me, at least) portraying a character who could overcome their every obstacle without assistance would be no fun, as it takes away from other characters who specialize in performing these abilities. Instead I look to my character’s limited skill set as an opportunity to pursue roleplay and interaction with other characters and players, thereby adding an essential part to what makes roleplay: company.
These means of connecting ties relies on a crucial characteristic(or lack thereof) that every relatable character requires in abundance -- the inability or inadequate capacity to perform every feat fit for their obstacles, thereby requiring the cooperation of one skilled and specialized in these essential feats. Emphasis on specialization - it is important when making a character fit for a party, because even the character whose focus isn’t in combat is a great asset to the group when they have the smarts to compensate for it. To create a need for something is to create roleplay and it starts by admitting that no one character is able to overcome every obstacle alone.
To put this into context - When a pilot damages their ship, they look to their mechanic. When a berserker can’t bash down a door with their blunt force, they look to their slicer. When a marksman can’t destroy a tank, they look to their demolitions expert. If a single character were able to perform all of the aforementioned, then they’d easily be a one-man party, thereby either keeping the light shining on their character(and off of everyone else) or risk eliminating their own need to be part of a group.
Not to mention that the Council of Elrond in the Fellowship of the Ring wouldn’t be quite as memorable if everyone stood up and said:
“You have my sword.”
“And my sword.”
“And my sword!”
Limited specialization doubly assists in not only providing a place for other characters in your party, but also in giving them an active role to feel like they’re a valuable part of the encounter or event. As a DM it’s good principle to create something for every participant’s skills to be of use, rather than leaving characters and players feeling inadequate in the background. Remember, roleplay is an activity for a group - every member’s place should be considered when making roleplay for your party. This not only accommodates more characters and players, but also prompts the DM to greater creativity, to stray away from the dull arrive-and-smash style event and ply their hand at something more elaborate.
More to come soon!