Exarch #1 - Introduction


Exarch #1 - Introduction

What’s a Roleplaying

Way back in the early days of the earth, around the time Howie was promoted to EL2, my friends and I used to “do RP.” What this meant is that someone would set up a forum and we’d all come up with characters and brainstorm what the DB would call a run-on and then get distracted by Diablo before writing anything. Eventually I sought out other RP opportunities, which led me to the Vampire’s Kiss and a dozen other fairly cringey chat rooms, where I happily spent a good chunk of my teen years. Being a vampire nerd in the early 00s, I inevitably found my way to White Wolf’s Vampire: the Masquerade tabletop RPG, which began a twenty year on-again off-again love affair with tabletop gaming.

What I’m trying to get at here is that the term “roleplaying” means a lot of different things to different people. Since Evant announcement my appointment, I’ve heard about other folks’ roleplaying experiences in Second Life, on Star Wars Galaxies, and with the old West End Games D6 Star Wars game of the 80s and 90s, among others. So I think we’re going to need to define some terms.

The most recent Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook defines that game as “an exercise in collaborative creation.”

Edge of the Empire, one of Fantasy Flight Games’ licensed Star Wars books, pitches the experience as “you're part character, part storyteller, and part improvisational actor. You simultaneously create and play through fantastic Star Wars stories filled with action, suspense, space battles, and more than a few stormtroopers, smugglers, bounty hunters, and Hutt crime lords.”

My truest love, Mage: the Ascension, says simply, “As an ancient art, telling stories is a community endeavor...Each player takes on a role, much like an actor in a play.”

Fate, which forms the backbone of our Character Sheet system, says “If you’ve never played a roleplaying game before, here’s the basic idea: you and a bunch of friends get together to tell an interactive story about a group of characters you make up. You get to say what challenges and obstacles those characters face, how they respond, what they say and do, and what happens to them.”

You probably get the point. Roleplaying is collaborative and it is character-focused. Usually, though not always, it is synchronous, meaning everyone is participating at the same time.

But wait, you say. Our fiction is collaborative and character-focused. What’s the difference?

Fiction and roleplaying exist on something of a spectrum, but let’s look at my last run-on as an example. It’s hard to get much more collaborative in writing than an RO, and all fiction focuses on our main or alternative characters. But if you skim through that thread, pay attention to Alethia. Most of the time, I’m not the one deciding what she does or depicting it. I only wrote, at best, a quarter of that story, and surrendered my character to my co-authors for most of it. And when I was writing, I wasn’t just in charge of Alethia. I had to cover Marick, Atyiru, and Sera at a minimum, as well as describe the setting. Whenever any other characters showed up, I was in charge of everything they thought, felt, perceived, said, or did. And given that we all had to write blocks of text that ran at least 250 words, it would be horrible to do it any other way. Can you imagine how awful that RO would have been if I just spent 250 words blabbing about Alethia’s wardrobe for two posts?

In contrast, in roleplaying you generally have players who are in control of their own characters, and some sort of game master/dungeon master/storyteller/overlord who handles everything else.

Fiction is great and many people enjoy both it and roleplaying, but they are different activities even if they blur together at the edges.

Ok, So Now What?

There are a lot of people who like roleplaying for its own sake, and some who like roleplaying but not writing. As a club, we haven’t really supported that. While you can do plenty of other things here, the Dark Brotherhood is a club for gaming, fiction, and art. If you try to recruit people, what do you pitch them on? Gaming, fiction, and art. When they get to the sign-up page, what do they see? “The Dark Jedi Brotherhood is a fiction and gaming fan club built around the massive Star Wars Universe.”

My goal is for this club to support roleplaying as completely and seamlessly as it does gaming or fiction. Fortunately, I’m not starting from scratch.

Arcona has been running chat roleplaying sessions on Telegram, in their house channels and in dedicated one-off rooms, for a good while now. They’ve added a dice roller bot and have integrated our character sheets, so there’s a random decision-making mechanic similar to what you’d see in tabletop RPGs. They last as long as they last and don’t have a set time slot, making it easy for folks to participate quickly when they have a few minutes to catch up. It’s an internal clan project, so most people don’t know about it, but you have this program to thank for the fact that you can get Clusters of Ice for roleplaying now.

Meanwhile, Odan-Urr has been doing its own chat roleplaying on Discord. These are open to anyone who wants to show up, so a few people from other clans have gotten to see this up close. It’s entirely diceless. People show up for a predefined period in text and, if they like, voice chat to work through a scenario. While I don’t have participation metrics for Arcona, I do for Odan-Urr, and COU’s roleplaying has consistently been one of the most popular activity forms in the clan by the number of unique participants

Additionally, there are a lot of people in this club who play tabletop RPGs, in many cases with other DBers. Several years ago, Zujenia made an unofficial Telegram channel to talk about RPGs and wargames, [Tabletop Madness!!! - Log in to view join link]. I’ve seen virtual tabletop games for DBers mentioned time and again over the years, with mixed success, but I know of a few D&D groups playing on Discord and/or Roll20.

The way we win is to take that activity, expand it, and build systems to make it easier and more rewarding to do.

Yeah, But What About Right Now?

If you want to get started right now, talk to your CON. And then one of you talk to me. There are two established examples of how you can get chat roleplaying going at the clan level and that’s something your clan can emulate for yourselves. Thanks to Xen, we can get participants CIs now. Get that ball rolling and let me know what your questions and pain points are so we can make something awesome. You don’t have to do it by clan, but that’s probably the easiest way to start.

Tabletoppers, we can’t do as much for you guys just yet, but I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m going to be honest, though, it’s going to take us longer to build out a system that gives you everything you need compared to freeform chat RP. The two best things you can do right now are to tell me in the comments how you already do virtual tabletop, and to try to put together games with other DB members as guinea pigs.


When Evant announced my appointment, there were tons of comments on the post, in chat, and in my PMs. I want to take a moment to hit some of the common themes I’ve noticed.

One big caveat though: We’re still hashing a lot of this out. Then everything I propose has to get approval from Evant, who will consult with the DC and potentially the Star Chamber before giving it a yes or no. So I can clearly state ideas and intentions, but keep in mind this is all very preliminary.

Are you hiring staff?

Not right now. I do have a team of people I’ve been working with for the past few months. For the sake of transparency, that’s:

  • Erinyes, who is very familiar with the current CS system and a published contributor to multiple tabletop RPG lines

  • Wally, who has been a driving force in Arconan RP and has a ton of useful experience from his years as Voice

  • Blade and Revak, who created the successful COU RP program

  • Anubis, who has a ton of experience with tabletop gaming and doing it in chat through another club. Also he has some cushy BS job in the DB.

So I have folks reviewing my ideas and getting poked for feedback, but I don’t know that I’d call it a “staff.” Down the line, we will probably need people to handle a day-to-day workload the way DC staff and ACC judges do. I would open applications for those positions.

What system will we use?

Currently, COU’s RPs are entirely freeform and diceless, and it works fine. Arcona uses a simple d10 dice roll combined with the skills on members’ DB character sheets, and that also works fine. I hear Rebel Squadrons uses the old West End Games d6 system and that it works fine. Different groups will have different preferences for how crunchy they want to get, and that’s—you guessed it—fine.

I do want to eventually create a baseline system for using DB character sheets and possessions, similarly to how the Voice and Herald have standard rubrics for people who want to run competitions. This will likely be whatever plays nicest with the existing systems, probably Fate Condensed adapted to fit our Force Powers and Feats. But if you can get people together who want to play Force and Destiny or Saga or the 5e conversion, I would prefer not to be the thing stopping you (though the anti-piracy rule might). Likewise, if you think all that dice crap gets in the way of your fun, I don’t want to force you to read this big manual and learn how to use a bunch of bots you don’t want.

There’s probably going to be a playstyle that we build out more support for without locking out anything that deviates from it. However, one stipulation in the current approval policy is likely to remain non-negotiable: “These RP sessions MUST involve using one of your characters and events within the DB universe.”

What virtual tabletop (VTT) software will we use?

The core of activity will likely happen on the main DB chat platform for a number of reasons. For some folks, that’s going to be all the software they need. Others may want to add bots or make use of external sites like Roll20, which offers collaborative battle maps and a lot of automation. We don’t intend to lock people into any service besides the club-standard chat platform. Session organizers will need to announce it in advance if they want to use something like Roll20 and these services will need to be free for players. I don’t intend to forbid external services as long as they meet those conditions, nor do I want to ram them down anyone’s throat.

We are exploring the idea of having a DB/Exarch-controlled bot to handle logging, authentication, submission, etc. That would be mandatory, but it’s more like Fister Roboto than Roll20.

Why a society leader?

Evant was kind enough to give me legitimacy and support through having a formal, site-recognized position. You’d have to ask him why that took the form it did..

Society leader is not necessarily a permanent status. As we get a clearer picture of what kind of systems we’re building and what’s going to go into maintaining them, it’s possible that Exarch could remain as it is, change to a different position type, or even get split up between existing positions. I suspect it’ll depend a lot on how much RP activity we see and what Exarch staff are ultimately expected to do.

What the hell is an Exarch?

I knew this position would need a name, and most DB position names are either from the Roman cursus honorum or medieval court positions. But most of those are either already taken by current or former positions, have bad connotations (censor), or are too silly (Keeper of the Swans). So I split the difference and looked at Byzantine positions and picked one that was easy for English-speakers to spell and pronounce.

Exarch got used in a couple of ways, but the main one was for two mega-governorships over western territory conquered by the Emperor Justinian and his pet badass, Beliarius. Exarchs governed exarchates and the feminine is (theoretically) exarchissa. The more you know, kids.

I wasn’t clever enough to think of Rolemaster and I didn’t pay much attention to Arch being in Exarch, but now that it’s a thing you can expect plenty of bad jokes about both.

Closing Remarks

I am excited to be working on this because I truly believe this will be a massive growth opportunity for the club. But the only way that can happen is if we build a community. Let me know what you need. Let me know what your ideas are. You can comment on this report, email me ([Log in to view e-mail addresses]), or PM me in Telegram (@Archenksov) or Discord (Archenksov#2230). Just don’t expect me to keep up with every message in dozens of public chats, please.

I will be travelling from tomorrow morning through next Tuesday, so I may be slow to respond, but I will be watching.

Alethia Archenksova,

Great Report! Can't wait to see where this goes.

Also, first. Again. Hi Wally.

W00t! White-Wolf!

Werewolf the Apocalypse and currently, Werewolf the Forsaken! Love a good D10 Storytelling system. :)


Great report

Exarch is also the Aspect warrior who's totally lost their mind to that Aspect of Kaela Mensha Khaine, the Bloody-Handed God, and are doomed to die in battle against She Who Thirsts... Oh, sorry, wrong setting! ^^"

Looking forward to more RPs with y'all, though! Awesome that we're finally getting support for this very interactive and low barrier to entry worldbuilding and relationship expanding activity!

I'd be happy to chat with anyone too about how we've been running things, or even have some folks join us, possibly, if they wanna test or watch!

I promise to only maim anyone's chars with permission. :D :D :D

But seriously thanks for the shout out, Arch, cause Q, Wally, and I have been hard at this and had good support from our summit and now from Xen, Evant, and you. Super excited about this society (even if I totes think Oracle was better. You're the DM of the DMs...you see all. C'mon.)

To me the way I've always explained roleplaying is the game of children's make believe...but with dice rolls so you can't say "I hit you" and the other person goes "nah-huh" and you're left bickering.

The transparency is appreciated here, along with the breakdown of what will happen, and the brief history lesson. Thank you for each of those, and good fortune to you.

Congrats other-Arch!

d&d meets swg via djb


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