Posted by: Jess Riley | August 19, 2008

Making Other People Special

I was planning to do this post for a while, but conveniently it comes right on the heels on a point that Sean made about ‘tanks’, ‘dps’ and ‘healers’ in roleplay.

The point that he made, and which I whole-heartedly agree with, is that everyone wants to be the centre of attention from time to time. This is true of both roleplay and real life, in my experience, and it’s far from being a bad thing. A problem, however, might arise if one person is too good at being the centre of attention, and not good enough at letting others take their turn – or, conversely, if you feel because of your character archetype that you’re not able to have any attention or work your way into things, or if you feel like your character dominates by virtue of archetype and not because of what you want.

The concept of ‘making other people special’ – in other words, dropping cues and lines for other people to take centre stage, show off what’s great about them, or just more easily work their way into a scene with you – is actually rather in conflict to what Sean suggests, which is being proactive about involving yourself. I think that certainly that’s required and that ideally these two things should be working in tandem – if one person is trying to actively involve themselves and everyone else is blocking them, that’s as problematic as someone trying to draw someone into a scene and being blocked.

I’m not suggesting at all that your roleplay should consist entirely of making sure other people can shine, but I think it’s important to think about how you can draw other people out and make things fun and enjoyable for all people in a scene. Here’s a couple of ways that I think this can be done (but keep in mind, as well, there are an absolute wealth of ways to make other people special and keep interest going a number of ways, so keep that in mind, too).

1) Give. If you’re finding yourself just standing there and talking about yourself, or about things that are only of interest to you and your character, find a way to get the person you’re roleplaying with actively involved, as well. This doesn’t have to be by virtue of simply stopping talking and asking them some personal questions – some characters just won’t do that, and that could very well end up being boring for you if it’s just you both taking turns doing the talking. Instead, think about dropping little things the other person can respond to – choosing your words so they can ask about things, or respond to things, or using emotes or even spells to open up paths of communication. Compare:
Mage: Where did you grow up?
Warlock: I grew up on a farm.
Mage: Where did you grow up?
Warlock: A farm; why, where do you come from?
Mage: Where did you grow up?
Warlock rolls his eyes at this question, glancing down at Mage almost pityingly. “Does it matter?”

2) Take. If someone drops a line to you which is clearly a cue to take the scene in a new direction, don’t just block it unless you have something to give in return. That’s not to say, of course, that you have to let yourself be swept away in the current of what someone else wants; if you don’t like an idea that someone’s given you, it’s fine to derail that as long as you provide something in return. Again, compare:
Mage: Would you like to go for a drink?
Warlock: No.
Mage: Would you like to go for a drink?
Warlock: Oh, why not? What did you have in mind?
Mage: Would you like to go for a drink?
Warlock: Here? Do you know what they put in that? Let’s go walking instead.

Sorry to pick on the Mage and the Warlock here in all of my examples.

As a whole, this is far from a new approach – in fact, it’s a very traditional approach, and probably won’t come as a new idea to any seasoned roleplayer. At the same time, keeping this in mind can help to make scenes interesting for all involved without focusing endlessly on just one individual.



  1. Roleplaying is probably the most inclusive part of World of Warcraft. You don’t need a group or raid to be effective, you don’t need to know the esoteric aspects of a scripted fight, and you don’t feel forced into interacting with people you don’t like. Anyone can participate, irregardless of experience or level or gear or knowledge of the game.

    You’re absolutely correct in saying that a balance has to exist in not being the center of the stage. I think that’s part of partial of being a part of the inclusive nature of roleplaying. It’s less give and take than it is just being a good roleplayer and weaving something with others.

    Wonderful tip for neophyte roleplayers!

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