Posted by: Sean | February 10, 2009

Theme Week Friends and Family: Strategies for managing your friends.

We’ve all been there.

Atargnon: Hey, Katafray!
Katafray: Hey… you. Um. Yeah. That was some time. We had. Last time. Right?
Atargnon: God, was it ever? Do you remember the guy? With the marmot? And he did that thing? AND HE WOULDN’T STOP DOING IT?
Katafray: … who are you?

The fact is that in World of Warcraft you meet a hell of a lot of people, of whom (really!) a fair amount role-play, and you have a lot of fun role-playing with them. Your character bonded, and they’re friends. But you can’t remember who they are for the life of you.

I think this is a result of time decompression. (Which if it isn’t on TV Tropes should be.) You just don’t spend as long on Warcraft as you do in real life (we hope) and as such you need to move quicker into friendships and the like than you really would. In the real world, you don’t become best friends after a seriously good day’s drinkin’. You need a seriously good day’s drinkin’ for that. You know. The sort of one that ends in arrests. You tattoo “best friends forever” on your biceps in prison.

But I digress. The question is: How do you manage this?

The easiest way is to use the game’s built in friends menu/notes system. Once you’ve friended someone, you can click on the tiny ‘page’ icon next to their name to include a small note about them. I often use this to note where and when I met them.

It’s a simple solution, but there are problems with it. Frankly, it’s too small. You can’t use it to ‘journal’ your friendship with someone, which would be the ideal way to handle this problem. And you can’t map relationships between your friends with it either – If you want to know which of your friends know which other friends, you’ll need a really impressive shorthand to make this work.

The obvious solution here would be some sort of add-on that lets you make longer notes; the old FlagRSP did this (but was buggy as all heck) but no-one since has really got it right. The best known ‘relationship manager’ addon now is AuldLangSyne. I’ve looked at a few more (BetterFriends has some potential) but nothing does the one simple thing I’d ask for: Have a big nice notes window, ideally with lots of fields that let me include notes on other friends as well.

So, solutions outside the game, then. What’s a guy to do?

One thought could be simply using an Excel spreadsheet. Place your own name in the first column and row, then put all your friends names after yours (both ways, again.) What’s in the cell where any two names intersect is what the person above thinks about the person to the left. This is a simple and (really!) not that time consuming way of handling it. Excel uses up a bit of active memory, though, so it might slow your WoW performance.

But, finally? I have to recommend (gasp!) an off-line solution: Mind-map it.

Mind-mapping is a tool mostly used for brainstorming in groups, whereby you put down ideas, concepts and realities on a page (these are called nodes) and then connect them to each other to illustrate the relationships between them. It’s a very good match for relationship mapping as well.

The idea would be to keep a notepad near you as you play. Start with a circle in the middle. You.

Then, as you meet more people, add in more circles and connect the circles with arrows, annotating the arrows to indicate the relationships. This method has the benefit that it allows you to not only map the friends YOU have, but the friends your friends have who are also your friends.

To be honest, all of this may be a bit too much work. For me, and I think for most of your average players, the notes field in the friends list is probably sufficient. But if you’re a guild leader, or you otherwise need to know where the cliques in your group are forming, and how they all stand for plotting story purposes, mind-mapping may just be a great key.

Now, someone make it into an add-on for WoW.


  1. When I actively RP’ed in-game, trying to keep track of character relationships and important plot events was not always easy. I tried making use of the friend notes, as you mentioned, but yeah, they don’t allow enough room.

    I tried to keep a notepad handy too, but sometimes that would get misplaced or I just didn’t have a chance to write (or plan forgot).

    So what I started to do was take screenshots to try and capture some pertinent dialogue to try and help. Of course, this isn’t the handiest to look up on the fly, but I’m the kind of person that likes to peruse their screenshots often enough that this helped me.

    But an addon developed specifically for the purpose of keeping track of relationships would be wonderful!

  2. Somewhere in between “Excel” and “mind-map” would be to mind-map in MS Paint or another image-manipulation program. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it would get the job done. There’s probably some freeware out there to mind-map properly, but this is easier, and I’m renowned across nineteen galaxies for my laziness.

  3. Not to highlight my intense dork factor or anything, but I keep a WoW Journal. It’s exactly like the journal I keep of my work day, but instead it’s my WoW day. Each page starts with the date, and then I list what I did, who I saw, who I talked to, important notes on mats, gear I want, things to do, etc etc. I know for myself that chronological order is the best way of organizing things, so when I go back to last week and see my note that says “drinks w/ Katafray” then I can immediately associate everything that happened in that drinks session.

    It’s not for everyone, but a WoW journal works wonders for me.

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