Posted by: Jess Riley | February 19, 2009

Signature Moves

This isn’t going to help anyone’s opinion of me, but does anyone remember at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, how Harry was scolded for using a disarming spell on someone, because everyone knows that the only idiot who’s going to do that, rather than an offensive attack, in a tense situation is the Potter kid?

Unless someone is known for being particularly flexible in their strategy, most people are going to do something like this – they’re going to default to a particular skill-set in a tense situation, because that’s what they do best. More than that, they’re going to approach most battles in a similar way, because once you have a strategy down-pat, there’s not much point in changing it unless you have to. Going with something you’re not as familiar with, when something you know back to front will work just as well, is a recipe for failure.

Of course, if you do it enough – if you repeat the same action, or series of actions over and over again – people do start to notice. Like in the Harry Potter example, they go, “Aha! They’ve moved to disarm – that’s the Potter kid!”.

In World of Warcraft, of course, you’re not going to get many enemies that are going to recognise you, even if you do spam the same move over and over again in battle. What you might get, however, are friends of yours, people who run with you a lot, who recognise your strategy and your particular pet move. They might find this maddening (Why would you do that? That’s completely inefficient and predictable!), or boring (It ruins the excitement of battle if you don’t even stop to look where they’re going before you slash-slash-stab them.), or just a strange quirk of yours.

Now, of course, here’s the thing – your buddies are bound to have some idea what you’re doing because they’re with you in the moment, they’re probably paying quite a bit of attention. Someone unskilled may not know the details (to a Warrior, the only discernable difference between Fireball and Fire Blast is the fact that you hold the Fireball in your hands for a moment before you throw it at the enemy), but they’re quite likely to get the idea of what’s going on. However, the people behind their keyboards have no idea – they might catch a glimpse of a ball of fire hurtling through the air, but they’re probably concentrating on their own thing, and couldn’t possibly tell what it is you’re doing half the time.

Sure, the actual characters are concentrating too – probably harder than the players – but it’s harder to ignore a ball of fire literally hurtling past your head, than one going by on your screen.

So, how do you take into account this when you’re roleplaying? If you know your character has a particular signature move that their fellows would notice, make active reference to it. The most obvious way to do it is to associate it with a macro, so you /say something and do it at the same time. This draws attention to itself very well, but it carries with it an unfortunate side-effect – it has the possibility to get really annoying to the people you’re with, particularly if you’re inclined to use it multiple times in a certain battle.

This could be a reasonable effect, depending on the type of move, but odds are good that this isn’t the effect you’re going for. You can mitigate that somewhat by using macros that provide a random saying, rather than a static one, when you use them; I’ll be quite honest and admit that I don’t know for sure how they work, but there is a description of such a macro here. This is less repetitive than seeing the same phrase pop up over and over again, but still might get tired to the people around you.

The obvious alternative is, as the other party member in this, to just keep as good an eye out as you can for what the other people in your party are doing – sometimes it’s hard to spot, but particularly if the move produces a DoT or an effect on the mob, you’ll be able to keep track of what kind of moves your party members are using. And make reference to that, if you see the same thing constantly being repeated!



  1. An alternative to the macro is an addon called Battlecry. It lets you set a frequency for one or more sayings for any particular spell or action. I love it for its flexibility!

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