Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taking Center Stage

One of the issues that I have at the game table, when I am not GMing, is that I tend to be quiet. While this isn't the truth in every game - I'm better in small games - and I have been working to fix it, it is still an issue. Even when I play louder characters, I'll tend to tone them down as the game goes on and take more of a second or third row role in the game. The reasoning behind this, at least on the surface, is simple: I don't want to cut into someone else's time in the spotlight. That also means that this post is for me as much as it is for anyone, but I still want to talk about it.

It's Ok To Have The Spotlight
The big thing that quiet players need to understand is that it is perfectly fine for them to have the spotlight. A good GM will give you time in the light anyhow, but you need to be ready for it. Being ready for it means accepting that you having time as the focus is not only ok but something that you deserve. When the GM looks at you and asks what you're doing, say something. Do something. Take your moment and live it. Share it if that makes sense for the character, but do something with it.

The problem here is accepting that "you deserve this" aspect of the advice. Sure, you can logically know it, but that doesn't mean it is something you will accept. Go with baby steps if you're not sure how it feels. Do one thing, something small, that involves your character getting GM focus. Work up from there. The game isn't going to fall apart.

Trust The GM
Ultimately the GM is the one who is responsible for handling/scheduling screen time; not you. So trust them to do their job. If you want to do something, tell them. If they're busy, pass them a note or wait for a chance to slip it in. Trust the GM to make sure everyone gets an even shot at time in the spotlight. If you want to help the GM, don't do it by backing into the shadows but rather by pulling someone else with you into the light. If you see a player just kind of tagging along, grab them and do something. Bring them into the light and let them get some of that attention. If you're getting too much, the GM can tell you to wait a bit, but as a player you have a more direct way of getting a quiet player involved with the game while simultaneously not leaving them alone in the spot light.

Trust The Players
Role playing is a weird thing. You are pretending to be someone other than you are. In real life you're an under appreciated IT worker, in the game you're a 6'6 barbarian with a giant sword. In real life your friend might be a very loud atheist, but in game they could be playing one of the most religious characters you've ever seen. Both of those don't even come close to touching on the people who are gender bending or portraying character types they have no experience with. The point is, everyone is out there acting silly, so why feel so weird about doing it yourself?

I bring this up as a lot of people I've spoken to over the years have mentioned 'stage fright' as the reason why they're quieter at the game table. it feels weird acting these things out in front of friends. Maybe even weirder if you're playing a character that borders on something risky or otherwise out there - and everyone has limits in weird places, so be aware of that.

However, the thing to keep in mind is that everyone at the table is doing that. So, trust your fellow gamers to be ok with it. Go out there and play your character, show them what makes your character tick and make them react to you. These games are at their best when everyone is out there throwing stuff into the pot, so go ahead and throw your own brand of spices and plot turns into the fray.

Your Advice?
As I've said, this post is ultimately for me as much as everyone. Amusing considering how out there I can be that I'll have issues when actually playing in an RPG. Still, everyone has their own take, so what advice do you have for yourself and/or the other countless players that tend to take that step back and leave the spotlight to everyone else?


  1. I've had this problem big time. I used to be very shy, still am to some extent. Then I started gaming with a group of 5-8 people and for a long time I was the only woman (male character, though, I always genderbend). If I hadn't come out of my shell, my character would just have tagged along. 7th Sea was the system that taught me to just act because it rewards and supports outrageous actions.

    Get comfortable with your character. He will tell you what to do and when that happens, listen to him. Making friends with other characters is great because the dynamics between the characters will automatically mean that you will get more involved in the game.

    Don't force the acting side of roleplaying. If you feel more comfortable with just describing, then do it. But try a little dialogue and see where it takes you, it's always easier for me when don't hold back and step into the character.

  2. Thanks for sharing Jebediah, and good advice to. I often genderbend myself (though, now I'm the creepy 20-30 something guy who does it...crap!) depending on the character. It can make some things more awkward, but it can also make it easier to have distance at times which can also help.

    Still, I really like the idea of "get comfortable with your character, then give them the reins." I'll have to give it a shot.

    1. The best female characters in all our campaigns have been played by men, so don't worry about it. And they are much better at playing women than I would be, I really suck at playing women.

      I even got married once with a male character to the female character of a male player...

  3. Things like that are my favorite to see in games. It is usually a good sign of a healthy and mature RPG group, which means you get amazing games. No one in the groups here balks at my tendency to gender bend. Some of them do it as well, and others have "tried it" to shake themselves out of creative slumps. If nothing else, it spices up the group composition.

  4. I have the same issue myself.

    What's fascinating is I believe this stems from being the defacto GM for most games I've ever played.

    I always feel like if I take center stage I'm imposing on the other players and the issue is further compounded by my knowledge that if I really want center stage I could just sit in the big chair and shape the focus of the entire world.