Play Boldly? But I'm an Introvert!

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 04 May 2010

Recently I got in trouble because I suggested to someone that they play boldly. The person in question took it to mean that I was asking him to change his personality type, that he should act like an extrovert. While I can see how he came to this opinion, that's not what I meant at all. Heck, I'm an introvert.

For me, playing boldly means a few things. Most importantly, it means coming outside your play style comfort zone and having your character do interesting things. It's really scary, I know. D&D doesn't have save points and there is always an underlying risk of character death. But the truth is, I'm not some heartless computer adjudicating the rules exactly as written. And the players aren't some sort of kill bots looking to rack up the most damage possible against the big bad guys. (Well maybe they are, but that's a different story.) Doing the same thing week after week, using the same powers in the same way, over and over again, makes for a boring game. I can try my best to shake things up by adding different challenges, but if the players approach them the same way, then I've accomplished nothing.

Besides, it's these moments of vulnerability, of epic wins and epic failures, that make for great gaming stories. We all hate to fail, the sting is great and it lasts for quite some time. When I was a kid, I played softball and always was quite scared of striking out. Instead of doing the rational thing and realizing that even the heroes of the game fail 7 times out of 10, I would put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to just make it on base. As the strike count increased, I would try to make the strike zone smaller and smaller. I had a great on base percentage but nobody was patting me no the back over it and I don't have that many great softball stories. This same scenario translates to the gaming table. Jump off a cliff onto the back of a giant spider, and you are probably going to love every moment of it. Do the safe thing and spend two turns climbing down a rope, and nobody's going to get that excited, including you.

If you're introverted, like I am, doing this will take some work. First, you need to decide that you trust the rest of the table. This is a huge issue, I know, and incredibly scary. But until you show that you trust them, your fellow players are never going to trust you. So you'll still be thinking of those cool ideas in your head (and I know you are) but no one is ever going to know how awesome you can be and they aren't going to help you get there. The truth is, they are often just as nervous and scared as you are. Sometimes it helps if you invent a persona for yourself. Base it on the true you but just tweak a few things that hold you back from fully participating. If you are still full of that inner monologue of failure, read Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton. Totally changed my life. True story.

So, how this different from asking a player to be an extrovert. For one, I'm not asking players to do these things in front of a large crowd or even in front of complete strangers. I'm also not asking them to play act or even get into precise detail. A player totally can act boldly while keeping things in terms of game mechanics. Sure, everyone might not get the cool factor as easily, but the player sure will, and that's what's important here. The best gaming moments often don't sound that way at the time, but later, when everyone is doing a recap, they will sound legendary.

It's true, coming up with truly bold, brilliant ideas all the time is near impossible, but doing it just a small percentage of the time is likely to enliven your table and make your experience a better one. It can be scary and nerve-wracking for sure, but remember that your DM is a person and he/she probably has a small idea of what you are going through. And by deciding to give your character, well, character, you might become more engaged with the game world and you might just find that your DM really isn't out to get you after all. Unless your DM is Chris Perkins. At that point, all I would have to say on the matter is "Don't split the Party" and "Aeofel Lives!"


Yes! The word spreads. Preach it!

Also: if someone at your table makes fun or otherwise mistreats you for being bold, that person is entering jackass territory. Remember rules X and X.1.

Don't be afraid to try something new. You're among friends.

Reading this, I see much more clearly what you meant before.

It's very true that being bold and trying new things - whether in-game, or in life - are not at all the same thing as "breaking type" and acting against your nature (though even the latter can be a useful subset of the former, in a theraputic context.)

Telling a shy person to be less shy (as if she's never heard that 'advice' before) can be hurtful; but encouraging someone to go out on a limb is good advice. A person can't change who she is, but she can grow into who she is. And, as you say, that's only going to happen if she takes risks. At the table and in life.

Thank you for posting this.

I think playing boldly is a great way to break out of your shell when it comes to role playing. It can definitely be a huge step in creating a unique personality for the character you are playing.

Thanks for the great post. I've emailed the link to at least a dozen of my friends.

I think there are ways that you can encourage your players to play boldly. Terrain powers, from the DMG2, are fantastic for this, particularly if you make their effects explicit to the PCs. I've experimented with printing up power cards for terrain powers, so that the PCs know exactly what they can accomplish, and it worked out pretty well. If you pair high-risk, high-drama terrain powers with high-impact effects, you're bound to see some results. In my last game, the players detonated a table of unstable alchemical compounds, setting of a chain reaction and destroying half the room. It was fantastic.

Too many people try to force things on a person when they're role playing. Everyone should be allowed to take things at their own pace or at their character's pace. Pushing someone is a great way to ruin a game or to get the game dropped.

Kudos to you. Stand your ground!

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