LESSON Participating with Shy Characters

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY MECHANICS' started by Minibit, May 13, 2016.

  1. t's a problem that's caused more dissent and frustration between GMs and players than I care to recount: a person has a shy or withdrawn character, and the GM and/or other players are frustrated that he/she doesn't participate in the story enough.

    Problem is, shy people by definition don't tend to put themselves out there or take a lot of social initiatives. They don't always go along super easily when people try to draw them out, either.

    So, what, you can't have a shy character and also be a part of the story?

    Of course you can! But actively participating with a shy character is a bit different than if you're playing a more outgoing, action-taking type. So, without further ado, let's learn some participation tricks for shy characters!


    I'd like to clear up a point on passive/aggressive play styles on shy characters first. There's nothing wrong with being a passive player of course, lots of people prefer to let their GM, partner, or other players take the lead in plot development, or fill in the blanks and add their own flair to stuff the other person/people introduce.

    However when a character is shy and passive in their actions, it does not mean the player is necessarily passive as well; it is possible to take story initiative with a shy character, so you aggressive types who get a bit bored of playing aggressive characters, take heart! And everybody else, stop making assumptions about people based on their characters >8(

    Trick 1: Communicate, communicate, communicate!

    Do not fear the OOC! The OOC is your friend, especially so if your character is shy. In the OOC, communicate with the other player(s) and the GM about what's going to happen next in the plot and how your character can be part of it. You can also ask for other player's cooperation when your character needs a nudge or shove in the right direction, and your character doesn't need to be outgoing to do/say something that gives another character the push or inspiration they need, either. If there's one place you can definitely be active and take initiative, it's in the plotting. Don't be afraid to suggest subplots and scenes where your character can shine, too! Maybe your character is a shy bookworm who practically lives in the library. Should the cast suddenly need several obscure pieces of knowledge to solve a mystery, your character would be very useful!

    Trick 2: Sharing is caring!

    Do yourself a favour and don't keep secrets about your shy characters. If you tell people all about them - their history, interests, habits, goals, fears, everything - in the OOC, it becomes much easier for others to brainstorm ways to connect with or include them. A tip: save the info dump and chat with the other players. Read the other characters' profiles and point out similarities, differences, and anything else that could lead to something interesting in the story. E.g: "hey, both our characters are dog owners! We should do something with that, like maybe one dog runs away and the other character finds & returns him, or maybe their leashes get tangled at the park!"

    Trick 3: Dynamic is Dynamite!

    Even if your character remains shy and withdrawn, they can still be a dynamic (changing, developing) character. What are their goals that they try to meet? What are their flaws that they try to fix? It's fine to have shyness be something they want to conquer, but don't be afraid to expand your options to things like a quick temper, or a career as a songwriter!

    Trick 4: Connect with other characters

    Yes, your character is shy; yes, this means they are less likely to approach others or take social initiative. However, while it is possible to participate in the story with a shy character, it's going to get old for you and the other players eventually if your character never Talks to or works with anyone at all. Take some time to develop what it is that gives your character an aversion to social interaction, and use the OOC to set up scenes where they'd be more likely to interact with others. Here's some problem-solution examples for you.

    • They feel overwhelmed when in a crowd or very busy environment
      • They would probably feel more comfortable and open to one-on-one interactions, set up some two player scenes!
    • They have trust issues and don't feel safe around people they don't know well
      • They may feel more secure if they can deal with strangers in a safe area like their own home or a regular haunt; somewhere where they feel in control. Having someone they do know very well around could help, too. Again, communicate the triggers of your character's anxiety and work with others to create opportunities to connect with other characters despite them!
    • They feel like they don't have anything in common, or are an outsider to other people, so they don't bother to approach others.
      • Everybody has some common ground, even if it's something as cheesy as that they both eat food and pay rent. However trivial, discuss with other players and find out what your characters have in common. Find a way to make these things apparent in the roleplay and hey-presto; something to talk about!
    • Lack of Experience; maybe they just don't have a lot of practice making friends, and so they are awkward and unsure of themselves
      • One-on-one interaction with patient, gentle people is probably helpful for this one. They may also wish to mentally prepare themselves for trying to connect with someone, and want an opportunity to observe people for a while before joining in. Organize these kinds of setups in the OOC, and make sure the other players understand why yours is hanging back!

    There are other reasons of course, but you get the idea; figure out what circumstances your character would feel comfortable making connections under, and arrange them.

    Trick 5: Still Waters Run Deep

    Just because your character isn't super chatty doesn't mean they don't have interesting things to say! Work that inner dialogue and mention memories, hopes, theories, observations, feelings, and don't forget their five senses! If your character is the type to make people wonder "what is he/she thinking?" then answer the question.

    Trick 6: Don't limit yourself

    Participating with a shy character becomes way easier when you don't limit yourself to the shy character! Do they have a pet or familiar that you can use as a proxy for interactions? Are you permitted to play multiple characters, such as bringing in their friends or family? Is the GM okay to let you play some NPCs? Moving beyond one character not only gives you more opportunities to participate in different ways, it also keeps you from becoming stagnant in your roles because it forces you to come from a different angle. And if you're used to being more aggressive in the story, switching to a more active, transient role can be a good outlet!

    Now go forth, Iwakuans, and participate!
    • Useful Useful x 8
    • Like Like x 7
    • Love Love x 3
    • Bucket of Rainbows Bucket of Rainbows x 1
  2. As a GM, I appreciate this greatly. I'll be sure to keep this guide on-hand whenever a player feels like they can't do anything just because their character is shy. :P
  3. I just joined an rp that talked about not being the person that thinks the whole time with no dialogue and isn't "in" the rp! It'll be nice to share this with the GM so they can have new players read it. (:
  4. Nice, Minibit! This is helping give me ideas for how to play one of my shy kids in a way that's more fun for others. =D
    • Love Love x 1
  5. This is so spot on and so many people miss this! I have one of the shyest of characters and I usually have to feel the room out or rper for onexones before risking her. She warms up over time, but even then is rather quiet and keeps to herself. I always give people tons to work with even if she doesn't really speak. Where are her eyes looking? Is her head up? Is she shifting in place, is she picking at something? All those little things a shy or nervous not so outgoing person. Thanks for writing something like this up!
    • Like Like x 3
  6. This is EXACTLY how I involve my shy characters in stuff. Including the ones who talk a lot, because "shy" doesn't always mean "quiet". I have characters who run their mouth constantly about meaningless bullshit, and I use body language instead to give cues on what they're actually thinking or feeling. It works for shy characters of all volume levels.

    You can really do a lot with body language.
    • Like Like x 1
    • Love Love x 1
    • Useful Useful x 1
  7. I want to add every character has a proxy by default. Their player. As a player you can set up situations beyond your character's control. Maybe they bump into someone by accident, dropping their books for dat classic highschool first encounter. Maybe a sudden wind blows a handout out of their hands and they chase after it and said wind blows said handout into another character's face. Maybe they forget to look left and right before crossing a street, if you're feeling particularly dramatic/sadistic. Hell, your character may forget their hot guy yaoi magazine cut-out scrapbook on their desk and another character might find it, either going down the fangirly "omg yes I think they're cute together as well!" route, while another character might feel some kind of bond because of their closeted homosexuality if the owner of the yaoi scrapbook is male, or yet another character might be disgusted and shame your character for it or gossip to stir other characters into interaction.

    Good article though, worth a share.
    • Like Like x 3