You there, fellow quiet person! Do you have a thousand thoughts whirring around in your mind that you never give voice to? Are you riddled with self-doubt, or just kind of shy? Fear not, for you too can successfully play TTRPGs! Yes, out loud! With your words!
You’ve crafted a perfect character, their skills and spells painstakingly selected, their tags succinct and meaningful, their ample backstory worthy of the Hugo Award for Best Novella. They are your pride and joy, a child born of your own mind.
But…what the hell do they want?
Giving your hero a few short- and long-term goals can help nudge you into action during a session. By building motivations on top of a persona, you’ll have something specific to work towards, which in turn guides your actions in play and makes it easier for you to do stuff. In other words, they can transform the act of roleplaying from an intimidating open-world sandbox to an actionable pathway.
Perhaps your power-to-the-people holy warrior wants to free slaves and take out cruel nobles with the ultimate goal of dismantling the corrupt government; now you can imagine a course of action when your hero hears of a slave auction taking place. Or perhaps your greedy mercenary wants to amass enough gold and power to acquire a ship for a little old-fashioned piracy on the high seas; surely your “hero” won’t have many ethical concerns about taking on questionable jobs that others might balk at?
Giving your heroes goals may sound like an obvious step, but it’s one that’s easily brushed off or forgotten. Thankfully, session zeroes in OSR+ encourage creating goals in a collaborative setting. Use that time to express your ideas and ask for input from your group so you can establish your character’s story hooks, which the GM can use in the adventure as it unfolds. And if you have a secret goal in mind, talk to your GM privately about incorporating your hero’s hidden motivations into the game.
Ask for Help
Your GM probably wants you to have a good time, so don’t be afraid to chat with them about fleshing out those goals further, or just about supporting your efforts to speak up more in general. They’ll likely be open to bringing in bits of backstory to give you more to connect with in play, and might even want to set up a side quest that focuses on your character. It can feel more natural to step into the spotlight if the GM’s already shining it your way.
You can also talk to the GM about sprinkling some intra-party conflict into the mix. Such friction between characters can lead to interesting interactions that can help you come out of your shell.
This “ask” for guidance fits in during play, too: if you’re quiet simply because you’re unsure of what’s going on, ask for clarification. Chances are at least one other player was wondering the same thing.
Try Something New
If you gravitate towards certain types of characters, testing out something different can loosen up your roleplaying. Always in a support role? Try a violent Fighter or brash Daredevil on for size. Usually sneaking around in the shadows? Go for an attention whore of a Bard. Or if leaping into a new type of hero sounds uncomfortable, switch up your status quo a little: maybe your kind-hearted healer is compelled to speak out against injustices, or your stealthy thief is prone to gloating about their ill-begotten gains.
Ethos factors into this as well. In the past, I typically defaulted to the Neutral Good/Chaotic Good/Chaotic Neutral section of the D&D alignment chart, as that tends to fit my own stances (okay, maybe not so much CN). But lately in OSR+, I’ve been dabbling in essentially the opposite realm with Judicator, Mastermind, and Esurient, and it’s felt freeing to experiment with acting kind of shitty. It’s also been a fascinating look into these ethos’s priorities!
Think Out Loud
During play, you might have a lot of thoughts that never make their way out of your mouth. Occasionally they should stay in there (really, how many crude jokes do you need in one session?), but generally it’s good for both you and everyone else if you give voice to your ideas.
Out of character, that can simply look like pausing the game to discuss ways to move forward. In character, you can come up with what feels right for your hero: your wizard could absent-mindedly mumble while figuring out a puzzle, your scholar could describe potential meanings while translating an ancient text, or your warrior could recount some wartime story related to the problem at hand. The in-character method has the bonus of further defining your hero and what they’ve experienced.
Set Goals Pt. 2: This Time It’s Personal
What’s this? Another goals section? Yeah, but this time it’s about you, not your character. If you want to take direct action in speaking up more at the table, you can make that a personal goal to keep in mind during the session. Depending on the game (and on you, of course), these methods of pushing yourself could include:
- Being the first one to react to an in-game event or out-of-game prompt
- Starting a conversation with another hero in your party
- Giving your character an accent or distinctive manner of speech
- Explaining your thought process during an interaction
- Describing how your action looks in a combat encounter
Remember that these are supposed to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, not force you into anxiety-inducing territory, so don’t overextend yourself. If you recently joined a new group and feel nervous, don’t expect to give a five-minute monologue; just aim to participate in each scene. If you’re playing with people you’re comfortable with, maybe it’s time to break out that faux-Russian accent.
Go Forth and Speak!
It can feel uncomfortable to put yourself out there if you’re used to staying quiet, but it’s absolutely worth taking baby steps towards talking more. Over time, the weight will become easier to lift, and you’ll be able to connect better with your GM and fellow players while putting that novella-length backstory to good use. Maybe you’ll even write a sequel with everything you end up doing in-game!