Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Unsung Hero: Roleplaying Support Characters


Another awesome piece of fanart here by Sushi again! “Hawkens Cadet Portrait, upon graduating the ICI Academy” Love it~

I especially love the sepia tone! So regal!

And an awesome little surprise here. Jen Gordy of Carbine printed off a sketch I made of one of the scanbot personalities of WSRP “PROBIE” for her little one and here is the result. I sense an artist in the making! <3
PROBIE looks cute in green!

Also, if you want to see some fantastic art (and a lot of hilarity) head over to The WSRP Swimsuit Issue thread! Need I say more?

In other news, WildStar has had a few new articles up for read:

-Meet the EU WildStar Community Team! I know one of these guys stopped by WSRP already to say hello while I was at work, these guys are clearly showing the same love and dedication to the community as the rest of the WildStar team. Welcome aboard guys!

-WildStar Wednesday- Game Jam: Learn more about some of the excellent creative process that goes behind the scenes for the Carbine team while they create WildStar!

-WildStar press briefing and Q&A w/ Gaffney: Check this out on Massively for a little sneak peek at the fate of the Eldan (spoiler alert sort of if you do not want any hints)


Today's blog is a suggestion from WSRP's Fenwick for advice and ideas on how to roleplay a supporting character.

Supporting characters have long been crucial to storytelling. Yet it is their very nature that makes it easy to forget just how important they are. While it is the supporting character's job to support the main character and their goals in narratives, so do supporting roleplayers aid their fellow storytellers.

In regards to roleplaying, I actually prefer to use the term “story drivers” instead of main character as there can be many and they vary from group to group. While these story drivers help to push the narrative of the team forwards, the supporting characters have another role that is just as important. In roleplaying, it is the role of the supporting character to make the journey enjoyable and exciting while pulling out hidden depths for both themselves and others along the way.

Now this is not to say that supporting characters cannot help move storylines or that they are shallow characters by any means. In fact, supporting characters are just as rich and complex as the story drivers usually. Often times they themselves are not story drivers out of personal choice. Many of my roleplaying friends choose to play supporting characters because they really enjoy watching others comes up with awesome stories while getting to help out and be a part of it, but without the stress of rallying the group behind them.

I think that one of the best ways to explain this, is to use an example. In fact, I will be using Fenwick himself for this one! On WSRP, there is a thread that features a group of Exiles trying to set up a secret base on Nexus away from the prying eyes of the Dominion. In this team, Fenwick plays the role of an Aurin xenobiologist and doctor.

Fenwick! (Art by Himmel)

So right from the start, Fenwick has set himself up as a great support character. Though crazy scientists and mad doctors could certainly make for good story drivers, healers and researchers are also very good support roles.

Scientists/researchers/etc can make very useful additions in a team. Perhaps the team needs to know if some flora or fauna are poisonous? Perhaps they need a potion concocted or a connection to get them inside an enemy laboratory. This role tends to lend itself to interesting characters with above average intelligence and often with clever dialogue and ideas.

Doctors/healers/medics/etc are extremely helpful and needed by just about everyone in roleplay. People get hurt, in dangerous missions or even in everyday life, or they can get sick. So who do they turn to? The doctor! Often times, when people are injured or feel vulnerable and/or weak, they tend to open up. The idea of confidentiality and care tends to create an atmosphere that allows for other characters to speak about things they might not otherwise be willing to talk about.

This is one of the most powerful tools/benefits of the supporting character. They help provide situations and atmosphere that encourage character growth and development. By being both a scientist and a doctor, Fenwick makes himself available and helpful to each member present, opening up the most potential opportunities for roleplaying.

Now, in this thread, events happen from time to time to help drive the story forwards. Perhaps there are cargo drops to pickup for the team or bandits that might post a threat to the Exile's camp. During these times, story drivers tend to take the lead, pushing the story forwards while some of their support goes with. Fenwick chooses to stay behind. He is no fighter or scout, so he sticks back in the medical ward and prepares it for the team's return. Perhaps he engages those still around the base in conversation in the meantime, giving them someone to talk to and some fun for those not on the front lines.Fenwick is also now prepared for the return of party, ready to help heal the injured if physical conflict happened.

Fenwick also has another powerful tool up his sleeve. As a scientist in the WildStar universe, he has his very own scanbot. He names it PROBIE and gives it the personality of a bumbling puppy. Throughout the thread, PROBIE makes his way between the players, adding bits and pieces of usefulness along with lots of humor to lighten up an otherwise serious plot. By not only adding his scanbot to the adventure, but by also letting said bot wander around as a separate entity, Fenwick has made it possible to be able to interact with anyone on site.

PROBIE up to his usual antics in the swimsuit thread... (Art by Evion!)

This is the beauty of the support character. Fenwick is still a deep character with thoughts, ambitions and a clever wit. But rather then focus on some big personal story to push or on being the major player in every progression in the narrative, he enjoys filling all those spaces in between. Just like in real life all the periods in between big exciting events are full of everyday chatter, silly stories, learning more about people, making friends, etc. It is the role of the supporting character to help these sort of things along. They are the fun and the 'making friends' and the in-between that is SO important and so critical to character development.

Support characters also excel at adaptation. They are skilled at complimenting the more solid personalities and aspects of those around them. Just like Watson added a touch of humanity and kindess to Sherlock Holmes, so can a good support character add humanity to the disconnected, humor to the gloomy, or they may try other tactics. Perhaps they egg on their adversary or do a silly dance with their friends. Another powerful tool of these roleplayers is the ability to mold themselves to the situation at hand.

They are the unsung heros!

So, if you think this sounds like the type of role you would enjoy just remember:
  • -Support characters tend to be helpful characters. Try to pick a career or skills that could be very useful to a group or encourage people to interact with you.
  • -Support character do not necessarily have to be bubbly and friendly to everyone. You just need to be willing to engage others. Sometimes conflict can make for some very interesting interactions!
  • -You do not have to be a huge story pusher to be a beloved character. You can simply enjoy hanging out with and helping others. Trust me, people LOVE to talk about their works of genius. If you encourage them to play out their characters and help them to grow, you will make lots of friends!
  • -Be adaptable!

And above all else HAVE FUN!!!


  1. Solid article as always.
    With all the complex end game options for Wildstar finding a niche that you enjoy (when you are not a 1%'er) can lead to a lot of enjoyment.
    - Anhrez

    1. I agree! AND, even better if you find it alongside others :3 The journey is more fun together.

  2. Good stuff man! I think it's hard to realize how rewarding playing a support character can be. Nice job shining a light on the good side of it :).

    1. Thanks much. These guys are so important and often they don't even know it. Time to shine the light on those who deserve it!