Serious Roleplaying Enhances Campaigns

November 25, 2015

Tabletop roleplaying games are just that - games. They should be treated as such. Is it still better for the overall experience if everyone involved takes the roleplaying aspect seriously? I would answer, yes! Granted, not everyone participating in a tabletop RPG is an academy award winning actor/actress, nor do they need to be, but “staying in character” will improve the pacing of the session (and story), allow the characters to blossom, and allow the other players to stay in the moment.

I’m often the first to goof off and try to get my friends belly laughing, but there’s a time and place for jokes, and a time and place to dive into the mind of the character while acting as they would. Besides, roleplaying is a player’s chance to let loose, have fun, and become someone else or at least an exaggerated (enhanced) version of themselves. That’s the beauty of RPGs, you can be whoever you want and do whatever you want without consequence. It’s make believe. It’s an excellent opportunity to shed your blanket of shyness or lack of self esteem and try things out. I’d venture to say that you’ll find out some things about yourself along the way.

Here’s a couple of tips for becoming/being a good roleplayer:

  1. Build the character in your mind’s eye - How tall are they, what do they look like, do they have physical or behavioral quirks (see the traits section of ODAM), what do they sound like? Get a good understanding of the character as if they were someone you had a deep relationship with. Get inside their mind and they’ll get inside yours.
  2. Just say it - Many new players (we’ll refer to them as noobs) will often look toward the storyteller and say “I would like to say that I’m heading west and looking for shelter for the night,” when they should just look at whoever they are conversing with and say “I’m heading west and looking for shelter for the night.” Remember, while the campaign is running, you cease to be and instead becoming your character.
  3. React as the character would react - The king of the largest realm in the land verbally smacks you in front of the king's guard and court. You as a player want to lash out and take his head… let’s face it, it’s embarrassing. However, it would spell certain death for your character. Make the right choice based on the characters past, motivations, feelings and situation. Don’t let your personal feelings of the event or other players get in the way of crafting a good story. Also, acting foolishly puts the storyteller in a tough spot.  
  4. Play it out - small scenes can often morph into something memorable and great. Just because it’s easier to pass time, doesn’t mean you should. it’s often the quiet time where the characters and stories develop.
  5. Practice - I’ve been RPing with the same 4 or 5 people for 20+ years. If the storyteller is supposed to be a woman, I can look him dead in the eye and imagine he’s a woman, or an alien, or a robot, or a sentient AI… it doesn’t matter. My imagination takes over easily because I’ve practiced pretending these things. Of course it’s easier because of the company I keep. I’m comfortable looking like fool in front of them, but it’s just a matter of practice. Practice will yield comfort. Comfort will yield smoother roleplaying.
  6. Come up with things to do - Don’t sit in an empty room waiting for the storyteller to feed you content. If you’re not involved in the main plot, make your own and the storyteller will most likely feed off of that and play along. Little subplots will help build your character and allow you to become more familiar with them. It will also give other players something to play off.
  7. Don’t be a Jerk - I sometimes forget to stress this since I rarely play with strangers, but seriously… don’t be a jerk. Not everyone laughs at your crude brand of humor or responds well to an off color remark. If you’re trying to be funny and it doesn’t go well, apologize and move on. Though it may be in your character’s nature to say such things, make that known before you let loose on some poor unsuspecting player. “Hey, just want to warn you, my character’s a bit a rude idiot. Are you cool with that or should I tone it down?” It can be that simple. Again, it’s a game. Everyone should be having fun.

As I mentioned above, I have an RPG group and have been fortunate to not have to wonder who else is out there. Not everyone is so fortunate. There are plenty of online forums and sites devoted to online tabletop roleplaying. Many use video chat or text based chat apps to get involved in a story. These are great outlets to practice roleplaying and have a good time doing it. It’s a strong community and is filled with awesome, inspiring players. If you need help connecting with others, reach out to the ODAM guys and we’ll help you get setup.

~JE

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