6d6 Fireball

5 Roleplaying Tips

Staying in character is perhaps the hardest part of roleplaying and after many years gaming I still find it hard, especially when confronted with a brain teasing challenge. Here are my tips for staying in character.

Tip #1 – It’s all in the plan!

Roleplaying begins with character generation and that usually starts with a frenzy of excited dice rolling. I suggest that before (or straight after) rolling the character statistics it is worth pausing to do a bit of planning. After rolling comes the working out stage and the obvious questions such as “Do I have the stats to be a Ranger?” etc. My roleplaying tip is to list out a few key principles about the character at this, before deciding on the character class. I ask questions like “is he outgoing or introvert?” “Does he have any obsessions or principles?” “Does he have an ambition or some personal objectives?”. I am assuming the GM is not providing any leads on character generation for the game concerned but regardless, it is also well worth while talking to the other players to ensure you have a feel for their plans. Whether you build your roleplaying plans to fall into line with them or to create some controversy is up to you.

Tip #2 – Avoid Playing A Radical Role

Many articles on roleplaying tips advise players to to be radical and whilst extremes can be fun to play, it will be hard to keep it up. Good roleplaying has to kept up for hour after hour. If you play a character that is similar to yourself you know his responses will invariably be similar to your own. I am quite a vocal bloke and however quiet my character is supposed to be, Rob will come through with his opinions in a roleplaying situation. Equally, I’d find it really frustrating to play a dull or stupid individual so I avoid characters with low intelligence. Having said that there are still lots of interesting options around this subject. People can be bright but gullible or easily lead. Dim individuals can be naturally suspicious so they will not always fall for a well-reasoned and role-played argument. The more alien the character traits, the harder it will be to anticipate your character’s reactions and play them well and consistently.

Tip #3 – Use Roleplaying to Challenge Other Players Assumptions

Much of the fun of roleplaying is exploration and creating surprises. Your character is a reflection of you, so your roleplaying friends can probably anticipate how he will react. Being prepared to make what might feel like the wrong decision for good character reasons is a relatively easy roleplaying tip but a potentially dangerous one. If you are quite a rash individual and have a reputation for liking a good fight, why not have a character who likes to hang back and “see what develops” before getting stuck in? Keep things modest, in line with tip #2, and use it to develop it character. For example, cover your “hang back” approach by having the character always praying for a round before diving into the action. It is certainly entertaining seeing the impact on other players who are used to taking their lead from you and yours.

Tip #4 – Avoid Roleplaying the Game System

A lot of us become a bit repetitive in what we do in a game because we know the system. The best example is how we approach everyday challenges like a closed door (check for traps, listen, detect spells etc). The hard bit about roleplaying is remembering that not all people in the gameworld will do this and for us, it is a product of all the games we played before. So this roleplaying tip is always think “Is my character doing something because of what they have experienced before, or are they doing it because of what I the play have experienced?”. Perhaps the funniest bit of roleplaying I remember was a young thief who when confronted by the Liches treasure leaped into the pile and started swimming in it shouting we’re rich! Unfortunately it was trapped. The player concerned was having a great time against his own personal judgment and fortunately was not punished too much by the GM.

Tip #5 – Don’t Play “Evil” Roles for the sake of it

I know many veteran roleplayers read this site who will have strong opinions on the matter but it needs saying. Playing evil characters is hard. Many inexperienced players want to play an evil character because of the liberation it seems to bring. My roleplaying tip is don’t. It is difficult to keep an evil party together, difficult to be consistent, and ultimately difficult to enjoy and get a sense of achievement. It only works if the GM has built the game for evil characters and has set objectives or adventure threads for them. Since evil people have different morals, loyalties and motivations, it is hard to keep a party working well as a team for a long game or campaign. Ultimately D&D is a game of heroic deeds and legendary struggles and these work best with good or at least neutral characters.

What are your Roleplaying tips?

The beauty of roleplaying is that everyone has a different take on a game or situation. So what are your tips for roleplaying? What advice would you give a new player or a player wanting to make that step up from a simple dice roller to a roleplayer?

15 thoughts on “5 Roleplaying Tips

  1. bonemaster

    I have to agree with #5. I think too many people forget that most RPGs tend to be heroic in outlook. Even a single “Evil” person within a group can have horrible effects unless care is taken. Like all things, it not that a person is evil, but how evil and what kind of evil. In general, it is one of things I don’t like about alignments. Its useful to help how an NPC may act, but I think it sometimes is not that useful for PCs.

    I’d have to add Meta-Rule #1 -> Have fun. If your not having fun doing Roleplaying, then you are doing something wrong. If you take all the tips above and you are not having fun with you created, then start over.

    bonemaster´s last blog post..Computers and Gaming: Part 1

  2. shent_lodge

    I agree with the don’t play evil tip. Nothing fun ever comes out of it.

    Tip #4 is so true in my game the people that play their character have far more fun than the people who built theirs to bend the rules, and then just sit there and meta-game everything to death. Once, we had a thief touch a gem, and get turned to stone. The party reversed the effect, and he went right back and touched the gem, which in turn, zapped him back to stone again. He had a blast, and everyone grumbled, but years later, they all remember when Brian’s thief would not stop grabbing for the gem that kept turning him to stone.

  3. HarpersE

    I agree with #5 – in my experience evil roles are never as satisfying. Unless you plan on violating #4 in order to keep your character *with* the party, then you will find it hard if the rest of the group are playing neutral or good characters. For the majority of my beginning play, my character was a neutral evil rogue and this is the exact problem I kept running into because motivations, goals, and the entire concept of companionship is different for evil characters.

    That said, I have played in a very sucessful evil campaign – however the campaign was designed for evil players and created during a period of history when evil *won* (at least for a short time) – but it is not as satisfying. Being feared, ravaging towns – it all has a momentary charm, however I usually felt at the end of roleplay somewhat let down, because what did I truly accomplish? Also, you will invariably come upon things and instances that will be downright disturbing to yourself, even if they aren’t to your character. While it should all be kept in fun, other players are going to be either more or less evil than yourself and even the DM may be more evil- thinking than you.

    DnD can be a gruesome game – so keep that in mind when you decide to start or play in an evil campaign and judge what you can handle. For me, it wasn’t my idea to play in an evil campaign and I went along with because it was what the majority wished to do. Since then I have turned down offers to play in all evil parties/campaigns – not because it was fun (sometimes) or that I wasn’t good at it (my character was actually one of the evilest and I caused quite a bit of mayhem), but because it simply wasn’t fun to play.

    I’d also like to suggest that #4 and #3 are very important, however they need a good DM to support it. If your DM doesn’t have the ability to draw your character in and keep them in, then playing outside the system can lead your character astray – for example the NE rogue; eventually you may find yourself wondering “why am I with the party?”. Or if another character does something and your charcters personality says that they wouldn’t stay, the DM needs to be capable enough to step in and redirect the flow of the game and/or be able to give your character a plausible reason to continue with the group instead of expecting players to figure it out themselves.

    - My two cents is rather long, yes, and this post a bit old, but it was already re-bumped and its a good post, so what the heck. Good Gaming.

  4. Buffy Role player

    I Don’t agree with number 5 at all !
    See the concept of role playing is portraying a character exciting, edgy, dramatic, or comical. Or in the range of being interesting. Being evil makes things bad-ass, fun, crazy, conflict. If there is conflict, what is there to go off of ? With out a issue, nothing makes you hooked, you INTERESTED in the role play. If all you’re doing is taking, and asking, and laughing. You might as well be you’re self ! You have to nail the character, and be amazing as plots. There must be an evil, or some what evil to the plot person that keeps the role play edgy. Something you wanna read, something you could see on t.v, it does have to be good ! With out a
    - bitchy
    - back stabbing
    - rude
    OR a ‘demon’
    ‘vampire’
    Or corrupter of the role play, what’s the point ?
    Want small talk, or spot on addiction to the role play ?
    Simple as that ! Evil is the key to a INTERESTING role play. Case closed.
    The role players that suck, leave ‘em be ! If they cannot be evil, you do it. Don’t complain from what you have seen as a fellow role player, and call out on everyone. ‘Cause many people can pull off the ” Spike ” ( Buffy the vampire slayer ) Of the group.

  5. Buffy Role player

    Tip 2 I Also find just foolish !
    Without a ‘radical’ or so called crazy character, there is really WHOA ! HOLY SHIT !
    A ‘Didn’t see that coming moment’. There must be a role player willing to pull out all the stops ! They just must be really unpredictable. If you aren’t good with, making comments maybe ‘ offensive ‘ you might not be able to do that. You HAVE to really be that HATE or LOVE Person. Either they HATE you, as in that portrayed character , or they LOVE you for that.
    - MUST Be willing to be hated, for you’re ‘radical’ actions, on the role play or comments. All apart of the fun world of being the ‘radical’ character.
    I would say, if you have a personality go for it. (:

  6. Aidan Blant

    Playing an ‘unpredictable’ character is both foolish and disrupts a campaign. Someone who constantly disrupts the flow of the campaign, will only be seen as annoying, and loses what little charm it would have had after the fifteenth time you do something ‘edgy’.

    If you really want a ‘WhOa’ moment, play a perfectly normal character, and in a critical moment in the story, pull out something unexpected.

    It’s going to have a lot more of an effect, be more interesting, and prevents you from being ‘That Guy’

  7. ForKord

    I actually find myself agreeing with buffy role player says no matter how intangible his written style is . I’ve been enjoying d&d for nearly 10 years now and tend to find to often that parties feel stale with a lack of true social interaction without both the evil and radical elements an example from a few years back while we were playing a sandbox campaign there was a player who regularly got the party into difficult life threatening situations playing a very devout lawful cleric but it made for rich storylines and a lot of problem solving measures for us to think how to handle things. A good party should be able to encompass nearly anything in roleplay and figure out how to handle it including people its what you would do in said circumstance. As for evil Pcs if people plan to play one play one with a twist that does not constantly set your party of be a schemer or hide your evil ways from them…. maybe you came to the party with plans of doing a specific evil act do not stand in front of the paladin and cut apart slaves….

    I actively recommend roleplaying above everything if the party dies or something bad happens because of a mistake you made play it through to the bitter end because a good DM will not slaughter a party for a situation that can’t be helped do to a person playing their character.

    My last point is evil good and neutral are different concepts for different people i always try and think of things as beyond that if possible play your alignment but do not be bound to the literal sense of it because no one can be totally evil all the time nor totally good to create realistic pcs you personally need to find the balance with each one.

  8. DrowIsFun

    I will agree with all of these, to extent. I generally don’t like evil, it is not typically as fun as good or den neutral. Neutral isn’t fun at all really, mostly it depends on the people role-playing. As someone said, evil is fun when you find a balance. Good needs balance too though. My typical character is lawful neutral with good minded morals(I.E. He/she does not lean toward good or evil intent however tries to avoid conflict where it is not needed, with most townsfolk for instance) but I do want to let most newer players know that neutral is boring after a long time. Almost all my friends pick CN because of they’re “I do what I want when I want” and that kind of mentality is honestly boring after a long time. Im 20 right now and have been playing since I was about 12 so I’m not exactly a veteran but I am seasoned(played AD&D aka 1st edition and 2nd edition as well as the obvious 3.5 of our time but not 4th edition)and evil as well as hood requires a bit of…finesse. However as far as not being “edgy” I feel that here should be those kinds of characters. With taste though. Dont constantly be all “I will save you” “I will kill you” “This is for [insert god name here]” or things of that sort. Do it once in a while. Remember, this might be a fantasy game but they are still as normal as us, add magic or psionics. People do not ever act out so constantly evil or good or stupid or even god friendly(even there in real life there is the eventual crazed Jesus freak) so just keep this in mind when playing. Its like when cooking, when you want good flavor, add just a little spice, don’t coat it with a few inches of spice.

  9. Miiaaa

    Um, I always play characters that are different from me. You can take isperation from other fictional characters you like and think how they would react too things.

  10. Faye Lampshire

    Well… given that I tend to play characters who drink a lot… I’d like to think that my characters are not like me. :)
    Seriously though the fact that I tend to play characters who are impulsive and tend not to think their plans through enough… is probably quite like me. [My elven wizard found out the easy way that no, wyvern isn't good to eat. And I'm not quite that impulsive. Oh and she did once ask an angel (who'd said ask me anything) 'Do crabs think we walk sideways?']
    As for the inspiration, I tend to have a combination of characters from different things in mind. [My elven wizard was a cross between Lina Inverse and Dave Lister]
    And can I just say that just because you’re a vampire, that doesn’t mean you have to be evil. Devious, manipulative, downright sneaky, yes. But evil… :)

  11. Remon

    Well I think #5 is a good rule, but… I’m now playing a vampire that is traveling with a priest. (I lost a bet ingame and the priest saved my life not knowing I’m a vampire)

    But back to the point. My char does a lot of things the priest doesn’t approve and doesn’t know about. When the priest is with me I tend to drink the blood of animals. When he isn’t around I tend to drink blood of his followers. (as they know me they will let me get close with out much problems) I don’t kill them(atleast I try… the DM has made a saving trow for this.)

    So what I’m saying a char that is evil could bring some nice roleplaying in the game.

  12. Silver Albatross

    Here are my tips from countless characters-
    1. Try many characters and play styles. Why be a pacifist mage when veteran bandit suits you better?
    2. Make your character vaguely like you. If you are smart butplay a dumb archer by an archery activated door you will forget to say you are stumped.
    3. If you play as a pacifist merchant and someone robs you, be smart. They will mainly think you are serious about glitched potions called poisons, die and not find you again.
    4. Evil is fun… IF you can pull it off. Start good and when the time is right execute your leader. Or hold him ransom if there are no extreme archers. Or slaughter the whole group.
    5. Know everyone’s character well. Nothing wrecks a server more than calling Guild Master Serovores or whatever John.
    If you want to RP with me go on Minecraft server tektoncraft.nl at weekends. I play as an archer currently. If anyone asks my character’s sister told you to join. Awesomeness. -Silver

  13. Alex

    I both love and hate rule #5, don’t get me wrong I love your list and will use it in the future to help new roleplayers. But the fact of the matter, being an evil character doesn’t mean you are this end all evil of the world. Evil is evil, good is good. If you are chaotic good imagine robin hood, he accomplished good things through an unlawful stand point, no one saw that as evil. But see evil as what will your morals be within this situation, when you capture the evil lord, will you be the stupid evil and just chop his head off? Or will you be the type of evil that is good at balancing off the paladins lawful stupid. Tell the party you wish to spend 5 minutes with the evil lord, and intorragate him, if your evil hell go ahead an torture him. But just because your evil don’t burn down a village, or start stabbing helpless people left and right. Every character has a motive of some sort leading them to each and every action. You can be evil and help the party as well, do something morally unjust for a bit of extra gold, torture the evil bad guy, when a shopkeeper is being a jerk go ahead and use that intimidate skill you’ve been dumping points into. It is a moral system, not a roleplay railroad, have fun doing what you want, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do that.

    Example from my own gaming experience was my own chaotic evil barbarian, big brawny fellow with an average intelligence so he wasn’t stupid, but his charisma was rather low. So when it came down to seeing an obviously trapped door, he had the ability to remember he was with a rogue and allowed them to break the lock, but he also cared for the party he adventured with. When danger came at them (like the door I just described) The rogue rolled to disarm the trap, his roll was not good enough to break the trap but still didn’t set anything off (lucky rogue.) So my barbarian having no intentions on heading back after slaughtering an army, decided he was the toughest and didn’t want to see his party get destroyed by this trap. It was not a good act as I will explain. The idea behind it was, the rogue is unable to open the door unharmed, and there is no turning back with the focus of magical loot ahead, so the high health, high constitution barbarian would take the hit. He was protecting them not out of kindness, but in the never ending adventure for loot and power, traveling alone is not ideal for survival, and the people there with him are his best chance at survival. One of them dying lessens his chance for the eternal glory he craves. So he tells the party to stand back and with a very good roll he breaks the door down with one mighty kick, taking a fire explosion and uncanny dodge saving his hide bound a$$.

    So evil, not always the super baddy that is every villain from your childhood who only wants to destroy the world. Just it’s what they will do to acquire what they want. Or destroy the world, whatever you want to do.

    Hope I helped :)

  14. Nonya

    Ok… first off, I rarely post on these things, but there were some very good points of advice here. Unfortunately there were also some sour nuggets and pitfalls.

    Number 1 is great. However, try doing things backwards! A friend recently introduced me to his way of character creation.

    • ‘Personality First.’ Figure out what the character is like mentally and emotionally before you even begin rolling dice or looking through chapter 2.

    Number 3 is good but can be elaborated upon.

    • “Challenge Players Assumptions and Stereotypes.” A fighter obsessed with arcane knowledge, a rogue who has never tried to be silent in his life and instead plays the fiddle, a barbarian who tries not to rage because he doesn’t like the way it makes him feel, a cleric who doesnt know what god they serve and blacks out when provoked. These are a bit class specific but what about a tribal character who visually looks as evil as can be but is actually good and a typical member of his society. That being said cultural diversity can be an amazing tool. Western culture sees desecrating graves and taboo, but in some easter cultures it is common practice to dig up the bones and rebury them.

    As far as number 5 goes. Be smart and remember the game is all in fun. A really good tip that I have used in the past is this:

    • When running an evil campaign, have the players describe how they know each other prior to beginning. This really circumvents the awkward ‘I don’t trust anyone’ persona that every evil character has. I have played CE where I was more of a detriment to myself. You have to remember that CE isn’t ‘destroy, destroy, destroy’ and it is certainly not the most dangerous alignment, that title belongs to the megalomaniacal LE.

    One more thing…. online gaming is not roleplaying.

    • Any system confined by the imaginations of another is not roleplaying. Free your mind and step away from the computer.

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