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?