Thieves & Kings
Every story has a source. Every character has a motivation. The important thing about role-playing, is knowing who your character is, and how they interact with the world around them, since this is usually quite different from who you as a person are.
In any role-playing situation, your character needs to understand questions like; “Why did I start adventuring?”, “Where did I get my skills?”, and “What sets me apart from others?”. A good guiding force behind your interactions, should always be the Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws you chose upon character creation. These characteristics should help determine how you react to others, and what your character wants to get out of any situation. Character alignment can also help, but it’s a guide, not a strait-jacket.
Exploring dungeons, over-coming obstacles, and slaying monsters are key parts of D&D adventures. No less important, however, are the social interactions that adventurers have with the other inhabitants of the world.
Interaction takes many forms. You might need to convince an unscrupulous thief to confess to some malfeasance, or you might flatter a dragon so that he won’t eat you. The DM assumes the roles of any characters who are participating in the interaction that don’t belong to another player at the table. These NPCs become a vital part of any social encounters.
In general, the NPCs attitude towards you is described as friendly, indifferent, or hostile. Friendly NPCs are disposed to assist you, and hostile ones are inclined t get in your way.
Any social interactions have two important components; Role-Playing and Ability Checks.
Role-playing is literally, the act of playing out a role. In this case, it’s you as a player determining how your character thinks, acts, and talks.
Role-Playing is a part of every aspect of the game, and it comes to the fore during social interactions. Your character’s quirks, mannerisms, and personality influence how interactions resolve.
There are two styles you can use when role-playing your character; the descriptive approach and the active approach. Most players use a combination of the two styles. Use whichever works best for you.
Descriptive Approach :
With this approach, you describe your character’s words and actions to the DM and the other players. Drawing on your mental image of your character, you tell everyone what your character does and how he or she does it.
For instance, Chris plays Tordek the Dwarf. Tordek has a quick temper and blames the elves of the Cloakwood for his family’s misfortunes. At a tavern, an obnoxious elf minstrel sits at Tordek’s table and tries to strike up a conversation with the dwarf.
Chris says, “Tordek spits on the floor near his boot, growls a dwarven insult at the bard, and stomps over to the bar. He sits on a stool and glares at the minstrel before ordering another drink.”.
In this example, Chris has conveyed Tordek’s mood and given the DM a clear idea of his character’s attitude and actions.
When using descriptive role-playing, keep in mind the following;
Describe the character’s emotions and attitude.
Focus on your character’s intent and how others might perceive it.
Provide as much embellishment as you feel comfortable with.
Don’t worry about getting things exactly right. Just focus on thinking what your character would do and describing what you see in your mind.
Active Approach :
If descriptive role-playing tells your DM and your fellow players what your character thinks and does, active role-playing shows them.
When you use active role-playing, you speak with your character’s voice, like an actor taking on a role. You might even echo your character’s movements and body language. This approach is more immersive than descriptive role-playing, though you still need to describe things that can’t be reasonably acted out.
Going back to the example of Chris role-playing Tordek above, here’s how the same scene might play out if Chris used active role-playing.
Speaking as Tordek, Chris says in a gruff, deep voice, “I was wondering why it suddenly smelled awful in here. If I wanted to hear anything out of you, I’d snap your arm and enjoy your screams.” In his normal voice, Chris then adds, “I get up, glare at the elf, and head to the bar”.
Results of Role-Playing :
The DM uses your character’s actions and attitudes to determine how an NPC reacts. A cowardly NPC buckles under the threat of violence. A stubborn dwarf refuses to let anyone badger her. A vain dragon laps up flattery.
When interacting with an NPC, pay close attention to the DM’s portrayal of the NPCs mood, dialogue and personality. You might be able to determine an NPCs personality traits, ideals, flaws and bonds, then play on them to influence the NPC’s attitude.
Interactions in D&D are much like interactions in real life. If you can offer NPCs something they want, threaten them with something they fear, or play on their sympathies and goals, you can use words to get almost anything you want. On the other hand, if you insult a proud warrior or speak ill of an noble’s allies, your efforts to convince or deceive them will fail.
In addition to role-playing, ability checks are key in determining the success of any interaction.
Your role-playing efforts can alter an NPCs attitude, but there might still be an element of chance in the situation. For example, your DM might call for a Charisma check at any point during the interaction if he or she feels the dice need to play a role in determining an NPCs reactions.
Pay attention to your skill proficiencies when thinking about how you want to interact with an NPC, and stack the deck in your favor by using the approach that relies on your strengths and skills. From a role-playing perspective, this makes perfect sense. If the group needs to trick the guard into letting them into the castle, the rogue proficient in Deception is likely best able to lad the conversation. When negotiating for a hostage release, the cleric with Persuasion is the one who should lead the conversation.
Five Fingers of Role-Playing
1 : Stay engaged no matter what, you are pretending to be someone else and just because you wouldn’t find something interesting doesn’t mean your character wouldn’t. Make sure you interact with your fellow party members, talk to NPCs, and make note of all the little things your character would actually be doing. As an example, don’t just say, “I set up camp.”, actually go through the motions involved in doing so. You don’t have to do it every time, but try it at least once for the experience.
2 : Take a psych test in character, not the ones that are multiple choice but the moral and ethical question ones like, “You see a shop keeper being intimidated by the city guard?”. You will find thinking about these kind of scenarios in character outside of play sessions will help you react quicker and more in character when such moral quandaries show up in the game. Remember those questionnaires sent out to everyone when I started planning the campaign? They’re valuable for more than me.
3 : Give what your character says context don’t just, “How are you today.” Smile as you say it, add an excited tone of voice, and reveal the kind of person your character is by showing us the kind of emotion they put behind their words.
4 : The DM doesn’t need to be there for you to role-play; when the DM isn’t around take the opportunity to talk in character. Share back story, discuss recent events, or better yet just try shooting the shit in character.
5 : Remember, it is and isn’t a game. We play to have fun, but at the same time, you’re not. The best role-playing is done, when for a brief amount of time, you become another person who is really going through these experiences, and you will start taking what happens very seriously, because what happens matters a lot to the person you are trying to be.