Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about role-playing in RPGs and how to get into character. Even though I’ve been playing for a while I’ve never really gotten into any character. Most of my experiences are silly characters, or people who have these extreme personalities that would be ridiculous in real life. Now don’t get me wrong these characters are fun to play and enjoying games is not an art form. I was just thinking about the conversations I’ve had with people about role-playing and what it means to people to explore different aspects of humanity. Now of course. I have to put that into the context for someone new to role-playing.
Most newcomers to RPGs have two things they are afraid of and that’s usually the rules and the “pretend” aspect, or role-playing (let’s use RP for short). I’ll tackle the RP part of gaming right now and maybe go into mechanics later, just because that’s way more varied. RP is not a hard thing to do. It’s basically just asking what would my character do.
The whole thing starts with empathy. Ask yourself what would my character do if this happened to them. It’s not hard to do and will enhance the RP immediately. It’s like whenever you are painting a mini or bringing anything else into the game. It just gets better. So…
Start light: Don’t feel pressured to make some sweeping character arc with every detail fleshed out right in the beginning. Just ask why should you be there? What would they do to get what they want?
Move into the details: The best next step is justifying the actions. Ask yourself what can happen to or exist in your characters life that inspires these actions. Yeah maybe your character wants to steal a giant ruby, but is it to prove they are a master criminal, or is it because they have a family member held hostage, or maybe that ruby is the last piece to a doom machine that someone else is trying to assemble. Based on those three different relatively easy details it’s easy to see how different each of those three people might be. Coming up with a justification of your actions is usually building up character background.
Think about what’s going on in their head: This is a little more difficult to do, but it can be very rewarding. Empathy is the key to just say to yourself “what would I do if all of the things to create this moment happened to me and this was the goal I wanted?” Thinking about your characters head space will probably be foreign for a little bit so if you’re easing into game play then don’t worry too much.
Try to move into that headspace: The next step is now that you understand what’s going on inside of that character’s head you have to try to move into that space. Instead of asking how your character feels or what should I make my character do. Don’t ask questions just do it. Put yourself in those shoes and move forward. Sometimes this means making choices that from a meta perspective will not make sense. It will most certainly mean accepting the flaws of your character as much of the strengths. This can be pretty intense though and new players should not push too hard for this. Also consider your table if you are going to role play this much. It can get tense on the table and your just as liable to make a party uncomfortable as you are to make them happy to be there.
You’re Role-Playing now: Congratulations! You are RP now. It was always inside of you right from the beginning. If you want to know what it’s about though just go and play a game. Any good party will be able to work with you and still have fun all at the same time so relax and have fun!
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