It’s 11:00 on a Saturday night and you and your boys are headed into the club.  You shove your way through the crowd of people and order a couple of mojitos to wet your whistles. This is a dance club, but the dance floor is looking empty.  The DJ looks at you expectantly.  You’ve got a choice to make.  You can relive the dread that was your 8th grade formal and clam up against the wall as you begin to feel the sweat drip from your brow.  You glance over at Betsy Rodgers wishing that she might come talk to you but you know deep down in your heart she never will.  A feeling of hopelessness swells up inside of you.  You question your worth as a person and wonder if anyone will ever love you.  You conclude probably not and just wish for the night to come to its bitter end.  It does.  You never get your chance with Betsy Rodgers after that.  You never even spoke to her.  Now she’s married to some hunk with perfect chiseled features who pumped three children into her.  You blew it.

If only you had gotten off the wall and danced.

I’ve learned over the years that people are afraid to dance for the same reason they’re afraid to really put themselves out there with roleplay.  They’re afraid of embarrassing themselves.  But let me tell you something, son, you’ll grow up and realize that you’ve got nothing to lose.  That putting yourself out there without the fear of looking foolish will result in you having more fun in all things.  That the people who clam up give off vibes of being insecure or ‘too cool’ to participate and that they’re the ones who look foolish in the end.

Dungeons & Dragons is a dance club.  The average patron might be fatter, hairier and uglier, but we’re all here to have a good time.  If you’re going to play don’t just sit on the sidelines and watch – dance!  That is your job as a player.  Your dungeon master is the DJ, but without people on the dance floor he’s no better than a sad man playing garage band tracks in his room with his cat as his only company.  Let me show you something.

Take a look at that old man.  The moment he threw those canes to the floor he was thinking “This is my motherfucking jam and I’m Gene Kelly.”  Just look at how those two dames came waltzing over to join him because they were inspired by his “if your friends don’t dance then they ain’t no friends of mine” attitude.  Most people would feel embarrassed to be this guy, but it’s plain to see that this guy is awesome, so why the hesitation?  Nobody is judging you negatively for having fun.  They’re admiring you.  With the idea of having fun in mind, I’ve got some tips that I think will make you a stronger roleplayer or at the very least how not to be ‘that guy’.

Get involved.  The brooding, mysterious loner who only speaks in edgy riddles that elude to his tragic past or the burden of sins he carries or better yet, doesn’t speak at all, is not as cool as you think he is.  We’ve all fantasized about being this guy and a lot of us have tried RPing this guy, but he sucks.  If you don’t act or speak then you are in no way contributing toward making role-playing a fun and memorable experience.  You’re just… there.  “Hey, remember that time I sat in the corner and grunted?” No.  Nobody remembers that, you wet blanket.

Create a backstory.  I’m not talking about a ten page novel where you detail your tragic past and heroic deeds.  A good backstory is one that outlines core traits, qualities, quirks, emotions and ideas that make your character unique in the present.  It is the present that defines your character, not what you’ve written down in your backstory.  Who are you?  What qualities does your character possess that makes them interesting in the present?  A good backstory sets up a foundation for how your character will act moving forward.  When you get a good idea of who your character is, it becomes a lot easier to RP them in a way that will make them really stand out.

Think fast and don’t be afraid to act.  One thing I see too much of in RP is passiveness.  Typically it comes from a good place.  You want to be courteous of other players and not butt in before someone else has the chance to speak.  You’ve heard people complain about players ‘hogging the spotlight’ and you are mindful to not do that.  This sort of passiveness comes with the nasty side effect of shitting up the flow of the game and ruining immersion.  It’s like watching a sitcom with the laugh tracks removed where the characters awkwardly pause between every sentence.  It’s painful to watch and to be a part of.

Here’s my advice – don’t be afraid to hog the spotlight, but remain courteous.  It’s a tough balancing act sometimes, but you’ll be a better roleplayer if you learn how to do it and the groups you take part in will feel more organic and lively for it.  It is nice to give other people the chance to involve themselves, but the better way to do it is through addressing them in character or encouraging them in character.  The wrong way to do it is to remain silent and hope they’ll speak up before you.

Create goals.  Goals are important toward giving your character a sense of purpose.  They cement you in the world and keep you moving throughout the adventure.  A character that adventures ‘just because’ is typically pretty boring and unconvincing.  Your goals should range from short term to long term.  The more you have, the better.  You want to make sure that while your character is adventuring, they have a reason to be.  If you complete a goal and decide ‘hey, that’s it for this character, time to retire him to run an inn’, that’s fine too.  Time for the next one.

Don’t split the party. If you disagree with your party, and you will disagree with your party, talk it out in character and find a compromise.  I don’t care how lawful your paladin is, if your entire group wants to break into the bakery to steal all of their cinnamon buns, find a way to join them or at least look the other way while they do it.  If you can’t find a compromise then it’s important to remember that there’s no reason your character has to stay with these people.  You can decide that your character fucks right off to never be seen again and that’s totally fine.  Now reroll a character that has more synergy with your party.  What you don’t do is  expect the DM to lead you through a solo adventure while the other players at the table need to sit and wait for you to finish, you’re just an asshole.  DM’s, don’t be fooled into facilitating this type of behavior either.

Create memories. The purpose of playing is to have fun.  We all have stories of some of the most fun moments we’ve ever experienced in DnD.  When you think back on some of those memories, they’re usually ones that happened as a result of you or another player doing something especially creative, risky or rash.  Nobody remembers the time your character sat in the corner and grunted at them when you were asked a question.  When you’re playing the game try to recognize opportunities to do something that might be especially fun or memorable.  You want always have a chance and there’s beauty in the mundane, but when you have the opportunity, seize it.

Learn the rules. Take some time to learn the rules, or at the very least what your own class is capable of.  Know how your abilities work and how your spells work.  It’s understandable to not have a full grasp on these things right away, but make an effort to remember them.  It should only take a few sessions.  Once you’ve learned what you’re capable of, start thinking more quickly on and planning before your turn.  Combat can take forever as it is, and you not putting the time to learn your character or at the very least think about what you want to do before it’s actually your turn to act is discourteous.  Whatever reason you had to not be thinking about your next turn while every other play took theirs, you’re now making everyone else wait while you ‘uhh’ and ‘umm’ your way through your next turn.  Knowing what you can do and planning ahead speeds the game up a lot.  Learn your shit and your party members will appreciate you not wasting their time.

These pointers aren’t fool proof and there’s room for exception, but I believe them to generally be very helpful.  The most important thing you can do is have fun.  Don’t get upset, don’t argue and don’t take anything personally.  Hopefully some of these tips will help you in some way.  The best thing you can do is to play and practice.  Put yourself out there and you’re sure to improve.  I can’t promise you’ll get a shot with Betsy Rodgers, but you’ll never know if you don’t get up off the wall and dance.

About The Author

Luke

I'm into massive multiplayer online gaming communities. My online alter ego is 18 feet tall and has wings like an angels, but also like a demons. His name is Yogzula. Yogzula can fuck anything and he will and has. Women. Devils. Angels. Animals. If you meet me online by Grub's tavern, I will show you where the treasure is hidden.

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