How Do You Role-Play?

How do you role-play?

Do you pick a party role, class, race, or a deity and call it a day? Or do you crank out a five-page paper (double-spaced, please) about your character’s reaction to the current social and economic state of your city/state/realm/planet? I think most of us who call ourselves role-players fit somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, I think that many of us who call ourselves role-players fit the former. When it comes to role-playing, it is not all about the money.

Say what you will about Dungeons & Dragons’ lack of realism (yes, rolling hit points is ridiculous; yes, having hit points is ridiculous), but D&D has some great worlds as part of its gospel, full of juicy role-play material. Browse the books in your local gaming store, buy the books in your local gaming store, talk with people about their favorite characters, and browse some of the excellent forums out there (Giant In The Playground is a good one) to get some ideas. Find some quality of your class, race, or deity (or lack thereof) and play it up!

Look at that - a first name, a last name *and* an alias!
Look at that – a first name, a last name *and* an alias!

Don’t be afraid to role-play. I’ve been afraid to role-play plenty of times, and it isn’t fun. In my case, I became part of a new gaming group some time ago that didn’t do much role-playing (which, to me, consisted of in-character conversations about in-game topics) and was afraid I’d be seen as wasting time that should have been spent killin’ and lootin’. I did it anyway, and guess what? The group loved it. Figure out some traits and flaws your character would have. And yes, every character out there should have both traits and flaws; don’t try to feed me that my-character-is-next-in-line-for-godhood drivel. I’ve never had more fun (and elicited more laughs) playing a character than when I played my D&D fighter with Intelligence and Wisdom scores under 8. Sure, he could knock heads around (or lop them off with his two-handed sword), but I took care to have him contribute (idiotically) to party planning sessions. That was the best part of the game for me and the part of that character I’m sure everyone remembered most.

Kind of like this, only his horse was probably smarter.
Kind of like this, only his horse was probably smarter.

Another point on role-play: Metagaming, or using out-of-game knowledge to benefit your character in-game. On a recent episode of The Arcology Podcast (a Shadowrun podcast that I run with my fabulous hubby), we talked about The Meet. One section of the show listed some of the questions to ask your employer before agreeing to take the job. A point that I made in the show that I’ll expand on a little here was to ask those questions and even consider those questions in-character. There’s a big difference between your Face character who wants to know if the Maria Mercurial concert venue has a dress code and your buddy’s Street Samurai character who wants to know if Mr. Johnson will front the cost of the crate of APDS ammunition he expects to use. Not every character is a security-system expert (not even Joan Watson), not every character knows everything about anything, heck, and not every character is even all that bright. Play that up. It might make for a less detailed planning session (if you’re talking Shadowrun), but it will definitely make for a more interesting run and a more interesting game session.

How can you use this in your next game? Easy. Don’t metagame if you can help it. Granted, some metagaming is to be expected. Remember the scene(s) in The Gamers movies where missing players are “cardboarded” in? (Take a look at 2:49 in The Gamers – Part 3 if you need a reminder.) That’s a situation where metagaming is okay in my book. But too many gamers use metagaming too often, myself included. It can be a hard habit to break, and it can be tough to even see yourself doing it. The bottom line is this: Role-play often and try not to metagame…but not at the expense of everyone’s fun, yours included.

So… how do you role-play? Let us know in the comments!


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