Getting into Character for Tabletop Roleplaying
Hello Nerdarchy friends and fans! Nerdarchist Ted here. Today we are going to step back and lift the veil from the gaming world and talk about the mindset. I have been tabletop roleplaying for well over two decades. In this time I have played countless characters both as a Dungeon Master and as a player character. Whether you wing it every session or you have a detailed process, you might want some tips so here are some ideas to help you out.
Every person has a process for a roleplaying game
First a little background on myself in this regard. Tabletop roleplaying is something that requires you to have another character in your head and in your words. In addition to tabletop roleplaying experience I spent around 10 years larping, overlapping with the tabletop roleplaying.
In high school I acted on stage for a few years and was even tasked with the line that was supposed to “make the audience cry.” My ego is not so large as to say I made everyone cry, but I managed to get the director into tears so I would call it a successful mission.
At 17 I was versed in forming a character in my head and evoking an emotional reaction from the listener. But this was all scripted and rehearsed — much different from the goings-on of a gaming table. So we move onto my college years and here I was in multiple gaming groups meeting loads of new roleplayers and having a blast. My added experience does not end there as I enjoyed my time on stage and wanted to pursue it further.
I never fancied myself an actor. I did not see myself exploring a career either on stage or in films but the thought of taking theater classes was inspiring. So I started a minor in theater and there were loads of chances to make characters on the spot. We had weekly sessions in class where we were required to display emotion and invoke it in others. Not everyone is going to have this experience to draw on, but it is not necessary.
When you are planning a character all aspects of the character are essential to roleplaying. Take into consideration the stats, the class and the background. Even something as simple as the weapon choice affects who the character is and thus how you are going to roleplay them.
Stage one is character creation. You can go into as much or as little detail as you want. Obviously there is a limit to what is helpful. The character’s third aunt’s unborn child is most likely not essential to how they will feel at the gaming table, but where they came from and why they are elsewhere most certainly is important.
Once the nuts and bolts of the character sheet are together you have a playable character and many gamers stop there. The players who do this risk having as much life in the character as the paper the sheet is printed on.
The next step is to breath life into the character. Do they have an accent or some form of unique voice you plan on using? What are the character’s goals. Are they running from something or looking for something or /someone? What motivations drive this character to be above the norm?
Does your character have any quirks that make them stand out? In Nerdarchist Ryan’s Pathfinder game I am playing a character who views meat as meat. It does not matter if it came from sentient life or livestock. So it can repulse the other players when I want to eat the fallen so as to not waste it. Especially in a world like Dark Sun where every resource is precious you can’t waste a thing. So I use this as a tool to make the character stand out in that roleplaying game.
One quirk is sometimes all you need to stand out and look like you are at the top of your game. A friend of mine played a character in a game many years ago. We started a game at 1st level and he played wizard. And he was a straight out of the library wizard. Jiles had no desire for adventure, power or wealth. He wanted to be safe behind library doors and be shut away with all his books.
We played months worth of gaming sessions with this guy’s pleas to be left behind, but his master told him that before he would teach him any more he needed to experience the world. I have had many gaming sessions with this friend who played Jiles, but no character stands out more than this one.
You need to make sure you change your quirks when you use them, as the reluctant adventurer gets boring when over used, but there is an ever expanding and inexhaustible supply to work with. It could be a deity choice or even a lack thereof. It could be the only evil character in a good campaign or the only good character in an evil one. Find a way to make your character noticeable and run with it. Sometimes you will shine and other times you will fail.
The last and final step is at the actual gaming table. You have to clear your head of the group’s side conversations and shouting for Mountain Dew and Cheetos. Take a moment while everything is being set up and think about your character. Replay or reread the backstory in your head. Get into their mind so when you talk you are the voice of the character — not the player.
The more you do this the more you will find subtle or not so subtle differences between you and the characters you play. Thanks for reading and staying tuned to Nerdarchy. This is Nerdarchist Ted saying, until next time, stay nerdy!