The last part of playing your D&D Character, there is no 401 for this course. To me there are three main parts that I wanted to talk about. The first was figuring out how to be in character and staying in character as much as […]
Tag: Role Playing
We’ve started going down the route of playing your D&D character, in 101, we talked primarily about how much you should stay in character, and the expectations of being in character and differentiating in and out of character should work at the table. In 201, […]
Alright, so now you’ve started building your D&D character, let’s talk about playing your D&D character. Dungeons and Dragons after all is a role playing game, so you need to take on the role of your character.
For this, we’re going to assume that you’ve at least gotten through Building D&D Player Character – 301. At that point in time you’ve created the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws for your character as well as created a backstory that is going to give the Dungeon Master some plot hooks to grab onto.
Let’s start by talking about two different parts of role playing, and I think things that are tricky to do, for beginning role players.
In Character vs. Out of Character
Alright, those are the two things. In role playing, you really do want to immerse yourself in playing the character. But how you deal with in character versus out of character is very important to your game.
In the games that I’ve run, I tend to act like players are always in character and speaking in game, unless it is something extremely obviously out of the game. If the person says some line where they seem to be talking to the party about the nobility who is standing in front of them to see what sort of read they are getting on the noble, the noble can here that.
Obviously, this tact can lead to some less than ideal situations. So how do you deal with what is done in character and out of character as a player?
Firstly, try and stay in character as much as possible. There are two reasons for this, you are going to connect with your character more and actually develop a well rounded character versus jumping back and forth. It takes time to get into the mindset of your character. You also will find that it makes it easier to separate meta knowledge of the game from your character when you stay in character. If you’re going back and forth, you are more apt to end up slipping meta knowledge into your characters voice, just on accident.
Secondly, specify when you are out of character. In my games, this is pretty easy, as a player you’ll start doing that fast, after you accidentally bad mouth the noble in front of him because you forgot to specify that something was above table talk. By context “above table” should make sense, but let me clarify what I mean by that. “Above table” means that it’s a conversations that is being had over the game, above the playing surface of the table, not in the game. This also helps with meta knowledge as well, because players will know that what is happening now isn’t in the game, and can discern what knowledge that they should bring back into the game.
There is one grey area, and that’s the planning montage. Which in the game could be narrated as a montage, but at the table can actually take a while. This is where you tend to get the blend of in character and out of character happening all at once as you compare spell lists, talk strategies, remember and remind each other what abilities you have. In character, not all of that makes sense to do, but some of it is kind of done in character. It is also interesting when there are those bits of role playing thrown into it. Maybe you come up with the start of your plan for your attack on the dragon next week, but you realize you don’t know everything, and because the timeline doesn’t force you to attack at dawn, you can go research, so that research scene might be drawn out and actually role played.
The danger with the planning montage is that too much meta knowledge could seep into the plan. It falls on yourselves as players to police that and determine what knowledge you’d actually have, but some times you might not know. So instead you can ask the dungeon master, would my character know that? By asking that simple question, you can quickly determine what information you can take back into the role playing situation.
So that’s the 101 course, there is a lot more to discuss on this topic, as I’m sure you can guess. But a good starting point is to remember to stay in character as much as possible. That is going to really help your role playing and give your character a voice that is there own (by which I don’t mean an accent, but you can do that if you want).
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Back into building a D&D character. We’ve talked previously about the simplest ways to make a character that doesn’t step on other players toes, that fits into the game, and one that is fun to play. Next we’ve talked about how you can use the […]
Alright, we’re going to take that character creation to the next level. The first level, 101, is the very basic that you need to do. I go into details in the post on what those three things are, but to recap:1. Make a character that […]
I decided it was time to jump back into some D&D topics, and I wanted to try something a little bit different, instead of just dispensing advice, I wanted to go through the process of building out a campaign that I may (or may not) use in the future.
If I do use it, for potential players who might read it, things will be tweaked, so you can’t count on everything.
The First Question?
Do I build this as an epic adventure game or a smaller more focused game?
I wrote an article on this recently, and the basic idea, just to recap fast, is that some games take place over a whole continent or planet or even planets and planes. Think Lord of the Rings which was spread out over so much area. Other games focus on a much smaller area, think Dresden Files, sure there is a whole world, but it takes place in the Fae realms and Chicago, with minor excursions elsewhere, but that’s in the later books.
For this game, I want to try a smaller focused game that’s going to primarily take place in a trade port, I think. Or some trading hub. I don’t want it to be the biggest trading hub though, so probably something that is set off in a further province of a kingdom that sends something important out, versus bringing a ton into the town.
The advantage of having it be a town that size is that it’s still manageable and there are still going to be interesting characters and shops around. I think I want it to be that they are one of the spots that granite or some other type of fancy stone is sent out from in this world. Gold or any type of metal would draw too much attention, but something like granite would be something that the rich want, but wars aren’t always being fought over. But it’s still a good money making opportunity for people, because the granite will sell for a pretty penny.
There’s another advantage to having it be something like a stone or a metal, and that is that you can have a wide variety of races around. Dwarves would be around to help mine. It’s a remote area so you’d likely have elves around. Gnomes often have an artisan sort of background, so they could be making trinkets and what not from the granite. But it most certainly gives you options. You’d have just background wise, sailors who would be transporting the granite on the river who might retire there. Soldiers and mercenaries who guard the granite. Artisans who sculpt but also artisans who write up the contracts and things like that. A town like this would have a heavy religious influence of probably a couple of gods. You’re remote enough that an outlander character could easily come wandering into town.
Next question I’m going to ask, which is going to be the next article, is what about magic in this town. You can see how deciding on the scope of your game really allows you to decide on what is important to the story. And you can see some of my thought process to end up with a town that can basically be described as the following:
A remote trade town that provides most of the granite for the Kingdom of the Sevens.
I could certainly say more about it than that, which I did, but that gives me a starting place for my game. You could also see people starting with the big plot idea, but I have a few floating around in my head that I’ll come to eventually.
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I’ll be getting to some heavier strategy games, but those aren’t going to be the games for everyone. Some people want a game that focuses more on the storytelling aspects of the game. I’m not going to say games like Dungeons and Dragons which are […]
This ties into the articles I’ve written on different characters class, backgrounds, and most recently on having a happy backstory instead of having a darker backstory, so it’s area that I’ve covered a fair amount, but I wanted to write about it really focusing in some more on role playing and playing your characters motivations.
I would say that the ideas I’ve been giving in posts have been medium levels of backstory. It has been more than just suggesting playing a rogue who likes to stab stuff. But it also hasn’t been creating a lot of very depth heavy backstories. I leave stuff generally vague like what deity it is that the cleric is following, what town or area you grew up in that something horrible happened in. It is very possible to set-up a very in depth backstory where you list out your friends, you family members, everyone who has wronged you, what your life was like growing up, what all of your hopes and dreams had been.
There are multiple reasons for me doing that, the first being, if you want to use it, some of those things are things you’ll have to work through with your DM, because I don’t know your game, and some of them are stuff that you don’t need to know. Knowing too much about your character does a few things, it can limit what the DM can do around your character, because there will be a lack of mystery. It can force you into playing a character in a certain way and finding out that you don’t enjoy it. It can limit your character in how they can develop.
The one that I want to focus on for this topic is the fact that it can force you into playing your character a certain way.
The point of this topic was to cover two things, the first being, what’s my motivation for adventuring, the other other being, what’s my motivation for role playing. These two topics are fairly closely held together. Most likely the reason you have for adventuring is also the reason that you’re going to have for some of your characters motivations and interactions in role playing. If goblins murdered your family, you’re probably adventuring to get revenge on the goblins, it’s also probably going to mean that when you run across an injured goblin that poses no threat to you, you’re still going to want to kill it.
With motivation for adventuring, there can be a lot of different reasons. A bard might be in it to see the world, be able to travel and perform on different stages that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. You could also have a Barbarian who is just in need of and bad with money, so they don’t care too much about the adventuring, but they always need money and the adventuring party always gives them a little money. Or you could be out looking for a lost holy artifact as a cleric, getting revenge on a ruler who slaughtered your village as a fighter, or out to protect your grove against a blight that is on the land as a druid. There are a lot of reasons otherwise that you could be looking into adventuring. But one of your jobs as a player when creating your character is to make sure you have this answered.
Along with having that answered, a lot of DM’s will put your party together, but if you and fellow players can come up with a reason for putting together, or better yet come up with a reason for keeping your party together, that is huge. Whether it’s because your party has similar goals or needs or because you actually like each other, it’s important to have some reason. This motivation with help inform some of your interactions and will help it make sense when the story of the game isn’t focused on your character to keep them as part of the group. Now, this isn’t all on you as a player, the DM has to keep all the characters involved in the story as well, but if you’re creating the loner Druid who cares only about her part of the forest, when the characters aren’t focused on that, that druid is probably going to leave the party to either go off on their own or to find another adventuring party to help them.
But also with motivation, we want to talk about the idea of role playing your character. I talked some earlier about having a medium depth background story. Some of the reason was that it doesn’t lock you into a single specific way of playing your character, but also because it doesn’t lock you into a single path going forward. It’s too easy to lock your self into a single purpose and single goal while role playing and then finding out that you really don’t enjoy it.
Now, I realize that sometimes it’s fun coming up with a ton of backstory and all of these different plot hooks, but often times it’s going to be too much to actually work into a game and there is a chance to feel disappointment because it wasn’t fully touched upon. As a DM, personally I don’t try and avoid using peoples backstories and generally I’ll try and tie them into the campaign as I go. However, if something doesn’t fit in with the overall story, or if I feel like the story is leaning too heavily on a single person, I am going to try and change it up which might keep it from using all of your backstory. If there are too many plot hooks as well for your character, I might not touch on all of them, instead just focusing on one of them to really add into the main story with a nod or two thrown to others of them.
Beyond having too many plot hooks, having too few is bad as well. If, as a DM, I don’t get much to work with, I’m not going to put as much effort into keeping your character engaged story wise. My assumption is that you’re going to like combat more so and I’ll make sure to sprinkle enough of those in as well. But it also doesn’t give you much framework to role play, if you want to role play a lot, a consistent character. They might end up being consistent because you’re just playing your own personality, but it might be that they are very chaotic in how they respond to everything presented to them. Being a little chaotic isn’t bad, and a lot of people play chaotic characters, in fact, the Total Party Thrill podcast has an episode (linked here) about how Chaotic Good is probably where most adventurers should be playing out of.
So there is chaos in a good way and in a bad way. A chaotic character can at times be used as an excuse to do whatever you want, but chaos means less that you just do whatever sounds the most fun in the moment, it more means that you’re willing to do what it takes in situations laws be damned, and you’re willing to be flexible for the greater good, again, I think that Total Party Thrill with their episode does a really good job of explaining it, so I’ll leave that as a listen for people.
There is one major exception for having much of a backstory, or any of one really, and that’s at a Convention or while playing a one-shot. When playing those shorter games, focus in on a single thing for your characters. When I was playing Dungeons and Dinosaurs game at AcadeCon the first year I was there, one person made their T-Rex very impulsive, I had an herbivore and I made him into a researcher who was watching and documenting everything. We didn’t have more backstory or direction for character than what we gave them, in fact about the only thing we knew about the dinosaurs came on a dinosaur fact sheet. In that case, having that one thing you role play to is important as it’s going to allow you to have a focused character for that short time without slowing down the game because you’re trying to pick out or build more depth into your character.
What are some things you’ve used as motivation for either being part of a party or role playing a character in Dungeons and Dragons or any role playing system?
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It’s the sign of a RPG going well, when the players in the game are talking about it afterwards. Do you remember when we did this? Do you remember when that happened? It’s what as a player or a DM you want in your game. […]