Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Role Playing Tips for Beginners

Everyday people are introduced to the awesome world of Role Playing Games (of the table top verity), many of these people will have played so called RPG video games, but these often require very little, if any actual role playing and it is easy for those people to play their character in a table top game the same way. There is help out there in the internet but it can be difficult to find, especially for people new to the hobby, so today I present you with 5 tips to get you started with Role Playing.

1. Not just a stat block

Your character isn't just a bunch of numbers and dice rolls, she has a personality and motivations. It can be easy (especially if you have little experience) to just concentrate on the mechanics, but this sort of defeats the purpose of the type of game your playing. In an RPG you have the chance to create a whole and completely new identity which you can assume when play starts.

Your character has a personality and motivations,  you should know what these are, if only on a small scale. I find it a good idea to write down about 3 personally traits and a motivation about my characters on the character sheet which I can keep referring back to, it helps me think just how my character would react in different situations. Of course you can take this much further, but just having a short and clear idea of how you're character acts is usually enough.
For Example:
  • Stubborn
  • Quickly Angered
  • Lazy
Seeking answers to her parents murder. A ornate dagger left at the murder scene is her only clue.

Not understanding your character can not only slow the game down but destroy the suspension of disbelief, pulling everyone out of character. So this is something you should be considering right after sorting out all your stats.        

2. You weren't born yesterday

When you create a new character you will almost certainly not be making a new born baby - unless you're playing a very strange and uneventful game of crying and poop - that means your character has had many years of experience before you took control of her.

These experiences shouldn't just be forgotten when she goes out adventuring, they should affect how she reacts to different situations. Maybe her parents were killed by Kobolds, so now whenever a chance arises to kill Kobolds she will drop everything else and go to slaughter. Maybe she still wants to avenge her parents murder and tries to get her adventuring group to help her find the very Kobolds that took her parents from her. The loss of her parents could have made her tough and headstrong and she finds weakness disgusting or maybe she now has a soft spot for sob stories and always wants to help people.

It's easy to come up with backgrounds for your characters, just think of your favourite characters from movies, comic books, video games and books for inspiration and you will soon have a rich back story.

3. NO NO I didn't meant that...

Stay in character! that needs repeating again Stay in character!
This often happens when someone doesn't have a clear idea of what their character is, they end up just acting as themselves all the time which can lead to a lot of meta gaming (covering that next) and distractions. It is a good idea to adopt a 'character voice' and a 'passive voice' in order to differentiate between when your character is speaking and when you are speaking. This doesn't mean you have to put on a silly voice, but you certainly can if you want. It just means that when in character you should have a way of speaking that is different than you.

Your character may speak very flamboyantly or in short, to the point sentences, whatever it is just make sure to be consistent with it. It can get very confusing if you're constantly talking in different ways. You should use your character voice whenever your character is speaking, or making an action, well pretty much anytime you're talking about anything in game. You should use your passive voice if you have a question for the GM which you can't ask in character (like a rules question) or your saying something not relevant to the game.

4. Guys...guys, I've read this, there's a secret passage here!

Meta gaming is out of character thinking being used to dictate your actions in game. Everyone does it, it is very difficult not to. After all, as players we will know more about the game than our in game counter parts do, just as they know things about the game world that we don't know. But just because it is easy to do and can often give you an advantage, doesn't mean it is a good thing.

When faced with a decision, stop and think what would my character think of this situation. For example, you and you're group have nearly defeated the big bad villain when he suddenly grabs a hostage and uses him as a shield. A Paladin, the protector of the weak would probably stop his attack and try to save the hostage but the more morally grey Rogue would be more likely to take the risk of killing the hostage in order to defeat the villain. Neither is the wrong decision, it is simply how that character would react. Just make sure to know you're character and be consistent. Meta gaming can be very destructive so do your best to lose yourself in your character and worry less about the rules, that's why there is a GM after all.

5. I use my attack power on number 2

Combat should be an in character experience too. When attacking that Dragon, don't simply say you "attack the Dragon", explain how you take a deep breath, gather your courage before charging the dragon with your sword held high, and plunge the blade deep into its throat. This makes for a much more exciting time.
I must admit I am a huge culprit of this one, in fact my whole gaming group is, personally I blame the power/encounter mechanics of D&D4E that we are currently playing, the flavour of attacks is so complicated and encounters take so long you sometimes can't be bothered saying anything more than I use "Ardent Strike on that Rock Golem". But that isn't a good thing and is something I will attempt to rectify. 

Of course it depends on your system and situation, you don't always want to give long descriptions of every action but at the same time you don't want to be boring either. Finding a balance between the two is something you will have to work on and will depend on many things, including the game your playing and the people you are playing with.

I hop this will help some people who aare new to Role Playing games and give them an idea of how to get started. There are certainly many more tips I could give and probably will in moer posts. So check back for more RPG tips later!

Oh and I have finally got this Twitter thing (well one I'm not just using to stalk Nathan Fillion) so follow me here if you would like! I could do with a follower or two.


  1. Great advice.

    Some of the most fun I ever had was with a group where we'd decided all the characters were functioning alcoholics. They had a plan. They were only adventuring till they had enough money to buy a brewery. They stopped a war once because people can't make beer while they're being slaughtered.

    So why is your character an adventurer? Money? Power? Chicks? Boredom? They're all valid reasons and each will affect the way the character will act and re-act.

    1. That's brilliant, sounds like that would be a lot of fun and is a great example that character motivations don't have to stereotypical.

      Thanks for the comment :)

  2. I know some groups have an 'out of character' gesture. They put their hands on their heads when they're making an out of character comment (like a joke, or a question to the GM). It makes it completely obvious when it's them speaking and not their characters.

    1. That's not a bad idea, would definitely make clear what is and isn't in character speech. Don't think I'd like putting my hand on my head to talk to though.

  3. Thanks for sharing your views about RPG games because it is really hard for new players to learn about RPG in general.