GMs: Get Your Players Off The Bench And Into Character With These 3 Tips

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Roll-playing vs Role-playing. The tide of this debate has shifted greatly over the years. It wasn’t more than a decade ago that any request to play, talk, or act like your character was met with hostility in some parts of the gaming world. But nowadays, slipping into the mindset of your character and taking on their persona is the norm—except in that one-shot con scene.

Getting your players to switch from out of character banter and strategy planning to in-character conversations can still be tricky. This week on GM Tips with Satine Phoenix she has the legendary Taliesin Jaffe on to discuss how to grease the wheels.

Aha! We know Taliesin’s secrets! The voice acting tips and the seven dwarves method are vital tips for any storyteller regardless of setting. Also—don’t be afraid to be dumb. After you grok the overload of tips above, here are some other ways to get some player-roleplay rollin’.

Take Five – Roleplay a Prequel

You’ve sat down at your table, a host of new players sit around you, fiddling with dice or reviewing their power sets. Your preparations are complete and it’s time to start. Before you dive into setting the stage, take five minutes and start the roleplay during character introductions.

Even at a convention game or in a timed-one-shot adventure, taking five minutes with each character and doing some pre-roleplay sets the stage for what you want. There are multiple ways to do this, and you’ll find the right setting based on your game. It can be a simple as roleplaying their mother wishing their children off to war. Or as complex as the thieves guild whispering a secret to each character. Almost all games have an epilogue of what happens, but the prequel is often cut short. As Satine says in her video, when you lead by example, your players will follow.

Satine, you’ve had a pre-game GM house-rule for every video you’ve done so far. First, nobody has ever asked you: What’s yours? So I’m doing that here. Second, do you think you can use this pre-game house-rule to prime the wheels of roleplay? What’s your thought?

“Ha! Thank you for asking! My pregame house rule:

I let everyone know no phones at the table, not to cross talk or meta game. They should speak as the character would. If their dice rolls off the table they get disadvantage on their next turn. I have brain damage and can’t wrangle initiative so I need someone to volunteer to help. This is a heavy role play table. If there’s a fight, it will probably be deadly.

If you want more role Play, tell your house rule in character. It gives the other players permission to play more.”

Ask Intrusive Questions

Every player needs at least one motivation or aspect of a character play in order to roleplay. Accents, voice acting, and other aspects of roleplaying come with time inside that character’s noggin. At these quick-shots, it can be difficult to fall into that role when you are handed a fighter’s character sheet with a simple alignment as your only marker.

One tip I’ve found is to ask each player, right as they pick up their sheet, a crazy question. One which the other players at the table know had happened in the past. Something like: ‘This character is a 400-year-old Elf, and you’ve already grown rather bored with traveling. But you’re on the run because your last adventuring party was murdered. Why did you let them die?’

Don’t sugar coat the questions, nor leave them as black and white. These dynamic spotlights give characters a chance to springboard into their roles.

Satine, what kind of questions would you ask? Got an example?

“What/who did you sacrifice in order to be in this room?
What is the best memory you have with C?
What is he most embarrassing Memory you have with C?”

Roleplay Your Death

At the end of the day, many con-games are about leveling up your characters, and finishing a convention storyline. Most people get their hardcore roleplay in their home groups. So, typically, once the parties feet start running through the scenario—puzzles and combats take the spotlight.

If you want to inject some roleplaying into this, overact the death of your minions. When a player stabs a goblin, don’t just remove its miniature, roleplay out its demise and last words. This is the exact same advice as Satine’s shopkeeper tips from the video, but flipped to the combat portion (the place where roleplay is often thrown out the window).

Satine, what’s your tip for getting players to roleplay during combat? Do you offer mechanical benefits for flair? Or allow players to roleplay their final words when they die? Whatcha got!

If anyone rolls a 1 I let them tell me what happens. If a 20 and a kill, they tell me what happens. If it’s super amazing I’ll go back and forth, adding to it.”

Do you have any tips for getting players to roleplay? What about the age-old argument of roleplaying vs roll-playing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Featured Image: Jessica Fisher

Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.

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