This past week Wizards of the Coast ran an article about the core rules of Dungeons & Dragons. The current staffed were poled as to their thoughts on the rules and what rules had carried through the different editions of the game. The most constant point present was the power of the d20 to represent most actions. I have to agree, the d20 is what I associate with D&D more than any other die and this goes long beyond when the coined the d20 System.
What I noticed about the list was that no one listed role playing. My initial thoughts were, how bizarre or perhaps telling that role playing is not included in this list. Then I took a step back and I looked at the list and the initial request again. They were looking for rules, for mechanics. Role playing is neither of these things, it is a mindset.
If you look at your copy of the 4e Player’s Guide you will notice that it is a Role Playing Game Core Rules book. D&D: A Role Playing Game. I’ve heard and read a great many things over the past few years about 4e and role playing. Many positive, many negative, but if you have ever doubted what the game is about simply look at the title of the rule book.
So when I notice that role playing wasn’t listed as a core mechanic of the game I can’t really claim to be surprised. After all, there is no rule for role playing. The level and depth of role playing at your table is determined by everyone gathered around for the collective experience.
For some simply playing a Dwarven Fighter is enough. Imagining their character in their mind, of how he swings his axe and downs his ale, satisfies their desire to role play. Other players want more than this. They want to always be in character. Every word, every action is done in character. For myself, I sit somewhere in the middle.
I want to chat with my friends about their week while we are playing, I just don’t want that discussion to disrupt the game play. So always being in character doesn’t work for me. Having said that, when a moment that would benefit from deep role playing is presented I want to be immersed in that moment. The catch is recognizing those moments and then fully getting into them. The responsibility for these two moments is two-fold, belonging to the DM and the players.
The DM as the Enabler
Every DM has their strengths. Some can run combat with excellent efficiency. Others design and create elaborate combat encounters with beautiful maps. Still others develop original worlds that could rival any published setting. Then there are those who are able to breathe life into the NPCs that the players meet, making every interaction magical.
The ability to draw players into deep role playing moments is a gift that not every DM possesses. However, there are some tricks that can be very easily implemented to allow DMs to appear more proficient than they actually are.
- Use character back story’s – The moment you use something your players created against them they will be hooked. They will feel compelled to enter into the role playing session. This rewards the player for creating a back story and will encourage others to do the same.
- Create and use recurring villains – Nothing gets the players involved in a situation like having a villain they thought was dead come back to haunt them. Doing this will have your players asking in depth questions and approaching the situation from a role playing angle.
The Player as the Conduit
When one player is role playing it starts affecting others at the table. The energy in the room is palatable, everyone starts feeding off of it. Everyone wants their own opportunity in the spotlight.
As a player you need to be open to the opportunities that your DM might present for role playing. If you don’t respond favourably to the opportunities that are being presented they are going to stop appearing. Be attentive outside of combat for different cues the DM may leave that a role playing opportunity is approaching. Better yet, keep yourself in character.
The other thing that players who are comfortable with role playing can do is encourage others at the table. Ask questions in character, develop catch phrases, curses and battle taunts.
Role playing isn’t a mechanic, but it is the life blood of D&D. Because there isn’t a mechanic to enforce the behaviour of role playing it is important that everyone around the table adopt a role playing mindset.
- Dungeons & Dragons is more than a Role Playing Game
- 5 Tips to Increase Role Playing at Your Table
- The 4th Action: Standard, Move, Minor… Role-Playing