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I'm playing in a group with a diverse group of players. Some have everything about their character planned (like myself and one other player), others came to the table with a concept and nothing else. As a player, I would like to encourage other players to role-play, if not equally, than moreso than they already do. We are still in the first few weeks of the game, so the issue may be that other players need to warm up to their characters. My goal is to find a way to "warm them up" to getting in touch with their character, which would lead to a more comfortable atmosphere and culture.

I know these players intend to role-play from playing with them previously, and that one of the players is a slow starter and needs to get a feel for their character, and another player develops their character best through in-character interactions rather than backstory. The best games I've played in tend to be the ones where everyone is comfortable with each other and willing and excited to explore each other's characters.

What tactics as a player can I use to encourage them to explore their characters during the setting of the game?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Questions

Well, the easiest way is to have your character ask or empathize with other characters in play. "This war has to be pretty hard on you. Weren't you a civilian before?" These work well because they can be a chance to roleplay your character and ask valid questions of theirs.

Some players get stage fright though, so be mindful of that and willing to speak out of character ("Hey, it's cool. I was just hoping to give you a chance to spotlight your character a bit.")

"Remember the time?" loaded questions

This is a fun way, but requires the players to have some trust with each other. You ask loaded questions to them that serves as a starting point, and they take it as true and build off of it.

"Wait, you're not THE 'Nebula-Smasher' Johnson? How DID you escape the Queen's fleet?" "Is this going to be like the last time you got us BOTH arrested? You still owe me..."

Players who are not good at improv will not roll well with this, and you may want to talk out of character to let people know you might do this.

Scenes and focus of play

This requires the whole group to buy in on it, but it works in a lot of games. "Hey, I'd like to have a scene where I can talk to (fellow PC) about the fallout from these failed negotiations. Can we do that?"

Openly requesting and declaring scenes makes it really easy and fun to set up scenes about beliefs, personality, history, and thoughts on the situation. It lets everyone know what you're interested in, and to spend time exploring characters specifically.

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You didn't specifically say "the GM", so I'm adding it: Requesting a specific scene from two (or more) characters is a very effective trick I've used and seen used by other GMs. "So while the rest of the party is rummaging around the place, Cleo and Dex are left alone upstairs for a bit. I want to see that scene." Say it like you're a fan, and rub your hands together happily :-) –  As If Apr 3 at 22:05
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This is marked as system agnostic, and rightly so. However, there are a few systems where you do directly help with this. (FATE, Apocalypse World, etc.) If you do have a relationship to their characters already, then by all means, poke it and prod it and have fun with it! Role play that directly feeds into roll play and vice versa tends to be the best sort in my experience. If you know from character creation that your character saved one of their character's lives, play with that. Kill an orc they were fighting, and call out "Hey, now you owe me two."

If the system/group doesn't have any relationships between your characters, make one! Minor rivalry ("That still only counts as one!") to romantic invitations can all be good fun, and gives them something to riff off of. Ultimately, the best way to get good roleplaying from others is to bring your own roleplaying A game. The more time you spend in character grousing about lousy trail rations, hitting on bartenders, and the more interesting you make your own character to interact with the more opportunity to do so. Don't hog the spotlight, but do interesting things and then let whoever wants to respond to it. When they do something interesting, follow up on it! ("They hit the Grey Quarter? My wife lives there!" "Wait, you have a wife? Huh, never saw you wear a ring.") In character chatter is the best way to pass the time waiting for your turn if you can do it without distracting the GM and the active player.

Also, they may be waiting for the dice to tell them more. This is something I do that I have a hard time explaining sometimes, but often I come to a new campaign deliberately with no ideas about the character other than an vague archetype. (Fighter, rigger, ragabash, pyromancer.) I tend to wait for the dice to tell me things about my character- First fight with my current character, I got a critical hit on the first swing of the fight, and one shot killed my target. I wiffed the rest of the fight. I've since tailored my build around that kind of one shot wonder, and begun inventing a martial philosophy where the first strike is the most important. After a natural one on a swim check, another character was terrified of water. If that's what these guys are waiting for, then try to get the party to engage the mechanics of the game every chance you get.

Nobody roleplays in a vacuum. Make your character engaging, do your best to drive the story to go places, yield the spotlight fast, and be a fan of their characters. That will give them plenty of opportunity to develop their characters, as well as letting you develop yours. And lastly, if it turns out they or their character is a bit of a wallflower, that's fine too.

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I find asking questions about the PCs past during camp times helpful. When you are camping in the wilderness at night, gathered around the wildfire, making small talk usually helps things flow into a conservation where everybody talks about their background.

I played a game where pretty much all the characters didn't have a background. It was a pretty shy group. Everyone was gathered around the campfire and the DM pretty much forced us into talking, the players talked, they improvised and made up the background of their characters.

If you can catch a perfect moment where the player you are talking to is immersed with the character they are playing with, simply making small talk about his background will allow him to improvise and make up a background that can even be better if they sat down and wrote a long past for hours. If they have a concept, they have enough tools.

When they tell their backstories, your reaction to these stories will shape the interactions you have with each other. You know a person best if you know the story behind his life.

You can also talk to the DM privately so he can push things towards a platform where PCs will talk to each other.

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Be a good example role-player. Create interesting characters and back stories about them. Create fun and memorable interactions between your characters and the other PCs. If the players want to do the same, they'll follow your lead. I would not do anything more pro-active than that unless they or the GM ask for help. Otherwise, taking it upon yourself to find ways to get them to role-play like you is, to be honest, pretty condescending. Different people play RPGs for different reasons, and not everyone is in it strictly for the 'role play' aspect.

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So in order to add to some already great answers, here are my 2 little pence.

Questions

It was already written here, but it can't be stressed enough. The basic idea is that through questions you do 2 very different things that help the character to form. The first one is that you give a lead to the past or present of the character. If I ask a character "How do you feel" it means among other things that this character has feelings while also that they influence what she does right now. If I ask if she has been here once, well it gives a lead to an event in the past where she did spend some time in here.

The second thing, though, is that it forces, albeit subtly, the player to enter into the mindset of the character. It helps her to see through her character's eyes, to feel through her feels and so on. This helps her to create a bond, a connection to her character. From there, advancing to roleplaying is a lot easier.

Another small benefit is that most conversations between people start and revolve around questions and their answers (which lead to more questions and the cycle goes on). Thus, it means that you let her take part in a conversation as her character. No need to explain how it helps to explore the character, I hope.

Suggestions

If you'll let me borrow a term from the improvisation world, suggestion is anything that you do or say that starts the imagination of other people. The idea here is that you should try to influence the other players' imaginations in order to make them start rolling. In can be in the shape of "remember that time when…" in the shape of "wow, what is this sword in your bag…" or anywhere in between. Something that makes the player think a little bit about what it means, something that gives the character a lead to think from, a spark of creativity that she can build upon.

Lead from example

Make yourself an example for how should one play. Play it personal, try to explore your character through the story, try to find within the character those extra levels and use them to show the other players what they're missing right now and what they can achieve. Extra credit if you can make it seem relatively simple. Not all players like to give everything they have in terms of time and resources to a character in a game.

Ask them for help with your character

Some players are just afraid to ask for help, so by showing them that you fear not of such a thing you give them a reason to ask for it themselves, not to mention using this help. It is another kind of example, but with a benefit: Many a time, after helping someone else to explore his character one's subconscious starts to look for similar things to do with her character.

Give them time

You said it yourself that some of them do need some time to flesh their characters. By forcing them to do it more quickly that they need or want you can damage their exploration of the character. Wait for the right moment, when they'll show signs of starting those engines, and only then start to help them. More than that, you should always let them explore their characters in their own pace. You can help, sure, but don't rush them too much.

And an end

I'm all hope that any of these ideas will help you. Always remember, though, that these are just some ideas that I used in the past and that they may not be the perfect and ultimate solution to your problem. I do hope that they worth a shot.

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