I was sure I had read somewhere in the DMG that Role-Playing was something like

Following the personality, desires and fears of the character being played, even if they are not (logically) the best action.

For example, a priest in search of redemption might try to save people from a burning building, while an evil pyromaniac will laugh at the situation.

On the other hand, acting is role-playing taken a step further. This is described in the DMG, p6:

Players who enjoy acting like getting into character and speaking in their characters' voices. Roleplayers at heart, they enjoy social interactions with NPCs, monsters, and their fellow party members.

That being said, I wanted to show my new group an official source that emphasized this difference. Is there any? Or did I just make this up in my head?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You want a more official source than the DMG? You quoted the relevant text, what more are you looking for? \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott I only quoted text for acting, I didn't find any for role-playing. The one I have I just wrote it \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it possible you are thinking of the description of the intended use for inspiration? It reads: "inspiration is a rule the Dungeon Master can use to reward you for playing your character in a way that’s true to their personality traits, ideal, bond, and flaw." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 16:31

2 Answers 2


Check out the PHB

The PHB approaches the game more from the player side while the DMG approaches it from the GM's side. This means, generally speaking, roleplaying descriptions in the DMG are focused on NPCs and how GMs can roleplay them effectively, while roleplaying descriptions in the PHB are more focused on how players can effectively play their characters. The second quote from the DMG provided in the question is from a section to help GMs recognize what kinds of players are playing. If you read the entire section on page 6 of the DMG it is more describing a player type than a method of roleplaying or acting.

There are some suggestions in the DMG for rewarding players for inspired role playing, for example the Inspiration rules starting on DMG 240. I find Inspiration points to be fun and helpful with both beginners and advanced players.

Descriptive and Active Roleplaying

For a good description of Descriptive Roleplaying and Active Roleplaying, which may be what you are looking for, check out PHB 185. Under the heading Roleplaying the PHB states:

There are two styles you can use when roleplaying your character: the descriptive approach and the active approach. Most players use a combination of the two styles.

Descriptive Roleplaying

Later on PHB 186 under the Descriptive Approach to Roleplaying header the PHB offers this summary (after a more detailed description):

When using descriptive roleplaying, keep the following things in mind:

  • Describe your character’s emotions and attitude.
  • Focus on your character’s intent and how others might perceive it.
  • Provide as much embellishment as you feel comfortable with.

Don’t worry about getting things exactly right. Just focus on thinking about what your character would do and describing what you see in your mind.

This sounds similar to the first quote in the question and may be what you were thinking of.

Active Roleplaying

Active roleplaying is more like acting and shows the other players and GM what your character is doing rather than telling them what your character is doing. PHB 186:

When you use active roleplaying, you speak with your character’s voice, like an actor taking on a role. You might even echo your character’s movements and body language. This approach is more immersive than descriptive roleplaying, though you still need to describe things that can’t be reasonably acted out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, this is exactly what I was thinking of! Good find \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 9:54

I’m not sure that there is a difference.

The first quoted text defines role-playing (helpful to keep in mind, particularly for those unaccustom to play-acting or uncomfortable/nervous about taking action at the table). It is a good reminder to stay in touch with your character’s motivations which, if everyone in the room keeps in mind, will lead to a more immersive experience all around.

The second quote reads to me more like a reminder for the DM that some players will come to the table with greater enthusiasm to explore others’ motivations. A player armed with this enthusiasm may to want the DM to have endowed their world with deeper life than just what is on the page.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a great analysis and a relevant one but it no longer matches the actual question (I think there was a change). Also note that the first quote given was just paraphrasing from memory. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 20:04

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