I noticed a few weeks ago that I don't know of any good guides (books, podcasts, whatever) on how to roleplay. I've searched around for a bit, and couldn't find anything worthwhile.

I'm looking for guides, preferably in book form, on how to roleplay (especially on good form of roleplaying), regardless of system. Think 'Roleplaying for Dummies'.

They should be short and succinct, and help players improve the players' roleplaying, depending on their individual styles. They should explain what roleplaying is, and how to do it, from the base up, for people who've never done it before.

Obviously, no amount of reading material can substitute experience, but it should prepare a player as much as is possible, so that she may be able to understand what a roleplaying game is, how they work in general, and what she can expect.

As a GM, I want to be able to approach a group of people who have never played before, and give them each a copy. After they've read it, I could explain the system and setting, and we'll be good to go.

Are you familiar with anything of the sort? Moreover, would you use something like this if it existed? If you're a GM, would you give it to your players? If you're a new player, would you read it? If you're an experienced player, would you read it?

I've already found Greg Stolze's How to Play Roleplaying Games, but it's much too basic for what I'm looking for. It sells the idea of RPGs to new players, and it covers a few stereotypes and basic lingo. Basically, it sets the ground for the GM to explain things, which is useful, but doesn't really teach how to play roleplaying games. The player won't come back to it to learn more after she read it once, and it doesn't serve as a resource for players.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My problem with this question is that it presupposes that 1) everyone plays RPGs the same way, and 2) it's possible to learn how to play RPGs without actually playing them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Jun 14, 2014 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm sorry for being unclear. I wrote in the third paragraph "depending on [the players'] individual styles" before, I've stressed it now. It's an important point to make. I also added a paragraph to sharpen my intent about acquiring experience. I hope this helps! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 14, 2014 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure that roleplaying is not yet at the point where such a book is considered financially viable. Are you prepared for "no such thing exists"? Are answers saying "no", and then giving you possible non-book alternatives acceptable? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 14, 2014 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie, absolutely! I was intentionally non-specific about it being a book, though books are preferable. Any sort of lessons are applicable, be they podcasts, a series of videos, or whatever. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 14, 2014 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course it's not just from here, but in the meanwhile I've been asking in forums and roleplaying circles and searching Google and I've still found nothing. Besides, even if there is something out there, but it's this hard to find, I believe there's a reason to make it. I see what you mean about the links, though. Will it help if I remove them once they are no longer relevant? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 16, 2014 at 8:23

2 Answers 2


I don't know any books, but I've taught a lot of non-roleplayers how to roleplay, so I ended up with a lot of personal experience getting people up to speed in short order. I've taught people how to roleplay and run them through full adventure one shots in 1-3 hours including teaching time.

Roleplaying 101 Designed for non-roleplayers to get a basic idea of what's happening

How to talk to new roleplayers and get them up to speed in an efficient manner that's usually easiest to learn.

A key part of that is when you do your first game with them is explaining WHY you're doing anything you're doing and what pushes the choices you're making - this includes choices you're making as a GM. I find that element is often missing from most examples in books.

Also, important to emphasize three elements that are pretty unique to roleplaying:

  • There is no list of moves to choose from – you can describe anything you want to do within the expectations of the genre and you do it.
  • You can and should ask questions to define what is going on- there is no board or cards to refer to the game state, it sits in your head and your ability to get necessary information is critical
  • You should say things in character, you should have characters interact like acting or writing a story
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, the only book I know of is great but is aimed at existing roleplayers who want to improve their improv and portrayal skills, not beginners. I made it my answer to this question over here, so I'll just link to that rather than get these comments off on a discussion tangent. :) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 14, 2014 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie The link is missing at this time and I'd really like to read that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gavin42
    Jul 24, 2017 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gavin42 Oh whoops! Thanks, I fixed the missing link in the comment above. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 24, 2017 at 19:39

Hmmm. I don't know of any guides, no. I can give you some thoughts, though.

As far as actually verbally communicating, I thought a good tip was to just describe what your character is doing as if you're collaboratively recounting an event in rl from earlier that day. Speaking in character isn't a necessity in any games I've played, and allowing for more "narrative" in place of "dialogue" should help newbies feel encouraged enough to learn the rest of it on their own. When you have never spoken in character before, you can feel stage fright, so comfort is key.

As far as when to do what, and how to do it; that's pretty variable to instruct without deeper context. A few general rules might be:

  1. Don't monopolize the speaking space, let quiet members have a role.

  2. Your character is not as important as the game. Fun and teamwork trumps solo escapades.

  3. The GM cannot plan for all possible choices, so don't force them against their will away from the scenarios they've desgined.

  4. Keep real relationships healthy even when character relationships are not. Sometimes an in-game backstabbing hurts, but it's not ill-will towards you the player.

As for how to design/keep one's PC reasonable in terms of personality and goals, there are a LOT of great character-writing pros vs. cons balance guides on the web, including a lot on dA, of all places. (Probably designed to combat mary-sueing.) Googling "character trait balance" gives a healthy amount of hits. Whenever I use these sheets, they really help me come up with a well-rounded and creative character who plays well with others.

Good luck! (And yes, I would be interested in reading such a resource if one was to be produced! With the growing popularity of "nerdy" things among "normal" folk, there might even be a hearty reception for it in the general public.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is some really good advice! As I've added just now to the original question, I've decided to produce something just like this. Please read the edit, and I would really appreciate it if you could help me narrow down the task by filling this tiny survey. And thank you for the score card! It looks like a really cool idea. I'll try it next time I create a character. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 16, 2014 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Done! Also, try clicking around in dA, there are several reccomended works in the sidebar with similar function which may be better. Glad I could help! \$\endgroup\$
    – Ghosty
    Jun 16, 2014 at 22:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much! Some of these are excellent. I can't believe I've never heard about these before. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 17, 2014 at 6:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @EdenLandau I tried clicking the link for the form, and it says 'This form is currently private and cannot be viewed by the public'. Let me know when it's public. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – BenjaminJB
    Aug 14, 2014 at 13:59

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