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My roleplaying group is composed of four friends who roleplay using roll20 as our board and Skype to handle our voice communications.

I have one player who is used to roleplaying only in text and doesn't feel comfortable using his voice due to lack of experience, and another who doesn't think they're smart or witty enough to speak out loud (again, a rather inexperienced player). The other two are roleplaying veterans who have no qualms roleplaying out loud.

I want to make these early experiences fun for all my players, but I also want the two newer players to get used to roleplaying aloud, because that will allow the game to move at a brisk pace. (In the past with a different GM, some of the players have complained about how slow the story moved and text roleplaying became really awkward)

My question: how can I ease these two newer players into roleplaying with their voice and not just the written word? If it helps, I'm running the DnD 5th Edition Starter Set quest.

EDIT: This group of friends has known each other for a while -- the two who are less experienced are just new to the idea of roleplaying in voice. We chat all the time on Skype about non-roleplaying-related topics.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE, and might I say this is a very good question! As someone who has trouble getting into role-playing with voice over role-playing with text, I'll be keeping a close eye no it, and hope you get some great answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Zibbobz Nov 10 '14 at 16:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the system tag necessary or useful here? Does its presence inform the answers? Would its absence? \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Nov 10 '14 at 22:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm here because I'm Mic-Shy and I'd really like to find out how I can become more involved. See, this question works two-fold. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Hanly Nov 11 '14 at 7:43
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Let them know that they don't have to do theatrical stuff. Ease them in with third person statements like "My character chats up the female manticore" or first-person "I tell the guard I'm working for the King" etc. and let them develop into deeper immersion. Some people never do; it's not a requirement and there's no need to penalise them for not doing it or reward them for doing it. It's supposed to be fun, not a Skinner Box, after all.

That's basically how we all started when playing face-to-face back in the 70's when no one had any expectation of verbalising the characters or even any idea what we were doing for the most part.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not actually sure I think this advice will be helpful, as against consensus as I may be. While speaking in third person may be a part of a helpful paradigm shift, I think this assumes too much about what's actually causing the player(s) to clam up over Skype. \$\endgroup\$ – Aza Nov 11 '14 at 0:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since they are happy to talk on Skype otherwise, I have assumed that the problem is what they are expecting to say, rather than having to say anything at all. In that sense, I don't think they're literally mic-shy. \$\endgroup\$ – Nagora Nov 11 '14 at 8:57
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Lead by Example

Exhibit the behaviors you want to see. When your players type a question, reply to it by voice.

Be sure not to exclude them, or even to let the comfortable players hog the spotlight. Make sure you query them directly - OK, Joe, what do you do? (of course, if your table's convention is to use character names, do that instead)

When they venture into the realm of vocal communication, give genuine and positive feedback. You jump as high as you can and drive your dagger into the ogre's knee with both hands? That's awesome!

Voice is fast and if the social rewards are all there (not the in-game rewards, I wouldn't withhold XP or treasure or something for using text chat), they'll start talking.

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Bringing someone into RP over a voice medium for the first time is difficult, especially if you have players who do not know each other. I would recommend getting the group together on Skype for something not related to gaming, where you are not putting anyone on the spot for decisions or roleplay.

A fun option is to pick a movie off Netflix if everyone has access to it, or another medium and do a mystery science theater type deal, chat and comment on the movie and get comfortable with each other.

I'm sure others will have some other good suggestions to add to that.

Then sit down and have a talk about the game, set down any house rules and get a feel for what people are expecting, talk about how you wish to give each person their turn. In person it's easy to see when someone wants to talk, or give input. In a voice chat it is much harder. Set down rules for turns during combat and such. Then ease into the actual game itself. Perhaps do some one on one or one on two chats while the others create characters if they are creating their own characters. Especially for those who are not comfortable with the setup, this gives them a chance to get into their character without worrying about the other players.

If you are using pregens then sit down with them and just discuss the character in general and see how they want to make that character their own.

Then get started into the story. Even though you want a fast pace your first few sessions will not be fast as players get used to the format, so you want to make sure the experienced, comfortable players don't overpower the others, just like any normal game but in this case it's more important as it's easier for people to just fade into the background and not be included since you can't see them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is really great advice -- I can't imagine roleplaying online would be easy or very fun if everyone wasn't comfortable with each other. When you say 'one on one' chats, do you mean attempting to roleplay with them, or just generally, OOC discussion of their characters and roles? \$\endgroup\$ – River Nov 10 '14 at 19:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @River A combination of both, depending on the feel you have for the player. So start off discussing their character oocly, then perhaps get into a few scenes where they are interacting in some way, as part of their background, or simply throw a scenario at them and ask how their character would respond. Works wonders for helping people get a feel for their character. \$\endgroup\$ – Tashio Nov 10 '14 at 19:53
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You may want to try what I do when I want to 'warm up' a character for an upcoming session - do a bit of sidelined character interaction outside of the actual session.

Set something up so that the players can interact as their characters outside of the setting of the campaign. You could set it as an in-canon downtime interaction between the characters, or declare non-canon and have the players act things out just for the sake of warming up. Don't use dice for any of this - just let them role-play for about half an hour before the actual session starts (or however much time you can afford).

What you're doing is getting into character, and it's the sort of thing professional actors do when they need to prepare for a performance. The added benefit of this, for mic-shy players, is that it allows them to get into the act of playing their characters in-voice without the fear of in-game reprocussion.

If you can't afford to do this before each session, you can always set up some time during the week. Have your more experienced players coach them on role-playing, and encourage the players new to roleplaying with voice to build some interesting relationships between their character and the other players' characters.

It will take some time, but having a bit of practice to get them ready should help ease them into the idea more gently.

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This is a really big challenge when playing online games. You're not there IRL, you don't necessarily have a shared trust yet, and you're doing something that can feel a bit off, in that you're putting on a character and need to get into it.

I'll be honest, I'm still feeling out these elements, but here are the things I'm trying in my online game, and they seem to be working:

  • Really emphasize your characters' BIFT (Bonds, Ideals, Flaws, Traits). These are essential components that 5e has given both players and DMs to determine your characters' motivations, feelings on subjects etc.

  • Hand out inspiration when players get into it. This is a great way to provide constructive feedback when your players are getting into character.

  • If you're using the pre-gens, reads the background sections as the DM and make sure you tell your characters when something is tied into their characters. Nearly every adventure has something that ties one of your characters directly to it. Don't miss these opportunities (I just finished running this, and one of the best moments in the campaign was the ranged fighter nearly killing the fleeing dragon because of his vendetta, him furiously and fruitlessly flinging arrows at the dragon is something my characters will remember for the long haul).

  • Get your players talking about their characters outside of your sessions. We've started a g+ group to organize, and we've spent time talking about our characters and their motivations and what drives them.

  • Have one of your players write sessions summaries in character (it's better if more than one do this, because it can be fun, but that's not for everyone). This provides an opportunity for them to reflect on the situation and add interesting roleplay elements outside of your sessions.

The important thing is for them to feel like they belong in their character, with a character that they didn't create (heck, even with one they did), that can take a while. Provide out of session opportunities for them to get to know it, tie their character's backstory directly into game play, and overall, follow their lead. If they aren't comfortable with more character, and just enjoy the story with fairly wooden characters, maybe that's what they enjoy.

As with all things like this, talk to your players about what you want, they're the ones who can help you with this. We can just give you some things to try and a few places to start.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What about the players being mic-shy? That seems to be the core engagement roadblock. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 10 '14 at 16:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this seems to be general engagement advice but not at all specific to the speaking component - this answer would work to the exact opposite question of "how do I drive engagement in text-only play," for example. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Nov 10 '14 at 17:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Talking about characters outside of the session has been a strategy I've implemented to get players more invested, but instead of making the two shy players feel more comfortable, instead, they seem to feel even more nervous about their ability to match the perceived awesomeness of their characters in voice. This seems to drive them to want to type more, to do their characters justice... As far as session summaries, I can already think of one player, Adam, who enjoys keeping track of loot and other details, so that could help with overall engagement, if not comfort with vocal roleplaying. \$\endgroup\$ – River Nov 10 '14 at 17:56
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A completely different approach would be to allow the player to be mic-shy. If you play a system where advantages and disadvantages for a character are set up with a point-buy system, said player could make up a character that has "introverted" as a flaw, or in an extreme case "mute".

Said character would only be able to communicate via sign language, written text and gestures, and the player doesn't need to speak, only type. The "lag" of written text might actually account for the immersion, since sign language does have a lower "bandwidth" and the other characters (and players) have to give that one more consideration.

Over the course of the game, if the player starts to feel more confident, allow the character to reduce/neutralize the "introverted" flaw by ingame means, too. (Special treatment/potion of confidence, you name it ... ) It doesn't need to happen all at once. After all, someone who has been mute the whole life would need to learn to speak and to speak up, too, right?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi and welcome to the site, check out our tour, if you have the time, it'll show you how this site is different from other Q&A and forums. There's no need to guess the system, "if you play a system...", the question is asking for [dnd-5e]. The rest of the answer could use some references: have you encountered a similar situation? How did that suggestion work out for you and your group? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Jan 9 '18 at 8:59
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As gamemaster try to push them into arguments; your shy friends have to be driven by emotion. Today I was playing on Skype (as always I was shy) and at no point did I say, "No way!!!" against an idea.

Avoid putting your shy friends in situations where they can just answer "Ok / whatever / meh." Force them to make important decisions and debate in voice chat. Try to trick or provoke them to interfere with the story.

You have to trigger something inside of them, and not allow them to play just by typing because they will never learn how to express it with a mic.

Today I was playing a story where my troll-friend (1-point intelligence hero) started to talk about some secrets in a tavern, so I cast Silence on him and he hit me in the face for that (in-character, of course) :D This was a funny and full-of-speech scene. :]

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