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How do I, a player, best encourage more roleplaying in Adventurer's League? I'm not looking to overwhelm the other aspects of the game, but am wondering about elevating roleplay (and exploration, but that's not for this question) to the same level as combat. "Three pillars," and all....

Some features of Adventurer's league, I think, make encouraging role-playing uniquely challenging as compared to the typical home game:

  • DMs are tightly constrained on the use of XP: maximum XP rewards set in writing that can easily be reached with modestly-combative parties squeezes out room for roleplay-rewarding XP.
  • (not so much Encounters, but definitely Expeditions) DMs are time-constrained, as the party expects to complete the narrative in x hours. So time spent on one pillar subtracts from time spent on another.
  • It's much easier for a DM to run the combat-encounters in printed material than the non-combat encounters. Stat blocks are easier to internalize than personality notes, there are rules that cover most things, players are usually going to take pretty-predictable actions, &c. And in the Expeditions I've run there's more text devoted to some monsters' combat tactics than there is to the backgrounds and personalities of even the most significant NPC in a module.
  • Many Adventurers League players (in my experience) are coming from recent experience with D&D Organized Play pre-5e or with Pathfinder Society. In either case the player is coming from a recent, organized experience that is weighted more toward the mechanical aspects of RPGs than I'm looking for at my 5e table.
  • Another large contingent of Adventurers League players are coming back to play after long hiatuses; I think at every AL table I've played during 5e there's been at least one player 'just getting back into it after ten/fifteen/twenty-plus years.' (This group includes the questioner who inspired this question.) These players--and I speak from personal experience--often would like to sit back a bit and observe the landscape of the current RPG world before assertively role-playing like they (we) used to in the olden days.
  • A third, delightfully-large contingent of AL players are coming to D&D new. For many this is their only play experience, and they're seeing lots of play that doesn't involve lots of roleplaying. They've not got much in the way of modeling.
  • Shifting party composition from session to session: I'll admit that I'm more hesitant to dive deep into roleplaying with strangers than I am in my more-stable gaming groups.
  • Public play: I'll admit that I'm more hesitant to dive deep into roleplaying if the MtG- and miniatures-folk are going to look at me weird than I am in my private settings.

I think that good answers, in addition to hewing strongly to principles of Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, would address many of the points above.

On the other end of things, "AL just isn't a good setting for this" isn't a good answer. I am going to play in AL, and I desire more roleplay.


I've gone back and forth a few times on whether to pose the question from the frame of an AL player vs. leaving it open to player/DM/marshal possibilities. Suggestions that address the DM or marshal more than players would be fine; mind that they should be specific to AL, not just generally-good suggestions for DMs.


Related: How can I encourage my D&D Encounters group to do more role playing?, How do I transition my players from roll-playing to role-playing?, How to introduce and encourage role playing in non-roleplayers?, How do I deal with my players not roleplaying at all?, How do I emphasize role-playing during combat?, and many others, almost always GM-centric.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by roleplaying? Some possibilities: 1. acting or speaking as your character. 2. immersion. 3. in-game social interaction 4. making decisions as your character. 5. funny voices or accents. 6. staying in-character for long periods of time. 7. manifest the personality and goals of your character in play. Some of those easy, some difficult. Does inconsequential banter in combat count as roleplaying for you, for example? \$\endgroup\$ – Thanuir Feb 28 '16 at 5:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point, @Thanuir. All, of course, are RP in their ways. Personally I'd rank them 4, 7, 3, 6, 1, 5. (I'm not quite sure what 2 means in concrete terms.) I'll try to punch up the question tomorrow--thanks for helping to focus it. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 28 '16 at 5:52
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Energy

Put focus into roleplaying, even if you're watching someone else do it. Focus yourself on what they are saying and doing, even if it's kinda boring, and project your body language and voice while you're acting in-character. Be much less high-intensity when simply describing your bonuses while rolling, or asking someone to pass the chips. This will create natural focus on the roleplaying aspect of the game.

Speak In-Character

Wherever possible, assume what others are doing is a prompt for in-character roleplaying. DM asks what you do? Turn to someone, and say 'Philius, methinks we should cross that bridge and by Everam and St George, charge those there gnolls with swords in hand. Once we have them subdued, we'll take some answers from them, so we must leave at least some alive! What say you, well-met friend?"

Even if people don't respond in-character, and instead shift it back ooc, roleplaying just happened. Keep doing it and others will soon follow.

Ham It Up

Your character is 'quiet' and 'reasonable' and NOPE. Your character is the hammiest of ham. He's a loud cliche. He is instantly identifiable as the tropes that make him up - and he defines the setting by his very presence. It's unfortunate - but humans love ham. They love it.. a lot. Be something simple and understandable and loud, and they will get with the program really fast.

You can do this by being a masterful actor and roleplayer with any character, even a non-hammy one, but it is easiest with ham, so ham I will advise. Your paladin isn't just a paladin who likes cheese and moonlit walks on the beach - he's SIR GALAHAD THE MIGHTY, SUBDUER OF THE PEASANTS, DEFENDER OF THE WOMENFOLK, AND HIS MOUSTACHE BRISTLES AT THE SLIGHTEST SUGGESTION OF DRAGONS.

'Big' traits tend to focus things on the roleplaying a lot faster. Simpler is easier for the audience to understand.

Find Allies

Find people who will respond to your dramatic offers. When you address people, address them first, so they respond in-character, and then immediately pull other people in. People ignore offers initially, but if something is already rolling, they'll get rolled in with it. Some people will instinctively resist roleplaying offers, for all kinds of reasons - learn to identify them too, and offer to them last, once the roleplaying scene has the most momentum.

Be good at plot

Being able to identify where the adventure is going will let you advance the plot during a roleplaying scene - which both speeds up the adventure and means the time spent on roleplaying won't cause a weak GM to not let you hit the end of it.

Roleplay during combat

'LOOK OUT, FARAMIR! THE GNOLL IS AT YOUR BACK!' 'Galahad charges at the gnoll attacking' moving mini 'faramir, and' rolls dice 'swings at it with his mighty sword.' By including both speech and roleplaying-description in amongst your mechanical actions, you partially negate the disconnect that happens during the mechanics-rich combat portions of sessions. Have to know what you are doing on your turn before your turn rolls around, or anti-roleplayers will complain your roleplaying is slowing things up if you are not clearly doing it faster than anyone else.

Additionally, being good at combat, and giving tactical advice in-character that leads to defeating enemies quickly, will give more time overall for non-combat-constrained roleplaying itself.

Occasionally, roleplay during others' turns - have Galahad shout an encouraging phrase at an opportune moment. This has to be rare, and well-timed, though - an advanced technique.

Be Heroic, or Dastardly

Again, ham. By being heroic, and roleplaying it hard, you make other people who are not roleplaying feel heroic. By being dastardly, and roleplaying it hard, you make other people feel heroic also who are not roleplaying. You're giving them some of your roleplaying energy in a way that feels good for them. Morally grey is, again, a tougher sell. Note this isn't 'good' or 'evil', it's more saturday morning cartoon than that. Snidely Whiplashi, or Dudley DoRight.

Incorporate the GM

Don't just roleplay at fellow players. Roleplay at NPCs. Treat them with importance, and give the GM offers to roleplay right back at you. All of this applies to the GM, too. Getting the GM on-board with roleplaying, especially if you can advance the story while doing so, will be a tremendous boon to your cause.


You're right, by the way. Premade adventures, split up groups, schedules, public venues, this stuff just kills roleplaying and really makes it quite hard - I literally could not design a better system to do so.

But even in those kind of circumstances, I have personally sparked roleplaying in some extremely tough crowds. You won't see a huge improvement - but even the tiniest bit of roleplaying can be a huge welcome to you if you're in a roleplaying drought, and if you play with regularly the same pool of people, you'll find people gravitating to you that appreciate roleplaying, perhaps even to the extent that people will fight to have you in their groups.

Overall, though, the roleplaying will be in many ways a simpler thing than the rare high level roleplaying you can get in a home group.

But it's certainly not impossible.

Just have the courage to keep trying and don't give up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this reads as an excellent--and inspiring--answer to the more-general question "How do I, as a player, encourage more role playing?" If you think there's nothing more targeted, perhaps you could lead with "there's nothing specifically good for those AL problems, but to encourage more role-playing generally. And here's how to do that:..." \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 21 '15 at 1:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is all good advice. One player who consistently stays in character can tip the whole party into serious role playing mode. But the question is whether the DM is up to the task. If the DM isn't sufficiently eloquent (it's not easy) then this will really be an uphill climb. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Mar 4 '16 at 3:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1, I strongly condone as much ham, cliche, and trope in your character design when striving to push roleplaying at a table just interested in the combat scenes. Make the roleplaying more fun and you will definitely pick up at least 1 follower every game. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Nov 28 '17 at 18:38
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Set a good example

This is almost too obvious to mention, but people will be more likely to roleplay if there's someone at the table who's doing it well.

In particular: roleplaying should be fun for everyone. Some people, especially people new to roleplaying, roleplay by saying things like: "I'm a greedy backstabbing rogue, so I'm roleplaying by stealing loot from the party and joking about murdering you in your sleep!". Others roleplay by saying: "I'm going to go off on my own and do this personal quest and take up the DM's time for half an hour -- none of your characters are here, so you guys get to sit quietly and watch!" This may or may not be legitimate roleplaying, but it will reliably irritate the other players, which will make them see roleplaying as an annoying distraction. Find ways to roleplay that are awesome or funny, and other players will want to imitate you.

Invite your friends

In your roleplaying career, surely you've met other players who you enjoyed roleplaying with. Invite them to come join your Adventurers' League table. Have them show up a few minutes early to make sure the spots are open. If you meet enough cool people, you can fill up your entire party with awesome roleplayers.

If you don't know enough cool people yet, there are easy ways to meet them. One of the best ones might be to join lots of different Adventurers' League tables. Get in the habit of telling people: "Your roleplaying was awesome tonight, I'd like to game with you again, can I get your email address?"

I regularly run one-shot adventures for strangers, specifically to meet new players. I invite the awesome ones to join my campaign. Maybe something similar will work for you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How did I not see this answer when it was first posted? Apologies for the late +1. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 1 '18 at 14:35
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Applaud

If someone does anything that looks like roleplaying, show some excitement. The better the roleplaying, the more excitement it deserves. Most people like praise and attention, so it will help them feel more comfortable the next time they get the urge.

Don't push it too hard, but if you think you should use a certain amount of encouragement, kick it up a notch

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Play a Bard. Let it be known that when you're at the table, good RP is rewarded with Bardic inspiration. I've seen DMs use DM inspiration in a similar way to incentivize roleplay, to good result. \$\endgroup\$ – jamesb May 3 at 22:53
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Train or find a group of like-minded roleplayers

It is very, very difficult to change an established game culture without everyone on board. The game master often has more possibilities, but even then, it is difficult. Depending on how regular the attendance is, you would need to always start from beginning at every session, which will only lead to burn-out.

Some more concrete options

  1. Find an interested game master or become one. Have the GM recruit players and run a roleplaying-intensive game for some time. Once you have an established group, start playing in the organized games with several members of the established group, who will show how great their style is and hopefully inspire others to follow suit. This may necessiate playing other games than organized play D&D for some time.
  2. Talk to the group. "Can we roleplay a bit more this session? For example, [easy and concrete thing you can do like use the names of other characters a lot]."
  3. If the regular players include some who, for example, delight in tactical consideration and character optimization, and find the roleplaying at best a nice (but preferably short) break from the game proper, then try to arrange things so that there are two tables, one for more roleplaying-oriented people and one for those who enjoy figure chess. This is likely to benefit from cooperation with whoever organizes the games.

A word of caution

Whatever you mean by roleplaying, there might be someone or several someones at the table who find it irrelevant, annoying, or simply a distraction. By pushing for certain style of play you might be making the actively worse for some people. If this is true, expect drama or resistance, and consider carefully how far you wish to go with your program.

Especially if you do face resistance, but also otherwise, it might be enlightening to observe and maybe even ask what the other players enjoy in their play. Maybe you can learn to enjoy those parts more? Or, at least, maybe you can see how to combine what you mean by roleplaying and what they enjoy and focused on the compatible parts of the hobby.

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