My group has just begun playing Dungeons and Dragons 3.5e and I feel as though some light role playing during NPC interaction would keep the party interested in the current campaign, since it is getting dull. However, whenever they speak to a townsperson/bartender/generic character, it always tends to be something very brief and then they continue on their way. The players never roleplay their characters or even acknowledge other player's characters either. Meta-gaming is also an issue with this group.


The party has to find an orc who stole a map from the nearby librarian. The players find the orc and then the conversation begins like this:

Player 1: "Did he steal the map?"
DM: "You will have to ask him"
Player 1: "I ask the orc if he stole the map"

After asking the group if they could roleplay some more the only answers I got were essentially "It doesn't add anything, why should we do it?", or "Nobody else is doing it, why should I?" Even if I try to give some kind of XP reward for roleplaying, there is no response.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Line 2 of your example dialog should be: `DM (as orc): "Grugnor no steal map! Grugnor win it fair and square!" \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian
    Oct 5, 2015 at 15:23

3 Answers 3


What your players are doing probably is role-playing. They just aren't speaking in character.

Some people don't like to speak in character, being afraid of looking silly or just plain feeling uncomfortable to do so. Especially if you have one person that is very verbose and eloquent in character that can make more introverted people shy away from speaking in character.

And I think that's not a problem.

Role-playing is descriptive anyway, so I think it's perfectly fine to just describe what the character is asking. Preferably, they should describe this a bit more, so you as a DM have something to work with.

In your example of asking the orc whether he stole the map, the orc would obviously say no - unless the characters make him say the truth by intimidating him, convincing him they're on his side etc.

Now this can be done in-character, or by describing: Either: "I approach the orc. >>I know you have the map. Give it to me, or else I will turn you into a cockroach!<< I support my threat with a display of magic, using the Cantrip spell" Or: "I approach the orc and threaten him with a small display of magic using the Cantrip spell. If he doesn't give me the map, I will turn him into a cockroach!"

Now it's up to you to ask for an intimidate roll in both cases. And both cases are actual role-playing. One might even argue that they are at the same level of immersion, but that's a highly subjective topic.

A very different thing is, when your players don't describe HOW their characters try to achieve something. This is the crucial role-playing bit! This is something you really have to get out of the players - and you can just ask them for it: "I ask the orc if he stole the map." "Well, if you just ask him, he's just gonna say no. You need to try something - why should he tell you he commited the crime?" "Uhh, well, I intimidate him." "Okay. Want to add a bit more detail?" ...

The Angry DM's article on interactions has given a lot of insight on this very issue. You might like to read it yourself.

Seeing how a lot of people want to "reward good roleplaying". I think this is a fair point, but again, don't confuse "roleplaying" with speaking in character. If you reward speaking in character, look at the other side of the deal: A shy player might feel at a disadvantage, just because he is uncomfortable to act. On the other hand, in my orc example above I included the "display of magic" in both cases. This could give a small bonus to the intimidation check, because the character has done something to back up his threat. Now this "backing up" can be done both in-character and in the descriptive approach.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Terminology aside, this question doesn't really answer the question. Chris is asking how to incentive his players to speak in character and your answer is "Don't". Also, I think the linked article is wrong on many points. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Oct 6, 2015 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Flamma Perhaps post another answer explaining your position? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Oct 6, 2015 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I'm not sure I can provide a good solution with the information I have, apart from the already suggested "Lead by example". I'm not saying I would do better than anyone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Oct 8, 2015 at 8:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Flamma Sure, you can have the opinion to always include in-character speech in role-playing. I was just giving the advice that it might not be necessary, since for me playing the role in RPGs is more about what you do and how you go about doing it, than about improvisational theater. And if you require the theater bit, you will exclude a large part of players. At least for my games this understanding of roleplaying works well and we're having more fun since we don't forcibly try to speak in character. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neuneck
    Oct 8, 2015 at 10:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Flamma Truth be told, I think most dictionaries' definitions of "roleplaying" are based on non-RPG contexts, and so don't account for all the connotations and extra meaning the word has in this specific space. It's a little hard to verify that, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Oct 9, 2015 at 4:25

I agree with Neuneck's answer that you are basically asking two questions:

  1. How to get my players to roleplay?
  2. How do I get my players to speak in character?

The phrasing of your title makes me wonder if there was interest in roleplaying in the past.

The first question is in my opinion rather easy to address. When players wish to try and do something, you should always ask "How do you do that?" Sure the player might not know as much about intimidation as his character but the player should be capable of giving a basic description. The other thing that sometimes can help is playing "dumb". So depending on the situation you can do a lot of things. They say "I ask the orc if he stole the map." Did they approach the orc or ask him out of the blue? First case the orc says "Of course not! Why would you suspect me of such a horrendous crime?" or just simply "No." Now the ball is in their court again and they have to do something. Asking out of the blue allows you even more freedom. Imagine how you would react if a armed group suddenly asks you if you stole some kind of map without any context. Maybe the orc accuses them of things like racial profiling or trying to hide that the adventurers stole it. The less effort your players put into it the more possibilities you have to screw with them. They leave the initiative to you so use it. I don't say be evil to them but let them reap what they sow.

The second question is much harder. As Neuneck has mentioned many people don't people feel comfortable with speaking in character because they are afraid of being ridiculed or performance anxiety. I would suggest lead by example and award them for pushing their comfort zone. If you want them to speak in character show that it is not so bad or hard by doing it all the time yourself and do not be afraid of making a fool of yourself. Your players might just need to see that they are in the presence of friends and that nothing bad is going to happen. Be aware however that you can't expect a stellar performance from the get-go. Maybe the NPC reactions are much more friendly if approached in such a manner or maybe they get a bonus to their roll or do not need to roll at all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This post, while containing all the elements of a good answer, reads like a forum post. Can you edit it to be more stand alone - so that all a person has to read is the question and your answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Oct 5, 2015 at 16:21

Give you NPC's important information that will only get revealed through more extended conversation/interaction. Then encourage them to have longer interaction by pointing them back to the NPC, if they miss the info, using other cues.

e.g. they need the location of a fence for the jewel they have "acquired". The local barkeeper knows the right person, but will be very cagey talking to these strangers. All the locals know that the barkeep knows everyone. So every time the players find someone and ask about who they can sell the gem to they will be directed towards the barkeep, and the barkeep will have to be convinced they are not the authorities, perhaps through being offered a small percentage.

In other situations you should "punish" them for not taking time with an NPC, but then make it clear that they should have (the damon laughs in their faces as it disappears "Didn't you know you that I cannot be hurt by your puny steel weapons! You should have consulted your Priest friend more. To late now MUAHAHAHAAAA", or the Wizard isn't able to help them further: "What, you didn't happen to bring mandrake root? Oh well, here's the powder you wanted, but without the root I can't divine what day to perform the ceremony on... didn't Masak mention that when he sent you here? You'd better hope you can get it to me before it's too late!").

If you keep on doing this with situation after situation it will add depth to the scenarios, and "train" them into the idea that not everything is solved without really getting to know the NPCs.


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