I have played a few RP games at this point, but the vast majority of the gaming i have done has been my solo (read: playing several char's at once but being the only player) campaigns Brian Ballsun-Stanton has run me through.

In these games, probably because I'm concentrating at playing several (usually newly rolled) characters, most of the play has been combat based. I might go through a town to get information, but even interactions with my various gods and even worship (read: pleading) has been through combat.

When it comes to interacting with NPC's, or soon to be combatants (read: trying to stop a situation from getting violent only to have an assassin throw a knife) I completely freeze up and usually have no idea how to proceed. I really enjoy playing D&D, but I would like to get a better grip of the actual RP side of things.

How have other people who have started out with a more combat focus moved into a more RP flavoured game style? Are there any easy tips for us petrified RP want-to-be's?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ My personal feeling is that the skill challenge system in 4e discourages roleplay, and encourages combat-type mechanics for non-combat activities. You may want to try playing a different system (Pathfinder/D&D 3.5, Warhammer Fantasy RPG, "indie" RPGs, etc.). Whether a given NPC interaction turns into an "encounter" is also a function of the DM's play style; some prefer a more structured game, and others lean more on a story-based approach which relies on character interaction. \$\endgroup\$
    – RMorrisey
    Jul 17, 2011 at 4:41

3 Answers 3


I find that answering the question "What would $PCName do in $situation?" work well. Come up with many different situations and answer them as your character would. If that's too complex, make sure you pick two or three characters in fiction you like. Those are now your character. Now, you should be able to answer the above easily enough. That should give you a base line that you can use to role play your character.

Look at how authors deal with their character. This is the best way to learn how it's done. Pick good authors (or/and authors you like) and look at how they build their characters.

Finally, the more flaws they have, the more interesting their story is. Gandalf was scared of Sauron because he could see himself falling to the same patterns. Dr Bennan (Bones) deals with cold science because of her abandonment issues. Spike (Cowboy Bebop) refuses to admit he has friends because he hates himself. You can spot the pattern by now. On the other hand, Superman (for me) is utterly boring: invisible, immortal, and can solve anything by punching it really hard... Yawn ;>

Overall, think: What would my character do to make a better story?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Context based interactions! This is very helpful. Thinking about them in terms of their flaws to try and help predict their behavior: That works very well for me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Catichka
    Jul 18, 2011 at 3:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. And Superman's extremely interesting... when faced with a problem that can't be solved by hitting things. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Sep 3, 2012 at 7:43

Most people are not good at this, so don't panic, and don't set your internal mental expectations very high.

  1. Since you freeze up, practice by just telling the DM what you want to do and how you want to do it, even expressed out-of-character. You need to practice being an active driver of the plot. Ask the DM to slow down so you can think about what to do other than just fight, fight, fight.
  2. Don't try to roleplay with all of your multiple characters. Pick one to be the leader and only roleplay with him. Then you only have to think about what one of them will do outside of combat and everybody else just follows along.
  3. When you've become an active driver of the plot, roleplay as yourself. Speak in-character instead of out-of-character, but as "yourself in a fantasy hero story".
  4. When you get used to that, branch out; pick different personalities for different characters, but you may want to draw on characteristics you understand instead of those you don't. If you're an ambitious workaholic, it may be difficult for you to play a lazy slob. It's tough to convincingly play a wisecracking joker if you can't make up jokes that people laugh at.
  5. Get more players and don't control the whole party any more. It's easier to roleplay when you have PCs to talk to in character. It's too easy to talk out of character to the DM, since he's the referee before anything else and his roleplaying is purely secondary to running the game.
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is actually quite helpful: I dont ever feel like things are going too fast, nor do i feel like I cant ask questions (Brian is an excellent DM). He tries to whip me into rping in char rather then me feeling like i cant break it heh =) The idea of giving them each individual personalities is a good one, and trying to recreate that is a nice idea. I can't see myself not controlling the whole party at this point though, since that is just the style that we play. \$\endgroup\$
    – Catichka
    Jul 18, 2011 at 2:57

You lack the context in which to roleplay your character. Without context it is hard to decide how to roleplay a given situation because you have no information on which to base a rational decision on.

Work with your referee to come up with a background that ties your characters to his setting. It doesn't need to be elaborate (either the setting or the background details). Referees who don't put a lot of work into the setting background often base what they do off of a standard trope. For example many use a medieval-like merrie olde england with elves, dwarves, etc.

Whatever it is work with your referee to come up with a paragraph or two describing things like

  • where your character comes from
  • your character personality
  • how he started adventuring
  • what are his loves
  • what are his hates
  • who are his friends
  • his acquaintances
  • who are his rivals
  • who are his enemies

You don't need to including everything in the above list just whatever inspires you. Now when you go into town you have some context on which to based your role-playing decisions.


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