Whether you’re a new player to Dungeons and Dragons or a veteran, gameplay starts with character creation. It is the characters that drive the adventure and create unique situations for the Dungeon Master and the rest of the table. Typically, when most players create a character for a new or existing session, they have the character’s personality already in mind or at least have some idea of the character’s quirks.
At times, the character’s personality develops during roleplay. So, even if you might not have a complete rundown of your character’s personality, it’s not a big deal. Role playing allows you to fine tune that personality or perhaps even change it.
However, there are going to be instances where, when you create a character, you don’t know the character’s personality. Not knowing that personality, it’s difficult to roleplay your character. It has happened to me before and believe it or not, I’m still having trouble fine-tuning how to roleplay my character.
Luckily, my brain finally decided to remind me (again) that the Player’s Handbook has a few tables to help a player out. Plus, I will also include a few tips that I have picked up over my experience as a DM and a player for role-playing your character.
What Would You Do?
At some point during a session – even throughout the session – you have to ask yourself: what would your character do? I believe that this is the base of role-playing your character. How would they react to a situation? Would they be on board with forging documents? Do they care? Are they the ones forging said document? It’s something to think about when trying to interact with the setting around you.
I had to use this tip for myself two weeks ago. During the session, my table wanted to indefinitely “borrow” the Guard-Captain’s seal of authority because it might be useful later. Since my character was from a royal family, she was completely against it. She hadn’t said anything when the group sold an important item to the Major and then stole it back that night, but when it came to that seal of authority, she put her foot down and was completely against it.
It made for interesting roleplay as half the table wanted to keep it and the other half didn’t care. Let’s just say that the Eladrin Warlock won that battle.
Your character’s alignment plays a huge role in role playing your character. It plays in with the question: what would your character do? If your character is lawful good, would they be up for breaking and entering?
So, how do you determine your character’s alignment? It’s a tricky question when you’re not sure what kind of character to roleplay. For starters, do you want to be more like Superman or Spider-Man? Or does Jack Sparrow sound more your style? Perhaps the Joker calls out to you?
Wizards of the Coast has a helpful alignment quiz that you can take to help you decide which alignment is going to help you roleplay your character.
When considering how to roleplay your character, think about their background. I’m not talking about their backstory. I’m referring to their ‘occupation’ so to speak. Are they a Folk Hero? Perhaps the Charlatan or the Soldier? While Backgrounds can give character extra skills and tools proficiencies, it can help you figure out where to start.
Take for example the Soldier background in the Player’s Handbook (pg. 140). This background gives you a table to role on to choose your role as a soldier. There are other backgrounds that give you this option like the Criminal background (pg. 129), but not all do.
Choose one that works with the idea you have built or the one you’re creating. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not going to necessarily use every single aspect of the personality you’re building for your character. It’s up the player to decide when certain ideals, flaws, or bonds are going to be revealed.
Following up on the Backgrounds, each one gives you a table to roll on for a character’s “Personality”, “Ideals”, “Bonds”, and “Flaws”. With this, you don’t have to completely start from scratch. Personally, I believe the charts give players different personalities that differ from each other and can cause some conflict among players. Plus, it helps with roleplaying when two characters clash. It’s something to keep in mind as you try to figure out how to roleplay your character.
Role-playing isn’t for everyone. If acting in front of strangers isn’t your forte, then don’t push yourself. Not every person at the table clicks automatically. Just like not everyone is comfortable with being around people. It’s not mandatory to act as your character or to change your voice. If you need to be comfortable around the people at the table first, then that’s what you have to do. At the end of the day, it’s your character and you can roleplay or not as them. Always remember that it’s your decision.
You don’t always have to be in character during your D&D sessions. As a DM myself, I don’t always expect my players to roleplay if they don’t want to. I leave that up to them to decide when and how. There aren’t any definite rules on how to roleplay your character. Most people wing it. After all, we aren’t professional actors or voice actors.
Dungeons and Dragons is all about having fun and enjoying yourselves. Having fun is the most important thing. If you get into role-playing, that’s great and if you don’t, that’s great too. Go at your own pace.