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Thread: Roleplaying done well: Don't Play You

  1. #1

    Default Roleplaying done well: Don't Play You

    In light of the stir I caused yesterday, I just couldn't resist...I must be in an essay-writing mood. So here's another one, friends, and I hope that it is more appropriately geared towards the new player crowd (though, with me, apparently you never know, eh?). As always, don't pull your punches; let me know what you think (yes, even you, Actana ).

    Essay #3: Role-Playing Done Well: Don't Play You

    An often-overlooked aspect of role-playing games is the near necessity to play a character unlike yourself. If you roll up a PC (let's call him a half-elven ranger who cracks wise and flirts with the ladies day in and day out), ask yourself: Is this me? Because if the only difference between you and your PC is a pair of pointy ears and a sword, things may need to change a bit.

    Please note that this is not to say you should never do this; it's just a head's up to not do it all the time. Because some folks will do this. All. The. Time.

    Remember, the idea of games like DnD is to play a character, not to play yourself with a sword. You've given the PC a name; you've given the PC a class and race; now it's time to give him or her a unique personality. So how do you do it? How do you play someone unlike you?

    I refer to the immortal wisdom of George Costanza here for an easy, first tip: Have your character do/say/think the opposite of what you would see yourself doing in the exact same situation.

    Other ways to move away from you and move closer to a fully-realized, independent PC:

    1. Play the opposite gender from you own. That's a quick and easy way to diversify the game and mix up your own role-playing. It allows you to really step outside yourself. If your DM/GM allows for romantic subplots and such, giving a PC a sexual orientation other than your own can be a great way to add flavor to a PC and to separate him/her from yourself as well. For example, when I roll up a more-or-less stereotypical PC (half-orc barbarian, for example), I almost always try to play a different gender than my own or a different sexuality than my own. That way, it isn't just 'me' dressed up as a half-orc barbarian; it ends up being a character completely separate from my own distinct personality.

    2. Give your PC a flaw that stands out (and one that does not afflict you personally in real life). Note that I wrote another essay on this topic alone; check it out, if you're interested.

    3. Play a middle-aged or elderly PC. Some of my favorite characters that I've seen in games are not the stereotypical twenty-year old warriors. Old halfling bards...grizzled clerics...retired fighters forced to don armor once more...those are the ones I tend to remember.

    4. Try to use as many different classes as possible (races, too, if your DM allows it and the game's tone allows for catfolk to be running around with humans and such). I'm a melee-type player, generally. I'd be happy to never cast a spell in DnD; I just like to play the game and enjoy the story without worrying about a spellbook. But to avoid a rut, I throw in sorcerers, wizards and clerics now and then, just to keep my role-playing skills sharp. Plus, oftentimes, folks don't want to play a healer role anymore than they want to be a DM (Cailano is a notable exception to this not-at-all-hard-and-fast rule), so if you are willing to take on many different roles in different games, it simply makes you a more desirable gaming companion.

    5. If all else fails, the internet has some wonderful random character generators out there. If you're drawing a blank on a PC concept, but you know you're willing to try anything, try a random generator. One of my favorite PCs I've ever had the privilege of playing was created this way. I said to the DM that I'd play anything; he called me on it and had me promise to stick with what the random rolls gave me. I rolled up a gnome paladin. That little guy is still going strong nearly a year later, and he's a wonderfully complicated character that I never, ever would have come up with on my own.

    In the end, this is not a game about you. It's a game about made-up folks in made-up lands doing extraordinary things. So when you sit down to create a PC, ask yourself: What wouldn't I do? Who aren't I? Those mind-bendy questions are a good place to start.

    Good luck and happy gaming!
    Last edited by Ra-thalun; 09-10-2013 at 03:46 PM.



  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ra-thalun View Post
    Actana, thank you for the reminder about personal issues. I hear you. Really, I do. I'm a grown man with a good life, so I'm pretty thick skinned. That said, you need to be cautious with your tone. If I came off as harsh in my essay, you came off as a uniquely unlikeable bastard with your criticism. I'll just assume neither of us are as awful as our work yesterday implied

    To everyone, truly, thanks for the feedback (good, bad or ugly). I wouldn't be much of a teacher if I can't take a taste of my own medicine during the editing and revision process. I'll see if I can smooth some of the rougher edges today or tomorrow to see if the lecture can be salvaged without needing to be blown up and redone entirely.
    "Uniquely unlikeable bastard"? Now that's harsh! And also quite flattering. But regardless, it all comes down to expectations and purpose. I did preface the criticism by saying that it's going to be harsh and stuff like that, but there's a different reason too why it is what it is: effect. I didn't sugar-coat it not only because I lack the time, will and patience to make it sound less harsh, but also because with a lack of coating, the point goes through much better. That said, I come from a rather honest, blunt and crude culture, which of course influences my mannerisms. I just call things as I see them, if something is wrong I say it's wrong, not that it's "different" or "unique". Just the way I am with criticism. I'm not a terrible person, even though I can dish out some harsh criticism. And trust me, I subject myself to all the same things all the time.

    That said, if you're going to revise it, I'd recommend going with either the analytical approach, or the rhetoric one, not a mix of both. The analytical one appeals to logic and the descriptions of problem players along with sound solutions, while the rhetoric one is the one directly talking to the reader, forcing them to be confronted with any potential problems (and you could be as outrageous as you want here). I think a mixed approach kinda half-asses both approaches, leaving it rather disjointed and kinda confusing. But you've probably already made your mind, and I don't see anything really changing, so I'll leave it be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackfox424 View Post
    With that, it would give those of you who wished to write more advanced lectures, or lectures geared towards experienced players, an outlet for that.
    Don't think it's a good idea at the immediate moment. I'd rather have a single portion of this place functional first, then move onto the prospect of expansion. That said, plans can sure be made, but I wouldn't implement them just yet.
    Last edited by Actana; 09-10-2013 at 02:28 PM.
    "Surely thine kind are more than pure dark."

    Creator of the Mass Effect Saga Edition conversion.
    Read my blog! And comment! And stuff!

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ra-thalun View Post
    In light of the stir I caused yesterday, I just couldn't resist...I must be in an essay-writing mood. So here's another one, friends, and I hope that it is more appropriately geared towards the new player crowd (though, with me, apparently you never know, eh?). As always, don't pull your punches; let me know what you think (yes, even you, Actana ).
    You couldn't stop me even if you wanted to!

    Essay #3: Role-Playing Done Well: Don't Play You
    I wouldn't use the subtitle of "don't play you", but given that the topic is entirely about not playing you (which I would neither devote an entire topic to), I guess it's appropriate.

    An often-overlooked aspect of role-playing games is the near necessity to play a character unlike yourself. If you roll up a PC (let's call him a half-elven ranger who cracks wise and flirts with the ladies day in and day out), ask yourself: Is this me? Because if the only difference between you and your PC is a pair of pointy ears and a sword, things may need to change a bit.
    Oh, gee, it's as if someone is talking about themselves and their avatar. As long as you're not changing your avatar, it's quite nice. If you do, it's just... "there", which isn't bad, but doesn't have the same impact. Either way, I like this.

    Please note that this is not to say you should never do this; it's just a head's up to not do it all the time. Because some folks will do this. All. The. Time.
    You don't really get a lot into why you shouldn't do this, to be honest. And given that you're saying that you should "never" do this, it's a bit weird. You're just saying you shouldn't do it because you shouldn't do it. Which isn't really sound logic. Personally, I think playing a similar character to yourself is a great idea to ease into roleplaying, as it allows for a bit more immersion and easier choices. For a serious game I wouldn't recommend it, but for learning, sure. At least the player won't have a hard time coming up with a character concept.

    I think it would be better if you said that it's a bad idea to play an entirely identical character to yourself. If you're new, make a character modelled on yourself then change a few key concepts and work from there. Or something. I'm not the one writing the lecture here, am I?

    Other ways to move away from you and move closer to a fully-realized, independent PC:

    1. Play the opposite gender from you own. That's a quick and easy way to diversify the game and mix up your own role-playing. It allows you to really step outside yourself. If your DM/GM allows for romantic subplots and such, giving a PC a sexual orientation other than your own can be a great way to add flavor to a PC and to separate him/her from yourself as well. For example, when I roll up a more-or-less stereotypical PC (half-orc barbarian, for example), I almost always try to play a different gender than my own or a different sexuality than my own. That way, it isn't just 'me' dressed up as a half-orc barbarian; it ends up being a character completely separate from my own distinct personality.

    2. Give your PC a flaw that stands out (and one that does not afflict you personally in real life). Note that I wrote another essay on this topic alone; check it out, if you're interested.

    3. Play a middle-aged or elderly PC. Some of my favorite characters that I've seen in games are not the stereotypical twenty-year old warriors. Old halfling bards...grizzled clerics...retired fighters forced to don armor once more...those are the ones I tend to remember.
    Nothing to comment here, is quite fine. There is a mechanical problem with playing older PCs, but that's just D&D being stupid about it.

    4. Try to use as many different classes as possible (races, too, if your DM allows it and the game's tone allows for catfolk to be running around with humans and such). I'm a melee-type player, generally. I'd be happy to never cast a spell in DnD; I just like to play the game and enjoy the story without worrying about a spellbook. But to avoid a rut, I throw in sorcerers, wizards and clerics now and then, just to keep my role-playing skills sharp. Plus, oftentimes, folks don't want to play a healer role anymore than they want to be a DM (Cailano is a notable exception to this not-at-all-hard-and-fast rule), so if you are willing to take on many different roles in different games, it simply makes you a more desirable gaming companion.
    Good advice, but I recommend dropping the bolded part. Referring to a specific GM doesn't really contribute at all. It would be better to say that "some people" or "good players" or the like. Otherwise it feels just a bit like ass-kissing to me, regardless of how it actually is.


    I'm in a bit of a hurry, so this is all quite bare bones. But the topic is also a lot better than the previous one.
    Last edited by Actana; 09-10-2013 at 02:47 PM.
    "Surely thine kind are more than pure dark."

    Creator of the Mass Effect Saga Edition conversion.
    Read my blog! And comment! And stuff!

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    Good essay, a forth thing you could add, though, is use a random background / personality generator. In Ultimate Campaign, there is a really thorough background generation chapter with all sorts of random tables based off of race and class. Something in that vein would force you to already have a near fully realized character prior to determining what sort of personality they have. I've only rolled up a couple of characters using this method, but both of them turned out pretty interesting, and with one specifically helped me retool my entire mechanical concept based on what the background became.

  5. #5

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    Arch, good point. A random character generator can be a blast to roll up a PC and then try to play what you're given. Thanks for bringing it up. I just added it to the essay; I really appreciate the reminder there.

    Actana, as always, I appreciate the feedback. No tongue in cheek crap, either; I really do like to hear what you have to say. I'll consider your suggestions and see what I can do in the revision process
    Last edited by Ra-thalun; 09-10-2013 at 03:47 PM.



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    Hey Ra, how's the revision of this one coming? Is it ready for moving to the Lecture Hall?
    "Ho there wanderer... Stay thy course a moment to indulge an old man." ~Elminster, BG1, just outside Candlekeep

    For Evil to triumph, all good men must do is nothing. The corollary to that proverb is that sometimes evil must be done by honorable men for the greater good to triumph. ~Twilight Warriors




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