PMiller's DM Workshop Series


DM Workshop #14: Good Role-playing

A role-playing game is a game in which the participants assume the roles of characters and collaboratively create stories, determining the actions of their characters based on their individual characterizations. The game-play (or roll-playing) aspects are how the actions are adjudicated within the defined rule sets and mechanics. The role-playing aspects are centered around the characterization.

Characterization is the way in which the players convey information about their characters; it can be direct, as when the writer simply tells what a character is like (ie. "George was cunning and greedy.") or indirect, as when the writer shows what a character is like by portraying his or her actions, speech, or thoughts (ie. "On the crowded subway, George slipped his hand into the man's coat pocket and withdrew the wallet, undetected."). Descriptions of a character's appearance, behavior, interests, way of speaking, and other mannerisms are all part of characterization.

Good role-playing goes hand in hand with good characterization and is a crucial part of making a story compelling. GMs are only responsible for the portrayal of the supporting cast (NPCs); it is the players that are ones to develop the characterization of the protagonists (Player Characters). In order to capture interest, the players provide details that make their characters life-like and individual, making them seem real.

Good characterization gives the readers a strong sense of the character's personality and complexity; it makes characters vivid, alive and believable. Good role-playing results in showing a developed persona that is not the same as the player's own personality as well.

A player adept at role-playing is continually doing some of the following:
• Directly describes what a character's personality is like
• Describes a character's appearance and manner
• Portrays a character's thoughts and motivations
• Uses dialogue to allow a character's words to reveal something important about his or her nature
• Uses a character's actions to reveal his or her personality
• Shows reactions to the other characters being portrayed by the GM and players
• Describes the environment and their character's interaction with it.

The art doing this well is to sprinkle these things throughout all of the player's posts naturally and unforced, yet avoiding the shotgun approach to put as many as they can into every post.

It should be obvious, but good role-playing in PbP requires good writing. :)