What exactly is role-playing? Its simply another word for Acting. When you are acting you are playing out a role, ... or role-playing.

So, how do you begin acting/role-playing? The first thing you have to understand about acting is that it isn't the same thing as shouting and pounding a table top. Being loud and being dramatic are only good acting when the character and situation call for it. Some of the greatest performances on stage and in film involve characters that never raise their voices once. So how do you know when to shout, when to be calm, when to cry, when to laugh?

You must begin with an understanding of your character. Who is he or she? What drives him or her to do the things he or she does? At the end of this section is a list of questions you might want to consider asking yourself about your character. These are just the beginning. The more you know about your character, the better you will be able to act the part. The closer to your character you become, the less you will refer to that character in the third person. As long as you cut it out by the time you go to work Monday morning, this is a good thing.

What's good or important about knowing what your character's favorite meal is? What you know about your character will help you understand his or her motivations. Everything that is said or done by every living thing has a motivation of some kind. That is the difference between living things and a pile of rocks; and a human has more complex motivations than anything else alive does. If you think about your own life, all the words you speak and all the things you do have a motivation of some kind. Even if you're merely cracking a joke to your friends, you're doing so because (presumably) you want to make them laugh. That's motivation. That's where acting begins.

Imagine, for example, that a man or woman flirts with you over a drink at the inn. You must know your character well enough to know how he or she would respond. It doesn't matter if what you say rolls off your tongue like a practiced line of honeyed poetry or vicious insult. What matters is that what you say is what your character would say. If your character is a romantic, you might begin to ask deep, meaningful questions of this person, to find out if the two of you are connected in some way. Or, if your character has some oath or duty that prevents him or her from falling in love, you might find that this person's charms are hard to resist, yet resist you must - and so you struggle over every word, not wanting to shut this person out, even though you know that in the end you must.

Developing your character is about primarily about developing a personality. Know your character. Follow his or her motivations. Say and do what your character would do, even if deducing that correct course of action prevents you from ripping off a Shakespearean line. What matters is what you say, not how you say it.

Basic questions to ask yourself (As a Character):

 

  • What are your character's gender and ethnicity? (even non-human races have variations)
  • What is your character's physical size or build?
  • What color are your hair, eyes, and skin?
  • What is your general appearance? (scruffy, well-groomed, beat-up, roguish, etc.)
  • Where / when were you born?
  • Who was in your family?
  • What about your own family? (Are you married / have kids?)
  • What sort of education did you have?
  • What job skills do you have?
  • What does your character have in the way of political and religious
  • What does your character consider to be good or evil? How do they consider themselves?
  • What is your moral or honor code? (When is it acceptable to kill? What about euthanasia, capital punishment, etc.?)
  • What passions does you character have? (Chocolate? Moonlit walks? Art?)
  • What does your character hate? (Spiders? Little old ladies that walk too slow? Drunks?)
  • What skills (non-game mechanic) does your character have? (Can he or she belch the alphabet? Whistle a military trumpet call backwards?)
  • What can your character NOT do? (Never get the punch line right? Never take a compliment? Never fold a map?)
  • Who is the one person your character trusts the most?
  • What is your greatest strength? Greatest weakness?
  • What is your opinion of your own race?
  • Are you prejudiced in any way?
  • To whom do you owe the most loyalty?
  • Do you have any quirks or mannerisms? (Whistle when bored? Scratch your chin? Play with a knife?)
  • What buttons does he or she have, and what does he or she have a handle on? (What emotions do you control, and which control you?)
  • How would you handle an insubordinate servant?
  • If Mom and Dad were to see you now, what would they say?
  • What is your character's highest ambition?
  • What is your character's favorite color? Dance? Tune? Book / Poem / Author?
  • What is your character's theme song? (Ride of the Valkyries? Born to be Wild? The Star Trek Theme?)
  • If you could have a heart-to-heart with your character, what one piece of advice would you give to him/her?

 

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