How extracurricular activities helped me to slay the dragon.

2007 August 30
by Dante

There are many, many valid reasons for practicing the fine art of roleplaying. I think that it is one of the few recreational ventures that you can accomplish via several different paths, or through a process that is uniquely your own.

Quick, come up with something!

When I was in high school, I was on the speech team. I was picked for two of the most disparate types of speech, impromptu speaking and extemporaneous (extemp) speaking. Preparation for the previously unknown topic was short: 4-8 minutes in impromptu and up to 45 minutes for extemp.

Once given the topic, you had to prepare thoughts and deliver the speech in an authoritative way. That usually meant talking out of your hindquarters if you didn’t know much about the topic, or lacked information in your citation box to adequately provide sources for your thoughts. Its a very stressful situation to place yourself in week after week, however it did teach some lessons in preparation and antacid use.

Wow, that sounds kinda boring. How does this apply to roleplaying, Dante?

I’m glad you asked that question. Preparing for roleplay in an impromptu way can help you get out of a roleplaying rut, blaze a new trail, or give your character more depth than you previously thought possible.

Instead of “going with the flow” or spending a lot of time trying to get inside the head of the character you created, try envisioning the situation the character is in and decide what stance they will take in short order.

Next, take a few key points that your player needs to act upon or discuss with the other characters nearby. Be sure to take enough time to relate these key points to your character’s outlook.

The final step in the process is for you (the player) to act on these key points. If you get the DM or another character interacting with you, it is just fine to speak to your personal strengths on behalf of the character.

Get into your characters head just enough to understand his or her motivations in a certain situation, but then use your own strengths and experiences to flesh out the rest. In time, it will become a more comfortable exercise and it will become second nature.

Practice, practice, practice.

You can practice this approach on your own by dreaming up situations that your character is commonly in. It may even help to write down some of these common situations if you’re one of those planner types. I used to use note cards for my speeches, with bulleted lists of my speaking points.

Do you have a marketing background? Negotiate with the shopkeeper for a better price based on the condition of that ratty old spellbook you want to buy. Politics? Sweet talk that justice into releasing your friend who got caught sharing the gold from someone else’s pouch. It is perfectly fine to superimpose a little (or a lot) of yourself into your character. In fact, it tends to make roleplay situations much more lively since its easy to get passionate about things that you are really passionate about.

Exercise a little discretion by consulting your character sheet as you go. Your 2nd level barbarian with a 9 Wisdom and 10 Intelligence doesn’t get to have an intimate understanding of astrophysics just because you do, but he might know that star right there is always north!

To summarize my point…

By using some of these tips lifted from the world of speech and forensics, you may just be able to craft a more satisfying roleplaying experience without having to spend a lot of time thinking hard about it.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Phil permalink
    August 31, 2007

    Hey I was a debater for some time and that does help a lot for impromptu DMing.

    I think there are a lot of Real Life (RL) skills that help DMing and a lot of DMing skills help in real life.

    DMing and management are a lot alike.

  2. Yax permalink
    August 31, 2007

    I agree. I think a few minutes before the game – or on the drive to the game – a DM can achieve a lot by mentally reviewing what is planned and adding a 4-8 minutes of impromptu preparation.

  3. kanati permalink
    September 1, 2007

    I find the best gaming sessions are those where you have a few items that you would like to happen… but other than that. Wing it. All the way. Base the night’s gaming on everything the players do and pull it all out of your arse.

    a) it builds your dm’ing skills greatly.

    b) your players don’t think they are running on rails.

    Of course if you are trying to get from point A in your story to point B, you’ll still have to gently steer the players, but doing so without seeming like you are reading from a script goes a long way to promoting the suspension of disbelief factor.

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