Roleplay is a core part of Dungeons & Dragons, or any RPG. Afterall, the RP stands for RolePlay! But some people struggle with this. Whether they don’t understand how it works, dislike the (seeming) lack of rules and mechanics, hate that it’s not combat, or are simply a little shy about really getting into it. This time, we’re diving into how to RP and how to get better at it, so let’s get started!
Now some people think RP consists of just talking in character, but that isn’t true. RP is when you describe what your PC does in any situation. Such as each action in the preceding quote, or what your PC contributes to a conversation, or really even the choices they make. Understanding this can really help you to open up and describe much more, and even make the game so much more captivating by bringing RP into just about any situation including but not limited to: combat, rests, downtime, travel, exploration, etc. Even something as simple as stating “I hold the amulet and ponder” is considered RP.
If you want to make your RP so much more interesting to you and your fellow players, try to shift your voice -even if it’s only a slight shift- when you’re talking in character. It’s silly, and doing it for the first time can be intimidating, but it is well worth the effort in not just comedy, but also really getting into the game. Just a quick note: if you use a voice changer, be sure to change your actual voice as well if you can. Relying on a voice changer can make it almost impossible for you to do a good voice without it.
Next, if you really want to get everyone going, try to describe your actions more often. I know I already stated it earlier, but describing your actions beyond “I jump into the lake.” by instead saying something like “I get a running start, and with a curl, I dive headfirst into the lake just behind my allies!” can really give your character a bit of personality. Even stating “I hesitate and wade in behind everyone” can give more depth and color in situations where nothing seems to be happening.
Now you may have noticed that this entire time, I haven’t mentioned the name of the character I narrated the actions of. If you’re a DM, you might not be able to do that since you are more than just one character at a time, but players (unless you’re playing multiple of your own characters and one hasn’t been referenced yet) can easily do this, and it really helps others (including you!) to feel as if they’re actually in the world participating instead of observers voting on what happens.
Another tip I have is to try and include others in your RP. You don’t have to seclude your actions to one-person actors, but you can really do some incredible things, such as tossing an ally forward, dancing together, snuggling up or tucking each other in before bed (a child PC is great for this), helping each other pass an obstacle, follow up on another player’s actions and more! Doing this really helps to make others feel engaged in the game, even making combat feel much more dynamic, and it can really show everyone how two characters feel about each other.
One more thing for you to try is to describe your spells when you haven’t cast them in a while. For example: “I call forth an avatar of death and hand in the diamond and state ‘payment for my friend’s return.’” could be a great way of flavoring revivify for a character with close ties to death. Even Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything pg. 116 encourages personalizing your spells, such as adding spectral chicken legs to everything, or turning magic missile’s darts into chickens, or detecting Foul Play… Ok, that one was mine but you can theme it around everything. One way I like to think of an artificer casting Feather Fall is by tossing out small little propellers that latch on and turn them and start spinning like little helicopters. The possibilities are endless!
Of course, some people want an incentive to do this before actually committing to it. And if you ask me, there’s no better incentive than advantage whenever you like from Inspiration from pg. 140 of the DMG, though RAW, you cannot have more than one Inspiration at a time, though you can give it to other players. However, I don’t like this method of Inspiration as it doesn’t feel good when you get it a second time, so I instead use a system I call “Awesomeness” which is like inspiration, but you can have any amount, and if you accumulate enough, you can spend them on extra ability score increases, or even boons (features that are typically only rewarded after level 20. Think of it as 5E’s beyond level 20 system.) if you get even more. Plus, players can use it to change their environment in non-game-breaking ways, returning twice what was spent if what they described was already there. A benevolent DM might even give you a Feat for RP!
All in all, RP is really important to DnD. You can have a game without it, but it’s little more than a hack and slash at that point, and all the mental ability scores (INT, WIS, CHA) become almost meaningless outside of saving throws and class-based features. Plus, if your DM is really awesome, they might permit things that were otherwise impossible to be attempted, grant advantage to rolls, or even let something succeed outright just because you did such a great job describing how you did it. Whatever the case, don’t let the pressure of being around others keep you from RP. Sing if you need to! And let your imagination run wild! Your DM and fellow players will (hopefully) thank you.