Stayin' in character!

Author: Andrew /

When you play D&D, you're a real world person taking on the role of a fictional character. You think like they would, you act like they would, you might even talk like they would (if you're good at that sorta thing. If you're not, you're better off not trying lol). The trick here is being consistent with that stuff and staying in character!

To elaborate, we'll define this concept, Staying in Character:

Staying in character is leaving your own personal (out of game,
every-day cares, thoughts and feelings) at the door.

Once you step into the shoes of your character, you are them. Your personal feelings and thoughts on what happens in the game should not affect your character's decisions. You're picking up hints in the DM's voice that there's a trap coming up but your character, at this moment, wouldn't be thinking to look for traps. If you're in character, you won't look for them. If you're out of character / meta-gaming, you'll look for them.

Staying in character is very important to maintaining the immersion of the game and making the game seem like a cohesive world. It's very difficult for players to be drawn into a story when the other players keep breaking out of character and making jokes at the table and pulling attention away from the story, or making light of serious situations.

Now, that said, D&D is a social game and it's ok to have fun in that way while playing but the key is knowing that there's a time and a place. There are ways around this, as well. If you learn to stay in character, you can develop your character's sense of humor, so that when a funny situation pops up, it's natural for your character to comment on it.

One reason lots of players break character is a simple and very core thing: fear. Most players get the idea that the DM is playing against them and they then will try to think (out of character) of any solutions to problems thrown in front of them, thinking that all the DM wants to do is take out their characters. Well, let me tell you this. Any good DM worth their salt doesn't want their players dead. They won't just kill you outright. Without players, there's no game. DM's want to preserve that. If you're role playing and sticking to it, the DM will nudge you along if you get to a point where you need it.

The other thing that a lot of players are afraid of is other players. Role playing is, at its core, acting. Acting means getting out of your shell and having some fun portraying a fictional being. Here's the secret, though. MOST players are afraid of this, so if you decide "You know what, I'm not going to hide in my shell", chances are that everyone won't laugh, but instead will be impressed! Sure, you'll get a laugh from someone but usually they're laughing out of surprise or because what you say and do is really funny! (sometimes humor is just what you're going for!)

The key is to get up the guts to trust your DM and the other players there with you and cut loose and get in character. Stay there. Find creative ways to keep your brain dialed into "Ok, until we take a break, I'm Dorgran, the dwarven warrior and 'real life' stuff can wait (unless it's important)."

This is a tricky subject but I believe that the concept itself is very simple: Don't act like yourself, act like your character would instead. If you do this, your game experience will be exceedingly better!

Thanks for reading and hope to hear from you all!


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sourceofthepresence said...

Separating the real-life player from the in-game character is hard for a lot of people, it seems. In my experience, this takes the form of the player essentially playing himself—with a different skill set, maybe, but certainly the same personality (albeit unrestrained from the consequences of reality).

In other words, they take their real-life frustrations out on the game, and most frequently that isn't very productive at all. Okay, yeah, it sucks that you got a speeding ticket on the way to the game why did you just randomly beat the crap out of that dwarf town constable again, when the lich was escaping?

Aack. Do not want. I'll admit my bias as a "method actor" type roleplayer, but this sort of asshattery really doesn't belong in the game. Fantasy is supposed to be an escape from reality...

Oh, dear. I'm ranting again, aren't I?

Back to topic: metagaming takes a lot of forms on both sides of the game table. Players will have their characters rush into suicidal battles because they know the DM will fudge things rather than let a TPK happen. DMs will have all the monsters play to the party's weaknesses...and single out the PCs who are most in need of a comeuppance. It is impossible for two characters to have an argument without the two players getting upset (or vice-versa).

Really, this is a bad habit that needs to be curtailed as much as possible (admittedly, some metagaming is inevitable). A good player should see with the characters eyes, not their own; they should base the character's decisions on the character's history and personality, not their own. In-game problems should not spill out into real life, nor should real-life problems be dealt with in the game.

silent stone said...

And why won't blogger just let me use one alias? mechamonogatari, sourceofthepresence, silent stone, that's all I doing something wrong here?

Andrew said...

Lol, I couldn't tell you, sir. That said, I agree. I think, to some degree, players need to distance themselves from the game in order to delve deeper. I love my characters but at the same time, when I play, I've also matured enough to the point where I can understand what happens in the game and I understand that deaths are part of the game. Honestly, I've never had a character get killed off, aside from my first. And usually, when a player dies, it's at least partially their own fault for making a decision that got them killed.

When it comes down to it, yeah, some metagaming will happen. Inevitable. But I think the trick is, as a DM, to let players know that, while you don't want to kill your players, some can and will die if certain actions are taken.

A good player should see through the eyes of their character and that's it. You hit the nail on the head. Real life stuff stays out. You can get relief from your everyday stresses in the game but don't use the game as a way of actively taking out your frustrations at the cost of everyone else's enjoyment.

Thanks again for the comment, sir. Always a pleasure!

Andrew said...

Also, welcome to the Taken! =]

Magus Stragus said...

Ok, time for my comment. I really liked this post. I hate when metagaming ruins my sessions. Specially the outside jokes and stuff like that. Or when my players don't want to talk to themselves (they say to me "I say them what I saw in the corridor"). Geez! How I hate that!

But, I understand that it is no simple thing to leave out the metecomments of a table, and even harder to do it when you have no actors in your table. If you have a table like that, try to encourage players who stay in character with small rewards (I usually give extra XP or action points as rewards).

Btw, I didn't have a welcome message... ¬_¬ Being the first is not enough... /joke

silent stone said...

I agree wtih Magus: DMs positively reinforcing good roleplaying with rewards is important.

I'm thinking the next time I DM for a group (my current campaign is a single-player one), I'm going to not only award XP to the group equally (everyone will have the same XP total, always, to reinforce teamwork), but only give them one-half to three-fourths of the normal XP awards, with the rest contingent on everyone avoiding too much metagaming and otherwise roleplaying well.

Everyone will get the same XP award and level at the same pace, so they will have a reason to encourage each other to roleplay in order to get the "extra" XP awards, so they can level faster. I hate such horse-and-carrot tactics, but unfortunately, they all too often are necessary to keep the game from being "rolling dice while that one dude tells a fantasy story".

Andrew said...

Yeah, I agree with both of you guys. The idea of keeping it all to the group is a great idea, Silent. I've played in games where RP stuff was individually rewarded and I took advantage of that bigtime. I RP'd my butt off! I drew pictures, I wrote huge backstories and journals, I RP'd in game, the whole shebang! The only problem was that I got SO much bonus exp that, over time, my character grew and grew and grew and one day, I used a power, (or rather just an attack, because it was 3.5) and it dealt significant damage and whatnot and it provoked someone to ask what level I was. Turns out I was 2 or 3 levels above everyone because I'd done so much extra work!

That said, that was a great feeling. It was like a barter system where the more you put into the game, the more you got out of it. If you worked your butt off, your character would directly benefit. I really liked that and I want to integrate that into a game I play or run some time because that immediate pay-off is fantastic and there needs to be something like that.

And Magus, welcome back! hehe

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