It must be pretty simple, right?
2+2=4, doesn’t it?
But how do you get to four?
Truly playing your character with devotion, attention, and personality can truly make a session fantastic. Some of the best sessions I’ve ever played in have nothing to do with what the DM is putting down but all to do with the character interactions amongst one another – and it is not entirely on the DM to instigate this.
What I love about the newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons is that they really assist in developing your character thematically as you create them. This is what your Bonds, Traits, and Flaws are all about. Arguably, I believe that flaws are the most important aspect of character creation for the role-playing elements of it.
Not everyone is perfect, not all heroes are pure, and their faults is what makes them truly interesting.
After you’ve rolled and determined all of the essentials of your character (class, race, ability scores, bonds, traits, and flaws) I highly recommend writing a backstory. It doesn’t have to be up for the next Pulitzer, but anything coherent and tangible with some key points of how your character came to be who they are today can really help bring them to life. Not only will it assist you in your gameplay later on, but if given to the DM (I always ask for this) they can then incorporate pieces of the character’s past into the campaign. This truly enriches player experience.
But, during gameplay, other than knowing your abilities, spells, and the mechanics of how to play them, what makes your character a true asset to the story? So many people will believe that it’s how much damage you dole out in a fight, or how diplomatically you can solve an issue. Sure, these are essential pieces to playing the game, but they are far from the most important things.
For me, it’s all about whether the player is describing what their character is doing or if they’re actually playing their character.
1. “I want to do a Nature check to see if I know what plants are around here.”
2. “As I scan the area, I notice a lot of plant life in the area. I pause more a moment, trying to recall in my memory if any of these are recognisable to me.”
As a DM or a fellow player, which scenario traps you more? Describe what you want to do as if you were that actual character in that scenario, as if you were truly there, in the Lost Mines of Phandelver. What would you do, what would you say?
I can give you some hints on what you wouldn’t say.
- Ask if you can do skill checks
- Talk about initiative
- Say, “I’m going to try and shoot and because of my sharpshooter feat I’m going to…” No. Don’t do that. Say, “I pull back the string on my bow, my eyes steadied on the target. As I release, the arrow searches for its mark,” and then roll to hit.
Doing simple things like this truly helps to immerse not only yourself but other players into the game. It really makes the DMs play more enjoyable as well, to know that the table really gets into the play.
Playing is so much more than rolling dice and checking skills/abilities or moving miniatures around a map. It’s about collectively creating a story with friends…and what’s a story without good, developing characters?
Image drawn by Doug Nhung, coloured by yzzerdd (Reddit username).