So you’ve seen the people role-playing on Critical Role and you’re intimidated. You can’t quite find your character’s voice. You feel embarrassed to try to do accents and fear being laughed at. We’ve all been there! How do you escape that anxiety and just dive into your characters head by role-playing? It isn’t easy, but allow yourself to pass through that embarrassment. You’re around a table with friends. Experiment! See what you like and what you don’t. Being prepared will help considerably so give these tips and tricks a try to Level Up your Role-Playing Game.
Voice & Body Language
Did you know that you already have nine voices at the ready based off of your normal speech? Check it out! It’s as easy as changing your normal voice’s pitch or speed. BOOM. Instant voice acting to help get you in the role-playing mindset.
If you have fun playing with accents or manner of speech, embrace it! Sometimes it’s easy when using different accents to transition out of the accent into other territory (British to Australian, Irish into Scottish, etc). So how do you stay the course of your accent? Have a trigger phrase! A trigger phrase is a sentence or a few words that you can always say in the accent. When you have a phrase you can go back to with confidence, you can get your brain back into the accent easier. Vowels and Rs are really unique to a lot of accents, so if you’re unsure if you’ve found the trigger phase for you, find an example with more of these in it. For me, I find the following examples are super helpful:
YouTube is another fantastic tool. You want to try out a new accent? Search for speech examples of the accent and practice it while you’re watching the video. It can help you find your trigger phrase too!
If you’re uncomfortable trying out accents, don’t despair. There are TONS of other ways to role-play at the table. Body language can speak volumes when you’re trying to role-play. Does your character have a tendency to talk with their hands? Do they play with their hair? Do they fold their arms across their chest? Want to look really methodical with varying degrees of sinister? Lean your elbows on the table with your hands like Mr Burns.
Know Your Character
When you get inside their head and know who they are, you know how they would react to different scenarios more clearly. That clarity means there’s one less thing to think about when you’re deciding how to role-play. How do you learn more about your character? A great start is in the Player’s Handbook, where you can pick from a predetermined list of Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws. If you’re not able to find quite what you’re after, you can always make up your own, too! For players or DMs looking for extra advice on character development, here are some of the details we at Mym’s Well focus on specifically:
When you know what the character’s ultimate goal to strive for is, you know their motivation. That motivation can help guide you on their opinions in different interactions. For example: My Glamour Bard, Fiora Starbreeze, is motivated by her protectiveness of her brother, Mym (yes the Mym of Mym’s Well!). If he’s involved in the situation, I immediately know that she’s going to either A) Look out for his best interests, or B) Use Vicious Mockery on him in jest to mask the anxiety she feels about the perilous situations they find themselves in. Knowing how she will act helps me fall right into the first person perspective to act out the scenario, demonstrating who Fiora is, and thus making her feel more lifelike to the entire table. This immersion is what helps level up the D&D experience for the whole party.
Another critical point to focus on when knowing your character is their flaws. You can gain SO much by knowing what they’re bad at. If you’re wanting to level up your role-playing game, try to pick a flaw that can be easily acted out at the table. Going back to my character, Fiora Starbreeze, anyone can EASILY pinpoint that her most observable flaw is her vanity. To role-play up that vanity, I’m CONSTANTLY at the table pretending to flip her majestic AS F*CK hair over her shoulder when she talks to someone she’s trying to persuade. When she’s unimpressed, she becomes condescending and I pucker my lips, tilt my head down and look at the DM or player she’s talking to and just stare, or roll my eyes. I also play a character named Mira Remigold, a goody two-shoes cleric with low self-worth. Recently she went through a tough fight, dislocating her shoulder and shattering her confidence. To role-play this to the table while conversing in character, I look to the person then immediately avoid eye-contact, looking down in a defeated manner. Often I’ll cradle my arm, representing Mira’s healing shield arm, and keep my sentences very short and stuttery, too. Once you figure out what their flaws are, you can figure out how that physically manifests and determine what’s fun for you to act out.
Word Choice & Show VS. Tell
Your choice of words can really help showcase your character and ease you into role-playing. Are you playing a high noble, a street urchin, a hermit unfamiliar with local customs? Knowing your character’s back story can help provide role-playing inspiration. If you’re playing a scholar or a well-educated individual, use a wide range of vocabulary, avoiding slang phrases. Elect to use words like, “Grand.” “Excellent.” “Splendid.” Instead of “Cool.” “Dope.” “Sweet.” You might even elect an adjective they often use to describe a plethora of different situations, like Vizzini.
One thing that I cannot stress enough to help you immediately shift into role-playing easily is to simply switch perspectives. Use the pronoun “I”, not “He/She/They”. A lot of people that are uncomfortable role-playing prefer to speak on behalf of their character instead of saying it AS the character. Making this transition is the simplest method to let the rest of the table know you’re acting in character. It’s all about the Show instead of the Tell.
Example of speaking on behalf of your character (TELL): “Fiora walks into the bar and starts asking the bartender if she can play music in exchange for a room. She’ll try to convince the bartender that she’s talented and that he should accept her offer.”
Example of speaking in character (SHOW): “I walk towards the bartender. ‘Good evening, sweet gentleman. You have a wonderful establishment. Might I offer my musical services to entertain the occupants of your fine tavern in exchange for a night’s stay?’ I physically flip my hair over my shoulder and smile. ‘I assure you, I’ll bring in so many patrons, you’ll need to get a second coin purse from all of the ale you’ll be selling.’ ”
When you speak on behalf of your character, you’ll telling about the exchange. When you speak in character, you are showing the exchange, letting the table experience it first-hand. Your friends learn so much more about your character when you engage the situation from the “I” perspective, and you become more involved and invested in the story-telling! That being said, there is often a lot more improv involved with Showing an exchange off. It’s a skill, and as a skill, it can be worked on and honed! So, practice, practice, practice!
All sorts of things to digest! Let’s recap.
- Play with your voice: accents, speed of speech, change of pitch
- Switch up your body language
- Know your character’s goals and flaws
- Word Choice to fit their disposition and background
- Using the “I” Perspective & Show VS. Tell
If you’re new to role-playing or scared by it, try implementing one of these tips at a time until you find what works for your character and your comfort level. DMs looking into learning how to role-play for lots of NPCs, check out our article on the four Fs of NPC design, https://mymswell.com/2018/11/26/using-biology-to-design-npcs-the-four-fs/ for really applicable insight in addition to this article.
Push yourself to learn and hone your role-playing skills with these tricks and you may find that you’ve Leveled up your D&D Role Playing Game. ❤