Roleplaying in D&D is a great way to create stories, experience emotions and allow creativity to flow. It’s also an excellent opportunity for social interaction. But how do you start? For those wondering how to roleplay in DnD, I’d boil it down to a few simple steps:
- Know your character very well
- Listen to what’s happening in the campaign
- Respond to what’s happening in character
Roleplaying in DnD is much more complicated than that, but that’s the short of it. I created a full list of tips on how you can more successfully roleplay. Click below to get started!
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How to Roleplay in DnD
Like I mentioned above, roleplaying in D&D essentially boils down to three primary steps. The first is knowing your character intimately. The next is listening to what’s happening in your campaign (this can be difficult when a lot’s going on and you’re also thinking about what to do next). The last is to respond to whatever happens in character. Having said that, let’s get started with these RP tips for beginners and experts alike.
Start with a character (somewhat) similar to you
This definitely isn’t a must, but it can be extremely helpful for brand new D&D players. For example, if you are deeply introverted and you decide your character is extremely boisterous, loud, and extroverted, that’s going to be difficult for a long campaign. Starting with a character that has similar personality traits as you do makes it so you have to think much less about how the character would act in a situation, and focus more on the other players, the combat, and situations your character is in.
Craft your character around fictional characters you love
For a first D&D player, it can be helpful to create your character’s personality based on one that you’re intimately familiar with and love. If you’re a huge fan of the TV show, How I Met Your Mother, for example, and base your character off Ted Mosby, that gives you a lot to work with when roleplaying. You could even go as far as giving your character the same profession!
Don’t be intimidated
Roleplaying is a great way to have fun and get creative, but it can be a little intimidating to new players. The best way to get started is to start small, with just one or two players, and work your way up from there. You don’t need fancy props or anything like that; you just need your imagination!
Being a “good” role player doesn’t mean being good at roleplaying
An important thing for people to keep in mind is that you don’t need to be good at roleplaying to be a good D&D player. I know that sounds confusing, but I don’t think that there are “characteristics of a good roleplayer” in D&D. One of the worst D&D players is one who’s not really into it. Playing D&D with someone who’s uninterested in the game or character can bring down the session. In my opinion, the best role player in D&D is one who’s genuinely excited and trying. Because there’s no perfect way to roleplay.
Also, remember that roleplaying doesn’t equal talking. Some of the best roleplaying scenarios I’ve witnessed are ones where characters, appropriately, were very timid and thoughtful before speaking. In some instances, speaking very few words. So, when confronted in D&D, remember that you don’t need to respond with a lot of words, just stay true to how your character would react. And if that’s a simple nod at times, then that’s completely fine.
Basically, stop asking, “How can I be better at DnD roleplay” and do your best.
For those wondering how to encourage players to roleplay, remember that it can be difficult (especially when they’re very introverted). Let them go at their own pace and involve them as much as possible. Over time, they should open up and lock in.
Nothing’s set in stone and there are no real rules
There are no real rules for what you can do in a roleplay, but there are some basic guidelines that will help to keep things interesting. Alright, there are rules in D&D, but one thing people often forget is that nothing’s set in stone. For example, your character’s personality, especially early on, can change. If, on session 1, you have a British accent, but decide you don’t want to do that (or can’t do it well), it’s completely fine to switch it up. Over time, things will solidify. Long story short: It’s completely fine to figure your character out. Everyone else is doing the same thing.
Have your character’s background and history on hand
For each session, make sure you have a copy of your character’s background/history on hand (click here to learn how to write a DnD character backstory). It’s easy to know what your character would say or do when you have that history at your finger tips. For example, if someone asks about your family, you can look at your reference sheet. And if a creature is speaking a foreign language your character knows, it’s nice to easily reference your background to double check (click here to learn about the best languages in D&D).
Having your character background on hand makes for an easy transition.
Think from your character’s perspective
Roleplaying is simply a type of improvisation. It’s not just about the imagination and creativity, but also about actually getting into the character’s mindset to be more believable.
Keep your character’s alignment in mind
As a part of the point above, keep in mind how your character is aligned. This will guide many of the decisions they make. Knowing that your character is chaotic good, for example, will be helpful if you’re deciding between to morally subject choices.
Think about your character’s voice
Does your character have a unique accent that you’re good at? I mentioned above that it’s completely fine for your character’s accent and voice to change. So think through what could make sense and do your best to talk with that voice. Even a slight change to your normal accent will go a long way in making your character feel different than you, and help you get and stay in character much more.
Give your character a unique personality quirk
Giving your character a unique trait or quirk is a great way to help “get into character” when you feel lost. For example, I played a Cleric with a personality similar to Claptrap in Borderlands. He’s a robot with a very bright personality. Knowing that, it made for some very fun role play opportunities where other players or NPCs asked about how I came to be and what not. Going back to the fact that I was a robot in each situation helped me stay in character and act the way a robot would.
Focus more on other characters than yourself
It’s difficult to roleplay well when you’re completely focused on how your character should act, what your character should say, and what your character should do next. It’s easier said than done, but try to focus more on what the party is doing and saying and, keeping your character in mind, respond accordingly. Over time, this becomes much, much easier (natural, even).
Let your imagination run wild
Roleplaying is a great way for people to have fun and let their imagination run wild. The most important thing in roleplay games is to make it fun for all players involved.
Think about what you want to do and then act that out
A common mistake I find when playing D&D, and one that I’ve personally done myself, is saying something like, “I’d like to roll to charm this person.” A better response would be, “I walk up to the store owner and say, ‘Your store is absolutely incredible. No wonder everyone in the town told our group we needed to stop by.’ And I’d like to make a roll to charm the store owner.” Something like that will make the game feel much more realistic, and be much more interesting and exciting for everyone at the table.
Don’t try to control what happens, react to what happens in character
One thing that players will often do is attempt to control a situation so it ends with a better outcome. This makes sense because, at the end of the day, we want our characters to thrive and successfully complete whatever’s happening. The reality, though, is that there’s no perfect “mission”, and bad things happen in every story. In fact, it’s the worst things in D&D stories that are often the most memorable. So, instead of arguing who wins ties in your D&D campaign, simply make your rolls and react to whatever happens in character.
Do your best to stay in character
If you play D&D, you’ve likely heard about or listen to Critical Role. It’s one of the best D&D podcasts out there. Having said that, one thing they do particularly well is staying in character, even when they’re asking Matt Mercer (DM) a question. I would suggest the same thing. As much as possible, do your best to stay in character, even when you’re asking a clarifying question to your DM. This will go a long way in teaching you to get and stay in character. The longer you’re in character, the easier it is to get and stay in character.
For those wondering, “How do you practice roleplaying” or “How to roleplay through text,” the answer is simple: At the end of the day, the best way to practice roleplaying in DND is by doing it. Whether you’re involved in DnD roleplay online, or even DnD roleplay Discord, keeping the above tips in mind are sure to help you improve your experience. You’ll get better and better over time. And don’t worry about looking stupid because seasoned D&D players make mistakes every time. It’s all about having fun!
Remember to take it easy and don’t overthink things. Some of the most difficult times in D&D can happen when you’re overthinking a situation and aren’t fully there. Simply let loose and remember to:
- Know your character very well (even making adjustments over time as needed)
- Listen to the DM and other characters more than you speak
- React to whatever happens in character without trying to change outcomes
Keeping these simple steps in mind will go a long way in helping you improve your D&D roleplay. In no time, you’ll be writing your own D&D modules (if you’re already at that point, click here to learn how to write a D&D module).
Frequently Asked Questions About Roleplaying in DnD
If you’ve read the guide above, you may still have a few questions. I compiled and answered a couple of the most-asked questions regarding roleplaying in D&D.
Do you have to roleplay in DnD?
Yes! It’s essential to roleplay in D&D. We should change our perception of what a “roleplay” really is, though. It’s not necessary to have an accent or feel like you’re acting on stage. Roleplay can be as simple as you talking the way you normally would, and reacting to a situation the way you would.
What makes a good role play?
While this is pretty subjective, I personally think that a good role play is one where people are trying their hardest. There will always be ups and downs, and days where someone didn’t feel like they roleplayed their best, but if you’re trying your hardest then that’s great. Click here to learn how to start a DnD campaign the right way.