roleplaying – the acting out, or performance, of a particular role
What is Dungeons & Dragons without roleplaying? A video game of the mind. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s examine. Assume that no roleplaying is allowed. You play Vengeance, a dragonborn warrior by choosing his actions and guiding him through an adventure. You have a set list of things you can do (powers, feats, rituals, etc.) and you execute them and wait for the consequence. To me, this sounds like the slight upgrade of a video game. (The upgrade being that your imagination does not have a special effects budget) “Vengeance uses breath weapon and deals the orc 24 points of damage.”
What is Dungeons & Dragons with roleplaying? An immersing experience that allows you to stretch your creativity and step out of your own shoes and into the game. Vengeance’s background now affects the game. Vengeance was a tiefling general, cast out by his own people for avenging his murdered family. He contracted a fatal disease but through a ritual and the sacrifice of a friend, Vengeance’s being was placed in the body of a recently-killed dragonborn warrior. Holy-roleplaying-opportunity, Batman! (This story actually happened in our campaign…)
Now you are conflicted! Now you are angry! You’re stuck inside the body of a race you despise yet your own race cast you out! Do you take advantage of this new body and get revenge? Do you accept your punishment and live out your life the best you can? These affect your every decision! Your game now has depth. Your game now has meaning. “Channeling my inner anger, I unleash this new breath weapon in a fury! The fire burns the orc for 24 damage. I step back, amazed at what this new body can do!”
Roll With It
I hope the above example illustrates just what roleplaying can do for you and your game. Not only will it bring out the fun, it will fix a lot of gaming problems. Meta-gaming is reduced, players that are in-character waste less time, and distractions are fewer. To truly add roleplaying depth, have your players each write a background for their character and imagine they went through that. How would it affect their decisions? The way they talk? The way they act?
What are your thoughts/comments/concerns?
Our campaign is run in a semi-created world known as…well, actually we do not have a name yet. But we’re working on that! The 4th Edition D&D campaign known as “Quest for Starfire” takes place in a world that includes some of the published D&D world. You can find remnants of Bael Turath as well as the Nentir Vale in the southeastern region of our world. The special portion of our map is of a region known as “Aestonia.” This is place, originally created by me but expanded upon by our gaming group. Most of the campaign takes place on this massive continent. I’ve created a map of what the place looks like as well as an interactive map on our Obsidian Portal (OP) campaign page (see the new button on the right for a direct link!)
Our shared creation
The map shown here is the main region of Aestonia. Most of the events occur near this area. Keep in mind that this map shows no cities, townships, kingdoms, etc. I like to add them on our OP page as we find them or create them. I’ve been inspired by countless DMs before me to begin world-building more and more. It creates a more connected and real world for the game. The fun part and the secret is this:
Involve your players!
Players who want to participate in world-building should be allowed to! Creative minds working together can create some memorable worlds for memorable campaigns. When the players are familiar with the world and they have put an effort in to help bring it to life, they become more involved during gameplay. Decisions impact them more and they feel the consequences of their actions. NPCs and places come to life! Treasures and stories are spread around and you actually bring life to your campaign and your world.
I even dish out assignments to players who are interested. I have recently had Mac (who plays Stelian) bring to life Shadow’s (played by Cole) hometown by creating a story/history on it. Cole wanted a small northern town ruled by a tyrant lord to be where he was from. He called it Lysoria in his biography. I let Mac handle the rest. I told him to bring to life the tyrant lord and the culture of this northern town. Max (who plays Three) created an artifact sought after by his older character Baurus. Check out “Moradin’s Voice” on our OP Items tab. This is one of the coolest items I have ever seen. It brings to life the dwarven community and heritage of Baurus while creating a story that can be linked into future adventures.
I deal out rewards for players who help create our world and add to it. I will hand out either XP, magic items, or smaller bonuses for a session based on how much they help build. Example: Max currently has a token for the Big Brother bonus. This allows him an immediate reaction to save a teammate who activates a trap from taking damage.
Building comes in the form of stories, people, places, races, magic items, maps, pictures, etc. Anything a player can dream up can help make a world more real. Explore our OP campaign pages via the cool new button on the right and feel free to use it as inspiration! Build, assign, reward, enjoy. Watch your campaign and world come to life through collective world building!
Until next time,
Hey there, readers!
First off, I would like to share this link and let everyone know that a dungeon of mine was nominated and I am up for Acerak’s Apprentice in Chris Perkins’ weekly column. The voting ends tomorrow, I believe. Check it out here and vote:
I will not tell which is mine as I hope everyone votes for the dungeon they believe to be best. Now onto my content for the week…
This past week I learned a few lessons in running a D&D campaign. My campaign “A Quest for Starfire’s Gaze” has been running since December 2010. It’s a 4th edition campaign that started at level 1 and we are currently at level 22 and in the epic tier. We have begun the final dungeon in the 4th edition Tomb of Horrors adventure. (I will not post any spoilers, I promise!) Here are some quick lessons learned from our last session:
- Keep D&D sessions to 5-6 hours at the maximum. We played for 11 hours at our last session for the first time ever. Players start to get pissy, roleplaying suffers, and as a DM…you drain yourself. More gets done and more fun is had in the shorter games.
- Be careful when adding new players mid-campaign. Adding someone is always fun. We’ve only added one person between levels 1-22. This week we added 2 new PCs. Person A clashed with a current PC (which is no fair to either) and person B was a phenomenal player and roleplayer but he was so into it that he and person A also clashed (is there a pattern here with player A?)
- Tornado warnings tend to interrupt games. As does extreme hail and funnel clouds visible from your window. Just know that.
- Have plenty of space. Cramped play space is no fun. We had two huge tables put together and the room it allowed actually made the game more fun. Have plenty of space!
- Have fun but stay focused and keep the game moving. You get more done, have more fun, and everything stays smooth when you focus on the task at hand and don’t waste time. Keep the game focused and keep it moving.
Use these to make your games better and don’t forget to go vote for Acerak’s Apprentice!!!