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?