I didn’t spend my formative years role-playing. Honestly, I didn’t have much interest in it. I liked science fiction and fantasy, but these things didn’t drive me to create character sheets, roll dice, and hang out with nerdy friends. I got thrown into it. Mainly, I was dating a GM. I was in a new town. I was lonely. Hence, my foray into “rolling the bones.”
The reason I stayed was not because of the boyfriend-turned-husband GM. It was simply an outlet for my creative side, the side that loves theatre and acting.
So these are my thoughts on how acting made me a better role-player:
1. What’s my Motivation? (best said in a hoity toity voice)
In acting you are taught to seek out what is driving your character; why they do what they do. Why are they in the play? Are they the conscience of another character? Are they the foil of the protagonist? Are they too legit to quit? These questions affect how your character interacts with the story and others within the play. This makes the backstory for your role-playing character key. For example, your role-playing character, Bob, is motivated by riches and power. He is the one who loots the body (maybe even before you have confirmed death.) However, someone else’s character, Chuck, just wants to find love. He may be introducing himself to the ladies that the group have just saved while Bob is arms-deep in looting the body. The difference here is in their motivation.
2. Have Goals
Each line of a script can be broken down into goals. Your character has a goal in mind for whatever they happen to say or do. My goal is to woo that lady, get to school on time, or make a fine-looking sandwich. This is no different in role-playing; my characters all have numerous goals throughout a campaign. So often role-players will devolve into cheap jokes and ridiculous antics (not that there isn’t a time and place for that revelry, but it doesn’t need to be continuous.). Having a legitimate goal, gives you character purpose. They have small goals (try to get along with the obnoxious paladin, Geoffrey… oh sorry, Geee-awww-fray ) and larger goals (kill Geee-awww-fray; have it look accidental.) These goals are as realistic as our own goals. We adjust them, we add to them, we achieve them, or we abandon them. But they are always there…. like a fungus.
3. Improv: the life blood of thinking on your feet
Doing improv is a great way to improve upon role-playing. You have to be hyper-aware of the group, you have to jump in when needed, and you have to take ownership of your words and your actions. A great game that role-playing always reminds me of is Yes, and. In this particular game, you are creating a narrative with a group (sound familiar?) and it helps you negotiate the differences in other people’s thoughts and ideas. It is a simple game where whatever the person says or does, your response is always, “Yes, and…” as you fill in the blank and keep going. You accept the narrative and then add to the narrative. You are creating together and supporting each other. In role-playing, this idea creates overarching story arcs and doesn’t put up walls in your campaign.
4. The Idea of Team
When cast in a show, the entire ensemble is a cornucopia of personalities. Some people are terrifying, to be completely honest. But working in those environments taught me how to work with others. Which is SO helpful in a long term role-playing campaign. No one is an island in role-playing, even when they are playing an island. They need to contribute to build for the good of the group. Even when tensions arise, there has to be a resolution or some kind of glue to hold it all together. I am going to assert that that glue is bacon, after all there is no ‘I’ in team, but there is ‘MEAT’. So after we feast, then of course we will work on teamwork skills like tolerance and the ability to move past problems and be solution-focused. I was taught those early on in theatre.
5. Supporting Role: It’s Not All about You
One of the biggest things that I was taught in acting, was that I am an excellent supporting actor. I am not the best; I was never the lead in anything. This used to discourage me, but I soon realized that there were no small roles, just small pity parties to have after casting. In role-playing, my characters aren’t always the biggest and best and we are not always focused on my goals. My characters can take a back seat. My quest to find my long-lost brother can wait, so we can clear these goblins out of Blatherville. Did you hear how they burned down Elrick’s bakery? I can easily find a reason to stay and be a part of the group. My turn will come. I’m coming for you, Brother Jolya!
Vanessa is a sarcastic, 30-something wife and mother. She likes things and stuff, but not simultaneously.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.