View Full Version : Running for all-new players; How to encourage getting in character?

2015-01-12, 05:08 AM
Hi guys. I'm running a 4e game for some friends at college. They have a great attitude towards it, but since they've never played before its very difficult to get them to roleplay, or to think about what their character could do rather than what they think would be funniest ('I attack the guy who saved me').

Any advice? I've run and played a lot before, but I've always had at least one confident roleplayer to help urge the others along. Anyone got any advice?

Thanks in advance

2015-01-12, 05:59 AM
When I GM I just treat everything the players do with sincere enthusiasm and assume it is a part of the story they want to tell. Then I get into character and think about the consequences of those things and present them as honestly as I can. Seeing the world react to what you do is a big part of the fun of these games and beginning players are going to want to do crazy things to see the full potential of this interactivity. I'd just run with it.

2015-01-12, 01:48 PM
That kind of stuff can definitely be frustrating, and while it's probably fun for them, the game has to be fun for you too. I try to get new players into roleplaying by asking them questions about their character. Sometimes, if they seem like the creative type, I have them write a full backstory. Otherwise I just ask questions. Where did your character come from? What was his childhood like? Who raised him? These kinds of questions make them think about their characters in "human" terms. Suddenly their character is a real person with real thoughts and feelings interacting in a real world. Then move on to what drives them. Why did he set off adventuring? What are his goals and motivations? What are some of his personality traits? Is he honest? Does he like to help people? Is he religious? Does he like to keep to himself? Things like that. These questions give their character some consistency. They can start to make decisions based on consistent character traits.

Also, explain alignment to them and give examples of how characters of their alignments might react to certain situations. Any good or even neutral character isn't going to indiscriminately attack a person who just rescued them.

2015-01-12, 04:20 PM
I've experimented with trying a bit of the FATE system, asking players to come up with a few aspects of their character that have positive and negative effects, giving them tokens when they roleplay well or accept a suboptimal choice I suggest which their character might take, such as a paladin behaving according to their code even when impractical. In return, when fighting for one of their values or in a way befitting an aspect, they could spend tokens for bonuses on rolls, starting at +4 and declining over time once they got used to it.

2015-01-12, 04:26 PM
Don't force it and try to set a non-judgmental tone for the game.

Most people need to feel relaxed and comfortable to RP anyways.

Beta Centauri
2015-01-14, 01:13 PM
Help them find ways to act in character without punishing themselves. By the same token, when they do act in character, try not to punish the players for it for it. Punish the characters, sure, but do so in a way that doesn't punish the characters. That's an important distinction.

I've often seen players say, in a frustrated tone, "Well, I know that the door is trapped, but I don't have any reason not to walk through it, so I guess I do! How much damage do I take?" or "Well, I failed my Insight check, so I guess I do exactly as he says!" The player feels trapped, because they see their options as either suffering in-character consequences, or suffering the social stigma of appearing to be a bad roleplayer. They split the difference by taking the damage and being a bad sport about it.

In those kinds of situations, I prefer to tell the player that I will help them come up with an in-character reason to do whatever it is they want their character to do. I will retcon, I will create entirely new (though consistent) facts, whatever. Some players will wave that off and say no, it's no big deal, they'll do the negative thing, in-character. Others will accept the offer to have an in-character "out." Either way, they're acting in-character.

Other times, a player might say "Now, I know this might cause a problem, but I think my character would do..." something that would, plausibly, cause a problem, either in the game, or with the GM's plans. It's common for a GM to wash their hands of the issue and just let the "logical" consequences rain down, often resulting in weapons being drawn and guards being called, and everyone getting to roleplay being either cop-killers or inmates. All because someone wanted to roleplay.

A GM can, in that situation, look for ways for the desired roleplaying choice to play out in a way that, while it still has negative consequences for the characters, is fun, interesting and rewarding for the players. There's no good general way to do this, except to go into these kinds of exchanges with the firm intention to focus on an outcome that's fun for the players first, and realistic as close a second as possible.

The barbarian makes an obscene comment at a social function? We've all seen this in shows and movies: there's stunned silence, everyone looks at the most important person there, and that person bursts out laughing, not at the character but at the amusing comment. Everyone else laughs and the situation defuses. Consequence: now the important person insists on hanging around with the droll barbarian who tells it like it is, which hinders the PC, but puts him in a position to get the information the group needs.

The paladin insists on standing up to some enemy that can pulverize him? Could be that the player wants the paladin pulverized, but if they're feeling like they have to then maybe there's another option. I think shows and movies give us ideas for this, too. The hero gets the snot pounded out of him, but the enemy is a little too overzealous and winds up losing the hero. The structure collapses, appearing to crush the hero, but actually just cutting them off from the enemy. The hero falls off a cliff and is presumed dead, but somehow has a survivable landing. Consequence: the PC is heavily wounded and maybe cut off, but has a short (possibly only narrated) side-adventure, maybe learning an important fact (about themselves or the quest) in the process.

Done too often, this kind of thing can strain credulity, just as it does on a TV show. And it's not always easy to see a way to do this, especially on the fly. Don't be afraid to pause, tell the players that you need help to see a way to make the consequences interesting, and work with them.

2015-01-14, 01:41 PM
I know this may sound kind of simple, and I don't think it will be the exclusive solution, but what helped myself as a DM and my players to get more in character was having the idea that the players only refer to each other by their Character names, even in OOC remarks.

Eventually, almost right away actually, if someone's name was said, it'd be their character name lol, it just became natural.

2015-01-14, 07:49 PM
Following Beta's idea, would it help to have a comedy campaign so that no one has to take anything seriously?

Jay R
2015-01-16, 09:20 PM
Following Beta's idea, would it help to have a comedy campaign so that no one has to take anything seriously?

Absolutely. One of the best aspects of TOON is that everybody knows how to play a cartoon character.