1. Identify Concrete Actions
General personality attributes like “shy,” “bold,” or “conniving” are exhibited in many different ways by different people. It takes some thinking to decide how to roleplay them, and it’s best to do that beforehand. You may not have time for thinking when a clan of sea nymphs suddenly ambushes your rowboat.
Instead, plan some precise actions your character should take in specific situations, so that you can simply follow them when the time comes:
- Instead of writing on your sheet that your character is shy, write that your character looks down and mumbles whenever meeting someone new.
- Instead of specifying that your character is bold, specify that your character races out in front whenever there’s a fight.
- Instead of putting down that your character is conniving, put down that your character always says what she thinks others want to hear, regardless of the truth.
Touch base with your GM about the type of game you’re playing and what opportunities there will be for your character. There’s little point to playing a character that negotiates first if your enemies never give him a chance for conversation.
2. Establish Important Relationships
Unless your character has amnesia or was just born, she should have history with other people, and a relationship or two that mean a lot to her. Defining these relationships for your character will provide additional in-character motivation for you to work with.
Talk to the other players, and see one or two of them would like to create a strong bond between their characters and yours. This bond should go beyond the simple camaraderie of an adventuring party. Siblings, former lovers, or war buddies are all good choices. It will give your characters something to talk about, whether it’s a parent, old arguments, or close calls. When a crisis occurs, your character will have something to think about other than his own skin. Will he try to protect his sibling? One-up his former lover? Fall into a comfortable routine with his war buddy?
If you don’t find any ripe opportunities to create history and bonds with the other player characters, an off-screen character can also add flavor to your game. The important part is that your character has a good reason to think about this person, talk about them to others, and even make decisions based on what they would think. Perhaps the reason she’s fighting in the first place is to impress him and win his hand in marriage. Maybe he’s lived his life based on her teachings, and always thinks about what she would do before he acts.
3. Create Unique Speech Patterns
Speaking in a distinctive in-character style can add a lot of flavor to the game, but make it easy for yourself. Don’t try for elaborate accents unless you’re very comfortable with them, and steer clear of anything you might find too restrictive, such as not speaking at all.
Instead, create catch phrases your character can use repeatedly in various scenarios. Exclamations of surprise, cursing, and trash talk work well in most games. Make them distinctive, like Captain Haddock‘s “billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!” and the Terminator’s “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Put down some very simple instructions for ad-hoc speech. Do you have a chatty character that goes on and on? A terse character that says as few words as necessary? Does he craft complete sentences or blurt out disjointed words? Does she speak fast or slow? Loud or quiet? After some practice, you’ll get the rhythm of it and you won’t have to think about it so much.
You don’t have to make your character stand out every minute of the campaign. Other players will need their chance in the limelight too. Just work to keep your roleplaying authentic, and unforgettable moments will naturally occur.
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