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Roleplaying Learning Experiences

Dat Oni

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How ya doing? I wanna talk about something kind of personal here, and I hope it opens up some good discussion.

Look, let's not dance around the issue, I was a bad roleplayer when I got into this game. I did so many things wrong and I have a lot of regrets as a result. The last 6 years have given me time to refine my skills by participating in DND with other people. I've learned a lot, and I wouldn't have had the chance if not for the latest edition of the franchise and my discovery of the now deceased Stormbrew Games on my street. As of this moment I have a group of about 4 people, mostly highschoolers and my girlfriend, who I host a campaign for. Being a DM was a frightening prospect that I broke into after the store's world campaign ended, after seeing multiple people show up hungry for more DND but bereft of anyone to host a campaign. I picked up a copy of Storm King's Thunder, said "fuck it" and went ham. It was a fateful decision, and what followed was honestly the worst campaign I've ever created, but it was an incredible experience. I learned so much in such a small period of time, the most important of which was figuring out what my strengths actually were.

See, back in the day, I didn't know what the fuck to do with my characters. I didn't know whether I wanted to make them super goofy, or super serious, what power level they should have, and most importantly, how to stay consistent with a personality and motives. Combine that with an unhealthy mental state at the time, and I was just destined to flop with everything. After some time having to do literally every NPC in a campaign, you begin to understand what kind of character mold you fit into, and what performances you can sell. For me, it turned out that I was really good at making characters that were comedic, goofy, eccentric, and above all else, incredibly interesting to hear speak. When I made a villain, dark and brooding just didn't work, but pompous, confident, and melodramatic? Now, that I could do. Put simply, when I did a villain correctly, it was when I was emulating a villain like Syndrome from Incredibles. Super serious undertones just didn't vibe well with my eclectic personality. When I was roleplaying an NPC, I wanted to move and gyrate physically, really emote, and I found I couldn't do a lot of that with serious characters.

The point where I finally realized this was with my current campaign and a certain character. Session zero started with an orc named Guff, and Guff is a special orc. His voice sounds like a simpsons character, and in sharp contrast to everyone else, he swears profusely, even when its not necessary. His introduction was the sound of him yelling fuck at the top of his lungs because he'd fallen into a ravine (not even a deep one) when the bridge he was traveling on broke, and consequently snapped his femur in half. It was then that I also established that this was how Orcs actually sound in this campaign, setting the tone in the process. Yes, in my worldspace, Orcs swear.

Over the course of the following encounter, Guff assists the characters in fighting two hungry Xorns, during which times he is repeatedly knocked unconscious, each time coming back in hilarious fashion. At once point he swings his axe while yelling fuck at the top of his lungs, gets immediately cuffed, falls, gets ressurected, and I have the brilliant idea to have him respawn by reversing his death animation and having him reset back to swinging his axe, with accompanying reversed "KCUUUUUUUUUF". 

The response Guff got from the party was glowing, and god do I need to emphasize how important that is. When you have a focus group of players who will immediately tell you when your characters are not enjoyable, what they find wrong with it, and how you can improve, you just get so much better at it. I lacked that input with my characters in this game. You combine that with not knowing what your strengths are, and it's just a fucking recipe for disaster. I look back at what I tried to achieve and it honestly stings.

Obviously I'm just scratching the tip of the iceberg of what was wrong with my old rp, but I'm bringing it up for a reason, and it's that I want to hear from you guys. What were your learning experiences roleplaying? How did you develop the skills you have now?


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RP is always a learning process. I went through a very similar process in my growth as a roleplayer. I definitely agree that playing tabletop helped to improve it and I always recommend trying it out to anyone looking for ways they can be a better RP'er. Keep up the good work, and don't be afraid to revisit that bad character sometime in the future to reshape it into something better with what you've learned. Unless you've killed them off already lol.

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