If you watch any of the manifold streams of D&D and other role playing games, it may seem pretty easy to get into character.
They just do it and it looks so easy.
But as you play you find it’s a bit harder than it seems: scenes rarely play out as cinematically as they do in the podcasts, opportunities to roleplay come so suddenly and go so fast, the scenarios you find your character in are rarely the shining moments of triumph you expected, etc…
Let’s face it, getting into character can be tough, especially if you’re new to the genre. Video games and books provide you with characters with well defined personalities, often developed by an entire writing team. In comparison, most roleplay feels a little … flat.
And that’s OK! It takes years to become good at roleplaying and improv and even veterans need practice sometimes.
One of the best ways to “warm up” is to try to get into character: imagine how your character would act in a variety of situations to get a good feel for their personality. That way, whenever an unexpected situation crops up during the session, you already know, intuitively, how your character would act.
Ask yourself the following questions:
A day in the life.
Your character is at an inn, waiting for someone: what do they do while they wait?
Your character is running an errand, it was supposed to take 20 minutes, but they’ve been in line for an hour now. Someone cuts in front of them in line. How do they react?
When arriving at the front of the line, the clerk is extremely bureaucratic and dispassionately informs your character that the paperwork has been filled out wrong and she will not be able to help. How does your character react?
Your character just failed a task given them by a friend or relative. You know the task was important to them: how does your character handle the failure? How do they break the news to their friends/relatives/lovers etc…?
Your character has fallen gravely ill and is bed-ridden for weeks.
What do they do during this time? Visitors are scarce, how do they handle the long, lonely hours? Who comes to visit them the most?
How do they handle facing their own mortality, knowing that each day may be their last and they may die in bed?
Your character comes into an enormous fortune that cannot be spent on magic items, potions, scrolls, or equipment.
What do they buy? Do they spend like there’s no tomorrow?
Do they try to start a business or invest the money? Do they write a will?
Are they ‘showy’ with their money? Are they generous or miserly?
Your character is lost in the wilderness for weeks.
Suddenly they come upon a stranger only to discover that stranger is also lost and has no meaningful survival skills; they may even be a liability.
Does your character stick it out with the lost-soul? Do they try to rob them? Do they try strike out on their own to increase their chances of survival?
After some time with this lost-soul, your character begins to suspect that they are hiding a secret and that they came out into the wilderness with a purpose. How does your character react to their intuition? Do they interrogate the lost-soul? Do they mind their own business?
What is your character’s biggest blind-spot?
All people have flaws that they cannot or choose not to perceive, what is your character’s biggest personality flaw? Can you think of two example scenarios that display this flaw?
What is the one thing your character desires most in the world: is it love, friends, money, redemption, power, or revenge?
At what point would they be willing to sacrifice their friends to get it? At what point would they be willing to sacrifice their money, love, power, or chance at redemption to gain the object of their desire?
For additional warm-up exercises try to place your character into real life situations of disappointment, frustration, or awkwardness. How a person reacts to these situations speaks volumes about their general personality and will help you to get a holistic view of your character.
The better you know how your character reacts in these circumstances, the easier it will be for you roleplay them in the impromptu flow of the game session.