Roleplaying Tip: Create Ties That Bind

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0920

Create Ties That Bind

DM David has five quick tips for encouraging players to roleplay (the comments are good too). One tip immediately jumped out at me as something I need to do more often. Maybe it would help your players as well.

Social awkwardness prevents roleplay. Especially with new players, new groups, and disparate groups.

When everyone’s a stranger, no one wants to risk looking silly in front of the others.

Be A Great MC

As game master and impeccable master of ceremonies, you do what you can to make folks feel comfortable. You introduce yourself, smile, and be friendly and supportive.

You also ask players to introduce themselves. It might be a bit uncomfortable for them, but that moment might be their first time in the spotlight and speaking to the table, and it’ll help get people out of their shells.

So make it easier on them by asking each player to share their name, how long they’ve been playing RPGs, whether they’ve played the game system before, and their favourite type of character to play.

Simple questions to get folks familiar with each other and speaking up.

Tent cards with player name and character name help a lot too. They double well for initiative.

Ties That Bind

Fast forward past character creation.

…And, even experienced groups can benefit from this tip.

In DM David’s words, “…Ask each player to invent a reason their character feels loyalty, friendship, or trust toward another character at the table. Both players must negotiate so the connection suits their characters. Every player should invent a new bond so most characters feel tied to two others.”

Create connections between characters.

This gives players a reason to collaborate from the start.

And because connections are in-game it’ll encourage players to picture the situation through their character’s eyes and roleplay more.

Also encourage players to speak in-character to one another.

A boon for you in all this is bringing the party together better. Because sometimes it’s tricky.

d10 Character Connections

A favourite connection involves PCs as siblings or family members. That connects the entire group in one swoop. Throw in a family secret for later discovery and you have a good player bond.

Which brings up a good point.

Add Plot to Your Ties

Even if that plot does not come into play right away, you can use it to explain why the PCs are in the world taking risks together. Also create initial missions with these small PC plots that trigger your bigger plot arcs.

Here are some connection ideas:

  • Monster hunters. Victims of the same monster, they now quest to kill a specific one or one type.
  • Ulek Prince. They have a clue about a horde of loot perhaps based on a mysterious message from a noble in a faraway land.
  • We’re in the band. They perform together and quest for magical instruments or a legendary teacher.
  • As part of a guild, church, or faction, the PCs are on a mission of truth.
  • Called out by crazy scrawlings or strange susurrations, the characters venture forth to meet their destiny.
  • The characters are bound by a curse. They quest to get it removed.
  • Test of mettle. The PCs are sent out to experience the world and test themselves so they can return and gain full community status.
  • Master work. The characters share the same mentor and quest on their behalf.
  • Spread the word. The PCs have a dream, agenda, or message to share and want to change the world with it.
  • Prison break. The characters have escaped prison. Perhaps each knows a clue to where a fellow inmate buried his ill-gotten booty.

A quick tip: Avoid connections that impose restrictions. Players might not enjoy them, and it might put them at a disadvantage compared with other party members.

Also avoid time limits. It might be tempting to send PCs out for a cure, but then be prepared for that to become the players’ main focus. They won’t want to dally or hit side quests if their mission is to save folks back home.

Next time you start a campaign or when a new character joins the party, connect the characters together. It helps players feel more comfortable and gives them a wonderful prompt to roleplay.