Rules and Advice
Game Mastering
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November 26, 2005, 11:04 am

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Roll Playing Fixes


Say, MoonHunter, have any packs to give to a character to make them actually roleplay instead of just dictating their character’s actions? The majority of my players just do this.

ME:“You see a grizzled old knight with a scar over his face. He walks up to you and greets you with an ancient Cardomian salute, though he is unfamiliar to your eye.”
THEM:“I say “Hi.”
ME:“That’s it?”
THEM:“Yes. Now, I walk around him and open the door.”
ME:“But, but, he’s an important story character!”
THEM:“F**k the story! I want gold and XP, dammit!”
ME:“I hate you more than you’ll ever know.”

1) The roleplay modifier is a D&D/ D20 tool, or for any gamesystem that does not have a built in roleplay reward system (rolemaster). 

Rate the character’s roleplay performance from 1-10. 1 is for no roleplaying (like your example); 10 is the level of roleplaying you expect of your players (not what they do, but what they should be doing).  The RP modifier for a given session is that number divided by 10, giving you a range between .1x and 1x

Take the amount of experience points the characters earned due to defeating threats, taking out traps, and so on, for that session.  Multiply that by the multiplier.  That is the amount they earn for that run.

Yes, bad roleplayers earn a fraction of their expected experience.  

Watch your roleplay dead players scream, especially if one player is adequate in their roleplaying.  They will begin to see the metagaming advantages of roleplaying.  Those that don’t will only advance a tiny amount, while those that do will advance at a good clip in comparison. 

This technique has been used by several GMs with several different power gamers and rules lawyers and tacticians.  In every case, they improved their roleplaying level to at least the minimally acceptable amount.

2) Conception bonus:
A player turns in a written history of their character, that explains where the character came from, where they learned the skills they have, what their characters are like, and some of the people they know.   Upon completion, they receive 1-1000 Exp based on completeness and usefulness of the conception.  Allow players to rewrite their conception piece every now and again, in an attempt to get a better score.  (“Okay the old one was worth 325, it is now worth 500, take the 175 exps).

If you have a back history that you actually understand, then you have something that you understand to build upon and roleplay with.  If players start linking their conceptions (oh you have a master of the sword in Altair.. cool then I will use him for my sword master too), then it gives them something to work with each other with.

3)Bonus Chips: 
Pull out some poker chips.  Whites are 1, Reds 5, and Blues 25.

Bonus chips have three functions in the game: 1) they are traded in to allow you to reroll a die roll, 2) they are traded in to allow you to dictate the result of a non dramatic roll, 3) they can be use to make an NPC reroll (if you the GM choose not to allow the reroll, they earn a chip), 4) they can be converted into a nominal amount of experience (50 to 100 xp for D20)

How do you earn bonus chips you ask?  You do something that is a bonus to the game.  You roleplay a scene well, you come up with an ingenious plan, you contribute something to the overall campaign. (An optional one is bringing your GM Pizza or suitable food bribe). 

The advantage of bonus chips is that they are immediate rewards for good roleplaying or in genre roleplaying, as well as superior play in other area.  They are a teaching reward; a great pavolovian training device; an obvious reward for an immediate action.  All of a sudden, like the rats looking for pellets, all the players will be trying to earn these things.  They will begin to try harder to earn chips, sometimes putting in more effort than they are worth. Turn it into a competition on who can earn the most in a given night. Get their own “win” natures on your side. 

I have a number of roleplay tips at   Search for Player, Roleplay, all the world, and a few others that escape me right at the moment.  Or just F5…. alot. 

Yes, I am something of a gaming guru. You are warned. 
Yes, I have been gaming for a while, since 1975-1976. So I have seen it all.

Now if we can head back to topic….

Most games suffer from the GM’s lack of organization.  Most GMs do not have a nearly photographic memory, so they are constantly forgetting little things that impact the campaign.  That is why taking note and being organized lets you take your game to the next level.  If you start organized, with world creation, then it is easier to maintain the organization (less work in the end) and gives you the advantage having players that know the things they should know. 

Think about it… When we read a story, the characters in the story know a great deal about the world (in general). They learn new things over the course of the story, but as a general statement, they know the basics of their world.  When we game, we create a story, with the players writing their character’s actions and dialog, and the GM writing the rest and functioning as the editor.   What good does it do anyone if the story is marred by stupid mistakes that could of been avoided if the character knew something basic about their world? 

Besides, if the players are not creating functional characters… you can remind them about how their character is coming across to other… so they begin to treat the characters like simpletons and children… because that is their apparent level of knowledge.

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Comments ( 5 )
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Voted Zylithan
November 30, 2005, 12:06
It's a common solution, but a very important technique to be aware of if you want role-playing instead of roll-playing.
May 13, 2006, 14:39
Two additional pieces of advice in this area:

1) Communicate with your players. You are a group of people trying to have fun, so you all need to know what is "fun" for most of you. Let them know what your (GM's) expectations in terms of roleplay and story. Conversely, you need to listen to what they want in a game. Hopefully the goals are not mutually exclusive and that you can meet in the middle and all have fun.

2) Visualize your game as a TV show, a Movie, or a Book Series. People are familiar with the story formats of tv shows, books, comic books, and movies. Once you begin to think of your campaign as a (insert media mode), you the GM will have ...

a better planning tool for your campaign (okay 16 episodes this season.. and this season the bad guys are ... ),

a pattern for drama (okay, just before the second commerical... I better spring the reversal, the clue that the Duke is in on it..),

and you get a gold standard, you can now judge your story/ series/ campaign against other shows/ movies/ books. So the golden rule is: If doesn't feel like a show/ movie/ book, you are probably doing something you shouldn't be.

One added bonus is that you get good little tools for the format (commercial breaks, seasonal episodes, bloopers at the end of the episode), cross overs, and so on...

If you can get your players to also think of the game as a (insert media of choice) it will help them "wrap their head around" the campaign. They will begin to think about the game in those terms.. applying the golden rule mentioned above. They will be able to focus on the action and story, rather than the mechanics (It is not just okay 16+ to hit with a +1 Smod... it becomes okay what cool move can I do for the highlight's reel?)

Just some things to think about..
Voted Chaosmark
August 6, 2006, 22:13
I'm appreciating your articles more and more MH. I guess 30+ years of experience really pays off.
Voted Redgre
March 14, 2013, 20:01
Great ideas. I have a few 'munchkins', I game with from time to time. I'll want to try your chips idea.
Voted valadaar
December 16, 2013, 8:20
A version of the Chips idea has re-emerged and being used in the forums.

Good Stuff!

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       By: Pieh

Half hour off the Harrow Road you find it, Fool's Grave. Amid an overgrown garden sits a single tombstone. Carved neatly into the weathered slab is the word "Fool," with a symbol underneath matching the signet ring you found.

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