Mechanics for Roleplaying

Early in D&D history, many aspects of roleplaying was forced into the mechanics of a class. For example; alignment, weapon usage, or advancement preconditions.

Also, players were rewarded with XP for doing good roleplaying.

However, as time went on a few things changed.  
1. It was decided that what class you pick should not limit your character trope.  That is, we shouldn't have to create a whole new class for a Druid that could use metalic weapons, or  cleric that uses a letter opener.
2. It was decided that the party should always level up together.

That has had a likely unintended side affect that D&D no longer has mechanics or rules that either force or encourage a player to roleplaye a specific role.

Some games exist out there which attempted to fix this by cetering the game around more roleplay related rules. Such as FATE, or The Riddle of Steel.

Is there a way to make rules that encourage roleplaying a specific user defined role, as well as making those rules feel like D&D?
Is there a demand for it?

Possible options off the top of my head: 
1. Disadvantage on your next roll if you are attempting to do something the DM feels is out of role.
2. Advantage if you are doing something in charachter but which would otherwise be a tactically/strategically  bad choice.
3. Commitment to your ethos makes store owners of similiar ethos give you a x% discount in stores?
4.  Something similiar to the fate system related to trained skills?
I would use FATE as an example and pick character flaws to promote character actions. This easily fits in for alignments, or other character motivations. But the bottom line is people that want to roleplay will do it, so how do you get rollplayers to do it.

I don't think it's necessarily bad that the game assumes a certain amount of roleplaying reward and detaches a certain amount of class from roleplaying. I also think that guidelines about rewarding good roleplay through bonuses and extra xp is a good thing.


Negative reinforcement is a self destructive thing in general and it's particularly dangerous to do in the context of a game. I would be unhappy about imposing penalties like disadvantage for things done out of role, especially when you consider that consistent reward for roleplaying creates a disadvantage for folks who don't roleplay without actually punishing them. Plus it encourages the behaviour you want.

I don't think it's necessarily bad that the game assumes a certain amount of roleplaying reward and detaches a certain amount of class from roleplaying. I also think that guidelines about rewarding good roleplay through bonuses and extra xp is a good thing.


Negative reinforcement is a self destructive thing in general and it's particularly dangerous to do in the context of a game. I would be unhappy about imposing penalties like disadvantage for things done out of role, especially when you consider that consistent reward for roleplaying creates a disadvantage for folks who don't roleplay without actually punishing them. Plus it encourages the behaviour you want.


Can't use bonus xp because it's either too small to make a real difference, or causes chrachters to level up at different rates. (unless I guess you reward the whole party?)
I would use FATE as an example and pick character flaws to promote character actions. This easily fits in for alignments, or other character motivations. But the bottom line is people that want to roleplay will do it, so how do you get rollplayers to do it.

How can we make FATE feel like D&D?  Presumably the benefits of the mechanic will cause more roleplaying.
I would simply make it suggested in the core rules that players get xp for roleplaying. Since we're rp heavy at times, I give one encounter's worth of xp everytime I feel like the players have spent an encounter's worth of time chatting with each other and npcs and otherwise roleplaying out of combat.

Also, I don't think it's bad that the party level together. That way, there's no mechanical reason for them to feel left out. If they do past that, it's (probably) their decisions that have led to it.
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Thank_Dog wrote:

2Chlorobutanal wrote:
I think that if you have to argue to convince others about the clarity of something, it's probably not as objectively clear as you think.

No, what it means is that some people just like to be obtuse.

I would simply make it suggested in the core rules that players get xp for roleplaying. Since we're rp heavy at times, I give one encounter's worth of xp everytime I feel like the players have spent an encounter's worth of time chatting with each other and npcs and otherwise roleplaying out of combat. Also, I don't think it's bad that the party level together. That way, there's no mechanical reason for them to feel left out. If they do past that, it's (probably) their decisions that have led to it.



I follow 4E PHB2 guidelines for giving out XP for roleplay as well. But I won´t award my players for chatting arond the  tavern, or simply being in character. I would award them for RP when it is relevant and hlep progress the adventure, or any possible side quest they might be involved.
Rules exist for one reason and one reason only:  to impartially arbitrate disputes that can't be resolved by the participants on their own.  The only function of the rules is to stop the kindergarten-style Cops & Robbers standoff:  "Bang! I got you! No you didn't! Yes I did! No you didn't!"

If we all knew, to our core, how much damage is reasonable for that swing I just landed to do to the orc, then we wouldn't need a rule to tell me it's d8+3.  Note that this one comes simply out of sheer ignorance, rather than malicious or selfish behavior as the above example did - rules aren't just about preventing abuse, they're also about standing in for player knowledge.  "Can't be resolved" can happen for a number of reasons, and player ignorance is one of the major ones.

Which brings us to the question at hand:  mechanics for roleplaying.  And the answer, quite simply, is no.  No, we don't need mechanics for what most people are talking about when they use the word "roleplaying" (nevermind that even that how-much-damage-did-I-do-to-the-orc scenario is also roleplaying, but that's another discussion).  The whole point of such efforts is to have resolution that involves the imagination of the players (I include DM as one of the 'players' in this context) at the table, rather than the impartial arbitration that rules provide.

So no.
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I like the Unknown Armies system, where you define an Obsession, a Noble Stimulus and a Fear Stimulus for your character. If you act according to those you get some kind of situational bonus, according to the circunstances. I like this because it doesn't force you hand in any way, but it gives rewards for sticking to the character.

So yes, as a long the system enhances and promotes roleply and it's not a substitute for it.   

*Sits down and waits for someone to post the "Rollplay - Leave nothing to your imagination" thing*
I think a Fate style flaw system or other Plot Point based mechcanic would be a fun addition to the game. But you could effortlessly do that as a rules module. If WotC doesn't have an option for that I give it a week and a half before fans have a version available online.

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I wrote a one-page PDF containing all the rules you need to use FATE style aspects with D&D.  It's generic enough to work with any edition of D&D, but you could easily make it more specific to D&D Next by replacing the re-roll mechanic with the ability to add Advantage or remove Disadvantage.  Enjoy!
Seems easy enough to incorporate Fate into d&d for rp.

1) Allow players 2-3 refresh of Fate points per session
2) Allow them to invoke Race, Background, Alignment etc as Aspects (spend a point to get +3 to d20 roll) when it fits.
3) Allow them to accept a Fate point when you feel it could be compelled (at your, their, or another player's suggestion)
4) Back reward Fate points when you missed out that someone did do something because it fits their Aspects

I personally would say make up an aspect that defines your alignment over the default system.
I'd also recommend that they take up a quality and a flaw in the vein of Shadows of Esteren (Eccentric, Loyal, Traditional, Optimistic, Careless, etc)
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Fate Points, Action points, and the related game mechanics are not there to mechanically encourage roleplaying. They are there to allow, on a limited basis, the player to make the sort of calls that a DM would make: I am going to do this, it will be awesome, and people will be impressed. It is a mechanic for the player to alter the storyline to suit what he needs for his character to be awesome.

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I could always use another reason to dislike this game, so sure!

On the off-chance that my money means anything (I'll be honest with myself and admit it really doesn't) then I'll say no, I would despise such things that punish people for playing however they flim-flamin please just because the DM thinks they should play differently.

I'll not accept the idea that the DM knows how my character is meant to act better than I do.
I'll not accept the idea that the DM knows how my character is meant to act better than I do.

That's just a crappy DM.

What's truly unacceptable is the idea that the rulebooks know how my character is meant to act better than I do.

I don't think roleplaying should have any mechanics beyond alignment. It's the player's responsibility to stay in character, not the DM's, and it's the DM's job to tell the story, not the players'. The whole idea treats the player/DM relationship as antagonistic for some reason.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />That has had a likely unintended side affect that D&D no longer has mechanics or rules that either force or encourage a player to roleplaye a specific role.



This is a good thing.

Roleplaying and mechanics should be kept completely separate.
I don't like roleplaying rules, but I do think that there could be a ton of guidelines to help encourage roleplaying.  

I think the background and specialties and the racial descriptions are great beginnings.    Encouraging DMs to award experience for achieving non-combat goals would also be a nice section in the rules to help guide new DMs.   Too often (especially with the advent of MMOs) newer DMs and players focus on killing monsters to gain treasure and experience.  That's not bad, it is just not a way to encourage too much roleplaying.   I think that the DM section of the rules (DM's Guide) should really explore ways to balance the three pillars when designing adventures.   It should also give suggestions for a host of non-combat roleplaying scenarios that can be developed and dropped into adventures.  

I also think they need to have a really interesting and well written section in the Player's Handbook to illustrate how to play within a character and roleplay (acting tricks that Chris Perkins and others have written about in columns).  

I love reading examples of play and watching videos of really talented and interested players/DMs building a story together.   Those are the kind of guidelines that would really help new players and even some experiences ones.   Nobody is above learning how to enhance the game session.  Even Chris Perkins learns and grows as he interacts with other players and DMs.  I want D&DNext to encourage everyone to try new stuff and add to their own experiences in a variety of ways.  

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and it's the DM's job to tell the story, not the players'



I can't disagree with this phrase enough.  The DM might have a premium responsibility to the story, but by no means does he hold the majority. Every player, PC or DM, has a piece the storytelling responsibilty and the system we use is the framework through which we accomplish this.  If the framework encourages everyone to do a better job at building this story then that's a good thing in my mind.
and it's the DM's job to tell the story, not the players'



I can't disagree with this phrase enough.  The DM might have a premium responsibility to the story, but by no means does he hold the majority. Every player, PC or DM, has a piece the storytelling responsibilty and the system we use is the framework through which we accomplish this.  If the framework encourages everyone to do a better job at building this story then that's a good thing in my mind.



Agreed.  The actions and decisions of the players and their characters MUST make an impact on the story.
And the games we're pointing out as having "roleplaying" mechanics, like the FATE systems Aspsects and Fate Points, empahsize this rather then detract from it. 
and it's the DM's job to tell the story, not the players'



I can't disagree with this phrase enough.  The DM might have a premium responsibility to the story, but by no means does he hold the majority. Every player, PC or DM, has a piece the storytelling responsibilty and the system we use is the framework through which we accomplish this.  If the framework encourages everyone to do a better job at building this story then that's a good thing in my mind.



Yes. Yes. Yes.   Our best games are always when the players make up backgrounds and narrate their own actions and character dialogue based on how they view the world.   Players and DMs build the story together.  That's why I like giving players more guidelines and suggestions for adding to the story.

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If roleplaying rules don't encourage and benefit roleplaying, then why do many people say that the systems with those rules are the ones that are better for roleplaying? Whether it's WoD's Willpower system (1 point per scene for using your virtue, full points per session for using your vice), FATE's fate points, or even Mutants and Mastermind's Complications system, these all encourage roleplaying.

I do agree, though, that positive reinforcement is much better than negative reinforcement. 

Poe's Law is alive and well.

It's the player's responsibility to stay in character, not the DM's, and it's the DM's job to tell the story, not the players'.


The DM has just as much responsibility as the players to stay in character - none; and the players tell just as much of the story as the DM.
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Thank_Dog wrote:

2Chlorobutanal wrote:
I think that if you have to argue to convince others about the clarity of something, it's probably not as objectively clear as you think.

No, what it means is that some people just like to be obtuse.

I have found that you will have more luck nurturing the process then punishing. I am playing with a group that was PAX Live / Dorkness Rising V2.0 and had fun but as I engaged the deeper aspects of role playing and we all got to know the characters better and they became more attached I found they started to take their characters and the story more seriously. Give them reason to buy in and they will invest and the best way to do that is highlight the strengths of the players style and their character.

Remember role playing is a learned skill for most people. I have met only a small handful of born RPers and I was not one of them. Be patient and at the end of a session or the beginning of the next talk about the good moments of a campaign and use phrases like "I really liked the insight into "insert character name here" when you said he didn't want to go to the funereal of soldiers who had died the day before because he felt guilty he wasn't able to save them." That helps flush out and remember that part of the character for both you and the player. That character becomes more real and someon you can invest in.
Remember role playing is a learned skill for most people. I have met only a small handful of born RPers and I was not one of them.

My experience as a parent is that we are all born roleplayers.  Some people are just trained out of it.

My experience as a parent is that we are all born roleplayers.  Some people are just trained out of it.


Truth.  Want proof?  Talk to a three-year-old.
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Remember role playing is a learned skill for most people. I have met only a small handful of born RPers and I was not one of them.

My experience as a parent is that we are all born roleplayers.  Some people are just trained out of it.





It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how caulculated you make your statement on these boards there is always someone to come along and make a debate out of it. Okay, we are all born with the ability to play make believe but by the time we become teen agers and we develop a need to fit in we tend to be more calculated in the way we carry ourselves (as made evident by your response to my post, somone will find fault in it). I have been gaming for 25 years give or take a day and in my time I have met very few natural role players. Does that satisfy you? Is that a fine enough point for you? My point was nurture the process don't force it.
Er...considering you agreed with him completely, and contradicted entirely your previous post, I'm not sure what you think your point is.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Er...considering you agreed with him completely, and contradicted entirely your previous post, I'm not sure what you think your point is.




That might be the problem then. Rather then seeing the over all context of what I was saying there was a need to dissect and point out a mistake that was percieved.
My experience as a parent is that we are all born roleplayers.  Some people are just trained out of it.


Truth.  Want proof?  Talk to a three-year-old.

I do.  We play Hawkeye and Legolas doing battle with the Dark Riders and Chitauri.

There is no such thing as a good rule for roleplaying.  There cannot be such a thing.


I have some theories on why people think they do.  I have some other theories on why people say the systems with RP rules are better for RP.  I have no intention of posting these theories, because I like not being banned, but suffice it to say that I categorically disagree with all such opinions.
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Okay, could people stop using the world 'roleplaying' since it seems to mean different things to different people in this thread? 

Here's my definition: "Making the player character take actions they would reasonably take, being who they are".

"Speaking in character" is called acting. or possibly 'coming up with dialogue'.

In theory, you don't need gameplay incentives to roleplay - hitting things with a fighter in combat IS roleplaying.

However, I've found that mechanics for roleplaying - something like Fate's Aspects, make the game more fun, to me.  

Being the center of attention and talking a lot with a low charisma is not. Nor is coming up with good ideas with a low int/wis character, but that can be circumvented  by the player giving suggestions to the player of a high-ability character. 

Good roleplaying reinforces the line between a player and a player character.


I just don't find "playing the DM" to be the essence of roleplaying. Nor creating a shared piece of fiction. I just don't view D&D that way at all. The roleplaying is how you kill monsters and what you spend your treasure on. Of course you need to interact with NPCs and the decisions you make ought to reflect some internal consistency relative to the character you play. But talking funny and debating the DM to get bonuses defeats the purpose of it being a "game" with rules and numbers.
Rules exist for one reason and one reason only:  to impartially arbitrate disputes that can't be resolved by the participants on their own.  The only function of the rules is to stop the kindergarten-style Cops & Robbers standoff:  "Bang! I got you! No you didn't! Yes I did! No you didn't!"

If we all knew, to our core, how much damage is reasonable for that swing I just landed to do to the orc, then we wouldn't need a rule to tell me it's d8+3.  Note that this one comes simply out of sheer ignorance, rather than malicious or selfish behavior as the above example did - rules aren't just about preventing abuse, they're also about standing in for player knowledge.  "Can't be resolved" can happen for a number of reasons, and player ignorance is one of the major ones.

Which brings us to the question at hand:  mechanics for roleplaying.  And the answer, quite simply, is no.  No, we don't need mechanics for what most people are talking about when they use the word "roleplaying" (nevermind that even that how-much-damage-did-I-do-to-the-orc scenario is also roleplaying, but that's another discussion).  The whole point of such efforts is to have resolution that involves the imagination of the players (I include DM as one of the 'players' in this context) at the table, rather than the impartial arbitration that rules provide.

So no.

There are 1,001 and situations where not everybody around the table has a good idea of what a proper action for a charachter is.


For example, the party just had a 18 hour guard shift duty where nothing happens. They are bored... what do they do? How do they behave?  If you have a roleplaying mechanic,  this might help answer the question for some of the charachters. (Roll to see if you resist your chosen "distractable" attribute)

Some games have an inherent cool or moral factor in the game, where when you just sliced opened a nasty acidic beast and got guts all over your face.  Does the charachter keep on attacking like nothing happened, or do they get shocked by the guts and nasty smell that just filled their nostrils? (Roll a d20 and find out!)

Often there is a strong tension between what the players wants to do for the good of the party and what the player knows the charachter should be doing because of the situation.
Roleplay mechanics in theory, help abjugate these sorts of situations.  

It's just interesting to me, that because of the history of D&D, D&D used to be full of these sorts of  rules, and now they don't exist at all. 

I don't think the rules are absent because they are a bad idea, I think the rules are absent because D&D used to only punish bad roleplay, and didn't give the player any options as to what was considered good or bad. In addition the game never really gave significant benefits to these decisions into account.

The question that is interesting to me, is if such roleplay mechanics which exist in numerous RPG games are part of D&D or not. 
There is no such thing as a good rule for roleplaying.  There cannot be such a thing.


I have some theories on why people think they do.  I have some other theories on why people say the systems with RP rules are better for RP.  I have no intention of posting these theories, because I like not being banned, but suffice it to say that I categorically disagree with all such opinions.

Sorry, but tons of systems exist out there that have great amazing rules for roleplaying.

They do exist, and they work well.

They don't tell you what accent to speak in at the table.
They don't tell you which drink at the bar is your favorite.

They do tell you if you are able to resist your natural urges (chosen by the player)
They do tell you if some aspect of your personalty causes you to make an objectively logically bad strategic or tactical action. (Assuming you aren't playing a Vulcan)
Sorry, but tons of systems exist out there that have great amazing rules for roleplaying.

They do exist, and they work well.

They don't tell you what accent to speak in at the table.
They don't tell you which drink at the bar is your favorite.

They do tell you if you are able to resist your natural urges (chosen by the player)
They do tell you if some aspect of your personalty causes you to make an objectively logically bad strategic or tactical action. (Assuming you aren't playing a Vulcan)



See, the problem is not that we disagree whether or not systems with RP rules exist.  They do exist.  That is a given.

The disagreement is that you think the examples you have given are things that should ever happen.

I am perfectly capable of deciding whether or not my character would make an objectively bad tactical decision on my own.  Having a rule for it, as has been said before in this thread, is the rulebook claiming that it knows my character better than I do, and that is flatly impossible.

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As a Fate lover I am going to argue that the Fate systems rules aren't there to make you roleplay or anything like that.  They are there to tie the roleplaying into the rules and provide mechanical benifits (even compels are benifits because they are giving you points for taking a less advantagious action that fits your character, something that a good roleplayer would be doing anyway) for your in character actions.

I think this is a great system because it lets you define your character and never lets takes the decisions that your character makes out of the hands of the player or punishes them unduly for not doing what the GM thinks they should be doing. 
I for one would love to see some kind of roleplay mechanics introduced so that there is more then a "Cowboys and Indians" type interaction going on at the table.

The Fate system seems like it could be quite cool.

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Sorry, but tons of systems exist out there that have great amazing rules for roleplaying.

They do exist, and they work well.

They don't tell you what accent to speak in at the table.
They don't tell you which drink at the bar is your favorite.

They do tell you if you are able to resist your natural urges (chosen by the player)
They do tell you if some aspect of your personalty causes you to make an objectively logically bad strategic or tactical action. (Assuming you aren't playing a Vulcan)



See, the problem is not that we disagree whether or not systems with RP rules exist.  They do exist.  That is a given.

The disagreement is that you think the examples you have given are things that should ever happen.

I am perfectly capable of deciding whether or not my character would make an objectively bad tactical decision on my own.  Having a rule for it, as has been said before in this thread, is the rulebook claiming that it knows my character better than I do, and that is flatly impossible.




I have no ideas what rules you are refering to.  But none of the examples I gave are situations where the rulebook claims to know the charachter better than the player.

Does the rulebook claim to know the charachter better than the player when you make a Reflex save?  I don't understand this argument at all.