First, I know I put this at the end of my last post, but I want to start this post with the same poll. Because I would like some feedback.
All right, with that out of the way, let us speak of improvisation. I devoted a post to creativity and play. Which means that this post may seem redundant. In this post, however, I want to deal more with the idea of role playing as theater. There are a lot of discussions out there about how the GM needs to be prepared to act on their feet, improvise when the players do something odd or decide to follow the red brick road instead of the yellow brick road. Most of those posts are full of really good advice for the GM. I want to approach this from the players perspective because that is almost as important.
Take the theater analogy. The players are the actors, and the GM is the director/writer. Which is a great way to approach role playing games. I am not saying that everyone needs to adopt funny accents, bring props, or get all method and slap each other to provoke a suitable response. I am saying that a player’s character is a part they have decided play. And that the GM is providing the setting and some direction like a director/writer. There are some game systems that take this to its logical conclusion. Including the LARP groups, which really is the logical extension of this analogy. But not every D&D session has to get that deep into character.
I am saying that as the actor in whatever story you are in, you should be prepared to improvise. And be ready for how your character would respond to a particular turn of events. For example, when my son’s character was killed in the last game one of the other players was playing that character’s cousin. That meant he had to act as if his cousin had died, and respond accordingly. He did his best, including what I thought was a very inspiring move to take 2 of the magic items and simply hold them, not attune them (and they would be very useful to his character) with the goal of taking them back to their family. I thought that was a very good and inspired move (better than another character whose response to any character dying is to loot the body, as if these were not close companions.)
The opposite of this approach is what I hear from some of my players: “How would my character react?” Every time I hear that, either as a player or as the GM I want to bang my head on the table. How do you think your character would react? You went through the background rolls, you should have some ideas based on those writings on your character sheet (Personality trait, ideals, Bonds, Flaws.) You do not need to get all method, and start crying there at the table. But think about things. Assuming you are paying attention to the flow of the encounter, you should know how your character would react.
At that time, do something, act as if you are the character. And make stuff up, play pretend all over again.