HardBananaShell wants to D&D

Table of contents

Table of contents1

Intro2

Who am I?2

Boring scheduling details2

My values2

Caring for others and everyone being comfortable3

Paying attention to others3

Honesty3

Vulnerability3

How I define and enjoy my roleplaying4

Guidelines to make roleplay happen4

Player’s ways to make roleplay happen4

Pour a character into yourself4

Exist in the imaginary world5

My energies, or those of the characters?5

Emotions come from a serious place, not parody6

Writing plus acting/improv = Roleplaying6

Practical ways to make roleplaying happen7

Combat maps7

Passive skills8

Only roll when there is reasonable doubt8

Example of good vs. bad roleplay8

Bad interaction8

Good interaction9

Appendix10

My own writing10

Notes10

Images10

Introverted Intuition10

Extraverted feeling10

Intro

If you’re lazy or don’t want to invest your time, read ‘my values’ and ‘My energies, or those of the character’s?’, those are the most important ones.

Hey there whoever might read this. I probably linked you to this document via reddit, which means you’re talking to me through my reddit identity: HardBananaShell.

In any case, that also means that you’re in the mindset of dungeons and dragons, and that is exactly what this document is about. I will document what I enjoy in roleplaying games and kind of use this document to be a handbook or a central place for me to collect all of my thoughts in. This way, I can share it without having to type all of that information manually each and every time.

That being said, this document isn’t specific to Dungeons and Dragons. It might be for other tabletop roleplaying games, or even games that aren’t technically ‘roleplaying’ games like party (video)games, but the general gist of the document is that I explain how I like to play them by explaining who I am and how my brain works.

The overall idea is to find people who are similar to me, because duh, that’s what I feel the most comfortable with. Meaning, the more you feel you can find yourself in what I write here, the more I think we’ll be able to get to playing together.

I obviously started with a reddit thread; I am now sharing who I am as a person; and I have a link here and in the reddit thread to a form I’d like you to fill out, just so I can get to know you as well.

Feel free to read whatever you feel you need to know about me! This document might be a little long or boring for people who don’t like to read or don’t like to focus on feelings.

Who am I?

Boring scheduling details

To begin with, I live in the Netherlands. That means my timezone is Central European Time. Just to keep things simple, I am going to refer to times in my own timezone.

I’m a 26 year old dude who likes to call himself (there you already have it) a he/him, in case you find that important to know.

As of right now, my availability is basically all day, because of the ol’ ‘rona. I’m more of a night owl than a morning tiger, so my day starts around noon and ends in the early am, but nonetheless, I’m okay with committing to a specific time in the day if I might find a good bunch of comfy people to play with 🙂

My values

These following values are who I am. They’re non-negotiable. If you can’t find yourself in these, that’s okay too, but we’re not going to get along and ironically that’s one of my values as you will probably see. Many if not all of them rely on and strengthen eachother, meaning, if I do one, it helps with the other and vice versa.

Besides that and for the people who know the MBTI personality types, I’m an INFJ. There’s two images in the appendix that kind of explain what that means and you might see those two concepts reflected in my actual values below too.

Caring for others and everyone being comfortable

I deeply value that everyone is comfortable. I don’t care about the thing we’re doing, it’s not about having this grand sense of feeling good and entertained or getting ‘my’ thing. If anyone is being scrunched in their ability (which includes myself) to be themselves or in their freedom, I have no tolerance for that. Everything has to be talked over and agreed on. I won’t go so far as to say that we’re gonna be using safewords and trigger warnings, but there’s no such thing as “I am going to do [thing], you guys are free to do whatever you want.”

We’re not a bunch of lone-wolves doing their own thing and happen to be ‘together’ because we oh so coincidentally happen to be in the same place at the same time. We’re all choosing to spend a significant amount of a day in the week together (preferably more, yes please), so there’s no room for doing what you want all by your lonesome. Anything you do in the holy scheduled session hours impacts the others and once the precedent is set that everyone can do whatever they want, the whole group will fall apart. We’re together, or we’re not.

The idea is that we’re all in the same rowboat and if everyone is paddling in a different direction, we’re not going to be getting anywhere. So instead of each of us paddling in the direction we want to go, spending the next hour tiring ourselves out with physical and emotional conflict, we might as well have talked about where we wanted to go in the first place and how everyone felt in a calm and happy manner for an hour. It might have not even cost an hour and we’d be done in fifteen minutes.

My personal enjoyment is to keep the people in the groups I’m part of happy and together, so if that scenario of solo paddlin’ were to happen, not only am I fruitlessly  trying to paddle to the in-game direction I want, but I am also deeply unhappy that there’s no harmony to begin with. I’m not going to subject myself to that.

Paying attention to others

I really like to pay attention to what people are really saying. I like to make sure that what I think and understood they said, is actually what they meant to say. I feel that if I can respond to what someone means, rather than what they’re literally saying or what I think they’re saying, we can move on much more smoothly and quickly. If I understand how you feel, I can accommodate your needs.

Honesty

It’s okay to ask questions. There are no dumb questions. Asking questions makes other people aware of what you’re feeling, so that we can take care of you. I’d rather have you actually honestly know and share what you feel, than have to debate or argue to pull it out of you. It makes for a much more smooth playing experience. It makes connecting with you that much easier and in turn makes strengthening the relationship that much easier.

I’m the kind of dude who will always try to be honest because I’m under the impression that we’re in the same boat. if I neglect to mention that I saw a hole under my shoe in the floor of the boat, we’ll all be on the ocean floor within the hour anyway. So I’d rather share the bad news and work through it together, than not say it.

Vulnerability

This next paragraph might also have been under ‘caring for others’: if someone does share themselves and are honest about themselves or something else, that’s the most beautiful and precious thing that a person can do. It means they felt safe enough to trust you with their inner feelings. I actually want to get to that place, but it feels like many people are not ready for that. What I mean is that if you get defensive after I might share something confronting with you and the relationship dies because of it, that’s exactly the opposite of being vulnerable. I’d rather you be honest, vulnerable and open to understanding and working together so we can make sure the boat keeps afloat.

How I define and enjoy my roleplaying

I’m going to share some of my personal beliefs so that I can explain what I am looking for in roleplaying.

Someone who comes into life doesn’t choose to come into said life. What that means is that they’re dealt a hand, and they have to learn how to live their best life. The goal of ‘roleplaying’ for me is to be able to experience a life that’s besides your own. There’s an added benefit of being able to create that life you want from scratch. Everything in the campaign serves to make sure that people can focus and immerse themselves into this life you’d like to experience.

To make sure that everyone can allow others to be as immersed into their characters as possible, here are some ways I try to properly keep that flow and roleplay going;

Guidelines to make roleplay happen

Any of the values I have go out the window when we’re actually roleplaying. Why? Because it’s the same as BDSM. We know that once we’re in ‘session’ we can do anything, because we trust each other outside of it blindly. You can be the most assholish rogue, because I know that you, as the player, have the group's best interest at heart and will eventually work in not stealing from the group. Conversely, because we trust each other, we can tolerate your character stealing and you, as the rogue, will tolerate the characters perhaps being [negative emotion] towards you. Because in the end, and as sappy as it sounds, we’re all there for eachother, not just our own entertainment.

That being said, the goal of this chapter is to show you how I like to see roleplay be executed, not have the above be a free pass for you to do ‘that’s what my character would do.’ Do that, and you’re out. See ‘making sure everyone is comfortable.’

Player’s ways to make roleplay happen

Pour a character into yourself

I notice that when I see people roleplay, they exert their selves through the character. A dwarf barbarian is a mouthpiece for an inner part of the player. They might feel weak or strong, so they create a character where they can express that inner self.
Needless to say, people who like to min-maximize and powergame are a more egregious example of expressing themselves through a character. Their brain wants to think, rationalize, analyze and synthesize solutions. It’s almost as if the game is a source for them to spend their own energy. The game(world) exists for them instead of them being alongside and in it. If there was a spectrum between not-roleplaying and roleplaying, playing the game in a powergaming and numbercrunching logical way would for me be all the way at not-roleplaying. 

I feel roleplaying is the exact opposite. It’s not pouring a piece of your own inner world into the world through a character, but pouring the inner world of a character through yourself into the world. You could say that with the former, the character is a gate for you to change the imaginary world while with the latter, you are a gate for the character to interact with the world.

You’re basically trying to adopt the inner world of a character, and then trying to spend those energies. You talk, you take actions in-game, you place a gold coin on the counter of the bar instead of just saying you ‘give’ it to the bartender, because you feel you’re not a savage and want to be civil. The stuff you do in-game is basically an expression of the character's brain wanting to do what it wants to do.

Exist in the imaginary world

Say you’re a powergamer, it serves to reason that you’d stop and think OOC (out of character) how to handle a situation. This is nothing but not-roleplaying in my mind. Wouldn’t it be weird that one player-character gets handed a bag of gold, all of the characters stand still for ten seconds and then magically all of the party has a perfect understanding and emotionally negotiated solution as to who gets how many gold pieces? The idea here is to solve every and any flare of emotion in-game because that’s where all of our consciousnesses (if we’re all immersed) are at that moment. There’s nothing more immersion breaking than stepping out of character to discuss something. It’s not the ‘not being in character’ that’s difficult for me, it’s the switching gears. I have a lot of information going around in my head, and if I have to throw away an entire bookshelf worth of information and start anew, multiple times across the span of a few minutes, I feel overwhelmed and stressed. It’s either I am flowing by having my intuition filled, or I feel disengaged and disinterested. We don’t want that, right?

My energies, or those of the characters’?

It’s important to be able to make the distinction between what you as the player want to do (i.e. spend your own brain’s energy) or what the character wants to do. I’m not talking about the ‘it’s what my character would do’ trope, because that’s just emotional drama going on in the RP scene. I’m talking about the personal insight in how you’re feeling and if what your brain is telling you to do is something for its own needs (like being stressed because you came late to the session) or because the character is reacting to in-game stuff (like having smashed a door they shouldn’t have).

I feel like this is something many people I’ve met aren’t really aware of, and it shows in that  they spend their own energy through the character and aren’t really roleplaying to me. If you, the player, get stressed from having smashed that door, but your character wouldn’t, you’re not roleplaying. The character would have smashed that door because they felt it was a conclusion their brain came to and spent energy to execute it. You are roleplaying your character, and because of all the OOC values we have and the understanding that you’re safe to play your character how you want, it’s okay to actually smash the door because your character felt to smash that door.

It’s a bit rude to ask, but it serves for everyone’s enjoyment that we all have some ability to have some emotional skills. By nature of me focusing on feelings and wanting to draw them out in both myself and others, I will do things my character will want to do (I am aware of the ‘that’s what my character would do’ slope I’m on now) and it might clash with your character or make you uncomfortable. So if you’re comfortable in your own skin and have skills to deal with your own emotional being, only then we can spar a little in the imaginary world.

If there’s something you’re struggling with in real life, and excuse me overstepping a boundary, then your brain is asking you for your attention and frankly, will bleed into your characters. I know you want to play D&D, but I want to have a good time too. Sorry 🙁

Emotions come from a serious place, not parody

Just like when I see people exert their selves through a character, they also exaggerate emotions. They seem to be overtly trying to tell you that they’re happy, or sad or ‘bold’ in our lovely dwarven barbarian’s example. It’s like they have put the goal of ‘roleplaying, lol’ in their mind and they will without nuance output the feelings they think will make sure that people understand that their character is feeling a certain way.

I don’t know how to explain it, but emotions have this quality to them that makes you take them seriously. There’s this shift in consciousness when you go from happy to angry. Like the ‘truth’ of the things around you changes. If you are in ‘roleplaying, lol’ mode, then your emotions convey that you’re being dishonest.

Instead, consider that you’re in the headspace of a character to begin with. You don’t need to overcompensate to make sure others know that there’s an emotion you’re feeling, because you’re actually feeling it. If I am playing with a ‘roleplaying, lol’ player, I focus on their silliness, if you will. Because that’s what I do. Now, I’d rather have people immersed in the story and show me the emotions of their characters, and be whatever emotion their character is going through, than have to constantly hear the ‘voice’ of dishonesty coming from them.

Writing plus acting/improv = Roleplaying

Yo. I’m still talking about roleplaying games aren’t I? I think I am.

So, RPGs  are games right? What kind of game are they? They are social games. What kind of social games are they? Collaborative games. “But what are we collaborating on?” you ask? Well, my friend, that’s a good question. So if we have the ‘how’ of what we’re doing behind us, let’s get into the ‘what’ we’re doing, shall we?

To me, writing is enjoyable. I get to express my inner world and ironically not, but still, paint a picture of some imaginary reality. I get to feel what characters feel, I get to dictate what reality is. All that good ‘I’m a god’ stuff. 

The trick to wanting to play roleplaying games is that I don’t want to play a ‘game’ perse. It’s not the players sitting there being fed gameplay which the DM is responsible for. There’s not two different roles being fulfilled: one of DM and the other of player.

To me, we (and I’m talking from an ideal perspective here) are all writers writing characters and a world together. In real time. There’s a performative or acting aspect to roleplaying like this. It’s not just yeeting some words on paper (can we please normalize yeeting and yoinking? They’re just so delicious words to use) and then call it a story. There’s also the kind of ‘executing’ the story and characters.

It’s like we’re sitting there, having our imaginations come up with stuff that will in the end become a story and we’re expressing all of this by acting it out. Sounds like heaven to me.

That being said, I believe that each player at the table (which includes the DM) has the power to show and not tell. Meaning, each player gets to describe how they see that little part of the imaginary world in their mind. Let’s say you cast a spell, you can, within reason, fluff and show and fill the rest of us and our minds what that might look like. In fact, that’s where the best of roleplaying moments come from. Some person at the table describes something, maybe they said something about pebbles falling out of their backpack when they grab their frying pan because they’re a geologist (do you see what I’m doing here? While I am writing this, I am riffing off a character backstory out of nothing). Then another player might think that they’re able to throw that pebble and use it to hit that bell they had to ring across a chasm without a bridge. Roleplaying. At. Its. Best.

We're all here to understand and create at the same time. If I show what a spell does, and it sparks an idea in someone, we can build off of that. Everyone is providing material for the other's creativity to work off of.

Imagine that we’re a random group of strangers and have no idea of that world that we’re going to be 

Practical ways to make roleplaying happen

Combat maps

Yes. We’ve arrived. This is a hot topic for me, because one of the pillars of roleplaying games might be (and I have D&D in my head right now) that there’s combat and you need maps for that.

I feel that maps are a cheeky way for people to get away with not-roleplaying. It gives the player information, not the character. If I have this nice elaborate map in front of my face, and we haven’t roleplayed that we’re all looking at a map in-game, then I have to can talk to the other players, totally destroying immersion.

The reason battlemaps and combat-turns exist is to give a framework for people’s freedom, not to give information. Theater of the mind allows everyone to say what and whenever they want, right? You can say this, and that, do a spell here and there. People are telling the DM what they want and the DM is able to resolve everything at the same time. That would be a mess in combat. “I want to do this, I attack him but just before he swings at me”, “When he does that, I want to make sure to unbuckle his pants because horny bard joke”. It would become an immense chaos incredibly fast. Instead you have this neat order of who can do what and when. The map serves as a tool to make sure everyone is on the same page with how far things are apart and where everyone is.

Not to mention, there’s a certain cycle that happens in roleplaying games. It’s literally the first thing in the player’s handbook: the example in the introduction about standing in front of a castle and it’s bridge. There’s a [player does something] → [DM resolves the inquiry] → [repeat] cycle there. If there’s a (battle)map (maps of towns? Tsk, tsk, tsk.) in the middle of non-combat, the player can just walk somewhere they see without consulting the DM (maybe there was a trap along the way the DM would have sprung on you if you asked to walk there). Now the DM has to react to you doing things instead of you prompting them, totally destroying the cycle of narrating and writing the story together.

It now dawns on me that there’s a cycle to begin with, is because information never stops entering you brain in real life. If you see a butterfly, time doesn’t stop for you to think about what to do. That’s what the cycle simulates by having that flow of conversation with the DM: you’re ‘perceiving’ the world but in a slower pace.

Passive skills

While we’re in the ‘flowing because you’re perceiving reality’ mindset anyway, I have a few words on passive skills. 

I feel that all skills should have their passive version used. I mean I, as the hulking green (heh, hulk joke) barbarian should naturally make people react more intimidated than the meek wizard in the group. You could chalk it up to the DM roleplaying reacting to this huge being when they aren’t trying to do things. But when the player is, you the DM know the difficulty of the roll, and if their passive skill already exceeds it, don’t let them roll to begin with, which kind of brings me to the next thing:

Only roll when there is reasonable doubt

Let’s say our green-pantsed dual identity’d barbarian does want to do something. If their character is strong enough to snap a block of wood in half naturally, they shouldn’t roll. They fluffed or took the narrative freedom to show what their character is and it’s reasonable for them to do it, then they should be able to do it. A slinky elf who’s trying to sneak past people in a full town’s square? Yes, please.
I feel that in situations where they ostensibly should succeed and you let them roll, you introduce a chance for them to fail, and when they do, you now have to pull this ludicrous immersion breaking event out of your ass to make sure they fail. My intuition generally is right about if things should happen or not, and if I lived long enough in your world as a player, I should have an understanding of how much I can expect from my character and the world.

Only have a character roll if the difficulty of what they want to do (and take reality into account, it’s not easy to do a backflip) exceeds their passive skill or what they would reasonably be able to do.

Example of good vs. bad roleplay

So with everything that I’ve explained so far, I wrote two examples of how to play and not play in my opinion. Note: I wrote this before the ‘reasonable doubt’ thing, so you might not see that reflected here.

Bad interaction

DM: You guys walk for about half an hour before you get to the foot of the mountain. Walking up or scaling this mountain would increase your travel time by about a day or two.

Player A: Do we have enough rope to climb it? How much rope does everyone have? 

Player B: I have fifty feet but I don’t want to climb it, I want to transform into a giant owl and carry you guys to the other side. 

Player C: Yeah,  I think my barbarian is too scared to fly. We’re going to have to find another way to do that.

Player A: What if you just carry me, then [player c] can run under us?

Player C: But you guys are faster than I can run, not to mention you guys don’t have to take the terrain into account. What I mean is that you guys can just fly through the air while I have to walk across difficult terrain.

Player B: That is true. So flying is not an option.

Player B: DM, is there something we can do to scale this mountain?

DM: I mean, you can use ropes and stuff to climb it. Or you can just walk onto it. Do you just want to start digging into it? That’s something that will take you through it. It will take a long time, but you can always try…

[my internal screams of agony and stress because of friction and the loss of my suspension of disbelief.]

Good interaction

DM: You guys walk for about half an hour before you get to the foot of the mountain. Walking up or scaling this mountain would increase your travel time by about a day or two.

Cleric: “Hey guys, I feel this mountain is going to make it really difficult for us to get to the town.”

Ranger: “Yeah, I don’t like it either.”

Player B: DM, is there some kind of tunnel I can see or some other kind of way for us to get to the other side of this mountain faster?

DM: Make a perception check.

Player B: Seventeen.

DM: Looking around, and given your proficiency in moving around mountains, you know where to look and see a separation between two parts of the mountain you and your party might be able to squeeze yourselves through.

Ranger: “I see something, hold on guys.”

Player B: I’ll go check out the crevice.

DM: As you come closer, it clearly is wide enough to fit all of you single file. You’ll move slower, but you’ll definitely be able to move through it.

Player B: Does it seem like there might be an ambush or some other form of natural hazards that would harm us if we move in? Do I even know where this might lead?

DM: Pick two from insight, history, nature or perception, your choice.

Player B: I rolled 7 on history and 12 on nature.

DM: Alright. You think about whether or not you can remember there being a lot of ambushes or rumours of people dying here, but you can’t find anything in your mind to indicate so. You also have no idea where this might lead.

Ranger: “Alright guys, I discovered this crack in the mountain which might get us to the other side of the mountain.”

Cleric: “That seems awfully close for comfort. Won’t any rocks fall onto us?

Ranger: “Maybe, I don’t know. I can dodge them and bigbrain over here can just take the brunt, but I’m sure you’ll figure something out with your actual big brain.

Cleric: “Wait, before we go, let me cast a spell.”

Player A: I’ll cast bless on myself.

Ranger: “What did you do?”

Cleric: “Well, a little something something to make sure I have a little more oomph to deal with the falling rocks.”

Ranger: “There you go. We’re all good. So, are we ready to go?”

Barbarian: “Rrrready to rrrrrumble!”

DM: [roleplaying cycle]

Appendix

My own writing

Ska'ming

Notes

I have foundry VTT.

Images

Introverted Intuition

Extraverted feeling

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