Published on December 17th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen5
4 Ideas to Take Your RPG Session to the Next Level
Looking to spice up your game life? How about introducing some roleplay to your roleplaying? I would like to help you get the excitement back into your favorite group activity! So strap on your equipment and get ready to enter the dungeon as we give you 4 ideas to take your RPG session to the next level.
Roleplaying can be great fun as just a beer and pretzels activity, with everyone being super casual about things. Some of my favorite RPG memories are from playing D&D 4th Edition as basically a board game peppered with jokes and a skeleton of a story. Other times it can be a lot of fun to delve deeper into your games, and these tips are here to help you do that. As always, take what you like and leave the rest!
Get Some Mood Music
Setting appropriate music for your RPG session goes a long way to establishing a mood and tone for your game. If your game is set in a modern or future time period, it’s fairly easy to find music that you would want on in the background. If you know what kind of music your setting would want, you could set up a Pandora station or a Spotify playlist like the following, that I use during my World of Darkness games:
- World of Darkness- Vampire the Masquerade (Dark Wave, New Wave, Post Punk)
- World of Darkness- Wraith, Demon the Descent (Industrial, Dark Electro)
- World of Darkness- Mage, Werewolf, Geist (Riot Grrrl)
- World of Darkness- Changeling, Werewolf (Indie Folk Rock)
- World of Darkness- Vampire, Mage (Baroque “classical” music)
If you are playing in a historical or a fantasy setting your musical options may be more limited, depending on your preferences. I tend to associate D&D with lighthearted metal (DragonForce, Nightwish and Rhapsody of Fire) so it doesn’t weird me out to use that as a soundtrack for casual fantasy.
On the other hand, I know a lot of people like using movie soundtracks as background, but I find when they are too recognizable that it takes me out of the moment. Your mileage may vary. For others who take that view, it can be more useful to have lot of ambient music.
Ambient music is usually from media like games or films, this is because that kind of music is designed to be pleasant without being intrusive. Ambient music is also great for modern or sci-fi games when your characters aren’t in a club, or you need the atmosphere to be more specific (or if having to talk over lyrics is starting to bug you). For a nice collection of ambient music for both fantasy and modern settings, try out this Grooveshark playlist.
Get Some Toys
I think that too much in the way of costuming and props can take away from the story, and distracts players, but a key prop or two can go a long way extending immersion into a game. You could draw up the mad scribblings left by the cult of the Elder God and hand them out to the players, or you could have them find a flash drive with digitized ancient texts that they can “study” between sessions. Maybe if they find a clue hidden within, they can gain some advantage in the story?
The Book of Nod from Vampire the Masquerade was a great supplement made by White Wolf that added a kind of prop to the game, if the game master chose to use it in that way. Other items you may want to include could be clues to a murder (or other mystery) or a magical artifact of unknown origin and use. Also, I find that any puzzles you include in games are always better with a physical item the players can manipulate.
The picture above comes from an Etsy account, where that package goes for $60. While that price is completely reasonable for all of the fine work the author did, you could also easily make many things like this one, but themed to your campaign world or setting.
Add Extra Roleplay
While you will often know your character’s powers and abilities, it’s also common to just think of your character as a sum of their parts. Saying that you play a “half-elf werewolf cleric of the moon goddess” may sound pretty cool, but it tells me nothing about the character. If I asked you describe Han Solo without mentioning his job or what he looks like you would probably be able to easily. Han Solo has character, he acts a certain way, talks a certain way and has a unique personal style that has nothing to do with how he dresses.
Try to think of your character in different terms than their class or bloodline, develop a life story that is rich and developed. What was their childhood like? Do they still have a relationship with their parents or siblings? Maybe they in love with someone or they have a dark secret that they must keep hidden. How did you meet the other members of the company- are they old friends or people you don’t really trust?
No one really needs an essay or series of short stories for their characters, but answering these questions mentally before even thinking about the mechanics of the RPG system will help you make a character who is more well rounded. This helps you out in the long run because you will “know” your character better and will feel more comfortable acting in character. Even if your group doesn’t do silly voices, these mental exercises help you improvise your actions more effectively.
Use A Silly Voice
Speaking of talking a silly voice… I know it’s not always appropriate and I know some groups really hate it so if your group is like that, don’t be That Guy/Girl or be disruptive. That said, using silly voices while roleplaying can be a ton of fun. I’ve never had more fun with a character than the time I got to play a condescendingly righteous rhinoceros man- the harumph-ing and broo-ha-ha-ing I got to add into my voice gave the character that much more texture and it really helped paint the scene for me.
A good way to get a good voice for your character would be to watch some media and try to imitate the sound of a character you like. We all have a different level of ability for this kind of thing, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t sound anything like that at first and just practice until you’re satisfied with your new voice. Just avoid doing really recognizable characters, no one wants to hear everything you do in Marge Simpson’s voice, it takes away from the moment.
Do you have something you like to do during your roleplaying games? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments.