Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Optimize Your Roleplaying #2: Pulling the Trigger

     Every other Thursday night I sit down at the gaming table and mutter this under my breath, usually accompanied with a sardonic grin. It’s silly and makes me chuckle. But it’s an important part of helping me transition from Anthony Li, unassuming gaming blogger into Riordan Soleratov Detrovsky, imperious and cynical swordsman. What does a brief line about warships from a popular space-based RTS game from 1999 have to do with my Pathfinder Character? Everything.

     The best trick I know for getting into character is what I’ll call a trigger. There’s probably a more official name for this out there. But for the sake of this blog, let’s just call it a trigger. A trigger can be a phrase, gesture, or similar quirk that can serve as a portal into the personality of the character that you’re representing. You might develop a feral grin if you’re playing a half-orc barbarian. Or you might steeple your fingers as a calculating arcanist. “Battlecruiser: Operational” is one of my triggers for Riordan.

     So why use a trigger? Referring back to the lake metaphor from the last post, triggers can help you skip past the shallows, allowing you to get right into character from the start. It acts as a mnemonic save point that lets you carry a character’s personality consistently between sessions. This is especially helpful if your group goes weeks between gaming sessions, or if you’re juggling multiple characters in several different games.

     There are a number of different ways to develop a useful trigger for your character. I find it easiest to picture what it is my character is doing, right now, at this moment. Is it an action? A gesture? A phrase? Then I try to figure out why my character is doing or saying that thing. This process helps me to mentally associate that action with that character’s personality.

     As an example, Glenn-Gladdion is a PFS character of mine. He is, like many gnomes, in the market for excitement. If I throw my hands above my head and shout, “Gnome Hemothurge and Arcanist Extraordinaire!” I’m channeling the mirth and joy I’d expect to come from such a zany gnomish wizard. I’ve created a link between the emotion I express with the trigger with the emotions my character is likely to feel or express during the session.

     As a GM you benefit from triggers much more than as a player. Being able to switch back and forth between NPCs at the drop of a hat is a great skill to have during games and can do a lot to up the immersion level of your group. Since I’ve started to come up with triggers for the recurring NPCs in my group, I’ve found that the personalities of these NPCs start to become more apparent to my players. My players are more eager to interact with these NPCs as a result, creating a more engaging experience for everyone.

1 comment:

  1. In the world of operant conditioning, we call it a "discriminative stimulus", defined as a stimulus that does not elicit any other responses aside from the desired one, and elicits the desired response with a high degree of reliability.