The final of Wil Wheaton’s game master’s advice series is up up at The Mary Sue, which changes focus a bit from the GM to the players. Wil starts this one by describing how Lemley (Laura Bailey) played her character in a very straightforward, “Act first and think last” kind of approach. This was because during character creation, Lemley had a lower intelligence score than most of the party. Essentially what Laura did with her character, was use the lower intelligence score to inform how she roleplayed Lemley and as a result, made the game more interesting.
I think this is one of the most important tips not just for players, but actually for the GM as well. In a lot of cases, players will look to you for ideas and suggestions on how to proceed with roleplaying – it’s actually a skill that doesn’t come intuitively to most people. Ideally, you’ve sat down as the GM and helped your players make their characters or at least been involved in the process. Part of this is so that you can make sure you have a balanced party, with a mixture or skills and resources to successfully engage (and overcome) the opponents/opposition you send their way. During this process is the perfect place to help newer or less confident roleplayers in how they can get the most of that sheet of game based statistics.
For example let’s say someone is playing Dungeons and Dragons, where their rogue has a low charisma with little investment in social skills. As the GM, you can be helpful to this player by suggesting interesting explanations or ways the player might roleplay this character. They could have a very surly attitude towards others and are used to outright avoiding confrontations instead of needing to negotiate. When they do talk with others, it might be in simple and very direct terms – which is why they come off as so abrasive! On the other hand, you want to be careful not to encourage a player to be an anti-social kleptomanic lone wolf style in this. What you want is someone who will add interesting elements or twists to roleplaying scenarios, but most importantly is still able to contribute to scenes but that plays in a way suggested from their character sheet.
Encouraging players to embrace the flaws and the strengths of their characters mechanical statistics, is often a useful tool for getting the ball rolling on “How do I roleplay this person?”. It’s especially helpful if you as the GM can sit down with newer players or inexperienced roleplayers, to help guide them into a character they would enjoy. Statistics can be a helpful reminder of how a character plays, but beyond this stats are just numbers on a character sheet: It’s how the player makes that character act at the table that makes them a genuine part of the story.