Role-playing development is, you might have guessed, one of the biggest aspects of Table-Top RPGs. It is a huge reason why gamers play, but the role-playing doesn’t have to start and stop at the table. There are ways that you can get your gamers more involved with their characters outside of play.
My favorite way to get players involved with the RPG and storytelling aspects of role-playing are by having them write up backgrounds for their characters. I would never create a character without first having a background for the character. It lets you personalize the character and it really does push you to break race and class stereotypes of RPG games. Why would I ever choose the profession skill and make it baker? Or why choose the acrobatics feat over something more useful like two-weapon fighting? Having a character with a background and personality lets you choose some of the combat and stat related things that you normally wouldn’t. It allows for diversity in the game and in your game play so you do not fall in the same archetypes each time.
Making a background for a character can be as easy as making a list of phrases or events that have happened. Ask yourself questions like “How did my character learn to use this weapon? Why not a different one?” and “Why is my character adventuring; what drives their decisions?” Answering these questions can give you a huge advantage when it comes to role-playing as you are no longer making decisions you would make, but making decisions your character would make.
Another good way of getting characters involved in outside RPGing with their characters is to allow for story creation. In those long campaigns when traveling or staying the night at an inn or cooking a meal there is interaction that happens that sometimes gets skipped over. Give the players the option to write stories about what happens during these times. They can do these in-between sessions and can even get together with other players and Role-play the situations out.
Chat rooms are great for in-between session interactions. They are perfect for first person role-playing because you can set up notations to indicate action and speaking. You then use these notations to play out your character and respond to the other people as they act in their character. Once done the story is already written. You could then put them up online or email the rest of the party in case they wish to read it!
I have done this before online when I was part of a Star Trek simulation. It was amazing! Outside the normal weekly meetings I could set up times with other people who played and we would get on a chat room and act in character. Stories would arise organically and characterization became important as it dictated how you interacted with people. It allowed for in game relationships and felt more fulfilling then just role-playing in game.
Of course you cannot force your players to do extra role-playing outside the normal table-top RPGing. If they are interested, giving them the options to do these things could make a huge difference in their game-play and also in how much they enjoy playing. Setting up these options is your responsibility as DM or GM and going the extra mile can be fun.