A quality of RPGing in Dungeons and Dragons that is often overlooked is the ability for players to interact and converse with NPCs. Included in this blog are several tips on how to teach players to interact with NPCs appropriately.
Most players that are new, and even some that are old, will have difficulty interacting with NPCs in character. It is easy for people to slip out of their character and into their own persona when collecting information or conversing as it feels more comfortable. While it is not critical for players to interact with NPCs in character, it adds an additional RPG aspect that helps develop characters and make players and the Dungeon Master feel more in the game.
The first thing to discourage is players talking about what their character does in third person. An example of this that is quite common would be a player saying “My character asks the bartender for a drink.” While this is perfectly acceptable, it is much more dynamic for the player to speak in character instead saying something such as, “I approach the bar. After waving the bartender over to me, I say, ‘Fetch me your finest ale’.” Speaking in character and using pronouns such as “I” and “We” is a better way to role-play your character and create a more memorable experience.
One way I get my own players to interact in character is by offering a reward. I start a timer at the beginning of play and for every minute they stay speaking in character they gain extra experience points. Often when attempting to stay in character they also stay more on task and more involved in the plot which are both positives for any RPG adventure.
It is also essential that the Dungeon Master speaks as the NPCs truly would. If the bartender is a strong brawny man, then suggest that by using a voice for the character and speaking to the characters as if you were him. While doing so takes some acting and practice, it will liven up the RPG opportunities for the players as they will feel more compelled to replicate your style of RPGing.
Also as Dungeon Master, the NPC should have information to give, some that may not be pertinent to the story. Sometimes a lively bartender might mention his ailing mother or his recently wed daughter. People in the real world utilize small talk to interact regularly, so NPCs should as well. These small changes to an NPC can create interesting dialogue with players, but be sure to not overload the RPGing with useless dialogue. This can lead to boredom or apathy towards the quest.
While it does help liven up RPG sessions when players interact more wholly with NPCs, do not force anyone out of their comfort zone. Some people may be much more cut and dry in their style of play and it is important to keep this in mind while encouraging new players to act as their character rather than speak for their character.