I’ve mentioned this idea before, but today gave me the opportunity to talk about it more in depth (sic): going Deep in tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs).
Go Deep While Creating player characters (PC)
When creating characters, we sometimes tend to go all over the place. This is somehow system-dependent, since games like D&D tend to go for an à la carte menu that is supposed to give you an idea of your character by adding up all of the different options. Most Powered by the Apocalypse games, on the other hand, are much more focused since you usually have to choose only one thing—your Playbook—and then you have minor decisions, such as particular moves within the Playbook.
Still, I’d argue that you can go deep in character creation in any system, just by starting with an overall simple concept and then dig deep. So, you’re playing an elf warrior who specializes in a bow. Why? Why did you specialize in a bow? Why did you become a fighter? How was your elf upbringing different from a human one? As you can see, asking follow-up questions to your basic concept can help you give a new dimension to your character.
Go Deep While Playing
Sometimes you’re in the middle of a session, playing your character, and you’re not doing much. That’s a perfect time to think about your character! Make some notes answering the sort of questions I mentioned above. Dig deep and maybe you can get more out of the gaming session even if you’re not acting in character at the moment.
Thinking about your character this way also allows you to stay in character even when you’re not speaking or acting as them. Overall, it’s a better use of your time, I think, than going over your social media notifications once again or checking your email for the umpteenth time.
Go Deep in the Moment
Sometimes you’re confronted with a question about your character that you hadn’t thought about. In this case, improvise! Say whatever comes to mind first, write it down for consistency in the future, and then think about that answer.
This can often lead to some hilarious or surprisingly dramatic moments, because the answers that will usually come to mind will be instinctively different, in my experience, from your run-of-the-mill, well-rehearsed story about your character (there’s nothing wrong with this kind of answers, by the way, but it’s something that I’ve noticed when comparing the two).
Moreover, you can question your spur of the moment answers to make them as solid and coherent with your character as any other.
Go Deep With Non-Player Characters (NPCs)
It’s something every Game Master (GM) will empathize with, I think: you have your carefully created NPCs, ready to become staples in your campaign, and then the players become interested in that innkeeper, shopkeeper, or orphan on the street that you added as a little bit of flavor.
And then you have to improvise an NPC on the spot.
You can reskin another NPC you already have prepared, of course, but I tend to go the other way and try to come up with an NPC right at that moment.
To do so, first think of a motivation. This person wants something. What is it? And, perhaps more importantly, how can the player characters (PCs) help them get that something?
And then, dig deep.
Why do they want that? How long have they been trying to obtain it? What are they willing to do to get it? What are they not willing to do? All of these and more questions will help you round up your NPC and should give you more confidence to play them in the future if you have to.
Go Deep With Your Adventure/Campaign
When you’re running an adventure and/or campaign, I and other people recommend that you start small: one town, one problem, one antagonist. But where do you go from there?
You guessed it: dig deep by asking questions.
Your antagonist wanted something and they opposed the PCs because of it. But were they alone in their desire? It’s convenient for you that they didn’t. Maybe they were part of a group that pursues the same “bad” thing. Now your PCs have some other antagonists to go after, located elsewhere in the fictional world.
Voilá! Your adventure just gained a lot of depth.
You can do the same thing with all of the other parts of your fictional world. Your starting town belongs to a larger region and is connected to other towns, for example. The problem the PCs resolved may be the symptom of a much larger disease.
So these are some of the ways that I usually go deep while playing or thinking about TTRPGs. How about you?
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