True confession time: I'm not much of a roleplayer. There, I've said it.
I've seen three basic schools of roleplaying:
Either type (a):
"My swordsman insists the guard let him pass. If the guard resists, Torromir will run him through and keep going."
Also known as the mellow third-person.
(b): "I insist he let me pass. ''Come now, good fellow, let me pass!' "
I'll call this the mixed style.
or (c): "Hark! Worthy guard! Make way for a man on urgent business!"
Better known as the all first-person, or hardcore roleplayer.
I usually fall into the (a) or (b) camps. I prefer the middle road, a mix of in-character and third-person perspectives. Pure in-character speak makes me way too self-conscious as a player.
I recall some months (years?) ago playing with Adrian (of Goodman Games fame) Pommier's group. He had a healthy-sized group of players, both male and female, and the group fell pretty solidly in the (c) range with the occasional touch of (a) or (b). I sat down for the first time, not knowing most of the players at the table, and it was fairly intimidating.
For those that haven't had the pleasure of experiencing Adrian's DMing at a tourney sometime, let me establish that he's a wonderful DM—totally comfortable and confident, adaptable, extremely solid in his rules knowledge and as likely to give voice to a pious cleric one moment or a haggard beggar the next and make either distinctly believable. The players were good, the DM good, but the play style was an unusual one for me. It was a good experience, and it had been a while since I ran into a group that relished the role-play over roll-play aspect, or at least gave both equal measure. I soon shook off my opening jitters and eased into it as things went along. I came to admire the dedication of this group of roleplayers, yet I still admit it isn't my default style.
Growing up I suffered from a near devastating shyness—in my younger teens simply ordering fast food was something worthy of rehearsal (the beginning of The Godfather comes to mind)—yet many years later I went on to act onstage and jock a highly rated blues radio program. To be sure, radio is a different thing. The audience is unseen and rarely heard from (except via the occasional call-in). But why would I be more relaxed speaking to an unseen audience that numbered in the thousands instead of a new group of perhaps 8 people that shared my hobby? I still wonder about that. (And it should be fairly noted that my first one or two solo radio shows were sweat-dretched affairs.) I'm still no public speaker to be sure, but doing seminars at Gen Con isn't the nightmare I would have found it years ago. I take that as a good sign!
Several weeks ago I attended my last of a number of play-reading classes, taught by a wonderful fellow named Peter. In late April we'll resume classes. Peter, well accustomed to working with both experienced actors and amateur students, gently guides us through the paces of cold reading the parts, deftly interjecting every now and again or giving voice to minor parts in his strong British accent. It's been educational (not to mention enjoyable) on a number of levels. Reading from the various plays makes me recall my days spent a decade ago studying Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon and elsewhere, reading the master's lines until they warmed to life (or, more accurately, until we warmed to meet them). Of course, reading plays now makes me think of gaming as well. (Okay, I'm a geek, I admit it, pretty much everything I encounter makes me think of gaming.)
In a similar vein, I have a very young son and I read to him nightly at bedtime. Giving voice to the characters in his books is also voice acting of a sort, even if my only goal is to bring a smile to the face of a 16-month-old boy. I happily ham it up and soon find myself smiling too. (Trying to give a unique voice to 12 different animals in one book is good practice for any DM!)
This recent combination of reading plays and books and giving voice to fictional characters—even if Elmo—has made me reconsider the way I game. In the near future I hope to take a short break from 4e to keeper a short Call of Cthulhu campaign, and a bit more roleplaying (if only on my part) might well help to establish the proper atmosphere, so I may stray into solid "b" or even "c" territory for a change. Who knows, I might even enjoy it.
So what roleplaying style do you prefer? Are you an a-, b-, or c-type, or something else entirely?