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You've probably seen those jokes on the net about "Real Men," "Real Roleplayers," "Loonies," and "Munchkins." Well, this little meandering is for Real Roleplayers. It's for the folks who really want to get to know their characters. If you're not into getting into your character's head, knowing things that probably will never have any bearing on a game, you'll probably be bored. That's okay—just go on to some other part of the page. I don't mind.

Okay, are some of you still here? Good. 'Cause I want to talk about one of the coolest ways I've discovered to get to know a character. It involves making stories in a dark room.

Now stay with me. I know that sounds weird, but it works. You need a couple of things first, though—a fairly decent knowledge of your character, and at least one co-conspirator. It's hard (but not impossible) to do this by yourself.

Now, the next thing you need to do is find a dark room and a comfortable place to sit. One of you should "steer" the story, though it's possible for both/all of the participants to take turns at this. Figure out a storyline. It could be as simple as "the characters meet for the first time" or as complicated as a complete shadowrun. But the important thing is that you get into character and stay there. This is where the dark room comes in. It's not absolutely necessary, but I find that it helps some people (including me) lose their inhibitions about pretending to be somebody else. In the dark, you can't see the other peoples' faces, and they can't see yours. It also helps, of course, if you're pretty comfortable with your co-players.

After awhile, you might discover some things. For example, you might discover that your character doesn't really "click" for you—that he or she might have been a fun concept, but just doesn't have the "staying power" for you to keep interested over the course of a campaign. You might also discover, as I did, that you and your co-players can literally go on for hours at this. It is truly a magical experience when all the players are tuned into their characters and the "story machine" is humming along, driven by the personalities of the participants.

For me personally, this exercise works best when there are only two participants, but your mileage may vary. It's best when the story doesn't get in the way of the characterization; there's nothing that stops a session faster than arguing over who shot whom and how effective it was. We find that the "pick a number" system works best when needing to resolve something—one person chooses a number between 1 and 100, and the person attempting to do something tries to guess the number. The more difficult the task, the closer they must get to the number to be successful. The player picking the original number gets to decide how effective the action was, based on the proximity of the guessed number and the actual one. This system works really well when the participants trust each other; it's simple, nonintrusive, and easy to resolve. Remember, the characterization is the important part here, not the plotline. If things get a little weird in the plot, just go with them. Sometimes they'll lead to something better than you intended.

This exercise is great for exploring characters' internal reactions to things, and also for exploring how these internal reactions are displayed outwardly. For example, how does your character really feel about accidentally shooting a child bystander in a firefight? Is he/she resigned to the inevitability that these things happen? Secretly broken up about it but reluctant to show it to his/her teammates? Does he/she break down with guilt, or just shrug it off? Take it from me, if you're really clued in to your character, you might just find out some things about him or her that you didn't know. When this happens, it makes the whole thing worthwhile. It also makes you a better roleplayer next time you're playing the "real" game. You don't need to think about how your character will react to a situation—you'll know. Even if you've never encountered this particular situation before, the character's personality will drive his or her reactions, and the answer will be right in front of you.

This kind of thing is what Real Roleplayers live for.