D&D and Acting (or D&DnA)


In this guest blog, Luke Mason (AKA Jarryn) writes about approaching D&D from the perspective of a trained actor.

Luke Mason here. 
I rolled mostly average when character building my life.

“Acting isn't other than who you are, it’s more of who you are.”
Paul Hampton, a university acting coach of mine, said that in one of our first-year theatre classes.

I have certainly used that phrase many times since then to help me find truthful methods of getting into character by exploring and highlighting certain facets of my existing personality. This same quote can also be reinterpreted for the sake of Dungeons and Dragons. For role playing, sure, but also in the approach of how we can play the game.

I love the term “play." In a theatrical sense, a play is defined as a performance – but I've learned that when putting on a show and discovering your character, there also needs to be an air of playfulness in how we interact. Playfulness is a very active state where you engage with, listen to, and respond in kind to your senses, the environment around you, and the people you're playing with. I believe all people have a creative, playful side to them. Without having this sense of play in performance, I've seen people on stage become stiff and lifeless, and lose their sense of storytelling; it negates the whole suspension of disbelief.

Rehearsal for the production of  Boomerang

Rehearsal for the production of Boomerang

Now if I'm being honest with you, I was shy and reserved growing up. I guess I’d even go as far as to say I’m more on the introverted side of things. Not to an antisocial degree – but I still prefer hanging out with a small group of close friends at home rather than going out to a club. But discovering a love for acting and theatre when I was a kid helped to give me a creative outlet. Since finding this passion, I’ve definitely come out of my shell more – I even have some control over being somewhat less introverted when the need arises. No one handed me something I didn’t have before, but I was shown that there was more of me inside that I didn't let get to the surface as much. It was as though a switch had been flicked all of a sudden, seemingly giving me permission to let loose a little and, for lack of a better phrase, strut my stuff.

But Luke, how does this relate to D&D? Well when I first started playing D&D with three people out in a wooden shed filled with candles, the whole game was an alien concept to me. “What, we just speak through what we’re doing and roll dice?” Plus my improvisation skills in acting were never that keen, so for a lot of the time in my first game or two, my character seemed a bit bland and underdeveloped to me. I didn’t know who Jarryn was or how this creature behaved in this world. I only created this numbered sheet of paper like five minutes ago; I need a real script. So I was kind of just there for the ride, like I was being told a story (mind you, I think Matt is a fantastic and talented story teller).

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Once I got the hang of the format though and gave myself permission to play, I had the best time with this game! I let Jarryn become a heightened version of various aspects of my personality. How would the bold, daring, and whimsical side of Luke react in this scenario? Got more aspects of your personality you wanna express? Guess what? There are any number of characters in D&D you can create that can be just as much a part of you! Here was another opportunity to express my creative side and let loose. That's the moment when I felt like I was engaged in a part of the storytelling process rather than just listening to it, that I was an equal creator that could affect the outcome of this world we’d made. Plus who doesn't love fighting bad guys, casting spells, and looting treasure keeps!?

To me, the process of Dungeons and Dragons is a lot like acting in that it gives the participant a creative outlet to express themselves, or a more heightened version of themselves, freely in a world/stage where we can set the terms and anything is possible.