Our heroes have just come back to town after exploring the wastelands, and the GM asks Fred what his character, Skark the scavenger, is doing.
“He’s looking around to see if he can buy some more shotgun shells, then he’ll check in at the weather tower to see if they picked up any new radio signals. Oh, and he’ll get some salve for that 6 hits of burn damage he took.”
Great. Now we know what his character is doing. Informative, yes, but it doesn’t exactly draw you into the magical world of the imagination. Are you intrigued? I’m not intrigued.
The GM tries again and says, that’s great. Now tell us what it’s like to be your character, right now. What’s your character thinking, or feeling, or just what is it like to walk around behind his eyes? Fred thinks for a moment then starts talking, and everyone else sits back and listens.
“Skark is tired and dusty from his long days in the wastelands. He’s limping a little from the burns on his leg, and he’s still mad at Pog for crashing the rover. Coming back to town always feels like coming home, but Skark is too tough to ever let anyone see that. As he trudges between the shanties and he sees people planting seeds and kids playing, he doesn’t smile, but inside it makes him feel like he’s doing something that makes a real difference. Even his burns hurt a little less.”
That’s a good character monologue. Yep, now I’m digging Skark, because I get him. Now I want to see what happens to this guy. I’m interested.
A character monologue is not a monologue by the character, it’s a monologue about the character. It’s not a narrative of action, or a description of events. It’s just a window into what it’s like to be that person, in this moment, right here, right now.
It doesn’t have to be poetry or high art, just an honest and subjective experience of that character. It’s a little slice of spotlight time for a player to show us their character’s inner workings and help us understand them better.
Because there is no pressure to react to a specific situation or respond to things someone else said, the player is free to shine light on whatever corner of the character’s brain they want. Maybe there were facets of the character that the player wanted to bring up but the situation never presented itself. Now they can. You might be surprised when a player starts monologuing about how their savage barbarian hero is starting to feel his years and is sorry he never settled down and had kids.
It’s a tool for all seasons:
> Not getting a player’s character? Calling for a character monologue will help you be interested.
> Players not in the zone, not playing in the moment? Calling for character monologues forces the player to get in their own character’s head and think about what it’s like to just be that guy, right now. It brings them down from the birds-eye view and puts them back in their own boots, in the moment.
> Player characters not gelling? No love at the table? Calling for character monologues can get the players interested in each others’ characters, and give them the insider information they need to play off each others’ character. Because if you want a good game it’s just as important that the players like each others’ characters as it is that they like their own characters.
And players, don’t be shy: if you want a character monologue, just say so.
edit: Changed first example from first to third person to avoid confusion. Both examples could just as easily be in first person.