The latest trend in gaming seems to be a focus on characters—developing their personalities and ignoring the numbers or, more likely, using the numbers as a way of development the characters as more than just stat blocks. How can I get my players to roleplay? How can I get my players to involve their PCs more with the game? How can I integrate my PCs' backstories into the world? These are common questions asked by GMs that focus on the Player Characters. Players are asking similar questions. How can I better develop my character and his/her personality? What are my character's motivations?
All of those questions are good questions to ask and can help build an involved game that can draw a lot of attention to the characters; however, perhaps we spend too much time worrying about PCs and perhaps we focus on them too much.
As players, it is easy to look to your character as your portal into the game world: as a vessel that lets you experience all that the world has to offer; therefore, it's easy to put all of our focus on development that character to be exactly what we want. This can create some issues, and many of them are common for us to experience.
Often, we will make a character and have an ideal development for that character. We can picture the character perfectly in our minds and know their personality in and out, but when we play the character, we grow disappointed in how they turn out. This might be because when we picture the character in our minds, he or she is the main focus—the main character, but when we play that isn't true; all of the PCs become the main character and, in a sense, none of them do. We each focus on our own characters and their developments while ignoring all the other characters and possibly even the world itself.
What if we began asking different questions? What is an interesting story that I can run to get my players interested? What's a cool situation that I can throw in to force the characters to work together? How can I take my players' focus off their characters and put it toward the world? Some of these go hand-in-hand with the previous questions. Integrating a character's backstory into your game is a great way to attract attention from that player, and what if the characters all had a shared backstory that they all created together?
For players, different questions need to be asked. Instead of 'What would my character do in this situation?' try asking 'What would be the coolest thing to do in this situation?' or 'What is my character capable of and how can I abuse that here to spice things up?' Instead of asking 'How can I better develop my character's personality?' try asking 'How can I form a better relationship between my character and the others in the party?'
What if the players in your game asked those questions? What if there was more inner-party roleplay? What if there was more 'What do you think, guys? Would that be cool?' Would you have more fun? Would you be disappointed in your character's development?