These tips were pulled from a post I put together over on EN World called “RP Prompting and Immersion”. Here, I expand upon them further.
One of the things we (in general) focus on initially when we think of role-playing is character backgrounds. Going into great detail with character backgrounds can be good, and even works for me for the most part, but when it comes to helping produce good RP opportunities in game, I like to create what I call a Character Foreground instead, and I like for my players to do this as well.
Character foregrounds, as opposed to backgrounds, focus entirely on the here and now. I tend to think of it as “what have I been doing the last day or two that lead me to hook up with this group”. Here is a quick example I used in another thread recently…
DM: What about you, what’s your background?
ME: “Me? Until a few minutes ago, I was standing on the corner holding three of my teeth in my hand. This town almost took my life about an hour ago when two men jumped me behind the tavern. This cut on my face? as you can see, it’s fresh! I have no money, no friends, and no future. I heard these guys offering people money to help them clear out a basement? I mean, are you kidding me? I’m thinking hell yea… at this point, I would scrape barnacles off the pier for a whole day if I could get a drink at the end of the night”
So that’s a quick example. It covers nothing of my characters’ life from more than a day ago, which leaves plenty of topics for conversation later (aka RP-ing) in-game. I may have some of the background information written down, but it would be in a very basic format (a few sentences maybe – just something to prompt me when asked, but not so much that I am bound by anything).