Following on from yesterdays post about Court Etiquette I thought It would be a good idea to look at this sort of roleplaying encounter from the other side. While players may benefit from yesterdays advice on how to talk to those of higher rank, that doesn't help the GM roleplay the NPC in a convincing way. So this is a guide for GM's on how to make their rulers more realistic.
One of the key lessons learned yesterday was understanding rank and your position in it. For the Players that will invariably be much lower down the social order than a Duke or a King. But for the GM playing an NPC of higher rank means recognising that higher status and conveying it to the players through words and roleplaying. Portraying authority doesn't necessarily mean being rude or aggressive - although this works too - it can be done through the careful use of language and the manner in which it is delivered. Here are some examples.
When conversing with the Player Characters the ruler NPC should only speak in the Third Person. This is a narrative style where every character is referred to as "he", "she", "it", or "they", but never as "I" or "we" (first-person), or "you" (second-person). This elevates the speaker above the mundane world that surrounds them and sets them apart from everyone else in it.
Do not use contractions such as Don't, Isn't or I'll. Conversation sounds 'older' when spoken in full and the deliberate absence of verbal contractions will make your NPC stand out. In combination with the Third Person style this language technique can be very effective in conveying superiority and aloofness.
Another trick is to speak slowly but with complete self assurance. This languid approach conveys the speakers control of the conversation. It also gives you, the GM, time to formulate your response to the ongoing conversation. Never reveal hesitation when talking with your inferiors. Hesitation equals weakness and weakness invites usurpation and insurrection. As a ruler you will have learned never to show it and your roleplaying must reflect this.
Never be afraid to interrupt your inferiors. They should be hanging on your every word and (if they are following the etiquette rules outlined yesterday) will stop talking immediately to listen to your wisdom. Once again this buys you time to formulate a response to unforeseen tangents in the conversation and it reinforces your superiority and authority on the encounter.
Finally if you are roleplaying a leader, show leadership. When you speak you expect your commands to be obeyed not debated. You are quite comfortable making decisions on behalf of other people and when you make decisions you have the court bureaucracy (advisers, ministers, clerks etc) to to do your bidding. The PC's have entered your domain so whenever you exercise leadership in this way you are demonstrating you're authority and thereby your credentials as a ruler.