To some, role-playing games are intimidating because of the role-play aspect. The Angry DM did a fantastic job of addressing “What is Role-Playing” on his blog, so I’m going to steal his definition and start from there.
In a nutshell, role-playing is about assuming a hypothetical situation and trying to decide how you (or another character) would behave in that situation. — Angry DM
Simple and sweat. What does this not include? Acting. I make that distinction because, as Angry points out, most people think that role-playing means to act. It can include acting, but it’s not needed by default. Adding a slight spin on your voice and making grand gestures might be cool and fun, but it’s not required to play a role.
Looking for mechanical advantages also doesn’t mean you arn’t role-playing. In combat-heavy games like D&D, your characters are pretty much trained soldiers. Do you think that a trained soldier isn’t going to use high ground, cover, an abandoned but functional cannon, etc, on the grounds that “I wouldn’t do that if I was at home on the couch”? It might not occur to you or I when exactly to take the high ground vs going to ground, but it is painfully obvious to your character – and this is represented by the fact you are given the numerical bonuses for each action.
Just dispelling the myth that you can’t role-play in combat, or that you must act out your part in order to role-play. Don’t be afraid of role-play.