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Voicing Concerns

DMs use voices many times to make a character unique.  From the gravely voice of the barkeep, to the british accent of the scholar, they make NPCs seem to come to life just a bit more for the players.  The question is, should players themselves use them?

First, let me kick things off by saying that my take on this is yes and no.  It really depends on the character, and the player as well.  PCs are “unique” by their very nature.  Unique is in quotes only because to many players don’t actually make unique characters, but to those around them, they’re unique.  If Bob plays a fighter, then you can see Bob and know who that is.  The unique voice is unnecessary to make Bob unique.  Sure, if Bob is playing a foppish swashbuckler, then Bob might want to do his best Errol Flynn impression just to add to the tone of the character, but does he really need to?  I don’t think so.

However, character voices come in very handy in other game situations.  For example, let’s say you base a character on Doc Holiday.  Let’s make it a western campaign, and the DM approves you playing real western figures, so you’re playing Doc Holiday.  So, after doing some research on Wikipedia (hey, it’s fast and cheap), you find that Val Kilmer’s portrayal in Tomestone is pretty accurate, so you watch the movie and learn to talk with that thick South Georgia accent (and, for the record, not all of us from down here talk like that.  Doc Holiday’s home town isn’t that far from my home town of Albany, GA).  Now, you talk about being someone’s “huckleberry” and that they’re a “daisy”.  In this instance, that odd voice goes lightyears to bringing Doc Holiday back to life.

Now, it’s important that a voice not be a crutch to get out of proper role play.  With the Doc Holiday example, he still needs to drink and gamble as primary ways to spend his time.  The character can not be the voice, and the voice can not be the character.  There has to be more substance.  However, with proper substance and the voice, the character can come to life in ways you never even dreamed of!

September 4, 2008 - Posted by | RPG | ,


  1. In my book, voicing your character to the best of your ability within reason (especially and specifically during roleplay encounters or interactions with other PCs/NPCs) is not required, but goes a long way toward maxing your Good Roleplaying exp reward each session… at least as much as other things, such as (for example) blowing a chunk of your cash on your favorite vice every time you can does.

    Comment by Liambic | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’m in complete agreement with you there!

    Comment by Tom | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  3. I like voice; I have a hard time keeping it up most of the time in live-chat, but online I can do a decent job of keeping my word patterns straight, so you don’t necessarily need the color-codes to tell who’s talking. (Doesn’t mean I don’t color-code, though!)

    How much do you differentiate between slang and accent? Do you need both to do voice, or can you settle for one?

    Comment by Ravyn | September 4, 2008 | Reply

  4. Personally, I think a voice should be plenty, though slang can add believability to that character as well, depending on the game, location, etc. For example, a vampire game with the character being lower class British, you’ll need a LOT more slang than playing a Southern US resident ;). However, I don’t think it’s really all that necessary, but it adds a nice touch.

    Comment by Tom | September 5, 2008 | Reply

  5. Right, voice is inflection and accent, whereas slang is represented by speech patterns and alternate word usage. While combining them definitely makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts, neither one would be required, especially if the character wouldn’t have both. A dwarf raised from infancy with humans wouldn’t have dwarven speech patterns (i.e. using euphamisms for meat, rocks, beards, and beer for nearly everything) but might still have a hereditary accent, albeit a less intense one.

    Comment by Liambic | September 5, 2008 | Reply

  6. Speaking of speaking (lol I’m funny) and stereotypes, I thought I’d hijack this post for a second and list the common voices I use for different races and ethnicities in Torar (my homebrew), and see if there are any others that share the same.

    Dwarf – Scottish for standard dwarves, Irish for a subrace of dwarf called guild dwarves (mercantile and metalworking specific).
    Human, Common – Cockney.
    Human, Noble – Brittish.
    Human, Desert – A bastardized mixture of Jamaican and Kenyan.
    Elf – Mostly just a soft-spoken version of my normal voice, though one subrace might have a slightly Asian twinge.
    Gnome – Bouncier and higher pitched normal voice. Imagine adding elastic bands to your voice and you’ll be about right.
    Halfling – Irish/Brittish.
    Half-orc – Gruffer, lower octave normal voice.
    And then I’ll throw in the occasional Russian, German, and Cherokee to keep things interesting.

    Comment by Liambic | September 5, 2008 | Reply

  7. @Liambic: Generally, accents for humans are a learned trait, rather than heridary, so I tend towards it working the same way for other races as well. So, I see a dwarf raised by humans and solely around humans as speaking like a human. Of course, they aren’t human, so that’s a case of folks doing it however they want 😉

    Comment by Tom | September 5, 2008 | Reply

  8. Well, specifics aside, it was the point I was trying to convey 🙂

    Comment by Liambic | September 5, 2008 | Reply

  9. Yeah, but I felt like being a poopie-head, so deal with it 😉

    Comment by Tom | September 5, 2008 | Reply

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