Freestyle Friday: Speech Quirks

Dialogue and Roleplay are two of the things that make D&D so great. Because of some things I have done in my own campaigns, I have found that some things just said by the characters can be some of the most memorable moments of the stories you and the other players tell. Sometimes throwing a monkey wrench into that can be quite fun by giving weird caveats, restrictions, or compulsions to spoken dialog of your characters.

 

Kim is one of the players for the group and because she handled a dead grell recently and was affected by latent psionic energies. She can now only speak in questions.

 

I thought that finding different ways to influence the speech of your players could be very interesting and add interesting bits of flavor to your game. So I thought I’d put out a simple column today with some concepts as to how you could manage it. Unlike many of my columns here on Freestyle Friday, this one will probably contain few or no tables and will just be an compendium of things that might strike your fancy.

 

These options could be character quirks, curses, flaws, or simply the result of backgrounds that might involve incapacity to speak well.

 

Here are a few that came to mind.

 

1. Roll a d20, your character cannot pronounce a consonant corresponding to that consonants place in the alphabet (1=b, 2=c 3=d and so on until 20=z) For added complexity, roll a d20 again and the sound is replaced with that other consent, with the place of the consonant to be replaced removed and a 20 resulting in complete omission or apostrophization where that letter occurs) [in the case of letters that make several sounds such as “C” which either makes the K or the S sound in most cases, the player either choses or rolls odd/even. And in the case where sometimes the letter in question makes the sound of another letter, such as how G’s can sound like J’s you use the unique sound if the letter has one.) (I omitted vowels from this system as they are so fundamental to speech it would probably present too much difficulty to properly address this.)

2. A character always speaks either in questions or always in a questioning tone.

3. Cultural norms, such as looking at a person when talking to them are not followed.

4. The character never speaks above a stage whisper or always whispers in stage whispers.

5. A character always shouts or talks loudly (if this would be disruptive, don’t use it or stage shout, which is like a stage whisper but a shout that is theatrical rather than loud.)

6. A character draws out vowels so words with many vowels takes longer to say.

7. A character always speaks abnormally slowly.

8. a character always speaks very quickly.

9. A character drops the ending letters or syllables of many words.

10. the character drops the beginnings of many words.

11. The character has trouble either tensing verbs or conjugating them.

12. A character always speaks in the past tense.

13. A character always speaks in the present tense.

14. The character uses the passive voice almost exclusively.

15. the pitch of the character’s voice either rises, falls, or vacillates as they speak.

16. The character always speaks like they are out of breath.

17. The volume of the character’s voice changes at random (see notes on whispering and shouting above)

18. There are common words the character literally never uses such as “the” or “that” substituting some other word.

19. The character has trouble using gendered pronouns properly.

20. The character randomly switches between languages it knows as it speaks.

 

One final note: Proceed with caution with these suggestions whether you are a player or a DM handing out one of these methods of speech. Some of them might be regarded as offensive in the wrong circumstances, such as if one of your players or someone close to them has one of many speech disorders that can actually produce some of these effects in real life or might be seen as being offensive to someone who does not speak the native language of wherever you live or whatever language you use during play.. As a DM, you also need to know that the player will not either abuse or treat this sort of characteristic in inappropriate ways at the table, though if you have an established group, it probably won’t come up. Also, competence needs to be thought of before you take up one of these characteristics yourselves or give it to a player. Some players, with no comment on their intelligence, are less able to handle some of these characteristics than others and some could more effectively act them than others. Asking questions whenever one speaks is not too difficult and probably most players could handle it, but something like replacing one letter with another is something that it would take one of your better actors in the group to accomplish with any consistent degree of success.

 

I hope some of these ideas could help you design some interesting, and entertaining conversations at the table, or perhaps you could give some prominent NPCs some of these traits as well if you’re the DM.

 

About the Author.

 

Zachary is one of the DMs for “Companions of the Perception Check” and is a blind man who had speech therapy a couple times during his life, though his language is clear now. He enjoys classic lit, bad sci-fi and horror flicks, and the company of his rats and dogs. He speaks German as well as English and likes to attach accents to his D&D characters, particularly right now, his cowgirl Halfling sheriff, Trin. John Wayne’s estate is threatening him with a lawsuit now.

 

About Zachary

Zachary is the original DM for the group but has recently had the pleasure of sharing this role with Kevin. He is a fan of all things Dungeons and Dragons and loves classic lit and bad monster and horror flicks. He is also blind.
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