Your Voice Vs. Character Voice
Words have power. In the table top role playing games, the spoken word is the main medium. We often ignore this fact, thinking that what we say and how we say it doesn’t matter. In reality, what we say and how we say it can change the game in drastic ways. It can mean the difference between a good game and a great game. It can change the expected encounter into something no one saw coming. Spontaneous or planned, what you say is going to be the deciding factor of how a game goes. Sure, the dice decide if our actions succeed, but our words are going to decide what those actions are and how we deal with the results.
The big topic I want to address here is how to relay your words. Do you speak in character or in your own voice? Sometimes, the two are the same and it doesn’t matter. There are times, however, where you should one instead of the other. Then, there are moments when using one instead of the other gives you unexpected results.
What is the difference between the two voices?
Your voice is the tone, volume, and vocabulary you use in your own, personal, everyday life. It is the voice you use to blandly tell everyone you are going to roll a skill check. In a sense, it is the voice you use in the mechanics of the game. In short, you are not using this voice when you are “in character.”
The character voice is the tone, volume, and vocabulary you use when you are talking like your character. It is the voice you use when interacting, in character, with NPCs. It is the way you play the fluff of your character, and it is the voice that gives your character a bit more flavor.
In some cases, they are the same. If you are playing yourself, or your character is similar to you in many ways, you won’t be changing how you talk or what words you use when you are talking to NPCs. But there is still a time when you are using different voice. Your character, for example, doesn’t use vocabulary like, “Armor Class”, “CMB”, or “THAC0.” They also don’t refer to their weapons as +1 flaming swords. They probably have names for them, but that honestly is a different blog post.
When should you use one over the other?
Most players have the sense to know when they need to use one voice over the other. I already mentioned that characters do not talk about how their armor class is too low or they can’t possibly make the needed Combat Maneuver roll. But there are some situations where you should use one voice over the other when you are playing.
Recently, I used my character’s voice to relay information and doing so caused the party to do the exact opposite of what I wanted them to do. In the end I found the experience more enjoyable as a whole, but the fact remains that I used the wrong voice to pass along the information I wanted them to have. If I had used my own voice, I would have used differnt vocabulary and I would have told them what I wanted them to do. With the character’s voice, I only told them what I felt my character would say in the way he would say it.
Use your own voice when you absolutely need the group to understand what you are trying to say. Doing this gives you more room and time to explain exactly what you mean and allows the group to ask questions if they are not understanding you. The reason why this is acceptable is due to the fact that you are not your character, and sometimes you just can’t speak the same way they would when explaining things. Sometimes, their mental abilities are higher then yours and they would be more brief and precise with their words.
You should also use your own voice when explaining what your intentions are while interacting with NPCs. Much like trying to pass along information, your GM should know what you are trying to do with those Diplomacy rolls. Also, using your own voice avoids silly misunderstandings that cause the GM to interpret what you want differently then what you intend. Once you have pass along your intentions and goals, go ahead and switch to the character voice.
Character voice can be really fun to use in nontraditional situations. In combat you can describe your actions in your character voice, all while rolling and checking to see how successful you are. Talking is also a free action, so take advantage of that and throw around some taunts, insults, bravado, and curses. You will find doing this is actually very fun and livens up combats that normally have, “You hit, you miss,” be the only description.
Character voice can also be used just randomly at any time you want to use it. Try expressing your character’s feelings and thoughts as they move through play. “I have a bad feeling about this,” is better then, “I think the GM is screwing with us.” The former is ominous and carries with it emotion. The later speaks of annoyance and breaks the illusion of the game.
No matter what voice you choose, the game is still going to be fun. Go ahead and experiment. Who knows, you might find some cool results.