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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Finding your Character Voice

    It happened to me, I was sitting at a random table that I was invited to last minute. I had designed a Paladin because they said they needed a healer and a tank. My first line of dialogue came up and I froze... how does this guy talk? who is he? I ended up choosing a proper British accent to think of my character as a proper knight. But it was boring and the character was flat.

    Since then I like to plan out my characters and write a few lines in a manner I think they might respond, then work on voices that I think are appropriate. My love of D&D started way after my love of acting and directing, so I have been practicing character writing and voicing for a long time.

    For those out there who have a more RP friendly table, how do you get into character? How do you find a voice?

    When I am the DM and I am planning a bunch of characters, I tend to assign each NPC in my notes an iconic character that I am very familiar with and just do that voice/dialogue, this makes it easy to remember how the barkeep talks when they return to the same town months later (in real time).

    The current character I am working on is a cross between Riddick and Thanos in speech. Cold, hard, determined, yet overconfident and sarcastic, used to the world being against him.
    Last edited by Drache64; 2019-09-04 at 10:13 AM.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Faily's Avatar

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I never do accents or dialects. On tabletop it can become a chore to maintain and it often fades away, and more often than not it just becomes comedic rather than a nice touch. In play-by-post, I've too often seen it become a detrimental part of the experience as people might have difficulty understanding what it is you're trying to say (I've seen people do Scottish/Gaelic-kind of thing and half the players couldn't understand it, and I've seen really exaggerated Southern Drawl which also becomes incomprehensible to many).

    Now what I try to do is to consider how the character would structure their speech. Do they avoid using shortened forms (cannot, will not, I am)? Do they use certain slang or phrases? Do they use as few words as possible or do they speak in long drawn out prose?

    One of my recent characters in Star Wars play-by-post almost never started sentences with "I". Instead of saying "I'd like that", she'd say something like "Would like that, yes".
    RHoD: Soah | SC: Green Sparrow | WotBS: Sheliya |RoW: Raani | SA: Ariste | IG: Hemali | RoA: Abelia | WftC: Elize | Zeitgeist: Rutile
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Malphegor's Avatar

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I've found that most characters, while they probably had some initial vision, end up getting most of their traits in the session after they're introduced, with the benefit of hindsight and 'ok so that's how they played, how is their personality now that I know what tactics they use, what their psychology in stressful circumstances are'.

    Dunno if that's universal, but that's how I end up finding my voice in characters- they're initially a blank slate and then grow over time.

    Even when they have a clear vision that I try to stick to, it's often hard to keep to that. I had a Goliath Barbarian whose whole deal was not hurting innocents.

    But I kinda built him to rip things to shreds with super-mega-punches of POWAH. So it was incredibly hard to play him as a pacifistic kindly giant. Maybe next time I'll try a monk with a vow of nonviolence for that concept, I dunno.
    never piss off people for who one of their main hobbies involves aggressive and thorough note-taking.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    Quote Originally Posted by Faily View Post
    I never do accents or dialects. On tabletop it can become a chore to maintain and it often fades away, and more often than not it just becomes comedic rather than a nice touch. In play-by-post, I've too often seen it become a detrimental part of the experience as people might have difficulty understanding what it is you're trying to say (I've seen people do Scottish/Gaelic-kind of thing and half the players couldn't understand it, and I've seen really exaggerated Southern Drawl which also becomes incomprehensible to many).
    Everyone's experience is different, I haven't seen it that much in my groups but one player did try a Scottish accent that was terrible and no one could understand him. It was a table of best friends however so everyone was pretty comfortable ridiculing him until he decided to tell us what his character was saying more than speaking as his character.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    Quote Originally Posted by Faily View Post
    I never do accents or dialects. On tabletop it can become a chore to maintain and it often fades away, and more often than not it just becomes comedic rather than a nice touch. In play-by-post, I've too often seen it become a detrimental part of the experience as people might have difficulty understanding what it is you're trying to say (I've seen people do Scottish/Gaelic-kind of thing and half the players couldn't understand it, and I've seen really exaggerated Southern Drawl which also becomes incomprehensible to many).

    Now what I try to do is to consider how the character would structure their speech. Do they avoid using shortened forms (cannot, will not, I am)? Do they use certain slang or phrases? Do they use as few words as possible or do they speak in long drawn out prose?

    One of my recent characters in Star Wars play-by-post almost never started sentences with "I". Instead of saying "I'd like that", she'd say something like "Would like that, yes".
    In my experience it's very important that I start with a voice for the character and it's okay for it to fade away. Having a voice creates a picture of my character in the heads of the other players and the DM. I've had great success with embodying mannerisms also.
    Black text is for sarcasm, also sincerity. You'll just have to read between the lines and infer from context like an animal

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Faily's Avatar

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    Quote Originally Posted by Drache64 View Post
    Everyone's experience is different, I haven't seen it that much in my groups but one player did try a Scottish accent that was terrible and no one could understand him. It was a table of best friends however so everyone was pretty comfortable ridiculing him until he decided to tell us what his character was saying more than speaking as his character.
    Thing is, in the play-by-posts I've played in, there are more than Americans in them. You have people who's native language isn't English, and so they're often at a disadvantage when encountering strong accents or dialects.

    What people do at their table with their friends, that's their thing. I just will never use accents or dialects to give "voice" to a character. I'm also not a huge fan of things like "dwarves speak with a German accent while elves speak with a French accent"-kind of deal.
    RHoD: Soah | SC: Green Sparrow | WotBS: Sheliya |RoW: Raani | SA: Ariste | IG: Hemali | RoA: Abelia | WftC: Elize | Zeitgeist: Rutile
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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    PirateGirl

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I have happy experiences with accents =)

    At first, I try not to focus very much in the voice or accent of my character, I just imagine how does that character looks like and try to imagine its personality (a drawing or a portrait of it helps very much). As sessions unfold I add more strokes to it until I find an accent with which I feel comfortable with.

    It doesn’t need to have a very distinct accent, sometimes just holding your breath a little, speaking in a nasal way or making your character use constantly a phrase is enough. The accent will develop naturally over time. In fact, I would say that accent is the last part to come out; if you have a strong mental picture of your character the accent is easy to define, but meanwhile you can concentrate in easier things like the way it waves its hands when speaking, his facial expressions, etc.

    Right now I have three characters with perfectly distinguishable accents that I have grown to know to an extent that I don’t need to make any effort to speak like them, I can have a conversation with these three (or more) characters among themselves and anyone at my table can discern perfectly who is talking due to the accent and personality of each one, without me needing to make any transition in the way of “Now X character says”. Moreover, these characters have become so distinguishable that if I lend one of those characters to another player that knows them, there are very good chances that she/he will be able to role-play it correctly and emulate its accent.
    Last edited by CombatBunny; 2019-09-04 at 11:19 AM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    An Amy's Avatar

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    As a DM I tend to have a set number of voices I assign to unimportant NPCs and I tend to keep them mild. Important NPCs will have more defined voices. However, more important to me are the choice of words and use of their language rather than their accent. I also write a lot and do PbP more so than in-person sessions, so I tend to think of character voice as something that could be conveyed reading a line of text than hearing a line of speech. And the sound of the text when read aloud isn't as important. Unless there's something very specific, such as the purpose of hearing the character speak is to know that one cannot understand them... then that is something different. Most of the time when just communicating, I won't use an accent barely at all. Except for one notable character of mine that has an Spanish accent and talks in first person plural (we, us, our). He's special ;)

    When deciding upon this, I think of their upbringing, their education level and experiences. Are they a fast talker because of how they lived, slow and calculated? An orc barbarian with above average intelligence and charisma speaks in slower but well-thought words and phrases, likes to use quotes and references. An rogue might call everyone she runs into 'boss' just because of where she grew up and how quickly she likes to establish herself as not the important one in the group, no one needs to really pay attention to the little one... that sort of thing.

    My in-person players right now don't have much of a character voice. One player talks the same way for every character he's ever played. Another player does have a touch of an accent and word choice every now and then but for the most part speak naturally. Another player tries speaking like an evangelist for his cleric but it doesn't happen often, thankfully.

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Guizonde's Avatar

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    i've experienced what malphegor brought up. we call it "summoning sickness" in our group, and we have a 3 session delay between the character concept and their personality setting in.

    for my part, i do accents but unintentionnally. i speak with a pretty strong southern french accent in my day to day life which sounds like i'm singing to other frenchmen. based on that, i'm familiar with twisting my way of speaking to neutralize that accent to either fit in or be more understandable. this gives me a wide range of options for characters, and it turns out that some characters just pick up an accent during the first 3 sessions.

    for example, edward the sociopathic genius girl-of-doom, had a very pronounced high-society parisian accent which sounds incredibly snooty. i don't know why she developped that accent, she just did. in hindsight, it fit with her high-born status.

    on the other hand, josé the noble-born inquisitor spoke with a pretty thick redneck (marseille) accent. it started off with him mimicking docker speech (he came from riddle-port) and he never lost it. the group liked it a lot because no one expects a reasonably off-the-wall plan that can work coming from somebody that sounds illiterate.

    i've another character that speaks in a "british guy who's hiding that fact to other frenchmen", peppering his speech with odd turns of phrase or accents on the wrong syllables. that one is quite enjoyable to do, since i have to translate from english to french to make it work.

    but most if not all of my characters start off with my natural accent until their personality shows up.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    SleepyShadow's Avatar

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I'll usually affect a slight accent for a character, but I think speech pattern brings more to a character than just an accent. Word choice, tone of voice, how often or how long they pause for thought. It all plays a part, I find.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    mucat's Avatar

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I never try to match a character's accent out loud; I'm simply bad at it. And in text RP I don't like to distort spelling to do phonetic accents. But I still want each character to have a distinctive voice, so I concentrate on their speech pattern, word choice, and range of emotion.

    I don't try to do a German accent when playing Doktor Krauss, but his speech is precise, efficient, and often impatient; smalltalk wastes time he cannot afford to lose. I don't do a Russian accent for Xaari, but she is bombastic, excitable, and in love with SCIENCE! She also never bothers to learn anyone else's language beyond the minimum necessary to make herself understood; her vocabulary is extensive, but never she sees point for syntactic rules. I don't know HOW to do a chittering ratfolk accent for Churrik, but he is a linguistic packrat, collecting interesting words he hears in his travels, making a guess at their meaning based on the context he first heard them in, and never quite letting go of that guess even once the real meaning is explained to him at length.

    Most of our regular group's players also don't try to type or speak with heavy accents...but we all know what accents one anothers' characters have (at least, in any setting where nationality is an important part of the characters' identity), and the funny thing is, I REMEMBER their lines being accented, even though I know they really weren't spoken that way.

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    Generally speaking, silly voices are only appropriate for a slapstick campaign, especially if they're cliche (e.g. scottish dwarves). But once in a while I've had a player or DM pull off a well done one. Most recent was one whose fake russian accent really made their Traladaran character (mystara D&D setting), despite that they're really a bit more Romany.

    What goes over much better at the table for characterization is thinking of a few easy to remember gimmicks that aren't silly voice. Examples:
    - How do they would react differently from yourself. Are they thoughtful in tense situations? Blasé? Do they snap at thoughtless compliments?
    - give them some made up sayings or phases they like to use.

    To use a real-world example, everyone has that one friend that reflexively comes back with a your mom joke. They can't help them self.

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I'm always tempted to do the voice. It's more of a problem as a DM since there could be so many. I do get the summoning sickness thing, but less so. I chronically fantasize about how the character talks/plays so I have a rough idea going in. My problem is the character's personality and actions not matching all the time (usually due to greed as a player...). I played a dragonborn rogue who was a real jokester despite being lawful neutral, and right now, a revanent thri-kreen that speaks in a hoarse whisper. It's funny, because as a warlock, my high charisma compels me to be chatty despite being spooky and alien looking. He's irritable and forever cold, but nice otherwise, and quite curious. Not suffering fools for once is fun.
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    Jay R's Avatar

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I never use an accent or voice. I do use speech inflections and word choice.

    As a DM, I usually have a specific actor in mind, in a specific role. [As a player, I assume that the PC's voice will be mine, and try to focus on his motivations.]

    I try to have a catch phrase to use regularly. My Ranger often says, "I will never understand you city folk", especially when the unusual situation has nothing to do with the city. Mu gnome illusionist has taken on the "multiple names" idea from gnome culture, and is slowly re-naming each other member of the party.

    Running Flashing Blades, I occasionally have to play the role of Richelieu. [This is absolutely the best reason to run a game of Flashing Blades.] He is almost always based on the Charlton Heston version (1973, 1974), but I noticed myself taking a few lines and inflections from Vincent Price (1948).

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I'll use a limited range of vocal effects, generally sticking within the range that I tend to hit just within life through code switching. Beyond that I'll also shift up or down an octave or so for certain characters, though the range I'll use for NPCs unlikely to talk all that much is significantly higher than for PCs.

    Mostly I find register and lexicon work best for character voice, which gets back to the idea of code switching. I can go full academic pretty easily, which is really useful for mages, technicians, scientists, etc. I can also do manual labor worksite pretty easily, along with a few forms of casual. Others take a hair more effort, although lots of GM practicice have made a lot of them second nature.

    If they're not currently second nature there are more conscious, gimmicky tricks which can work too (and which I absolutely use for bit characters). Stock phrases or themes that can produce phrases are a big one, as are the various character imitations from existing media - or just actual people, though this relies on having a decent pool of acquaintances not shared with the rest of the group. The latter two are also a fantastic source of names. I also tend to like putting at least some degree of situational specificity in vocal patterns.

    As an example of this, I ran a short campaign where the PCs were the strike team on a small spacecraft, albeit one large enough to have more of a crew than just them. This meant that I needed about a dozen recurring NPCs, all of which would need to have pretty consistent voices and needed to be fairly distinct. A few, especially, stood out. There was a ship mechanic with stock phrases along the lines of "you're good people, I hope you come back alive", and who was generally just effusive in the most subdued way possible. There was the captain, who was fronting confidence and authority, and tended towards aloof, overly formal, stick in the mud speech. This lasted exactly as long as things went well, and tended to dissolve into manic, unfocused panicking the moment they deteriorated. No stock phrases there, but I absolutely stole from a few media drill sergeants and stuck up officers. Then there was a maintenance worker, who had a somewhat erratic speaking style aimed at affected low formal and cut with a high degree of enthusiasm and a weird degree of familiarity with street slang. Soon enough she added a stock phrase, "I don't do that sort of stuff any more", and a bit later when she started doing exactly that sort of stuff again (i.e. beating the snot out of people with a shock baton) the voice shifted towards being much heavier on criminal slang, much generally rougher, and with way more angry tones - but only immediately engaged in beating on people.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    There's so much more to acting than voice alone. Especially when I'm the DM and get to act out a variety of NPCs, I find that expressions, posture, and hand gestures shape a character far better than just how you speak. And even speaking has more than an accent/dialect: intonation, volume, and the level (or absence of) of confidence convey personality more than just the way they pronounce the words.

    When I write a character (mostly NPCs these days, as my current PC is already a few years old) then I build their personality first. What is their outlook on life? How did they came to be where they are? How would they react to x or y? And, especially, how would they regard the party and how would they address them?

    Once I shaped the character by means of these questions, the voice comes naturally. Sometimes they have an accent, sometimes they have an attitude, sometimes they have an oddity (like a lisp or the tendency to mash up proverbs or an abundance of sexist jokes). The only thing I keep in mind is that too strong an accent can become a key feature, something they then associate with a specific character. This makes it difficult to reuse, unless you can pass it off as a local thing and everybody from there speaks this way. If you use a more neutral accent, and vary the other elements, you still have a great variety in NPCs.

    A small example: two different desk clerks at the 'quest agency' where the party goes to pick up their missions. Both have the same 'type' of voice.

    Frank is a friendly young man, always enthusiastic to see the party and excited to hear about their endeavours. He wanted to be an adventurer too, but as he's been crippled from birth he'll just have to live the adventuring life through the stories he hears. He often rests his chin on his fists, eyes gleaming and mouth slightly open, listening intently to what the party tells him. He openly admires their efforts and even sets aside the odd quest he know would interest them.

    Daisy is a blasé girl, quite the opposite of Frank in terms of enthusiasm. She doesn't even try to hide her boredom, sits slumped behind her desk, and has on occasion put a bit of a damper on the party's demeanour. She only took this job to pay for her magic lessons and really couldn't care less about heroics. The only time she acted differently was when the party mentioned having found the hide-out of a long-dead wizard and found it full of ancient tomes and some magic items. She lifted her head from the cup of the hand it was resting in, she sat up straight, and the party was slightly bemused with the sudden shower of questions.
    Just remember... if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Goblin

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I'm not good at accents but figures of speech and phrasing help.

    My current ravenfolk rogue/warlock is a bit of a mating between Ledger's Joker and Tom Wait. Gravely voice, odd nonsequitors, mimicking enemies speech back at them. I agree it takes me time to find a voice, translating background into a playable character.

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I usually have a short tag-line for my character that together with my alignment informs what I want to be when I draft the character, and then they grow from there.
    "Idealistic Interplanar Socialist Revolutionary"
    "Self-Absorbed Magical Post-Doc Researcher"
    Guardsmen, hear me! Cadia may lie in ruin, but her proud people do not! For each brother and sister who gave their lives to Him as martyrs, we will reap a vengeance fiftyfold! Cadia may be no more, but will never be forgotten; our foes shall tremble in fear at the name, for their doom shall come from the barrels of Cadian guns, fired by Cadian hands! Forward, for vengeance and retribution, in His name and the names of our fallen comrades!

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    Flumph

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    As a PC....
    I usually find my characters voice pretty quick...for the simple reason of I rarely play a character I have not messed about with personality wise already in my head. I tend to design my characters on a mix between meta-party-needs and idiosyncratic ideas on what would be fun acting wise and then worry about the crunch last. This doesn't mean that said personality won't shift massivly in the first 2-5 sessions. I think the last that DIDN'T change would be a Irish Setter based Artisan(Wizard) in pugmire...because well named Liam McSetter, and had a ADHD squirrel (see UP!) problem basically covered it. But "Voice" is often based on word choice, how they structure sentences, laconic vs loquacious, small vs large vocabulary, tone, sarcasm, serious vs jovial, the use of singular vs group pronouns, etc
    As for accents I generally find that unless I have a good reason to for a character I'm playing all the time it doesn't help much.

    As a DM on the other hand...I do find accents, voices, etc useful. They help separate various NPC's when the players have to think of me (SK-Tarq) as a dozen or more characters with an hour or so. In any game based on the "real world" they become far more useful. In a vampire game an accent can tell players that the character is not from around here, how well the character has kept up with modern language vs being stuck at the age of their transformation, etc. In fantasy there is not the real world meta knowledge that gives voices the additional character info so I don't use them as much. But clear vocal differences can be useful for separating sides in conflict (two cultures/races/etc) as they stand in for a lot of the smells of different food, different clothing styles (which may get mentioned but that's passing unless I sound like Vogue Also characters I want the PC's to remember (they are giving important clues etc) should be a bit punchy...something should give the players something to hang their memories on and an accent or voice can be very useful for that. Also my players seem to like it.

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I find phrases and cadence more useful then accents or changing pitch. I have a relatively deep voice, pitching up sounds whiny. It can work, but I find it unhelpful unless I'm going for whiny.

    For example, no matter what I do in an X-Men game I'm never going to sound growly enough to do a convincing Wolverine, but I can throw "bub" on the end of sentences and suddenly I'm in character. In the same vein I can do Professor Xavier by talking slowly and calmly they way I might talk to a young child, I don't have to try to manage sounds like Patrick Stewart.

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    RedKnightGirl

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    d6 Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I do thoughts and actions. I have a wizard that is a Universalist. My party is convinced it is s necromancer 20% of my spells are necro. Her answer twice now has been dig up the grave confirm it died already. Did not mean that to happen just made sense.
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    DruidGuy

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    I misread the thread title as "Finding your Character Vice",which, while quite possibly very interesting in its own right, would be a very different thread.

    DrewID

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    Personally (with a single major exception), both as a player and GM I avoid voices entirely. I instead talk through situations from a 3rd person perspective, and have dialogue be only implied.

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    i feel like this is a thing that makes sense to think out as you design your character. i always write up a bit of a backstory, and write it from the character's perspective. just sorta going through that exercise can definitely help ground how yr character interacts in general, which may or may not involve using a specialized voice, etc.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    Quote Originally Posted by Faily View Post
    I never do accents or dialects.
    Same. Never done it and I'm not about to start anytime soon. Nor have I ever been in a game or group where anyone other than the GM - very seldomly - did voices, for which I am thankful.

    It (the whole "improv acting and omgsofunny voices" deal) has become a pretty big red flag as far as I'm concerned.
    Last edited by Luckmann; 2019-10-01 at 02:20 AM.

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    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    The only accent I've ever done was for a Mutants and Masterminds game, where my character (a wizard named Coyote Jack) had a thick Bostonian accent (partially inspired by this NSFW [Strong Language] video) I intended to drop after one session, but was just too fun to get rid of.

    Generally I give a character voice by tone and depth; level of assertiveness and whatnot is a bigger determiner than accent.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Re: Finding your Character Voice

    Quote Originally Posted by Luckmann View Post
    It (the whole "improv acting and omgsofunny voices" deal) has become a pretty big red flag as far as I'm concerned.
    SO much this, really. I was in a 10 Candles game on Free RPG Day earlier this year, and there was one player... woof...

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