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Hey, if it ain’t the Elven Rangers! How Y’All Doing?

Posted By Walt Ciechanowski On February 26, 2010 @ 9:36 am In Tools for GMs | 17 Comments

I just got back from our trip to Walt Disney World. For the second time we decided to drive rather than fly and stopped in North Carolina along the way. Even before we started, our mini-van was filled with accents. I have a South Jersey accent (no, I don’t sound like Rocky or Tony Soprano, although I do pronounce that wet stuff as “wooder”). My in-laws are from the Bronx and Connecticutt, and my wife has that Midwestern “non-accent.” Needless to say I heard my share of Southern accents (in various forms) along the ride, and Walt Disney World is filled with accents from all over the world.

While driving along the 95 corridor and not being too distracted by “South of the Border” signs, I began to muse on accents and fantasy RPGs. I’ve been playing since 1982, and even now, in 2010, most fantasy campaigns that I have played in regularly are primarily set in a pseudo-medieval Western Europe. Generally, when attempted, the accents bear this out. I’ve heard my share of Scottish Dwarves, Viking barbarians, and French paladins. The only non-European accents I usually come across are either specifically foreign (e.g. a samurai steps off a boat) or the player simply uses her own accent.

This got me thinking. What if I populated my fantasy world with North American accents and dialects? Would it be jarring for dwarves to sound like English Canadians? How about Elves that sounded like they came from the Deep South? What if the people of a cosmopolitan city sounded like New Yorkers? Would it work if all of the members of a particular ranger order had Texan accents? What if the swamp-dwelling Halflings spoke in a Cajun dialect?

So what do you think? Would it be too jarring if your pseudo-medieval fantasy setting borrowed dialects and accents from North America (or heck, any other region of the world)? Have you run or played in fantasy settings that used diverse American accents? How well does it work?

About  Walt Ciechanowski

Walt’s been a game master ever since he accidentally picked up the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set in 1982. He became a freelance RPG writer in 2005 and is currently the Victoriana Line Developer for Cubicle 7. Walt lives in Springfield, PA with his wife Helena and their three children, Leianna, Stephen, and Zoe.




17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "Hey, if it ain’t the Elven Rangers! How Y’All Doing?"

#1 Comment By TwoShedsJackson On February 23, 2010 @ 10:06 am

Please endow the inhabitants of the Feywild with my favorite accent, that of the residents of Lon Giland, New Yawk.

#2 Comment By XonImmortal On February 23, 2010 @ 10:17 am

I like the idea, and have used not only accents but “cultural quirks” to make a new world more interesting to players.

It’s also very easy to make up accents. Simply change pronunciation of a couple sounds. I once had a group of players interact with a group of cloistered monks, with a very famous accent. Despite the fact that the monks were “vewy vewy sewious”, the players had to restrain themselves from laughing (especially since laughing in the face of the High Pwelate would have made their names mud in the town for quite a while afterwards).

#3 Comment By Lord Inar On February 26, 2010 @ 11:10 am

I always have the trouble that any accent I try eventually devolves into a bad Monty Python British accent. Once during a game of Time Master, the characters met a young Patton. “We met the ‘Uns about two moiles back.”

They never let me forget it and even now (over 20 years later) the “British Patton” gets an occasional mention.

So no, I don’t do accents any more!

#4 Comment By John Arcadian On February 26, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

I gave up on doing accents a while ago. I like them, but like Lord Inar I always forget and drop back into a fallback accent. For me that is Scottish. The Scottish elves are always interesting additions to game worlds.

I think British and foreign accents bear enough of that exoticness that they feel like they fit in a fantasy setting. I know I love my sci-fi to have british accents (Privateer 2,Star Wars, etc.). It always seems more fantastical that way. I could see extreme American accents adding something, it might convey a better feel if the villagers talked like yokels. We might understand their role in the game if we associate a familiar accent.

#5 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On February 26, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

Quick accent: Emphasize a later syllable; in English, we tend to emphasize the first syllable of a word.

I’ve always wanted to play a barbarian with a rural Dixie accent. “Y’all hold mah beer an’ watch this shit! YEEE-HAWWW!!!”

#6 Comment By cybogoblin On February 26, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

I like the idea of changing the emphasis of syllables, but you do run the risk of falling into the trap of the AQI. Too much emphasis on the final syllable of a sentence and it starts to turn into a question. (Of course, this would be perfectly appropriate if the game took place in some kind of Australian setting)

As for an American-accented fantasy setting, I do like the sound of that. I don’t know if I could take Canadian Dwarves seriously, but Texan Dwarves would be well ‘ard.

I’ve been going down this path myself recently as I have been thinking about a Wild West fantasy setting for Fantasy Craft. The Colonials would be represented by the ‘civilised’ races (humans, dwarves, elves, pech/halflings), while the Native tribes would be made up of the ‘savage’ races (orcs, goblins, ogres, etc). It would be easy to simply use the traditional accents for each race, but I would like to change things up a bit, or give different regions different, and appropriate, accents.

#7 Comment By philipstephen On February 26, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

Accents are good if you can keep them up without descending into silliness…

and speaking as a western Canadian, Canadian English can be a wide variety of accents… that is akin to saying an American English accent…

Folks from different provinces across Canada tend to speak a bit differently… with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland having what sounds like stronger and stranger accents to my west coast ears…

But Newfie dwarves would be fun…

#8 Comment By Lychess On February 26, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

I think using accents works well in small doses. It’s a great way to introduce a “different” culture, but if every time I talk to the elves I get treated to a bad Texas accent I’ll quickly quit talking to the elves.

If you’re a professional actor then by all means use all accent all the time, but why stereotype? Why not have English goblins, French giants, or…

“Hi… I’m Conad, the barbarian… rarrr… Have you seen the fur on my new boots? It is sooo warm, and it matches my loin cloth. You know if I get a BIG sword and oil up my chest I might just be able to increase my DR. Watch out baby… Because I’m gonna rage.”

#9 Comment By Lee Hanna On February 26, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

My wife’s been famous for about ten years for the “Brooklyn Bugbears,” a pair that we met and negotiated with in the Temple of Elemental Evil. They were usually happy to see “youse guys” whenever we ran into them.

#10 Comment By shadowacid On February 26, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

My whole game group cracked up during an Eberron game where the changeling was in a cell disguised a hobgoblin trying to get info out of a hobgoblin prisoner and I slipped into a french canadian accent (most of my family is Quebecois) and had the hobgoblin saying how much he hated the “paleskins” for keeping him locked up. Lots of comments about the French & Indian war going on that session.

#11 Comment By JakeSox On February 26, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

HBO’s Rome made good use of different accents to emphasize upper and lower classes, which I liked. Orcs with Kiwi accents, not so much.

#12 Comment By Bercilac On February 26, 2010 @ 9:49 pm

The interesting thing about the accents suggested above is that you can’t dissociate the sound from the meaning. I had a mate who did something similar: Dwarves sounded Northern English (he tried for Manchester, but I’m not sure he managed), humans were Home Counties, Elves were French.

If I heard some elves with a deep south accent, I’d expect them to own plantations and slaves (can you tell I’m a Yankee? Not everyone in the south owned slaves before the war, but if they were elves they damn well wouldn’t get their hands dirty).

The most I ever do is a high-pitched screech for goblins and things. I once did a really weird voice (can’t describe it, used to do it to put my wee brar in giggling fits when we were kids) for pixies and things, but everyone ended up laughing too much so I had to stop.

#13 Comment By shadowacid On February 27, 2010 @ 6:08 am

@shadowacid – Oh, and for some reason in our Star Wars game Rodians have slavic accents and Sulistans have a faux Chinese accent.

#14 Comment By Scott Martin On February 27, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

I like the idea, and think that American accents might work, but like Bercilac, I’d expect that the accent would be a hint about the culture. The southern accent might work well for expressing their leisurely pace… but other associations might get drug in subconsciously too.

#15 Comment By AndreasDavour On February 27, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

what do you think? Would it be too jarring if your pseudo-medieval fantasy setting borrowed dialects and accents from North America (or heck, any other region of the world)?

Sounds totally right. I’d love such a game.

#16 Comment By peter On February 28, 2010 @ 3:54 am

I can’t do accents. I’m terrible at that. so i just mention the accent and continue the converstation in my usual pronounciation.

#17 Comment By ZedZed77 On February 28, 2010 @ 11:53 am

I believe a truly adept gamemaster would first develop individual languages for each racial/cultural group, then derive their common-tongue accent via natural philology (a la Tolkien), finally adjusting for cultural cross-semination and the varying vocal phenotypes of such races as goblinoids, etc.

But seriously, just use a Ron Weasley accent for all your warriors, and make all your barwenches from Jersey.


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