I love doing over-the-top voices for my characters. That’s because 1) I like comedy in my games; 2) I’m an unabashed scenery-chewer; 3) it helps me to get into character; and 4) it’s a useful way to distinguish between “out-of-character” speech and “in-character” speech.” And honestly, it’s that last one that’s important to today’s comic.

If you’ve ever half-jokingly suggested assassinating a king or sucker punching a dragon, only to have your GM respond with, “His august majesty Flametail the Wicked takes offense at your remarks,” you know how important it is to distinguish between the player’s words and the PC’s.

Possible solutions include common sense (e.g. “Obviously my character wouldn’t say that.”), somatic components (i.e. making some gesture like putting your fist on top of your head to show that you’re speaking out-of-character), or blanket rulings (i.e. everything said at the table is always in character). Each has its problems though. The first invites misunderstandings. The second is awkward. The last leaves zero room for side-conversation, and that can be annoying when it comes time to order pizza.

That’s why I think that character voices can provide a decent alternative. If you’re rocking your silly British accent, everybody knows that it’s Sir. Smitesby talking rather than Steve. If your voice rasps like the lid of sarcophagus, it’s obviously Obolak the Risen rather than Stacy. It cuts way down on confusion without any of the troublesome add-ons.

“But Colin,” I hear you say. “I suck at accents! I’m not a voice actor. I shouldn’t have to audition for drama club just to play a game!”

Well no. No one expects you to nail a perfect DeVito, Schwarzenegger, or Dr. Orpheus.  Rather than going for specific accents or impersonations, it can be just as effective to pick a verbal tick. A slight stutter works wonders. Increasing or decreasing your voice’s volume or speed can be enough to make the difference. Even something as simple as adding dramatic pauses or exaggerated sibilance can work as a character voice. The point isn’t to be perfect. It’s to be different enough to distinguish the character.

And hey, if you really are uncomfortable varying from your normal speech pattern, I’m certainly not going to twist your arm. Some folks dislike speaking in character in general, and that’s OK! But if you’ve never given it a try because you think you’ll be bad at it, I’d encourage you to give it a shot! Even a little difference can work wonders, helping the fantasy to come that little bit more alive at the table.

All of the above of course leads us to our question of the day! What kinds of voices have you got in your repertoire? Do you like to speak with an accent or use a verbal tick? Alternatively, do you have some other method for separating in-character from out-of-character speech? Let’s hear all about those very-Scottish dwarves and abrasive Bronx bugbears down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Twice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.