Here’s a question to pucker your cerebellum. Suppose you’re an English-speaking gamer. Supposing you’re gaming in a generic fantasy world. Is your PC speaking English?

“Well no, Claire,” says our old friend the Straw Golem. “It says right here on my character sheet that we’re speaking Common. The words we say aloud as players are no doubt mere approximations of the what the fictional character says.”

That’s probably true in a lot of cases. Although I enjoy in-character voice acting, I’m willing to bet my bard has a better singing voice than me. I can’t speak elvish, even if my ranger can. And whenever I move my speech into a descriptive mode (e.g. “I politely decline Lady Duplicity’s quest”) it’s assumed that my character is speaking words that I’m not.

But on the other hand, a whole lot of riddling and in-game verse seems to rely on the linguistic particularity of the players’ language. Same deal with puns and humor. And even if you dismiss that with, “It’s just a translation from the original,” we still run into the issue depicted in today’s comic.

Occultist is a known gamesman and general cheaty-face. For such a player, falling back on “that’s not what I actually say” can become a get-out-of-social-encounter-free card. We all occasionally joke around in that pseudo in-character way that gamers love (e.g. “I compliment His Majesty on the new throne, and congratulate him on ripping off Emperor Palpatine.”) However, using the wiggle-room of humor to wriggle out of diplomatic incidents smacks of poor form.

So what do you think, Handbook-World? This is a subtle and hard-to-spot kind of interaction, but have you ever seen it out in the wilds? Is it an issue of gamesmanship, or is it just the cost of doing business on the borderline between in-character and out? Give us all your best tales of “not literally saying” things down in the comments!


THIS COMIC SUCKS! IT NEEDS MORE [INSERT OPINION HERE] Is your favorite class missing from the Handbook of Heroes? Maybe you want to see more dragonborn or aarakocra? Then check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. You’ll become part of the monthly vote to see which elements get featured in the comic next!