Last week I wrote about my experience with realism in RPGs and I’m very excited to come back today to talk about my first session. For now though, we are going to move away from the realism aspect and talk more about different character choices, specifically mine. Mostly, I want to wanted to talk about my choice to play a character that can’t speak. Kenku are a species that were cursed and are now not able to speak. Their only form of communication is the ability to perfectly mimic other sounds. It would be easy for a kenku to create a patchwork vocabulary, but the problem is that by mimicking other sounds the only way that I could talk would be to recreate other people’s words with their voice and tone. Naturally my character didn’t want to creep people out that way, so he mostly communicates by making sounds.
Having no proper way to communicate to people is both fun, and a roleplaying challenge. It was funny when a fellow player was showing off his muscles and my kenku imitated the sound of air escaping a balloon. On the other hand, it was frustrating when I was trying to convey a list of ingredients I needed to make a potion. The most fun thing though was leaving my normal frame of reference when it comes to communicating.
Communication is key in RPGs, and changing the way that you speak completely changes everything. We as people get used to conveying ideas in one language or another. Some people can’t speak your native language though, or are incapable of speaking at all. We don’t really face this reality often though, and it was interesting to change my frame of mind. I had a really hard time in the beginning of our session thinking “How can I contribute to this conversation?” and even later, “How can I explain why I need to collect this corpse’s blood?”
I would encourage any player to challenge themselves in similar ways to challenge their roleplaying skills. Even if it’s not the same challenge as mine it would be good to just try something different in order to make the game harder for you. There are a lot of benefits to playing like this that I hadn’t even considered until I tried them out and I think I can use my experience to convince you to try the same.
Whenever I play, I am a major talker in most parties, even if I am not a charisma based character, but in this case I was staying out of dialogues and allowing other players to communicate just because I really did not have anything important to say. Often I met players with silence, helping with my secretive nature that I gave my player. The best times though were when I was misunderstood. I was frantically making various noises much to an NPC’s confusion while they slowly and awkwardly shuffled off.
Playing without being able to speak correctly has also given me a level of empathy that I previously did not have either. I do not often run into people who can not speak english or have any other barrier to communication. Of course I do not think less of anyone just because they can not communicate normally. I just do not have interactions like this so it’s not on my mind often. I know it sounds a little corny and I do not think I know how it feels to be deaf now, but I think that forcing myself into a group of people that I can not properly communicate to has given me a glimpse of something that I have never seen before. It has me thinking about the importance of language and what it means to me. It also has me thinking about the appropriate ways to interact with people, even if you can not talk to them correctly.
RPGs are unique like this because they are one of the few places where you can completely change your normal ways of life, without having to completely change your life. I encourage any player to make their characters alien or unique with one or more traits. You never know what interesting things you may end up thinking about.
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