A blog about game design, roleplaying games, and the day-to-day adventures of a Melbourne Game Designer.
Sunday, 20 March 2011
Conlanging for Fiction – Part 1 – In RPGs
Making constructed languages for your fictional settings is a great way to add depth to the world. Today I am going to talk about their use in RPGs.
RPGs, whilst being a narrative experience, are collaborative. This means, everything you (as a GM) put in, your players must choose to face it. Even in a highly railroaded campaign, a GM cannot force his players to experience the fluff text. As such, your players will need to be on board, or you will need to be conservative (otherwise you’ll waste a lot of time).
However, despite this, there is still something those of you with a Linguistic bent can do to satisfy both urges simultaneously. Create a Naming Language.
Naming Languages are perfect for RPGs and stories alike, as they enable a uniform approach to naming (of towns/places and of peoples) which can actually alleviate some of the stress for a GM (I.e. write up a list of traits and adjectives in your Naming Language, and when your players come across an NPC you haven’t named, glue a few together, and you have a name that is original, insightful (to their character), and fluffy to the game world; same goes with place names!).
Of course, another method to use is language puzzles. Make a very basic grammar for your language, maybe a few roots, a word order, etc. Make it basically a complicated cipher of your players’ native tongue, and then make a prop which is a “Field Guide to X” where X is the name of the ‘Ancient Language’ you’ve just created. Then, when your players stumble into the ancient ruins, they have this field guide that they can use to decipher the inscriptions. But don’t make it too easy on them! If you have a ‘modern’ Naming Language, attempt to add in some sound changes, which aren’t included in the Field Guide, so that the players have to think hard on what those missing syllables mean. Just a thought.