Behold the Metatron!

Well, Maybe not the voice of God, but the voice of game!

What is the voice of a game, you ask.  It is how the game is presented; somewhat along the lines of 1st or 3rd person presentation.  To make this clear, let me pull out the “Big Bag of Examples” and show you the same scene presented from the opposite ends of the spectrum…

First, a Character, or 1st person, style: I walk over to the table, picking up the dagger, grimacing at the sticky blood.  I will point it at him…”That’s because you already knew he was dead, didn’t you Counselor.”

“Wha… I knew no such thing!  How dare you!” At which point he leaps erect, hand on his sidearm…

And, same scene, presented narratively or in third person: Centuria Diana approaches the table, gingerly picking up the dagger, barely suppressing a grimace at the still sticky blood.  She grips it, and points it over the table at the seated Counselor. She will accuse him, with just the required amount of tact, of plotting the murder.

At that point, he leaps out of the chair, grabbing the elaborate pale blue Jadic grip of his sidearm, vehemently protesting his innocence, but coming short of accusing the Centuria of manufacturing evidence.

As you can see, the same short scene, conveying the same information.  One would be easier to read, while the other tends to be more immersive.  And that is what separates the camps of RP’ers.  For these I will do a summary of the benefits of each and the problems of each.  If I feel there is more to be said, then maybe later I will treat them each in more detail.  First, my more preferred system, In character:

In character game voice has each player don their character like a costume in the stage of the adventure.  Of course they will describe their actions, but any conversation is done in character.  The ref will, to the best of their ability, take on the mantle of presenting all the rest of the world in character.  This can be very immersive, and usually,  much more spontaneous.  When the player speaks with the characters voice, it becomes more personal, after all you are speaking in I’s and my’s.  In Character makes the adoption of verbal affectations, such as stutters, whisper speech, accents or even catchphrases easy and visible.  On the other hand, this does present one of the primary difficulties found in RPGs…character vs player skills.  If your character is the Senator from the planet  New Athene IV, but you, the player, have a stutter and get tongue-tied with more than 3 or four sentences at a time, this becomes not only a challenge,but a character breaker.  Unless of course you can, as a player, use your natural difficulties in a very successful manner! What about during intimate scenes?  Do you, or your character handle it better, particularly if you have 6 other players sitting around waiting for their turn as opposed to your character who is alone with your object of affection in a dimly lit room while the snow howls outside?

Narrative, or third person presentation is, at least for me, a bit more of a creative challenge.  Naturally, a good portion of an RPG is narrative, even if you’re LARPing…Doubtful you are going to actually pull out your double-barreled scatter-gun and shoot it at the ref, who is currently portraying your lifelong nemesis, so you narrate that action.  This does allow for characters to inject a bit more flair into their character that they may be unable or unwilling to actually verbally portray.  Such as the above mentioned intimate scene.  Or what if your technician character is discussion the details of transit sleep with the designer of transit sleep tubes…can you as a player do this?  What about you as a ref?  Does that mean you should avoid such a possibility?  Another drawback is that verbal affectations are more difficult to work in.  Of course, when you introduce your character, you may say that he has a deep rumbling voice unless you say otherwise, but unless you occasionally remind the others: “In his deep booming voice,he reminds the people to be calm and reassures them that he has their best intentions at heart.”  Also, a purely narrative style really suits a presentation that is impartial.  It is conceptually much easier to send Plebian Zephus into the arena unarmed than it is to walk in yourself…”I walk into the arena, knowing that I go to face my slow and painful death.”

Like many things, you must play with what works for you, but again, it is often best to blend the two.  In character, or first person voice is usually more difficult to achieve for the narrative player, than narrative is for the active voice character.  This is because you always have SOME narrative no matter the rest of the voice.   But the totally narrative character may fear to speak as their character because it may shatter the illusion of the characters voice or vocal patterns.

Here is something I would offer as a short challenge…in your next game session, challenge yourself, and your players, to use the opposite voice.  If you are used to (as I am) speaking in accents and witty comment for several different character, try describing them rather than coming up with the exact speech.  If you normally describe what you talk about and how you address certain things or people, try to actually adopt that voice and those addresses.  Let me know how that works out!

And don’t worry…as far as voice goes, I will talk about several topics that deal with the language in games…so just hold on for a bit!

Until Next time, That’s my Story.  Take it or Leave it.  My trucker buddies, they believe it!


3 thoughts on “Behold the Metatron!

  1. Keri says:

    This was really helpful, thank you! I tend to switch between 1st and 3rd when gaming, and the narrative was *really* useful and easier when my character started getting into more delicate situations–I was puzzled how to handle that with a gamer audience, but the narrative 3rd person style really helped. As a ref, in my current game, I really need to hone my 1st person skills because I love the vivid experience of so many different NPCs, but I’ve just created distrust amongst my gamers in one NPC that should be a friend because I handled him so awkwardly–doesn’t help that I’m female and have never played a male character as a player 😦 Great insights here. Thanks again 🙂

    • Also…as far as a distrusted ally; you can either reinforce that, and bring it home how they have worked to help in a dramatic event, or go the other direction, and make him assistive to the point of obsequiousness…and then, of course betray them! On the other hand…you could always use a little bit of ROLL PLAY and give the character with the highest wisdom/empathy/whatever an aside hint that he gets good vibes from the character.

  2. As far as playing a character of opposite sex…go for stereotypes. He is Indiana Jones, or Elvis. She is Marilyn or the armpit cheerleader from SNL… You don’t HAVE to use the vocal styles, but even if you narrate the voice, and then try, players will love it!

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