Spice up the common tongue with campaign slang

A curious aspect of the Dungeons & Dragons game is the idea of a “common” tongue spoken by everyone. The thought of such a universal language developing in a Medieval setting is absurd, considering the slow modes of travel and communication, rampant illiteracy and limited access to information.

Of course, simply by engaging in the act of playing D&D, players choose to suspend disbelief long enough to pretend magic is real, the dead can walk, dragons prowl the land and the fabric of reality can be rent with a few magic words. If we’ve already agreed to pretend at that level, a continental, common language isn’t too much more to add, and as a game feature, a common language lets players interact with the setting instead of trying to interact with the setting, which quickly becomes frustrating.

There are ways, however, for a dungeon master (DM) to give players the impression that they are in different cultural areas when their heroes wander far from home. When heroes are in especially remote or distant areas, creating pigdin speech for role-playing may be appropriate. But to give a “sense of place” without actually altering the common language, the DM can make use of campaign slang to create dialects. Continue reading


Lost in translation

Language can be a primary barrier between creatures in the Dungeons & Dragons game. Although the simplified language rules used in the fourth edition (4e) of the game make it easier than ever for heroes to interact with others in the campaign world, there still will be times when no one in the party will know the language of a person or group encountered.

In such situations, the heroes may be tempted not to interact with the other group due to the language barrier. I once ran a game for a group that would take no prisoners in the event that they couldn’t speak with a foe; why drag prisoners along when they would slow the group’s pace, reveal the group’s position and provide no useful information?

One way to encourage communication when a language barrier exists – and provide very fertile soil for memorable role-playing encounters – is to employ pigdin speech in your D&D campaign. Continue reading