“Spanish, Spanish, Spanish saving throw, Spanish”: Role-Playing in different languages

Recently I had a tweet exchange with Shaun and Michael about which language we role-played in, and Shaun wrote an excellent post about languages in RPG games here in the blog last week. However our exchange made me think about languages on the other side of the equation, or the screen so to speak, the language we speak as we play.

I am well aware that role-playing is an international affair. While I knew this to be a fact, writing in the blog has confirmed it as I have met people from all over the world. I also know that games have been created, written and played in many countries, but (to the best of my knowledge) they first appeared in the United States of America and have spread to the world.

The first RPG games I read where all in English and it was years before I actually saw games in my native Spanish. I became aware they existed, but did not see one for years. I live in Puerto Rico and our socio-political situation means we are very close to the US so it is not surprising that RPG games would become available in English here. When I finally found RPGs in Spanish it was actually cheaper for me to buy them in English. That did not stop me and I have a few Spanish RPG books in my collection, the gem being a Traveller boxed set and the main rule book and some supplements for Aqularre, an excellent RPG from Spain.

Despite this, the majority (99%) of my RPG collection is in English. Shaun asked (and I paraphrase here so forgive me in advance for any mistake) whether we played in Spanish and only used English for certain terms, thus the title of the post: “Spanish, Spanish, saving throw, Spanish, Spanish”. Michael chimed in and confirmed that was the case when he games. Of course in his case its, “German, German, attack of opportunity, German German”. Like I told Shaun, that was not the case for me…

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Stargazer Games presents … BADASS!

Have you ever wanted to play a game that kicks that logic in the face, twists its arm behind its back and makes it cry for its momma? Jay Steven Anyong’s BADASS is exactly that game. In this rules-light roleplaying game filled with pure awesomesauce and badassery you can kick a reinforced metal fire door down off its hinges, catch a bullet with your teeth or slice through an Abrams tank with your katana!

Mere words are not enough to describe the full extent of what BADASS is, so let me show you a few pages from this upcoming game:

badass_page_01 badass_page_03 badass_page_05
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Jay and I are currently working hard to get the game released. Although we are pretty badass ourselves, we still need a few days to get everything done. So stay tuned!

Communication Breakdown: Language in RPGs

The other night I got my hands on a copy of Rogue Trader, one of the Warhammer 40,000 role-playing games released by Fantasy Flight Games. Naturally, the most immediate way to give the system a once-over was to craft a character (a Forge World Explorator, if you must know).

I liked what I saw, and recommend giving the game a glance if you ever have the opportunity. I’m not here to review Rogue Trader, however. Do that in your own time! Rogue Trader does include—like so many other RPGs—an aspect I want to talk about: languages.

Cards on the table here: I speak two languages reasonably well (English and Japanese) and a third passably (German). I’ve dabbled in language construction or “conlanging” as it is sometimes known, know a bit of Esperanto, and have glanced at Klingon, Quenya, and recently Dothraki. I consider myself quite the language buff.

That said, my advice to you is this:

Do not include languages in your role-playing games!

“But Shaun!” I hear you beginning to type in the comments. “Languages are a vital part of my campaign world! Just the other day, my players encountered an ancient tablet they had to decipher in order to gain the password they needed to open the Door to Dreams.”

This is a valid point, but let me ask: how did they decipher it? Did they have to track down a skilled linguistic scholar? Was it presented as some kind of letter-substitution cypher? I’m willing to bet none of the characters could actually read the language on the tablet, but that’s also a possibility.

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