Sunday, April 3, 2016

GM Cheats - Languages

I don’t create languages for my world. JRRTolkien was a linguist and passionate about the etymology of words. So he created a fantasy world and filled it with languages that he had created, built from their very foundations. I am a numbers guy. I sometimes have trouble translating pig-latin. I created a fantasy world and then immediately figured out how much everything cost and how those costs were paid, and where the money went to and came from, OK I’ll stop before that gets out of hand.

But I do find myself saying things like, “his name means pig skinned”. So do I have a dictionary of words that I am defining as I build my world (and have been for going on 36 years now)? Nope! I cheat. That last comment, about what his name meant is always followed with something like, “in the dialect of the region of the Greenlands where he was born.” Dialects, my language cheating source.

If I claim the word means something but then give myself an out by saying it comes from a dialect, then if I ever were to contradict myself later on, I could claim that the dialects were different and so therefore it wasn’t a contradiction. Hey, I admitted it was cheating.

The truth is that I find languages in role-playing games to be a distraction - probably because I’m not good with them. Oh, I love the impact of languages, especially when translations can be taken in a couple of different ways, but trying to remember what words mean. It’s not for me. So I’m sharing my cheat trick with those of you world builders out there who are like-minded in your lack of desire or inability to create your own languages. Dialects even allow your players to make up words without messing with your carefully crafted universe!

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