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I was paging through my folders of "use
someday" D&D papers—old xeroxed articles, scraps of paper
with ideas scribbled on them, email messages from other D&D players,
and so forth—when I ran across the Drow Dictionary, downloaded from
the web. I'd forgotten that I had it! "Perfect," I thought to
myself—"just what I need to give some flavor to that Drow adventure
I have planned."
As I paged through the Drow word list, it
occurred to me how many fantasy languages there are out there in cyberspace.My
own humble attempt at language-building is Kh'indaranya, but it pales
in comparison to the creations of the really serious language-builders
out there—the most well-known of which are those who work on Tolkein's
languages of Middle Earth and on Klingon.
Using other languages in D&D is great
for roleplaying—it's easy to have your Elven or Drow or Centaur
character walk the walk, but how many of you have them talk the talk?
At the most basic level, a list of foreign words is useful for constructing
names of people, places, and things. When I started running my Al Qadim
game, my husband bought me a pocket dictionary of Arabic to use for finding
names and terms. In my more European Cislunar campaign, I often use Latin
roots for spell names and ancient inscriptions.
In other games I've given my players documents
written in constructed languages and challenged them to figure them out
(this works best for low-level characters who don't have access to translating
magics, and is particularly fun if you have one or more players who enjoys
codes and puzzles). Moreover, as a dungeonmaster and a player, I've found
it entertaining to throw foreign comments and exclamations into an NPC's
or PC's speech to add flavor to the character. My paladin Anton's character
sheet includes a list of Russian terms; my samurai Yoshitaka's sheet a
list of Japanese terms, and my mute cleric Rosin's sheet a list of American
Sign Language characters!
If you want to use a preexisting language
in your RPG game, I suggest you call up your favorite search engine and
type in the keywords "language dictionary"—there are a
number of fascinating languages available on the web, including Kamilaroi-Gamilaraay
If you're interested in either building your own language or using languages
others have constructed, the best resource on the web is LangMaker.Com,
a site by Jeffrey Henning that is devoted to those who build model languages
(much like other people build model cars or airplanes). This site includes
discussions of and links to international, philosophical, personal, and
fictional languages of all types. These language pages contain more than
mere word lists—most of them have extensive grammatical and usage
originally written January 5, 1998
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