Content of the article: "Simple and quick NPC voices with Lord of the Rings"
I don't know about you, but I love doing voices. However, when trying to come up with them (especially in the middle of a session), they all start sounding the same. Many voice generators out there are cumbersome and slow, requiring lots of rolls to come up with something usable. I decided to make something simpler with one of best pieces of fantasy cinema out there: the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The benefit of LotR is that through the series, almost every stereotypical fantasy voice is used. By basing your voices off of specific characters, you can quickly recall a specific voice that can be deployed in your games.
The technique requires only 2 rolls of a d20. The first is to select a base voice, here listed with a two-word description and a sample line:
- Frodo – Quiet, timid – "I will take the ring, though I do not know the way."
- Samwise – Quiet, friendly – "There's some good in this world, Mister Frodo."
- Pippin – Bright, cheerful – "We are sitting on a field of victory, enjoying a few well-earned comforts."
- Bilbo – Fussy, friendly – "We don't want any more visitors, well-wishers, or distant relations!"
- Aragorn – Quiet, dignified – "If by my life or death I can protect you, I will."
- Legolas – Ethereal, calm – "A red sun rises. Blood has been spilled this night."
- Gimli – Gruff, confident – "There is one dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath!"
- Gandalf – Old, confident – "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
- Saruman – Old, booming – "His gaze pierces cloud, shadow, earth, and flesh."
- Elrond – Calm, dignified – "You have only one choice. The ring must be destroyed."
- Arwen – Ethereal, soft – "I choose a mortal life."
- Galadriel – Ethereal, strong – "May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out."
- Denethor – Nasal, imposing – "Go now and die in what way seems best to you."
- Grima – Nasal, timid – "Why do you lay these troubles on an already troubled mind?"
- Lugburz – Harsh, booming – "Find the halflings!"
- Ugluk – Harsh, imposing – "They are not for eating!"
- Snaga – Harsh, whining – "What about them? They're fresh!"
- Grishnakh – Harsh, deep – "What about their legs? They don't need those."
- Treebeard – Slow, booming – "We never say anything unless it's worth taking a long time to say."
- King of the Dead – Croaky, booming – "The dead do not suffer the living to pass."
This list covers almost all of the types of voices you might use in your games. Note that many of these characters deviate from the archetypal descriptions here. Frodo is sometimes bright and cheerful ("Roast chicken? Oh, Sam!"), for example. This is just to distinguish them from each other.
You could technically stop here and just adapt the voice to the specific character you have in mind yourself. If you're rolling for a tavern keeper and get 15 for Ugluk, you could change the orc's terrifying roar into the voice of a booming, over-friendly merchant. If you roll 11 (Arwen) for a villainous necromancer, her gentle lilt turns into a menacing whisper. These are only meant to be bases for inspiration, not necessarily the end of the process.
Since I often want a bit more direction, I would add a second d20 roll to add a specific way you could distort the voice. The specific alteration is left vague so you can choose it based on the situation, but the roll provides a dimension that you can focus on.
- 1-4 – Different Emotion – somber, cheerful, intense, timid, etc.
- 5-8 – Different Texture – breathy, croaky, booming, nasal, etc.
- 9-11 – Different Pitch – high, mid, low, varied, etc.
- 12-14 – Different Tempo – Slow, mid, fast, varied, etc.
- 15-17 – Different Tick – Stutters, slurred, whispers, clenched jaw, etc.
- 18-20 – Different Accent – American, British, Scottish, Irish, Russian, French, etc.
This makes it easier to do that adaptation we were talking about. With our tavern keeper, we might roll 16 (different tick) and decide that he ends every sentence with "My friends!" We could roll a 14 (different tempo) for our necromancer and decide that the tempo of their sentences speeds up and slows down seemingly at random, making them even more disconcerting.
I've found that this really helps out at the table. All I have to do is make a couple rolls and a new voice is ready to go. If you like, I made a chart on Chartopia that does this for you; I just keep this open on my phone and hit "Roll" every time I need a new voice.
What do you guys think? Are there ways this can be improved? Different base voices (including ways to describe them and sample lines), different distortions?
Hope I could help!
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