Tips on Voice-acting in RPG Games
How to Use Your Voice to Make Your Game More Immersive
I remember when playing RPG at my school was actually something that people in general – adults and kids – had lots of prejudice with. For a shy kid like I was, this was more than enough to keep my mouth shut when talking about this “weird” hobby with others and it was also the very reason why I started to play only with a selected group of friends in my neighborhood. So today, when I see massive events like ComicCon happening all over the world and teachers applying RPG games, voice-acting techniques and/or mechanics inside classes with educational purposes and achieving incredible responses by their students, it warms my heart and makes me feel absurdly positive that things can and will keep getting better.
I’m sorry to drop that emotional bomb right on the first paragraph but I can’t talk about playing RPG without feeling emotional and really proud of it! As a professional actor and an English teacher myself, I know by fact and experience how important it was to play this amazing game throughout my life. And I also know that it made my journey through my drama classes easier too! The RPG meetings were actually an amazing way to test some drama principles outside the theater class and I could learn so much from it. Today I wanna tackle some tricks about how you can enhance your RPG gaming experience, both as a dungeon master or as a player, going beyond worldbuilding or choosing the best classes for your characters.
Let’s start with the main one: the voice.
As an actor, your voice is one of your main instruments of communication, followed just by your body expression. Your intonation gives life to different characters and you will play more than one character for sure because even being one of the main characters you will have to help the play and your crew as part of the ensemble. Your voice will not only give life to the text but also create the illusion of different personas without affecting the credibility. And to master it, you have no option but practice a lot and observe and test differences even more.
Your voice is the portal of your emotions so the first tip here is to explore your authentic feelings. To make your game more interesting you have to act like your character, not pretend that you are the character. But sometimes – a lot of times actually – bringing a specific type of voice facilitates the emotion to appear. If you breathe fast and strongly and try to talk at the same type, you can mimic the fact that you just came from a running practice, without having to actually run to achieve this outcome and make yourself believable. If you talk in a lower volume than usual or that is different from the people in the scene, or even stutter a bit, you can bring the emotion of shyness or sadness depending on how you work your voice through it.
Play Those Emotions
So start to play voice-acting different emotions, with your own voice in the beginning. Training joy versus anger may sound quite easy, and it is because of the opposition they naturally bring. But when you try to differentiate happiness from joy from contentment, that’s when things get more complicated, and actually way more interesting!
If it’s the first time you are getting in touch with this kind of topic, for sure start with opposite feelings, it will be extremely useful! But if you want to step up your game, go over a big list of adjectives and try to recreate these emotions that we tend to use as synonyms, but actually aren’t. To go deeper another level, start combining them! Try to sound ashamedly happy and then ashamedly confused. Try as many variations you can, just remember to not do all of them in one session. Test nuances and different ways and remember to come back to them days or weeks later to assess and check for improvements.
To Record or Not to Record
On drama training, lots of teachers don’t recommend recordings because they can fix patterns and rehearsals are way more about exploration than sticking to a fixed model. I get it, but in singing training recording is mandatory so you can remember instructions and check your improvements on later days. As we are trying to make your playing more fun, I totally motivate you to record at least something about your training for exactly the same reason: assessing throughout time what it worked and what needs fixing. Just don’t obsess over it and remember to keep exploring and things will work out just fine.
Be Your Icons
I’m not gonna lie, as a player you don’t necessarily have to test so many different voices as you will play with the same character all the time. But for a RPG master, these trainings can make you stand out for real. Look for interviews of your favorite celebrities and icons and try to impersonate them. Check your favorite actors and actresses playing different roles and be aware of the differences and play them too, mimic them. You will expand your options and learn a lot too – but don’t get mad if you actually realize that a favorite of yours doesn’t change with different roles.Sometimes we just like a bad artist and that’s it. It’s like they say, never meet your heroes!
Accents and Origins
Another great exercise is to experiment with different accents. Try to say the same sentence but playing with the way that people from different regions would sound like. An Italian speaking in English sounds totally different from an Indian speaking it. The same with Americans and British and Australian and so it goes. The more you vary, the more you will be able to differentiate your voices on your games. So why not try a different accent during a one-shot campaign?
Although we actors have to memorize positions, lines and emotions, what really makes you get better at the job is practicing improvisation. You don’t have to worry about that just to play RPG, but having some improv games on hand can improve not only your acting through the sessions but also set the mood to everybody enjoy and act more in character.
A really funny one is to make pairs and speak using only questions as sentences, but making the effort to really sound like a conversation. The jokes appear fast and this is a nice way to set apart from the real world and put everybody in a playful mode, ideal for RPG playing. It just sparks creativity and laughter.
Another exercise you can make is to set a situation, like a place and characters, and let it open to anyone stand up and start improvising that. As the scene moves on, somebody previously selected from the audience will say “change” every time he/she thinks that the answer could be different, like more interesting, funnier or more absurd. Don’t go over 3 changes in a row though because it can ruin the experience but it’s really nice to see how people respond to immediate instruction and only gets better with time. Go on YouTube for variations of improv practices and try the ones you feel interested in!
Act Like a Pro
Doing the opposite from the last tip is actually also very good. Look for small texts or excerpts from plays online, memorize it and act it on a mirror or to a camera if you feel comfortable with it. This one is really for the committed ones or for anybody who enjoys drama and wants to play with it. But the benefits are huge: because you’re doing a bigger text you’ll have to put those variations you practiced later to the test and with more authenticity. The context that this exercise brings will make you go further for authentic feelings and not only mimic voice variations. For the dungeon master, this is gold!
May the Force Be With You – Not Your Throat
An easy beginner mistake is to put too much strength on your throat during the voice acting exercises, and you should avoid that at all cost. If it hurts, stop it. Even when you have to do guttural voices or increase your pitch, a singer or actor/actress should never put your throat at risk, neither should you. Look for some voice warm ups and cooldown for your practices and follow this rule to keep getting the best from these tips. And if by any means this nurtures any will to enjoy a drama club, just go for it and have fun! I assure your RPG gaming experience will only collect benefits from it. See you soon my friend!
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