Link: “The Power of Sound”
Link: “Elements, Features, Choices”


There just isn’t enough time in the day.

I need to make some headway on Races lickety-split for a project I’ll be working on next week, which means revisiting exactly what makes Races special. To prove how boring D&D Races are, I made one up off the top of my head and scribbled it into my notebook. In a cave. With a box of scraps.

It isn’t that impressive, I was making a point. Classes are too complicated for that approach, that’s why I say Races are boring. That’s what I’m trying to fix.

Character Class gives you so much of what your character is — particularly in later editions of D&D — that it’s easy to forget the point of your character’s Race. So many of the traits assigned by your Race have non-combat effects that in a game practically built upon combat — their significance is easily lost.

One of those things I’ve come back to time and again is Language — and not just Language, but also Sound. I think I found an application for both, which is to say that by combining these two things I’ll achieve the desired effect.

I don’t know a whole lot about deaf culture but I imagine most hearing people probably take sound for granted. Sound effects are often ignored, and poorly implemented or misused in gaming — which is a largely visual medium to my understanding — to the extent that sight might be analogous to existence.

And that just ain’t right.

What I thought I might do then, is actually make sound analogous to existence — well, perhaps not quite literally — one of those things that all PC Races have in common is Language, even if it isn’t necessarily the SAME Language.

Every race has some form of Word Magic, inherent to being a PC Race. Whether it’s True Names, Words of Power, Songs, Chants, Curses, Shouts, Mantras, or whatever — sure, some of them will have variations and some will definitely possess wholly unique racial powers — each Race STARTS with a Language.

This neatly solves several problems at once.

First, it solves the problem of Language being a nonentity. Each character can share a “common tongue” without “language barriers” creating all these boring, insurmountable obstacles during play.

Second, it better integrates the concept of “sound” and “hearing” by making speech- and language-based powers ubiquitous to characters. There’s little question of how sound works if it’s literally everywhere, and it helps justify the existence of True Names and Power Words when they’re actually represented.

Third, it deals with the problem of “magic words” being accessible to only those trained in them by making them a thing. “Why can’t I just use a magic word?” — “Because you don’t know how to say it properly.” Definition through contrast.

Fourth — it saves me the job of trying to assign Word Magic to a single Magical State when it’s ubiquitous to cultures all over the world. Instead, Races can have unique interactions with classes based on how their words interact with a State (Martial, Primal, Elemental, Divine, Psionic, Arcane, or Shadow)!

Fifth — yeah, we’re up to five — this creates a commonality between all the races in the form of their Racial power. If everyone starts with Language, then you know what to expect from a Racial power. Again, there will be some differences — but you can expect that most will have something to do with Words of Power!

Continuing that point — Magic Words can easily occupy a Move, Minor, or Immediate action. When Racial powers are designed to be used early and often — so as to better represent the Race in question — non-Standard action is great!

Sixth! Yeah, sixth. Who cares when they’re silenced? I’ll tell you who should care — just about everyone. Especially when just about everyone has Magic Words for Racial powers! Feel free to make jokes about “Silence being golden.”

I could probably keep going but I’m still working through the ramifications myself. So much to think about! *flees*