posted Sunday, November 11th 2007 by
Dungeon Mastering Advice
You’re starting a new campaign. Your players are going over their characters to make sure they’ve forgotten nothing. “Racial attributes? Class abilities? AC? Equipment? Saves? Feats? Skills? Weapon proficiencies?” It all checks out, and your campaign is ready to go – or so it seems.
Six game sessions in, you decide that a little parley with a dark elf NPC is in order. “Does anyone speak Undercommon?” Leafing through their character sheets, players all together realise that they forgot to assign languages at character creation. You let them pick now to get it out of the way, and suddenly all of your players are fluent in Undercommon.
As I talk to more Dungeon Masters, it turns out that their groups suffer from this too! A solution is to make sure you get this out of the way early on. Your first non-combat encounter, therefore, should always be with someone who doesn’t speak a common language.
There are two major benefits to this. One, by putting it in a roleplaying encounter as opposed to an action encounter, the action isn’t stalled by leafing through books trying to decide who wants to speak Sylvan. Two, by having him speak an uncommon language you give players a choice – pick the language that’s immediately useful, or choose something more common that will be useful more often later on.