Look, I’m going to come right out and say it: to start with, I hate the title of this post. Second of all, this post is going to be rather more bitter and cynical than my usual posts – that is to say, it will look rather like Sean wrote it. I apologise for this in advance, but this is a point that needs to be made.
My advice on roleplaying an accent like the Dwarves have has a lot in common with my take on adolescent sex ed.
Don’t do it.
If you’re going to do it, here’s how to do it best. The metaphor collapses a little in that poorly orchestrated accents don’t usually carry the risk of pregnancy or disease transmission, but I’m sure I can make my point regardless.
The fact of the matter is that most people when trying to shoot for a decent Scottish-inspired accent tend to go overboard or miss their mark in some way. A lot of the time, the dialogue ends up either too difficult to read (hence making it harder to concentrate on the actual content; an interesting tool if you want to make your character hard to understand, but it makes roleplay feel rather like a chore if you’re constantly having to actively concentrate to work out what the other person is saying), or like some strange amalgam of Scottish, Irish and drunk. It’s far from impossible to write a proper accent, but a lot of people just don’t seem to know how to do it right.
To be quite honest, I’m probably one of them; that’s why I prefer to advocate not attempting it if you’re no good, because I feel like I don’t really know where to start in doing it properly. However, I know that the temptation to try and get the accent across is awfully big from time to time, not to mention this would be a very silly post if I didn’t offer some advice. As such, here’s some advice that I feel is worthwhile, even though I don’t feel qualified to put it into practice myself.
– Underplay it, not overplay it: It’s much better to evoke the idea of the accent with certain, unique cadences in the sentence structure and the occasional characteristic sound than to beat your audience around the head with the idea of the accent. This will get the idea across while running less risk of coming across incorrectly, or making it too difficult for your audience to read.
– Consider your word usage. What we consider the ‘voice’ of a Scottish person isn’t just limited to the manner in which they pronounce certain words – it’s also, for example, the tendency to use words like ‘lad’ or ‘lass’, ‘loch’, ‘wee’, et cetera. Some phrases seem to be more commonly associated with Scottish English than with other countries. Now, some of these aren’t going to be true of the dwarves, being more cultural things than accent things, but given the voice emotes and the words of the dwarvish quest givers, we can reasonably assume that dwarves, like most cultures, have distinct manners of speaking or tendencies towards certain words over others.