D&D DM: Do I need to do accents?

D&D DM: Do I need to do accents?

Stepping into the role of Dungeon Master comes with a plethora of responsibilities, from balancing encounters to improvising new storylines when the players go off track. In the midst of everything you need to do already, you may be tempted to attempt various accents like the DM greats of the D&D world. But do you have to? Let's explore the vocal world of being a D&D DM.

Voices: What's the Point?

There are a few reasons why a DM uses a voice other than their own when running a D&D session. 

  1. To differentiate characters
  2. Lend weight to a line or monologue 
  3. Because it's funny

These purposes vary in importance and what is actually required if you're looking to do the same, so let's break them down, and then we'll find ways to accomplish the end goal with and without accents.

Differentiating Characters

For most home game games there are only so many ways to differentiate one NPC from the next. You can find a piece of art that looks similar to what you're picturing, you can mock up a mini on hero forge as reference, you can of course describe how they look and give them a unique name, and you can speak in a different voice when roleplaying as them. These range in ease and time needed to prepare, and one of the easiest ways to differentiate a character is by doing a voice. It needs minimal prep time, it's easy to tell when you're speaking in character vs out, and it adds flavor to your character description.

In “Zelda”, why does Link have so many different outfits? - Quora

Lending Weight

When you deliver a dramatic boss monologue or think up a radical one liner to drop on your party, it often feels like the perfect time to enhance your voice. It cues the party that something cool is happening, it makes the instance more memorable, and perhaps most importantly, makes you feel awesome. That said, unless you're very well practiced with the voice you're going to use for an epic moment, it can lead to throwing the rhythm of the game off if you're players aren't expecting it. Generally a good line or dialogue will speak (forgive the pun) for itself.


Comedy comes from set ups and punchlines, expectations vs what actually is, a logical person in an illogical world or vice versa. You can accomplish this effect by pairing a character with a voice that doesn't match them, or having a character speak in a way that doesn't fit the situation. Some classic pairings are: big scary looking character with a high pitched voice, character that does crazy things that speaks in a monotone, a character that moves very fast but speaks very slow or vice versa. These can cause levity, keep players guessing about the true nature of characters, and add a little depth to the world. And, none of those voices are very complicated, they don't require a quality accent or much vocal practice of any kind.

Note: speech impediments are not inherently comedic. If the "funny" part of a character is their speech impediment, that's just being mean to people with speech impediments. There are ways to make speech impediments funny, but first always consider how someone who had a speech impediment would feel if they were sitting at your table before using one, especially for a joke.

How to do Voices

Looking at the reasons for using an accent or a voice it becomes clear that the most important reason is to differentiate characters. The more voices you have in your repertoire the more unique characters you can voice at once. That said, you don't need to master accents in order to give each character their own voice. Here are some simple ways to mimic an accent without having to dedicate your life to voice acting.

1. Pitch

Everyone can pitch their voice at least a little bit higher or lower. Doing so immediately identifies that you are not speaking as yourself, and it's an excellent starting point with a voice.

2. Pace

You speak at a certain speed. Change that speed, whether it's faster or slower, and suddenly you sound like a different person. Simple as that.

3. Mouth Position

Just like the first two tips, your natural speech comes from you mouth in a certain position, and altering that position creates different sounds. This might mean sticking your tongue to the roof of you mouth while you speak, talking out of the side of your mouth, never touching your lips while you talk, or one of any number of other contortions.

How to do Accents

Now voices and accents are very different. You might want to create a regional accent for a town, you might feel comfortable doing different voices and are looking to expand your repertoire to include some accents. Accents are hard, much harder than simply putting on a goofy voice, and it's important to note that regardless of how good your accents are if you're playing in a fantasy world they very much do not need to be perfect. How could an elf have a perfect, classic, Eton English accent when Eton doesn't exist in the Forgotten Realms?? So don't worry too much, doing your best (if you choose to do an accent) is all that matters. So, to help out here are four tips for doing accents in D&D:

1. Practice makes perfect

Just like anything else, repetition is going to improve your accents more than anything else. When something doesn't sound right, repeat it until it does. If there are phrases or names you're going to need to say a lot in your D&D sessions, repeat them often. This is probably going to mean talking to yourself a lot, wandering the house muttering in bad accents for a while, but such is the price of perfection.

2. Listen and repeat

You have to know what an accent sounds like in order to mimic it, so be sure you're listening to people talk in the accent you're hoping to recreate. This could mean listening to podcasts, watching shows, or making friends. And, when you hear how a phrase is said, repeat it until you can say it in the same way (maybe don't do this with real life people).

3. Impressions

Pick a celebrity with a very distinct way of speaking, who has an accent that's different from yours. Focus on mimicking not just their accent but all of their inflections. The accent informs the speech patterns and vice versa, so understanding how a specific person speaks with an accent will be helpful to learn how to use it yourself while DMing.

Snape Could've Been Played By This VERY Different Actor And We're Shook |  HuffPost UK Entertainment

4. Key Phrase

For a lot of DMs having a phrase they can say really well in a specific accent helps key them into the accent. Pick something you think you can say consistently well in the accent you're going for and say that first before using the accent o key you in to the right headspace and mouth shape. Here's a good example.

5. Diction

People with some accents use words that others don't. Because of this, a lot of words will sound odd and be difficult to figure out how to say in an accent that doesn't use them, so be aware of what words you're using to avoid saying words that don't come up often in the accent you're doing.

What about the main question: Do D&D DMs need to do accents?

No. That's the short answer. There's a ton of stuff already on your plate as a DM and if you're not comfortable or don't have the time and mental space to practice and prepare accents or voices, don't. It's probably good idea to find ways to easily differentiate between NPCs when you're playing them, but there's a wide variety of ways this can be accomplished without diving into voices and accents. Do what you're having fun doing, that's all it boils down to. 

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