How To Develop A Compelling Voice

From Johnn Four

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0003

How To Develop A Compelling Voice

I learned a new habit recently that has had a surprising and positive impact in my life: speaking from the diaphragm. Breathing and speaking from the diaphragm will give you a more compelling and powerful voice–a definite plus when roleplaying–and it also gives you self-confidence and greater control. Try it and you’ll know what I mean.

Practice these instructions before going to the game table.

First, take several deep breaths. Breath in deeply through your nose and push out your stomach/mid-section as you inhale. Don’t stick your upper chest out as you intake air– that’s not your diaphragm. And don’t stick out your tummy either. The diaphragm is in between your stomach and lungs and that’s what should “take in the air.” The first several times I did this I was not used to it and there was a little discomfort, so I did not breathe as deeply. Keep at it and the area will relax/strengthen up over time.

Next, speak out loud while putting a little pressure on your diaphragm. I picture it as tensing my stomach for an incoming punch and you will need to try it a few times before getting it 100% right. Use a book or magazine article to practice.

Make it a habit to always speak from your diaphragm. Your muscles will build in that area and it will get much easier over time.

What are the benefits?

The tone of your voice drops and becomes more compelling. Your voice will not rise in pitch, as it does under stress. I call this “talking from your head instead of your gut.”

The way you breathe will change. Shallow breathing, which is typical when “talking through your head” reduces oxygen flow to the brain–and game masters need all the brain power they can get to keep on top of things.

I also noticed, as my abdomen toned up a bit after awhile, and just from the feeling I got by breathing that way, an increase in self-confidence and a greater sense of self- control.

The Gamemaster’s Hall Of Shame: Monty Haul’s Top Ten Cousins

From Peter Maranci

10. Minnie Haul

  • Alias: That Cheap Bastard.
  • Quote: “Okay. After twenty-seven sessions you have finally slain the Three Giant Dragons of Chaos. In the treasure vault you find–12 copper pieces and a rusty fork. Who gets the fork?”
  • Pros: You’ll never be over-encumbered.
  • Cons: Majority of characters killed by starvation, plus risk of lockjaw from rusty fork.

9. Mr. Softee

  • Alias:Pathetic Guy; The Amazing Mushman.
  • Quote:“You’re down 3 hit points? Uh…suddenly the troll falls over and spontaneously combusts! Magically, the smoke heals you.”
  • Pros: Characters never die. Ever. No matter what.
  • Cons: Who cares?

8. Anger Man

  • Alias: The Master; It Wasn’t Me.
  • Quote: “What? You don’t bow to the King? Your limbs fall off.”
  • Pros: Order and discipline.
  • Cons: Discipline und Order!

7. Das KillMeister

  • Alias: Dr. Death; Why Do I Keep Playing?
  • Quote: “Better roll up six characters each. That should last the first session. Maybe. [chortle]”
  • Pros: The thrill of danger.
  • Cons: The boredom of constant defeat.

6. The Sexist Pig

  • Alias: The Sleazeball; L’il Friskies.
  • Quote: “They rape you and you love it, like all women. Ha ha ha! Now you’re pregnant!”
  • Pros: Not boring (for guys, anyway!).
  • Cons: Extremely irritating; Will emotionally scar any player under the age of sixteen; Knows no shame; Will probably serve in the Senate.

5. Das PunMeister

  • Alias: Stop; Please, I Beg of You, Kill Him.
  • Quote: “A killer Tree-man! Woodn’t you know. I’d leaf him alone. Bet his bark is worse than his bite!”
  • Pros: A wacky, funny, laugh-a-minute guy.
  • Cons: Will not stop.

4. Monotone Man

  • Alias: ZZZZzzzzzzzz….
  • Quote: “Hi. I’m the King.” “Hi. I’m the peasant.” “Hi. I’m the wizard.” “Hi. I’m the knight.” “Hi. I’m the Dragon.”
  • Pros: Will never cancel due to laryngitis.
  • Cons: Save vs. Paralyzation or die.

3. The Drunk

  • Alias: What’s That Smell?; Not Again!
  • Quote: “H’lo. BLEUUEUERGGHH!!! G’bye…”
  • Pros: Vivid descriptions of strange, bizarre creatures.
  • Cons: Rarely coherent. Will probably die soon.

2. The Insane Plotter

  • Alias: Machiavelli; Mr. Myxylplyxx.
  • Quote: “But the twelfth arbitrary conundrum signifies nascent ursinoids rising. Any idiot can see that!”
  • Pros: Dazzling, intricate plots, sub-plots, and sub-sub-plots.
  • Cons: Makes you feel really stupid.

1. The Great Actor

  • Alias: The Bard; Mr. Shakespere.
  • Quote:“Alas, poor Baldrick; I knew him well. ‘Twas but the bare bodkin of our discontent that ravelled his sleeve of care! And now all is lost, forever lost!” (sobs loudly) Player: “Uhhhhh…does that mean I can order a drink now, Mr. Innkeeper?”
  • Pros: Deep drama, and colorful NPCs.
  • Cons: You may die of embarrassment–and when he’s on a roll, you’ll wish that you could.
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