The Alexandrian


Something I like to occasionally do during a session is to speak in tongues. It can be a nice touch of flavor to have one of the orcs the party is talking to turn to their comrade and whisper something in unintelligible orcish. Or to have an elf lord curse at them with silken invectives. Or have the strange, angelic being woken from an elder age quiz them in the stilted tones of a forgotten common tongue.

When I do this, of course, it’s not actually important that what I’m saying actually means anything. (If you actually know a fantasy tongue like Tolkien’s Quenya, that’s fantastic, but not required for this technique to be effective. And sprinkling in established words from a fantasy language as a sort of slang is a different thing, albeit also cool.) What is important is that the content flows, varies, and has a consistent tone. In other words, it needs to sound like someone actually speaking.

However, this can be difficult to smoothly achieve. To assist with this effect, I’ve created a tool I refer to as a Fantasy Lorem Ipsum: For each fantasy language, I have two pages of pre-generated text (which can be printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper). When I want to “speak” in that language, I can simply choose a location on the sheet and begin performing from it. You can also use these sheets to quickly generate handouts by copying and pasting a chunk of text. (You can then provide the “translation” separately if one of the PCs knows the language.)

Ancient Common

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9 Responses to “Random GM Tip – Fantasy Lorem Ipsum”

  1. Doodpants says:

    Um, that “ancient common” seems to be a bunch of yoga terminology. I’m no yoga expert, but having been doing it for a few years, I recognize some of those words. Plus, “dolphin plank pose”, which appears several times in the text, is rather conspicuous and jarring.

    Not necessarily a big deal, but if any of your players are yoga practitioners, it would certainly take them out of the moment.

  2. robbbbbb says:

    My recent RPG is a retelling of the 1984 movie Red Dawn. In this one, my three PCs are local high school kids in North Bend, WA. The Russians have invaded, and they’ve run off into the woods and have started a guerilla insurgency.

    From time-to-time they end up either talking to or listening in on Russian speakers. I speak zero Russian, but I find that it works to just spiel off something that sounds like movie Russian. Throw some syllables out that sound vaguely Slavic, and conclude with, “Da, tovarisch?” Maybe an occasional, “Nyet.”

    My players have commented on how much fun this is. They know it doesn’t mean anything, but it does provide a little verisimilitude to them.

  3. Brian Kaufm says:

    This is pretty great.

  4. Paladin Jack says:


    Looks like Sanskrit, German/Luxembourgish, not sure what you used for Elvish, Halfling is toki pona, and Orc is Klingon.

    I’m guessing you generated these using Bing translate?

  5. Paladin Jack says:

    robbbbbb: may I suggest having Google/Bing translate open and just typing in a block paragraph? I used to do that with one of my characters, a polyglot.

    It shouldn’t be too hard to even generate like a short phrasebook you could keep on hand. The online translators aren’t perfect but they’re good enough for horseshoes.

  6. Justin Alexander says:

    The generators used are credited on the last page of each PDF.

  7. rabbiteconomist says:

    I like to use the dictionaries of Human, Dwarf, Elf & Goblin from Dwarf Fortress II for my fantasy names. I created a generator in excel that randomly creates names based on these. It lacks a large amount of vocab, but it is quite flavorful and fun.

  8. Michael Stengle says:

    This is an interesting technique to assist in simulating different languages during play. Thank you.

    It brings to mind two language related topics that I wonder how you deal with. First, when presented with a situation where a language is being spoken and some (or one) of the characters speak that language, do you follow through with playing out the foreign tongue and then just explain the meaning? Follow up with a written note to the character(s) that speak that language?

    The second question involves character creation, specifically the naming of characters. If you establish that the dwarven language is vaguely germanic and orcish is essentially klingon, do you guide your players to name their dwarf and half-orc (assuming they were named by the orc parent) characters in a consistent manner?

  9. Tiago says:

    “dolphin plank pose” – Loved it.

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