This week I’m traveling abroad and it’s made me appreciate what a shock to the system that actually can be at times. When you don’t speak the language and are foreign to the cultural norms of a part of the world, you feel strangely outcast even if that’s not the goal of the people you’re interacting with.

stranger-in-a-strange-land-coverIn all my years of gaming, I’ve never actually felt that “outcast” mode while playing a player character. But I feel like it’s something I need to explore in a future adventure.

Imagine if your PCs are dropped in a pocket of space and time where they don’t speak like the locals, don’t behave like the locals, and don’t look like them either. What do you do?

If you’re in a traditional D&D campaign, there’s always the good old Comprehend Languages spell, but let’s say that’s only a part of the puzzle. If you’re in a more modern or futuristic campaign, that becomes even more of a challenge unless you have something like the Babel Fish, Universal Translator, or Google Translate in your pocket. But again, it’s quite possible that language is the least of your worries.

Next you have cultural norms. Imagine if the people (or whatever they are) around you behave completely in a manner that seems irrational to you. Instead of shaking hands, they spit on the ground and stomp in a circle. Maybe as a formal greeting they growl and bluster like animals. Or maybe they just stare at one another and somehow you’re left out of whatever the exchange happens to be. What do you do then?

I have no clue! I’d probably freak out.

And then let’s really drive your PCs insane. What if everyone has blue skin around them and your characters are typical pale-skinned humaniform races? They get stared at everywhere they go, making them feel ostracized and outsiders.

The adventure could be as simple as dropping the PCs in a place in which they must simply find their way out again. Leave a gate or door or other entrance that they can stumble into eventually or possibly find ways to interact with the strange people.

Or make it even more of a challenge and add some sort of enemy to the mix. The enemy attacks the PCs and the blue-skinned folks equally, so you must band together to stop it before too much devastation is done…

Who knows? But it might be fun to explore as an idea at the game table.

What do you think? Anybody else done anything like this?

1 Comments

  1. Keith Byers

    Yes. Each continent of my world has different colours for races so that each is unique and draws some attention to each one. All are different so there is uniqueness but also a similarity in the fact of everyone being different. Language is not as much of an issue within reach continent as there is a common language that way. But you would need to know it or there is a learning curve that takes until you make an effort and use a skill slot. It can be quite interesting as long as the group roleplays.

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