Dungeoneering Abroad

Ryuu Tama I suppose I can’t take full credit for Michael’s post on German RPGs, but I may have been the match to the powder keg!

I’m American, and a native English speaker. For many years now I’ve been learning German and Japanese. I did not grow up in a multilingual environment, nor did I have much of an interest in foreign languages until the final years of high school, so everything I’ve learned has essentially been as an adult. If you’ve ever tried to study a foreign language, you’ll understand that this entails a lot of work.

It’s important to keep things interesting. Naturally I’m a huge RPG fan, so games in other languages have a certain allure for me. Over on The Gnoll’s Den, my personal blog, I am working on a translation of the freely available Player Summary for the Japanese RPG Ryuutama.

There are a lot more English speakers in Europe, however. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several German roleplayers and I tend to take the opportunity to ask them what they play. Although I’ve heard of Das Schwarze Auge and Kult from them, by and large I get the same response: Dungeons & Dragons. (To Michael’s credit, he is the most widely experienced German gamer I’ve met, and has quite a few more games under his belt.)

I once asked a friend of mine how to say "saving throw" in German and he admitted he didn’t know. "We’d normally say, ‘Mach ein Reflex Saving Throw‘ or something like this," he confided to me. (It’s Rettungswurf if you’re curious.)

All the cool kids, it seems, are learning English. It makes perfect sense. Thanks to the Internet, there is a huge amount of information out there on roleplaying games (and stuff in general, really) and knowing English gets you access to a significant chunk of that. DSA might have a big German fanbase, but D&D is international. It’s easy for native English speakers like myself to take that for granted.

Does this mean it’s futile to try to learn a foreign language in this day and age if you’re an English speaker? Of course not. You don’t always have access to the Internet. There is some great stuff out there that doesn’t get translated for an international audience. Making an effort to reach out and communicate is always worthwhile, and it gives us anderen Perspektiven.

In the meantime, go get yourself a copy of Dungeonslayers: Ein altmodisches Rollenspiel (auf Englisch, natürlich).

Shaun Welch has been playing RPGs for two decades. He listens to a disproportionately large amount of music from Iceland, and currently lives in Maryland, where he works as a professional unicorn wrangler.

4 thoughts on “Dungeoneering Abroad”

  1. Great post! As an Austrian I’m used to reading RPG stuff in English (for the very reasons you mentioned), but not to writing. That’s why as a gamedesigner I have to find someone to translate my games, which is extremely expensive and usually way out of budget for any indie publisher let alone RPG enthusiasts. I’ve tried to take the step with Destiny Beginner, but only $-revenue will tell if I can afford to translate Destiny Dungeon as well.
    Language unfortunately is kind of a barrier, but overcoming that barrier is also an extremely satisfying experience. To “andere Perspektiven”!

    1. Servus, Alexander! Nett, dich kennen zu lernen.

      As I can attest, translation can be quite difficult. Even truly bilingual speakers I’ve spoken with can have a hard time with it. Often I will read something, and understand it perfectly fine, but not be able to communicate the idea without some drastic paraphrasing.

      I wish you luck, and I’ll definitely check out Destiny Beginner! Wo kann ich das deutsche Text finden?

      1. Hey, Shaun! Nice to meet you!
        I know, I’ve worked with a native speaker for some time and there were problems, too. Different problems, but nonetheless problems. 🙂
        Anyway, you can download the German version of Destiny Beginner right here. Thanks for being interested! Let’s stay in touch (e.g. via Twitter).

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