Okay, we're continuing our examination of possible player mini-games. These are simple ways to get players interacting at the table. Last post was letter constraints, let's kick it up a notch to:
Use only one-syllable words. I think it's too much to ask newbie players to make haiku count syllables, but they should be able to do this. Because most of the words we use in every day speech are single syllable this would need to be an extended use for the challenge aspect of it to show up. Small words could be used to simulate speaking in a different language. Maybe the Dwarf in the party does know Kobold, just not very much.
"Hear me small one. If you let us in the door I will give you food. If you do not let us through, this great mage will show you his power and burn you nests with fire!"
Werral's simple language rules fit here, and extend the idea. Basically language fluency is simulated by what words you can use-- less fluent=just nouns, more fluent=verbs also, but just 1 per sentence, etc. I really like this as a way to simulate languages in a world. (the only reason I haven't used it in play yet is because I haven't decided on the main languages of my world)
Speak with wrong but consistent personal pronouns. This seems less about a challenge than amusing confusion. It could be something as simple as Abbott and Costello's Who's on First (the female high priest Hee, the temple spirit "U" etc.), or the royal "we." Or it might be a little more complicated, using third person or first person plural to refer to self (we are hungry, it doesn't really want to hurt you, etc.). This mini-game is perfect to simulate a monster's alien consciousness.
"It's going to eat you"
"The guardian of the pool"
"How do you know?"
"Because it's about to take you unawares"
Use some words to mean different words. Not ciphers, where letters are replaced, but whole words like in a Cold War codebook. Maybe the Great Fair has a black market that functions right under the nose of the king's men. To buy a tun of royal wine you ask for a "bolt," (as in cloth) to ask for poached boar meat "wine," to ask for forbidden scarlet cloth you ask for "tusks." Simple enough except the merchants are leery of anyone catching on so they rotate the meanings every day.
"I'd like tusks"
"Whaa . . . um a bolt"
"A bolt, I thought you wanted some meat, you want wine?"
Again, more sitcomesque confusion than a creative challenge but it could be fun.
Riddles, like rhyming, are too hard for this. You might get away with it if you keep it really simple, something like Scandinavian kennings. And I'd want the players to hear some examples first. A kenning is just a metaphorical way to use, usually, two words to represent one other word, so ship becomes "wave's steed," etc. Maybe this comes into play as a way to pass as warriors of the north, or maybe a viking lich only understands this kind of speech.
"Where is the arm's thorn of Bjorn?"
"It lies under the whale's road."
Feel free to jump in with any other ideas you might have. Notice, none of the letter or word constraints replicate Zak's goblin "opposite talk." I think that is more of a concept, so the next post will be on conceptual constraints.