Abraham Lincoln

Episode 84: Those Punk Magicians Killed My Elephant

April 11th, 2014 | Robin

The Gaming Hut rings with the sound of accents and impressions as we examine the role of voice work in GMing.

The Crime Blotter finds a surprising nexus of grift, elephant materialization and the technological spread of 20th century entertainment in the person of Harry Thurston. A less famous follower in his magician brother Howard’s footsteps, Harry made his influence felt through connections to the Chicago mob.

We drink deep of mead, wine, beer and polyglot alcoholic beverages in the Food Hut, as we take a look at prehistoric and ancient drinking. A bookshelf hat tip goes out to Uncorking the Past by Patrick E. McGovern.

Get sleepy, very sleepy, letting go of cares and worries as the Consulting Occultist casts your mind toward the tale of Franz Anton Mesmer.

It’s yo ho ho and a pocketful of doubloons as Atlas Games surveys the seven seas from the crow’s nest that is our coveted anchor sponsor slot. Parrot on its shoulder, it orders up another special deal for Ken and Robin listeners, this time in the form of their innovative game of piratical nautical warfare, Pieces of Eight.



After ten years delighting the Swedish gaming scene, our pals at Fenix Magazine now bring the Best of Fenix to English-language GMs and players with their now-active Indiegogo campaign. This project so resounds with Hitean goodness that you have surely chipped in already. But if you haven’t, that burning bird of prey is still passing the hat.


12 Responses to “Episode 84: Those Punk Magicians Killed My Elephant”

  1. GB Steve says:

    When playing Owl Hoot Trail we all do American accents. They might be terrible but it doesn’t matter because none of us can tell.

  2. Michael Cule says:

    The advice I would give when you’re using ‘voices’ is to look at sustainability. How long can you use that particular accent without losing it? I have to be careful with a tendency for foreign accents to slide into Welsh, a problem that I share with a lot of English actors including, I believe, John Cleese.

    The tip to use an impersonation as the beginning of a characterisation is a good one. I was doing Henry Crun when playing the senile sorcerer in charge of a Laundry outstation for the past two weeks. (“A reference to THE (highly esteemed) GOON SHOW, m’lud.” “Ah very…mmmph… very good. Carry on!”)

    I have never tried to do female voices by changing timbre: my basso isn’t really that adaptable. But you can do a lot with vocabulary and pacing to distinguish characters from each other and from your standard GM’s voice. I suspect I tend to overuse a breathless and pleading ingenue as my default female characters.

  3. Andrew Raphael says:

    I tried doing a breathy seductive voice for the lovely Zeta in Death Across the Nile and reduced my entire group to fits of laughter.

  4. Brett Evill says:

    Robin, you surmise correctly: your Australian accent is dreadful.

    re: Alcoholic birds. My family once had a pet cockatoo that was fond of wine. I can confirm that birds, or cockatoos at least, go through the jocose and bellicose stages of drunkedness — the lachrymose stage I could not detect — before ending up comatose. Also, they become very grumpy when they have hangovers.

    One time my father fell asleep over his post-prandial wine, with his hand on the one-legged table on which his glass stood half full. The cockatoo, sighting an opportunity, climbed Dad’s footstool, made its way gingerly up his leg and torso to his shoulder, then down his arm. It mostly finished the glass of wine standing on his wrist, then made its way unsteadily back up his arm and then, in a totally-understandably error of navigation, down the arm of his armchair. It walked off the end of the chair arm and fell to the floor without a flutter. Then it stood up, gathered its composure, stared around blearily, put up its crest for a moment, took a couple of steps, trod on its own toes, and went beak-first into the carpet under the coffee-table. And there it stayed until morning.

  5. Tom Allman says:

    Dear Ken and Robin,

    I have extensive experience DM’ing f20, but have recently switched to CoC. I have absolutely no experience running a gun fight. A couple of tip’s would be awesome!


  6. Conrad Kinch says:

    I often do regional accents in both roleplaying and larping as they are tremendous fun. I understand that some people find regional accents irritating or offensive, but fortunately I have never had to roleplay with them.

    My wife is a voice actress and her command of accents is excellent, though probably my favourites was a scene where she had to play three cats (one French, one American and one Chinese) all of whom could only say “miaow”.

    Not only did she manage to have a full blown conversation using only one word, she managed to distinguish between all three cats. It was amazing.*

    Moving on – In past Ken has discussed balkanising England and has on occasional made reference to “…the hated British.” I am extremely fond of our closest neighbour and wouldn’t change them for worlds. I suspect Ken for all his vile blandishments and republican trumpery is fond of them too.

    So I ask Ken and Robin, what are your favourite things about Great Britain?

    Conrad Kinch, Dublin, Ireland.

    *Her impression of a weasel with a South African accent is a classic of the genre.

  7. Matt says:

    That Aussie accent dripped with awful potentialities, Robin, but still way better than the accents in Pacific Rim.

  8. Mark Watson says:

    It’s hard to speak of bad accents without a nod to this garbled nightmare:

    As for a Ask Ken and Robin, I am curious about how you might employ Gene Wolfe’s varied writing in roleplaying. He seems like a reasonable topic as his work neatly bisects that of Borges and Vance.

  9. Tom Vallejos says:

    One voice I can do vaguely sounds like “Bullwinkle”.

  10. […] more advice on voicing NPCs, check out this episode of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff. They don’t say much about technique, but they have a great discussion about when to use a […]

  11. Jeromy French says:


    Patrick E. McGovern (2010 reprint) – Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages
    Steinmeyer, Jim (2011) – The Last Greatest Magician in the World: Howard Thurston Versus Houdini & the Battles of the American Wizards.

    Both of these books have now been added to my Amazon shopping cart. Now need to get my current books finished. Good thing I have a long weekend coming up.

  12. Charles Picard says:

    Hey… a Paul Tevis name check!

    I had a chance to play in an Unknown Armies game Paul was running at Strategicon before PMT was even a glimmer in his eye. It was a tremendously memorable game for me.

    I believe I played in a GURPS game of his at the short-lived GenCon SoCal as well.

    Paul was, and I suspect is, a good dude, a nifty GM, and all around swell guy.

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