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I plan on running the Tomb of Horrors from the Tales of the Yawning Portal book, and I would like to play it in French, as we all are native French-speakers at the table.

In this dungeon, the players will get the following message from Acererak (spoilers ahead):

Acererak congratulates you on your powers of observation, so make of this whatever you wish, for you will be mine in the end no matter what!

Go back to the tormentor or through the arch, and the second great hall you'll discover.

Shun green if you can, but night's good color is for those of great valor.

If shades of red stand for blood, the wise will not need sacrifice aught but a loop of magical metal- you're well along your march.

Two pits along the way will be found to lead to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall.

These keys and those are most important of all, and beware of trembling hands and what will maul.

If you find the false you find the true, and into the columned hall you'll come,and there the throne that's key and keyed.

The iron men of visage grim do more than meets the viewer's eye.

You 've left and left and found my tomb, and now your souls will die.

Are there hints in this message which only work in English? Is it possible to translate this message into French without losing any hints?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might get better results if you focus on "what hints are there in this message?" I don't think the current form is off-topic per se, but it could only be answered by someone with good understanding of both the adventure in question and French language. Restricting to just asking for the hints themselves removes the requirement for answerers to know French, and then you could use that list to ask a second question focusing on the "translate to French without losing this information" part that would require less in-depth knowledge of the adventure. \$\endgroup\$ – Kamil Drakari Oct 29 '18 at 16:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good advice ! Here is the question about all the hints: What are all the hints in Acererak's message? \$\endgroup\$ – Yotus Oct 30 '18 at 7:38
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Generic translation advice

Whenever a text contains any form of hints, it is better to figure out the hints, and then write a new text of your own in the language you wish to use, where you take care to write down the hints in a way that they make sense.

For example, the last hint is 'left and left', which in English is cryptic because 'left' could be a verb (to leave) or a direction (opposite of right), which is why it's a riddle. In most languages, this won't actually work.

For example, if I directly translate it to Dutch, it will become:

Als je links en links bent gegaan en mijn tombe hebt gevonden...

This doesn't work. Links doesn't have the same duplicate meaning in Dutch that left does in English, and it's no longer really a riddle. To fix this, I'd have to make my own way of obfuscating the fact that they have to go left twice, or replace the hint with some other way of making it cryptic.

If you can't come up with a good line, remember that your players can't see the original anyway, so you can always drop lines or replace them entirely. You can easily alter the mural of a torture scene for the hint about the tormenter into something else, and make a riddle around that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, the one with the two "left" is probably the one that cannot be translated as is. \$\endgroup\$ – Yotus Oct 30 '18 at 12:23
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Most of it can be translated directly, especially if you can dispense with the rhyming. A few parts require some special attention but can be translated.

I do not speak French, but most of the clues do not rely on wordplay or cultural cues that would cause any difficulty in translating them. Direct translation would probably mess up the rhyming, but little else. I explained the meanings of all the clues in this answer, so refer to that for specifics.

There are three potential translation pitfalls. They are:

"If you find the false, you'll find the true..."

True and false are often used in English to indicate the veracity of a fact or statement, but in this case, false is used in the sense of "fake" and true is used in the sense of "genuine." It is important that your translation convey those connotations in order for the players to properly interpret this clue. The clue means that if you find the fake door at are 23, you will find the genuine secret door behind it.

"the throne that is key and keyed..."

This might throw off your translation since the throne is "key" (adjective--meaning critical or important), not "a key" (noun meaning something that opens a lock). The throne is also "keyed" in that the scepter touched to a certain part of the throne acts like a key in opening the passage behind it. If the French word for key is not both an adjective and noun, like it is in English, you will want to translate this carefully so your audience would not interpret the throne to be a literal key that opens a lock.

"You've left and left..."

The first "left" here is a verb. If you get rid of the contraction, it reads "you have left." The meaning is that when the party has left area 30, they should search to their left (direction) and find the keyhole. Many people misinterpret the clue to mean "take two left turns" and that was probably intentional on Gygax's part, because after leaving 30 and turning right, two left turns will dump them out a magical one-way door to an area earlier in the dungeon.

It may not be possible to translate this clue into French in a way that carries that misleading double meaning. What you will want to do is write it in a way that subtly suggests characters search for the secret door to 33 after leaving 30, but also might trick them into following the corridor to the one-way door. Note that the clues are generally in the order that the party will need them, and it is likely the party will pick up on this. So whatever clue you place after the "iron men" clue, the players will be thinking of that as their next clue when they pass the secret door that iron statue hides.

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