I can't talk, not a word, but I am really interested in getting into tabletop RPGs. But from my understanding of the game, this is difficult to do when you can't talk. I am learning sign language but I'm far from fluent and so even if another player could translate, my BSL would be clunky and it would take a while communicating even something simple.

On top of this I don't really know the rules or anything major about the game apart from what I've seen in films or on the tv.

What methods are there that people have found from experience of playing an RPG without being able to communicate in the conventional way?

One concern is the need to be able to say something immediately instead of ten minutes later once you've finished typing.


4 Answers 4


Going to post about my experiences as a web GM for several years now and try to answer your questions. 90% of my players have probably never heard my voice.

If you want to learn D&D or any other tabletop game, it's very easy to get started! If you are new to RPGs, I would recommend D&D 5th edition, which also offers a version of the rules and handbook for free. This should teach you anything you need to know to run a game. If you want to know more about D&D or any other game, consider buying their "Core Rulebook" or "Player's Handbook"; these are always in book or e-book format.

Basic Rules for Dungeons and Dragons

The rules will give you the mechanics to run combat, character building and handling situations, but a Role Playing Game like this doesn't quite play like the videogames. It requires 1 player to be the Game Master (GM/DM) that handles all the NPCs and story while the other players (preferably at least 3) become the Player Characters (PCs/Party members). It's completely free-form and your character can try to do anything you want, making it much more open/free/sandbox than any videogame that exists.

Remember that all RPGs do not run in real time, but in turns or some time abstraction. Even if you are slow at typing, the game 'pauses' so you can make your decision whenever it's relevant like it was a classic videogame RPG. The speed advantage of using verbal communication becomes moot in this context.

As far as playing online, there is a lot of software that can accomplish this. Most popular ones I've seen are Fantasy Grounds, MapTools and Roll20.net. Of those, my favorite for sure has been Roll20, which gives you all the resources to play an authentic game online without needing any player to download any software.

Though dialogue is extremely important in an RPG, it can be conveyed in text form perfectly. In a real life situation where you are together with your friends it would be extremely difficult to communicate without talking, but in an online environment such as Roll20, the norm is to do it by text. The major downside of playing by text is that it can become pretty slow since the player engagement is not as high as when playing Live.

You only really need 4 ways to communicate in these games:

  • Talking as your Character or an NPC. The character is speaking in the game. It's the same as when a character in an old videogame talks in that you should expect to see the name and avatar of whoever is talking. This means the DM doesn't have to 'make voices' for the characters either (Which is good if you suck at it).
  • Talking out of character. For all the stuff that is not role playing, like talking with GM, describing things to the group, making jokes or whatever else. It can still be very fun to chat with friends like this.
  • Describing the actions of characters. RPGs are supposed to mostly be in your imagination. You can get tokens on the field to show everyone's relative positions, but actual action has to be described in words, It's easily done in text as if writing a book or screenplay.
  • Visual Medium for Combat. Doing text-only combat with just text is really hard, since this often requires a lot of information exchanging betwen players and the GM. A visual medium like a grid on a map with tokens representing all the creatures can speed things up a lot. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all.

All 4 are very easy to accomplish in text form online as you can switch your chat name at will (to any character) and use emote formatting for showing what character is doing an action. They also provide ways to roll all of the dice you need very easily, store character sheets and handle maps for combat and scenery.

If you have an online group of friends, I'd recommend you organize them to play on one of these platforms. Only the DM (Usually most interested player who organizes things) should really need to learn the rules of the game before starting (The PCs can learn as they go). You should probably organize them using some other group chat tool such as Skype/Discord/Slack/Hangouts.

If you don't have a group of interested players, you can still learn the rules and try to find a group online in a forum or reddit, Roll20 also has a way to search for "open" games looking for players.

If you still have any questions, you are in the perfect site to have them answered.


About 15 years ago, I was in a group with a player who was mute some of the time (no idea why, but I think he kept having surgery for his vocal cords). During his mute phases, he would communicate with the rest of us via a hand-held dry-erase board. It was not as fluid as it was when he was able to speak, but he was able to participate and contribute to the game. He even won one of our quarterly character-optimization tournaments while entirely mute.

I do suggest online play (as many other answers have recommended), since it's much easier to find a no-voice game, but if you have a willing group of people it's certainly possible to play in person.

Out of combat, this player get everyone's attention (waving, knocking on the table, snapping, or just when people turned to him/his character) and he would quickly write down a description of what he wanted to do or say. Very rarely would he write down actual conversation, but many verbal players just say "My character interrogates the bartender" instead of actually carrying on a conversation. Writing down "I interrogate the bartender" is quick, conveys what you want to do, and lets you participate. Die results are trivial to roll and write down.

In combat, attention came to him naturally when it was his turn, and people were respectful about giving him time to move his figure and write, the way they gave time for other players to describe what they were doing without (usually) talking over them. There were times he had to point to things on his sheet for other people to read to the table/GM, and I think he usually didn't bother with spellcasters (since they're more complicated), but he was generally very effective.


It's very feasible to play in person without any digital aids whatsoever, but you need a group that is patient enough to occasionally wait for you, and you need to have somewhat legible handwriting.


The roll20 solution

I have DM'd (that is, run) games on roll20 where a player can't verbally communicate because of a technical issue — typically, a problem with the microphone or internet connectivity.

This can work out well for your situation. When folks are playing on their computers, everyone is more-or-less engaged with the technologies needed to facilitate text-based communication.

It's not much of an adjustment for me personally (as the DM) to keep an eye on the dialog thread. There's an alert sound in case the dialog area is hidden when you receive a message. If it's a game where a players sometimes whisper to the DM, the DM will probably already be keeping an eye out for messages.


Some players take longer to get used to checking the dialog box. They'll get confused and the others will say at once, "Read the dialog box, dude."

If you find that folks are failing to notice your messages, you can set up a macro that will make a sound to alert them. Macros can also be used to speed up any repetitive action, which can help if you find it's hard to keep up with the action when you are typing.

Some Technical Considerations

In a case where players are communicating via the dialog box, it is best to keep the automated output to the dialog box short. For example, if you have it set up for entire spell definitions to be output to the dialog whenever the spell is case, dialog may scroll up out of the viewport quickly.

On the other hand, there are also some advantages to using the dialog box for communication. In larger groups, the latency involved with communicating over the internet can lead to people speaking over each other. Text message will just go through.

Just find the people

The trickiest part for getting involved with a game is finding the right batch of people. That’s true for anyone. You find the right bunch of people, and folks needing to read texts instead of listening to you will not be an issue.


When my Dad was In hospital, his vocal cords got paralysed and he couldn't speak, we tried different methods of communication. We had a board with a pen than you can wipe that he'd write things on. He couldn't write very clearly and we tried giving him a letter board and included common words (although this would probably be too slow for you).

We were also lent an iPad with a text to speech app. I think it was called verbally or something like that. In terms of text to speech, some apps probably allow you to save common phrases.

Stephen Hawking had an assistant who tried to work out what he was trying to say before he finished saying it. If you're finding you're slow you may have a friend who could help with that. We did that with my Dad a lot.

In terms of learning, I was told to roll four dice six times, take the three highest numbers each time and that was all. We were well into the game in the same evening with only that preparation on my first time and I knew virtually nothing about D&D (in this case) to begin with.


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