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oldmanlaertes
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Writing Guard Dialogue

Hey everybody!

With idle banter done and dusted, it’s time to get working on guard dialogue. What we’re looking for here are brief lines for guards to say to the player in greeting or passing. As it is now, guards have plenty to say in normal circumstance but lack responses to the player and their status, which can seem odd. So that’s why we’re here!

IMPORTANT: repeatability is the key to this task. The greetings that we’re writing are going to be added to a list of lines which will be repeated ad nauseam throughout the game. This means that our lines need to be simple, even generic; guards are generic NPCs after all. All we need are simple greetings (as in this video) tailored to different combinations of in-game conditions.

To make this as easy as possible for the implementers, we’re only going to focus on the conditions listed here. These should be more than enough to make guard dialogue feel less static than it is in Morrowind.

Here are some examples of how to format lines and specify conditions. This should give you the best idea of what we’re looking for.

That’s about it. If you have any suggestions, write them out in the above format and post them below. Thanks!

Edited by: oldmanlaertes on 09/29/2015 - 22:11
JPratato
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1.       Guard: I know you

1.       Guard: I know you can use it, but I better not see that unsheathed while you are in here.

 

2.       Guard: Nice armor, must mean you do not know how to dodge an attack.

 

3.       Guard: You seem to be packing heavy, try leaving some things at home.

 

4.       Guard: Nice scar, I bet it has a good story to it.

 

5.       Guard: You look like trouble, keep on walking.

 

6.       Guard : You seem light on your feet, I wouldn’t want to do the dance of battle with you.

 

7.       Guard: Look at those arms, you know, my mother needs help moving her furniture..

 

8.        Guard: You look wise beyond your years, if you’re not a spell caster, I am a guar turd.

 

9.       That magic item, did you make that yourself?

 

10.   You wreak of herbs and spices, you just step out of a laboratory or something?

 

11.   Hey! I know you! But from where…

 

12.   You are the talk of the town! Now if only I could remember why..

 

13.   You have a charming presence about you, stay and talk a while!

 

14.   Is that a lock pick I see? Do not mind me, must have been seeing things.

 

15.   You’re armor looks well maintained, you must be quite the smith!

 

16.   Your face seems familiar, have we talked before?

 

17.   Your face seems familiar, you must have a reputation around here.

 

18.   You have sharp eyes, I’d hate to see you at the other end of a bow.

 

19.   That armor suits you well, you seem very comfortable in it.

 

20.   Quite an array of weapons, and it looks like you have put them to good use.

 

21.   Is that blood on you? I’d hate to see the other guy… or is that his?

 

22.   I heard that you are recognised by;( House Redoran),( House Telvanni),( House Hlaalu),( House Indoril), (House Dres). Congratulations! 

 

23.  You have done well, outlander.

 

24. I know who you are, but I still do not trust you. 

 

25. I do not care for your reputation, you still do not belong here.

alysander
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I think that can be good to

I think that can be good to show that guards are living people. For example they have smell sense:

+ Why do you smell like those corprus-things? (after player was in Corprusarium)
+ What do you sniff up here, scum? (crouch or in thief-themed wear)
+ Oh, this is a pleasant aroma. Is that musk? I think you were supposed to take a bath before (Telv. bug musk equipped)
+ Move away, drunkard. (Alcohol equipped, low quality wear)
+ I do not care about your business, move!

You can add scum, n'wah, fool. Or do combinations.
Most interactions could be abusive. Guards really have no care about some prisoner.

maxnosense
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Allow me to drop a link here

Allow me to drop a link here that should be an interesting read for everyone who wants to write systemic dialogue. It lines out why it is important to write and implement it well and what to keep in mind when doing so.

http://kotaku.com/5921878/why-video-game-characters-say-such...

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- What are you staring at?

- What are you staring at? Keep walking.

- Buy something or walk away, it's a shop not an exhibition. (For the guards in the shops).

- You look suspicious, I'm keeping an eye on you. (If player is wearing an hood).

- Nice jewelry. I wonder where you have stolen them.

- That.. Thing... Is enchanted, isn't it..?

- I wouldn't mind a sweetroll right now... (whispering to himself)

- I used to be an adventurer like you, then I... got a job.

- Try not to set anything on fire, wouldn't you?

- Quit the tough guy act, I'm not buying it.

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Something to keep in mind for

Something to keep in mind for guards:

If player is of significant rank in a faction guards are part of, they greet you accordingly. Examples:

"Greetings, councelor."
"How are you doing today, House brother?"
"Hail, praetor!"
"Sworn to your word, Archmagister."

If player is of significant rank in a faction guards are an enemy of, they make remarks about it.

"We're keeping an eye on you, Redoran!"
"This is Redoran land. You will follow our rules here."
"You might be a figure to the natives, citizen, but you will follow Imperial law here".

To make it even easier, some regular greetings we know from Morrowind could replace the famous "outlander" with some of these titles. Even simple stuff, like "Greetings, councellor" would make it good. I think it would be the best way to go about it. Stuff that isn't so nitpickingly annoying like the guards from Skyrim, who would care about the tiniest details about you. It'd be better to go with something that gives you a really good feeling that you're progressing, and what's even more important, getting accepted by the people of Morrowind (which is what this story is for a large part all about).

st.veloth the r...
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why not something like

why not something like

(if you murder in a place, but are not caught) "best keep your wits about you if you have any outlander"

"what's wrong with you fetcher? wipe that stupid look off your face, or "somebody" will kill you"

(if you are high ranking telvanni)

"so sorry for getting in your way muthsera"

"don't turn me into a guar. please."

"hey, mind turning that damn damn tax collector into kwama?"

(if a member of the tribunal temple)

"almsivi bless you too sera"

"walk in our ancestors steps outlander, and you may see our virtues"

"I appreciate the enthusiasm outlander, but some things are Dunmer, and Dunmer they stay"

(for redoran high ranking)

"I see you've the respect of house redoran, i respect that."

"nice weapons, but do you know how to you them?"

"don't look at me sera, i've done nothing"

(hlaalu high ranking)

"so... you know where the skooma is? i've not gotten a hit in days..."

"get back here traitor, you can all die with the outlanders"

"i need to make a loan, can we do this here?"

idk just some ideas, critique them as you like.

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The article max linked is

The article max linked is really worth a read if you're doing any of this. It'll really make a big difference. Bethesda style one liners tend to be pretty terrible, so a bit of a switch in thought is necessary to get really good lines.

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Still it would be better to

Still it would be better to use items equipped as condition (sometimes with/and rank). It looks strange, when every person in quite big organization can know your face, but every can notice some great mantle of archmagister.
---
If it would be possible to notice inconsistency of wear and rank ("Hey, you are not one of us! Where did you get this @wear?") - that would be maximum great.

no_egrets
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I think there are a few

I think there are a few important things to consider:

  • Dialogue should be short and simple - it shouldn't be memorable or it will sound repetitious and break immersion. Prime examples from Skyrim are "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee." and "My cousin's out fighting dragons, and what do I get? Guard duty."
  • They should reflect the user's appearance and famous deeds. It sucks if you play an open-world game and no-one acknowledges what you've done. The first point still applies.
  • They should not inexplicably acknowledge skills that aren't readily apparent. Skyrim guards did this badly, too - noting that the player looks like he can handle a greatsword, or is a thief, or is adept at healing.

I don't think there should be too much dialogue that's just prompted by the player passing by - and even then, fewer words will seem more realistic than long sentences.

alysander
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> They should reflect the

> They should reflect the user's appearance and famous deeds. It sucks if you play an open-world game and no-one acknowledges what you've done. The first point still applies.
= There can be some people who would say you something (but more like about only quests related to them). But that would be wrong, if that would be guards. They have no Three-Dog Radio there.

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Guards of your own faction

Guards of your own faction would know their superior, or actual commander (in terms of Imperial Legion). There would be nothing weird about Redoran guards recognizing their councelors, so just drop the case Aly :P We are NOT having them telepathically know the nature of your hairy thoughts.

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If that works - sure. That's

If that works - sure. That's the case i was talking about in "only quests related to them".
Also would be great to plug every NPC-diagnost (talking about your diseases) if NPC is wearing helmet.

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The guards might not respond

The guards might not respond to individual quests the character has performed, barring completion of the main quest, perhaps. They would know you once you'd reached a certain rank in the Great House, and once you were high enough rank you might even have some clout with them. Even if you're not one of their councilors, they'd know if you had been elected hortator of their house, as you now command that House's forces in battle. If you were the grandmaster of another house, they might also recognize you. In a society that wars as often as the Great Houses, they would be remiss not to know the other House leaders.

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...maybe we're over-thinking

...maybe we're over-thinking things here... the team only has so many voice actors, getting too deep, could potentially result in the idea being dropped as a whole. 

i say, keep it simple, sometimes witty, with that ironic dunmer humor, and getting some recognition, or some background into the lives of common dunmer would work too, but not too much, because not every police-man wants to tell you about that darn slaughter-fish that got his pinky.    

well, there's my input for the day, almsivi bless.

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You can hear 'good morning'

You can hear 'good morning' from 10 different people in one morning and it doesn't sound out of place. Even 'good bye' is a derivated of 'God be with you'. Simple blessings and short greetings work nicely for oft-repeated dialogue. Such lines don't fatigue the player. So "Greetings, councilor." or "Three blessings, sera." wouldn't feel out of place for multiple people to say multiple times. Having the guards take notice of your rank and deeds with simple greeting lines is ideal, as it combines the sense that the world is taking notice without the fatigue of every one coming up to you and going over the same long-winded schtick.

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Smitehammer wrote:

Smitehammer wrote:

You can hear 'good morning' from 10 different people in one morning and it doesn't sound out of place. Even 'good bye' is a derivated of 'God be with you'. Simple blessings and short greetings work nicely for oft-repeated dialogue. Such lines don't fatigue the player. So "Greetings, councilor." or "Three blessings, sera." wouldn't feel out of place for multiple people to say multiple times. Having the guards take notice of your rank and deeds with simple greeting lines is ideal, as it combines the sense that the world is taking notice without the fatigue of every one coming up to you and going over the same long-winded schtick.

you have a good point, i agree with you full heartedly 

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Really like and agree with no

Really like and agree with no_egret's and Smitehammer's points. You hear this stuff so often, and it really breaks the fourth wall when you notice it being repeated, so it's worth getting right. This is stuff the player hears all the time, and in Morrowind it really set the mood and was a surprisingly memorable and enjoyable part of the game. It's worth spending time on.

I think these lines really need to make you feel appropriately welcome/unwelcome wherever you are - in Morrowind the early part of the game is all about feeling like an outlander and generally shunned by the natives everywhere, and then winning a place amongst them felt like a real achievment - the dialogue should help you feel that achievement. It will make your place in the Great House/Temple/Guild etc. feel more real too.

Some examples for the Temple faction:

  • 'I don't know what you think you're doing here, outlander'
  • 'Your type don't belong here'
  • 'Ah, you again. More questions?'
  • 'No, I haven't time for questions'
  • 'Imperial shrine's that way outlander'
  • 'Have you even been to Mount Kand?'

Then, as a little progression is made:

  • 'You have questions about the faith?'
  • 'Your enthusiasm is...admirable'
  • 'Think you're one of us now, do you?'
  • 'You don't have me fooled, outlander'
  • 'Shouldn't you be running errands?'

And finally:

  • 'Almsivi guide you'
  • 'Your faith is an example to us all, outlander'
  • 'I am honoured, Diviner'
  • 'Anything I can do for you, Master?'
  • 'Praise Vivec, Patriarch'

Hope these are useful :)

Edit: in addition, environmental factors could be considered - it would be great if guards could say stuff like 'what do you think you're doing, creeping around here at night?', or 'can't sleep?' or 'ah, rain again, I hate this island' (coming from an Imperial), or 'muthsera...it's a fine day' or they could even 'predict' weather just as it's starting, like: 'there's an ash storm coming in, I can feel it'.

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Completely agree with you,

Completely agree with you, Sablestone, and your examples are great. Quick phrases like the gravelly "Greetings, outlander" are seared into my brain from Morrowind (but not in a negative way as with the repetitive Skyrim phrases) and earning acceptance from initial hostility and distrust will feel like a real achievement for the player.

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These are great ideas. I

These are great ideas. I think many people forget about most natural forms of communication (or even not) that are inarticulate sounds. Not everyone always want to say something, and it is important to make specific impression of being in a world that is real. What I'm trying to say is that maybe it is worth considering to make more sounds like sniffs, coughs, crackles etc.

Second thing is that human beings are sometimes thoughtful or they speak something ridiculous to no one. For example guards may count something, wonder what's for dinner, complain for their wives and so on.

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Good point on weather. That's

Good point on weather. That's way to show that guard is live creature, not so bunch of polygons, too.
---
Also, any signs of diseases, pain, uncomfort would be nice to show. Old guard could complain about bone pain (based on weather) or dust in eyes. When personage is ill not all guards/NPC must show only disgust, some of them could say to player some apothecary around or their own folk way to threat it with some grass or alcohol.

 

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Did you just call me an N'wah

Did you just call me an N'wah? (non Dunmer guard to Dunmer)

These aren't your warm sands ( to Khajiit)


Sell your Hist sap Elswhere (to Argonian)


Are you not hot? ( to Nord)


It's you, Great. *sarcastically* ( disliked)


It would be an honor to look the other way for you. ( completed thieves guild quest-line)


Please don't turn me in to anything...unnatural. (master in alteration)


Thought you could pull on over on me huh, not this guard. ( bounty)

Ever wonder where the dragons went?


Where's that sweet roll? I thought I sat it down right here.


M'aiq says you stole his calipers, hand them over. (caught with stolen goods)

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for all the input guys

Thanks for all the input guys! Hopefully this has made our direction a little clearer. Repeatability really is the key. The greetings that we’re writing are going to be added to a list of lines which will be repeated ad nauseam throughout the game. This means that our lines need to be simple, even generic; guards are generic NPCs after all.

So we’re not so much after a new creative approach to guard dialogue, but rather the same creative approach already used in Morrowind (again, this video is useful) tailored to different combinations of in-game conditions.

To make this as easy as possible for the implementers, we’re only going to focus on the conditions listed here. These should be more than enough to make guard dialogue feel less static than it is in Morrowind.

Here are some examples of how to format lines and specify conditions. This should give you the best idea of what we’re looking for.

Some good advice from the article Max linked: “Keep it short and simple and add just enough flavor, and you'll do fine.” Dragomir and Sablestone’s examples do this well.

In the end it’s not a particularly glamorous writing job, and it will be hard to implement as Max’s article demonstrates so I can’t promise that your lines will make it into the game. But if you show here that you can write appropriate lines and follow instructions, I might have more stuff for you to write behind the scenes. Cheers!

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Here are some propositions

Here are some propositions from me. For now I've done only Telvanni guard. In future I will do for other factions too and maybe Telvanni with other relations to the player. Please, notice that this text is written as a man. I've got much more dialogs but SPAM filter is blocking too much text.

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Some Feedback on the lines

Some Feedback on the lines you posted to further outline the points made by the article I linked (seriously, everybody should read it, it's a fun read and it mentions a few key things that might not be that obvious to everyone):

"I'm on duty now. Don't bother me" - Lines like that are dangerous. They seem fine (short, not too distinct) and repeatable but they suffer from the fact that most of the time, the player probably didn't even plan to bother the guard. This will weird you out. You are not the center of the world and the guards aren't either, and they should be well aware of those two things. No-one should tell you to "leave them alone" when you are just passing by. This may be used as a greeting from a guard but nothing more.

"Stop dilly-dallying/mocking about!" - Depends heavily on implementation. This will only make sense if we can actually find out if the player is "mocking about". Again, passing a guard in a city triggering this line doesn't make a lot of sense.

"Hmm? Can I help, Magister?" - Similar thing here, 99% of the time when you're passing near a guard, you don't plan to speak with him, so he shouldn't assume you want to, otherwise, this get's old quickly.

"Archmagister Gothren will know if you'll do something wrong" - In my opinion, this is too distinct. It's not as bad as the "I" or "my cousin" lines from Skyrim, but still: Every other guard repeatedly mentioning the same person - even if it's an important person - if it's not in an idiomatic way ("By Azura!", "for the emperor", etc.) it will be very noticeable.

"A familiar face. Do we know each other?", "A new one?" - Why should they bother? They're guards, not random people there for chit-chat. It get's even worse because the player doesn't even have the option to answer the question which will make it feel quite out of place.

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Thanks for advice. With a

Thanks for advice. With a next piece of dialogs I'll try harder.

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@max - totally agree. "Stop

@max - totally agree. "Stop dilly-dallying/mocking about!" - from the engine point of view that would only make sense if you try to sneak (didnt do anything "illegal" yet) and the guard sees you.

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> Do we know each other?

> Do we know each other?
Try to avoid questions, what player can't answer, except sarcastic mockery.
I am afraid it will sound as "dialogues" with Gordon Freeman.

 

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Looks like it is much easier

Looks like it is much easier to write some dialogs when player has low disposition rank. Let me know what do you think about examples in this post. I wrote down some sentences that are just examples of the whole family of texts and don't take them as finished ones. I'm trying to understand what would be the best.

What do you think about lowering the frequency of guards comments?

What about adding a lot of sniffs, coughs, mutters, hams, sighs, yams and whole the gamma of human body strange sounds?
 

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Is it possible to add some
st.veloth the r...
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perhaps something like, "hey,

perhaps something like, "hey, outlander, your' "hiccup" under.. under.. arrest that's it yes!" because we all know, that at one point or another, all guards have had that day when they just kick back the sujama. plus it would make them seem way more alive, because nothing says living, like drunk people!

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- "I used to be an adventurer

- "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then... *coughs* ...but then I met a girl here and decided to settle down. What? *walks away*

- "All sorts of crazy things are happening out there, there are all sorts of monsters roaming around, but what you got to fear most is your fellow man. There are people who would do things even those daedric arseholes wouldn't dare. I would be careful if I were you."

I think what we lack is guards interacting with eachother:

Guard 1: -"I am sick and tired of just walking around all day and doing nothing all day while our brothers fight. When I joined the guard I thought there would be more action than this!"

Guard 2: -"What?, do you want to fight and risk your life?

Guard 1: -"Well.. No... but you know, I expected a little more excitement than this."

And guards chatting with NPC's:

Guard: -"Hey there, you little sweet thing. What are you up to?"

Female  NPC: -"What? Nothing.. just minding my own business."

Guard: -"How about we mind that business together? Hmmm?"

Female NPC: -"So.. you are well versed on the methods of haggling merchants and striking deals?"

Guard: -"huh.. Wha.."

Female NPC: -"Guessed as much... In your dreams.. Take a hike buddy."

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Infamity: I'm watching you

Infamity: I'm watching you outlander

Dragon Kills: you should stop lying about killing dragons you may run into one *chuckle* 

theif: Beware locals say a pickpocket on the loose

Wild animals: be careful reports of a beast to the north 

 Imperial: ??

 

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Guys, I know there’s a lot of

Guys, I know there’s a lot of reading to do in this thread, but it’s very useful! Can’t be writer without being a reader ;P. If you can't read it all, I recommend at least reading the first post along with Max, Dragomir, No_Egrets and Smitehammer's posts.

A lot of the suggestions we're getting here are falling into the trap of being way too specific; it would test my belief in the world if even two separate NPCs used these lines, let alone twenty. Remember, some players will spend hundreds of hours in this game, and guards are some of the most prominent NPCs in the most prominent places; these are the sort of writing shenanigans that lead to innocent NPCs being murdered by frustrated players a hundred times over :(

The express purpose of guard lines is to: a) represent the authority of guard NPCs (which is what Morrowind already does); and b) show how this authority relates to your status and/or their disposition towards you (which is what we’re adding)

If you can hit those marks in one concise sentence without being too specific, you’ll be on the right track!

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Yeah - i think a lot of

Yeah - i think a lot of guards dialog should be simple formulas they got used to after years of service. Kind of "Move along citizen" - you hear it thousand times but it still makes sense - since the guard is doing his routine. If they comment everything you do, every title you get, it will get repetitive sooner or later no matter how immersive the line seems now (as stated in this topic many times) - no one can blame the poor guy for repeating "On with your duties" way to often though.

morrowjen
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Here's a few to choose from:

Here's a few to choose from:

  • Move along outlander.
  • Sera traveler. Morrowind needs more of its own returning.
  • Your kind is not welcome here foreigner.
  • One day Red Mountain is going to go. Ash and Sand will claim us  all.
  • Go home and forget this talk of ghostfences and ancestors. It's not for the likes of you.
  • I've watched you slip through the shadows but the shadows won't hide you forever.
  • Fancy yourself the Nerevarine? You'll be disappointed soon enough.
  • The Gods of the Dunmer are not kind to change or usurpers. Best remember that.
  • They say a sneak comes in the night but I say he steals and murders then.
  • Remember, I'm watching and I won't be kind to you outlander.
  • The Morag Tong take care of problems like you.
  • Have I told you what happens in our holding cells?
no_egrets
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Strongly suggest we try to

Strongly suggest we try to incorporate Dunmeri language into the guard dialogue, to encourage the feeling of being in a foreign land. There's loads of it but I've picked some out (some of these are inferred from in-game content rather than official lore):

  • Almsti - Priest
  • Archag - Mage
  • B'vek - An exclamation of surprise
  • Chap'thil - A guard or a House retainer
  • Dael'juhn - Friend
  • Demig - Blasphemer
  • Dun - Dark or cursed
  • Duhnadag - Traveler
  • Fetcher - Thief (insult)
  • F'lah - "native", form of address

Some phrases from the same page, which would serve well as guard barks in Dunmeri or the common tongue:

  • Comfort is given, justice is taken. - Gsuron na d'lain, d'nuh na tatain.
  • Almsivi in every hour. - Almsivi raumasi lakus
  • Walk with the Three. - Renka anta Nata
  • Let faith be your only law. - Noa daruh su parjo oanorin
  • Rumors flow from the House of Troubles. - Jor taarna Ouraanuun Dagrai
  • Learn by serving. - Antuta admaan.
alysander
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Dunmeri would be great. Some

Dunmeri would be great. Some % of guards could use only dunmeri language, because they did;nt know any other language.

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I think there's a big bit of

I think there's a big bit of idle banter already written out in Dunmeri for ashlanders, and some ashlanders who don't even know the common tongue. Most Great House Dunmer would probably know Cyrodiilic, but could use Dunmer words where they don't have an easy exchange.

st.veloth the r...
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I don't mean to question the

I don't mean to question the idea, (hell i love the idea) but wouldn't it be more difficult for some people less experienced in dunmer tongue to make out the meanings of sentences sometimes?

perhaps the language could be used in similar fashion as the quarien language in the mass effect series. look it up, it was really well done.

no_egrets
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st.veloth the repenting wrote

st.veloth the repenting wrote:

wouldn't it be more difficult for some people less experienced in dunmer tongue to make out the meanings of sentences sometimes?

Yeah, I think that's worth considering, although any important in-game information shouldn't be relayed to the player using guard barks. Much like the original, I think a smattering of Dunmeri words within (short) English sentences, and occasional short full-Dunmeri sentences, would be the best balance.

Here's my dialogue, inspired by Morrowind barks. Some of it might be better suited to Ordinators than House guards:

 

Billyro
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Standard greetings:

EDIT: Hooray, it stuffed up.

I'll just attach a .txt file to this post. There are over 50 in there so there should be enough variety for some guards. 

AttachmentSize
Plain text icon skywind_guard_generic_comments.txt2.13 KB
st.veloth the r...
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that's an amazing idea! 

that's an amazing idea, No_egits! 

that dialogue is pretty cool too.

keep at it, almsivi bless. 

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I know I'm not a "proper"

I know I'm not a "proper" writer for this project, but I wrote some guard dialogue here. I tried to keep it in the spirit of Morrowind, though some lines may be more suitable for Ordinators than just regular guards. I am not sure if there is a way to check for weather for NPCs, so that the weather-related lines actually do coincide with the weather, if there is no way to do that then they are unneeded.

Feel free to delete/remove this post if it is inappropriate, I thought you may have use for this and so I wrote it. If not, just throw it away. I mean no trouble.