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How should I handle languages?

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  • How should I handle languages?

    I am planning a campaign set in Germany and some other European countries, which is a place with lots of different languages. It feels like languages should have some sort of mechanical presence. The only such game mechanics I've seen is The Omniglot Knack which is far from a universal avility for player character. Maybe languages should be given some sort of presence, such as if not knowing a language means you miss out on important information and face complications or presents an amusing or difficult challenge if characters are dropped into a foreign locale. But on the other hand maybe it should not, because it would be a minor, situational problem and not very interesting after all.

    How do you handle different languages in your games? How do you think I should handle them?

  • #2
    I treat languages entirely with the paths.

    By that i mean the character has access to any language that would be logical for them to have with their paths.

    Notably, for scion, this means that with the pantheon path the scion gain access to any ancient language the pantheon would be using.


    Completed campaign: Scion 2nd Edition. Les Légendes Currently playing: Being a dad for a 3 year old daughter and a 1 year old son.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Maitrecorbo View Post
      I treat languages entirely with the paths.

      By that i mean the character has access to any language that would be logical for them to have with their paths.

      Notably, for scion, this means that with the pantheon path the scion gain access to any ancient language the pantheon would be using.
      Thanks for The Quick reply! Its a good model you have and I will probably use it. How would you handle a character with a Path such as "International Diplomat" or "Linguistics professor" where The character could feasibly know a whole slew of different languages? Do you impose some sort of limit or do you allow the character to just bask in it?
      Last edited by Aristarkos; 01-08-2020, 12:58 PM.

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      • #4
        I treat it more ona case by case basis.
        I dont think its necessary for the player to keep a list of languages known like its some sort of equipment.

        When, in the story, it becomes relevant a player is welcome to argue that their character would know such a language becuase it is justified by having un diplomat for their Role Path.

        Keep in mind tho that i go very far in regards to languages. Maybe a bit farther than most people would.
        For example, one of my players scion was a lynx turned human. So i allowed by their origin path of was a lynx that they know the "language" of lynx and various felines.
        Tho it really never came up as important during the game haha.


        Completed campaign: Scion 2nd Edition. Les Légendes Currently playing: Being a dad for a 3 year old daughter and a 1 year old son.

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        • #5
          I might ask your players to get more specific with their Paths (maybe not in their short names, but at least to you verbally). Most diplomats and linguistics professors aren't "useful" polyglots. Diplomats rarely speak the language of the countries they serve in unless it's a fairly common language from where they were born anyway; they have translators and consular staff for that. If they're stationed in one place for a long time (or stationed in a few countries in the same area) they might start to pick up some of the bigger languages. A Brazilian diplomat serving in Portugal is going to adapt to continental Portuguese easily enough. They probably speak English. They might speak Spanish, but not being in Spain they're going to have less pressure to get the differences between the different dialects. Unless it's really obviously part of their Path, speaking Catalan, Basque, or Galacian seems... unlikely.

          Likewise, a professor of Turkish Languages might know dozens of languages, but most of them are going to be archaic, rare dialects, pidgins, and creoles. So if they're German, they speak German, and depending on the part of the country some of the commonly spoken neighboring languages, English is a probable due to it's prevalence in academia at this point in history... but just being a professor of Linguistics doesn't mean they'll know Russian too.


          If I really felt the need to have some sort of limit/system beyond negotiating that with my players?

          Roll Academics + Intellect (for academic applications) or Manipulation (for trying to look natural on the spot), maybe Composure if it's more trying to keep going. The difficulty is based on how big of a stretch it is from a language your character clearly speaks. Add some Complications if local dialects might lead to some snags. Success lets you converse enough to have a conversation. Thresholds make it smoother, Stunts are probably going to be boosts to whatever rolls you're going to try to make now that it's clear you can try.

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          • #6
            In Chronicles of Darkness rules systems you have Language and Multilingual Merits for characters to buy them - but Storypath use different rules for those kinds of 'special tricks' of characters. I advise to look over to linked topic, it can help you if you want to go with CoD-like route in Scion.


            My stuff for Realms of Pugmire, Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E, MtC 2E & BtP
            LGBT+ through Ages
            LGBT+ in CoD games

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            • #7
              Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post
              In Chronicles of Darkness rules systems you have Language and Multilingual Merits for characters to buy them - but Storypath use different rules for those kinds of 'special tricks' of characters. I advise to look over to linked topic, it can help you if you want to go with CoD-like route in Scion.
              I advise against that because it's an XP tax for something that doesn't really serve a purpose and is pointless busywork for a game like Scion. Just go with it based on Paths, maybe with an Academics or Culture roll to try and puzzle out a new language, or translate an old version of a language.

              Edit: I also advise against other CoD stuff in Scion because the two are evoking different game feels and the systems are different enough that what may work in one may not work in another.
              Last edited by Kyman201; 01-09-2020, 05:03 AM.


              Disclaimer: I'll huff, grump, and defend my position, but if you're having fun I'll never say you're doing it wrong.

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              • #8
                I'd have the players state which languages their characters spoke at creation (maybe with a limit of 2x dots in intellect = number of languages) and go from there. Learning during the game would be possible, especially for smarter characters or those with an appropriate background.

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                • #9
                  Honestly, I like how FFG's Star Wars handles Languages.

                  There's a sidebar in the corebooks that says that it assumes that your PC knows whichever languages they need and make sense. If you have a Wookie on your team, it's assumed the PCs can understand them. If there's a droid on your team, it's assumed that everyone else gets the gist of the beeps and whistles.

                  Thus, people are conversational in languages that make sense, based on their Paths. If they grew up in a bilingual house? They're at least bilingual. If they went to college for French literature or a college IN France, they can probably get by in French. If they're a student of ancient Mesopotamian history they can probably translate the writing on Babylonian clay tablets complaining about poor quality copper.


                  Disclaimer: I'll huff, grump, and defend my position, but if you're having fun I'll never say you're doing it wrong.

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                  • #10
                    Academics + Intellect sounds as good upper limit for Languages you can know as character.


                    My stuff for Realms of Pugmire, Scion 2E, CoD Contagion, Dark Eras, VtR 2E, WtF 2E, MtAw 2E, MtC 2E & BtP
                    LGBT+ through Ages
                    LGBT+ in CoD games

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                    • #11
                      I would limit to 1 or 2 extra languages with true fluency.

                      I can understand almost perfectly Portuguese, English, Spanish, Italian, French and Norwegian. But it’s a bit unreal, I need a week or 2 in Italy and France to understand people talking in the street and probably a month in Norway. To make more than simple phrases I would need a little longer, Spanish is too close to Portuguese so I can get pretty well with little effort, but my grammar is horrible...
                      In game words, I speak Portuguese and English and can use my Culture or Academics or Lore to try to use other languages to communicate, but I don’t really speak it fluently.


                      The proper answer to “Hello There” is, obviously, “General Kenobi”.
                      Fists of Flux - Inspired and Powered Martial Arts for Talents
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Purple Snit View Post
                        I'd have the players state which languages their characters spoke at creation (maybe with a limit of 2x dots in intellect = number of languages) and go from there. Learning during the game would be possible, especially for smarter characters or those with an appropriate background.
                        Originally posted by wyrdhamster View Post
                        Academics + Intellect sounds as good upper limit for Languages you can know as character.
                        A cap of 10 languages seems a bit pointless unless you're going to be very broad with what counts as a language. My niece went to a trilingual preschool... did every kid there have to have Intelect 3+ (since none of them had Academics yet) to justify speaking three languages?

                        Knowing three or four languages is not actually that rare in the world. These sorts of cap based limits aren't horrible, but they work better in more granular games, and they lead to all sorts of complications (like, my mother grew up speaking English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and German, do you say that Yiddish doesn't count because it's a creole of German and Hebrew?). And then it disregards the people out there that can actually speak a dozen or more languages. The current Guinness World Record for fluent languages is 58. Obviously for a game like Scion if you're going to what to speak a ton of languages you'd just grab Omniglot and move on, but Scion also deals with highly exceptional individuals where IRL human averages probably shouldn't be the benchmark.


                        Originally posted by Mateus Luz View Post
                        But it’s a bit unreal, I need a week or 2 in Italy and France to understand people talking in the street and probably a month in Norway. To make more than simple phrases I would need a little longer, Spanish is too close to Portuguese so I can get pretty well with little effort, but my grammar is horrible...
                        This is actually pretty normal for people that speak multiple languages but have very disparate levels of use. But that's because language fluency isn't the binary thing we usually treat it as. Our brains are wired so that if we're not using something we either forget it, or at least it gets compressed so what we are using has more brain power dedicated to it. If we suddenly immerse ourselves back in a context where that old stored stuff is useful, our brains bulk up the connections to those skills and we remember how that all works again (which takes a bit of time obviously).

                        The concept of "true fluency" doesn't really hold up to how our brains work, because it has to really just mean, "fluent and actively using."

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                        • #13
                          I was just trying to spitball something as a formula, because I prefer to quantify what the players know, not just " oh, hey, my character just happens to speak Portuguese/Tagalog/Hopi because that's what I need right now." If you had a character with an appropriate background, I'm sure something could be worked out.

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                          • #14
                            When you write the Paths of your character you could add a line for languages.
                            Its how id do it if i required my players to set up the languages their characters speak beforehand.

                            Tho id treat the languages more like "things the player wants to be relevant in the game" rather than just list of stuff they can do.


                            Completed campaign: Scion 2nd Edition. Les Légendes Currently playing: Being a dad for a 3 year old daughter and a 1 year old son.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Purple Snit View Post
                              I was just trying to spitball something as a formula, because I prefer to quantify what the players know, not just " oh, hey, my character just happens to speak Portuguese/Tagalog/Hopi because that's what I need right now." If you had a character with an appropriate background, I'm sure something could be worked out.
                              See but why bother with a limit or restriction beyond "Does it make sense?"

                              Like, how would a PC know Hopi? They'd have to justify it.

                              By the rules, if a character has a Background of "Raised Filthy Rich" then by the rules of the Paths they can justify having access to any material possessions or connections that havung an embarassing amount of money would logically provide.

                              Why should languages be restricted when "I own thirteen cars" isn't? Seems silly to me


                              Disclaimer: I'll huff, grump, and defend my position, but if you're having fun I'll never say you're doing it wrong.

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