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How should I handle languages?

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  • #16
    By all means, do what works for you. I've just had too many experiences of "The cook's a SEAL?!?" in my games to just let players pick stuff on the fly. Sometimes it works out okay - I just prefer a mechanic to say, "if it comes up, you speak x, y, and z", and go from there. YMMV, as always.

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    • #17
      I've never really encountered a system to quantify what languages you speak that didn't feel awkward on some level.

      Also, if your puzzles can be easily undone by a player going "Actually I speak that language", and you can't adapt with that... Like, plan better? Maybe take some improv classes? Maybe don't make plans that can be so easily derailed?

      Like, Path Connections and Access can let you get a Forensics Lab to look through something, declare that you know mafia hitmen, can have access to military hardware, could let you get a meeting with a CEO, recognize Ritual Knives used for Teteo Ritual Sacrifice... And that's before taking Twists of Fate into account. But going "My Role path says I went to college in France so can we just assume I speak French?" is too much?

      Also I'm going to put a cook that's a seal (Water Dog kind) in one of my games, somewhere. I know that's not the kind of seal you meant but it's what I'm going with.
      Last edited by Kyman201; 01-09-2020, 11:46 PM.


      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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      • #18
        Also, those of us just saying "use Paths as a guideline," aren't saying the players pick stuff on the fly. The players defined this at character creation. It's just saying that, "this fits the Path as defined, so you'd speak this," or not. The roll I suggested is if there's a question about it and want to avoid it devolving into a game derailing debate.

        This is why it's good to have a clear idea of what the Paths are beyond their basic descriptors. Knowing that your player's Military Brat, lived in a different country as a kid and thus it makes sense picked up another language, vs. only lived in their home country despite moving around between bases, are the kind of details that make sure you can make good calls on this without having to define each language individually.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
          Also, those of us just saying "use Paths as a guideline," aren't saying the players pick stuff on the fly. The players defined this at character creation. It's just saying that, "this fits the Path as defined, so you'd speak this," or not. The roll I suggested is if there's a question about it and want to avoid it devolving into a game derailing debate.

          This is why it's good to have a clear idea of what the Paths are beyond their basic descriptors. Knowing that your player's Military Brat, lived in a different country as a kid and thus it makes sense picked up another language, vs. only lived in their home country despite moving around between bases, are the kind of details that make sure you can make good calls on this without having to define each language individually.
          I am absolutely arguing for players getting to define stuff in-game when it becomes relevant, provided it fits their Paths. It is a far better option than players wasting a finite character creation resource on something that never comes up in game.


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          • #20
            Originally posted by Kyman201 View Post
            I've never really encountered a system to quantify what languages you speak that didn't feel awkward on some level.

            Also, if your puzzles can be easily undone by a player going "Actually I speak that language", and you can't adapt with that... Like, plan better? Maybe take some improv classes? Maybe don't make plans that can be so easily derailed?

            Like, Path Connections and Access can let you get a Forensics Lab to look through something, declare that you know mafia hitmen, can have access to military hardware, could let you get a meeting with a CEO, recognize Ritual Knives used for Teteo Ritual Sacrifice... And that's before taking Twists of Fate into account. But going "My Role path says I went to college in France so can we just assume I speak French?" is too much?

            Also I'm going to put a cook that's a seal (Water Dog kind) in one of my games, somewhere. I know that's not the kind of seal you meant but it's what I'm going with.
            Yeah, and I much rather have a Storyguide frustrated that their plans to foil the players was derailed by a character speaking the language in question, then players frustrated they spent their language slots on stuff that never came up by an asshole Storyguide specifically excluded the languages they picked.


            Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow

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            • #21
              A Storyteller/GM who makes players pick skills, and then never lets them use them, is a shit GM. Absolutely, if the character is from Russia, and establishes at creation that they speak Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish, Slovenian, etc, then that's cool with me - I'm just saying that I prefer to establish what the PCs can do, and work adventures with that in mind, instead of letting them come up with skills/abilities on the fly to circumvent any challenge or mystery, or steal the spotlight from someone who specifically DID take a given language or skill.

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              • #22
                The problem is that languages almost never take that kind of center stage in RPGs. If the language is meant to be a serious barrier, it's going to be something so obscure that none of the characters just speak it. Either it falls on the one PC that invested in being the polyglot linguist person who still doesn't know the language but has the best roll to translate it, or on the PC with the "understand any language," power character. If the language barrier is really just a matter of verisimilitude, everyone's happier when someone, it doesn't matter who, can act as translator to let everyone do their normal thing.

                Basically, languages, in RPGs instead of reality, just aren't important enough to be on the level of concern of Skills. It's not the same as a character suddenly declaring they have Close Combat 3 instead of 1 in an attempt to upstage the combat focused character in the group. It's more like a Firearms 1 character declaring that via their Path, they got a nice rifle right before a scene where combat's going to largely be at range instead of their normal pistol. It's not a "threat" to the spot light of the Firearms 5 combat expert.

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                • #23
                  I didn't propose a skill here - this isn't that kind of system. I just suggested that players should give good backgrounds and outline which languages their characters speak at character creation. They can add more later as the characters develop. And I have, in fact, made language relevant in games I have run - perhaps I'm the minority?

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                  • #24
                    No ive used language alot.
                    Uncommon languages that the characters know to allow them not to be overheard whem talking secret plans in a public situation.
                    Ive used languages that the character know as a way for further clues to be found.
                    And ive used languages no character know as a push for them to find an npc that knows said language.

                    Preparing with the players beforehand about rare or particular languages that they know can serve as a good indication for the storyguide to have those languages be relevant in the game at some point to allow the players to shine at certain things.

                    Its more that i dont think there really needs to be a hard mechanical limits on languages known.
                    And that if the player didnt think of a language that their character would know at creation but it becomes relvant further on, i dont see a problem with just allowing the character to use it.


                    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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                    • #25
                      Storypath runs on story logic more than real world logic. So I've always ruled people can speak a language unless it makes the game more fun for them not to.

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                      • #26
                        If a hard rule is needed: barring Knack or other power, characters can speak a maximum of Intellect + the higher of Academics or Culture languages. Which ones must be justified by their Paths. These may retroactively determined in game as needed.

                        Choosing to know fewer languages than your stats allow counts as a Condition for the purpose of generating Momentum if it comes up as a hinderance in game.


                        Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by glamourweaver View Post
                          If a hard rule is needed: barring Knack or other power, characters can speak a maximum of Intellect + the higher of Academics or Culture languages. Which ones must be justified by their Paths. These may retroactively determined in game as needed.

                          Choosing to know fewer languages than your stats allow counts as a Condition for the purpose of generating Momentum if it comes up as a hinderance in game.
                          I would say not knowing enough languages is not a problem, but not knowing a relevant language is a good reason for momentum. Let’s say you are facing the Chinese mafia, you speak 7 languages but not mandarin, you are still under a condition that is making you life more difficult, so 1 momentum. If you choose your character don’t speak english (or any local language you have in game) it would be a free momentum basically every other scene, at least the ones you need to interact with people you can’t communicate...


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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Mateus Luz View Post

                            I would say not knowing enough languages is not a problem, but not knowing a relevant language is a good reason for momentum. Let’s say you are facing the Chinese mafia, you speak 7 languages but not mandarin, you are still under a condition that is making you life more difficult, so 1 momentum. If you choose your character don’t speak english (or any local language you have in game) it would be a free momentum basically every other scene, at least the ones you need to interact with people you can’t communicate...
                            Fair. I was trying to include a system encouragement for not filling all your language slots if it didn’t fit your concept to do so. After all plenty of higher-Academics-rating Americans can still only speak English.

                            But I figure Scions tend to pick up at least one additional language beyond their first from their Pantheon Path, more often then not.


                            Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow

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