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  • Language rules?

    So I just noticed that the Adventure manuscript has a one-dot Edge (Polyglot, p. 124 in the PDF) that lets the character speak or learn pretty much any non-secret language easily.

    Naturally, I went looking for the language rules in the corebook. There's an Intellect Gift (Rosetta Stone, p. 193) for languages, and Humanities is established as the skill for figuring out translations of languages one doesn't speak fluently, but I couldn't find any rule for how many languages a PC might know without having any special traits.

    Aberrant also has the Universal Translator Mega-Edge (p. 198), which is technically even better (as it probably should be, requiring Mega-Intellect 3) since it allows the nova to learn languages in a few rounds.

    It seems pretty odd to have so many language-related abilities if there's no baseline for how many languages a "normal" person knows. Have I missed something somewhere, or is it all down to GM judgment?

  • #2
    The general idea is, unless it’s relevant people not knowing the language, everybody can read it.

    My suggestion is, if your paths suggest you speak other languages, you speak it. For example, a character born in a Hispanic community in US, speaks at least English and Spanish, if he is a history professor he possibly know a few more languages, possibly a dead language. In most cases, it’s not relevant a big list of languages each one speak, as if the SG wants nobody understand, nobody will.

    For a more generic approach, understanding a language you don’t have fluency, roll Humanities, or Culture or any skill that has a intense relation with it, for example to know Ancient Egyptian you use Humanities, to understand French you could use culture, to understand a technical text in German you may try Technology, etc.


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    • #3
      It comes down to, like most everything, your Paths. If your Paths would, conceivably allow you to speak a language, then you can. Also, like most choices of Attributes to use with Skills, what can you justify? Can you explain to the SG why your character would understand Japanese (for example)?

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      • #4
        It basically boils down to a matter of how many languages you can justify without your Storyguide calling you a munchkin.

        More seriously, player characters are assumed to be exceptional people, so being fluent in at least one or two extra languages is practically expected. For more than that, your character should be a professional linguist of some sort. Anyone with an international politics or espionage background can justify knowing a lot of extra languages, especially Russian, Chinese, and Arabic (just remember there are multiple variants of Chinese and Arabic).

        As an example, let us start by assuming your character speaks English, since that is the language we're all using on this forum. They also probably went to high school, and most schools have a second language requirement, so we can presume your exceptional character did well and became fluent in one additional language, probably Spanish or French.

        Now we get to the extended background options. Do they have a foreign grandparent? Their relative may have taught them enough conversational [insert language here] to get by. Do they have a friend, relative, or former romantic partner who is deaf? That could get them American Sign Language. Are they Jewish or Catholic? That covers Hebrew or Church Latin. Are they an otaku? They may have learned Japanese. If they're especially geeky, they could even know Klingon or Tolkien's Elvish.

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        • #5
          If it’s actually important to the game for language barriers to exist and a character doesn’t know a language, just make them roll something… Humanities + something for current languages, Enigmas + something for older or esoteric languages would work, and throw a Difficulty based on how far the language is from what they know, and maybe a Complication to buy off to see how well each side can understand the other with much sign language, waving of arms, and trying to use sounds and phrases that they think they understand.

          But for most stuff just Paths and assumptions works better to keep the story going.


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          • #6
            In our Scion pulpish game, we assume character can learn fluently up to Humanities + Intellect languages. Character with Intellect 3 and Humanities 2 can have learned up to 5 languages, beside the native language. All other are tested by rolls to understand.
            Last edited by wyrdhamster; 01-30-2022, 05:51 AM.


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            • #7
              Without a special trait, I just go with you can speak whatever languages make sense based on your paths up to a maximum of Intellect + the higher of Culture or Humanities, provided your Paths really justify that many.

              The exact list of known languages do not need to be declared at character creation it can be defined when it comes up in game.


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              • #8
                I use the rule of humanities or culture + intelligence = number of languages your character knows, besides their native tongue. As for what languages, that depends on the character's background (Nationality, education, culture, etc...) However, in the end it all boils down to one question: How important you want languages to be for your campaign?
                Last edited by Firanai; 01-31-2022, 03:57 AM.

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                • #9
                  Something I find frustrating about this system is that so much is left to interpretation. It seems like there are few hard rules. Now, this can be liberating from a certain point of view but sometimes it just feels like an excuse to not have created the necessary rules that were left out.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Planguy View Post
                    Something I find frustrating about this system is that so much is left to interpretation. It seems like there are few hard rules. Now, this can be liberating from a certain point of view but sometimes it just feels like an excuse to not have created the necessary rules that were left out.
                    Yeah, this can be frustrating. Especially so when there are conflicts in the rules / expectations from devs and we're told "Just do whatever feels right". I've got two groups playing in this system now and I'm already seeing that ambiguity/conflict in the rules crop up with different expectations from each group.

                    The system looks like (& has the rules complexity to support being) a crunchier system than Onyx Path seems to want. Which is perfectly fine, but hard to know up front given the system's (& setting's) history.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Firanai View Post
                      I use the rule of humanities + culture + intelligence = number of languages your character knows, besides their native tongue. As for what languages, that depends on the character's background (Nationality, education, culture, etc...) However, in the end it all boils down to one question: How important you want languages to be for your campaign?
                      This gives the average person A LOT more languages than what you would expect. At the lowest possible intelligence (one dot) representing someone of poor to average intellect - they're looking at two languages. Most people around the world speak only the one language. Of the remainder, somewhere around two thirds speak only two languages. With this rule, Someone who attended college (Humanities 1-2), knows anything about their local culture (Culture 1-2), and is reasonably if not overly smart (Intelligence 1-2) is speaking four or five languages. On average. When only around 3% of the world can speak four languages or more. A lawyer character without even trying to min-max is looking at five to six languages to start!

                      To balance, I'm thinking perhaps it is the higher of Intelligence, Culture, or Humanities. This keeps the number of languages known outright within the realm of reasonable AND there is always the ability to puzzle out something in a language you're not educated using the Humanities skill (they even use it as an example in the core book).

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                      • #12
                        A weird thing about the lack of language rules is the fact that there actually are rules that relate to languages known in Nova and Superior powers. A Nova can get an ability that lets them learn any language just from contact with it and Superiors get an ability that lets them learn a language temporarily and potentially learn it permanently with only the expenditure of 1 experience point. The character would then add that language to their list of known languages. Only we don't have the baseline rules to determine what a characters beginning list of known languages is in the first place. Or, I believe, how they would normally gain more. Do you need to be a Superior in order to learn a new language? Do we need to house rule an appropriate experience cost for learning a new language?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Eternl Knight View Post
                          This gives the average person A LOT more languages than what you would expect.
                          On the other hand, it still gives a lot fewer languages than real life people are credited with knowing. An online article titled "10 Most Accomplished Polyglots - They're Truly Amazing!" lists people who know/knew (with varying degrees of fluency) dozens or even hundreds of languages, although I suppose that is the sort of person who actually has the Polyglot Edge, so they'd ignore normal limits on languages known.

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                          • #14
                            Those guys are the kind that have some polyglot edge/gift by TC standards. It’s pretty hard to find any one person that is truly fluent in more than 3 languages, while being capable of dealing with many more languages is not hard, you are just not THAT fluent (you have some issues with communication in areas of knowledge you know).

                            I would say the number of truly fluent languages should be 1 (native) + 1 per path if relevant, any additional language would need a roll to understand/communicate properly.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Shepherdboi View Post
                              On the other hand, it still gives a lot fewer languages than real life people are credited with knowing...
                              ...although I suppose that is the sort of person who actually has the Polyglot Edge, so they'd ignore normal limits on languages known.
                              You got to exactly the same point that came to mind when I read your first line. We have rules for the truly gifted polyglots of history but we don't really have rules for the average to accomplished multi-linguists below the "awesome" threshold.

                              Originally posted by Mateus Luz View Post
                              I would say the number of truly fluent languages should be 1 (native) + 1 per path if relevant, any additional language would need a roll to understand/communicate properly.
                              Not a bad rule either. Paths make some sense, especially origin & role ones, because they are telling you where the character came from and what they do (pretty much the key determinants for knowing languages)... but the paths are also very vague. Life of Privilege could both give you a couple of extra languages (world travel) or none at all (why bother learning their tongue when I'm rich enough they have speak mine). Military brat could easily entail at least one extra from growing up deployed overseas or, again, none at all because they grew up on home soil.

                              Still, 1 per path with justification is a better rule than the one we've got. I'll chat it out with my group on Friday and see what falls out

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