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JohnChildermass

How to handle Languages?

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Something I just noticed: Languages aren't handled at all in Genesys?

I can think of three ways of handling this:

1) Introduce Linguistics as knowledge skill. Each rank grants one language and a general understanding of languages.

2) Introduce a ranked Talent allowing the same per rank (or one language at tier 1, and two languages per tier thereafter

3) Assign additional languages based on the Intellect characteristic.

 

I would probably use Option 2 or 3, depending on the setting. What do you think? Any other ideas or ways to handle this?

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Do it like in Star Wars. Everyone speaks a common language. Characters can speak additional languages if it makes sense for them. Unless you want to focus a scene on the language barrier, there's always someone in the party who speaks the locals' language.

 

 

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Well, despite the SW system (which I assume is almost the same in Genesys) be very free, I guess it work very well.

I agree the characters could know as much languages as it's Intellect + an adequade skill, but just for who really want this kind of detail.

In SW and a lot of other scenarios, language isn't a big deal to be a problem, you know? It's easy to get a translator, or people who know enough to talk about what matter.

Edited by Bellyon

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Your first question should be: what do you want to achieve? Then consider how you're going to achieve it, rules-wise.

So: What is it you want out of any language rules? In what way do you want to enhance the play experience? How do you see language barriers adding to the fun during play?

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32 minutes ago, Stan Fresh said:

Do it like in Star Wars. Everyone speaks a common language. Characters can speak additional languages if it makes sense for them. Unless you want to focus a scene on the language barrier, there's always someone in the party who speaks the locals' language.

 

 

There are games where the ability to speak or not speak a language is important. I don't think it's necessary for all settings, but let's take Cthulhu for example. Tomes are written in exotic languages like Chaldean, or ancient languages like Latin or Greek, or even different modern languages like Arabic or German. In such setting what you can speak and what not becomes important. Or if you have a setting like the Hyborean Age where there is no lingua franca. 

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Going to just use star wars as an example here, but it can apply as you see fit.

I'd include it as part of the knowledge Core or Knowledge Outer Rim or Knowledge Underworld skills. I'd require a check when someone wants to speak a language other than their native language.  The difficulty might range from Easy for very common languages you can tie to that skills, to Hard or Daunting for something like the Ewok language (outer rim). Success with threat or despair might mean you speak something very similar or related (think italian and spanish), or can't quite understand the dialect. failure with advantage might pluck out some specific words, but you're unable to really communicate in any meaningful way. 

Core: You'll know the common languages of the core, high galactic, basic, Neimoidian, etc

Outer Rim: Lots more languages here, but you'd be looking at things like shriiwook, jawa speak, etc etc. You can literally require checks for these languages in the moment based on how likely you the GM thinks it is they'd know it. 

Underworld: here's where you'll have things like huttese, ubese, gand,  maybe rodian, other languages super common to the underworld, might have some crossover. 

Mechanics: I'd probably toss binary here (when you consider Rey and Luke can understand artoo, and Han can understand that droid fixing the falcon in ESB when luke is running to his snow speeder), maybe even skakoverbal

In some cases, where there are trade languages (sy bisti, bocce), you might even make it part of the negotiation skill. 

A language of love (think how americans see french) like, I dunno, zeltron or twi'lek languages, might justify off the charm skill, at least for a few phrases. 

Knowledge (lore) might convey the ability to speak ancient dead languages

Even skills like Ranged or Brawl or Pilot might not provide entire languages, but it does provide knowledge of the slang used in those communities, which is its own language in some ways. 

You can also totally let your players select a number of languages they know fluently equal to their intellect score, for sure. I mean, if you have a human and wookiee that have a background as partners, you want them to be able to communicate easily. 

Edited by KRKappel

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What Keith said. Languages shouldn't come into play though until they have to. Is the plot necessary for the PCs to know/not-know a language? Then they should make a check.

Should they always know it?

A Triumph was rolled - then yes.

Success means the character can understand and communicate but may only know the basics - the difficulty should be how complex the language is. Multiple successes determines how well they communicate.

Advantages can determine dialects or how much they know of that language including non-verbal cues, etc.

Get the players to write down what they know for future reference.

Edited by GM Hooly

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I too am looking for a Language skill as language barriers are an important aspect my fantasy game. It allows for those who wish to make themselves useful as translators as well as for language based magic.  That said, I'd like to see someone more experienced in the system do a write-up for such a skill.

Currently I am thinking of having all characters know a number of languages equal to their Intellect Rating. The skill adds a 1 Language per rank. Understanding other languages is a skill check. If the unknown language is:

  • Closely Related: Easy
  • Loosely Related: Average
  • Unrelated but Common: Hard
  • Unrelated and Uncommon: Daunting
  • Specialized/Secret or Ancient/Forgotten: Formidable

Or if you really want to get highly detailed, a Language skill for each language where each Rank indicates the level of skill in the Language. (ie: 1 rank = Beginner, 2 ranks = Limited working; 3 ranks = Professional working, etc.)

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I'd shy away from giving language it's own skill. I think allowing players to add a number of languages equal to intellect for purposes of background is fine. Otherwise I'd make it an element of other skills (as I did), or do what someone else suggested and make a talent that can stack (5 XP per additional language, or maybe 10 XP to add intellect value worth of additional languages, or 15 XP one time to just flip a story point to "know" that language). 

When you say you want it to be an important aspect of your fantasy game, how do you see it being used? Only at the beginning of a conversation with a group? I only worry that you create an XP sink for one PC that is going to sink a fair bit into a skill to get it high enough to deal with daunting checks, only to find that skill has very limited application in game. 

This really is a story-first kind of game, and you might find the game served better if you enable the dice to give you plot convenience instead of forcing people to keep long lists of languages they have learned, previously understood, etc. 

As a general rule of thumb for RPG devving, particularly for Genesys/Star Wars, if your plan forces someone to keep an additional list or do some bean counting that the game doesn't already ask for, you might be going down the wrong road. Another good rule is to define your design goals. 

What exactly are your design goals here? I'm curious what you're looking to add, element wise, by adding a barrier to communication? What sort of situations do you hope this will create that increase the enjoyment of the game or add new elements/options to play with that existing social encounter rules don't cover? With a skill, remember you're asking for the same investment in a character concept you might ask for someone interested in learning mechanics or outdoorsmanship, which are fairly versatile skills that do a lot of things, or ranged or melee, which are narrowly focused skills that are of supreme importance in a combat encounter.

Who do you see taking this skill? Everyone? Just the team face character? There are already the Charm, Coercion, Cool, Deception, Negotiate, and Vigilance (and possibly perception) skills to consider. How does adding another must-buy skill to that pool of core ability pools affect balance between face characters and combat characters? Combat characters are going to look at getting at least 1 primary weapon skill, and possibly one secondary weapon skill, along with cool and vigilance. Depending on their concept, they might look at stealth, mechanics, survival, streetwise, skulduggery, or other skills, but they have far fewer to focus on right off the bat. 

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Well our group are avid haters of the every universe has a universal language that every one always uses in all situations. Its unrealistic and the assumption that language simply doesn't matter simply doesn't work for us in our type of setting (and actually many settings). If you think about this as a Modern game you're saying that everyone in the world speaks a common language. No Bueno! 

With my proposed starting point, almost everyone will have 2 languages which is already pretty impressive that nearly everyone is bilingual. That's pretty **** impressive! The majority of people in the world know only 1 language. Investing knowledge in other skills is either product of family background or a choice of education.

In our setting there are not anywhere near as many languages as in a setting like star Wars, D&D or even the real world, unless you get into the truly esoteric languages of the planes and secret or specially trained languages like Thieves' Cant.  Each of the 3 major empires effectively have 3 languages - effectively a High language used by the noble caste species, a Mid language used by the non-nobility in civilized areas and a Low (clannish) language. 

Most characters will start with 2 of those or perhaps 1 of those plus a specialty language depending on their career/background. Especially if Language is a skill as it can be added to a career list.  As a knowledge skill, it basically adds a new language per rank. Rolls for language will not always come up but it will be a possibility as language can be a barrier to other skills. If you meet an enemy from another empire, there isn't going to be some miraculous "common language" unless you're using magic. 

As for being "required" - its not. Starting with 2 languages is actually pretty decent and impressive as mentioned above. Language selection will be more important based on the focus of the specific campaign in the setting. Language (or Linguistics) as a skill check won't be anywhere near as required as the standard social skills, as it will be more selective. How often that is will be mostly up to the players and the game they want to play. If there is no plan for inter-empire interaction then taking those languages just isn't important. If you plan on playing a game where your say spies in a foreign land then yes it matters. Or if your playing investigators trying to infiltrate a thieves' guild, it might kinda be handy to know Thieves' Cant.  If you're a bunch of wildlings trying to infiltrate the empires upper caste? You better know how to speak the language. Etc.

As for who will take the skill, that's up to the players (possibly steered by careers). I can see any or no players taking them. A career like a Bard or an Ambassador would most likely be sure to take a rank or two in foreign languages. A scholar probably would take a rank or 2 in esoteric/archaic languages. A soldier might have a foreign language as well. Rogues might dabble in it to get Thieves' Cant if they didn't take that with their initial 2 slots.  Again, it all comes down to the players and the type of game they want to run. If they all want to say play American's in an American game, then English is the primary language. Yet everyone gets to also be bilingual anyway so they have a language skill that is only specifically relevant to certain situations that the GM should showcase occasionally to let the players use it.

 

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The thing with languages we need to remember is that it's got to be reflective of the way in which people lived and interacted in that setting. Making it mechanical is a mistake, and I can still recall the worst example I saw - 1st edition of AEG's Spycraft, where it was languages based on Int bonus I think, plus a new language ever 3rd level. Just crazy.

The way you justify it on a setting by setting basis is to examine how people would interact with others and how common that interaction would be. In a fantasy game - either traditional fantasy or space fantasy like Star Wars (it's not sci-fi, after all, so you can be a bit more loose) - species travel and are quite itinerant, taking their cultures and languages with them. As such most people, regardless of their economic station or education will be conversant in the dominant languages of that region. Example? Someone living in Mos Eisley or elsewhere in the outer rim speaking Huttese as well as common; someone living in, say, a human city speaking Elvish or Dwarvish. It's just the done thing, and it's so natural a part of people's lives and commerce that nobody gives it much thought.

As such, unless the language was a long dead tongue like ancient Sith or Draconic, I wouldn't make it an impediment. Decide, in other words, your players can speak other languages until the plot suggests or demands they can't.

For cyberpunk games, if you want to go accurately then yes, there should be a skill for Mandarin Chinese. Why? As a speaker who was fluent but after 12 years of not using it is quite rusty, I can tell you this - the Chinese in Firefly cannot be understood when spoken because they don't say it properly. If you don't hit the tones - sing the right notes in other words - then it's incomprehensible to the recipient. Mandarin is an exacting tonal language, with its own syntax, rules, measure words (no, really) and you even have to train your tongue to make different shapes. A lot of the Americans I knew in Taiwan thought they would be lax on this and adapt and they were never understood by the natives; Chinese is an exact science. If your character can speak it thanks to the setting, then I'd make it a knowledge skill. This is the only time I'd advise this.

In modern games; depends on the era and economics of that modern era. I already gave thoughts on the Great War and World War II - it would be very much based on class for Brits, and a tall hurdle for Muricans, Australians etc to speak German. The world wasn't globalised, so unless you studied it in school (which would be private) it's unlikely you spoke it at all.

For our world; it'll depend on backstory and the inverse to fantasy applies. The players don't speak the languages as a default, unless you establish they do. And once established, it's pretty immutable unless the story demands change - so have the players write on their character sheet what they can speak and how well and why.

 

 

 

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In the Star Wars setting, they have one basic language. Then there are other languages out there. However, they said "Do you think your character would speak it? Then they can." which did not mean that everyone spoke one language but they some people are multi-lingual. Or, they can understand the gist of what someone else is saying in another language from exposure. I, for one, can understand MOSTLY when someone speaks Spanish to me. This is not due to me studying it. This is due to me being raised in a city that has a high latino population. 

Now, if you want your players to have the ability to speak multiple languages, then the easiest way would be as others have mentioned before and that is to buy some Talents. A Language Skill may be good but if you say that "This Talent lets you speak" and an Improved version allowed you to read/write, then that would seem realistic. You can have them choose at the time of buying what those language(s) are.

I would caution that you do not have too many languages running loose as that could mean tons of XP spent. You had already proposed 9 languages and then said that there are other more esoteric ones so that means it can get fairly unwieldy very quickly.

I also noticed how you said that it was something to be in awe of that your players are bilingual. Outside of America, many countries have their people speak two languages. So it is not too far off for your characters in your game to be bilingual.

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Star Wars and even modern settings also assume high levels of education. It's also a setting concept for ease of the films that everyone is multilingual. In a medieval-like fantasy setting, most people don't even read much less know multiple languages. Even in your most typical Urban-oriented Fantasy settings, languages don't tend to cross the boundaries of their native district.  Humans rarely travel to the dwarf quarter for instance and those who do, then have a reason to learn dwarven. Joe the human fishmonger who never goes farther than a block or two from home wouldn't.

Even in the modern world outside the US bilingual proficiency is more of a specialty - result of specific education. I work for a major global Corp with people's from every corner of the globe. There are plenty of employees who aren't multilingual. There are key people in different offices that Are, but they aren't always the majority. 

As ive said, for our setting we don't like the concept of some universal language that everyone, in every corner of the world speaks.

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AFAIK reading was much less common in medieval times than speaking multiple languages was.

What ever you end up with, I'd advice you to keep it simple. Genesys isn't supposed to be realistic simulation, and  IMO it doesn't work very well in simulationistic games, because its focus is in fast spaced narrative gaming.

AFAIK: Languages have been always affected by other languages. English has been hugely affected by French, German and latin, and less by greek and other languages. Especially in medieval times, languages were less defined by borders and were more regional thing. My native language, finnish, was affected by russian, swedish, norwegian, german, english and latin, and others. A thing to remember also is that more primitive the culture, smaller vocabulary is needed to survive. In modern world, if you learn a 1000 most common words in any language, you survive in most common tasks. Even 100 or less gives you good base to express your needs. You may not communicate eloquently, but you usually get your basic needs communicated. ("me hungry, need food" goes a long way. ;) )

But, only you can know what works with your group. IMO don't hesitate to try something and change it if it doesn't work. There have been some good suggestions in this thread. If you want to simulate languages then have a language skill. But remember, Every language after first is harder to learn than those before it. And IMO that is realistic. In my experience, languages become easier to learn in basic level, more you learn them. I'd probably keep it somewhat abstract. I.e. have a language skill, and then when PCs encounter a person with no common language (if language is not in their already known list) they'd roll a language check, to see if know it. Currently I'm using languages as narrative device, and languages become issue only when I want it. So, PCs know needed languages unless it's a plot point. They are supposed to be the heroes after all.

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There is one rule I forgot to mention that I really like. It‘s from Lamentations of the Flame Princess: when you encounter a new language, you roll to see if you know it. Basically, that way a language only becomes important when you encounter it. And you could treat it either as you‘ve always known it (just didn‘t come up before) or you understand enough to be at least somewhat fluent. That could either be modeled by a language skill or a knowledge roll. 

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I don't beat languages to death, to me it's more fluff.  If species want to get anything done they have to learn to communicate, it's job #1.

If it's Star Wars everyone and their uncle seems to understand one another, probably because they've been whizzing hither and yon via hyperspace for 20,000 years. 

In a modern world setting maybe, but we pretty much are on the cusp of 'universal translators' ourselves, Google translator and such. 

In other sci fi settings tech would resolve it as well.

In fantasy, as well as sci fi, you've got telepathy or magic spells.  

It just doesn't need a mechanical solution for me.

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If you make knowing a language equivalent to a skill, you're probably envisioning tests. So you need to think about what a test would reflect, and how often these tests would occur. For something like Gallows' nifty Cthulhu hack, translations and dead languages are important, but if you have trouble answering these questions, you might need a different tactic. 

Why not add Setback dice to any test that would rely on language when the person doesn't speak fluently? Just about any Social skill, for example, but less often for Coercion and even Leadership. I could see Cool if you are trying to pass yourself off as someone else, and Streetwise if you are working with a foreign gang....

If you wanted mechanics, offhand I'd use three levels for a language: familiarity (you recognize when it is being spoken, and can communicate basic concepts = two setback dice), student (other speakers can tell you are foreign, but given enough time, you can usually interact with someone = one setback die), and native (no penalties). Other good or bad die results might mean you made a funny joke, you are assumed to be a native, you insulted someone, or your cover is blown.

Once you have a list of languages, have a ranked talent that provides X steps in languages per tier, adjusting X up or down depending on how common you want multilingualism to be. Or maybe a talent gives familiarity with X languages, student level with X-Y languages, or fluency in X-Z languages. A general talent that removes one Setback die from any test involving a language, et c. Then you could hand out languages based on where a character comes from, or base it off of Intellect. If you are really nuts for the intricacy, you could make Tier 1 a single tongue, and have higher tiers reflect more in larger families.

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In a quasi-historical, low magic (or low key magic) fantasy setting languages are going to be a thing and an important part of the narrative in a variety of ways—probably a tone or theme. For example, dealing with outlanders, crusading on the far side of the Middle Sea, and making incursions into Chaos controlled Frogland will require handling the characters’ aptitude for languages and their experience with foreigners. But equally important would be ancient texts in the Classical languages or esoteric formula in Hermetic scripts—or darker insights of the Star Cults. Hand waving these things in such a setting would not further the narrative, but void it. 

Edited by ObiWanBilbo

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If you use the Knowledge(Linquistics) route, I would suggest each rank gives a like number of fluent languages. So gaining Linquistics 1 gives 1 additional fluent language, Linquistics 2 gives 2 more, etc. If you are "fluent", no tests required. If you are not fluent, then tests to understand are required using the Linquistics skill.

A simpler method would be just to assign each additional language purchasable at 5 xp each. Perhaps 10 xp for picking up some long forgotten language. Or maybe 5xp to speak it, another 5xp to also read it? If that is too much for your liking simply reduce it to 2.5xp to speak, 5xp to read?

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On ‎1‎/‎16‎/‎2018 at 2:22 AM, 2P51 said:

In fantasy, as well as sci fi, you've got telepathy or magic spells.  

It just doesn't need a mechanical solution for me.

I'm on board with what you are saying except for the fantasy settings. I don't fret about it in Star Wars, but in a fantasy setting not everyone is going to have the Speak Language skill. Just because there is a magical option doesn't mean there shouldn't be a mundane option. D&D still has Rogue's even though Wizard spells such as Open Lock and Invisibility exist.

In fantasy settings, importance of languages are often stressed more. For example, Gandalf was the only one able to translate the door to Moria. With languages as a skill or simple talent cost, finding a new PC Ranger guide that knows Orcish before heading into the Badlands can be a thing. A Wizard PC may experience a cool moment when she's able to translate the Book of Grey Doom written in the ancient lost language of the Elders.

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2 hours ago, Sturn said:

A simpler method would be just to assign each additional language purchasable at 5 xp each. Perhaps 10 xp for picking up some long forgotten language. Or maybe 5xp to speak it, another 5xp to also read it? If that is too much for your liking simply reduce it to 2.5xp to speak, 5xp to read?

Literacy is a whole new can of worms, if you assume that most fantasy realms are like our own past.

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My suggestion, make it a talent. 

First, at character creation, if your backstory supports it, anyone can pick up an extra language.  

Linguist:  (Tier 1) you know a small list of common languages in the world.   And can identify ancient language with a hard knowledge(lore) roll

Expert Linguist: (Tier 2) Speaks almost all living languages.  Can identity  ancient languages on an average knowledge(lore) roll, and have an inkling of what it means on formidable knowledge(lore) roll

Ancient Linguist (Tier 2) Can read many ancient languages.  Roll hard knowledge(lore) to decipher it completely.  If fail, still have some idea...

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The talent idea could be, but talents are suposed to be linked with skills, so skill for language and talent for better understanding Or family of lenguages like Ancient, Latin, slavic, etc.

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