D&D (2024) Bonus languages in One D&D backgrounds goes contrary to their other goals

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Just like all humans speak the same language IRL?
Consolidating Sylvan and Elvish does nothing to address that problem, it just makes there be fewer languages. You just shift the problem from “all elves speak the same language” to “all fey speak the same language.” The solution is not to remove languages but to deracialize them. Chande the the language from Elvish to Espruar (that’s the FR name for it, I didn’t make it up) and have it be spoken regionally instead of tying it to a race.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
It occurs to me that one not-necessarily-good side effect of giving so more mechanical heft to background is that doing up a background during char-gen now becomes mandatory rather than optional.

One can't really take the old-school approach any longer of rolling up the basics, getting it in play, and sorting out background and history etc. some days or weeks or even years later; as you now need that background info as part of those basics in order to make the character playable. Result: char-gen on the fly becomes more complex, and thus will take longer.
This is why they have the example races. You can just pick one (or roll for one) instead of creating your own if you want to.
 

It occurs to me that one not-necessarily-good side effect of giving so more mechanical heft to background is that doing up a background during char-gen now becomes mandatory rather than optional.

One can't really take the old-school approach any longer of rolling up the basics, getting it in play, and sorting out background and history etc. some days or weeks or even years later; as you now need that background info as part of those basics in order to make the character playable. Result: char-gen on the fly becomes more complex, and thus will take longer.

Yes. Though a background-less character wouldn't be "unplayable." I'd allow a player to roll a character, assign a race and class and start playing, with the benefits of background (a feat, a language, two skill proficiencies, a tool) are defined later, at the "price" of the character describing the flashback from his youth to explained his newly-gained ability to be a master lute player when the group stumbles upon a bard's contest.

ASIs would need to be a given, but since they are floating and this type of players always puts them in the most optimized stat anyway...

(I might sound negative to the old school approach but I am asking more than average when it comes to backstory... Playing a "black slate" character in a campaign of mine would mean "the GM is free to fill in the blanks" [within limits of not screwing the player over].
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Consolidating Sylvan and Elvish does nothing to address that problem, it just makes there be fewer languages. You just shift the problem from “all elves speak the same language” to “all fey speak the same language.” The solution is not to remove languages but to deracialize them. Chande the the language from Elvish to Espruar (that’s the FR name for it, I didn’t make it up) and have it be spoken regionally instead of tying it to a race.
The problem is that language in rpg serves to give the Indiana Jones vibe or scholarly types rooting about in ancient ruins not the issues of intercultural communications in the real world. Because the latter would be more work than anyone wants to put in. Unless the players were all linguists and philologists. it is the Same reason that all the aliens in Stargate speak english except the plot demands otherwise.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is why they have the example races. You can just pick one (or roll for one) instead of creating your own if you want to.
I'm thinking more of situations - and I've done this many times - where I don't want to know much about the character's background up front (e.g. random language generation), and just let it evolve organically through play and-or whatever leaps to mind later, possibly much later.

With the 1dnd method I have to almost completely nail the background down ahead of time in order to unlock various very important things, not least of which are my ASIs.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The problem is that language in rpg serves to give the Indiana Jones vibe or scholarly types rooting about in ancient ruins not the issues of intercultural communications in the real world.
In your game, maybe. :)
Because the latter would be more work than anyone wants to put in. Unless the players were all linguists and philologists.
Yeah, I've in fact had a few of those.

But even without that, I prefer the realism of not everyone automatically being able to talk to everyone else.
it is the Same reason that all the aliens in Stargate speak english except the plot demands otherwise.
I always assume that they're just skipping showing us the whole translation step, but that it's still taking place regardless.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yes. Though a background-less character wouldn't be "unplayable." I'd allow a player to roll a character, assign a race and class and start playing, with the benefits of background (a feat, a language, two skill proficiencies, a tool) are defined later, at the "price" of the character describing the flashback from his youth to explained his newly-gained ability to be a master lute player when the group stumbles upon a bard's contest.
Personally, of those I'd much rather have the skill proficiencies and tool (if necessary - is it?) be baked into class; feats be baked in as class abilities or not exist at all, and the non-mother-tongue languages be determined independently either by player choice or random roll or a combination of these.
ASIs would need to be a given, but since they are floating and this type of players always puts them in the most optimized stat anyway...

(I might sound negative to the old school approach but I am asking more than average when it comes to backstory... Playing a "black slate" character in a campaign of mine would mean "the GM is free to fill in the blanks" [within limits of not screwing the player over].
Sounds like a direct path to some arguments, depending on the player(s)... :)
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
In your game, maybe. :)

Yeah, I've in fact had a few of those.

But even without that, I prefer the realism of not everyone automatically being able to talk to everyone else.

I always assume that they're just skipping showing us the whole translation step, but that it's still taking place regardless.
Lanefan my dude, we have been knocking about this forum for a long time and your campaign is a pretty unique thing. One thing it is not, is a template for a commercial game.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The problem is that language in rpg serves to give the Indiana Jones vibe or scholarly types rooting about in ancient ruins not the issues of intercultural communications in the real world. Because the latter would be more work than anyone wants to put in. Unless the players were all linguists and philologists. it is the Same reason that all the aliens in Stargate speak english except the plot demands otherwise.
Well that’s why we have Common
 

Ondath

Hero
I agree with the OP there that backgrounds universally giving bonus languages is weird, even if those backgrounds are only for demonstrative purposes. In 5E, some backgrounds give no languages and only tool proficiencies, because narratively it doesn't make sense for them to give languages. You can explain a Sage or a Noble learning extra languages as part of their training, but why should an Outlander learn an extra language while living away from civilisation? Why does being a labourer grant me Dwarvish or any other language automatically? Even if I grow up in a monocultural town, why does my background make me bilingual automatically?

I think they chose this path because they decided to standardise a few things in Backgrounds even if narratively it doesn't make sense (both a Noble and an Urchin start with 50 gp worth of things, every background grants one Language and one Tool, every instrument costs 20 gp and every tool costs 5 gp etc.). I'll already mention I don't like this general trend in my feedback to the playtest, but since this is the general trend, I doubt my opinion will change much.
 
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