Discussion & Proposal: Regional Languages

jkason

Visitor
If we have regional languages, then it's a definite YES to PC's getting their regional language for free, and to making that retroactive. However:

Qik's thoughts are really the impetus behind my 'preferred method' below. If a GM wants to include an NPC who speaks a regional language exclusively - either as part of a plot device or purely for fluff he could, but by and large this method would prevent the need for official adoption of a ton of regional languages and keep the idea mainly in the realm of fluff.
This is the only sticking point for me on adopting the policy wholesale, though maybe it's not much of one.

I think some GM's might be inclined toward wider swaths of NPC's that don't speak Common than others, which--at least to my mind--changes the game significantly. Travel, negotiation, and information gathering could become a lot more complicated among humans, and so do any language-dependent magical effects.

PC's can already face these frustrations (heck, the Kostry Kopec players just ran into a language none of them spoke), so it's not like it's brand new or anything; I just want to point out that adding the possibility of not just regional languages, but specifically regional-only speakers could have a pretty significant impact.
 
from a realistic standpoint... the very fact that there is a language that effectively serves the purpose of the in-game Universal Translator kind of defeats the purpose of having a fantasy game based at least in part on the actual history of our world. Such a universal language doesn't even exist in our modern real world. So why would it in a fantasy world?

In point of fact there was an actual fantasy-ish movie that specifically deals with the language barrier problem. The Movie was entitled The 13th Warrior. That movie is exactly how I feel our characters should be developing their relationships with NPC's who don't speak any of their languages or more specifically, NPC's who don't speak the Common Language. In otherwords you either learn the language that the NPC's speak, or you don't communicate with said NPC's. It's pretty simple, and it is a translation convention trope that almost never gets utilized in modern sci-fi or fantasy television series to it's full effect anymore.
 

jkason

Visitor
from a realistic standpoint... the very fact that there is a language that effectively serves the purpose of the in-game Universal Translator kind of defeats the purpose of having a fantasy game based at least in part on the actual history of our world. Such a universal language doesn't even exist in our modern real world. So why would it in a fantasy world?
Why? For the same reason it exists in so much space-based science fiction: The natural tendency will be to want to explore as much of a rich fantasy environment as you can, and having to learn a new language for every place you go becomes increasingly problematic from a logistics view.

Yes, in the real world, regional languages and translation nightmares occur all the time. In the real world, people also have to relieve themselves several times a day, but I've yet to hear complaints about the absence of a 'holding your bladder' mechanic. :p Clearly an overstated example, but the point is: there comes a line past which verisimilitude is more problematic than immersive, and when you reach that point, most writers will have a tendency to do what they can to find a way to 'hand wave' everything on the wrong side of it.

The regional language question for me, then, is about where I place that line. I think adding them for flavor is nice and I'm all for it, but if they're going to provide a regular slew of extra hurdles to, say, signing onto adventures in Exotic Locales(tm), I'm not as enthusiastic.

If you're looking for me to expalain the mechanism by which E'n developed Common, I think actively-intervening deities (whom are per-design aspects of the same handful of force), magic, and multiple long-lived races (all of whom apparently already developed universal Racial languages) might all play a reasonable part in that. Seriously, if you're not balking at people turning themselves into dragons or teleporting vast distances with a single ritual, it seems a tad stubborn to insist there's then no 'logical' way the world might have managed to talk to one another.
 
from a realistic standpoint... the very fact that there is a language that effectively serves the purpose of the in-game Universal Translator kind of defeats the purpose of having a fantasy game based at least in part on the actual history of our world. Such a universal language doesn't even exist in our modern real world. So why would it in a fantasy world?
Umm, take a look at Wikipedia's take on English. Yep, English can be called Common. It is a second language for most, three times as many as native speakers. But it is the second language of choice. If you want to do science, trade or travel, it is pretty much a requirement.

So, on the Venzan end of the continent, Common is common. It might not be on the far other side of the continent, but most of our adventures are not visiting there. Relatively the same as Western Europe to China.

Then again, my PFS character carries a wand that has on it written in 15 different languages "Magic Speaking stick" so he can show it to natives before using it.
 

Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
The regional language question for me, then, is about where I place that line. I think adding them for flavor is nice and I'm all for it, but if they're going to provide a regular slew of extra hurdles to, say, signing onto adventures in Exotic Locales(tm), I'm not as enthusiastic.
I guess I don't see this as any different than one GM using a lot of traps, while another uses tons of kobolds, while another uses . . . Well, you get my meaning. Any sort of challenge can be "done to death" with a little effort. If I get into an adventure that's got too much of something I don't like, I'll make sure I ask that GM before joining another if there's more of the same to be found; if there is, I'll pass on that one and catch the next.
 
Why? For the same reason it exists in so much space-based science fiction: The natural tendency will be to want to explore as much of a rich fantasy environment as you can, and having to learn a new language for every place you go becomes increasingly problematic from a logistics view.
Let's count the ways...

The 13th Warrior was as far as I can recall the first Sci-Fi or Fantasy Movie to actually feature the Translation Nightmare issue as a prominent feature of the Storyline.

Stargate the Original Movie also featured this. In fact the primary reason Daniel Jackson was hired by the Stargate Facility was because he knew like 10 different languages and about 5 different dialects of each of them. So yes there was a significant amount of language issues in the original stargate movie. this was carried over but only to a slightly smaller extent in the actual TV Series' were many of the Aliens could be said to be speaking other languages, but for convenience sake they had them speaking English on the TV Screen so that we could understand them instead of having to use sub-titles all the time.

Star Trek actually has a device called the Universal Translator built into the starships and comm devices of the starfleet personnel. In the Original Series Uhura's job was not just as a Communications Officer, but as a Xenolinguistics specialist. She was in charge of making sure that the Universal Translator was working 100% of the time. They in fact refer to her Xenolinguistics skills in the 2009 J.J. Abrams movie. In fact in the Star Trek Spin Off Series "Enterprise" they specifically go through the trouble of having someone on board specifically to program the very first Universal Translators!

Star Wars If you actually listen close enough there are a number of various dialects being spoken throughout the movies, the most prominent being Huttese, Droid (R2-D2's language), and Wookie. As far as I know, none of the Star Wars Movies made use of what could be termed as a Universal Translator, thus for every single unique language that exists in that universe an individual would have to actually learn how to speak / understand that language. The closest to a universal translator in that series was C-3PO and the Translation Unit that allowed Luke and Anakin to understand what R2-D2 was saying while they were in the cockpit of their spacecraft.

So in short there are a wide variety of series that either utilize a universal translator, or completely ignore a universal translator, or find some way to mix the concept with a combination of using a universal translator and ignoring it.

Truth be told I think it is much more realistic to not have a Universal Translator, or at the very least to make it so that not all creatures on the planet are capable of utilizing said Universal Translator. For example in Star Trek there were several species whose language simply did not translate via the Universal Translator for some reason. Usually it had to do with the language being so unique or the vocal cords of the species so different, that it was simply impossible for the translator to compensate. One such species was the Horta whom the only viable method of communication was via Vulcan Mindmeld.

In the real world, people also have to relieve themselves several times a day, but I've yet to hear complaints about the absence of a 'holding your bladder' mechanic. :p
Actually, Darth's and Droid's touches on this fact at least once throughout the series when one of the characters purposefully role plays their character asking where the Latrine is while in character.... Personally I think that kind of roleplaying is absolutely worth rewarding with XP rewards for staying in character! Though at the same time that kind of Role Playing has a much better impact in face to face role playing than it does over a play by post forum in my opinion. But still that is slightly off topic.

The regional language question for me, then, is about where I place that line. I think adding them for flavor is nice and I'm all for it, but if they're going to provide a regular slew of extra hurdles to, say, signing onto adventures in Exotic Locales(tm), I'm not as enthusiastic.
And what would your opinion be if there were an Oracle who chose to take the Dual-Cursed Archtype and proceeded to take the Tongues and Deaf Curses... just to provide themselves with an extra bit of hurdles to overcome for Role Playing Purposes?

hurdles in and of themselves are not always a bad thing. Huge amounts of hurdles can be though. It's all a matter of quantity as well as the nature of the hurdles themselves as to whether they are a good or bad thing in my opinion.
 

Qik

Visitor
My feelings on the matter are comparable to jk's. In fact, based on what I've seen in practice, he's probably much more comfortable with the devil-in-the-details than myself.

I think SK raises a good point, too. In fact, I had almost considered Venzan as Common (i.e. that the Common language was native to Venza), although I'm not sure that the world history would support that leap.
 

Systole

Community Supporter
I like the idea of a free regional language. However, I'm not sure there's a need to split Broken Common out from Common. It's a fluff thing. Maui and Daylily might butcher the language, but they can both make themselves understood.

As far as the realism of everyone speaking Common, I don't think it's unreasonable to think that the PCs are simply drawn from the subset of adventurers who learned Common at some point. There are tens of thousands of Jiragans who don't speak Common and have never set foot outside Jirago. There are probably hundreds besides Daylily who went on walkabout. Some of them never bothered to learn Venzan. Daylily is one of the ones who did (sort of). There's no need to invoke divine intervention or Universal Translators or whatnot.

And like SK said, you can pretty much consider English to be the real-world equivalent of a Common tongue. A lot of people speak it (sort of) as their second or third language. So any innkeeper will probably speak common. A village full of farmers will probably have one or two people who can speak a few words. It's not a huge barrier to overcome.
 
And what would your opinion be if there were an Oracle who chose to take the Dual-Cursed Archtype and proceeded to take the Tongues and Deaf Curses... just to provide themselves with an extra bit of hurdles to overcome for Role Playing Purposes?

hurdles in and of themselves are not always a bad thing. Huge amounts of hurdles can be though. It's all a matter of quantity as well as the nature of the hurdles themselves as to whether they are a good or bad thing in my opinion.
I would likely do what I normally do. Toss some rope on the ground, point at it and tell you, "don't hang yourself." I had a kid bring a Vow of Silence monk to a PFS game. So I gave him a folded flip mat and a marker. I told him if he speaks, he loses the character. His frustration got comical through the game, but he did make it through the game in silence. Trying to play scout and leader just didn't work considering his vow. He stepped outside the building a couple times to scream, but was silent at the table. Next game he brought a different character.

In other words, if you are going to make it rough by stepping out of the norm, I (maybe we) are going to hold you to that rough standard because you chose it willingly.

Yes, taken to the extreme, this proposal can be used to say I only know elven, or Jirango. But those choices hamper an adventure. It is fine for NPCs, but gets dangerously annoying for PCs.

It is better to keep your quirks mild. We have characters that are doing similar things now. Arianna is illiterate. People post notes for jobs and she can't read them. They give her pay vouchers and she needs them read to her. Being a mermaid, books don't last underwater. So, she never learned to read. Mermaids don't do that. She sorts her potions by color. She is getting along, but had to turn down half the treasure in one adventure because it was books and scrolls.

Her quirk is mild enough that it doesn't slow down or hamper the party.
That is the line you have to watch out for.
 
I like the idea of a free regional language. However, I'm not sure there's a need to split Broken Common out from Common. It's a fluff thing. Maui and Daylily might butcher the language, but they can both make themselves understood.
I am not suggesting that Maui or Daylily need to or should switch to Broken Common as their language. I am more suggesting that an option should be available for NPCs that are less successful than those two at verbal communication. Those NPCs would speak their native language fluently, and only "get by" in the merest sense in Common. Therefore, PCs talking to them can get some information by using Common, but get a lot more if they realize and switch to the local native tongue.

My personal opinion is that Maui and Daylily are "just above" the broken line. It is up to their players as to where they seem them at.
 

Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
Yes to the general concept.
Yes to the first regional language being a freebie.
Yes to the list from GE, adding Irthian and HaGruut, but please also add Broken Common as well.
Yes to retroactive.
Yes to "ancient" versions of the languages for when the GM wants to force a linguistics check.
And my YES to all of these as well.
 

jkason

Visitor
I think your last post nets this the votes it needs, but since I think there might still be something to be discussed in terms of guidelines, I'll throw this in:

I guess I don't see this as any different than one GM using a lot of traps, while another uses tons of kobolds, while another uses . . . Well, you get my meaning. Any sort of challenge can be "done to death" with a little effort. If I get into an adventure that's got too much of something I don't like, I'll make sure I ask that GM before joining another if there's more of the same to be found; if there is, I'll pass on that one and catch the next.
I totally agree some GM's will be more likely to implement this as an adventure obstacle than others, but I think it might be useful to have a general consensus of how, well, common Common is. Should PC's be able to generally assume that folks speak it reasonably well in populated areas and that there needs to be a more severe degree of isolation to justify trouble getting by, or is Common rather something you can only really count on merchants, innkeepers, and other folks who deal with Tourists to know?
 
GE added a placeholder on the wiki. I have gone in and filled it in mostly. I defaulted to "Deltan" for the Ouhm River valley region as I couldn't pull a more colorful rabbit out of my hat. Tweaks and additions are welcome.
 

Systole

Community Supporter
I'd like for Jiragoan to be called something like Jira'shae, unless that's going to be too confusing.

I'd lean toward multiple languages for Landadel. Landadel seems very European to me, where there are lots of small countries / duchies / baronies / whatever, so there's something like French (for Zitteaux) and German (for Heinrich).
 

Scott DeWar

Prof. Emeritus-Supernatural Events/Countermeasure
I'd lean toward multiple languages for Landadel. Landadel seems very European to me, where there are lots of small countries / duchies / baronies / whatever, so there's something like French (for Zitteaux) and German (for Heinrich).
i like this idea!
 

Systole

Community Supporter
Here's my suggested list:

  • Common is otherwise known as Venzan or Low Landellian, and is spoken in Venza and the surrounding areas. As Venza is the world’s most developed trade center, the Venzan language serves as the default common tongue throughout the known world.
  • Middle Landellian in and around Tritower.
  • Old Landellian and High Landellian are spoken in the Landadel Baronies. Old Landellian tends to be spoken in the more far-flung reaches.
  • Deltan in the Ouhm River valley.
  • Irthian in Irthos.
  • Ha’Gruut by barbarian tribes in Seithr mountains northwest of Irthos.
  • Stonetongue in most of the Seithr mountain ranges.
  • Cavetongue for deep dwarves and other dwellers underground.
  • Inner Sea including the areas of the Harran, Heth, and Rorn.
  • Rhat’mani in the Rhat'Matanis region.
  • Jira'shae in the lands of Jirago on the western continent.
  • Northern Isle for the areas near Illi Esse.
 

jkason

Visitor
I like the more flavor of the names on this list. My only question, then, concerns PCs whose background is as Venzan natives. Are they ineligible for a free regional language, or can they choose one (either from a limited list or the full one)?
 

Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
I'd rather keep Common separate from all of the regional languages (even Venzan). It does make sense that Venzan and Common be the same, but I'd rather see Common be a schmorgasborg of all the others and let Venzan's have their own regional tongue.
 

Qik

Visitor
Personally, I don't like the idea of a distinct Venzan language, given that Venza is as cosmopolitan as it is, or at least, as it seems to me. It strikes me as being comparable to having "American." But I may be off on that.
 

Advertisement

Top