That's a very fair point! I was slightly tongue-in-cheek when I talked about alignment languages of course, but it's true that having a secret planning language is fairly important for the game's wargaming roots.What is the gameplay utility of languages in D&D? There’s the “Indiana Jones” factor of having to translate some ancient text you find in the dungeon, yes. But it’s also so the monsters can coordinate their tactics without the PCs understanding them. D&D started out as a wargame after all. Alignment languages were a thing not because Gary and Co. were trying to simulate a world where people who followed the rules automatically learned a secret language and people who broke the rules so people who didn’t follow the rules learned a different secret language. They were a thing because Lawful and Chaotic were playable factions, and they wanted it to be possible for the general to shout orders to their units across the battlefield without the other faction being able to understand them. And to this day, that’s the most effective way to use languages in D&D: you make sure everyone in your party has at least one non-Common language in common so you can talk to each other in code.
On a completely unrelated note, I HAVE JUST REALISED SOMETHING. There was a comment made by @delericho that got me really excited way back in early May. He had said:
And I had replied:I'm inclined to advocate therefore that instead of social skills, characters should be proficient in interacting with various groups - so the Fighter might be proficient with soldiers, the Paladin with nobles, and so on. The effect of that is that the social interactions are likely to be spread out a bit, as the best person for the job isn't always the designated Face.
I think the idea for Social Affinites was simmering in my brain for the last four months... In the end, Social Affinities don't really replace rhetorical techniques, but I think that's okay.Oh you just wrinkled my brain! I think the closest thing I've seen to this is some variant Cortex Prime rules where the size of the die you add to the pool changes depending on who your character is dealing with/their social context (in the Cortex-based Marvel Heroic RPG for instance, loner supers like Wolverine get a bigger die when working alone while team leaders like Cyclops get a bigger die when they're in 3+ squads), and this might be a very refreshing way of overhauling social interactions in games like D&D without referring to different rhetorical techniques (which is what the current system is based on)!
Excuse me while I homebrew some stuff...