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jinjitsu
2016-10-17, 12:43 PM
While I'm quite fascinated by real-world languages, in fiction I'm more concerned with if two creatures can communicate than how they do it, and I've always gotten the feeling that players are the same way. My fantasy worlds - in D&D as well as in my attempts at fiction - have never had much to say about language, and it's just not something I consider all that important to a fictional world.

So what would D&D be like without the language granularity? You could boil it down to "Common" and "not Common;" PCs would only have Common, and unless another creature speaks Common, they can't communicate with it. Spells like comprehend languages and tongues would see more use, and it'd make the divide between humanoid society and other societies that much starker - after all, most of the races that don't speak Common at all are ones that either won't bother with diplomacy (demons, gnolls) or have their own civilizations independent of humanoid society (genies, giants). I also wouldn't miss the near-weekly repetition of, "You can understand this, but the rest of the party just hear [vaguely word-like gibberish]."

Is there anything I'm not considering that may come back to bite me?

gkathellar
2016-10-17, 01:11 PM
Basically already the case, innit? Languages are just, "I can talk with these X Creatures," in practice.

SirBellias
2016-10-17, 01:14 PM
Seems legit to me. There usually isn't much language disparity in my games. The only time it really comes up is when A: the party uses it to plan to murder each other or B: ancient ruins. But the second is still doable with your way, and the first is annoying to begin with.

InvisibleBison
2016-10-17, 03:02 PM
I think you'll probably want some sort of explanation as to why there are only two languages. After all, in the real world there's only one sentient species, and we've developed thousands of languages. A D&D style world with myriad sentient races, many of radically different natures, would logically have even greater linguistic diversity. Moreover, you seem to be correlating Common with humanoids and non-Common with non-humanoids. Does that imply any greater conflict in the setting? Also, what happens if a player wants to play a member of a non-Common speaking race? Is it possible for someone to learn both languages? If so, wouldn't that undermine the divide between societies? If not, why not?

All that being said, I like the idea. Certainly having all the PCs understanding anything any of the PCs understands is an advantage.

dascarletm
2016-10-17, 03:14 PM
I think it would be interesting if you were to drop the "everyone knows common" bit from DnD. (you could keep it for players since they, well you know, should be able to talk to one another). Then you could add multiple languages for each race.

"Oh you think I can understand that goblin, because I'm a goblin too huh? You know not all goblins speak the same goblin language. He is speaking Chakrik, a language native to goblins in the southern Isles. I'm from the goblins of the northern mountains, we speak Ragistese. Racist."

Anonymouswizard
2016-10-17, 03:39 PM
Basically already the case, innit? Languages are just, "I can talk with these X Creatures," in practice.

This is true in my experience. In GURPS I've seen languages come up more often, in that the game has more detailed language rules and so, while everyone gets one language at native, you might have PCs from many different countries or cultures, and who speak different languages. It got a point where the person playing the face was the only one native to the region, and the only one who spoke the language at native, the rest of us were all at accented, and most of us ended up at least semi-fluent and semi-literate in the language of the other culture we were dealing with (again, we had one native speaker).

Oh, that setting also had an equivalent of common, but for various reasons it was only ever spoken when dealing with a handful of people, dwarven was the language of the day.

In several cases level of fluency mattered, it certainly made one of my critical fails more entertaining (I've since retired those dice), and you didn't want someone only semi-fluent conducting negotiations. But in D&D, languages have just been a 'speak with X' check whenever they've come up, picking languages has been a great big game of 'what enemies will the GM use' in my experience (my advice is to ignore ones like Draconic and Elven, instead nab Goblin, Abyssal, and Infernal on your face).

gkathellar
2016-10-17, 04:05 PM
I think it would be interesting if you were to drop the "everyone knows common" bit from DnD. (you could keep it for players since they, well you know, should be able to talk to one another). Then you could add multiple languages for each race.

"Oh you think I can understand that goblin, because I'm a goblin too huh? You know not all goblins speak the same goblin language. He is speaking Chakrik, a language native to goblins in the southern Isles. I'm from the goblins of the northern mountains, we speak Ragistese. Racist."

Realistic or not, this mostly just sounds like it would be a pain in any actual game.

jinjitsu
2016-10-17, 04:49 PM
I think you'll probably want some sort of explanation as to why there are only two languages. After all, in the real world there's only one sentient species, and we've developed thousands of languages. A D&D style world with myriad sentient races, many of radically different natures, would logically have even greater linguistic diversity. Moreover, you seem to be correlating Common with humanoids and non-Common with non-humanoids. Does that imply any greater conflict in the setting? Also, what happens if a player wants to play a member of a non-Common speaking race? Is it possible for someone to learn both languages? If so, wouldn't that undermine the divide between societies? If not, why not?

All that being said, I like the idea. Certainly having all the PCs understanding anything any of the PCs understands is an advantage.

To clarify, "not Common" isn't just one language - it would encompass all the languages that monstrous creatures speak that humanoids don't. Giant, Goblin, etc., would still exist as disparate languages, but the difference between them wouldn't matter for the PCs' purposes. As for playing a non-Common-speaking race, that just wouldn't be an option; you could still hold onto your "mother" tongue, but I think it's fair to say that if you're going to be a PC, you have to be able to speak Common, whether that means picking a core race or investing starting abilities into learning it.

I don't think it'd be a problem for characters to study other languages, but it'd be like starting as a single-language English speaker and learning Cantonese - you can work hard and learn it, but it's completely unlike what you know, so it takes a lot of time and effort, and it's going to take a lot of work to go from theoretical understanding to being a fluent conversationalist.

Melville's Book
2016-10-17, 09:16 PM
To clarify, "not Common" isn't just one language - it would encompass all the languages that monstrous creatures speak that humanoids don't. Giant, Goblin, etc., would still exist as disparate languages, but the difference between them wouldn't matter for the PCs' purposes. As for playing a non-Common-speaking race, that just wouldn't be an option; you could still hold onto your "mother" tongue, but I think it's fair to say that if you're going to be a PC, you have to be able to speak Common, whether that means picking a core race or investing starting abilities into learning it.

I don't think it'd be a problem for characters to study other languages, but it'd be like starting as a single-language English speaker and learning Cantonese - you can work hard and learn it, but it's completely unlike what you know, so it takes a lot of time and effort, and it's going to take a lot of work to go from theoretical understanding to being a fluent conversationalist.
I don't think "non-Common-speaking characters" meant "characters who can't speak Common," I think it meant "characters who speak non-Common." Like, do you give the goblin in the party the ability to speak all non-Common languages because he definitely knows Goblin and there is no language granularity beyond that? The fact that he also knows Common (as a PC) is irrelevant to the question.

root
2016-10-18, 12:09 AM
If you want to be realistic about it (Heh), I'd say that any distinct culture/peoples close enough to each other would eventually have a shared language. Earth as we know it might only have one specie but thousand of languages only because of how separated people were for the bulk of human history and in a D&D setting, with fairly accessible magical transportation and extremely long-living or eternal entities this separation might not exist.

Considering how easy it is to literally speak and understand any language with magic in D&D, you might as well not bother with different languages unless you're willing to put in that extra detail. Assuming that in your setting Comprehend Languages exists and can be easily accessed either by spell or magic item, it wouldn't be out of place that any merchant expedition or army that's likely to go to foreign lands would just have a Wand of Comprehend Language instead of ever bothering to learn new languages. All you need is 1 wand on each side and you have a universal translator (and hell, you could just pantomime anyone who doesn't understand to use your wand)

The majority of D&D mechanics and spells only make sense from a very narrow perspective. They're there to create a useful toolkit for adventuring only, not establish a realistic world.

jinjitsu
2016-10-18, 01:56 AM
The majority of D&D mechanics and spells only make sense from a very narrow perspective. They're there to create a useful toolkit for adventuring only, not establish a realistic world.

I very much like this sentiment. I think certain elements of both long-running games and genres in general get entrenched, and we think they're essential when they're really not.

I got to thinking about this because of a podcast I listened to recently (here (http://www.maximumfun.org/my-brother-my-brother-and-me/mbmbam-311-amber-color-our-energy) if you're interested) where author Patrick Rothfuss said that instead of trying to recreate established fantasy works, we should focus on filling our worlds with things that we're passionate about and fascinated by; while I know his writing isn't for everyone, I think everyone can agree with that statement. I'm not passionate about or fascinated by language barriers, so I'm not going to try to emulate Tolkien's linguistic fixation if it makes my game less fun.

Eldan
2016-10-18, 04:11 AM
I think it would be interesting if you were to drop the "everyone knows common" bit from DnD. (you could keep it for players since they, well you know, should be able to talk to one another). Then you could add multiple languages for each race.

"Oh you think I can understand that goblin, because I'm a goblin too huh? You know not all goblins speak the same goblin language. He is speaking Chakrik, a language native to goblins in the southern Isles. I'm from the goblins of the northern mountains, we speak Ragistese. Racist."

In my game, Common is basically Koine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koine_Greek), i.e. Common Greek. It's spoken by the four large cultures around the central sea of the setting and by traders outside of it. But if the players ever travel more than a few day's worth of travel overland, people won't know it.

Knaight
2016-10-18, 06:36 AM
I don't think "non-Common-speaking characters" meant "characters who can't speak Common," I think it meant "characters who speak non-Common." Like, do you give the goblin in the party the ability to speak all non-Common languages because he definitely knows Goblin and there is no language granularity beyond that? The fact that he also knows Common (as a PC) is irrelevant to the question.

I'm pretty sure the OP who did the clarification knows what they mean by said clarification.

Storm_Of_Snow
2016-10-18, 07:10 AM
I think it would be interesting if you were to drop the "everyone knows common" bit from DnD. (you could keep it for players since they, well you know, should be able to talk to one another). Then you could add multiple languages for each race.

"Oh you think I can understand that goblin, because I'm a goblin too huh? You know not all goblins speak the same goblin language. He is speaking Chakrik, a language native to goblins in the southern Isles. I'm from the goblins of the northern mountains, we speak Ragistese. Racist."
The only issue with that is the amount of world building you'd have to do for it - not just with languages but with dialects within those languages (your Ragistese-speaking Goblin might understand enough of the Chakrik-speaking Goblin to be able to get the gist of what they're saying without having to learn that dialect, but another Goblin from further North that speaks a third dialect might have to have the Ragistese-speaker translate for him), and what can be termed domain specific languages used by certain trades or groups (Thieves Cant, for example).

And there'd be an economic shift as well - sages who know multiple languages, translation spells, Rings etc suddenly become incredibly valuable amongst the merchant, diplomatic and noble classes.

I agree with the players knowing a common language - I once played a Babylon 5 game at a Gencon where there were two Minbari who knew no other languages, only one human character spoke it, and they never got in the same room as them - and it only went further downhill from there... :smallsigh:

root
2016-10-18, 08:14 AM
At some point a common language is just a mechanic that exists to make gameplay smoother for everyone within the party and in nearby vicinity.

Although it would be fun to play it straight sometime... Every settlement a 100 or so miles away might have its own dialect unless its a significant trade post. Only gets more complicated with multiple races, some far more insular from one another or extremely short lived (given that some modern languages changed immensely within the last 5-10 generations if not less, a goblin tribe that got separated from other goblins probably wouldn't even understand them after a century)

In the end, you'd either stay in the vicinity of one kingdom/ dialect most of the time or just pantomime all the time.

It would be a lot more fun to apply that concept to spells. Town A had an elderly wizard start an impromptu school some 60 years ago but he only knew 3 or 4 spells of each level. Mages from town B 200 miles away have never heard of these spells, instead their long-rooted arcane tradition came from being really obsessed with fire so the only spells any mage from there can cast are a dozen or so fire spells.

Joe the Rat
2016-10-18, 08:20 AM
I think it would be interesting if you were to drop the "everyone knows common" bit from DnD. (you could keep it for players since they, well you know, should be able to talk to one another). Then you could add multiple languages for each race.

"Oh you think I can understand that goblin, because I'm a goblin too huh? You know not all goblins speak the same goblin language. He is speaking Chakrik, a language native to goblins in the southern Isles. I'm from the goblins of the northern mountains, we speak Ragistese. Racist."

I need to remember that one.

Funny thing - language changes with generations. Goblins would be most likely to have multiple dialects and languages compared to longer lived elves, and literally-set-in-stone dwarves. I wish I'd remembered that for my statue-for-1,000-years Hobgoblin NPC.


The OP's assumption here is that either the characters will only (ever) know one language, or that you abstract to "languages known by someone in the party" and "everything else" And then you may need to subdivide "knowns" for if the entire party isn't in the same place all at once. Which gets you to the language list again.
But I do see where you are coming from - it's a reduction of fiddlyness and forced color (we can't all be linguists) from "X,Y,Z, vaguely germanic, vaguely slavic, vaguely tamil" to "known" and "unknown" If your use of language comes down to "Does anyone speak X?," it's a fair system.

Anonymouswizard
2016-10-18, 11:13 AM
At some point a common language is just a mechanic that exists to make gameplay smoother for everyone within the party and in nearby vicinity.

Of course, I've noticed the first thing that'll happen in a game is that everybody will get the ability to speak the language of the region the game takes place in, because otherwise it's just annoying.


Although it would be fun to play it straight sometime... Every settlement a 100 or so miles away might have its own dialect unless its a significant trade post. Only gets more complicated with multiple races, some far more insular from one another or extremely short lived (given that some modern languages changed immensely within the last 5-10 generations if not less, a goblin tribe that got separated from other goblins probably wouldn't even understand them after a century)

In the end, you'd either stay in the vicinity of one kingdom/ dialect most of the time or just pantomime all the time.

The other option is that you end up travelling between a small group of kingdoms with related languages, and rely on having someone there who can speak the language.

Really, the standard D&D system works if you assume 1 country for each race (3 very small ones for elves) and that it's all in a fairly small area. It breaks down once you get people on opposite sides of the continent who both speak common, but this is why you should keep the campaign area to the size of a modern country.


It would be a lot more fun to apply that concept to spells. Town A had an elderly wizard start an impromptu school some 60 years ago but he only knew 3 or 4 spells of each level. Mages from town B 200 miles away have never heard of these spells, instead their long-rooted arcane tradition came from being really obsessed with fire so the only spells any mage from there can cast are a dozen or so fire spells.

I agree here. One of the reasons I don't like D&D is that the spell lists encourage a bit of 'every magical tradition knows the same basic spells'. I look forward to having an excuse to run Anima or The Dark Eye, where I can just day 'no, you can't learn Thermonuclear Explosion here, the local wizarding tradition specialises in nature/illusion/necromancy/water spells'. I'm actually looking forward to procuring a physical copy of The Dark Eye once it comes out here, because it's exactly the fantasy game I want (slightly poorly designed character sheet aside), and allows me to have various wizarding colleges/traditions which focus on different types of magic (in addition to elven magic and witch magic).

Mark Hall
2016-10-18, 11:16 AM
I think it would be interesting if you were to drop the "everyone knows common" bit from DnD. (you could keep it for players since they, well you know, should be able to talk to one another). Then you could add multiple languages for each race.

"Oh you think I can understand that goblin, because I'm a goblin too huh? You know not all goblins speak the same goblin language. He is speaking Chakrik, a language native to goblins in the southern Isles. I'm from the goblins of the northern mountains, we speak Ragistese. Racist."

I'd also drop the binary nature of language in a lot of D&D... the "know it or don't". If you want language to matter, make proficiency levels a thing.

Fungi
2016-10-18, 11:56 AM
The only real purose I can think of for language is to diversify which members of the party talk to npcs sometimes. If the pcs all speak common and another language, they could all have times when they are in the social spotlight so it's not just the bard with 20 cha all day every day.

jinjitsu
2016-10-18, 12:46 PM
The only real purose I can think of for language is to diversify which members of the party talk to npcs sometimes. If the pcs all speak common and another language, they could all have times when they are in the social spotlight so it's not just the bard with 20 cha all day every day.

This is a good point, but I don't know how far a group would want that to extend. If the 8 Cha fighter is the only one who speaks Goblin and they're trying to negotiate with goblins, everyone's going to start getting frustrated when the fighter keeps flubbing rolls. I don't know how other DMs feel about it, but I usually let the characters use someone as a translator if they feel the need to.


The only issue with that is the amount of world building you'd have to do for it - not just with languages but with dialects within those languages (your Ragistese-speaking Goblin might understand enough of the Chakrik-speaking Goblin to be able to get the gist of what they're saying without having to learn that dialect, but another Goblin from further North that speaks a third dialect might have to have the Ragistese-speaker translate for him), and what can be termed domain specific languages used by certain trades or groups (Thieves Cant, for example).

This makes me curious - has anyone ever played a game set in Golarion where that setting's human cultural languages figured in heavily?

VoxRationis
2016-10-18, 01:43 PM
I think it would be interesting if you were to drop the "everyone knows common" bit from DnD. (you could keep it for players since they, well you know, should be able to talk to one another). Then you could add multiple languages for each race.

"Oh you think I can understand that goblin, because I'm a goblin too huh? You know not all goblins speak the same goblin language. He is speaking Chakrik, a language native to goblins in the southern Isles. I'm from the goblins of the northern mountains, we speak Ragistese. Racist."

I had a setting that was formed largely around this concept. Never saw play, but that was unrelated to the setting itself.

Mark Hall
2016-10-18, 02:01 PM
My problem with "Get rid of Common" as a panacea is that, in a lot of places, you'll have a de facto Common language. I mean, Earth doesn't have a "Common", and there are lots of people who don't speak anything but their own language... but we have folks from a number of countries here whose day to day language isn't English, who have, for whatever reason, learned English and take part in international conversation. If you go down to Latin America and Mexico, Spanish is a cross-border common language. Latin was a common tongue for centuries in Europe.

I've had a few DMs who say "There is no Common!" And the only answer I have is "What does everyone speak around here, though?"

BWR
2016-10-18, 02:45 PM
Mystara has basically the right approach to language: there are lots of them.
Common is simply the most commonly spoken language in the area. Consequently (and confusingly) there are lots of Commons, though there are certain tongues which have more economical and cultural power (and thus are more widely known) than others. There are different dialects of various languages and not all racial languages are spoken by members of said race. Culture and location are more important than race, at least once you mix in the Savage Coast. So when I run everyone notes where they are from and what sort of languages are appropriate for the area, and they also note what sort of dialect they speak, then if they come across weird dialects or related languages I require Linguistics rolls with varying difficulties based how similar the dialects/languages in question are and how complicated a message they want to get across. My players always sink ranks in Linguistics or have Comprehend Languages/Tongues available and they like this way of doing things far more than having binary know/don't know or (even worse) Common/not-Common.

Anonymouswizard
2016-10-18, 03:29 PM
My problem with "Get rid of Common" as a panacea is that, in a lot of places, you'll have a de facto Common language. I mean, Earth doesn't have a "Common", and there are lots of people who don't speak anything but their own language... but we have folks from a number of countries here whose day to day language isn't English, who have, for whatever reason, learned English and take part in international conversation. If you go down to Latin America and Mexico, Spanish is a cross-border common language. Latin was a common tongue for centuries in Europe.

I've had a few DMs who say "There is no Common!" And the only answer I have is "What does everyone speak around here, though?"

My settings don't have a 'common', but that's because I tend to have a relatively central and influential empire as one of the 'good/neutral' countries, so it's the same idea but just referred to as 'Imperial'. The idea is that if the PCs go anywhere then the tavern keepers and merchants will speak Imperial (or at least a smattering) so that they can conduct business with people from out of town, but in some areas the common tongue may be elven or Low Gwarish or Norsican, but this will only likely come up if either A) the PCs are based there or B) a refugee who doesn't speak any Imperial turns up. I find designing a setting easier if I don't have any language referred to as 'common', although I'm not against the idea of a common tongue.

Then again, I don't really run D&D anymore, so I can just give PCs as many free languages as I want and nobody can say 'but I get common plus intelligence languages'.

AnBe
2016-10-19, 02:22 AM
I once played with a guy who made characters for our Pathfinder game and intentionally made his character unable to speak Common. Everyone else in the party could speak Common just fine, but not this guy. He was a special snowflake who required translation. It made most everyone annoyed at him.
And then when that same player runs a Pathfinder game as GM later on, he becomes a real Nazi when it came to languages. In his game, there wasn't just "Common." There were crap tons of different versions of Common. Every time someone said something, Player or NPC, they were always asked, "what language did your character say that in?" It got really annoying. I felt like these hard language rules were just an excuse to nag people. It bogged down the game. We spent a lot of time in our sessions constantly looking up what languages our characters knew. And if you didn't know the right languages, you felt left out. That campaign is a horrible nightmare for more reasons than just this, and it still continues to this day. If I have to sit through one more session, I think I might have to drink bleach.

weckar
2016-10-19, 03:27 AM
There are groups for which it works, and some for which it doesn't. In a low combat game, high on politics, it could work like a nice layer of gravy to have languages be an obstacle.

Although with your common/non-common approach - does this mean all who speak non-common can speak with each other? How about a PC of a monstrous race?

Vinyadan
2016-10-19, 05:26 AM
With proficiency, you could go with four levels: verbs, nouns, adjectives+adverbs, and prepositions. Basic proficiency makes you understand verbs, better makes you understand names too, level three makes you also understand prepositions, and level four makes you understand all four. A different dialect of the same language will take away one random proficiency in these four, so if you have a goblin from Guglgu talking to your goblin from Derda in his own dialect of Goblin, and saying "Our big mountain lion ate my wife and spat her bones towards the clear sky, and it was the best day in my long life", and you don't understand adjectives, you will get "X X X lion ate X wife and spat X bones towards the X sky, and it was the X day in X X life". If you are a partially proficient human, you might end up with "lion wife bones sky day life". Cue on the goblin's facial mimic.
This, however, only looks practical when it comes to written texts. Otherwise, it's too slow. Either the DM is very good at it, or, well...

BTW, language changes even within one person. There was a study about 50 years of Queen Elizabeth's Christmas speeches that showed changes not due to old age. So a very long lifespan might make language change slower, but not impede it fully.

I like the OP's idea, it looks like a way to reach easiness of play and eliminating an otherwise awkward mechanic to roleplay.

Fri
2016-10-19, 05:42 AM
Language as skill/feat/something you need to invest works fine where it's cheap enough thing to buy (like gurps or MnM) and doesn't really work in systems where it's major investment (like, language is super useful in real life, but if you only have 5 things you can buy, it's much better to buy say, better killing ability or better survival ability, rather than extra language).

The problem is more that language is too limited and binary to use. It'd work though, if you can somehow mesh the use into something a skill/feat that's more often used and have more effects than "I know x language." Maybe you now can have bonus when dealing with speaker of that language, or whatever else.

It's still annoying that it limits your character concept though, when you have a character that's supposed to be world travelling diplomat or merchant, but he only know 1 language because you don't have point to buy more languages.

Anonymouswizard
2016-10-19, 07:35 AM
And then when that same player runs a Pathfinder game as GM later on, he becomes a real Nazi when it came to languages. In his game, there wasn't just "Common." There were crap tons of different versions of Common. Every time someone said something, Player or NPC, they were always asked, "what language did your character say that in?" It got really annoying. I felt like these hard language rules were just an excuse to nag people. It bogged down the game. We spent a lot of time in our sessions constantly looking up what languages our characters knew. And if you didn't know the right languages, you felt left out. That campaign is a horrible nightmare for more reasons than just this, and it still continues to this day. If I have to sit through one more session, I think I might have to drink bleach.

At that point it's just too much. I remember when I played in a game with 20+ languages in the world we just assumed everyone was talking in the primary language of the region unless specified otherwise (we also spoke about 4 languages between the entire party). I mean, I can see that North Imperial and South Imperial might have diverged somewhat, but if I know East Imperial I should be able to work out what they mean with an Int check (which was the system we used for being semi-fluent in a language, people eventually got annoyed enough to buy up to accented).

Now I do like to have a large number of languages, say 20+ for an area roughly the size of half of Europe, but there will be two or three dominant languages that are spoken almost everywhere. Can you be the guy who doesn't speak common? Yes, but you'll have to deal with the fact that most people in the area don't speak your language, including other PCs.


With proficiency, you could go with four levels: verbs, nouns, adjectives+adverbs, and prepositions. Basic proficiency makes you understand verbs, better makes you understand names too, level three makes you also understand prepositions, and level four makes you understand all four. A different dialect of the same language will take away one random proficiency in these four, so if you have a goblin from Guglgu talking to your goblin from Derda in his own dialect of Goblin, and saying "Our big mountain lion ate my wife and spat her bones towards the clear sky, and it was the best day in my long life", and you don't understand adjectives, you will get "X X X lion ate X wife and spat X bones towards the X sky, and it was the X day in X X life". If you are a partially proficient human, you might end up with "lion wife bones sky day life". Cue on the goblin's facial mimic.
This, however, only looks practical when it comes to written texts. Otherwise, it's too slow. Either the DM is very good at it, or, well...

I like the GURPS system (The Dark Eye does something similar), where it costs two CP per level of language, which comes in three levels for each language, works well. The first level is 'semi-fluent', where you need to make checks in order to be understood (or to understand the language), the second level is 'accented', where you are perfectly fluent but it's still noticeably a second language to you, and the third level is 'native', where you speak as a native. I've notice people rarely take above accented to save on points. Here you could just drop a level if you're dealing with a different dialect, so native would be accented, accented would become semi-fluent, and semi-fluent would be unable to understand it at all.

Jay R
2016-10-19, 07:36 AM
The GM-has-created-a-world solution is to work out, in advance, the entire linguistic history of the world, following the growth and evolution of languages, so you can know instantly whether a new NPC should be able to talk to the PCs.

The GM-is-running-a-game solution is to decide, when a new NPC is introduced, whether the game will be more or less interesting if the PCs can talk to her.

The first way is infinitely more work, of the sort that some GMs love.

The second way is much easier overall and makes each encounter what you want it to be (in that aspect).

The players cannot tell the difference between the two methods.

BWR
2016-10-19, 10:02 AM
The GM-has-created-a-world solution is to work out, in advance, the entire linguistic history of the world, following the growth and evolution of languages, so you can know instantly whether a new NPC should be able to talk to the PCs.

The GM-is-running-a-game solution is to decide, when a new NPC is introduced, whether the game will be more or less interesting if the PCs can talk to her.

The first way is infinitely more work, of the sort that some GMs love.

The second way is much easier overall and makes each encounter what you want it to be (in that aspect).

The players cannot tell the difference between the two methods.


Option three: have someone else do the work. (http://www.pandius.com/lang2.html)

Mitth'raw'nuruo
2016-10-19, 09:01 PM
The only issue with that is the amount of world building you'd have to do for it - not just with languages but with dialects within those languages (your Ragistese-speaking Goblin might understand enough of the Chakrik-speaking Goblin to be able to get the gist of what they're saying without having to learn that dialect, but another Goblin from further North that speaks a third dialect might have to have the Ragistese-speaker translate for him), and what can be termed domain specific languages used by certain trades or groups (Thieves Cant, for example).

And there'd be an economic shift as well - sages who know multiple languages, translation spells, Rings etc suddenly become incredibly valuable amongst the merchant, diplomatic and noble classes.

I agree with the players knowing a common language - I once played a Babylon 5 game at a Gencon where there were two Minbari who knew no other languages, only one human character spoke it, and they never got in the same room as them - and it only went further downhill from there... :smallsigh:

1. I am envious of you being in a B5 game.
2. I thought English WAS Common.

GreatWyrmGold
2016-10-20, 10:10 PM
I think you'll probably want some sort of explanation as to why there are only two languages. After all, in the real world there's only one sentient species, and we've developed thousands of languages. A D&D style world with myriad sentient races, many of radically different natures, would logically have even greater linguistic diversity.
Not necessarily. If each race had a range of cultures comparable to humanity, sure, but that would require several planets' worth of continents.
And you're ignoring the supernatural element. It's plausible that the gods would have created only one language at the time the world was created and taught it to all sentient races (with non-Common tongues being made by beings who weren't so graced). Heck, it's even loosely possible that the gods would enforce this. "I don't understand that gibberish—pray to me in Common or shut the hell up!"

root
2016-10-20, 10:52 PM
Not necessarily. If each race had a range of cultures comparable to humanity, sure, but that would require several planets' worth of continents.
And you're ignoring the supernatural element. It's plausible that the gods would have created only one language at the time the world was created and taught it to all sentient races (with non-Common tongues being made by beings who weren't so graced). Heck, it's even loosely possible that the gods would enforce this. "I don't understand that gibberish—pray to me in Common or shut the hell up!"

Yeah this honestly sounds like a pretty good approach. Most D&D settings have fairly active gods, who in some cases have created specific races - and presumably they created the languages too.

Mark Hall
2016-10-21, 10:56 AM
In David Eddings Elenium/Tamuli trilogies, the Knights of the Church learn the Styric language so they can practice magic. In time, it is revealed that what they are actually doing is praying to certain Styric deities for their magic powers... and the protagonist eventually decides to drop this, and just start praying to his particular deity in Elenian, since he knows she knows it, anyway. She gets peeved with him for that, but lets it happen.

(And, of course, there's the old joke "The hardest part about learning Latin isn't the grammar or vocabulary, it's all the accidental demon summoning you do.")

Esprit15
2016-10-24, 06:08 PM
I've played in a setting with no common, and have yet to run into any huge annoyances. Most people are either from the same region, and so speak the same language, or have a high enough intelligence that they speak a couple of languages, and so can speak to the barbarian who only speak Red Orc and Centaur.

Just the other day, I was in a one shot that was about several nations making an attack on the BBEG's country. DM notes that the invasion is being led by the city state of Novia, so it would be smart to take Novian as a bonus language, should anyone have the intelligence to do so. Also smart would be to take the languages of the less intelligent races (Red Orc, Snow Goblin, etc) to assist those that cannot speak the language.