Wednesday, March 13, 2019

OSRenstein: languages & literacy

Starting characters can speak their native language, and they receive additional Languages based on their INT score.
When characters start learning a Language, they add points to it as if it were an ability score modifier.
Every time a Language you don't know is spoken and you wish to interact with the speaker, roll 2d6 and add your WIS plus the Language number.
On a 12+ you understand what was said and can communicate successfully. On a 10-11, you can choose to understand essentially what was said but are unable to communicate, or you can't understand them but your point is made successfully. On a 9 or less, you misinterpret what was said and you sound like an idiot.
Whenever you roll a 12 or higher, you add 1 point to the Language - you cannot add more than one point per day. After the Language has received 5 points, you've learned the Language and no longer need to roll in order to be understood.
Having at least one point in a Language means you can understand basic and simple ideas like "where is food?" and "can I sleep here?" but complex ideas like "can you help me scout this mountain?" or "let me show you how we should ambush those bastards in the valley!" or "don't kill him, we need to interogate him!" will require a roll.

Almost every Language has a Literacy, and every Literacy is different with some being more complex than others. Some starting characters receive Literacy in their native language, and some classes begin with multiple Literacies.
To learn a Literacy your character must invest a considerable period of time, and you must track the time spent doing so. Most Literacies take 3000 hours to learn, assuming you're learning from books. Having a tutor can cut this time in half to 1500 hours, and having a skilled tutor can cut this time in half twice, or 750 hours. A character can't spend more than 8 hours a day learning a Literacy, any time tracked beyond that is wasted.
A skilled tutor is any character who knows the Literacy and has a combined INT, WIS, and CHA modifier equal to +3 or higher. Additionally, a character with a combined INT and WIS of +3 or higher will cut the time required to learn in half again!
When you try to translate written text without any training, make an Investigation+INT skill check. With a successful roll, you will understand the basic message of the script though nuances may be lost. A failure could mean that you miss something crucial in the translation, your translation is time-consuming and delays something important, or you can pick up a word or two but simply have no clue what it really says, GM's choice.

I strive for simplification in most of my rules. I'm not sure if I always achieve it. In this case, I think learning a language should be difficult and have a barrier, it shouldn't just be something you add to the character because you leveled up. At the same time, I want to make it easy to communicate in simple terms because nobody likes funneling conversations through a translator, or relying upon magic all of the time. A player who spends time having their character try to learn a language should be rewarded for their effort.

Anyone who has played Apocalypse World will recognize the success-fail states of the dice roll above as originating from there.


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