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Language in Gaming

a discussion started by Suzume, who never knows when she's digging herself in too deep...

A Little Background...

This discussion comes from a tendency in game design (actually more in setting design) to drastically oversimplify what is one of the most defining aspects of any culture, and has been the cause of nearly as many human rights violations in the real world as race or religion. To wit, the atrocious system in D&D, where one purchases, according to the standard rules, a new language (potentially unrelated to any languages already known), complete with perfect speaking and expressive ability (up to one's capacity in other traits, admittedly), textual competence (yes, readin' and ritin'), and, if one posesses the correct class features (so-called "Bardic Knowledge" being the worst offender), cultural and literary context, all for the same cost as to get one more point on one's ride skill, for example.

As a linguist myself, and further as a student of a number of languages over the years, I find this trivialization of the effort that goes into learning an L2 (second, non-native language) deeply offensive. I've worked long and hard for the ability to ask for the toilet in three languages other than my native language, and know what I am actually saying, and when I can say it without being completely inappropriate (and I STILL have a significant, non-native accent). I don't appreciate the barbarian being able to just toss out the points, spend whatever minimal time may be required by the system (D&D requires none, by the standard rules), and, without any interaction with actual L1 (first language, native) speakers, spout off a (supposedly) readily recognizable quote from the culture and sound just like someone who was raised in that community. And yes, this is all perfectly legal and acceptable in the base, standard, and utterly orthodox D&D rules set. And worse, most groups that I have played with see little wrong with this.

I realize that my stance on this issue may seem a little too demanding to some, but is it really all that outrageous to give credit to the person who spent the three years that the warrior spent learning how to wield a sword without cutting off her own foot instead in the pursuit of mere competence in talking to people from the next valley over, and making herself understood?

And the Stormcloud Cometh...

So what do other people think? Please let me know. Also, if possible, offer solutions. When I have time, I'll outline some of my fixes for various systems, starting with Exalted, and moving on to D&D and others. Also, check out MoLinguistics, one page where a possible solution is outlined (Thanks, Morpheus! ^_^ ). -Suzume

I don't think it's necessary to have an elaborate system with reference to some phenomenon unless you want to focus your game on said phenomenon.

I don't think that the vast majority of Exalted players want to focus their games o the intricacies of cultural assimilation and language learning. So, it's handwaved. - willows

I'm not talking about elaborate phonological or pragmatic learning as a direct model. I'm really not. I'd just like a bit more realization of the effort that goes into learning and using a language. I'll worry about "Knowledge How" and "Knowledge That" (for reference by non-linguists, a reference to one philosophical-theoretical system that attempts to explain what it means to "Know" a language), but I prefer for my players to have to work a little to communicate with that evil vizier, or with the palace servant who knows his secrets. -Suzume
I just consider the feats of excellence that people in Creation can accomplish with 2 Ability dots and say, "People in Creation are really good at stuff." I don't think they have as hard a time with anything as real people do. The effort involved in learning new languages is just as significant as the effort involved in learning to, say, do a backflip and hit someone with a sword at the same time while singing a battle hymn in three-part counterpoint; it's just that there is a massive, generalised reduction of effort-to-learn. - willows
I'll save my real reply 'till I have time to think without having my head explode from tiredness. Until then, consider this:
          1. The backflip is the first of three actions, incurring a -3 dice penalty, but is only diff 1 (and only that because it's part of a more complex action)
          2. The hitting with the sword part is fairly standard, but as the second of three actions, incurs a -4 dice penalty, and is partially dependant on the target of the attack for its success
          3. Singing the Battle Hymn - in three part counterpoint, no less - is the third of three actions, and so incurs a -5 dice penalty (rapidly moving it out of the realm of possibility of the "standard" combat-wonk), and if the character is singing all three parts, is at least a diff 3 challenge
          4. If anydefensive actions are to be reserved on this turn, the penalties go up by one for each additional action, just on the prior actions, and start climbing very rapidly on the defenses (best hope for one of the persistent and/or perfect effects, folks)
          5. I would grant, just on my judgement at most a one-die stunt on that description, but the player should still seriously consider using a charm for her weak point in that sequence, or hope that she's developed a really good combo (or maybe just give a better stunt...)
Anyway, just so anyone reading this wonders, I am specifically NOT being a wise-ass here. Just enjoying the way willows's mind works. ^_^ -(Going to sleep, now...) Suzume
Personally, I do think that the difficulty of learning languages in Exalted is probably about as egregiously ridiculous as the difficulty of learning anything else. Consider that if you go from 4 to 5 melee and it's favoured, for example, you are required to put in no training time. Yeah, um ... I don't think so. In other words, I think it's a mistake to try and discuss realistic language systems from a (canonical) Exalted point of view; Exalted is (canonically) ridiculous in every single way when it comes to learning anything, so stupid mechanics for learning languages fit the rule rather than being an exception.

I think it'll be more profitable to discuss language-learning here in terms of abstract mechanics rather than attempting to directly relate it to Exalted, because that will get us closer to what we're actually trying to do, especially considering that most Exalted players froth at the mouth if you attempt to relate realism to the game. I know this is an Exalted wiki, but hey, do you care about going off-topic? I know I don't.
~ Shataina

Thanks. <Restrains herself from the foaming-at-the-mouth impulses when she gets into a good argument...> You're right that this wasn't really intended to be just Exalted, but rather the general failings and successes of Language and Language learning in this little hobby we're shelling out tons of money for. ^^; Note that I started with an example from the D&D 3e/3.5 mechanic. I'm also interested to know if there really is an interest out there in more modeling of "...the intricacies of cultural assimilation and language learning..." or if I really AM the only one... Also, not that this IS in the "meta" category of the discussions page for a reason.
Incidentally, I do think that there is a good explanation, in in-game meta, for a sudden learning of a language, just as there is the same potential reasoning for the swords princess suddenly becoming that much more deadly. The favored and Caste abilities are skills that the characters are not just talented with, but are supernaturally adept at. Is this handwavium? Not really. It IS a grouping of several canonically mentioned and explained routes for competence in the given Abilities. From fragments of memory that Lytek failed to scrub off of the Soul-Shard, to an inherent talent that is given supernatural reinforcement by the power of Exaltation, to something that has been rehearsed and meditated upon for years, there are thousands of potential explanations. And these should be part of the character's backstory and structure. Does this impinge on the character creation process? Rarely. Instead, the bizarely abstract Resources trait is usually given more attention than whether or not a villager from a remote valley in the far corner of a world with a surface larger than our own can understand whether the barbarians who captured him at the opposite side are deciding which Fair Folk Noble to sell him to or whether he'll taste good as part of dinner in a few days, after he's "cured" a bit.
Of course, as I said before, this ISN'T just an Exalted issue. I've never played a game that deals with comunication in an effective or meaningful manner. I'd appreciate comments about other systems, good and bad (the comments OR the systems) with which I might or might not be familiar. Please tell me!-Suzume

I spent about 11 years in French Immersion, so I can understand how difficult it is to learn a second language. There are a couple of things that come to mind with this language thing for Exalted in terms of making it more . . . rigorous. Craft and Survival force you to buy a bunch of them. If you want language learning and use to be more difficult, make Linguistics like those Abilities, and have a Linguistics (language) for every one listed in the Corebook and whichever ones you wish to use. Make up a scale to reflect how it works . . . say, 1 dot in the language is communicating basic needs in a crude fashion (e.g. 'I need bathroom,' 'me hungry/want food,' 'give drink'), with 5 being the perfect fluency with minimal accent and appropriate language use. I don't know. I am not a Linguist.
But, to be honest, I think it is as much the fault of players as systems for dealing with the language thing so poorly. It just doesn't seem like fun stuff. It is hard for me to envision what any game would gain by making languages more important. Socialize, Performance, and Presence seem like the Abilities to cover whether you effectively use the languages you have to make the impression you want. Perhaps you could borrow something from the Ride Ability, and have Social Abilities capped by a character's Linguistics in the specific language they are using (if you used the thing where each language is a new purchase of Linguistics). It'll make Linguistics more important in the game, at least, or make the players become adamantly xenophobic, refusing to deal with anyone who does not speak their language. ~ Andrew02

Funny you should say that ... MoLinguistics, cited above, is a system that does exactly what you suggest (in terms of the initial 1-5 thing). The suggestion for the social abilities is interesting too, but I have to say that I think it doesn't quite work ... if you have 5 Presence, I suspect that you make an impression even if you have no idea what to say. Eloquence has something to do with social manoeuvres, but not enough to nullify the words of an otherwise max-human-potential persuader, for example. Then again, I never much liked the Ride thing either.
~ Shataina

I think, that at least in part, it's due to the people designing the game, the people running the game, and the people playing the game not really having any idea of actually how hard it is to learn a second (or third, or whatever) language. I myself have never bothered to learn another language, but it doesn't seem as though it would be that hard, at least, to be able to make yourself understood in normal, everyday speech, given how many people do it. But then, I've never learnt a second language, so what do I know?
But I will admit that some systems have struck me as too lenient. D&D is one, and probably the worst offender I've seen. WW isn't quite so bad, but there were always problems with it too. For example, basing languages off the linguistics ability seems kinda odd. In 2nd ed, it was linear, meaning the best linguist in the world could only speak five extra languages... On the other hand, having it be exponential, like in 3rd ed, maybe made it a bit too easy.
Perhaps another way to look at it, not necessarily an explanation, but it wouldn't surprise me if WW kinda expected players to define exactly how well their characters can speak another language. While you may know 30-odd languages, you can only speak 3 or 4 with any degree of fluency.
Of course, treating it like crafts is probably, by far, the best way to go in terms of representing skill with languages. It doesn't make perfect sense, but if you want a simple solution, it seems pretty good to me.
Me, I'm not sure I'd want languages to be such a big part in games, though it does depend on the Genre. But in general, I agree, languages do tend to be underused. Possibly because in day to day life for most people IRL, language isn't an issue anymore. Not in Exalted, but more modern day games. - ipsi

Where you from, ipsi?
~ Shataina
New Zealand. Hmm... Thinking about it, I retract that last comment of mine - it's still an issue, but less so than it has been in the past, I think. Actually, thinking harder, I've no idea. How about someone tell me I'm right or wrong before I dig myself in deeper? But I've never studied this, in any way. I'm just making assumptions based on gut feeling :D - ipsi (Note the lowercase initial i)

I find that most systems try to use an unrealistic approach to language. Why? Because the vast majority of games have to have zillions of languages -- the settings would be totally ludicrous otherwise; there's no way to justify having a single common language in almost any setting -- but most players and storytellers hate it. I think most of the reason is that it's easy for people to forget, while gaming, that they may not speak the same language -- I can't tell you how many times I've been in gaming groups in which I had an animated IC conversation going on and then, suddenly, "Oh, wait, I don't speak your character's language ...." Whoops. Also, when you don't know the language of the NPC you're talking to, it sharply cuts down on your character's options -- no negotiation possible, less dramatic wordiness, etc. In other words, extra languages are frequently seen as annoyances that get in the way of roleplaying. Thus, most systems try to put in an option that will reduce the realism of languages in the game, so that players don't feel that they have to address it at all (or if they do, it's minimal).

White Wolf should never have made Linguistics an Ability in the first place. It's like making Appearance an Attribute. What were they thinking? Neither of the above actually fits in the relevant category, and it tends to just screw everything up. It's fine with me to be able to buy languages with Ability points, but making Linguistics an Ability which decides how many languages a person knows confuses the issue; not to mention the fact that a person's knowledge of Linguistics tends not to have as much to do with how many languages they actually know as you'd think.

I haven't played that many different games, but I do recall one whose approach to languages struck me -- 7th Sea (a fantastic game, worth snapping up if you can find the old books from before they sold out to d20). 7th Sea uses Hero Points to build characters -- everything costs a certain number of Hero Points. Languages are costed by what country the character originates from; in other words, a character who originates in Avalon (England, basically) has a much harder time learning Ussuran (Russian) than Montaigne (French). I think this is a good idea at chargen, but the problem is that they don't actually change it when you start buying them through experience -- the language is still costed by what country you originate in. This does make a certain amount of sense in terms of language families, but the problem is that the languages point values don't appear to be determined by language families, but rather by sheer distance from the character's country. Very clumsy. Still, a good idea.
~ Shataina

I wish I had a clever and simple answer to the posed question, but I don't. I have had the same problems as everyone else here. I don't know that language, etc. I have even been in a game where out of four starting characters on two could talk to each other at a time because they all took different languages and only two people shared two languages. This made relaying information more like playing telephone than anything else. We quickly spent time learning a "common" language so we could speak to each other. In regards to Exalted, I am still new so things are still shiny to me but I like how it was put earlier. It's magic, or bad housekeeping however you see it, and thus can be a more inate ability. I think a great example of a "magical" learning of a language is in the movei The Thirteenth Warrior in which he is surrounded by glibberish for a long time and spends a lot of time focusing on the sounds and correlated actions to learn the language without a tutor. He then begins to hear the conversations in "english" and can understand eveything and speak it as well. Realistically it doesn't work that well but then again we are playing a game with giant robots and dinosaurs right? We need to have some flexibility.

I don't know if I will ever get to the point where I will determine a "language chart" based on the languages (I'm just happy having a list of the 12 base languages) but the only down side I can see to doing a system like that is balance in making certain languages appropriately hard to learn without making the simpler languages overly difficult. Example: You have your "basic" language (Riverspeak) which is as close to a universal language as it gets. From this point you could learn Low Realm at a certain difficulty, High Realm at a higher one, Old Realm at a higher one yet and Rock Tongue at the same or higher rate than Old Realm. The question that I have is would Old Realm be easier to learn since all the spirits talk in Old Realm or does it stay difficult to reflect their nature and the limited exposure mortals should have to them? In the reverse aspect, Riverspeak breaks down to what next? Forest Tongue and Air Tongue (geographical), then Flame Tongue and Sea Tongue? Then Tribal Tongues are based off of region from that point on (Ten Tribes tribal language based off of Forest Tongue)? I think without assigning a dialect or attaching a certain tongue to a known language it would be hard to come up with a balanced system. - Buji

To the extent you care about language in your game, write a mechanic to emphasize the things you think are important. Linguistics assumes it gets harder and harder to master a new language based on how many you know, although each dot actually provides several distinct languages and dialects and such - "Riverspeak" is probably like saying "the Chinese language", because there isn't just one. You can do the Craft-like route, where each language has a rating. You can roll Linguistics and use the successes there as a cap to the successes on a Socialize/Performance roll. Do you want to focus on cultural and linguistic differences? Set difficulties for rolls based on Linguistics expertise and/or your judgement as ST about a PC's cultural exposure. Do you want to focus on the conceptual differences between languages? Require that certain activities (Socialize in the Realm, etc.) be performed in a given language. LIE to the players about what an NPC said, if you think that there is a risk of miscommunication, and let them discover this later. This can sometimes be upsetting, because the Exalted aren't supposed to suffer from the same high barriers to education that mortals do. This final point is worth thinking about - if you have Exalted PCs, EVEN IF you know this is how languages work in the real world, should these demigods really be slowed down by not knowing "soucre'" vs. "sucre'"? -- BillGarrett

To a degree, I think this happens in all RPG's, if you know about a topic, you can look at how something is treated you in a RPG, you can find things that are not oversimplified, but just plainly, horribly WRONG in a most bizarre way. Luckely, I'm a CS gradstudent, so I can usually get away with not playing deckers in Shadowrun. I imagine fencing instructors probably avoid fantasy RPG's altogether. You have my sympathy.

Most games have an element of exploration to them, and it's hard to have that if people can't communicate. 7th Sea is particuarly eggregious inthis area, the system encourage people to make PC's from differnt countries, but then makes it impossible for them to speak with each other(languages are expensive). The result is every PC takes the Linguist advantage, which reduces the language costs to a sane amount. Language barriers are fun to a degree, but become tiring after a while. They also limit the ability of PC's to 'talk amonst them selves'. Most games either make it insanely easy to know lots of languages, or have a common lanuguage(with varying degree's of rationlization in setting). The only real other solution is force your PC's to be from areas with the same language. The other problem is they tend to become a silly source of xp drain, thus discouraging people from being from interesting places, as

In Exalted, arn't all languages decended from Old Realm(the 'Langauage of the Gods')? Between that, and the fact that most places are either close to the Realm or have faced a conquest attempt from it, not to mention that languages have only had ~700 years to diverge(I know that's alot), you could probalby make a case that all languages in Creation are somewhat related, with most differences being in vocabulary. Maybe?

My solution would be keep Linguistics as a measure of overall language ability, but break it into individual languages like this
Doh. I think is really similar to something Suzume mentioned on the original discussion, but I'll leave it for now
1 - tourist speak, can't read
2 - speaks with an accent, but understandable, some reading, you could have the reverse for a language learned primarily to be read, such as latin in modern times
3 - avg native(read and write fine)
4 - highly educated native (large vocabulary)
5 - Linguist/professor of the language
At characther creation, say each dot in Linguistics gives you N=4? dots in these sub-languages. (i.e. fluency in 1, minor capabiltiy with another) You could also say each (month? week?) of immersion gives XP=Linguistics that can only be spend on learning that langugage. Could scale the XP cost learning individual lanuages by overall Linguistics ability also, maybe each XP spend gives (Linquistics) points toward learning a Languaged(since a 3 is basicly equivilent to 1 level under the old system). Anyway, it's some thoughts -- FlowsLikeBits

Heh. Yes. Again, MoLinguistics, which Suzume referred to above, does something very similar to what you're describing.
~ Shataina

Pretty sure that Lore covers reading, but if you wanted to toss Linguistics that bone, go ahead. It kinda sorta makes. It's a bit simple, if memory serves. 1 or 2 dots in Lore and you can read and write any language you know. ~Andrew02

It's a bit confusing in the core book actually. You need Lore-1 to write, but this applies to all languages you know.(Which is odd, apparently, you don't need Lore to READ? Usually, the two go together, to a degree. Maybe Lore covers grammer?) Also, rolls to r/w langugages use linguistics. I'd say Linguistics-5, Lore-1 would probably require an interesting story(you know many languages, but don't know about anything?), but isn't impossible by any means. Sorry about the sidetrack.
If Linguistics is gonna be an Ability, I would personally think it'd be better if it covered reading too. Lore has too much already, and besides, Charms for reading fall under Linguistics.
~ Shataina
Yeah, I've always found that to be a bit weird. I can see the justification for needing Lore to read and write (I'm assuming that, even if it only says write...), but it does pose problems with a large number of the linguistic charms needing Lore 1 to be useable at all. - ipsi
This is an issue. One problem, however, is that Reading and Writing (which are, actually very separate skills, though related) are Never primary to any language. There is always a layer of abstraction between Natural Language and Text, no matter how one works to remove it. One CAN teach children to read very early, some experiments indicate even before full Vocalization skills are obtained, but there is always a level of Language acquisition before this point, and most children are not rigorously exposed to text before they have a great deal of vocalization skill. Modeling in this system, then, although it seems like it would be appropriate to move all function of reading and writing into a presupposed Linguistics ability as currently envisioned, such a move would actually be counter to real language/text funtioning. A level of "Lore" is actually appropriate within the established context.
The answer to this dilemma is either a change in the way that Linguistics-Based Special Abilities function, the way that they are costed via prerequisites, or an overhaul of the schema pattern (resulting in BOTH the aforementioned solutions). None of these options are particularly satisfying, as in any event, they require a great deal of reworking, but perhaps one might make more sense for someone. <Adds this to the hypothetical list of "Things that would be good to comment on", which seems to always be growing biger faster than it can be addressed... ^^; -Suzume
Exalteds skill system is, well really abstract. Thus, lumping reading and writing under linguistincs doesn't seem any worse than anything else. Personally, I have trouble imagining Writing without Reading. (If nothing else, the only possible use of it, taking dictation, should eventually teach one to Read, even if it was sight-reading only). I had forgotten the Lore requirement until it was mentioned here, so I bet many people don't use it. I know my group now uses power combat, which reduced alot of the one-dot in many things effect. --FlowsLikeBits
With normal performance, you're probably likely to see reading without writing more often than the opposite. It takes some pretty specific lesioning to get the inability to read but ability to write. - willows in interested in the effects of brain damage on written language
About the only "Writing without Reading" system you are likely to see short of some really bizzare case would be the a person trained to draw without being aware of what they're "writing". However, as this sort of thing wouldn't really represent a linguistic phenomenon, it's sort of moot. -Suzume <who is going to look for any relevant papers on MLA, now that her interest is piqued...>
As a linguist, I understand the point that Suzume is trying to make. I find that simply using an abstract story-teller method works, in both Exalted and in other systems like D&D. If you want to learn a language, you need someone there who can teach it to you, and you need to have your character spend the time to learn it. If you can't find anyone who speaks it, and is willing to teach you, and you can't find the time in game to have your character sit down and learn it, then you can't take the language.
As for competency levels, wouldn't having a different Linguistics ability for each language turn it into an XP sink? Maybe having a notation thing, whereby the number of dots in Linguistics determines how easily you can learn a language, in that learning a language off of an L1 speaker has a diff based on the language's obscurity, and a linguistics check is used to see how well you learn it? Continued study (and passing of checks) earns the character a higher competency, which would be noted on some extra piece of paper.
I've been studying Japanese for 4 years now, Korean for 2 and Chinese for 2, and I still wouldn't consider myself anywhere near fluent. While one of the Chosen might be able to pick up a language with a month's learning from a speaker, they still don't just gain the knowledge instantly. I don't allow any increases without the character devoting some in-game time to training that Ability, why should I let them do it for languages?
Also, my idea there allows for Linguistics charms to assist language learning. (Not speaking like we already have)


I understand the questioning of other systems, but in the context of Exalted I have problems seeing it. Imagine one of the most skilled and capable people you've ever known... no that the world has ever known. Now, that's just a heroic mortal... maybe. Now make this same person an Exalt and their skill grows greater than anyone the world has ever seen. These are the people who do twelve impossible things before breakfast, so why should learning a language be any different?

I know how hard it is to learn languages, I've tried and not at all with much success over my 4 years. But as useless as I am with other languages, I know there are people who are that naturally adept. I've met someone who was speaking French fluently after a month with a native French woman. I'm sure she had holes in her understanding, but she was that good. They look like uneducated fools next to the supernatural beings that wander Exalted on a daily basis. - haren

No kidding. I have heard some Storytellers go "but but but you can't just learn languages overnight, that is stupid". Well, guess what. My Dawn Caste over here just mastered EVERY MELEE WEAPON EVER after a few minutes of contemplation. The Zenith is becoming a naturally better performance artist and now can survive in mountains and isolated areas he never knew anything about before. The Twilight is learning lost or advanced techniques of crafting RIGHT OUT OF THE AIR.
And you know? Who cares. "Thought is carried on the element of wind, and you are attuned to the thought of all men through your transcendent divine insight into language. The words of Flametongue crystallize in your mind, though you find that they were always there, waiting to be discovered." Restrict languages that have other restrictions (e.g. Guild Cant, unless the PC has the proper Backing, and many hidden languages), and don't be afraid to say "yes". My question to these STs is: When it comes down to it, is learning a language on the fly going to derail your plot? If no, what's your beef? -- BillGarrett

This discussion is one of the highlights of the Wiki, in my opinion, and I've been longing to add my 2.33 yen. However, my opinion is somewhat lengthy, so I wrote it as an independent essay and posted it over at UncleChu/Language instead of cluttering up this discussion. I do so hope you all pop in to have a read and share your thoughts. Basically, I come up with reasons to justify Exalted's weird Linguistic system instead of coming up with more complicated systems to fix it. Simplicity reigns supreme, and easily indexable canon rules are much handier than web content. --UncleChu

I'm fairly happy with the system as it stands at the moment and your essay has given a good reason for things to be like that. However, I'm probably going to make changes anyway. I'm going to be taking on-board the unlimited specialities but max of 3 dice can be added to a roll house roll that's been put up on these boards (which I can't find again, so props to whoever wrote it down). This means that individual languages can be bought as specialities to represent your facility with them specifically. Linguistics then deals with all written communication in general (ciphers, calligraphy and so on). -- Somori

One thing that you should take into consideration is the method of learning, if a skill is favoured there is no training time. The reason behind this is that the system specifically allows flashbacks, dream sequences or 'lost memories' to resurface from a solar's past incarnation and they get the skill increase. Exalted is a cinematic anime style system, its not realistic and it was never intended to be realistic. It is about people who routinely pull off stunts that nobody in real life could do, no matter how long they trained. Being fully competent in the skill is rated as having 2 dots in it, where as exalted can have up to 8 with specialties. I fully appreciate that learning languages is hard - and that whilst some languages have the same root, they are not all the same, but the canon rules for learning languages are actually stricter than any other skill. For one dot in linguistics you get a single language, for a single dot in performance you get basic skills in signing, dancing, playing any instrument, acting, and so forth, for a dot in Melee you get every known concievable weapon. For a single dot in survival you get basic knowledge in arctic, jungle, mountain, plains, forest, coastal and marsh survival but you still only get one language per dot of linguistics! Personally I think the language learning is slightly too restrictive as with its current rules it is equally as expensive to learn 2 languages as it is to learn to fight competently with any muscle powered weapon ever created. Also with the current rules you are limited to only learning 5 languages unless you have essence 6 or higher, I know several people in real life that can speak more languages than that fluently. Eldmar

I dunno if it's cool or not to ressurect this page for a bit, but... Ah well.

The major problem with reflecting learning new languages in a realistic way is a portion of what I call "Bathroom Break Gaming". While it might be more like the real world for a character to learn languages based on their mother tongue easier than a totally foreign language, it adds a level of realism to the average game that's about as much fun as rolling Stamina checks during hours-long battles or spell casting because you need to go to the bathroom. And if you want to depict the realistic troubles in one area, why ignore the very real, very common, very relatable problem of releaving yourself after hours of exursion? I know it comes up more in MY life that I get a -1 environmental penalty because I really can't leave the office as opposed to knowing the proper way to write "hi honey" in cyrillic or japanese.

There's also the ever-expanding ability tree argument. You might feel Linguistics are misrepresented and require Craft-like sub-abilities, but I'd certainly argue the same for Riding. I can ride a horse, but I'd be clueless with a dragon or even a flying horse... And I'm pretty good on a horse. I'm sure someone on the wiki knows quite a bit about world history and would argue Lore should be broken up into dozens of Lores (national history, cultural history, military history, ect. And that's just history!!). Melee is the same and has been mentioned, but what about Sail? Bureaucracy? Heck, every ability? Once the ST has rules for their own area of specialty to be more complex, her players might wonder why their own areas aren't expanded.

And in the end, it should be based on fun levels. When I played my barbarian island girl from the West, speaking her own language nobody knew and a smattering of the main language of the group, misunderstandings were for FUN!! Yet when we went to the scavenger lands and the group was getting a place to stay, having the one who learned River Tongue a few sessions ago stumbling over every word would be boring and UN-FUN. (Of course the highest fun was that my barbarian girl kept cursing in her native tongue at one of the characters, who eventually learned what she was saying and hid that knowledge from her for a full month game time, then tore into her in her own language, only to call her "lovely beyond compare and an excellent chopstick" instead of something not quite printable...) Cylyria

  • historian raises hand and waves* You're right, although Exalted-style history and the modern field aren't the same thing in terms of technique and methodology. As for the language issue, it's a pain in the neck. It really depends on how you approach it. The average person in Exalted has one or two dots in Linguistics at most. The biggest issue here is that the ST needs to decide when it's relevant (such as the barbarian island girl) and when it isn't (getting some food). If your character is reasonably intelligent and has invested the experience, just don't worry about it. - MoonSword
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