Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Languages Again


Language is like your Vacc Suit - don't leave home without it.
Semiotic by Dave Reddington Airlock 14
During the course of recent game play, the subject of Languages and Learnt Languages came up again – particularly as the player characters are interacting with various non-humans who don’t necessarily speak Imperial Basic as their first language. After an interesting discussion, I set to work to extend and streamline my original thoughts on Languages in Traveller.

In my earlier post on Languages, I suggested that characters have a language pool of the average of their Intelligence and Education in points to allocate to Languages that they wish to learn. Some players might wish to allocate all their points at the beginning of play to ensure that their characters have a broad suite of languages. Others might chose to take one secondary language to a conversational level, or several languages to a basic information swapping level and effectively bank their remaining language points until the prospect of venturing into a new region of space requires them to learn a new language.

I’m still inclined to retain the Language Points pool because, as a resource allocation tool, it obliges players to make decisions, rather than just have their characters become polyglots. The process of making decisions about the languages characters learn tends to get the players more involved with both their characters and the milieu their characters inhabit. Languages served up in bulk, or for gratis, I find, tend to be noted and then forgotten about, including by the Games Master.

Languages and Learning Languages
A Character’s ability to learn languages is a measure of the Character’s Language Aptitude Skill. Once a Character has acquired Language Aptitude Skill, Language Potential points can be determined and then the Character can assign these Language Potential points to indicate his or her fluency in a particular language.

There are two ways a Character can acquire Language Aptitude Skill:
1) Following Character Generation, a Character may roll to see if he or she has received Language Aptitude Skill during service:
To receive Language Aptitude Skill: Roll 10+, DM+1 if Int 9+, +1 if Edu 9+, +2 if Int and Edu 10+, +1 per term with the potential for contact with other languages and cultures. Such terms can include Assignments to Training Schools or Officer Training Schools, or various missions in the field, or Navy Life, or Army Life, etc.
For every two points the Language Aptitude Skill roll is exceeded by, the Character gains +1 Language Potential points to his or her base Language Potential points pool.

2) Alternatively, a Character may convert one skill level in either Steward or Carousing into Language Aptitude Skill. Language Potential points are then determined in the manner outlined below.

Both of these methods permit a character to begin play with an existing suite of languages. Unassigned language points may be retained. These represent future language potential but, once play begins, these language points can only be assigned after the Character has undertaken a course of study – see below. Established Characters may determine their Language Aptitude as per method 1 at any time during their Adventuring career and, if successful, they can determine their Language Potential points pool. As Established Characters are deemed to be learning languages later in life, they will have to spend time actually learning a language (either via chip, or tape, or with an instructor) rather than starting play with already learnt languages – apart from their native language, of course.

Language Points pool:
Once a Character has gained Language Aptitude Skill, he or she gains a Language Potential points pool. This is determined by averaging Intelligence and Education stat scores, and can be modified if the Character exceeds the roll required to acquire Language Aptitude Skill – see above. This point pool can be used to buy a Skill Level in a new language, or to increase the character’s fluency in an already purchased language.
A character will have a native language to Fluency Level 3. Characters with Education of 9+ automatically increase their native language to Fluency Level 4 at no cost. Characters with Education 12+ automatically increase their native language to Fluency Level 5 at no cost.

Learning New Languages or Increasing Fluency in Learned Languages:
Characters without Language skill must first gain Language Aptitude Skill. By undertaking a six month course of study, they learn how to learn languages. Such a course can be undertaken by tape or chip, and the course software will set and evaluate course work. At the end of the six month course, the Character must attend a finishing course of two weeks duration at an A or B Class Starport to successfully graduate the course and gain Language Aptitude Skill. The course costs Cr500 and requires a roll of 10+ to pass, DMs, +1 if Int 10+, +1 if Edu 10+. Once the Character has gained Language Aptitude Skill (the course may be taken as often as required, at Cr500 per time), he or she gains a Language Potential pool of the average of Int and Edu in points to assign to learning languages.

A Character attempting to learn a new Language must undertake a six month period of study, either via chip or tape, or with a tutor (who must have both Instruction Skill and at least Level 3 Fluency in the language being studied). If a tutor is engaged, then the Character must remain based in the tutor’s locality for the duration of the course. A study course costs Cr500 (Cr2000 if using the services of a tutor, Cr6000 plus a High Passage return ticket if the tutor is required to accompany the Character) and requires a two week intensive study and evaluation period at its conclusion at either an A or B Class starport or at a school with a teacher who must have both Instruction Skill and at least one Level of fluency in the language higher than the level the Character wishes to attain. Roll 10+ to gain a Level 2 Fluency in the language being studied; DMs +1 Int 9+, +1 Edu 9+, +2 Int and Edu 10+, +2 if using a tutor. If the required roll is exceeded by 2, then a Level 3 Fluency is attained.

Fluency levels:
Level 1: Basic Communication – “Where this?” “How much?” “Where food?”
Level 2: Average Communication – “ I needs hydropump for this many days” “You want how much for that?” A poorly educated native speaker (Education 3 – 5) with limited vocabulary. Otherwise, speaks with a heavy accent of origin and tends to mangle syntax or grammar.
Level 3: Good Communication – Native speaker with average education (Education 6 – 8) and vocabulary. Otherwise, speaks like a native, though still retains accent of origin.
Level 4: Excellent Communication – Native speaker with advanced education (Education 9 –11) and expanded vocabulary. Otherwise, speaks like a well educated native and able to debate history, art, poetry, politics, etc. Still retains a trace of accent of origin, though usually not noticeable to a native speaker.
Level 5: Superb Communication – Native speaker with superior education (Education 12 – 14) and extensive vocabulary. Otherwise, speaks like a well-educated native. Has possibly studied older forms of the language and can make allusions to classical authors, etc.

Language Point pool costs:
A Character’s native language does not cost any points and is usually at Fluency Level 3. Characters with Edu 9+ and Edu 12+ automatically gain Fluency Level 4 or 5 respectively at no cost. A Character with Fluency Level 3 or lower can increase his or her fluency in his or her native language in exactly the same way he, or she would increase Fluency in another language – by undertaking a six month course of study and rolling 10+ to raise the Fluency level by one, at the cost of one Language Point.

If Languages points are assigned during Character generation then each Fluency Level in each language learned costs 1 Language Pool point, except for the Character’s native language, which the Character gains for zero points. If the Character subsequently learns a new Language, and successfully completes the Language course (see above) then the initial Fluency Level of 2 is gained for 1 Language point. If the Character exceeds the required roll of 10+ by 2, the bonus of attaining Fluency Level 3 costs the same ie 1 Language point. Further courses of study cost 1 Language point per level of Fluency.

For example, Eeather swaps a level of Steward for Language Skill during Character generation. She has Intelligence 9 and Education 8. Averaging her two stats, she has a Language Point pool of 8 to play with. As a native of Feor, she already speaks Gamelean Basic (with a Feorian accent) to Level 3. Eeather is a Merchant and decides that picking up a couple of extra languages could be a good career move. Passage through Kalar-Wi space opens markets in the Cabria and Lymethius subsectors so she decides that taking Kalar-Wi to Level 2 for two points is a good starter. Beyond Kalar-Wi lies the Aslan Huiha Esoyatre in Lymethius subsector, so Eeather takes Trokh Esoyatre to Level 4 for four points, as Aslan, while pretty touchy about matters of pride and honour, respect someone who respects their language and culture. With her final two points, Eeather takes Trade Lingo, a pidgin language commonly used by merchants moving to and fro across the Imperial Border.

In summary, Eeather speaks:
Gamelean Imperial Basic Level 3 (Feorian accent)
Kalar-Wi Level 2 (Strong Feorian accent)
Trokh Esoyatre Level 4 (Slight Feorian accent)
Trade Lingo Level 2 (Strong Feorian accent)

As a Merchant Broker or Factor, she will be an asset to any ship crossing the Imperial Frontier.

Eeather’s cousin, Fargan, is also a Merchant. A bright (Int 9) and well-educated (Edu 10) scion of the family, he decides to roll for Language Aptitude Skill at the end of Character generation. Rolling 10, +1 for Int 9+, +1 for Edu 9+, +1 for an Exploratory Trade Mission assignment gives a total of 13, or three points more than the 10+ required to receive Language Aptitude Skill, so Fargan gains Language Aptitude Skill and +1 to his Language Potential points pool. With Int 9 and Edu 10, Fargan has a Base language Point pool of 9, +1 from his Language Aptitude roll equals 10 points.

As a Feorian native, Fargan speaks Gamelean Basic (with a Feorian accent) to Level 3, but his Education of 10 increases this to Level 4 (Slight Feorian accent) for zero points. As Kalar-Wi is handy to Feor, Fargan decides that taking Vriok (the Kalar-Wi language) to Level 3 (Feorian accent) for three points is a good move. He decides to spend a further 2 points on Trade Lingo Level 2 (Strong Feorian Accent). Undecided where adventure might take him, Fargan decides to “bank” his remaining 5 Language points until he works out where he might be travelling. After a year spent pottering around the Gamelea Subsector, the opportunity for a long voyage to Rimward presents itself. Consulting his Library Data, Fargan picks up Learn Language chips for Arrghoun – a Vargr language spoken in the Hunt of Rronurl – and Kassuriik – the language of the Purvions, a Minor Race native to Lithia/Miazan. During the six month trip to Lithia, Fargan dutifully completes his language course and then spends a two week lay-over at Miazan on his finals. He rolls 8, +1 for Int9+, +1 for Edu 9+ gives him a total of 10+. He gains Kassuriik Level 2 (Strong Feorian Accent) for 1 Language Point and now has to start work on his Arrghoun.

At this point he speaks:
Gamelean Imperial Basic (Slight Feorian Accent) Level 4
Vriok (Feorian Accent) Level 3
Trade Lingo (Strong Feorian Accent) Level 2
Kassuriik (Strong Feorian Accent) Level 2
He is in the process of learning Arrghoun and has four Language points still to assign.