Thursday, March 13, 2014

(interlude) -- Languages & Stuff

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss a few things that readers may (or may not) have wondered about.  The first of these has to do with in-game languages.


To begin with, like most GMs, I totally ignore the concept of "alignment languages".  As far as I'm concerned the concept is a non-starter and I do not allow it in either my social or solo games.

For humans, while I have a number of different languages in my social game, for the purposes of The Laughing Owl there is a "common" language . . . which you may as well think of as English (I do).

For the Delvers, all PCs will know Common as either their first or second language.  If non-human, they will know their "racial" language first, then common second, with any additional languages following.  Humans (of course) will have Common as their "milk tongue".  Beyond that, if Clerics they will know their religious tongue next; for other classes, they will be randomly determined.

All PCs will automatically know two languages (one of which will be Common).  They will know additional languages depending upon the "plusses" of their INT and WIS.  I am using the basic plus concept (13-15 = +1, 16-17 = +2, 18 = +3).

While I have more languages available in my social games, for the purpose of my solo games I randomly determine all other languages using the following list:
  1. Egyptian *
  2. Greek *
  3. Latin
  4. Arabic
  5. Hindi
  6. Norse *
  7. Dwarvish
  8. Elvish
  9. Gnoll
  10. Gnome
  11. Goblin
  12. Hobbit
  13. Hobgoblin
  14. Ogre
  15. Orcish
  16. Pixie
  17. Saurig
  18. Swaash
  19. Taltish
  20. Drakish -- note that only Mages may learn this, as their last language and at half normal -- otherwise, re-roll
The first six languages are human tongues and all human-formed writings will (randomly) in one of them.  Those marked with red asterisks (*) are the three "religious" languages (clerics will know the appropriate one).  The rest are racial languages . . . and all members of those races that the players encounter will only speak (or at least admit to speaking) their own lingo.

A PC's "milk tongue" is known at the level of their INT.  Their second language is 1d3+1 levels lower.  All subsequent languages are an additional 1d3 lower.

For example, in Delve 18, Taggert spoke to a passing Dwarf.  As it turns out, Taggert has an INT of 13 and WIS of 15 (each of which would give a +1) so he had two extra languages (giving him four).  His first, of course was Common (he being human) at 13 (his INT), next (randomly) he speeks Latin at 11, Elvish at 10 and Dwarvish at 7.

I chose a die-size to roll depending upon the complexity of the message to roll against the PCs understanding.  For Taggert I rolled a d8 and got an "8", so he almost got it but mangled a few of the words.  So the two commenters who thought it might refer to "Beowulf" were correct . . . but Taggert didn't get it (the Elf did but didn't explain it).


I had decided that if/when the party reached "half" that additional adventurers would appear for the next "bag of beans" . . . and so it will be.  Indeed they are already listed in the "Cast of Characters" ("Cast of Characters" link can be seen immediately to the top right side of screen).

Yes, I know that I haven't written the post describing it yet but I've been under-the-weather healthwise . . . nothing terrible, just some sort of bug (sore throat, stuffy head, achy bones, wanting to sleep all the time, etc.) . . . so I've not been as active as I would like.

I hope that you have enjoyed this "look behind the scenes" at some of the gimmicks that I'm using.

-- Jeff


  1. I should have noted that "Saurig" and "Swaash" are the languages of the "Desert" and "Swamp" Lizardfolk in my world . . . and "Taltish" is the language of Giants.

    Also NPC magic-users' spell books are written in their "milk tongues". The two Orcish language scrolls the Delvers have COULD have been read by a number of characters (Jangnar, Olaf, Sperl) had they not died prior to the fact. Fortunately one of the new reinforcements (Ptaro) speaks it.

    -- Jeff

  2. I definitely like the behind-the-scenes posts, especially since I've had a chance to see into the world already. I've been really lax about detailing the languages of my current solo gameworld, probably because I'd be incapable of writing less than 1000 words detailing language families and dialects. At some point I should do a general 'here's some stuff I thought up about the world' post, but I still have a severe backlog of game notes to type up first.

    Which reminds me, I meant to say that your Delve #18 has an amazing bit of synchronicity with what will probably be my Part 17. And it had already been played out before your post was made. The PCs were done withthe dungeon and halfway to Casterbury by then. But enough spoilers.

    I hope you're feeling better!

  3. First, yes, for my social game I've got alphabet groups, related languages and many more langauges, etc. But for the solo delving I figured that I'd simplify it . . . and this works fine for this type of adventuring.

    As for my health, it is a bit better today than it has been for the last several . . . but I'm still really dragging. In fact even though it is my sweet wife's birthday today, she wants to delay going out to dinner for it until next week when I should be feeling better.

    -- Jeff

    1. Simplicity does seem to be best for solo gaming. I've found that not worrying about certain details of the world has kept things going much more smoothly. If the characters ever get more than 100 miles from home I will introduce cultural differences, but for now Common, Elvish and Dwarvish are a convenient shorthand for the major languages being spoken.

      I like your comprehension mechanic a lot.

  4. I enjoyed this post and a "behind the scenes" look at your game/world. I haven't thought a whole lot about languages in my game world(s). Of course, I like keeping things simple. :)

    I hope you continue to fell better! Have fun celebrating your sweet wife's birthday when you feel better, and happy birthday to her!

  5. Fitz,

    One of the reasons that I use languages in social games is so that it allows normally quiet players to step to the fore when their character is the only one to speak a language.

    Not as important in solo games, but it keeps things a bit interesting . . . particularly with some of the last languages where misunderstandings become more likely depending upon the dice.

    I can use anything from a d6 (for very simple) up to a d20 for complex discussions. Most of the time I'm using d8, d10 or d12 to test with.

    -- Jeff

  6. Yes, you're last delve illustrates very well how languages can add some detail and interest and characterization in a simple way and that really helps in solo games. I like your method of rolling different size/sided dice for level of understanding, too.
    (filing this away mentally for possible future games of my own)

  7. Hey, you or anyone else who finds anything useful in my posts is most welcome to use them as is or modify them as you please . . . at no charge whatsoever . . . freely given if anyone finds something of use.

    -- Jeff