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Author Topic: Realworld Languages Table  (Read 876 times)
Morgenstern
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« Reply #30 on: August 14, 2015, 08:56:39 PM »

  Given the narrative function of language barriers, part of me says "hard to understand" and "completely unintelligible" are NPC qualities that you pay about 2 and 5 xp for respectively... and never deal with languages again. Its all NPC side. In a truly narrative environment the only reason you can't talk to an NPC is because the GM wants to screw with the talky characters, so why not just pay a fee for it and move on? Wink You loose the quirky moment where Foggy Nelson will use his college classes in Punjabi to save the day (it'll happen) but you also skip all the "well poop. If I had just picked Cantonese instead..." fail moments. You can't talk to them because you were meant to not talk to them and the story both expects that and is not derailed by it. Don't worry, the clue you actually need is probably in their pocket where you can either pickpocket it or roll them after you beat them down.

Side note - this attitude about minutiae has extended to gear as well. Just like languages, spies "just have" a certain lifestyle and mission assets like cash, so we can keep it all the hell out of the way and avoid the "jet setting murder hobo" of 2.0.

  I say this without sarcasm of any kind: Good luck with that. Smiley

  I'd almost say fictional spies DON'T have cash, because they basically next-to-never walk into a store and buy what they need. Shopping is hard on pacing both on the screen and at the gaming table. If they come up short mid-story they steal stuff. Not even steal money to buy stuff, the go straight for stealing the stuff. In my experience if you tell a player he has a very reasonable 4-5 thousand dollars in their cache of IDs and small arms, they actually can't not try to spend it. Its there for a reason, right? That a writer might eventually fire Checkov's Gun in the form of a gambling scene or extravagant bribe, a gamer sees a near universal tool and not much reason to hold it for a dramtically fitting moment. Because they, unlike the writer, don't know it's coming.

  Huh. I wonder if there's a way to incentivize the dramatic "crush a problem with money" so that players look for those instead of shopping sprees when you hand them a couple thick bundles of bills.
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« Reply #31 on: August 14, 2015, 10:56:04 PM »

Part of the issue is that Spycraft 2nd Edition (and also Fantasy Craft) were OGL-based. Heavily modified from the standard yes, but still OGL-based, and thus certain OGL assumptions must be made, both regarding the rules and the player-base. I know that as a player of a little of both TOG and PF, I don't like having money jingling around unless I'm specifically saving up for something pricey and can expect to somehow pay for it within the next couple of sessions/adventures. Loose money equates to my money getting stolen, lost, melted, abandoned, and so forth... rather, I enjoy knowing that my money has been invested in something that has some weight to it like a flag, or a meal for the whole party, or a boat, or a sword. I'm not going to hold out my cash under the assumption that I might be able to bribe someone later or gamble it for more money; why waste one of my resources with a potential for a payoff, when I can invest it in something that's guaranteed?

On top of that, regarding the "people don't want Narrative, they want Inventory": Again, it's something implicit both in the OGL-based system and in tabletop games in-general with some exceptions (like FATE with their handwaving or the Storyteller System with their various dots to say "okay, you have enough Assets to own a house/car/private jet/mercenary crew"). A 'narrative' answer leads to arguments at the table with "okay, how come I have this but he doesn't?" or "why can't I do <X> when I clearly paid for <Y> as a character option? Why didn't you tell me before that I couldn't do that?"

It's basic sense to itemize what you have, to count out your materials and assets, and to trust the GM that he'll tell you what you have access to. Narrative systems need to tell UP-FRONT that they're narrative, or else people will default to simulation. "This class' damage is 1d10 because he's a trained warrior and can use any weapon effectively" is how Dungeon World can do it, and that's okay because it sets out to be narrative and fluff-based like that. "This NPC deals 3d6 with every attack they do no matter what they're using despite you guys having different damages based on what weapon you're using" is only alright if the party/players have been told, with no frills, that NPCs work on a different scale compared to PCs. If they're not told that, they'll instantly jump to trying to find what their enemy's superweapon was, and get frustrated when they can't find it because it was never there to begin with, but the GM never explained that. Sessions get stalled, feelings are hurt, all that negative stuff.

As someone who's never played Spycraft, I hope that 3rd Edition is both interesting and fun to play. I'll stick with FC no matter what however, and the way it works on most things works well with me.
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Bill Whitmore
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« Reply #32 on: August 15, 2015, 03:51:19 AM »

I hate playing the better gear game. It's pretty much what killed every MMO ever for me. I also don't like dealing with it for tabletop games.

As a GM, once the players start asking for sale prices of items and selling loot, I just pack up my stuff because I know the rest of the night is going to consist of me watching them pour over price lists of items, answering questions about what is available and them buying stuff.

As a player, I get bored looking through price lists, so I tend to just add my treasure cut to my sheet where it accumulates over time until my character becomes more or less useless every 4 or 5 levels. Then I begrudgingly buy some items to make my character viable while being annoyed that 80% of my character's effectiveness stems from the gear he is carrying.
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« Reply #33 on: August 15, 2015, 04:21:36 AM »

  Given the narrative function of language barriers, part of me says "hard to understand" and "completely unintelligible" are NPC qualities that you pay about 2 and 5 xp for respectively... and never deal with languages again. Its all NPC side. In a truly narrative environment the only reason you can't talk to an NPC is because the GM wants to screw with the talky characters, so why not just pay a fee for it and move on?

"Mess with Talky" like that strikes me more as a campaign quality 1-2 dice for a scene or session, 2-3 for an adventure

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« Reply #34 on: August 15, 2015, 11:19:29 AM »

I hate playing the better gear game. It's pretty much what killed every MMO ever for me. I also don't like dealing with it for tabletop games.

  That's one area where the real contemporary world helps. Fantasy settings count on magic to make stuff better. Pluses are a thing. Ultimately the cost to benefit ratio is ridiculously generous to players. They are expected to have +4 gear when the time comes. Basic stuff is very good in the contemporary setting and fewer pluses are even possible and they represent about 2 order of magnitude shifts in the cost. In a Modern setting upgrades are price multipliers (not small ones either) and they're applied sequentially. This upgrade is a x3. This one's a x4. Putting both on a single item is x12...

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As a GM, once the players start asking for sale prices of items and selling loot, I just pack up my stuff because I know the rest of the night is going to consist of me watching them pour over price lists of items, answering questions about what is available and them buying stuff.

  So here's a watch. Its 20$ and works great. A +1 watch is $2,000. A +2 watch is $200,000. A +3 watch (if they even exist) is $20,000,000. Just about any meaningful upgrade doubles each of those base prices. Two upgrades in any combination quadruples it. Sure. You want to do $100 here, $120 chicken scratch deals to get a $800,000 watch? Knock yourself out. The only way you are expected to have a +2 watch is if the campaign is structured to have you operating on the megabucks scale. Either starting out there or reaching it as the story progresses.

  Basically in a technological, post-mass-production world tangible advantage makes price skyrocket and have such incredible diminishing returns that a person who would happily wear a $20 watch is never going to save up for a $200,000 watch. They live in different worlds.

  And in many modern settings selling stuff can easily be wired to burn your reputation so hard and fast that generating that kinda of a paper trail is raw idiocy. "You sold a gun used in a shoot out? Do you WANT homicide detectives to come knocking?" (gained $2500, lost 5 rep. Yeah, not a winning plan).

Quote
As a player, I get bored looking through price lists, so I tend to just add my treasure cut to my sheet where it accumulates over time until my character becomes more or less useless every 4 or 5 levels. Then I begrudgingly buy some items to make my character viable while being annoyed that 80% of my character's effectiveness stems from the gear he is carrying.

  In the example above (the watch) a character's own attribute modifiers are easily as important as a +1 or +2 (+3 may not even exist, remember). Feats definitely overshadow gear. Skill ranks trump the +1 or +2 completely. So a +3 is great, and we'd all love to have that extra cushion on rolls, but are you willing to pay a million times as much for it? It may make for a fun long term goal (one day I'll be parking that supercar in my garage...), but for 90% of the campaign a +1 version with a couple upgrades is gonna be a great item to have and your character will consistently be more important than that +1.

  Really meaningful gear, like character defining stuff -- like a cyberpunk setting Hackers deck -- rapidly becomes a Prize. Then selling off stuff for a pittance becomes even more the enemy of advancement, because upgrading your deck either takes personal skill or Reputation in the first place.
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« Reply #35 on: August 15, 2015, 02:22:37 PM »

  Given the narrative function of language barriers, part of me says "hard to understand" and "completely unintelligible" are NPC qualities that you pay about 2 and 5 xp for respectively... and never deal with languages again. Its all NPC side. In a truly narrative environment the only reason you can't talk to an NPC is because the GM wants to screw with the talky characters, so why not just pay a fee for it and move on? Wink You loose the quirky moment where Foggy Nelson will use his college classes in Punjabi to save the day (it'll happen) but you also skip all the "well poop. If I had just picked Cantonese instead..." fail moments. You can't talk to them because you were meant to not talk to them and the story both expects that and is not derailed by it. Don't worry, the clue you actually need is probably in their pocket where you can either pickpocket it or roll them after you beat them down.

To be honest, in my experience the narrative function of language barriers isn't to prevent talking to the NPC, but rather to prevent intercepting communications between NPCs. The sneaky guy scouting ahead might overhear some guards talking about shift rotations, but if they're speaking a language he doesn't know they may as well be talking about last night's sportsball game for all he cares. But if the party beats up the guards, takes one prisoner, and wants to interrogate him, they usually can get the information they want, because while his primary language may be one the party doesn't know he probably understands at least one other language the party does speak.

Granted, this is likely an artifact of my own particular campaign experiences being either in TOG, where pretty much everyone can speak Common, or in Fantasy Craft campaigns that retain that "everyone knows Common" convention simply because the GM didn't care to make a big deal over language barriers. But that's the style of game I'm most accustomed to, at any rate. There may occasionally be instances where a language barrier impedes actually talking with and NPC, but these instances are quite rare (in my experience, pretty much only in cases where the NPCs were so hostile that they ordinarily wouldn't have bothered listening to the PCs even if they did understand the language, but the PCs cleverly found a way to pacify them), and more commonly the role of a language barrier is to gate off bonus information that could be tactically useful if you happen to get it, but not vital to the progression of the story. Basically the same sort of function as the additional hints you get from related Studies, essentially, just that where Studies provide bonus information on the basis of subject matter, languages provide bonus information on the basis of letting you meaningfully perceive more of your environment. In that regard, I think languages using the same sort of character-building resource as Studies makes perfect sense.


As for money and inventory, I do think abstracted wealth systems are best suited to modern or sci-fi games rather than fantasy, mainly because of the fantasy genre convention of loot. In modern-day and sci-fi settings, it's generally expected that the heroes have a certain salary or operating budget that stays fairly consistent, which works reasonably well in an abstracted form. But the common expectation in fantasy games is that the party will periodically plunder the hoards of dragons and the riches stashed away in dungeons, and it's a lot easier to handle those sorts of windfalls in an explicit-inventory system. Explicit inventory also lends itself well to protracted adventures deep into dungeons or the wilderness where you can't readily acquire new supplies. Preparing and managing an explicit inventory (including limits on how much you can carry with you) lends itself well to the tone of the inhospitable environment itself being a significant threat, which is a much more pertinent theme in fantasy than it is in modern or sci-fi settings where the expansion of civilization and the march of technological progress makes being truly disconnected from sources of supplies more the exception than the rule as compared to fantasy.
Of course, there are certainly ways to handle windfalls of loot and the challenges of resource management logistics in an abstracted wealth system, but it works much more intuitively with a simply simulationist system where you have X amount of money and the thing you want costs Y and you can carry up to Z of them before you need to look into getting a pack mule or cart.
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« Reply #36 on: August 30, 2015, 10:39:57 PM »

I know that you may already know some of those, and decided to be simpler.

- Many linguists regard Hindi and Urdu (at least when spoken colloquially, which seems to include Bollywood movies) as a single Hindustani language - the main divergence is that fancy-talkers pick fancy words either of Sanskrit and Prakritic origin, or Persian, Turkic and Arabic.
- Counting Urdu separately, it's definitely big enough for the list, and spoken not just in the obvious places, but in Telangana.
- Malay may be related to SuNdanese (also big enough for the list).
- To my knowledge, Swahili and Zulu are related in the same sense that English and Russian are, maybe even English and Persian.
- Uzbek is pretty distinct from other Turkic languages; if you want a second related language to Turkish, that's Turkmen.
- I heard from more than one source that Punjabi could be called "related" in the sense here to Hindi/Urdu*, and it's spoken in northern India (after all, Punjab and Bengal were the main partitioned regions).
- It appears that both in English and Thai, Thai is called "Thai" more than "Siamese" - the latter appears to be restricted to linguists, and there doesn't seem to be any Siamese ethnicity - Thailand, like so many other countries, is named after its dominant people.
- "Bamar" and "Myanmar" are the same thing (Fun fact: in both cases there's no actual "r" involved; it's "ar" as in "arse" - guess who provided the romanization?), so you can just say Burmese is written using Burmese script.
- Dutch doesn't get to be related to German?
- "Kurdish" is a language family with, it appears, greater variations than between (at least) Portuguese and Castillan. Tongue
- Serbo-Croatian is spoken in just 4 countries. Tongue

*: while checking that, I found "Both Punjabi and Hindi are Indo Aryan languages having lots of similarities. However, there are differences in vocabulary, punctuation, and grammar. In some ways, it can be said that there are enough similarities as is the case with languages spoken in Latin countries such as Mexican, Spanish, and Portuguese." Cheesy
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« Reply #37 on: August 31, 2015, 05:27:48 PM »

This, right here, is EXACTLY why I wrote the Academics/Communicate check the way I did Smiley
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« Reply #38 on: August 31, 2015, 06:42:30 PM »

Heck, you can use it anytime you want to simulate a professional trying to talk to a non-professional, even if they share the same language. Grin
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« Reply #39 on: September 01, 2015, 02:40:33 AM »

Heck, you can use it anytime you want to simulate a professional trying to talk to a non-professional, even if they share the same language. Grin

Having been, at different points in my training, on both sides of that divide, I would say it is entirely reasonable to treat technical jargon as a distinct language from common speech.
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Morgenstern
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« Reply #40 on: September 04, 2015, 07:28:51 PM »

I know that you may already know some of those, and decided to be simpler.

Pretty much. There were several regions where there were two languages in common use but there's no real benefit in presenting the slightly less common language separately. I truncated the list at 40 entries and adding some of these languages would only serve to push more parts of the world into the dark Smiley.

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- Many linguists regard Hindi and Urdu (at least when spoken colloquially, which seems to include Bollywood movies) as a single Hindustani language - the main divergence is that fancy-talkers pick fancy words either of Sanskrit and Prakritic origin, or Persian, Turkic and Arabic.
- Counting Urdu separately, it's definitely big enough for the list, and spoken not just in the obvious places, but in Telangana.
It may be simpler representation of the region to merge the two into a single entry: "Hindi-Urdu" or perhaps "Hindustani"

Quote
- Malay may be related to SuNdanese (also big enough for the list).

  Another deliberately skipped for coverage but also a candidate for hybridization.

Quote
- To my knowledge, Swahili and Zulu are related in the same sense that English and Russian are, maybe even English and Persian.

  This is another case of overlap - they may not be structurally related but seemingly most speakers of one are able to manage a pidgin version of the other for casual day-to-day interactions.

  Its important to understand the function of the "related" column - its not so much are they linguistically related in some fashion but are the speakers of one regularly able to interact with the other. WIth some of the romance languages it is a case of extreme structural/vocabulary similarities. In other cases its a bit of a judgment call driven by tightly overlapping communities across the majority of there mutual regions. If you are an English speaker living in LA you probably pick up some working Spanish but that's not sufficiently true of all English speakers or Spanish speakers to make the related.

  Overall I'm trying to use the related column where reasonable to reduce the number of languages you might need to know to operate freely in the largest footprint Smiley.

Quote
- It appears that both in English and Thai, Thai is called "Thai" more than "Siamese" - the latter appears to be restricted to linguists, and there doesn't seem to be any Siamese ethnicity - Thailand, like so many other countries, is named after its dominant people.
- "Bamar" and "Myanmar" are the same thing (Fun fact: in both cases there's no actual "r" involved; it's "ar" as in "arse" - guess who provided the romanization?), so you can just say Burmese is written using Burmese script.

Quote
- Dutch doesn't get to be related to German?

  While they are the same family, they don't seem to be sufficiently mutually intelligible and don't overlap enough regionally to flip that switch Smiley.

Quote
- Serbo-Croatian is spoken in just 4 countries. Tongue

  Which would be 3 more than several on this list Smiley. Regional references (such as "Poland and surrounding states") feels more useful to me than detailed lists of contiguous nations.

Quote
*: while checking that, I found "Both Punjabi and Hindi are Indo Aryan languages having lots of similarities. However, there are differences in vocabulary, punctuation, and grammar. In some ways, it can be said that there are enough similarities as is the case with languages spoken in Latin countries such as Mexican, Spanish, and Portuguese." Cheesy

  I'll eyeball it again Smiley. Still, even before the tweaks this prompted, the table seems to be doing its job for the most part Smiley.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2015, 07:48:16 PM by Morgenstern » Logged

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