Critique my language house rules?

For my campaign, I’m working on a campaign guide.
It’s fun work, even though these projects do tend to grow out of hand quickly!

As a house rule, I’ve come p with some rules about negotiation with people n languages other than your own. Obviously, it’s alwys more useful to let someone who knows the language do the talking! However, that’s not always an option.

I also wanted the languages that the PC’s speak to mean more than just a note on their character sheet. Therefore, I’m trying to give each language a certain benefit.

I’m finding it’s a bit tricky to judge wether these things are overpowered, underpowered or simply boring in play. So, ideas are more than welcome. Be gentle. :wink:

I’ll copy the rules in the next post. The rules mention a chart which I cannot post here. If you’d like to see it, download the -very- work in progress Campaign Guide here:

It’s on page 30 - 31. It’s a LARGE file, so be patient…

Of course, input on the rest of the guide is welcome, too. Please note that the artwork of the comic and the ful colour image of the man stading in front of the city are placeholders, and not my artwork.

The languages of the five Young Kingdoms all have their strengths and drawbacks. Celenosi is understood almost everywhere, for example, while Tolmec allows the Tolmecci to calm and ride the dreaded Terror Birds. Your birthplace determines which language your character can initially speak. Each of the initial languages (Albyan, Celenosi, Gaullian, Cortugan and Tolmec) give your character a specific language benefit.

This benefit is only gained once, at character generation, and only for the language determined by your birthplace. Learning to speak a new language does not give a character this special language benefit.

Benefit: Albyan is old, but has changed little over the centuries. Modern Albyani characters can read the runes on ancient Albyan Steel weapons, warning them of the Doom that is always placed on such a weapon. Further, Albyani add their full CHA bonus on morale rolls, regardless of language.

Benefit: Celenosi is the ‘common’ tongue. Celenosi speakers treat any Modern language as only one step away for negotiation purposes, and only suffer a -1 penalty on the negotiation roll instead of a -2.

Benefit: Gaullians can accurately determine the personality, rank, etc. of another Gaullian by looking a their facemask. Furthermore, Gaullians are sensitive to lies and secrets in any language. They can determine if a non-Gaullian believes what they are saying, or if they are deliberately witholding information, regardless of language. This skill succeeds on a roll of 17+, modified by the Gaulian’s full CHA bonus.

Benefit: Cortugan is a flowery language, perfect for politeness and flattery. Cortugans use their full CHA bonus when negotiating with rulers, when trading or hiring people, regardless of language.

Benefit: Tolmec is a language unlike any other in the Known World. The sound of Tolmec has a calming effect on birds of any type. Tolmecci characters add their full CHA bonus and an additional +2 to any encounter roll with birds (both normal and monstrous). If the result is a 12+, the bird acts as if under the effect of a charm monster spell while in their presence.

Negotiations and language
When encountering monsters or unknown npc’s, the DM determines their reactions through a reaction roll, adjusted by the CHA bonus of the lead character. Likewise, CHA is important for negotiations with hirelings and henchmen and when rolling for their morale. Such negotiations are also influenced by the language spoken by the lead character. Even the best rousing speech will have little effect if the audience can not understand the speaker, after all.

In many cases, it is prefereable to hire people who speak your own language, but what if this is impossible, or if you encounter a clan of hill barbarians who do not speak your language at all? In Dawn of Kings, what language you speak influences negotiations in the following way:

Reaction rolls for encounters, hiring, and morale of henchmen/hirelings

  • when negotiating with someone speaking the same language, you add your character’s full CHA bonus, as normal.
  • Negotiating with a language one step away on the chart to the right is still possible, but the reaction roll suffers a -2 penalty. Two or more steps away is subject to a -5 on the reaction roll.
  • If you negotiate in the trade language (see below), you can treat any Modern language as one step away (and so suffer only a -2 penalty)

Reading languages other than your own

  • An attempt to decipher writing in a language one step away succeeds on 18+, giving you the general idea of the message.
  • More than one step will generally not succeed without magic. Note that thieves and bards can use their Read Language skills normally.

Modern, Old and Ancient languages
Languages in the outer circle count as Modern languages. The second circle shows Old languages, and the inner circle Ancient languages. Note that Abyan and Tolmec count as both Modern and Old. You can treat these languages as Old or Modern, choosing the definition that is most in your favor.

The trade language
The trade language in the known world is a simplified version of Celenosi - itself based on Hyborean. Most people will at least understand this language, although it can be difficult to discuss detailed subjects and things unrelated to trade in it. All adventureres are assumed to be able to speak this ‘common’ tonge. This allows a mixed party to discus their plans and tactics normally, without rendering languages meaningless in the game world.

Extra languages
While your characters Language Benefit is limited to your initial language, negotiations are not! It is very helpful to learn extra languages to help in negotiations.

I like this a lot.

I’d just started doing parts of this myself: reducing the CHA bonus when interacting with someone you don’t share a language with, as well as eliminating any proficiency bonuses to reaction rolls. And I’ve made a trade language that allows for communication without inflection, reducing the bonuses the same.

The “steps” idea is a lot cleaner - I’ve made a language tree as well, though I think the circle is more easily understood - I thank you for the idea.

Balance wise, as long as everyone’s getting something, it probably all comes out in the wash. I don’t think anything here is worth more than a half-a-proficiency slot - they’re all limited in scope, and read well compared to the guidelines in the ACKS:PC.

I’d be curious if you had any other thoughts on learning languages aside from taking a proficiency - I’m thinking some sort of time span based on how long you spend in an area, and (given this system) how you go out of your way to endure the penalties in an effort to “immerse” yourself in the language/culture.

As an aside, holy s*** that’s a pretty document - and the content is as well, that’s some very evocative text in there.

I feel like a caveman handing out stuff I did in LibreOffice. My PDF reader says it was from QuarkExpress?

Yeah - really inspiring work!

I think your language benefits seem fine - they don’t seem game-breaking at all, and it’s flavorful as hell. :slight_smile:

If you don’t want to take away the option of learning a language through a proficiency, it might be hard to balance spending in game time vs just taking a proficiency. However, I do like the concept of ‘immersing’ yourself in the region to learn the language.

It would make sense for languages to be learnt via trade. Maybe base it of the trade rules, or the research rules… for every X gp you spend / trade in a certain region, you gain bonusses on a ‘learn language’ throw. That way, you could even split up languages into proficiency-like steps. So after X gp and a check, you gain a basic understanding, perhaps giving you only a minor malus on a communication throw. Upgrade it to drop the malus entirely, or even gain bonusses…

I have no idea how that would work in terms of xp and gp. Bt it would give you an option to drop proficiency languages and in stead add ‘bilingual’ or ‘good with languages’ proficiencies, which would make the process easier or faster.

Sounds like fun! Although personally my worry about such a rule would be the same as I have about a few of my house rules: am I fixing what is not broken?

Thanks for the compliment - I’m a designer by trade, so I have a lot of cool toys to play with. You’re correct by the way - the document was designed in Xpress.

Thanks! I suppose most situations will result in the guy/gal with the highest CHA bonus doing the negotiations. But it’s fun to have the players sweat a little when they encounter people who don’t speak ‘common’.

Spectacular! I love these rules. They add a lot of flavor and make language meaningful.

Thank you!