Friday, October 18, 2013

Scaled Tongues

Setting work on Scaled Continent continues.  Start date of campaign at FLGS is set for 3 November, so I have just over two more weeks.  Running a game for a group of complete strangers will be...  interesting (provided I can get any to sign up).  If not, well, I've heard good things about Roll20...

Been working on mapping, custom treasure, and custom spells.  Not Joe Orcs these beastmen - Player's Companion and custom spells for their witch doctors and shamans.  Got to thinking about language and the importance thereof in dealing with natives recently.  I like the assumption that the various beast species have their own languages (crocodileman, viperman, toadman,...), along with a general 'Thrassian' pidgin from the Imperial days and a religious / court / high language, probably Draconic.  Common is the language of slaves and former slave races, who also have their own racial languages (Elven, Dwarven, Auran).

The plethora of languages suggests some fun complications to me which are typically glossed over.  First off, how many languages do beastmen speak?  Off-the-cuff heuristic says that the higher up the chain of command they are, the smarter and better travelled they are.  Normal beastmen speak only their tribal language, while champions speak two languages (tribal + pidgin or rival tribal), subchiefs three (tribal + two pidgins or rival tribals), and chieftains, shamans, and witch-doctors four or five (tribal + two pidgins or rival tribals + Draconic, typically).

Entertainingly, this means that the guys you're most likely to capture to interrogate for intelligence (the grunts) are the least likely to be able to communicate with you.  Hi-larious!  Also, the Comprehend / Read Languages / Tongues / Telepathy / ESP spells are much more useful when language barriers crop up reliably than in a game where you occasionally meet a dead script in some guy's tomb but all the beastmen speak Common.  As are the Thief ability to read languages and the late-binding +Int language slots.  ACKS provides plenty of ways to work around this problem, but it could still get in the way occasionally and entertainingly.

The other side of the coin is that the language you're speaking may effect your reaction rolls.  Choose wisely; an armed band of demihumans addressing a lizardman in Common comes off as a slave revolt, while the same armed band of demihumans speaking Thrassian is more likely to be perceived as Voltari mercenaries.  Speaking the tribal tongue of those you are addressing is liable to get a bonus, while speaking the tribal tongue of an enemy group may net a penalty.  Common sense applies, but a plus or minus one bonus to reaction rolls from language might be utilized to good effect by canny PCs.


  1. I'm liking this idea of lots of reptile-people, each with different languages and attitudes. This Scaled Continent project is really interesting.

    1. Glad to hear it! You might like Omer's setting too, though most of his posts are more ACKS-specific.