One mechanic that is often brushed aside in RPG’s relates to language barriers. Early D&D provided most players with a number of languages, a common racial tongue and an alignment language. It was not uncommon for PC’s to have access to a dozen or more language channels within the group.
Ostensibly, in the Shadow World setting, there should be much more material addressing languages and communication. SW is a setting that covers 100,000 years and is made up of smaller landmasses divided by mountain barriers and impassable Essaence flows. Even assuming the same root language, locals will differ by dialect and common etymology. Erlin, which is often the default “common language” should still vary by region, continent or culture.
My experience is that players will sink very little, if any, DPs into languages. I suspect they lean on the GM to solve any language barriers to facilitate gameplay. Language is just a hand wave problem! I get it, as a GM, I don’t want to impede the story and needed exposition due to the “realities” of language so I find myself solving that problem for the PC’s rather than creating a roadblock.
So what are some options:
- Languages are more easily learned at an early age, so the GM could spread around some useful languages as part of adolescent development. Even a few “root” language can bridge a basic communication gap among a variety of SW cultures.
- Account for it when planning a session. If the group is encountering a new culture, travelling in general, or might have a relevant meeting with an NPC or similar info source, come up with a mechanism for communication. Perhaps the NPC has a spells, device or another language that will work.
- Spell Law. There are a number of communication spells in Rolemaster. They may not be the most exciting lists or have broad utility (depending on the game style), but information can be a key element of gaming success. The players should know that not everything will be spoon fed to them, and it’s incumbent on players to not only equip themselves with the right gear, and arm themselves with the right weapons, but to have appropriate non-combat related skills and spells.
- NPCs. I discussed hirelings in a previous blog. If languages are an important element in our game, than the players should prepare by hiring/using a translator when interacting with others.
- Magic Items. This feels a bit of a cheat, but the group could find/buy a magical “translator” (or Althan tech that seems magical).
Anyway, I’m curious how much emphasis GM’s place on language barriers in Shadow World. What are your thoughts?