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Language Levels.

Posted by Jon Canuck
Jon Canuck
member, 27 posts
Tue 16 Nov 2021
at 01:15
  • msg #1

Language Levels

Hi all,

Looking for tips on the use of the RuBB code language system.

The current system is really useful (described at /help/?page=post).

However, it's an all-or-nothing code where either the characters speak the language fluently or not at all. The use of {curly brackets} allows some flex in this regard, so non-speakers get some gist of what's said.

However, I'm currently working with a group where some speak a certain language, for example, at level 10, others at level zero, and others at levels 3 and 6. So as the GM you would expect the characters to pick up different details from the dialogue according to their skill levels.

Has anyone figured out an innovative way of making this work within the existing code, i.e. so that different players get different levels of comprehension depending on their level of fluency?

I imagine one could use a combination of individualised private messages to each player, but thats quite laborious. Is there another way?
subscriber, 184 posts
Tue 16 Nov 2021
at 02:22
  • msg #2

Language Levels

You could use the ‘language group’ function to list a few different levels of the same language.

There are a ton of slots, but if each language took up two or three slots … I imagine you would run out pretty quick. You would have to make sure that anyone that spoke a ‘higher’ level had all of the subordinate levels assigned to them as well.

Let’s say that Joe, Bill and Ted are guys that speak the language at 0, 5 and 10 respectively. Enclose most of the speech in ‘language 5’ tags, toss in a few ‘language 10’ words where miscommunication might be thematically appropriate.

Joe (at 0) would read the text as gibberish.

Bill (at 5) would read most of the text, but would not be able make out a portion (those words which was listed as 10)..

Ted (at 10) would be able to understand the whole thing.

Etc, etc.

If I were to implement something like this, I would probably only have two levels per language.  (Three, I guess if not  speaking it at all counts as a level).

So the levels would be:

Illiterate / Not conversant
Semi-literate / Semi-Conversant
Fluent / Conversant

Informally, you could decide how much to place within the ‘all’ tags.  A single word?  The main verb or the clause?  Misunderstandings could abound with scrambling even one or two words per message.
subscriber, 741 posts
Tue 16 Nov 2021
at 03:54
  • msg #3

Language Levels

I think Ski-Bird has the right of it.

The system as set up can't differentiate, so it's up to you.

The method suggested is probably the easiest in regards to not having to compose multiple sections of text.

If you decide you did want to do that, I would suggest still using groups.  Have the fluent people in a proper language group so they get the full "translation" and everyone else sees gibberish.  Then put the other two levels of comprehension into other separate groups and use the "private to" or "secret to" coding to provide a synopsis of what was understood.
member, 333 posts
Reality is 10% perception
and 90% interpretation.
Tue 16 Nov 2021
at 04:07
  • msg #4

Language Levels

Alternatively, let the groups be, so that any level of language gets the entire text, then reward players that RP appropriate comprehension levels based on skill level or die roll.
member, 587 posts
GURPS GM and Player
Joined 20150819
Tue 16 Nov 2021
at 04:16
  • msg #5

Language Levels

Jon Canuck:
Looking for tips on the use of the RuBB code language system.

What is the game system?  Most games already have systems set up so teh mechanics support the differentiated levels wihtout you having to have Players "understand" different amounts of what is being communicated.
member, 185 posts
Tue 16 Nov 2021
at 06:49
  • msg #6

Language Levels

When learning a new language students are usually grouped into three loose categories, beginner, intermediate & advanced/fluent.  The trickiest category is the 'intermediate' category as students in this category can usually communicate basic concepts relatively easily however the more complex a topic is the more likely they are to have difficulties.  As a GM I would be inclined to use these three categories and spend a bit of attention on role playing the intermediate group but without knowing the game system or circumstances difficult to give a definite answer.
Jon Canuck
member, 28 posts
Tue 16 Nov 2021
at 09:52
  • msg #7

Re: Language Levels

Thanks everyone for your comments to date. Really useful.

What is the game system?

The system is Colonial Gothic, which has language levels from 0-12 and a straightforward "roll above target number to succeed" approach, with the number of points rolled above indicating degrees of success.

I could have the players roll in this manner on language tests (and certainly will at dramatically appropriate moments), but the coded system is a bit quicker for everyday chat, while still having the feel of cross-cultural communication and leaving open the possibility of misunderstanding.
moderator, 940 posts
Whatever it is,
I'm against it
Fri 19 Nov 2021
at 05:41
  • msg #8

Re: Language Levels

It'd be a challenge to program for that !  <grins>

The RuBB languages functionality assumes a character either speaks the language or doesn't ... to implement a system with degrees of fluency, the code would have to recognise which words in every language were considered most common so it could translate those first if a certain skill threshold was reached - couldn't do it randomly or you'd have instances where the character didn't pick up on "the" or "and" but somehow could understand "transliteration" or "onomatopoeia" !

Further complicated in that words wouldn't necessarily be considered common in every language (some words might not exist at all - "what is this thing called laughter ?" ... indeed it's most likely that a merchant would come across different terms to a soldier even within the same language.

And on the basis that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, there's also the danger of mistranslation - where a character thinks they understand a word in the other language but gets it horribly (dangerously and/or amusingly) wrong.  In one classic dungeon of my acquaintance there was a fun play on 'altar room' vs 'alter room'.  Well, fun for the GM ... <evil grin>

My take on how to handle it ... if the character speaks the language, then let them see the full translation and leave it up to them to roll their fluency checks and work out what they might know and roleplay the results.   Sure you have to trust your players, but not really much different to the situation where a player is running two characters and one speaks a language and the other doesn't, but the player obviously sees the translation for the fluent character and has to pretend the other character understood nothing.
member, 36 posts
Sat 20 Nov 2021
at 01:24
  • msg #9

Language Levels

More 'fun' is where word order affects meaning, and is different in other languages. Understanding is not just a matter of translating individual words. If it was, a simple dictionary lookup would be all that was needed for RL.
This message was last edited by the user at 01:24, Sat 20 Nov 2021.
supporter, 716 posts
Sun 21 Nov 2021
at 19:18
  • msg #10

Language Levels

For a Free-form game, I created a character around constant language confusion.  Part of the GMs world was that the primary goddess was known to live at the top of a certain mountain, but gazing upon her had a penalty of permanent blindness.  So my character's backstory was that he had climbed the mountain blindfolded, with the hope of hearing her voice.  The God who had declared the law found me and was about to blind me when the goddess intervened, citing the technicality.  So the God decreed that "Truly he will see, but never will he see truly."

In every post, I described side-by-side in a two-column table what my character saw and what was really there, with whatever he spoke, of course, the same in both.  It was a lot of work to make it so that his conversation made sense in the context of what the other characters could see, while still remaining true to what he saw, but I thought it was worth it.  I even tried to warn one of the other characters of impending danger, even though my character thought he was just discussing the garden.

The whole experience was what turned me off of free-form games altogether.  The other players were so single-minded in their own narratives that they completely ignored my character and didn't engage with him at all.  I definitely tried to incorporate what they were saying and doing into my story, so I really don't think I was guilty of the same offense.  But the closest I got to someone interacting with me was for one character to tell the others that I was crazy and should be ignored.
member, 591 posts
GURPS GM and Player
Joined 20150819
Sun 21 Nov 2021
at 19:57
  • msg #11

Language Levels

More 'fun' is where word order affects meaning, and is different in other languages. Understanding is not just a matter of translating individual words. If it was, a simple dictionary lookup would be all that was needed for RL.

When I'm feeling up to it, I prefer to use google's "babble-fish" level of translator services and pick languages to "fit" the languages in game, and then post in those trans;ated languages.  No doubt we are butchering those poor languages who did nothing to deserve our linguistic barbarity, but I find it works for the best (and we'd post the "what we're saying/writing" in that language in "Private to" notes in the post).  It's a lot of extra work, but it's very flavorful.

Admittedly though, the 'garbage' language function here almost works as well.  It'd be interesting if it could do a "level check" and then only partially garble some words or randomly disorder them depending on settings the GM decides on, but then we have a whole nother kettle of fish for jase to fry:  How many language settings?  What level of fidelity?  How many different ways to garble a sentence (word garbling, word replacement, sentence structure disorder, pronoun replacement, suffice replacement, etc - it's almost an endless set of choices)?

But yeah... a GM can dream of their preferred method...
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