How can language barriers make for interesting play?

There's the recent thread that's all about languages, and how much of a language sink various languages are, which lead me to come up with the subject above.

Hiring a guide costs money. How much did you bring? If everyone is doing their own thing, how many guides can you afford? For how long?

What level of agenda does your translator have? Is it something you can ignore or indulge, or is it something that affects you?

Does anyone think it would be easier to get to your translator than to you?

How many of your grogs are going to be rolled by the locals every night? What equipment will they be robbed of, how many of them will end up beaten, battered, or even dead?

What is your gracious host really saying to, variously, his servants, his colleagues, his betters, or his ruler?

And can you roll high enough on Guile to prevent the locals from realizing you're secretly fluent enough to mimic a native?


The best way to handle languages is to (mostly)hand wave the whole damn thing. Languages are best used as flavor for the setting and fleshing out character background. Use them as a barrier/burden only if it makes a story/scene interesting. But don't overdo it.


Teldes anura si meglev si. Mijav anat, donestre tliera shindes.


I try to use it, as well as the Gift, as a reason/excuse to send the Grogs and Companions out to do things, rather than to have the magi hoofing it all around for any given reason.

But yeah, that usually only lasts for a story or two - after which the magi usually have picked up enough of the language (via the Immersion rules - usually after a couple of seasons of vis scraping or inventing spells or something) to get by on their own.

Agreed here. It gives another thing for grogs/companions to be good at so the magi value them. Magi can do enough without assistance, especially those with the Gentle Gift. Give them more reasons to value grogs/companions.

You must use house rules here. That would take quite a lot of seasons to get to a useful level (3?) at 2 experience per season, specifically 15 seasons.

Additionally, I prefer requiring languages for mind reading. (I deliberately sidestep the thought vs. language first debate.) This allows for mind reading but makes it less of a perfect solution all of the time.

We tend to use the 8 xp/season if the PC is doing labwork - if you've got someone to talk to you in the local language (ie, a lab assistant), it ends up being functionally an immersive environment. It does require that the magi actively CHOOSE to learn the language, but it's a convenient way to get the PC's up to speed.

i was under the impression that this was an either/or situation. If you do lab work you can gain at most expose XP, not total immesion; for that you would need to make your primary focus of the season learnin the language.

But I am away from my books at the moment.


We tend to use a house rule IOC as well - though not such an enormous one as KevinSchultz.

When living in a new covenant, or in an area with an unfamiliar language, every character gains 2xp per season (in addition to the other experience) in either Covenant Lore or the Living Language of the area until he has reached a 3 in each. This allows foreign magi and companions to eventually learn the basics about the campaign environment, without having to sacrifice years of exclusive study for it.


We actually use a similar houserule one as well - the Immersion XP is for those who want to learn it faster, or for those who didn't adventure that season, and thus would only get normal exposure XP instead. We also use the Immersion XP rules to teach Latin to lab assistants and/or apprentices. (Or at least improve it - from what I recall, you need a baseline in the language to be an assistant, but that may be me mis-remembering the rules.)

Hm. In looking over the XP rules (AM5, pg 163), it indicates that...

That seems to be discussing the skills used in the activity itself - not that you can't have other XP sources in the season: rather, if you are choosing the lab activity itself, you need to put it into MT or Arts (or relevant Abilities). The section on Practice states:

That being said, the Practice section does say that gaining Practice XP is a full-time endeavor. So the issue is "can you do labwork, and gain practice in a language, at the same time?" For convenience, our Troupe said "yes".

Practice by ArM5 p.163ff is a kind of study, for which a character needs to spend a season. It is also (ArM p.164) a "full-time activity". By ArM p.103 you cannot subtract more than 10 days for other activities from your lab work without penalties, and not more than 20 days without completely losing the results of the lab season.

This does of course not hinder your troupe to come up with other Advancement rules. An interesting question for a troupe here is, whether a magus can keep Adventure xp instead of Exposure xp from a season where he mostly did lab work or was initiated, but where he went adventuring in the spare time of 10 days.


That would be a house rule as well, and one I've seen a lot. Normally that would require the magus to spend the rest of the season going over what was learned while adventuring, essentially like Practice.

I should think so.

AFAICS that's the typical first step to soften up the 'one activity per season' roster for character development. After all, it is not exactly logical to adventure 10 days towards the end of a season, and then having spent the season before "consolidating what she learned under pressure".


There's no RAW notion of "mostly". You could say that losing more than 2 months in the lab work "distraction" reduced your Adventure Source Quality to nothing, but that's the only path through RAW.

And even then, "and the character chooses to take Adventure experience" shows that it will cost you less than a month of distraction off your lab work if you did it in 10 days. Which implies those 10 days are enough to get Adventure experience.

Wouldn't only 10 days leave enough time to gain experience by another method? That would violate the last sentence of the first paragraph on adventure experience even if the earlier part about spending the rest of the season consolidating what was learned weren't there. Only a house rule (a not-uncommon one) makes those 10 days sufficient to get adventure experience.

No, because only Adventure is mentioned.

For some reason I always skip the second half of the second sentence there :blush: and go directly to "A character may choose not to take experience from an adventure if the adventure was short enough to allow other study."

But I have trouble reconciling "rest of the season" with "may choose". And Distraction is the only way to reduce Quality. And 3 months minus 10 days is 2 months, round down, meaning 1/3 of Adventure xp.

Didn't we hit this issue a few years ago? My search-fu is too weak atm.

The relevant rules text is (underscores mine):

This explicitly states, that even the experience from a single day of adventuring can only be taken by devoting the whole season for it - not leaving even a single day for lab activities advancing the character.
In the concrete case I addressed, when an adventure concluded a season packed with lab activities (whose results might have been already used decisively in the adventure), a troupe may find this unsatisfactory and even illogical: when arguing incompatibility the storyguide would stumble over the next phrase in the rules, which by its position in the paragraph should rationalize the expenditure of a whole season, but by its wording only addresses the time in the season following the adventure.

So a troupe may come to rule against taking the whole season being spent when gaining adventure experience - thereby taking the first step out of the ArM5 roster of one type of activity for advancement per season. This is against the stated intentions of the rules, but might appear more logical to that troupe.


Yeah, except it goes directly against the next sentence: "A character may choose not to take experience from an adventure if the adventure was short enough to allow other study.", as you say.

The only good thing about forcing short ones at the end of the seasons is that you cannot pack 20 days adventures by straddling the season's divide.

No, it doesn't. You're misreading it slightly. Here's an example. You go on a five-day adventure and earn some experience. But you're debating reading a book. That you have plenty of time to read the book means you could choose to read the book, forgoing experience from the adventure. Or you could devote your season rehearsing what you learned in the adventure to gain adventure experience, leaving you no time left to read the book.

Simplifying it all: Gaining adventure experience requires devoting a season to the adventure and practicing what was learned on it afterward, meaning no other seasonal activities may be done. But being offered adventure experience does not require one to gain adventure experience.

Back more to the topic. It seems like one of two things tend to happen a lot:* People somewhat hand-wave language difficulties away.

  • People give enough bonus experience via house rules that languages cease to be an issue in general in rather short order.
    But these seem to sidestep the question in the OP. A few points have been made:* Several interesting roleplaying points in the OP.
  • Languages give more places for grogs/companions to be useful. (A few said this.)
  • They can tone down mind reading without getting rid of it.

Regarding adventure experience during a lab season... regardless of what the rules say, I would recommend giving experience above and beyond lab activity if the adventure was sufficiently interesting or important, especially if the magus lost something due to penalties for time away, but would recommend not giving experience for adventures that in play are trivial nuisances that the magus wraps up easily and without incident. The latter type are "slice of life" stories representing the sort of thing that probably happen every season but just aren't played through very often.

But I don't see any problem with any of the rulings describe so far, applied consistently.