Writing and Language ability

I'm probably just missing a really obvious section but as best I can recall you need 5 in a language ability to to write a book in that language. Is it possible to write a book with 4 in the language and a relevant specialty? Specifically, can I have 4 in Latin with a specialty in Hermetic Magic (is that too broad of a specialty?) and still write a tractatus? Would there be a penalty to quality? Am I completely misinformed on several levels?

You are right, you can write about one theme if you have the right Speciality.

Some people think it's cheesy to use a specialization that way, but I think it's a fairly common practice. You could quibble over whether your actually "using" the language ability when you write.

Personally I think it's not only okay but pretty much what the designers had in mind.

I agree. I think it's like someone being skilled with English focused around math who could write math papers in English but really couldn't write a novel in English well. Of course, the gradation is smoother in reality, but you get the idea.


Ok, the other related question I had had to do with Puissant Ability. Does it count towards what books I can write? For example, If I have Puissant Parma and have put 5xp into that skill for an ability total of 1+2 can I write a tractatus about Parma (since floor[3/2] = 1 meaning I could write 1 tractatus)?

But this is someone with a good skill in that can write better than they can speak ( which does not make much sense). Someone who can not speak fluently but can write fluently.

I know I was able to write pretty good essays in Spanish in highschool whilst still not being able to speak well at all. I could always go slowly and carefully compose my thoughts when writing; when speaking I just got flustered and forgot all my vocab. Anecdotes != data but just a thought.

Nope. As far as I know you use the strait score when your figuring out things like that. My interpretation is you don't USE an ability when you teach it or write about it you USE your Teaching or Language ability. Yes this can have all sorts of weird implications when you Teach Teaching or write about Latin in Latin.

Would pretty good be equal to sending it to your peers to see what they thought of your technical expertise in a subject? That is what a tractatus is.

I just do not think that you can not be fluent in a language but write fluently in it. You might be missing words and use simple sentiences that would look foolish in a an academic text that is to be read by other academics

And this could be reflected by a specialty in reading/writing, too.


Hmm, so someone with puissant ignem say could be thought of as being really good at using the skill without necessarily having anything insightful to say about the skill? This... could make sense although it "feels" a bit wrong in my above example. I suppose I can easily take Affinity instead of Puissant though.

I know real-world examples of people who effectively have a puissant skill - they are very good at what they do, but they can't articulate what makes them better. They teach worse than they perform.

The trick for learning from those people is not to listen to what they say, but to observe and mimic what they do. Because of this real-world observation, I personally would allow training to work from the modified total, but not teaching or writing.

And yes, it does mean that you can get training from someone who is puissant, end up with a teaching score above theirs, teach them, train from them, etc. I don't see this as an issue, especially given the much smaller xp totals that training involves.

Actually, speaking fluently is much harder: for true spoken fluency you have to think in the language you're speaking. For written fluency, it helps a lot but isn't required. (Or at least that has been my experience: I could write fluently in English when my spoken English was still fairly rudimentary.)

I find this is actually rather well covered in the errata document.

I'm not sure I follow. In this example, the person can write better about math than they can speak about non-math - but their math-related speech is as good as their math-related writing.

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You've never heard me speak english, then :wink:
I write well enough so that people were surprised at times to learn I'm not an english speaker. Yet, when I try to speak, words have a way harder time coming, and I have to struggle with my tongue to manage to speak what I wanna say.

Well, me again :wink:
I have no problem with RPG-related vocabulary, yet I've been stumped at times with "normal", everyday words.

And no later than yesterday, I found myself reading a paper about business between french and english, who was saying that most guys had enough "work" related vocabulary to be able to converse efficiently, but were having a hard time to communicate in another context.

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See my wife says I have that problem to. And I'm a native English speaker. :smiley:

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In our saga we had one player who after a mental botch had his schoolteacher write a book...
Latin L2 Q10 in Latin.
We re-bound it with a really impressive cover, renamed it "The Book Of Ultimate Power", and chained it shut.
The amount of NPCs who have expressed interest, tried to steal it etc is quite impressive.


Out of curiosity, Fixer, are you thinking in English when you are trying to write/speak it? Or do you come up with what you want to say in French and then translate?

Language in the real world is a fascinating thing.

Reading vs. hearing are two linked but different skillsets. Writing vs. speaking are two very distinct skillsets.

Writing itself is a fine motor skill; the ability to move a pen on a page with enough fidelity to generate clear glyphs. When learning a new language, you don't have to re-learn how to write. You may need to learn a new glyph set if transitioning from French to Mandarin, but you don't need to re-learn how to hold a pen or how to draw a short, curvy line on a page.

When two languages share a glyph set (e.g. English and French), you don't need to relearn the glyphs either. The letter R is the same in French, English, German, Latin, etc, etc. If you're French and learning English, you don't need to relearn R.

Speaking is probably the hardest part - converting a concept into phonems. That requires some funky tongue gymnastics, and often some that you've never done before when moving to a new language. The unpracticed phonems are the ones that give you a foreign accent; your brain keeps trying to fall back on the movements its familiar with.

End result is that when learning a new language, hearing and reading develop as two almost distinct skillsets, linked only by vocabularly memorisation and application of grammar. If you already know how to write another language, writing a new language comes for free with reading. Speaking is an entirely new skillset, and embarassing to get wrong because you can't backtrack and edit your mistakes. As a result, people who write fluently and speak haltingly are common.

And, like anything, you become better when you practice. So if you spend far too much time hanging around on English RPG forums, you'll learn to read and write English (RPGs) quite fluently, while your speaking English will remain unpracticed and unsure.

I assume that most magi with Latin (Hermetic Usage) 4 and Artes Liberales 1 can read and write Latin well with a vocuabulary focused on magic, and speak Latin badly and with a heavy accent. :slight_smile: