The importance of the ability to communicate is not one that should be underplayed. This skill is used to equip the character with the skills to speak and comprehend a foreign tongue, but also more immediately used to describe his facility with his native tongue and any specialized regional or trade tongues, as well.
Those Linguist skills with which the character is equipped for his native or Vulgar tongue (sometimes called his milk-tongue) should be easy enough to figure out. RoM is based in an analogue of England, so the equivalent of Olde English will do for the free commons and landbound classes. Border regions may have more than one, and port towns usually specialize in receiving the ships sailing from specific foreign ports, which will define a foreign language that may actually be taken as a native language. In England in the period of the game, the language of the French Conqueror remained the language of the noble social class and even the royal and noble courts for many hundreds of years, so this would then qualify as a native language for those of the noble classes and the wealthy free commons.
The racial language, the rune-tongue of the dwarfs, will also be included, bundled with the dwarfish character’s native language(s), and for elfin characters in the same vein both the individual kindred dialect (Dune, Frost, Marsh, Coral, Wood, or Shadow) and the High Elfin tongue still only spoken by the High Elfin kindred as their sole language is included, bundled with the elfin character’s native languages. The native languages will always include the language spoken by the prevailing culture (usually human) by or in the midst of which these races live, in addition to their native racial tongue. It is likely the dunladdin will form a Gaelic sub-culture living nearby or even amidst human folk.
The Trader’s Tongue is a representation of the argot spoken historically by widely travelled sailors, a pastiche of common phrases and terms from a number of languages used by the community of Mariners, including Merchant Adventurers. This “language” is not exactly stable and subject to continuous if not exactly rapid change, additions may be made, words falling into disuse as others are adopted, etc. but, as a piece of history, for the purposes of the game, it is cast as a defined language which may be taught and learned. The so-called “Thieves’ Cant” was similarly fluid in nature and also a polyglot tongue by nature historically belonging to the society of rogues, knaves, evil-doers, blackguards, low characters, and ne’er-do-wells. thus it is specifically included for use in play. The trade languages of the Druids, Witches, and Wizards are of the same name, polyglots all, but their vocabulary tends to be MUCH more stable over far longer periods of time, due to the purpose for which it was created and for which it is preserved.
Scholars’ Tongue is the equivalent of Latin in the medieval world, shared by all the Scholastic community and all those who consider themselves educated. The player will please note that this skill is generally used to describe currently spoken, living languages, BUT for Scholars a number of dead languages, the gameworld equivalents of ancient Greek, Egyptian Coptic and hieroglyphics, Hittite, Sumerian cuneiform, Babylonian, and the like should also be available and described by the use of this skill. Any dead or specifically scholarly languages from far lands and elder ages MUST be taken as Elective trade skills under the ægis of the Scholar/Sage trade or Wizards, Witches, and Wizard-Alchemists, perhaps Hearth-Witches and Hedge-Wizards, as well (GM’s discretion).
These languages are neither foreign nor native, but essentially part and parcel of one of the character’s trades, and is bundled along with the character’s other language skills, up to (AWA ÷ 4) skills accounting for only a single skill-slot.
Otherwise, when choosing foreign language skills for a character, some rationale must be applied to which ones with which the character is equipped. As far as truly foreign tongues with which a player might want to equip his character (equivalents of Dutch or High German, one of the more prevalent Italian dialects, or Danish, Spanish, Moorish-by-way-of-Spain, or the like), some opportunity must have existed for him to learn it or them up to (AWA ÷ 4) all bundled into the same AWA skill-slot. Whether it was a foreign neighbor in the merchant quarter, or a widely-travelled friend of the family, a widely travelled and well known local Merchant, or Mariner, or an old Warrior who had travelled in his hey-day and picked up a foreign language or two, a foreign Scholar in residence providing tutoring services in languages, this is up to the player and GM to work out together.
The player and GM will please note that these language skills do not include literacy (the ability to read), much less the ability to write, which is considered such a refined skill in the period and gameworld that it forms the basis of an entire trade.
For the ability to read see “Literatus”, and for the ability to write see “Scrivener” (both as follows).
Those language skills present in the region but not spoken in the character’s native social circles, or those foreign tongues for which a willing tutor must have been found or hired, may be more difficult to improve beyond the SL with it at which the character begins play. Those with which the character grows up in his own native class is easiest to maintain and even increase if the character has a desire.
Situations that will test the characters skill come when those who speak the same tongue try to communicate across trade and/or social class, or station barriers.
The att. mod. for Linguist skills is based on the character’s AWA.
In most cases, the GM should limit availability of languages from neighboring countries to border areas (within 40 miles of the border. In the period of the game, port towns and international over-land merchant routes are generally dominated by the trade of a limited number of nations, because the Crown will set by statute (law) what towns will have the prerogative of receiving the trade of which nations, even dividing the traffic of individual cities of a single foreign nation between different ports of call when the trade originating there is brisk enough to warrant it. This will also determine which merchants of what foreign nations will settle in what cities in the realm.
This will effectively limit the foreign language skills available, in and of itself, but a rule of thumb of no more than three or four foreign languages should be available in any given region of a single realm.
In addition, the snobbery of the upper classes towards foreigners may well make some languages more desirable than others, and these preferences should affect the availability of languages among the upper classes. When the Italians were bank-rolling the crown’s activities, providing loans for capital, they were rife at Court and Italian was very fashionable to know. But in time, after some 40 or 50 years, the Crown defaulted on their loans and a number of the leading Italian banking houses were ruined, they fled the Court and Italian was no longer fashionable. When Catherine of Aragon was wed to Henry a number of Spaniards came to Court, and knowledge of Spanish as fashionable until it became clear there would be no heir and Henry sought to rid himself of her, Spanish being no longer considered so fashionable to know, perhaps even politically dangerous. Only the more fashionable one or two languages relatively steadily in the Crown’s favor should be available for characters from the upper classes.
The GM should take a moment and look at each character’s background and ask himself just how many of the languages locally available it is likely that the character was able to gain sufficient exposure to in order to learn to speak fluently during his formative years. Characters with Merchant family backgrounds or trained in the Merchant/Chapman and/or Courtier/Diplomat or Mariner trades are likely to have had all the exposure they could have wanted to any of the languages available.
In regards to the maximum of (AWA ÷ 4) language skills to fill a single skill slot, all language skills of the same derivation or linguistic family, in the manner that all the Latin or Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, French, etc.) are related will count as only a single skill towards accounting for the (AWA ÷ 4) language skills to fill a single AWA-slot. BUT, the character will only be allowed up to (AWA ÷ 4) languages in the same family for a single skill. If the character wants to have more, another of the skills going into filling that AWA slot must be devoted to those additional languages or dialects.
The GM should develop the languages of his gameworld into families that share similar traits, and allow those that fall in the same family group to be taken together under the same skill slot, even if taken as Trade-Skills. This allows languages, which can be quite numerous and thus a great burden on the limited number of character skill slots, to be expressed in all their diversity without putting an extraordinary demand on the character’s AWA-slots, so no PC wants to get involved with them.
For example, a character with AWA 14 could have language skills with up to 4 German dialects, 4 Gaelic dialects, 4 Scandinavian tongues (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, etc.), and up to 4 Romance Languages (Spanish, French, Italian, and Latin), that is, up to 16 languages all filling only 1 AWA skill-slot.
No skill check is required for using one’s language(s) in general play, nor Skill Points earned towards it, unless the character is speaking to a member of different Social Class or trade group, or those from another region of the realm who speak dialects different from that of the character (differing, very confusing vocabulary, slang, and turns of phrase), or with those of lesser education, especially when Scholar characters are speaking of esoteric subjects to commoners of no real education. As long as the character is in a position to use his native language(s) fairly regularly, the SL’s remain unchanged, though no SP’s accrue toward advancement.
The GM should set a base DV for each family of foreign languages, perhaps a base of 1 to 5 for a group like the Romance languages, maybe varying the DV for the individual members of the group, maybe 1 for Spanish, 2 for Italian, 3 or 4 for French. For the Germanic languages the GM could start with a base D V of 5; for a mish-mash compiled language as complex as modern English or as foreign to a Westerner as the Middle Eastern languages the GM could start with a base DV of 10 or 15; while the base for Hindi and/or the Far Eastern languages could be up to 15 or 20.
The DV to communicate with language skills will also be affected by the difference in class and station between the two parties. The social class and station is counted from the bottom of the landbound list up, and starting again with the common farmer on the table of free commoner stations and counting upwards, then to the table of lesser nobility and that for the greater nobles. The GM need simply count the number of stations between the character and the one to whom e is speaking. If they are of the same station or within one or two steps, there generally is no issue.
The DV’s for regional dialects of native languages, or DV bonuses for dialects of foreign languages, should be equal to the number of miles from the nearest center in which the branch the character knows is generally spoken.
This should be added to the base for the (main) language spoken by the character. The farther the character goes afield, the worse the accent, pronunciation differences, and predominant slang iscome. The dialects of isolated country locations is the worst to the urbane townsmen, and the smooth and lazy speech of the townsmen is the most difficult for the simple country folk to understand.
To this will also be added any differences in education. For this purpose, levels of education are assigned values, as follows.
Everyone, high and low, gets to go to songschool on the steps of the local church or its equivalent, that is rated a “1” in education. Those who can read a little and know how to count is a “3”, while those who know their math and have developed a decent if not a fair hand at writing in addition to being able to read well is a “5”, and those who have a fair hand at writing and know some Latin as well is an “8” (Finishing School or Grammar School bundles); the bachelor is rated at “12” (degree in Grammar, also), the licentia docendi at “14”, and the PhD at “18”.