Language and Literacy: a Gripe and a suggested change

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Language and Literacy: a Gripe and a suggested change

Postby Damon » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:29 pm

Currently, people with language 3 or above are literate in that language, while 2 and below are illiterate. However, it's entirely possible to have a spoken mastery of a language without being able to read or write, and the opposite is also true: by way of example, I'd classify myself as having the skill level "Spanish 1": sit me down across the table from a Spaniard and I can fumble my way through a conversation, yet I can read and write Spanish. Fluency =! literacy.

Thus, I propose the following system for literacy: Levels in a language grants you NO ability to read or write on their own. In order to be literate, you must take at least one bonus dice in the "Literacy" specialty for that language. Each additional bonus die in the literacy specialty grants you improved reading/writing ability:

Literacy
1B- You can read and write the language in question, but slowly. Your penmanship is childish, and you are prone to spelling errors.
Read: 1 page in eight minutes.
Write: 1 page in sixteen minutes.

2B- You can read at about the same speed at which you speak, and write at half speed. Your penmanship is primitive but largely correct, and your errors are less common.
Read: 1 page in four minutes.
Write: 1 page in eight minutes.

3B- You write at about the same speed at which you speak, and read twice as quickly. Your penmanship is good, and errors are rare.
Read: 1 page in two minutes.
Write: 1 page in four minutes.

4B- Your penmanship is excellent, and you almost never make errors
Read: 1 page per minute.
Write: 1 page in 2 minutes.

5B- You no longer make errors when you write, and your penmanship is flawless.
Read: 2 pages per minute.
Write: 1 page per minute.

6B- You penmanship approaches fine art.
Read: 4 pages per minute.
Write: 2 pages per minute.

7B- Your penmanship knows few equals: books you transcribe are sought after by collectors.
Read: 8 pages per minute.
Write: 4 pages per minute.

Effects: Basic literacy is "cheaper" in terms of character creation, costing only 10 exp instead of 30. However, this buys you a rather crude, "Kindergarten" variety of literacy, sounding out words and writing laughably simple sentences with backwards letters and such. Literacy 2B is what we expect 10-year-olds to have mastered; only at Literacy 3B (which of course requires Language 3) does one obtain something approaching what our world considers an adult reading/writing level. Later on you get into speed-reading and the sort of writing prowess attributed to middle-age monks, if your character wants those sorts of skills.
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Re: Language and Literacy: a Gripe and a suggested change

Postby coldwind » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:27 am

At character creation, literacy in your primary language only costs 10 (buying a 3 at creation is cheaper than in play).

Your system, while certainly making some of your gripes solvable, doesn't actually address all of your hypotheticals though - given that specialties are limit by ability ranks, one could never be better at reading/writing a language than speaking.

It also puts an even larger experience burden on characters who want to be literate, and seems to be adding complexity for very little gain.

If you really want to separate literacy from fluency, create a Literate benefit, perhaps basing your reading/writing proficiency on your Cunning: Decipher.
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Re: Language and Literacy: a Gripe and a suggested change

Postby Damon » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:26 am

coldwind wrote:At character creation, literacy in your primary language only costs 10 (buying a 3 at creation is cheaper than in play).


Correct, but 10 points from the Ability pool, rather than 10 from the Specialty pool.

Your system, while certainly making some of your gripes solvable, doesn't actually address all of your hypotheticals though - given that specialties are limit by ability ranks, one could never be better at reading/writing a language than speaking.


Which isn't unrealistic. If I don't know the proper word or conjugation for a word in speaking, I won't know it in writing either. You'll never be able to write or read quickly if you have to stop and try to remember whether the word should end with "-amos" or "-imos" or trying to figure out a word by context alone, which are the kinds of problems you'll be facing when you have language 1. The only situation this system doesn't cover is the "dead language" issue, ie a language that effectively only exists in writing.

It also puts an even larger experience burden on characters who want to be literate, and seems to be adding complexity for very little gain.


No, it shifts the burden from the ability pool to the specialty pool; the ability to raise a rank 2 ability to rank 3 is almost always more valuable than gaining 1B in a specialty.

Further, this allows literacy in more languages for cheaper at character creation and beyond. A second language at character creation is 10 exp. Literacy in a second language is another 60 exp for 70 exp total, all of it ability exp. Under my system that second language will cost just 20 exp, 10 for rank 1 in the ability score, 10 for 1 bonus die. After character creation literacy in a second language is a whopping 90 exp compared to 40 under my system.

If you really want to separate literacy from fluency, create a Literate benefit, perhaps basing your reading/writing proficiency on your Cunning: Decipher.


Well now that's even more of a burden, isn't it?
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Re: Language and Literacy: a Gripe and a suggested change

Postby Zorbeltuss » Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:21 pm

I can write better English than I can speak and I understand written English better than I understand spoken English. Probably has to do with the fact that I read and write English all the time, but only listen to English through TV, movies and computer games (and since the former two comes with Norwegian subtitles (that I turn off in the case of DVD's when I can) it kinda defeats that point)..it's probably the other way around for most people in a medieval setting, with a few exceptions. Like say, Latin, I think a lot of scholars in the middle ages was pretty good at reading and writing latin but sucked at speaking.

Thing is, specialty dices aren't undervalued. They cost less, sure, but they aren't worth as much either.

If you plan on playing in Westeros, then the current rules are fine. If you plan on having a setting with multiple languages or a character with multiple languages, then they are not, and even if you tinker with literacy, such characters are basically screwed without a bigger rule change.
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