Sonntag, März 03, 2013
INT score and the number of languages (old school)
Just some thoughts I had while reading Basic Fantasy RPG and the updated ORSIC 2.3.
There is a table for each of the ability scores, and I always had my problems with the INT score.
Basically, I see no relevant connection between INT and the number of languages a character is able to learn, or begins the game with. While it may be said that intelligent people are better language learners, I believe there is a fallacy, and the connection of INT and languages is a construct due to the mechanics of the game system and its game world dependency. And in my opinion, it's simply because the INT score had to be good for something. Characters need STR to inflict damage and bash in doors, DEX to get some missile attack bonus, and better AC and CON for more hit points. So what does the characters with high INT get? Languages, or more spells in some editions.
There is a real-life stereotype of intelligent people playing musical instruments, especially the violin, and the piano (, because Mozart played them and PR did the rest. I'd rather have the stereotype be jazz vocalists, and electric guitar-players but I lack the PR funds.) Why is this not represented in the old school INT score?
Why, because this is not a game about musicians. Player characters may play instruments, and sing, or chant, but there are no 0e/1e skills, or class abilities to reflect this. And even the bard class does not use instruments to play music for entertainment, their special power is to influence people by device of vocal, and/or instrumental music. It is a magical power rather, or at least one of trance induction, and hypnosis (which would be seen as magic in many human cultures, anyway.)
Back to languages, and literacy. So, the fighter eventually gets more weapon-proficiency skills, but cannot learn to read and write? Not even by using all his riches to employ a decent teacher? What is the gold about then? (Experience points, yes. I remember, now.)
INT defines how many languages characters know at the start of the game, and limits what they are able to learn. Experience points do in no way simulate learning, because there are no skills that are learned (in a system without skills), and special abilities, feats, powers and so forth connected to the class are aquired in such a slow and irrational way that simulation of real-life learning is out of the question, or seems at least silly. But then ability scores are static, too. And even the long life-spans of dwarves and elves are not represented anywhere. On the contrary even, they have limits on the experience levels they may attain.
In many game systems experience points and levels represent hierarchy, and power within the game system and the game world. They have little to do with skills, or learning.
Player characters are merely playing pieces with attributes. Constructs. They are no real elves with magic powers, so I guess it does not amount to much wether INT and the number of languages they know have, or have not any plausible connection.
It's a game. And the rules can be changed.
Alternate language rule
Have each character roll 1d4 languages. Decide on fluency, and possible literacy skills depending on the character's class and background.
1st level human fighter from the border marches between Nugluk and Goblin Plains? Knows regional human tongue and Goblin fluently, reads most of the signs, and picked up a few dwarven words that allow him basic conversation.
Languages are cool. Use them, and don't waste space on an INT table with it. Instead grant a saving throw bonus vs. puzzle traps, or something like that.
Put those INT and WIS scores to better use
Use ability scores - and not just INT and WIS bonuses - coupled with class skills to determine how well the player characters interpret the game environment. And I do not mean perception alone, but the clues that only fighters, magic-users, or characters with high CHA may find (e.g. CHA as an ability to influence people, and understand the means and ends of such influence, and consequently spot the use of it.) Interpretation is up to the players eventually, but PCs with high scores may grant their players a little help from the DM.
Read the Lorefinder book for some ideas. I'm still thinking on how to implement it into old school games.