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These are some experimental house rules I came up with for language skills. I really hate rolling to see if someone can understand someone else, as the thresholds can be really subjective and I really just want to have people talk without language barriers getting in the way of the game too much. So here they are:

Languages are a special type of knowledge skill. They cost the same as other knowledge skills. However, instead of being used for dice pool tests, each rating is a language represents a specific level of competence.

Smatterings : At rating 1, a character knows as much of the language as could be expected from a few years of study in high school, or memorization of a tourist help guide. Through gestures and limited vocabulary, basic concepts such as direction, time, simple needs or desires, and emotional state may be conveyed. Questions such as “how much is this”, “where is the bathroom” and “Do you speak english” are covered, as are such pleasantries as “Hello” and “Thank you” The gamemaster may choose to require an intuition roll from the character if he feels that the subject matter will be difficult to convey. Any listeners who actively are trying to understand the character can roll intution as well, aiding the speaker in a teamwork test. The threshold is set by the GM based on the subject matter. A character won't be making any friends with this level of knowledge, but should be able to get by.

Conversational: At rating 2, a character can converse in the language effectively. Though they have a distinct foreign accent, and may often need to slow the conversation in order to follow it, they have no trouble getting ideas across to other speakers of the language. The character has no limitation on what information they may convey.

Fluent: At rating or higher, a character speaks a specific Dialect of the language at a fluent level. A dialect may be the “proper” language, or a local dialect, or a specific subculture’s lingo or slang. When speaking with this dialect, their speech is natural and free from mistakes. They may pass for a native speaker if they wish. When speaking with others who speak a different dialect of the same language, however, they are treated as if they only had conversational proficiency. At rating 3 a character is fluent in 1 dialect, each rating point above that confers another dialect the character is fluent in.
All characters are considered fluent in at least 1 language for free, possessing it at rating 3 (choose a dialect). This native language may be increased as normal in order to learn other dialects.

That's basically how I've always treated Languages, even way back in SR1. I have never once rolled for them ... either as a GM or as a Player. Hell, I have never even seen Languages rolled for (other than perhaps in regards to Linguasofts) in a Shadowrun game.

What you have written looks good, and seems to work just fine in-game. Anything else is just too much effort.
We use a similar system for our SR3 games and will likely do so for SR4 (if we ever get a game started), we never ever rolled for languages.
We use languages, but its tough sometimes, if you base it on real life, i find that most of us can understand a language quite a long time before you actually learn to speak it properly. And you can learn to read and write it usually before audio understanding.

Forex, i moved here to Helsinki about two years ago. Finnish is a moon language grinbig.gif , but i can understand most of what i hear(thats not some technical, medical, legal jargon, of course, but i dont understand half of that in english nyahnyah.gif) . However, speaking it is still a bit of a problem for me, i can communicate basic stuff, hold a basic conversation, do my jobs, but im still having problems. Reading or listening though, I can understand most of conversations.

Most game systems dont have a method like that, but im sure it would be more difficult to assign seperate ratings for 'understanding' and 'speech', just muddles things up more than need be. A basic numerical system does seem to work well, and a rolling-free system i'm all for, i like the idea smile.gif

Personally, i'd tack a higher rating than 3 on there, for understanding the complex medical jargon and the like. Another example is someone i know who lived in another country for awhile, was fluent in any instance but when the mechanic was telling him what was wrong with his car exactly, he had no clue.

But said system would still not require roll, id say at a 4 or 5 rating you could understand about anything and could work as a UN translator.
Well, for one, I'd call complex medical jargon a dialect.

And for two, there's a bit of a funny thing regarding technical jargon in languages. Oftentimes more technical terms were invented quite recently, when whatever they are describing was invented or discovered. They tend to be greek or Latin roots. Then as the knowledge was spread, the term was incorporated into most languages.

This means that while heart has a different word in each language, your ancipalatory cardiovascular Valve (or whatever, I'm not a doctor) tends to be called that everywhere.

The result is that technical jargon often transcends language barriers. It's not universal, but its a trend in language drift.
Language skills are a strange beast. On the one hand, you can treat them like driving, or doing basic stuff with a computer - you don't need to roll unless you're trying to do something difficult. But they don't work like driving or computers, since you can do both of those things without even having the skill, while you can't speak a language at all if you don't know it.

The best system, IMO, is a hybrid of the whole "level" notion as outlined above, i.e. defining what level of skill allows you to succeed at what tasks with no roll. At 3, for instance, you can speak and understand the language without making a roll. But understanding a strange dialect or something highly complex would need a roll. If you don't require rolls ever, you're letting someone with a 1 logic and a 5 skill have the exact same ability as someone with a 6 logic and a 5 skill. Rolls should come into play whenever the character is trying to do something difficult with the language, something at which they could conceivably fail considering their skill level.
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