As the setting is (almost) Earth in 1550, there are a wide variety of languages to choose from. Commonly spoken in Europe are German, French, Latin, and Spanish. Less common are English, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Polish, Russian, Finnish, Welsh, Irish, Scots, Italian, Greek, and many, many others. Most of the minor languages are constrained by nation, though some have significant immigrant populations in foreign countries.
Learning to speak a new language takes time and practice.
Let us say that any particular skill requires the learning of 216 things. It is an ad hoc number, but it’s suitably high and that’s good – and I have a deliberate reason to choose that number. Let’s further suppose that a perfect student would learn all 216 things within the space of 216 weeks. That’s a total of 4 years and 8 weeks. Finally, let’s suggest that for some things, a week need not be the measure. For some things, two days might be the measure.
We’re going to consider a caster learning a new language, so were going to consider half of 216 weeks as a good healthy time frame. For this, we’re assuming the character hires a tutor and spends between 6-10 hours a week training. A similar amount of time is spent “practicing” … so the time cannot simply be doubled and everything learned in half the time. The brain cannot be pushed past its usual limit, and the above numbers suggest the time frame a university uses to train a person. Remember, we’re not talking about learning to speak at a grade one level – we’re talking about someone becoming erudite and able to speak as a university graduate.
Consider 3d6, which produces 216 possible combinations. The chance of rolling a 3, in which all three dice show one pip, is 1 in 216. The chance of rolling a 4, on the other hand, where one of the three dice can show two pips, is 3 in 216. Here’s the complete odds for each result shown below.
Suppose that for each week that passes, the player rolls 3d6 twice … and then marks the appropriate slots in the above table (the bottom line would remain blank until filled). Every time the die was rolled in a slot that had not reached its maximum, the character would “learn” … with the total number of successful weeks added together and divided by 216
in order to produce a %.
However, if the character has already rolled the number 12 a total of 25 times, that person that week fails to learn anything.
The nice thing about this system is that a character could easily become fairly adept at the new language in the space of a year. However, as the spaces fill up, it gets harder and harder to fill those gaps. Though rudimentary skills would be present long before the completion of the table; for example at 25% complete a speaker would have attained the basics of the language and be able to communicate basic information: getting directions, greetings, ordering food, etc. At 50% the speaker would be able to hold simple conversations and communicate moderately complex ideas with only some trouble. 75% would be a conversational level of knowledge, and 100% would be able to pass as a native speaker and philosophize in the language.
For those with a high intelligence, an additional roll of 3d6 would be allowed each week for every point of intelligence bonus.
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