Pulp Krieg: Language Rules
$Revision: 1.8 $

Languages are pretty hard to do "right" in a RPG.
The interplay between written, spoken, history and culture makes very difficult to properly model any language proficiency. A native Italian speaker could have a good grasp of Portuguese, for example, if he (or she) happens to come from a given Italian region, while someone else who lives no more than 100 Km apart could make himself understood in French with a minimal effort, and yet being completely unable to write in French...

I have no intention to even try to "do it right"... especially because I think that Silhouette is a system that works best at an abstract level of detail. I will provide guidelines on where the various languages were used in the '30s, and also offer some "light" guidelines on how someone speaking a language would fare when trying to use a different one.

The basis for this work will be a table listing language, area of the world in which it is used, and then listing "sibling" languages in decreasing order of similarity.

LanguageUsed in:Fairly CloseSomewhat CloseDistantly related

Someone who knows a language listed in the first table column will automatically get the following abilities:

Fairly Close
Roll as per the language you know, applying a -2 to the roll.
Somewhat close
Roll as per the language you know, applying a -3 to the roll.
Distantly related
Unskilled roll. (remember that you are entitled to your KNO bonus if the result is not a fumble).

Remember that any character automatically has 2 levels in his own language (3 if he has KNO 2+).
So for example a German character with KNO:+1 would roll 2D-1 when trying to communicate in Yiddish, 2D-2 when trying to communicate with someone else in Dutch, roll for unskilled (+1) for Danish.
Please note that if a character has spent no points in a given language he cannot make an Unskilled roll, except for those language listed as "somewhat related" in a language he already know.

Written forms of a given language will follow more or less the same principle, but the GM should note that in some cases knowing one of the two will not automatically help the character to be proficient in another: for example someone who is able to write and read Egyptian hyerogliphs could be at a loss trying to speak to a reanimated mummy... or someone who learned Japanese by associating with an old martial arts master could be completely unable to write or read kanji...

Introducing a defaulting mechanism (e.g. Danish defaults at Swedish -2) may result in side effects: what if someone wants to learn both Swedish and Danish? If he has Swedish-3, why should he spend the full cost to get Danish-1, for example?
The GM could obviously decide beforehand that defaulting languages are "free" up to their default, so someone having Swedish-3 may learn Danish-2 by just spending the 4 points required, even if he never bought Danish- 1 before.
Be careful because this could cause some extra checks and calculations whenever the player decides to learn an extra language.

N.B.:I am no linguist. Please feel free to correct me and/or change what follows. This is just an attempt to add some detail to the Silhouette system, and I claim no special knowledge of languages.
LanguageUsed in:Fairly Close (-2)Somewhat Close (-3)Distantly related (Unskilled)
AfrikaansSouth AfricaDutchEnglish, German, YiddishDanish, Norwegian, Swedish
AmharicEthiopia, Sudan--Arabic
ArabicAfrica/north, Arabia (Saudi), Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Sudan--Amharic, Coptic, Farsi, Hebrew
BengaliIndia--Hindi, Hindustani, Nepalese, Urdu, Sinhalese
ByelorussianRussia-Russian, UkrainianPolish, Czechoslovakian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian
BulgarianBulgaria-Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, SlovenianByelorussian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czechoslovakian
CantoneseChina, Singapore, Thailand-Fukienese, Hakka, WuMandarin
CatalanSpainPortuguese, SpanishFrench Italian, Rumanian
CzechoslovakianCzechoslovakia-PolishByelorussian, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian
DanishDenmarkNorwegian, Swedish-German, English
DutchIndonesia, Netherlands,AfrikaansEnglish,German, Yiddish-
EnglishAfrica/south of Sahara, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Palestine, Samoa, Singapore, South Africa, USA-German, Yiddish, Afrikaans, DutchFrench, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish
FarsiPersia (Iran)--Arabic
FrenchAfrica/north, Africa/south of Sahara, Belgium-Catalan, Portuguese, SpanishEnglish, Italian, Rumanian,
FukieneseChina-Cantonese, Hakka, WuMandarin
GaelicIreland, Scotland--Welsh
GermanAustria, GermanyYiddishEnglish, Afrikaans, DutchDanish, Norwegian, Swedish
HakkaChina-Cantonese, Fukienese, WuMandarin
HebrewAfrica/north, Arabia (Saudi), Palestine--Arabic
HindiIndia, Pakistan--Bengali, Hindustani, Nepalese, Urdu, Sinhalese
HindustaniIndia--Bengali, Hindi, Nepalese, Urdu, Sinhalese
HungarianHungary--Finnish, Estonian
ItalianAfrica/north, Ethiopia, Libya-SpanishCatalan, French, Portuguese, Rumanian
JavaneseIndonesia--Indonesian, Malay
MacedonianYugoslavia-Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian -
MandarinChina--Cantonese, Fukienese, Hakka, Wu
NepaleseNepal--Bengali, Hindi, Hindustani, Urdu, Sinhalese
NorwegianNorwayDanish, Swedish-German, English
PolishPoland-CzechoslovakianByelorussian, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian
PortugueseAfrica/north, BrazilCatalan, SpanishFrench,Italian, Rumanian-
QuechuaBolivia, Ecuador, Peru---
RumanianRomania-French,Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Spanish-
RussianRussia-Byelorussian,UkrainianPolish, Czechoslovakian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian
Serbo-CroatianYugoslavia-Bulgarian, Macedonian, Slovenian -
SinhaleseIndia--Bengali, Hindi, Hindustani, Nepalese, Urdu
SlovenianYugoslavia-Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, Byelorussian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czechoslovakian
SpanishAfrica/north, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, PeruCatalan, PortugueseFrench, Italian, Rumanian-
SwahiliAfrica/south of Sahara, South Africa, Sudan---
SwedishSwedeDanish, Norwegian-German, English
UkrainianRussia-Byelorussian, RussianPolish, Czechoslovakian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian
UrduIndia, Pakistan--Bengali, Hindi, Hindustani, Nepalese, Sinhalese
WuChina-Cantonese, Fukienese, HakkaMandarin
YiddishPalestine, Germany, Central-EuropeGermanAfrikaans, Dutch, EnglishDanish, Norwegian, Swedish