in the Shadow of Greatness


April 22, 2003

Language and the Rule of Three, Part 1

—- Tony Lower-Basch wrote:
> Logic says language should be a serious barrier when Amberites
> travel far from the center of things. But logic is seldom the best
> guide for what will make a good game. What have folks on the list
> done with languages? Do you assume everybody speaks the
> Queen's Thari?

Xagnut described an approach that mirrors my campaign closely. Language is another environ factor that gets described along with color of natives, sky, and levels of technology and magic. All with an eye towards variety.

The environ supports Amberites and this brings up the specifics of getting from Amber to shadow of destination. Most of my players have always been new to Amber, or their powers, or both. I don't design campaigns around "I've been alive six hundred years and I'm just getting around to revealing myself" Player Characters. So the question of getting around in shadow is something that happens in game. We hardly ever use the poetic description methods of Zelazny to move through shadow. We use a more pragmatic gamer lingo to describe what our characters are "adding or subtracting" from shadow to get where they are going. In particular, the GM asks: What are the three most important things about your destination? These are goals that determine your success. And I work from there.

Notice that it would be highly unlikely that an amberite would say "language" as one of these three things. And yes, the subconscious powers of an amberite are good for providing destinations where you can breathe and get along with people. But most players emulate amberites to the extent that one of the three things they care about (despite where it might appear in precedence) is "safe". And "safe" typically means you will find a way to communicate with the folks of your destination... or at least someone in your party will... or the folks at the other end will be delighted with the quaint language difficulties that you experience... or the archaic forms of their language will remind you of other turns of phrase you've heard... or the slang they use to describe everyday situations will be confusing but offer much fun and endearing jest between newly met travelers... or the heavily laden tech speech will be opaque but you'll always get the gist of what they are saying... or... or... or...

Filed under : Aha!, Amber at 22.04.2003