Game Design

Deck of Justice Card Game Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 15 June 2018 - 12:00pm
You know, there’s times to be subdued and subtle. Then there’s times to be over-the-top and way loud and crazy. Deck of Justice is a time where you’re over-the-top and loud and crazy. It’s a new card game that’s up on Kickstarter where you and your opponent fight it out in ridiculously contrived fights until […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Friday Snippets

Tabletop Gaming News - 15 June 2018 - 11:00am
Fridaaaaaaaaay! Wooooooo! What a great day. It’s Weekend Eve, one of my favorite days of the week (as you all well know). I’ve got D&D tomorrow, and I’m more-than-ready to play (we’ll be streaming again, for anyone interested). But before we get there, we need to finish this day off. And to do that, we […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Steve Jackson Games Bringing Back The Fantasy Trip

Tabletop Gaming News - 15 June 2018 - 10:00am
Steve Jackson Games has been making games for quite some time, longer than many of us have been gaming, or even really been alive. The Fantasy Trip was originally published back in the 70s, and so it’s been somewhat hard to find in this new, renaissance era of gaming. Well, it’s making a comeback. This […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Renegade Games Taking Pre-orders For Fireworks

Tabletop Gaming News - 15 June 2018 - 9:00am
Most cats I know really aren’t fans of fireworks. However, some have taken a shining to them. So much so that they’ve started creating their own fireworks displays (they’re very industrious cats). They’re looking to start out small with their displays, but as they learn, they hope to get more and more elaborate with their […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Print Version of Legacy: Life Among the Ruins Now Available

Tabletop Gaming News - 15 June 2018 - 8:00am
Digital books are fine. But, honestly, I very much prefer having an actual book in-hand when I game. For all the advantages of quick cross-references and being able to carry a library on your phone/tablet, I still love the physical book being in my hands. If nothing else, I just find the text easier to […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Uthuk Y’llan Releases Available For Runewars

Tabletop Gaming News - 15 June 2018 - 7:00am
The ravenous hordes are getting even more ravenous and horde-y. Three new box sets are now available for the Uthuk Y’llan for Runewars. They’ve got the fast and agile Flesh Rippers, the hulking Spined Threshers, and the amassed Berserkers unit, all available to spread fear and chaos on the tabletops. From the website: On the […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Identity Switch - by Sande Chen Blogs - 15 June 2018 - 6:01am
In this article, game designer Sande Chen delves into the connection between a person's identity, emotions, and behavior change.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Is Battle Royale the Next Esport? - by Josh Bycer Blogs - 15 June 2018 - 6:01am
Battle Royale and Fortnite has taken over multiplayer and streaming, but does this genre have the legs to be the next big Esport?
Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Adeptus Mechanics Rules Posted

Tabletop Gaming News - 15 June 2018 - 6:00am
Game designers aren’t infallible. Sometimes, they come up with rules that don’t quite work out. They’re human. It happens to all of us. What’s best, though, is to learn from your mistakes and fix them. Well, the original Adeptus Mechanicus rules weren’t quite what people were looking for, so the Forge World team gave them […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

11 BOSS BATTLES OF X-MORPH: DEFENSE - PART 3, THE BOMBER - by Piotr Bomak Blogs - 15 June 2018 - 5:44am
In the third article in the series, we unveil the design decisions behind the bomber boss in X-Morph: Defense and why we decided to completely get rid of it, even though it was almost finished.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Creativity in Languages

Gnome Stew - 15 June 2018 - 5:00am

 Having a common language between the staff at a pizza place fostered good teamwork. Share12Tweet8+11Reddit1Email

When I was younger, I worked at all-but-one of the pizza joints in my hometown. I guess that was my thing. One of the key things I learned about teamwork in that situation is the importance of clear communication. If the team’s ability to get information from one person to another broke down, then things slogged to a standstill. During the busy Friday night crush of pizza deliveries, a collapse of teamwork drove morale down, decreased our speeds of getting food out the door, and generally made a (mostly) miserable job even more painful.

I’m going to state the obvious here: Having a common language between the staff at a pizza place fostered good teamwork.

The same holds true for our adventuring groups within our games. While I’ve not run off and done research into why a “common tongue” exists within the early RPGs, I can assume it’s based on the fact that if everyone can speak at least one universal language, it makes the game experience easier. The focus can be on the stories and experiences, not the clumsy attempts at having player A translate what player B says for player C.

Adventure Hooks

However, there are times when obfuscating information, providing misleading directions, or generally muddling the PC’s brains can lead to good fun for everyone at the table. GMs and adventure creators have historically used something along the lines of, “The discovered scroll is written in a language unknown to the party members, but they recognize the ancient script and know of an old man at the edge of the forest who might be able to translate it.” This is a classic trope and a decent adventure hook, especially if the old man at the edge of the forest requires payment in the form of a favor instead of gold coins.

Another good hook is to have the party find a note that they mistranslate. This can lead them astray from what they feel is their main goal, only to take them through a circuitous route back around to where they need to be to continue the main story arc. These types of “side quests” are subtle in their execution, and can allow the party to gain the necessary experience, items, information, and such to present themselves to the Big Bad as a formidable threat to the Big Bad’s plans.

Sibling Languages

 This can lead to quite a bit of fun with missed translations. Share12Tweet8+11Reddit1Email

One solution I am particularly fond of is to figure out how the languages relate to one another and draw up a relationship mapping between the spoken tongues. This can allow for the GM to develop a piece of information in the orcish language, and if one of the characters happens to speak goblin, then the translation efforts are “two steps higher” in difficulty because the goblin language is only a single line removed from orcish. However, if the same character who speaks goblin wants to translate something written in gnome, then it’s “six steps higher” in difficulty because goblin is three languages removed (per my relationship mapping) from goblin.

This can lead to quite a bit of fun with missed translations, slightly inaccurate information, or just plain nonsense that may come out of the translation. A little bit of prep work on the part of the GM as she comes up with the original text might be necessary to think of how a partial success or complete failure (or critical failure!) will impact the resulting information.

In my games, when “sibling languages” come into play, I generally don’t allow more than three steps to be taken between a known and an unknown language. This keeps the players from doing ridiculous things like translating druidic directly into goblin.

National/Cultural Tongues

One thing my illustration doesn’t cover is different languages for different nationalities or cultures. This is because I didn’t want to impose my world on something generic like the relationships I created above. I wanted you to be able to use this. My basic way of handling it is to create a different image that shows how the cultural languages relate to one another. I’ll work under the assumption that these types of languages are subsets of the “common tongue” of the world, and when translation has to happen, each step on the relationship diagram is “one step higher” in difficulty instead of two steps. This represents the tight-knit nature of the languages.

Lawrence Watt-Evans is one of my favorite authors. He created the world of Ethshar for a long-running series of novels he’s been writing since 1985. Somewhere in an author’s note or interview he explained that the various nations of Ethshar speak roughly the same language. He took ideas from history during the Germanic tribal days where each tribe had it’s own “language” and there were dozens of iterations of a common tongue. This allowed nearby neighbors to communicate with each other easily, but the distant tribes had a little more difficulty. He applied these real-world concepts to Ethshar to explain how the different nations could communicate with relative ease.

In game terms, my approach of “one step away” equals “one step higher” in difficulty works well, especially if there are lots of relations and connections between languages. These can also be used to show dialects and subtle shifts in a single language between different people.

Magic Overrides

Of course, there are easily obtainable spells (like Comprehend Languages in Pathfinder and D&D) that throw a monkey wrench into the whole “unknown language” angle. The easy route out of this is to boost the level of those spells, make them harder to find, or just simply not allow them to exist within the campaign. These are all heavy-handed approaches, though.

One thing I like to do is to alter the material component from “a pinch of soot and salt” to something a little less mundane like “a crystal orb at least three inches in diameter.” This ups the cost (thus preventing lower level characters from easily accessing the spell) and might require some action on the part of the party to obtain the material component. When I do this, I make sure to clearly state that the material component in this case is not consumed in the spell.

Your Thoughts?

What are your thoughts on using different languages? How do you handle the communications errors that can occur during translation, especially during the rapid-fire exchange of spoken words? I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Releases Available For Super Dungeon Explore

Tabletop Gaming News - 14 June 2018 - 3:00pm
Ninja Division/Soda Pop is adding to their Masterclass Miniatures line for Super Dungeon Explore. But they’re not going with just one new release. They’ve got three new figures for you this month. There’s a new mini-boss as well as a pair of new heroes to either fill up the dungeon or try and clear it […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Late Pledges Open for Pacific Rim Board Game

Tabletop Gaming News - 14 June 2018 - 2:00pm
The one thing about crowdfunding campaigns is that they only last so long. Miss out, and those deals and exclusives are gone forever… or are they? That’s where the Late Pledge time comes in. River Horse has opened up late pledges for their Pacific Rim board game. Jump in your Jaeger and go take out […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fates of Madness RPG Card Game Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 14 June 2018 - 1:00pm
Fates of Madness is a new RPG card game up on Kickstarter. Instead of having books and paper, you play using your decks of cards. Head down into the dungeons, defeat all manner of monsters, and come away with some sweet loot. It’s everything you want in an RPG, but without all the tedious page-flipping. […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Following App Store rejection, Valve cuts game purchasing from iOS Steam Link app

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 14 June 2018 - 12:35pm

Valve has slightly tweaked the testing build of its Steam Link iOS app to remove game purchasing, likely in response to Apple's new rules that prohibit such apps in the App Store. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Drawlab Running Witless Wizards Card Game Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 14 June 2018 - 12:00pm
As you get older, the memory of things you learned long ago tend to fade. And we all know that our muscles don’t respond the way they used to. Hard to do those triple-backflips in your 80s. After more than a couple lifetime’s of studies, even great wizards start to lose it. But that’s also […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Thursday Terrain Corner

Tabletop Gaming News - 14 June 2018 - 11:00am
The week continues along. Wednesday, which is traditionally my longest day of the week (in feeling, anyway), is done, and we slide our way back down to the weekend. And with the weekend, hopefully comes gaming. And with gaming comes terrain. So let’s get your gaming tables looking good. Today in the Terrain Corner we […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Following GDPR, Steam now discloses a ton of collected account data to users

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 14 June 2018 - 10:42am

Now rounded up in one place, Steam users are able to see their past reports, inventory history, uploaded content, award nominations, and much much. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Plaid Hat Games Previews Shadow Clan for Crystal Clans

Tabletop Gaming News - 14 June 2018 - 10:00am
There are plenty of people out there that are afraid of the dark. There’s generally nothing to worry about it. That bump was nothing. That creek was also nothing. That blood-curdling scream and disembodied children’s laughter was also nothing. In this preview, we get a look at the Shadow Clan for Crystal Clans. From the […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Mantic Previews The Nameless Faction For Deadzone

Tabletop Gaming News - 14 June 2018 - 9:00am
The Outbreak event for Deadzone is more than just a summer league to join in. It’s bringing a bunch of changes to the game, including two whole new factions. We’ve seen the Nameless before, at least over in Dreadball. Now, their armies are hitting the field. In this preview, Mantic shows off some of the […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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