Author Topic: Language & Literacy in the Ninth World  (Read 291 times)

LexStarwalker

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Language & Literacy in the Ninth World
« on: June 17, 2014, 08:59:36 am »
I commonly see people ask about language and literacy in the Ninth World. What languages does a beginning player character speak? Can PCs read and write?

There are two sections in the Numenera Corebook that deal with language:  The Language and Literacy sections on pages 132-133 and the Language section on page 339.

The Truth is the only language widely spoken in the Ninth World.

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The Truth is the predominant language in the Steadfast, where it is spoken by about 80 percent of the people; in cities, that number is closer to 100 percent. In the Beyond, about 60 percent of the people speak the Truth as their primary language, but many isolated villages have their own tongue (Numenera Corebook, page 133).

Characters start out knowing the Truth and maybe one other local language/dialect that fits their background.  As the game progresses, they can buy additional languages as a short-term benefit for 2 XP each (it's short term because, other than the Truth, each language is only spoken in a very small area, and it's likely the PCs won't be there long).

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Characters should begin the game knowing the language(s) that make the most sense for them. For the vast majority, that will be the Truth, and maybe a bit of some local dialect or unique language. As the game progresses, characters can learn new languages by spending XP [2 XP] to gain short-term benefits. More than likely, learning a new language will have only a limited or short-term benefit because most languages other than the Truth arenít widely used (Numenera Corebook, page 339).

On page 132 of the Corebook it states that in the Steadfast about 50% of people are literate, and in the cities about 70%, although most people can recognize a few words in the Truth. I think it's safe to assume that PCs fall into the percentage (however small) of literate people unless a player specifically wants to play an illiterate character.

Not only does every settlement beyond the Steadfast likely speak its own language, but many of the creatures, abhumans and visitants of the Ninth World have their own languages as well.

Although you as the GM can ignore language in your games, I highly recommend that you don't do that. Communicating with entities that don't speak their language is a unique challenge to PCs that will really add a new degree of depth to your games and roleplaying.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 09:01:52 am by LexStarwalker »

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Tigbun

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Re: Language & Literacy in the Ninth World
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2014, 10:20:09 am »
Very well put. And honestly this is the best time to say that just using "The Truth" to talk to every NPC doesn't feel all that weird. It is a focus point I have been working to expand on through a supplement book in the works with the working title "Story Tellers of the Ninth World" which is going to help players and GMs work with culture, language, and bringing the "Bard" back to the table.

Here is a small bit of what I wrote and am working on.

Language –
A method of being able to communicate from one person to another.
Stories and words have meaning, and that is why it is important to realize that in Numenera that in the various cultures and peoples in the Ninth World can differ simply on what stories they have. Whether it is to teach a lesson,  share an exploit of an adventure, or even lie about the size of a Rubar. This section was created to expand on the Weird of the many ways people and creatures could communicated in the Ninth World.
It is part of human nature to share their experiences with others. We began by teaching our young by sharing our stories through word of mouth and pictures, or as it is formally known as Oral Tradition. Where a person or group may be responsible for recounting the tales their tribe can still remember. But to first do that we had to develop Language, a means on how to translate what the cave paintings meant and what exactly happened during the story. In the Ninth world it would not be unusual for a culture use a multitude of methods for communication besides the of written or spoken word. Consider that people in the Ninth world have access to powers beyonds the human body simply in the world around them. A tribe of people could communicate purely through thought, electronic impulses, or even in colors outside the spectrum of our conventional eyesight. For our own start, we developed writing with clay tablets and papyrus pulp, but in the Ninth world they have the fabrics of reality and powers beyond that of dark energy and the electromagnetic frequency. Also for consideration are the other intelligent creatures like the Visitiants, Abhumans, and Mutants who may still not be cultured enough to understand The Truth.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 10:32:22 am by Tigbun »

LexStarwalker

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Re: Language & Literacy in the Ninth World
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2014, 09:36:09 am »
Sounds great!

Gray Detrick

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Re: Language & Literacy in the Ninth World
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2014, 09:52:07 pm »
Without spoiling "The Beale of Boregal", I'd have to say I loved the irony with that story, that their language is called "The Truth"...

LexStarwalker

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Re: Language & Literacy in the Ninth World
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2014, 09:19:03 am »
Good point!

alcar

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Re: Language & Literacy in the Ninth World
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2014, 12:44:31 am »
My game has the Truth being easy to learn as a major plot point, which it literally infecting other human cultures who come across it so they can speak it. The implications being that it's a virus as much as a language, and the Order of Truth is perhaps using it to make people see the world the way they do, in terms of numenera as not-magic and the like. Shall see how it all goes.

LexStarwalker

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Re: Language & Literacy in the Ninth World
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2014, 10:37:18 am »
That's an interesting idea!