impworks Logo - a grinning imp in flight

Language Cherries and Lemons for Trail of Cthulhu

Right up to the 1970s many British university degrees included the study of languages so students could read papers and text books that weren’t available in English. For example engineers often learnt German as about a third of all academic papers on engineering were published in German journals. It wasn’t only Universities that required the study of languages – cooks would learn French at catering college and electricians German to read instruction books. Night schools at colleges, universities and the Works Educational Association allowed people from all walks of life to pick up a language to better themselves.

In Trail of Cthulhu (ToC) and other Gumshoe games this can be treated as a Cherry (see the rule book for those) or a lemon (which I’ll describe here). This is a simple way to give more PCs languages or make them take them making globetrotting adventures less dependent on NPC translators or a single PC linguist.

Cherries

If it’s a Cherry any PC with more than a required number of points in an ability gets a free point and an appropriate language for free. As with other points in the language ability a player doesn’t need to reveal their language choice until they use it so can hold off until its advantageous in play.

It should be obvious but a character shouldn’t take their native language.

Optionally: Most character’s are going to take the easy route in life though so if two abilities can be satisfied by taking the same language that’s what the PC will do. So a character with Architecture and Physics at 4 points or more would take German as it’s common to both and not Russian and French.

Open Source Gumshoe Ability Trail of Cthulhu Ability Free Language at 4 points Free Language at 8 points
Anthropology Anthropology One Indigenous Language relating to a people they have studied. Another Indigenous Language, or one of English, French or German.
Archaeology Archaeology Latin or Greek One ancient Language or old form of a modern language.
Architecture Architecture English, French or German
Art History Art History English, Italian or French
Astronomy Astronomy One of English, German, Latin, Greek or Chinese One not taken at 4 points
Biology Latin English or German
Bureaucracy Bureaucracy One modern language if dealing with foreign countries
Chemistry Chemistry English or German English, German, French or Russian excluding one taken at 4 points
Cop Talk Cop Talk One modern language if working across national boundaries with different languages or in an area with a large population who speak a different language
Craft Craft English, German, Italian or French
Cryptography Cryptography Any Modern Language Ancient Egyptian or Greek
Explosives English or German
Geology Geology English or German
History History Latin or Greek One ancient Language or old form of a modern language.
 – Hypnosis French
Law Law Latin Old version of their native language, language used for old law in their country or the language of another country they practice law in
Medicine Latin Any modern language
Natural History Latin English or German
Occult Occult Latin, Greek or Ancient Egyptian One not taken at 4 points
Oral History Oral History One spoken language if working in areas where other languages are spoken One spoken language if working in areas where other languages are spoken
 – Outdoorsman A local Indigenous language if working in an area where one is spoken Another local Indigenous language if working in an area where one is spoken
 – Pharmacy English, German or Latin One not taken at 4 points
 – Physics English, Russian or German One not taken at 4 points
 – Piloting English, French or German
 – Psychoanalysis English, Latin or German
 – Theology Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Pali, Sanskrit, Tamil or Classical Arabic One not taken at 4 points or Church Slavonic, Ge’ez, Coptic, Syriac, Classical Armenian

 

Lemons

Put simply a lemon is a requirement to have an ability to increase another ability above a certain level.

If it’s a Lemon any PC who wants to advance past a level must have at least one of the languages mentioned to continue to spend points in the ability. English should only be used if it’s not a character’s native language.

Open Source Gumshoe Ability Trail of Cthulhu Ability Must have one of these in Languages to pass 4 points Must have one of these in Languages to pass 8 points
Anthropology Anthropology One Indigenous Language relating to a people they have studied. Another Indigenous Language, or one of English, French or German.
Archaeology Archaeology Latin or Greek One ancient Language or old form of a modern language.
Architecture Architecture English, French or German
Art History Art History English, Italian or French
Astronomy Astronomy One of English, German, Latin, Greek or Chinese Another of the Languages from the 4 points list
Biology Latin English or German
Bureaucracy Bureaucracy One modern language if dealing with foreign countries
Chemistry Chemistry English or German English, German, French or Russian not the same as 4 points
Cop Talk Cop Talk One modern language if working across national boundaries with different languages
Craft Craft English, German, Italian or French
Cryptography Cryptography Any Modern Language that isn’t their native language Ancient Egyptian or Greek
 – Explosives English or German
Geology Geology English or German
History History Latin or Greek One ancient Language or old form of a modern language.
 – Hypnosis French
Law Law Latin Must have 2 points in Languages
 – Medicine Latin Any modern language
Natural History Latin
Occult Occult Latin, Greek or Ancient Egyptian One not taken at 4 points
Oral History Oral History One spoken language if working in areas where other languages are spoken
 – Outdoorsman A local Indigenous language if working in an area where one is spoken
 – Pharmacy English, German or Latin Two of the languages from the 4 point list must be taken
 – Physics English, Russian or German
 – Piloting English, French or German
 – Psychoanalysis English, Latin or German
 – Theology Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Pali, Sanskrit, Tamil or Classical Arabic Two of the languages from the 4 point list must be taken or one of them plus one of Church Slavonic, Ge’ez, Coptic, Syriac, Classical Armenian

 

impworks © Copyright Mark Caldwell 1996 - 2018