For those unfamiliar with 1e 7th Sea, a character only started out with their native tongue, and even that was simply speaking it. If you wanted your Hero to speak extra languages, or be able to read and write in any of those languages, you had to pay extra build points.
While I get that 2e introduced Old Thean as a "trade language" that everyone knows so groups don't run into the "can't speak to one another" issue, something that D&D has done for as long as there's been languages. But something about 7th Sea now using this short cut just kind of bothers me, since if a Hero wants to speak more than their native tongue and trade language, they either need to increase their Wits (which may not jive for certain character concepts) or become an omniglot by taking the Langauges Advantage for 1 point. And far as I can tell, a Hero is presumed to be literate unless the player decides otherwise, with Castille seeming to be called out as the only exception due to the Vaticine Church's influence.
Personally, I'd like a tad more granularity in terms of what languages a Hero knows, but not quite the 1e method. So, a few thoughts on how to handle matters. These are all off-the-cuff ideas.
1) Dispense with Old Thean as an automatic language, so at the start, Heroes can speak/read/write their native language. For each point of Wits above 1, the Hero can speak/read/write an additional language. If they have at least one rank in Scholarship, then they are automatically considered to be fluent and literate in Old Thean. Example: Gerard the Montaigne Army Officer has a Wits of 3. He automatically starts with the ability to speak, read, and write Montaigne. His player also decides to grab Castillian (due to the recent war) and Eisen (having studied various military texts) as his extra two languages. Since he doesn't have any ranks in Scholarship, Gerard is unable to speak, read, or write in Old Thean.
2) Start with native language (again, no Old Thean), plus extra languages for every point in Wits above 2, however the Hero is only considered to be literate in their native language, unless they have a rank in Scholarship, at which point they are literate in every language they can speak, and are also fluent in Old Thean (which seems more comparable to Latin and that it'd be used more as a "scholarly language" rather than a trade tongue). Also, for every rank in Scholarship past the first, the Hero can speak (and is literate in) one additional language. Example: Estevan the Castillian Duelist also has a Wits of 3 and a Scholarship of 2 (attending classes that the Altimira University goes a long way, especially if you pay attention in class). Estevan starts knowing Castillian, and picks Montaigne as his bonus language from having a point in Wits above 2. Because he's got at least 1 rank in Scholarship, he's considered fluent in Old Thean, and is literate in all the languages he knows, and for his second rank of Scholarship, he chooses Vodacce to be fluent and literate in.
3) Adapt the Acquaintance and Pidgin Language rules from the 1e Nations of Theah: Pirate Nations sourcebook, and again getting rid of Old Thean as a trade language that everyone knows how to speak (want to learn it? Take Linguist or choose it as one of your bonus languages from a high Wits). Whenever a Hero would be fluent in one additional language, they can instead choose to be "acquainted" with two languages, or speak a "pidgin" of three langauges (which can cause problems because a lot of high-minded concepts are left out), but the Hero would not be literate in any of them unless they've got ranks in Scholarship. So with each point in Wits above 2, you have the choice of 1) speak/read/write one additional language, 2) be acquainted with two languages, being able to speak them but not being literate, or 3) speak a pidgin of three languages, but any Risks that where fluency in the langauge would be a factor require one additional raise to be successful. Example 1: Giuseppe the Vodacce Consigliere has a Wits of 3 and Scholarship of 1. In his service to the Villanova family, he's had to deal with individuals from several neighboring nations. He starts out speaking Vodacce and is fully literate (as any Hero would be in their native tongue), and opts to be acquianted with Montaigne and Castille, and thanks to his 1 rank in Scholarship he's fluent in both of them. Example 2: Finn O'Malley the Inish Sailor has a Wits of 3 and no ranks in Scholarship. He automatically starts with fluency in Avalon (speaking the Inish dialect of course) and can read and write in his mother tongue, and opts to take the pidgin versions of Castille, Montaigne, and Vendel for having an extra point in Wits above 2, though he's not literate in those three languages since he has zero ranks in Scholarship, and any Risks he takes where communication is a factor requires him to spend an extra Raise if he wants to succeed.
Obviously, Option 3 is by far the most complicated of the lot, and thus the least likely to get employed. Ultimately, this may just be a personal hang-up that I need to get over, but I just like the notion of a Hero being able to speak a couple additional languages without having to dump valuable Trait points into Wits or wind up being able to speak pretty much every language on the face of Theah.
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