Datapads should have a built in translator


General Discussion

Grand Lodge

Any datapad connected to the infosphere (even probably ones that aren't) should have access to the Starfinder equivalent of Google Translate, if not something even more advanced. Especially in a universe where you are dealing with dozens, if not hundreds of sentient alien species.

I mean, just 2 weeks ago I was able to have a detailed conversation with someone I did not share a language with using a severely outdated phone. Surely in a world with technomancers and space travel, basic translation software should be commonplace.


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Hundreds of sentient alien species, times some unknown number of languages per species, in a world where the infosphere is broken up into discontiguous chunks by transmission delay.

Maybe the accepted cultural norm is "Just buy a damn translator program rather than relying on freeware"?

Silver Crusade

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Another thing to take into consideration is that some of the places the game takes you will have you encountering languages most basic translators probably won't have encountered, whether that's first contact and trying to establish communication with a species Pact Worlds society has not encountered yet (like the kish in Dead Suns) or a state whose infosphere isn't linked with that of the Pact Worlds (I imagine the Azlanti Star Empire DOES have an internet equivalent of its own, but it was probably developed independently of the Pact Worlds and the Star Empire probably has very little interest in translating the speech of those they consider aliens and barbarians).

Grand Lodge

Metaphysician wrote:
Maybe the accepted cultural norm is "Just buy a damn translator program rather than relying on freeware"?

Unless I missed it, there isn't even an option to buy a translator program. Which I would be happy to throw some credits into a translator for all the common languages, and maybe more credits for uncommon languages.

I fully understand it would not be a true universal translator, encountering languages that haven't been programmed, etc.

Just seems silly to not have easy access to translation in such an advanced setting.


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A cheap "all common languages" translation program would be pretty far out of line with existing translation items, like the Envoy's Mouthpiece, costwise.


Sounds like another reality vs. game mechanics argument.

If you want to houserule away language barriers, just say that. Bring it up to your GM and other players. Have everyone speak common if it makes the game more fun.


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You could also say that anyone speaking 'common' is actually just using a common translator that's programmed with the known common languages.


HammerJack wrote:
A cheap "all common languages" translation program would be pretty far out of line with existing translation items, like the Envoy's Mouthpiece, costwise.

Brainstorming possible justifications for a cheaper price:

The translator AI is less effective and accurate than magical translation. It's good enough for some things, but increases the chances of misunderstandings and diplomatic incidents.

The program only works when the character has interweb access (or whatever it's called). A few light minutes away from the interweb relays, you get severe lag and sometimes have to resend data. 30 light minutes away, it's barely useable for anything.

It doesn't have Elvish languages because xenophobic Elvish hackers keep erasing them from the databases.

It doesn't do voice recognition without an upgrade that costs extra. Instead, you have to type everything in, as fast as you can. You have to remember the spelling conventions used by the program for languages you don't speak. And you have to recognize the foreign phonemes well enough to type them accurately, or be accurate enough that the AI can guess what was said. Otherwise, the program gives you gibberish. (Make a roll with [skill] to use the program.)

It either has no speaker, or speaks in an annoying voice.

Garretmander wrote:
You could also say that anyone speaking 'common' is actually just using a common translator that's programmed with the known common languages.

I like this! I get annoyed by "common" languages in RPG games that are (seemingly) spoken everywhere, by everyone, in all time periods, and don't seem to have historical explanations for how they got that universal.


HammerJack wrote:
A cheap "all common languages" translation program would be pretty far out of line with existing translation items, like the Envoy's Mouthpiece, costwise.

Tie its performance to computer Tier, making a computer that can run it well while also being portable a pretty pricey asset.


Garretmander wrote:
You could also say that anyone speaking 'common' is actually just using a common translator that's programmed with the known common languages.

This is pretty much how I run it at our table.

It allows for effective communication with anyone who has "common", but it is not as effective as actually knowing the language in question.

Also it does not allow translation of unknown languages.


The Wayfinders faction in Society play has a rudimentary translator available through a boon that takes 10 minutes to "learn" a language and can provide extremely basic communication.

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