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Old 01-05-2018, 03:45 PM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

Cannot Speak [-15 or -25] is a mundane physical disadvantage, and often a racial disadvantage. It comes in two levels with different names, which is reasonably common for disadvantages that were tidied up during the 3e to 4e editing process.

Mute [-25] means you cannot vocalise at all, or, presumably, make coherent sounds in any other way yourself. To communicate, you must use some other means, from sign language to telepathy. You cannot have Voice, Disturbing Voice, or any other traits that affect your voice. This appeared at GURPS 1e, although some details have changed.

Cannot Speak [-15] means you have a voice, but it can't manage the subtleties of a spoken language. Most normal animals have this disadvantage. You can have any other vocal traits, except Stuttering. This level was new at 4e.

This disadvantage mostly shows up on racial templates, including things like Alternate Forms, inhuman constructs, robots and zombies. Discworld has an interesting case: The Librarian, who can only say "ook," and is given Cannot Speak, even though he can say quite a bit with that, and people with the right perk can understand him. Banestorm has a special class of slaves who are made Mute, and Bio-Tech procedures for adding, removing and mitigating the disadvantage. Fantasy discusses animals without this disadvantage, and Horror has spirits and ghosts that suffer it when materialised. Madness Dossier, where language has terrifying power, uses it, which might bring on the quirk-level version from Power-Ups 6, where there's a word you can't or won't say. Powers: The Weird has surgery to improve animals' voices, which is an option in Space for uplifting. Zombies often have Cannot Speak, but the ones that randomly utter a single word are effectively Mute.

I've never seen this disadvantage on a PC. I've had to cope with communications between a spirit and a PC who could see him, but not hear him; sign language solved the problem.

Has this disadvantage been significant in your games?
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Old 01-05-2018, 04:33 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

Could make for a creepy Affliction like that famous episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
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Old 01-05-2018, 04:49 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

Speaking of Creepy, its also good for ghosts that cant talk but can moan or rattle chains.
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Old 01-06-2018, 05:40 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

I've put it on one or two demo game PCs, but I find that it has a bit of a practical problem of enforcement. One can't tell the player not to say anything, and that soon becomes the player suggesting party courses of action, and that soon ends up feeling like the character communicating smoothly with the rest of the party and probably with NPCs...

One can insist that the communication must be something that could be signed or otherwise conveyed, but continually saying "How do you convey that? What are you gesturing?" gets kind of boring very fast. I've seen similar problems when a party somehow winds up with substantially diverse language sets.

(It would have been even worse with the demo game PCs, come to think of it; the ones I'm remembering were Alchemical Baroque sapient cats.)

I'm sure it could be played convincingly and interestingly, but it'd require a disciplined and committed player. Mute NPCs are probably easier, but they're probably going to end up being treated as dumb furniture if one isn't careful.
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Old 01-06-2018, 09:02 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Masters View Post
I've put it on one or two demo game PCs, but I find that it has a bit of a practical problem of enforcement. One can't tell the player not to say anything, and that soon becomes the player suggesting party courses of action, and that soon ends up feeling like the character communicating smoothly with the rest of the party and probably with NPCs...
I suppose it depends on your group's tolerance for metagaming. My experience is that players with mute characters roleplay it fully.
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One can insist that the communication must be something that could be signed or otherwise conveyed, but continually saying "How do you convey that? What are you gesturing?" gets kind of boring very fast.
If the player is not speaking, except for the really meta like "I rolled an eight" and "Do you want another soda?" then this isn't a problem. Regardless you could have the PC just roll Gesture to communicate something, (or use an actual sign language, which isn't a problem if the PC's are all Sandmen :) ). They could also buy Gesture up high enough and take No Nuisance Rolls for it.
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Old 01-06-2018, 09:22 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

This wasn't a gurps game, but one player in a game I was playing in essentially had this on his ally. The ally was described as communicating like Tinkerbell. As it turned out, the GM was very good at this sort of communication, and the player knew it when he built the character. We had lots of fun with the GM pantomiming things.

So it can be fun if the mute character's player embraces it.
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Old 01-06-2018, 12:03 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

I almost ran a Mute character.

...

Yeah, not exactly a great reference point, but I built a Muay Thai fighter waaaaaay back in 3e, and he was a Mute. I think the GM ended up using him as an NPC when I had to miss that adventure, and the campaign was either abandoned or resolved before I actually could participate (joys of high school). In hindsight, this was either really good or really bad for the group because I'm just the kind of guy who never seems to shut up (except when no one's paying attention XD). Being forced to "ration" my speaking might have made me a better player, less annoying to others, but it probably saved me having to scrap the character or quickly buy off Mute. XP
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Old 01-06-2018, 12:54 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

We had a problem player who played a deaf-mute character.

He would talk all he wanted, and then say, 'I can't hear you' when what he wanted to do did not match up with what everyone else wanted to do(a fairly frequent occurrence), then go do whatever he wanted, leaving us to join him or split the party.

I think about 2/3 of the way through that campaign the character was tackled and drug off by the other PCs to get fitted for a cure or mitigator(I forget which).

I would consider this a good example on how *not* to play this disadvantage.
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Old 01-06-2018, 01:12 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
I suppose it depends on your group's tolerance for metagaming. My experience is that players with mute characters roleplay it fully.
Not “my group”; demo game players. In retrospect, I should probably have put “MUTE” in large friendly letters against that characters’ name on the sign-up sheet... It wasn’t wilfully bad play on anyone’s part, just the regular problem of demo players not getting an instant handle on their characters. I can believe it’d go better with a half-decent player who’d bought into the disad in the character creation process.
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Old 01-06-2018, 10:58 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Cannot Speak

Inspired by a couple of books I just read. Would Can't Speak with a Limitation work for a character that can't speak louder then a whisper and even then has to rest his voice after a few sentences work and wha cost?

Books are Hoare and the Portsmouth Atrocities, Hoare and the Headless Captains. Would make a interesting campaign setup for a Age of Napoleon campaign, he commands a small navy ship who's crew is poor sailors but expert lock picks, code breakers etc.
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