The Pirates Of Atlantis
A character with this Talent can understand any form of communication — from verbal speech, to gestures and body language used as part of a deliberate process of speaking (such as sign language), to written text — and communicate back in a crude fashion.
Using Universal Translator
To use Universal Translator, a character must make an INT Roll. If the INT Roll succeeds, he comprehends what he hears or reads. The GM should impose negative modifiers (- 1 to – 3) if the language the character tries to understand is extremely different from known forms of communication.
Conversely, if he tries to understand a language similar to others he has already encountered, he gets a bonus (+ 1 to + 3). He can improve his INT Roll by spending more time, as with a Skill Roll.
The Limits Of Universal Translator
Universal Translator allows a character not only to understand speech and speak back, but to write and read as well. But remember, it’s a form of communication, not “know all languages for free.” If the character isn’t involved in some sort of process of communicating, generally the GM should not allow him to use Universal Translator. This Talent lets a character “understand any form of communication”, but the GM should apply any restrictions necessary in the interest of common sense, dramatic sense, and preserving game balance.
In particular, a character with Universal Translator generally cannot:
— Read/understand encrypted or encoded documents (he might understand the literal meaning of the words of a code [as opposed to a cipher], but wouldn’t know what they signified)
— understand or speak to animals
— understand or “read” mathematical equations
— perceive lies or emotions by “reading” body language
— understand cultural context (for example, the character won’t know if a particular word or gesture is considered a gross insult, a proposal of marriage, a combat challenge, or the like in a given culture or society)
— read or understand symbols, runes, logos, flags, and the like (except to the extent the GM believes those things are intended to “communicate” a specific word or meaning)
— understand or “read” the sounds made by a modem or similar device. Universal Translator isn’t restricted to written or spoken languages. It could comprehend (and, in appropriate circumstances, allow the character to respond to) semaphore signals, signal fires or drums, and the like (assuming they’re not encrypted or encoded).
Universal Translator only allows a character to understand the current communication; it doesn’t automatically allow him to communicate back unless he has the proper physical attributes. For example, if the Butterfly People of Altair “talk” by reflecting sunlight off their wings, a human translator could understand them but couldn’t talk back
In addition, Universal Translator only allows a character to translate what he hears or reads, and to make a reasonable response; he doesn’t know the language. He always has to make his Universal Translator roll (even for the simplest words), and always has an obvious accent.