Burning a non-native character

How would you go about applying traits, reputations, and affiliations to a character who is not native to the setting of a scenario?

This specifically came up for me because I’m burning up some potential characters for a new game that will have a lot to do with courtly intrigue. One character that came out of this is a noblewoman from the kingdom to the south who was taken hostage and eventually married into this kingdom’s nobility (Born Noble --> Young Lady --> Hostage --> Lady). I really like the idea of seeing how her position as a non-native affects the ways she engages with the scenarios and the setting, but I’m having a bit of trouble trying to figure out how to best support that mechanically.

For example, I imagine English as a foreign language for her. Is that well represented by forcing her to use the foreign language skill for any meaningful interactions or is there a better way? Would it make sense that after enough mastery of the skill there might be a trait added for fluency or maybe it switches if she’s not using her native tongue enough and that starts becoming the “foreign” language to her? I’m starting her at B5 for the skill, but don’t know if that’s too high. She will be someone participating in debates and Duels of Wits for sure and I want this to be an obstacle for her, but not the spotlight.

On that note, the idioms and cultures of the kingdom would also be something she would not know as well as natives. She’s spent about half her life here so it’s not unknown to her, but I’m looking for the places where it’s left it’s mark. Is there a good trait or other mechanical means of enforcing that tension? Is it just a matter of having the GM place appropriate penalties to obstacles for appropriate rolls? I am thinking of giving her a +1D reputation with nobility as “The Lady Afar”. She will also have a +1D infamous rep with nobility in her home country. Would it be appropriate or enough to make the “Lady Afar” rep act as an increase to obstacle for rolls requiring nuanced understanding of culture?

Are there any specific traits that I might be sleeping on for this place in society? It doesn’t look like the other players will be doing much interaction with other kingdoms so using cultural traits feels a bit too much in this case. It takes a way the nuance of the other PCs just to prop up this character a bit which is bleh. Maybe just writing in a character trait of “Foreign” could be enough.

More than anything I’m just curious to hear how you would approach this character to see what ideas other people have as I learn to play this game better.

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I am thinking about that this is kind of close to exchange of nobilty between France and England in the medival period. However, I believe they spoke french back then. Or?

One cool thing for such a character is: What influence did she bring from her homeland? If she is infamous then is that because she is a traitor ? Could she have a trait like “French lady” instead of the “english norm”? In that case what cultural traits would she have except the language you spoke of? I like the character and the idea and I want to contribute but perhaps this didn´t do much.

Anyone else?

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I think character trait and a fitting reputation are enough to handle this mechanically. I think most of the interesting play of her being an outsider to this court will come from what tests come up rather than what penalties you put on a test. Making etiquette tests to understand and adapt nuance of courtly expectations is interesting, and a situation that might not come into play for another character.

If the player of this character writes beliefs about what they want from this court (given their background and unique stakes) these things will matter in play.

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The idea was more bad blood than treachery. She renounced her family when she married her baron husband (who’s a weak willed accountant that wasn’t making enough of a name for himself to marry into a higher family) which soured the reputation she had with them. There’s a mysterious war going on down in that kingdom that I want to see more of, so I’m interested in introducing a complicated tie there.

Thank you, the more I think it through the more I see that suggestion as the right of it. What she has to roll and her beliefs are really the key piece of driving this story forward. I got way caught up in character burning and think I’m just putting too much importance on the build compared to the play.

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