Looks like Thief managed to wring a good deal from her former shipmates. No doubt it took a ludicrously complicated series of Diplomancy checks to arrive at “Thief gets to be captain again but Swash/Buckle don’t get murdered,” but here we are. Not the weirdest plot developments I’ve ever seen in an RPG.

Anywho, what say we talk about Roman rhetoricians? I assure you, they’re weirdly relevant to today’s comic:

In my opinion, indeed, no man can be an orator possessed of every praiseworthy accomplishment, unless he has attained the knowledge of everything important, and of all liberal arts, for his language must be ornate and copious from knowledge, since, unless there be beneath the surface matter understood and felt by the speaker, oratory becomes an empty and almost puerile flow of words.                                                                                                                                             —Cicero, De Oratore

Happily, there’s a slight difference between the Roman forum and your gaming table. Even Cicero acknowledges that the monumental task of knowing (literally) everything has more to do with platonic ideals than living orators. And as it happens, our comparatively humble task has more to do with sounding smart than being smart.

Thief may be the butt of today’s joke, but she’s pretty close to sounding piratey enough. If you’ve ever found yourself in a nautical campaign and skimming through pirate glossaries or taking notes from a Master and Commander rewatch, you may be familiar with the process. The idea is to gain a rough and ready knowledge of your subject, picking up enough of the lingo to sound convincing to a layman. While you won’t fool an IRL physicist with your mad scientist’s technobabble, it’s nonetheless a good idea to keep a few key phrases on hand. That’s doubly true when you’re talking about explicitly fictional subjects.

For example, when I was working on a Starfinder adventure featuring biomechanical ships, I made sure to include a little inset intended to give the correct flavor. When players ask, “What’s wrong with the ship!?” they roll 3d12 on the following chart:

d12 Result Bio-Systems Technological Systems The Problem
1 Thoracic  Graviton Inhibitor Is venting coolant!
2 Pulsatile Drift Coupling Isn’t freaking there!
3 Cerebrovascular  Pulse Regulator Has ruptured!
4 Ventral Grav Manifold Is half-melted!
5 Cranial Heat Exchange Is full of some weird goo!!
6 Abdominal aortic Gearbox Casing Seems to be growing a tumor!
7 Limbic  Plasma Array Has shorted out!
8 Interspace Shield Membrane Looks infected!
9 Respiratory Resonance Shifter Is flooded!
10 Gastrointestinal  Control Circuit Isn’t getting any oxygen!
11 Contiguous Neuronal Splitter Assembly Is absolutely filthy!
12 Anterior Blowback Chamber Won’t respond!

Is this what a “real bioship” actually looks like? I dunno. Ask Moya. But chances are that a PC complaining about an ‘infected respiratory gearbox casing’ or a ‘limbic heat exchange growing a tumor’ will pass the PC sniff test.

So from seafarers to spacefarers, we arrive at today’s discussion question. If you’ve got to portray an expert, how do you prep for the role? Do you actually study up on the subject? Maybe you take the random generator approach? Or do you prefer to handwave the jargon and let your dice do your talking? Whatever your take, tell us all about your own adventures with inexpert expertise down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Thrice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.