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The sheer awesome that is the linguistics skill


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In the past I've read some TERRIFIC stories of roleplayers using and abusing the linguistics skill, specifically the forgery aspects of said skill.

I am now trying to piece together a conman sorcerer due in no small part because of how those stories inspired me.

However, I can't find them now. Does anybody else remember them? And if so, could you link me to them?

Also, I'm curious to know how other roleplayers have used this skill to great effect in their games. Please share some of your own stories.


Not a story, just something I realised: everyone can understand everyone, provided they have a single point in Linguistics (and aren't complete idiots).
The DC for understanding a "simple message" is 20. Preventing a failed check from giving you a wrong idea, is a DC 5 Wisdom check. Since you can take 10 on ability checks, you'd never fail that check. Ergo, there is no consequence to a failed Linguistic check when trying to understand someone and since you can try again, you can take 20 on a check. 20, plus 1 from having the skill trained means that you'd need a three point penalty to intelligence to fail to understand what that strange creature you just met is saying.
Anyone who isn't a halfwit can understand any simple message, in any language.


I don't think you can take 10 on the wisdom check. If you could, it would be impossible to fail it even in principle, since the highest penalty you could have is -5.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Plus you might not always have time for a ten before the actives start throwing things.


Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

Taking a 10 uses the same amount of time as a regular check, however taking a 20 takes 20 times longer. So while any halfwit may be able to understand what someone else is trying to tell them, it will take 20 minutes to have one minute of conversation.


VRMH wrote:

Not a story, just something I realised: everyone can understand everyone, provided they have a single point in Linguistics (and aren't complete idiots).

The DC for understanding a "simple message" is 20. Preventing a failed check from giving you a wrong idea, is a DC 5 Wisdom check. Since you can take 10 on ability checks, you'd never fail that check. Ergo, there is no consequence to a failed Linguistic check when trying to understand someone and since you can try again, you can take 20 on a check. 20, plus 1 from having the skill trained means that you'd need a three point penalty to intelligence to fail to understand what that strange creature you just met is saying.
Anyone who isn't a halfwit can understand any simple message, in any language.

You've got a flaw in your logic there - you can't take 10 and take 20 at the same time. As described in the Using Skills section of the rules, taking 20 is analogous to trying over and over until you get a 20, accepting any failures that come along the way. If you take 10, it's impossible to get a 20. Thus, while you can avoid the consequences of failure by taking 10, they still exist for purposes of taking 20.


Benly wrote:
VRMH wrote:

Not a story, just something I realised: everyone can understand everyone, provided they have a single point in Linguistics (and aren't complete idiots).

The DC for understanding a "simple message" is 20. Preventing a failed check from giving you a wrong idea, is a DC 5 Wisdom check. Since you can take 10 on ability checks, you'd never fail that check. Ergo, there is no consequence to a failed Linguistic check when trying to understand someone and since you can try again, you can take 20 on a check. 20, plus 1 from having the skill trained means that you'd need a three point penalty to intelligence to fail to understand what that strange creature you just met is saying.
Anyone who isn't a halfwit can understand any simple message, in any language.
You've got a flaw in your logic there - you can't take 10 and take 20 at the same time. As described in the Using Skills section of the rules, taking 20 is analogous to trying over and over until you get a 20, accepting any failures that come along the way. If you take 10, it's impossible to get a 20. Thus, while you can avoid the consequences of failure by taking 10, they still exist for purposes of taking 20.

He's not taking 10 on the linguistics check, he's taking 10 on the Wisdom check to Void getting the wrong idea from the message. So while the rules support that, BigDTBone is right that it'll take 20 minutes to understand each minute of conversation. And, since you'll be concentrating on the first minutes cinversation you can't try to understand the other 19 that happened unless the people you are talking to don't mind waiting.

Still, an interesting way to handle otherwise game-stopping language barriers.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

All off topic.


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Ravingdork wrote:
All off topic.

Exactly. The main benefit of having a lot of linguistics ranks is that you get to role play a linguist.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

And that, if you're clever, you can manipulate town records to end up owning some prime real estate.

Does no one else remember the stories of great PC con jobs using this skill?


Ravingdork wrote:

And that, if you're clever, you can manipulate town records to end up owning some prime real estate.

Does no one else remember the stories of great PC con jobs using this skill?

Yeah, our group has been trying to figure out how to deal with the legal issues that arise in property rights when undeath enters the picture. Got linguistics? Problem solved.


The linguistic skill is just broken.

Anyway, the only story I have of "clever" use was to forge multiple identities in an Eberron campaign while playing a changeling. Breland has ID papers for all of its citizens, and my spellthief had a habit of retrieving these from every corpse he killed and hiding them in a variety of places. So between what he looted and the ones he made, he could pretty much be anyone at any time.

I had a player who discovered that a local mundane shopkeep was selling black market items. He (playing a female human rogue) used forgery and the local police to come out getting that dude arrested and owning his shop and the legal items he had.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Maybe watch "White Collar" for advice on forgery scams? You may also need to take some Craft (fine arts) or Craft (painting) ranks. Maybe Knowledge history for art history details, Knowledge local and Knowledge nobility for information about local landowners and laws.

"The Lies of Locke Lamora" series of novels by Scott Lynch are also inspiring.

Qadira

VRMH wrote:

Not a story, just something I realised: everyone can understand everyone, provided they have a single point in Linguistics (and aren't complete idiots).

The DC for understanding a "simple message" is 20. Preventing a failed check from giving you a wrong idea, is a DC 5 Wisdom check. Since you can take 10 on ability checks, you'd never fail that check. Ergo, there is no consequence to a failed Linguistic check when trying to understand someone and since you can try again, you can take 20 on a check. 20, plus 1 from having the skill trained means that you'd need a three point penalty to intelligence to fail to understand what that strange creature you just met is saying.
Anyone who isn't a halfwit can understand any simple message, in any language.

You're missing a key component of the skill here. The message has to be written. It's explicitly stated in the description of the skill.

Back on topic, I don't recall any great stories about abusing the linguistics skill, sorry.


Ravingdork wrote:

And that, if you're clever, you can manipulate town records to end up owning some prime real estate.

Does no one else remember the stories of great PC con jobs using this skill?

I think you may be looking for this thread?

Edit: Actually, that was a very short thread, but one I posted in where we were telling forgery stories... I don't know of any others.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I can't believe I totally forgot about this little gem.

EDIT: And apparently this isn't the first time I've asked this question. Some good stories here.


Yeah, I don't understand your obsession with forgery, but they do make for some great games. A little slyness and subterfuge tend to make a good game just that much better.


Gnomes can trade out Defensive Training and Hatred to get Gift of Tongues which gives them +1 Bluff and Diplomacy as well as an additional language for every point you put in Linguistics.

I don't have any stories yet. I just started playing a linguist for the first time and we're only level 1 and trapped on an island. I have no one to talk to except the sea scorpions.

Osirion

I'm not into forgery, but a sorcerer / wizard / bard who'se all about tapping into the power of language / linguistics, perhaps specializing in language-dependent spells, or using something like the 'language primeval' from that old 2nd edition College of Wizardry could be fun. (Bruce Cordell had some crazy cool ideas!)

A bard archetype built around a 'primeval language' could simply use a Linguistics check in place of a Perform check, to use bardic inspiration, while a Sorcerer Bloodline or Wizard School might focus on power word spells and add spells like command and glyph of warding to their spell list. (Shades of Dune, with the irresistable commands the Bene Gesserit used, or the 'ur-language' used to neurolinguistically 'hack' people in Snow Crash.)


I'm playing with this 3pp product from SSG and the free sorcerer bloodline.

This is him so far:

Spoiler:

KELLEK CR 1/2
Male Human Sorcerer 1
LN Medium Humanoid (Human)
Init +3; Senses Perception +5
--------------------
DEFENSE
--------------------
AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10. . (+1 Dex)
hp 8 (1d6+2)
Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +4
--------------------
OFFENSE
--------------------
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Dagger +0 (1d4/19-20/x2) and
. . Quarterstaff +0 (1d6/20/x2)
Ranged Crossbow, Heavy +1 (1d10/19-20/x2) and
. . Sling +1 (1d4/20/x2)
Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 1, +0 melee touch, +1 ranged touch):
1 (4/day) Power Word Dazzle, Power Word Hesitate
0 (at will) Ray of Frost, Detect Magic, Prestidigitation (DC 13), Light
--------------------
STATISTICS
--------------------
Str 11, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 16
Base Atk +0; CMB +0; CMD 11
Feats Cosmopolitan: Perception, Diplomacy, Eschew Materials, Skill Focus: Linguistics
Traits Indomitable Faith, Reactionary
Skills Bluff +7, Concentration: Sorcerer +4, Diplomacy +7, Linguistics +9, Perception +5, Spellcraft +6, Use Magic Device +7
Languages Abyssal, Celestial, Common, Dwarven, Giant, Infernal
SQ Life Sense (Su), True Speaker
Combat Gear Bolts, Crossbow (20), Bullets, Sling (20), Crossbow, Heavy, Dagger, Quarterstaff, Sling; Other Gear Backpack (empty)
--------------------
TRACKED RESOURCES
--------------------
Bolts, Crossbow - 0/20
Bullets, Sling - 0/20
Dagger - 0/1
--------------------
SPECIAL ABILITIES
--------------------
Eschew Materials Cast spells without materials, if component cost is 1 gp or less.
Life Sense (Su) Your strong ties to the lifeforce-targeting abilities of power word spells allows you to easily judge a creature's remaining hit points. As a move action you can make a Heal or Perception check against any creature you can see to determine its remain
True Speaker Whenever you cast a spell with Verbal components, and no other components, you add your Charisma bonus to your caster level when determining the spell's range.


Ravingdork wrote:

In the past I've read some TERRIFIC stories of roleplayers using and abusing the linguistics skill, specifically the forgery aspects of said skill.

I am now trying to piece together a conman sorcerer due in no small part because of how those stories inspired me.

However, I can't find them now. Does anybody else remember them? And if so, could you link me to them?

Also, I'm curious to know how other roleplayers have used this skill to great effect in their games. Please share some of your own stories.

No clue. I wish I could help. All I can really add is most of my PCs (and most of my group's PCs) all dip some Linguistics. Besides the obvious uses, it's such a cheap and easy way of getting additional languages. In a 4 person party, most have between 1-7 languages by default, and then every rank adds a new language, so if everyone begins with 2 languages the party has 8 languages. Then everyone invests 1 rank into Linguistics and now you have 12 languages, etc.

"Anyone know if this giant is asking us to dinner, or to be dinner?"
"Hm, ugaloh mekhir dorath'ulu?"
"Well?"
"The second one."
"Hmm, well at least he's honest."


Vendis wrote:

The linguistic skill is just broken.

As is Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate perception and other skills with ridiculously low DCs but creates equally ridiculous in game situations.


So a skill is broken because it can be extremely useful but a spell that duplicates or invalidates a skill is generally accepted as just fine. I know you didn't make that claim. It just seems to be a common trope on the boards.


Bob_Loblaw wrote:
So a skill is broken because it can be extremely useful but a spell that duplicates or invalidates a skill is generally accepted as just fine. I know you didn't make that claim. It just seems to be a common trope on the boards.

I agree with Bob on this one. It's actually kind of sad that low level spells can invalidate upwards to 20 levels worth of honed skills. A character with 20 ranks in swim can still only swim 7.5 feet per round. A character with alter self can swim 30 ft. per round. One requires a 20th level character, another requires either 3 caster levels or a cheap (for 20th level) magic item.

There are tons of other examples. Personally, I think given how people have used words to fire people up in reality, that super-human speakers (those with Bluff / Diplomacy in excess) aught to be able to pull off some super human feats of coercion. That being said, I'd probably regret it a bit later when folks be Diplo-mancin' like a boss. XD

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber
Knight Magenta wrote:
I don't think you can take 10 on the wisdom check. If you could, it would be impossible to fail it even in principle, since the highest penalty you could have is -5.

Sure you could: When stressed or distracted.

For example: You come across a Flumph while exploring the Darklands.
You fail your Knowledge (Dungeoneering) check and for all extents it looks like a horrible squid/jellyfish monster. It wiggles its crazy tentacles at you. You make a Linguistics check and fail.
You are "stressed or distracted" this is combat after all. You need to make a roll. You have a Wisdom modifier of +1, you need a 4+ to realize that yon Flumph isn't trying to hurt you it's trying to communicate. If you fail, you believe its trying to wrap its tentacles around your neck but just can't quite reach.

With no imminent danger you are free to take a 20 on your Linguistics check, drawing on the ground in simple symbols you realize yon Flumph is fleeing a tribe of Skum answerable to a terrible Aboleth master.

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