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[House Rule] Linguistics & Languages


Suggestions/House Rules/Homebrew


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I've had a problem with the Linguistics skill since release of the core rule book, specifically the "Learn a Language" entry - the rest I have no problem with. Language is important in my campaign setting (just like the real world) and having 20+ languages by level 20 as a side effect of trying to increase the other aspects of the linguistics skills is, quite frankly, just silly. While working on correcting this problem, I noticed I had all these great ideas that weren't my own - I'd seen them before in my OGL Babylon 5 Core Rulebook. Here's the result of what I intend to house rule into my setting thusfar:

Linguistics Revision.

Considerations: How to acquire fluency in a new language? My initial thought is to add a trait (someone else's house rule) that grants a single language. A feat is too expensive. However, I also believe that spending 1 feat slot to gain a language is too expensive (1 feat grants 2 traits). I'm considering allowing the players to spend 2 of their skill points to learn a new language, however, these skill points grant only the language and a +2 bonus on all Knowledge checks relating to the culture that uses said language (i.e. their religion, nobility, local cultural customs, and so on) and does not grant an increase to the Linguistics skills.

Thoughts?

Andoran

One of my friends and I banged out a Linguistics system that has served us well for the past few months or so. Instead of learning a new language with a new level's skill point into Linguistics, you can choose to "master" a previously-known language, gaining the ability to speak it like a native. This grants you a +3 bonus to Diplomacy checks when dealing with someone in that native tongue. You automatically start with mastery in your own native language, and can use your bonus languages from a high Intelligence to master other languages instead.

For example, I have a rogue in my friend's new Rise of the Runelords campaign. With his Intelligence of 15, he gains two bonus languages at 1st level. He also has a point in Linguistics. Therefore, he has three language "slots". Being Andoren, he has Taldan as his native language, granting mastery. I chose Varisian and Shoanti as bonus languages, and used my point in Linguistics to master Varisian, giving me a +3 bonus to Diplomacy when dealing with people who have Varisian as their native tongue.


Fluency:
1 rank for basic
2 ranks for fluent
3 ranks for fluent with no accent
4 ranks for native fluency
5 ranks for high poetry

races begin with 4 ranks in their native tongue
half-races begin with 3 ranks in both tongues

every time a rank is put in Linguistics, it can go towards learning one language

For Communication:
5 ranks: you gain +2 to Diplomacy in certain situations
4 ranks: you can convey secret messages and double meanings
3 ranks: you can convey complex concepts eloquently
2 ranks: you can convey most concepts
1 ranks: you can convey simple concepts only

anytime you try to convey a concept more difficult than your fluency level, you take a -5 on the intelligence check, cumulative. you cannot try this if you have only 1 rank unless your receiver has at least 2 more ranks than you.

Feat:
Polyglot
every time you put a sinlge rank in Linguistics, you may put a rank in a total number of languages equal to your INT modifier.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Why not just increase the number of ranks it takes to get a new language? That way it reflects the character spending effort (points) in study etc. Say you made it every 4 ranks. a 20th level person could have added 5 languages max. For someone with 20 ranks in Linguistics this does nto seem too out there. They clearly have spent a lot of time and effort (20 ranks worth).


rainzax nailed it. I think I may propose this system to my DM this coming weekend.

Something about waking up one day and knowing a new language seemed wrong.....and this in a world where fireballs, magical healing, and sexy Halfling chicks are commonplace.

Hmmmmm. No Half-Halflings in the ARG. If they did exist, would they be called Quarterlings?


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
GoldEdition42 wrote:
Something about waking up one day and knowing a new language seemed wrong.....

This used to bug me about a lot of things in the game. One day a character wakes up and can cast new spells. One day a character wakes up and can hit harder/better/faster. etc.

Then I realized that the rules are just abstract representations of my character's efforts all along to get better. So when a character hits a new level and gets a new spell/language/feat it is not the first time they have tried to use these things. Rather I realized we should be thinking about how they have been working on them all along.

So what ever system you elect to use, I would also have the character give some kind of in game comment about how they are seeking out Elves to listen to and learn new words from etc so later on when the character "wakes up and can speak elven" it makese sense. Just a thought.


We've actually used systems which were very similar to the ones mentioned by DemonicEgo, Rainzax, & the x ranks per language tier like Danielc suggests. Ultimately, my group shot down all of them (certain types of rules we "vote on", this is one such rule) due to either too much extra book-keeping (rainzax's method) or they just didn't like the mechanic (Demonic & Daniel's method).

The idea behind the current version is to keep it simple, with as little additional book-keeping or new text as possible.


rainzax wrote:

Fluency:

1 rank for basic
2 ranks for fluent
3 ranks for fluent with no accent
4 ranks for native fluency
5 ranks for high poetry

races begin with 4 ranks in their native tongue
half-races begin with 3 ranks in both tongues

every time a rank is put in Linguistics, it can go towards learning one language

For Communication:
5 ranks: you gain +2 to Diplomacy in certain situations
4 ranks: you can convey secret messages and double meanings
3 ranks: you can convey complex concepts eloquently
2 ranks: you can convey most concepts
1 ranks: you can convey simple concepts only

anytime you try to convey a concept more difficult than your fluency level, you take a -5 on the intelligence check, cumulative. you cannot try this if you have only 1 rank unless your receiver has at least 2 more ranks than you.

Feat:
Polyglot
every time you put a sinlge rank in Linguistics, you may put a rank in a total number of languages equal to your INT modifier.

This is pretty awesome. Well done.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Da'ath wrote:

We've actually used systems which were very similar to the ones mentioned by DemonicEgo, Rainzax, & the x ranks per language tier like Danielc suggests. Ultimately, my group shot down all of them (certain types of rules we "vote on", this is one such rule) due to either too much extra book-keeping (rainzax's method) or they just didn't like the mechanic (Demonic & Daniel's method).

The idea behind the current version is to keep it simple, with as little additional book-keeping or new text as possible.

Maybe do a simplified version of Rainzax system. Give it less book-keeping yet still some meat?


I'm not seeing a problem with learning a lot of languages.
Why not leave as is? 1 Rank = 1 language.
Lets your bards perform to everyone and so on. If you use a world with a lot of regional languages, This skill is a life saver.


danielc wrote:
Maybe do a simplified version of Rainzax system. Give it less book-keeping yet still some meat?

The version we used, which can be found here and expands on the skill from the d20 Masque of the Red Death setting. We simplified this version, as well.

BltzKrg242 wrote:

I'm not seeing a problem with learning a lot of languages.

Why not leave as is? 1 Rank = 1 language.
Lets your bards perform to everyone and so on. If you use a world with a lot of regional languages, This skill is a life saver.

We just don't like the 1 rank = 1 language. Language is a lifesaver, I agree, and my players requested the alternate system.


BltzKrg242 wrote:

I'm not seeing a problem with learning a lot of languages.

Why not leave as is? 1 Rank = 1 language.
Lets your bards perform to everyone and so on. If you use a world with a lot of regional languages, This skill is a life saver.

See that's the problem. If you use a world with a lot of regional languages, but everyone speaks them all, then why not just say "common"? The extra spice of not having a universal language isn't for everyone, and sometimes it can be a real pain. But it can be fun too.

In any case, it's not even a matter of learning a language every time you level. The real issue for those of us who don't like it is how often you level. It can be once a week....or even faster. That is what breaks verisimilitude for me.

I can dig something as slick as 1 language every 4 ranks. Then let Polyglot turn that into every 2 ranks, or even every rank. But, I dig Rainzax's fluency system. It would make that multicultural world really shine. Sometimes you would know just what was being said, sometimes you would get a screwy interpretation.


Can'tFindthePath wrote:
See that's the problem. If you use a world with a lot of regional languages, but everyone speaks them all, then why not just say "common"? The extra spice of not having a universal language isn't for everyone, and sometimes it can be a real pain. But it can be fun too.

That sums up the problem quite well.


Are you saying that my level 1 gnome with the gift of tongues alternate race trait, 18 int, cosmopolitan feet, 1 rank in linguistics, and 11 starting languages is unreasonable? If so, then I agree.


I had to look up gift of tongues on d20pfsrd.com. I'm guessing it's just my childish sense of humor, but I had to laugh when the search results gave me: gnomes with the racial trait, followed by succubus as second entry.

And yeah, that's an excellent example of the problem we (my group) have with it.

As a side note, for BltzKrg242, I'm not trying to hose over bards. Bards & rogues, regardless of which system you use, will be the top linguistics guys if they invest points in it. Add to that, with the tongues spell, any bard can affect anyone with his performances by level 4, so that's never really been an issue for us.


Everyone DOES speak common for the most part. The benefit to having all these languages and the chance to speak them relatively easily is that you can then offer languages OTHER than common and thru immersion and familiarity with similar or root bases, learn the local common by the next level.

If someone wants to spend all that starting build on Nawtyit's examples.. that leaves them under-powered elsewhere but well versed in that ONE thing.
If spell casters can learn the formula on how to bend the very reality of a world in one level, I can't see how learning a language is that big of a deal.

all your proposed changes do is nerf a VERY little used skill and reduce the probability that anyone will ever speak anything but common.
It's contra to your stated goal.


BltzKrg242 wrote:

Everyone DOES speak common for the most part. The benefit to having all these languages and the chance to speak them relatively easily is that you can then offer languages OTHER than common and thru immersion and familiarity with similar or root bases, learn the local common by the next level.

If someone wants to spend all that starting build on Nawtyit's examples.. that leaves them under-powered elsewhere but well versed in that ONE thing.
If spell casters can learn the formula on how to bend the very reality of a world in one level, I can't see how learning a language is that big of a deal.

all your proposed changes do is nerf a VERY little used skill and reduce the probability that anyone will ever speak anything but common.
It's contra to your stated goal.

At this point, I'm really not sure which system proposed above you're commenting on - whether it's the one I proposed for my table, or the ones Demonic, Daniel, and Rain suggested. Could you please specify?

Additionally, if the system I intend to use (found in the first post) is the one you feel is "nerfing" linguistics, please explain why you feel that way and how is is detrimental.

For the record, the "common tongue" in my campaign world is primarily spoken by adventurers (all PCs get it for free) and merchants. Most speak the regional tongue or dialect of another language as appropriate their area.

Edited to Add: Linguistics is also used frequently by my players: they send and decipher coded messages to allies, intercept and send/decipher the messages of others, and they forge a ton of "official" documents. I recommend you talk to your GM about adding in material of this nature if this is a problem for your group (which you indicate by designating it as a "least used skill").


Da'ath, once again I find my self intrigued by your homebrew (which is not to say I would do them the same way! :) )

I appreciate the current PF system for its simplicity, although combining it with forgery is a little clumsy. I also like your idea too. It brings to mind scenes in fiction (and real life) of characters struggling to communicate with foreign language. It may slow down play, but requires a little more thinking, and I'm up for that. So, on to my suggestions.

1) The DCs are fine. We could go back and forth on what proper DCs are. Better to set them and run with it. My suggestion is a way to voluntarily raise the DC to make your conversation obscure to those with less skill in the language, by using slang or more difficult words. This is not a big deal though. You don't need to add it.

2) An amendment to the Try Agin entry. Sometimes you can't communicate what you want, but you can simplify what you're saying. If you try the same message again, there is a penalty (-2 or -5), but if you attempt a message with a lower DC, and thus less information, there is no penalty.

3) I also think a competence bonus based to the number of languages one speaks would be good. Perhaps equal to the languages you speak beyond those you get "free" (one from int bonus and skill points), or equal to the number of languages one speaks if more than one. You could really complicate it and grant bonuses for similar languages or for those that share alphabets, for example.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Da'ath, once again I find my self intrigued by your homebrew (which is not to say I would do them the same way! :) )

And I appreciate your input, once more, believe me. As for our different ways in which to handle things - I'm delighted. Variety makes for interesting conversations and I can definitely appreciate a different perspective.

Ciaran Barnes wrote:
It brings to mind scenes in fiction (and real life) of characters struggling to communicate with foreign language. It may slow down play, but requires a little more thinking, and I'm up for that.

That is exactly the reason I like it as well. It also really puts the focus on the guys with the linguistics class skill (bard, rogue, cleric, summoner, wizard) and the skill points to spare (rogues & bards) - at 20th level these guys will effectively be able to speak all available languages by making an appropriate check, but with a margin for error (we use the critical success [+10]/failure [-10] rules).

Ciaran Barnes wrote:
1) The DCs are fine. We could go back and forth on what proper DCs are. Better to set them and run with it. My suggestion is a way to voluntarily raise the DC to make your conversation obscure to those with less skill in the language, by using slang or more difficult words. This is not a big deal though. You don't need to add it.

Agreed on the first part, as for the second part could you go into more detail, mechanically? If I understand you correctly, you're talking about essentially using linguistics as an alternate means by which to "Convey a Secret Message," which I really like.

Ciaran Barnes wrote:
2) An amendment to the Try Agin entry. Sometimes you can't communicate what you want, but you can simplify what you're saying. If you try the same message again, there is a penalty (-2 or -5), but if you attempt a message with a lower DC, and thus less information, there is no penalty.

I get the idea & like it. Added it in with a -4 penalty. I almost want to add in that failure on the first try would lower the attitude of the individual you made the blunder with by 1 step, but not really sure.

Ciaran Barnes wrote:
3) I also think a competence bonus based to the number of languages one speaks would be good. Perhaps equal to the languages you speak beyond those you get "free" (one from int bonus and skill points), or equal to the number of languages one speaks if more than one. You could really complicate it and grant bonuses for similar languages or for those that share alphabets, for example.

That's an idea I rather like, specifically the complicated bit at the end. No big deal for my players, but I'll need to set up an array with language relationships & a quick reference chart. I'm at well over 50 languages, though many are "dialects" or related to one another through alphabet and so on.


+1 on "convey secret message" being about Linguistics over Bluff


An example of what I meant. Lets say that in school you take Spanish classes for 3-4 years, which is to say Mexican Spanish. You join the Spanish club and become able to hold conversations. After this you go to Mexico on vacation. You are able to shop, get directions, understand recommendations, even talk about the beach and all in Spanish. Later you overhear a group of teenagers hanging out after school and can only understand half of what they are saying, mostly bacause they are not using schoolroom Spanish. Their speech is peppered with expressions and slang.

I suppose that could be construed as conveying a secret language in the right setting, as you suggested. I intended for it to make the language inintelligable to those with less language skill or who get a lucky high roll. Say two wiseguys start a conversation in Elven so no one can overhead them. They're in a hurry so opt for a DC 10-15 to convey basic information. But someone pays just enough attention to suggest that he understands some of it. They voluntarily raise their DC by 5 (making the checks more difficult for themselves too) and he loses interest. Just an idear.


I'll see what I can do about trying to work that in. I like the idea & I'm going to add the coded messages/create cypher system we adopted, as well when my daughter takes her nap.

It's funny you use the example with Mexico. When I was a teenager, having taken some years of Spanish, I thought I'd show off a bit to my family while we were on vacation in Mexico and ordered my breakfast in Spanish. The waiter just laughed at me and explained the word "juevos" was slang for testicles, and not actually used for eggs.


It does mean eggs, but much like the word balls in english, how it is used is vital.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Any profession also becomes a dialect, doctors and machinists even use the same terms for similar stuff, but a farmer is not going to have a leg up on understanding.

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