Linguistics and not learning a new language instantly


Homebrew and House Rules


There is a lot of weirdness around the phenomenon of going up a level. One part of it is the fact that anybody, with the appropriate Intelligence to know a language, can put a rank into the Linguistics skill an instantly know a new language.
Mechanically, this makes sense. Roleplaying and flavour wise, it does not.

Sure, you can implement elements in the roleplaying of your character to cover studies of languages long before you level up and put the rank in the skill.
This is the assumed case for a lot of new powers gained at new levels. For example, a Wizard doesn't just hit a eureka moment after most bosses, they've actually studied in between as well and the leveling up is just a point where they are mechanically deemed to have completed some research.
However, learning and researching new spells is something every Wizard would be assumed to do at every level and at all time. Learning a new language isn't. The additional problem is that you don't always know if you need to learn a new language or not, meaning that you can't always implement this roleplaying element beforehand.

I'm going to present an idea that hopefully will make sense in both a mechanical and roleplay perspective, without going too far away from the already established rules. I'm not looking to make a new, big system to just handle languages. I'm aiming for some easy rules that can be applied to anybody's game without too much impact, while still slowing down the process a bit to leave room and time for roleplay.

Linguistics: When you put a rank in this skill you start to learn a new language.
You must succeed a DC 25 Linguistics check to fully learn the new language. You can attempt this check once every day after spending at least 4 hours of studying the language. The DC of the check is reduced by 1 for each previous attempt to learn the language. Studying and learning the language can be done through many means and during other activities, such as traveling or crafting.
The only requirement is that you need something or somebody that you can communicate with that also uses the language correctly.
During this learning process, you decrease the DC to decipher writing in the language you're learning by 5 + 1 for each previous attempt to learn the language.

This means that the level 1 commoner with 10 Int will have to spend at least 4 days of studying and an average of 14 days before learning the new language. My 12th level Wizard could probably do it in 1 day (an Int based character with 12 ranks in Linguistics) or in a maximum of 3 days.

Personally, I think that it may take a bit too long at early levels. 14 days are sometimes more than days in between levels in APs. This is something I'm going to look closer at.

Feel free to steal and/or change the idea. Feel free to give feed-back. What do you think of the general idea? Is anything unclear? What would you change? Should any of the numbers (DC, amount of time or the DC decrease) be higher or lower? Anything else? Thanks in advance.


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While this is realistic, it's a lot of bookkeeping. I know that in my games, I try to eliminate bookkeeping that doesn't enhance the game. So I don't bother keeping track of mundane arrows or rations. In this case, I'd retcon that the player has been studying through the last level.


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It makes sense to require a source for learning. A teacher, a primer, a Rosetta Stone, whatever. I have house-ruled that in the past, myself, and nobody objected.

But adding in study time could be problematic since it could literally mean that someone hits second level, starts studying Elvish, hits third, fourth, and maybe even fifth level before they finish learning Elvish - and along the way they already started learning Orcish, Draconic, and Abyssal, but they're still studying those.

Oddly enough, adding a random mechanic might meant the above guy rolls badly on Elvish for a few weeks but rolls very well on Draconic and finishes that one first for no good reason. We could sweep that under the rug by saying that's what he focused on the most, but that's just an ad-hoc rationalization.

Worse, keeping this random mechanic means that the above guy has to keep track of each language and the different number of tries he's attempted on each one and has to make those random rolls each day, applying variable adjustments to each roll. This does make it seem overly complicated.

Finally, and possibly the biggest objection, is that this potential house rule means that characters will gain abilities at a certain level that they cannot use at that level, or at least at that time. All their other skills and feats and class abilities come online as soon as they gain their level, but this does not. I'm not sure it's a good game design to delay any ability a character has earned, effectively saying "Yeah, you earned it but you aren't allowed to use it yet."


@Philo Pharynx: Fair point. What exactly would you like to remove to minimize the book-keeping? Or is anything at all just unnecessary extra?

@DM_Blake: Yes, the time is an issue. I'd probably allow a character to take 10, though it would still take 2 weeks of study to learn a language that way. I want to keep some random, so that it isn't just a "spend this much time" like crafting.

The numbers can be adjusted so that you are assured to learn the language within a few days, like increasing the DC decrease to 5 for each previous attempt. Meaning that anybody can learn a language within 6 days. However, it also undermines the impact that ranks in Linguistics have.

I agree that it's a bit weird to prolong the access of something that normally is available right at level up. This is mostly a problem since nothing else in the game is like this, still a problem none the less.


Do things like this really add anything to your games? Do you roleplay every hour of your characters downtime? I think it would drive me bats as a player and there are other more relevant things to think about when I'm GMing. I just think it adds an unnecessary layer of faff.

I just assume it's happening in the 'unroleplayed' (I need to work on that phrase a bit methinks) quiet time applied retroactively - KIS.

That said if you reduce the DC by 2 each day it will speed it up.
Maybe lose the requirement to have an instructor, but allow the presence of an instructor to 'aid another' or significantly reduce the DC.


@dragonhunterq: I think it's ugly how things like this is treated in the game right now. I do see the advantage of it (quick and direct) but I'm not sure that's what I want in my game at the cost of some hard immersion breaking (it is for me).
I like your idea about instructors reducing the DC and not being mandatory.

I'm thinking about changing/adding decrease of the DC to something connected to gameplay (like attempting other Linguistics checks for that language) instead (or in addition to) only down-time.


For things like this, I usually assume that (eg) the character could always speak Elvish but the subject had never come up so it didn't matter before that he'd forgotten to write it on his character sheet.

Failing that, [insert magical effect here] caused the PC to gain that skill. Maybe it's actually (RP-wise) a magic amulet that allows the wearer to speak Elvish, though mechanically it's a skill point.

This sort of thing can work quite well for a lot of skills. UMD is another that a character might not have at all until, say, 5th level and then go all in. Either he could always do it but it never mattered (because he never had any MDs to U) or he's suddenly had a revelation.


If it's immersion breaking, then it should be equally immersion breaking that a wizard suddenly has two new spell pop into his head, or a rogue suddenly can do some new talent, or a character puts 1 rank into a trained-only skill and now he can use it for the first time, or a 4th level fighter is suddenly specialized in a weapon, or a 4th level paladin suddenly learns to cast spells for the first time ever, or...

That's ALL immersion breaking. How did those characters develop that stuff literally overnight?

I think the general assumption, as mentioned earlier, is that they have been working on those class abilities, feats, spells, etc., all along, and they've only just now reached a level of understanding that they can start using the new ability.

If that's OK for all those other things, why is it not OK for a language?

Or, if that's not OK for a language, are you planning to add time frames and instructor requirements for everything else?


I've always found it odd folks can learn how to both read and write and speak a language when, historically, there were quite a lot of illiterate folks. In point of fact, quite a number of languages were purely oral and never had a written version.


I don't see why the Linguistics skill should be singled out as immersion-breaking when I can get a similar effect with literally any other skill. I've never even seen a magic item in my life, but all of a sudden, wham, I can wave a wand and make magic happen? I've never even seen an outside, but suddenly I'm an expert on demons? I've never even seen a body of water larger than a bathtub, but suddenly I'm an expert swimmer?

Similarly, the feat just pops out of nowhere can be pretty immersion-breaking. Overnight, I learned to fight like a black belt in Karate (Improved Unarmed Strike) or run 30% faster than I could yesterday (Run) or suddenly got unexplained scars on my belly (Mark of Evil).

But the most egregious violation of all are the classes themselves. As a 16 year old human (or 114 year old elf) I can be a rogue, adventure for a week, and suddenly gain a level of wizard. On the other hand, if I actually studied magic, I'd need to be at least 17 years old as a human or 120 years old as an elf to become a wizard. I don't know why anyone actually goes to Hogwarts, when the easiest way to become a wizard is to start out as the Artful Dodger instead of as Ron Weasley who grew up with magic.

So, yeah, if there's immersion breaking going on -- and i agree that there is -- Linguistics isn't even on my top 10 list.

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It's assumed the character was studying the language over time and when they get the rank, they finally learn how to speak and write it fluently.

I don't really see it as much of a problem. I think it's cool that Linguistics is the only skill in the game that gives you something for putting a rank in it. I wish more skills were like that. Also, learning languages is one of those things that can easily get obsolete by magic. The magus in my group got kind of annoyed. After spending the whole campaign investing lots of ranks into Linguistics to learn a ton of languages for every occasion, the monk got Tongue of the Sun and the Moon and gained the ability to speak to ANYTHING.


dragonhunterq wrote:

Do things like this really add anything to your games? Do you roleplay every hour of your characters downtime? I think it would drive me bats as a player and there are other more relevant things to think about when I'm GMing. I just think it adds an unnecessary layer of faff.

I just assume it's happening in the 'unroleplayed' (I need to work on that phrase a bit methinks) quiet time applied retroactively - KIS.

That said if you reduce the DC by 2 each day it will speed it up.
Maybe lose the requirement to have an instructor, but allow the presence of an instructor to 'aid another' or significantly reduce the DC.

"Non spotlight time"


@Mudfoot: That does work, once or twice. More than that and it becomes a joke. I'm not a fan of skills being represented as items, as those items would then have to be brought with the character at all times (which isn't possible).

@Indagare: I agree, though I think that seperating speech, reading and writing would take too much. I'm after a small scale system.

@DM_Blake & Orfamay Quest: Linguistics isn't the only thing that is immersion-breaking. However, it is unproportionally much immersion-breaking. It's just one rank but the difference is huge, unlike most other skills that scales where 1 rank isn't that big of a difference.
I'm not trying to fix a major issue in the game, just a piece of it.

Cyrad wrote:
It's assumed the character was studying the language over time and when they get the rank, they finally learn how to speak and write it fluently.

My problem is that the rules doesn't cover this. The assumption feel like a big, ugly retcon.


While it doesn't make sense from a roleplaying perspective, Pathfinder is already an incredibly demanding bookkeeping task. It would be simpler to reward players for coming up with interesting back stories for how their character learned the language than to worry about the specifics.

Take it from me: I got interested in the idea of making a fantasy architect with a lyre of building, only to find that I was putting more time into figuring out how all the rules worked than my GM was putting into preparing for the game.


I'm pretty sure it's assumed the character has been studying the subject on their free time... You know... Like every other class feature that suddenly pops up out of nowhere. The same goes for multiclassing.

This feels like unnecessary complication and bookkeeping, and IMO, will only make the game less enjoyable for your players. Specially considering there are 1st and 2nd level spells that already make the skill almost obsolete.

But, hey! To each their own! If you like this mechanic, go ahead and use it. Just be sure to listen to your friends' feedback and actually take it into consideration..


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Rub-Eta wrote:

There is a lot of weirdness around the phenomenon of going up a level. One part of it is the fact that anybody, with the appropriate Intelligence to know a language, can put a rank into the Linguistics skill an instantly know a new language.

Mechanically, this makes sense. Roleplaying and flavour wise, it does not.

Do you roleplay out going to the toilet? No, seriously?

Or do you just assume that this stuff is done in the background?

The same is done when raising linguistics. All the time you guys were resting, some dude when into the bushes, some other guy played with his Familiar. And the last one was studying a new language.
And his efforts come to fruitution when he finally levels up and spends his skillpoint on Linguistics.

This is the same with how Wizards get their 2 "free" bonus-spells at level-up into their Spellbook.


If RPing the acquisition of your skills and other abilities in important to you, then in between one new level and the next you can make mention of what your character is working on, such as learning to speak goblin, how to be a carpenter, or practicing to become a stronger swimmer. Make some checks with the skill during the course of an adventure, even if untrained in it. If your group adopts this practice, then we'll done. Still, the enthusiasm might wane after a couple levels.


Guru-Meditation wrote:
Do you roleplay out going to the toilet? No, seriously?

I roleplay it. Oh yeah I do. I sometimes bury myself in the part so deeply that I method act it right there at the gaming table.

But then again, I'm a big old Tarrasque, nobody ever potty-trained me...


Just a thought, you really need to clear this with your players. If my GM enforced this I'd be tempted to either ignore linguistics and just find magic to do the job or put ranks into the skill until I could hit the DC when I take 10 and then learn a dozen languages over the next 12 days - just to cut down on the hassle.


I'm absolutly going to ask my players before I implement this, just wanted to take it through here to get some feedback (or get to the conclusion to not implement it).

Bookkeeping seems to be the larget issue expressed here, so it should be something more simple and not a bunch of +/-1 to keep track of.

I feel like I need to restate this, as many seem to get stuck on it:

Rub-Eta's OP wrote:

Sure, you can implement elements in the roleplaying of your character to cover studies of languages long before you level up and put the rank in the skill.

This is the assumed case for a lot of new powers gained at new levels. For example, a Wizard doesn't just hit a eureka moment after most bosses, they've actually studied in between as well and the leveling up is just a point where they are mechanically deemed to have completed some research.
However, learning and researching new spells is something every Wizard would be assumed to do at every level and at all time. Learning a new language isn't. The additional problem is that you don't always know if you need to learn a new language or not, meaning that you can't always implement this roleplaying element beforehand.

I really feel like learning a new language should be a part of the roleplaying and not treated the same way as going to the bathroom (as it's a much longer process than going to the bathroom).

Thanks for all your replies!


Speaking personally, I don't see it as just the book-keeping (that is an element) so much as why do you feel the need to treat it differently to all the other things that just happen on level up.
Is it really that much more egregious than spellcaster gaining 2 spells in their spell books, or fighters suddenly being very specalised with their weapons?
How do you handle a player who puts his first rank into a trained only skill like disable device at 3rd level and suddenly has a working knowledge of a multitude of traps? or spellcraft?
How about multi-classing?
into wizard?

I guess this focusing on the relatively insignificant offender that is linguistics is puzzling.

A more holistic approach (that I also despise, but may suit you and your players) is to have your players nominate their intentions for their next level up on this level up so they can introduce those elements into roleplaying in advance. No new (unnecessary?)subsystems, nothing coming out of left field, no picking on minor corner cases that hit a nerve (I'm sure we all have one* :) ).

*:
mine is gnomes, can't see the point to them, can't take them seriously.


The actual problem, I think, is that "what is or isn't immersion-breaking" is completely, utterly, entirely subjective.
*And* situational.

If my Linguistics 10 summoner (he likes talking to people and thinks "tongues" isn't personal enough) puts another dot into linguistics and now knows yet *another* language, I'd doubt anyone would bat an eye even if it did happen suddenly.
If the orc barbarian from Belkzem puts his first dot into linguistics and suddenly speaks Ancient Azlanti over night, that's... less intuitive.
If the Fighter gets another combat talent, that's hardly surprising.
If the buffing bard that hasn't seen an enemy any closer than 15 feet for who-knows-how-long suddenly takes Imp. Unarmed Strike, that's a bit weird.

And let's not forget: If your int-mod rises because you raised your intelligence during levelup, you get retroactive skill points. Exactly as many as you'd need to go from "untrained" to "as good as you could be at your level" in one skill, in fact. So, at level 8, you could suddenly gain 8 ranks in [obscure skill of your choice], even if you never used that skill (or even saw that skill used by someone else) before.
(Use *that* on linguistics to go from "barely able to speek common" to "omniglot linguist" - probably inefficient, but could be fun if you find a way to hook a plot into it)

A while ago, someone made a topic that there should be training time (for everything, including feats and spells) between level-ups. Most people seemed to disagree, but for that poster, any kind of "instant powerup" broke immersion. But most of us? We hand-wave that stuff.

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While I agree with you, my solution was different.

I simply houseruled that a character gets a new language for every 5 ranks in Linguistics.

I did this to help cover the idea of learning over time but I mostly did it because I was tired of having characters pick up almost every bloody language.

How many languages does the average person know? It totally varies depending on where you live, obviously, but what do you consider the upper limit? Where do you start to say "wow that is an impressive amount of languages of which you are completely fluent, including reading, writing, slang, and other nuances."

It also helps make having obscure languages useful again. Finding clues in other languages becomes interesting again.

I guess, what I am trying to say, is that I personally, got tired of having all my players be constant universal translators. So I tweaked the rules to make it a little more unique.

YMMV


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James F.D. Graham wrote:
How many languages does the average person know?

MMDV

Many people learn the number of languages they live with on a day-to-day basis. For most people, that's just one. Some parts of the world have two or even three languages spoken locally - I don't mean the country has different regions where just one different language is spoken in each (that happens too), I'm referring to more than one language spoken in a certain place. People who live there invariably learn all the local languages.

Golarion is interesting because there are more languages than we actually have on earth, and some places you can be around many diverse people who speak many different languages, right there in your home town.

Furthermore, if you're an adventurer in Golarion, you probably leave that home town and encounter still more diverse languages, and your adventuring friends might even know some additional ones too.

Lots and lots and lots of exposure to new languages.

Finally, adventurers are not "average" people. They are exceptional. (I'm minded of Hans Gruber: "I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite."). Exceptional people do unusual things, beyond what "average people" do.

Cleopatra was recorded historically as speaking 9 languages.
Elizabeth I spoke 10.
Ho Chi Minh spoke 7.
J. R. R. Tolkein spoke 35.
Christopher Lee spoke 8.
Sir Richard Francis Burton (an adventurer if ever there was one) spoke 25 languages.

Those are exceptional people, and there are many many many more.

I see no reason that exceptional adventurers couldn't do the same, if that is what they focus on. One adventurer practices his stealth and perception and climbing, while his companion practices his elvish, dwarvish, and celestial.

It actually makes perfectly good sense.


It's not worth the trouble to me as a player. I would more like try to buy a custom magic item, or if I was already s caster just use magic.


Why just linguistics? Really, your logic should be applied to every skill a character progresses.

But here's the real problem I have with your idea. It puts more emphasis on the character as a package of numbers and bookkeeping in a game that in my opinion already has way too much of it. It doesn't enhance roleplay, it's just another hurdle to put in the way of character development.

The rewards of gaining a level aren't assumed to be instantaneous, they're the result of the work the character has put in in the period since the last level up. Perhaps thinking of it in those terms might give it the verisimilitude you're looking for.

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DM_Blake wrote:
James F.D. Graham wrote:
How many languages does the average person know?

Persuasive Stuff

Well, I'm sold. Back to 1 for 1 for me then!


I understand the OP's (and others') objections to spontaneous knowledge.

I once had a homebrew system where everything was skill-based. There was no such thing as base saves, BAB, AC, or anything. No XP either. A character was a package of ability scores and skills. Want to get more HP? Take a bodybuilding skill. Want to get better at surviving poison? Take a fortitude skill. Want to hit better? Take a weapon skill.

Every skill hand "levels" so you could be level 1 with a longsword and level 8 with a battleaxe and a level 5 climber, etc.

My rule was that you always needed an instructor or other source to acquire a new skill, or had to invest extra time and effort figuring it out. Once you had a skill, you could level it up on your own. So acquiring the skill in the first place needed a source for the initial training, but after that you could improve it on your own, with mere practice.

But I applied this across the board, not just to languages.


I have taken to giving about a month of downtime. Plenty of time to learn a language, retrain most things and pop out or order a magic item. Living expenses are a thing as well here and that cuts into things. Roleplaying occurs between adventures as well


Oxylepy wrote:
I have taken to giving about a month of downtime. Plenty of time to learn a language.

Well, that's one of the problems.

You can't learn a language in a month. But you can't learn to be a wizard in a month, either (or wizard's starting ages would be the same as rogues). There are similarly a lot of feats that I think would take more than a month (I gave Run as an example upthread, and probably Improved Unarmed Strike as well).


I have a hard time connecting to this forum as of late, for some reason, sorry for not responding in a while.

dragonhunterq wrote:
Speaking personally, I don't see it as just the book-keeping (that is an element) so much as why do you feel the need to treat it differently to all the other things that just happen on level up.

I'd like to treat the entire system a bit more like this. I'm not going to attempt a "one solution for everything" rule, that never works out good. I'm starting with Linguistics because I feel like it's an easy task to start with.

dragonhunterq wrote:
A more holistic approach (that I also despise, but may suit you and your players) is to have your players nominate their intentions for their next level up on this level up so they can introduce those elements into roleplaying in advance.

The problem is that this isn't always doable, for many reasons. Maybe the players don't know what they'll pick up next, maybe they don't know that they'll need this specific language. I'm not gonig to tell them "well you didn't practis Orc, so you can't put a rank in Linguistics" and if I don't do that, we're back to the retconing.

@James F.D. Graham: To me, 5 ranks is too much of a change. This means that you need to be level 5 before learning a second language and it really means that a party needs to split up to cover as much as possible. Too much of an impact on the game.

Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Why just linguistics? Really, your logic should be applied to every skill a character progresses.

Most other skills aren't as abbrupt. Knowing another language is a huge thing. Being a bit better at climbing isn't. Unlocking the "trained only" skills isn't that huge either, for me. Maybe the guy picking locks for the first time just was a natural. You can't be a natural with an entire language, though.

But again, my problem isn't only Linguistics. Just what I'm focusing on right now.

The way I'm thinking right now is to use my initial structure, but increase the DC decreasing to 5 for each previous check. I'll present this idea to my group before todays session and see what they think.

Again, thanks for your replies!


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Oxylepy wrote:
I have taken to giving about a month of downtime. Plenty of time to learn a language.

Well, that's one of the problems.

You can't learn a language in a month. But you can't learn to be a wizard in a month, either (or wizard's starting ages would be the same as rogues). There are similarly a lot of feats that I think would take more than a month (I gave Run as an example upthread, and probably Improved Unarmed Strike as well).

Correct. However a few savants can achieve new languages in 2 weeks. Pathfinder's rules for retraining cover learning a new language as taking 20 days to learn, which is still excessively short. The goal for the month of downtime is a dedicated period of 8 hours a day spent learning the new language which occupies some of their time, after 20 days of this they would have a passable knowledge of the basics of a language (about 2-4 semesters of it compared to a highschool language in the US). This leaves them knowing enough of the language to pass by with it, but likely not amazingly fluent. However my players usually spend time reading on the languages they learn, and game days only really involve a few hours of activity which would be prohibitive of reading (more time is spent which is prohibitive of crafting, as a comparison, but one can spend their time walking and half-reading). Languages learned tend to be more than the amount of downtime to be fluent, but they also spend other time with the language, and can encounter others who speak those languages.

Anyway, yes it's a little bit of a stretch, time wise, but it is far better than no down time to learn things, where as the rules just grant this boon to people with little justification.


There is a significant degree of "Schrodinger's <topic>" in Pathfinder. For instance, when you level up, you pick a feat. You didn't start learning that feat and instantly master it at the moment you leveled up; you had been learning the feat for an indeterminate amount of time prior and just completed the training, study, etc. once you passed a certain experience threshold. In other words, you decided when you leveled up what feat you had been training the whole time prior. The same goes for learning languages. Before you gain a new language slot, you are in a quantum super-state of learning any and all languages you don't know, as well as learning none of them at all. When (and if) you ever gain a new language slot, you collapse that quantum uncertainty into a reality where you had been learning, say, Elvish, over the past few years.

@Orfamay:
Except that you can learn to be a wizard in a month. You can start as a Rogue (or other intuitive class) and, after a month of questing, you gain second level and multi-class over into Wizard. Again, this illustrates the quantum nature of experiences in Pathfinder. The Rogue in question is either a savant that could learn wizardry in a month, or not; you don't know. If he multi-classes into Wizard, then he was a savant all along and was studying to be a Wizard all along as well. But before he decides what class to take for that level-up, he was in a quantum super-state of having been training for every single available class.


Welllllll, 8 hours a day for 20 days is 160 hours. Most high school classes in the US are about 1 hour per day, so that's about 160 days. Most high schools have about 180 days per year in class (with weekends and summer off, plus winter and spring breaks), so 160 days is almost a full high school year.

Which isn't to say that a year of a high school language class will make a student conversationally fluent.

Then again, high school is inefficient. One teacher for 30 students. It's far, far, far more efficient with one teacher for ONE student. Since the retraining rules require an instructor (or doubling the time), I imagine that means the character retraining with the Pathfinder rules is far, far, far more efficient than a high school student.


Here's a thought. How about dropping the linguistics skill entirely and make each language a separate Knowledge skill. So you could have Knowledge (elvish) and knowledge (abyssal), etc.

Then set it up so that at rank 1 you are barely proficient, enough to find the bathroom or beg for mercy but not enough to hold a conversation. At rank 2 you're able to converse poorly. At rank 3 you can converse, and read/write the language too. At rank 4 you converse well, like an educated scholar. At rank 5 you're a master of the language.

Now it forces people to invest time into learning the language because it generally takes time to get those levels. Of course, it doesn't prevent a character from, for example, getting to level 5 and suddenly dumping 5 ranks into a Knowledge (language) skill they didn't even know, but then, that same character could dump 5 ranks into climbing or spellcraft or disable device too.

You could always back it up with a rule that you can never put more than one rank into a Knowledge (language) skill at any level if you really insist on preventing the sudden application of multiple ranks.


DM_Blake wrote:

Welllllll, 8 hours a day for 20 days is 160 hours. Most high school classes in the US are about 1 hour per day, so that's about 160 days. Most high schools have about 180 days per year in class (with weekends and summer off, plus winter and spring breaks), so 160 days is almost a full high school year.

Which isn't to say that a year of a high school language class will make a student conversationally fluent.

Then again, high school is inefficient. One teacher for 30 students. It's far, far, far more efficient with one teacher for ONE student. Since the retraining rules require an instructor (or doubling the time), I imagine that means the character retraining with the Pathfinder rules is far, far, far more efficient than a high school student.

Yup, 2-4 semesters of highschool equivalent would be relatively accurate in how much you could grasp from one teacher one student. My fiancee is actually very good at languages and can pick up conversational fluency in about this amount of time, but she's also really adept at this and is picking up on the 4+ semester level within the time span of 2 semesters. Where as I am absolutely abysmal at learning new languages and tend to pick up only fragments of what I learn and it takes me about a month for those fragments to digest and randomly start popping in my brain hole.

So, the retraining rules are actually pretty accurate if you are decent with languages, the issue is that you shouldn't be walking out able to bust rhymes with Nietzsche, even though that's effectively how we treat languages when they are added to the list of languages known


Kazaan wrote:

@Orfamay:

Except that you can learn to be a wizard in a month. You can start as a Rogue (or other intuitive class) and, after a month of questing, you gain second level and multi-class over into Wizard.

Yes, that's exactly my point.

So complaining about instantly learning a language, which actually takes less time than learning to be a wizard if you look at the character creation rules, is silly.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

This is an interesting topic.

Objectively, learning languages and learning many other skills should be completely divorced from the leveling-up system, and be purely time and intellect based.

However, RPGs use a high degree of abstraction, so that we don't bog down our thrilling adventures with humdrum minutiae - as the reference to roleplaying taking a dump illustrates.

For example, it wouldn't make the game too much more difficult to simulate varying degrees of fluency in languages. From speaking like a native, to speaking fluently but with an accent, to speaking serviceably but without nuances, to having basic communication skills... there are a lot of degrees of fluency to take into account. But you have to ask yourself, would this degree of realism really enhance the game experience for my players?

I don't bother. And this is coming from a language teacher with 30+ years of experience.

The only thing I require is for players to posit some plausible means of acquiring a language, and then to spend the skill point. So my RotRL players can't take Ancient Thassilonian as a language until they've got their hands on a fair number of documents, books and so on and have regular contact with some withered sage or other who can help them get started. Or in a Jade Regent campaign, travelling for months with Ameiko could work as a plausible source to learn Tian from.

IMHO, anything more is too immersion breaking and "fun adventuring" destroying. Of course, this doesn't stop me from asking for linguistic checks to understand difficult notions written in some ancient texts, from passing as a native speaker during some clever RP opportunity (along with a few bluff checks, no doubt) and so on. Just keep track of which languages the PCs had starting out (which they are native speakers in, or close to it) and treat the others as learned languages where they need to beat certain DC checks for tricky stuff.


DM_Blake wrote:

Here's a thought. How about dropping the linguistics skill entirely and make each language a separate Knowledge skill. So you could have Knowledge (elvish) and knowledge (abyssal), etc.

Then set it up so that at rank 1 you are barely proficient, enough to find the bathroom or beg for mercy but not enough to hold a conversation. At rank 2 you're able to converse poorly. At rank 3 you can converse, and read/write the language too. At rank 4 you converse well, like an educated scholar. At rank 5 you're a master of the language.

Now it forces people to invest time into learning the language because it generally takes time to get those levels. Of course, it doesn't prevent a character from, for example, getting to level 5 and suddenly dumping 5 ranks into a Knowledge (language) skill they didn't even know, but then, that same character could dump 5 ranks into climbing or spellcraft or disable device too.

You could always back it up with a rule that you can never put more than one rank into a Knowledge (language) skill at any level if you really insist on preventing the sudden application of multiple ranks.

It's all much more realistic and everything, but what it really means is that no one takes languages.

They're priced for utility, not realism.


thejeff wrote:
They're priced for utility, not realism.

Of course.

I never suggested it was practical. I almost never see anybody put skill points into learning languages. Once it a while, but it's rare. Making it take more time or more skill points will definitely make it more rare.


I honestly almost always spend skill points to learn new languages, actually every character I have ever played has tried to find every viable means of learning new languages as possible.

Charisma based skills are empowered by speaking more languages as it increases the use of those skills. Languages also allow insight into just about any language dependant effect placed before the character (runes, journals, books, NPC interactions, combat interactions, etc). Usually having a slew of languages (6+) grants bonuses that are overarching to the point that it's too desirable for me to pass up.


DM_Blake wrote:
thejeff wrote:
They're priced for utility, not realism.

Of course.

I never suggested it was practical. I almost never see anybody put skill points into learning languages. Once it a while, but it's rare. Making it take more time or more skill points will definitely make it more rare.

The only characters I ever take linguistics for are forgers and summoners. Rarely, I will see players in the same party as an oracle with the Tongues curse learn Abyssal (or whatever) so they can communicate in combat, but I feel that's actually rather poor form; the oracle's curse becomes a skill point tax on everyone else she's adventuring with.

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