Can a 1st level familiar understand language?


Rules Questions


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

Can a 1st level familiar understand language? (Not counting parrots and ravens and others that can speak).

Can they actually understand you, or are you limited to emotions via the "empathic link"? If so, which languages? If my level 1 elf wizard speaks to his rat familiar in Elvish, does it understand?

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

It gets "Speak with Master" at 5th level.


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

Since becoming a familiar brings the animal (now magical beast) to Int 6, I believe that the master .teaches. It one language the master knows.

Edit. Nefreet is right I think, my interpretation is from pre-pathfinder.

The elf could still communicate via the Empathic Link.
Now if the master had a point in Linguistics, the familiar would get a point in linguistics, would that give the familiar a language?


Daw wrote:

Since becoming a familiar brings the animal (now magical beast) to Int 6, I believe that the master .teaches. It one language the master knows.

Edit. Nefreet is right I think, my interpretation is from pre-pathfinder.

Nope, I'm pretty sure you're right. I'm not actually sure where this is from (thanks, D20PFSRD), but here's what I've found:

D20PFSRD wrote:
Increasing an animal's Intelligence to 3 or higher means it is smart enough to understand a language. However, unless an awaken spell is used, the animal doesn't automatically and instantly learn a language, any more than a human child does. The animal must be taught a language, usually over the course of months, giving it the understanding of the meaning of words and sentences beyond its trained responses to commands like "attack" and "heel."

So, yes, a Familiar is capable of understanding a language. However, it doesn't automatically learn it.

Now, Linguistics is a bit weird. However, Familiars are explicitly stated to not gain these skills, i.e. they don't put ranks in them. They only use those skills. Here are the relevant rules:

Linguistics wrote:
Whenever you put a rank into this skill, you learn to speak and read a new language.
Familiars wrote:
For each skill in which either the master or the familiar has ranks, use either the normal skill ranks for an animal of that type or the master's skill ranks, whichever is better.

So, even though the master has a rank in Linguistics and used that to learn, say, Aklo, that doesn't mean that the Familiar gains that rank. It merely uses the master's rank in Linguistics. Which is a bit weird, but it would mean that the Familiar does not actually know Aklo just because the master used the rank in Linguistics for that.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

The basic rule for intelligence is that as long as you have a 3 or more you can speak your racial language. However, familiars don't have a racial language, so they don't benefit from that. It wouldn't be a terrible houserule to allow a familiar to understand (but not speak) their master's native language as a substitute.

The master putting a rank into Linguistics is a questionable solution. Although the familiar can use the master's skill ranks, it doesn't ever actually 'put' a rank into this skill. I would probably allow it personally, but I would probably demand that the language be the same for both the familiar and the master.

Whether or not a familiar can understand a language, speak with master is still valuable, since most familiars can't speak a language, even if they understand it.

I would certainly expect that between an int of 6 and the empathic link, basic communication and commands would happen regardless of any other investment. The familiar understanding complex discussions would be a different thing though.


Well, sense certain familiars can verbally speak at first level, I would assume that they all can understand common, at least.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Yeah, I'm with Nohwear on this. Thrushes and ravens speak at level one. Being IQ 6, they have language, they just may not be the most intellectual of speakers.

Hmm


I would say that the ability of ravens and thrushes to speak and understand a language at level 1 is special to them. In fact, it's explicitly stated to be a supernatural ability that the other familiars simply don't have. I don't see anything implying that other familiars are able to understand a language. In my opinion, you're going to have to go the long way and teach a language to your familiar.
As an aside, I think that's far more fun than having your familiar always understand you.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Nixitur wrote:
In my opinion, you're going to have to go the long way and teach a language to your familiar.

The big problem with this, is that there isn't any obvious way to accomplish it.


Dave Justus wrote:
Nixitur wrote:
In my opinion, you're going to have to go the long way and teach a language to your familiar.
The big problem with this, is that there isn't any obvious way to accomplish it.

Hmm, I'll grant you that. Pathfinder kinda lacks any and all rules about teaching anything to anyone. It's a bit unfortunate that something that's mentioned in the rules (teaching languages) doesn't actually have any rules attached to it as to how to do it.

The rules simply indicate that it would take several months (probably less if the Familiar has high Int), but it requires heavy houseruling. I would probably rule that once a familiar has Speak With Master, teaching languages should become much easier. Of course, at that point, it's not all that important anymore, although there's still some use for a familiar that understands what your party says.

Personally, I would love some solid houserules about teaching languages. It's especially interesting if the two parties don't even share a language and don't have a translator. However, this isn't really the correct forum for that.


I think the concept of familiars suggests them being able to understand their master's main language at first level. The ability they gain at level 5 is the ability to speak (or, if they already speak a language, communicate secretly).


RE: Teaching your familiar a language. Why would you have not accomplished this already? When you acquire your familiar is not really defined. It could be toward the beginning of your training, or as your graduation project. Even if the latter, there does seem to be an assumption that you are not fresh out of your training, by default. Thus, unless your character's story would indicate otherwise, there seem to be plenty of oppertunity to teach your familiar before play begins.


Nohwear wrote:
RE: Teaching your familiar a language. Why would you have not accomplished this already? When you acquire your familiar is not really defined. It could be toward the beginning of your training, or as your graduation project. Even if the latter, there does seem to be an assumption that you are not fresh out of your training, by default. Thus, unless your character's story would indicate otherwise, there seem to be plenty of oppertunity to teach your familiar before play begins.

That's actually a good point! Yeah, I'd say that could work. Although if you're level 1, I would probably still rule that its grasp on language isn't perfect, so it couldn't, say, understand conversations full of trade language you know little about.

There would probably be some exceptions, though. If you multi-class into Wizard during an adventure and get a familiar, then no, I'm not going to buy that it suddenly knows Common. But for most intents and porpoises, a level 1 character with a familiar should be allowed to say "Yes, it knows [insert language here]."


Kotello wrote:

Can a 1st level familiar understand language? (Not counting parrots and ravens and others that can speak).

Can they actually understand you, or are you limited to emotions via the "empathic link"? If so, which languages? If my level 1 elf wizard speaks to his rat familiar in Elvish, does it understand?

Non-special familliars don't have any communication facilities not built into their Bestiary entries until the familliar class feature grants them specifically.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Magical beasts with high intelligence understand at least one language. I'm pretty sure that still applies to a familiar.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Nixitur wrote:
Hmm, I'll grant you that. Pathfinder kinda lacks any and all rules about teaching anything to anyone. It's a bit unfortunate that something that's mentioned in the rules (teaching languages) doesn't actually have any rules attached to it as to how to do it.
Retraining Rules wrote:

New Language

You can spend time to learn an additional language. It takes 20 days of training to gain a bonus language, and these days need not be consecutive. Each language requires a trainer who shares a language with you and knows the language you want to learn, or a book written in a language you know that explains the basics of the language you want to learn.

The new language does not count toward your maximum number of languages (racial languages + bonus languages from Intelligence + Linguistics ranks). You can train this way only a number of times equal to 1 + your Intelligence bonus.


Take a look at this FAQ regarding Animal Companions


I just thought of something, would you say the rule would be any different regarding a Courtly Hunter's special companion?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

From the glossary of the bestiary:

Magical Beast
Magical beasts are similar to animals but can have Intelligence scores higher than 2 (in which case the creature knows at least one language, but can’t necessarily speak).

I'm pretty sure that settles it.


Valantrix1 wrote:

From the glossary of the bestiary:

Magical Beast
Magical beasts are similar to animals but can have Intelligence scores higher than 2 (in which case the creature knows at least one language, but can’t necessarily speak).

I'm pretty sure that settles it.

Although, since familiars and similar creatures do not need tricks and handle animal to control, there must be some way to let them know what you want them to do.


Nohwear wrote:
Although, since familiars and similar creatures do not need tricks and handle animal to control, there must be some way to let them know what you want them to do.
Yes.
Valantrix1 wrote:
(in which case the creature knows at least one language, but can’t necessarily speak).


Rub-Eta wrote:
Nohwear wrote:
Although, since familiars and similar creatures do not need tricks and handle animal to control, there must be some way to let them know what you want them to do.
Yes.
Valantrix1 wrote:
(in which case the creature knows at least one language, but can’t necessarily speak).

Silly me, I somehow missed that part. My bad.


Any animal with int 3 or over can take a rank of linguistics and learn a language. But even if your wolf knows what you are saying, you still need to use handle animal to get him to do what you want.

As for familiars, I don't see anything saying they understand language by default, but they should benefit from linguistics and can learn language that way. I wonder if the familiar even has to choose the same languages as its master.


Saethori wrote:
Nixitur wrote:
Hmm, I'll grant you that. Pathfinder kinda lacks any and all rules about teaching anything to anyone. It's a bit unfortunate that something that's mentioned in the rules (teaching languages) doesn't actually have any rules attached to it as to how to do it.
Retraining Rules wrote:

New Language

You can spend time to learn an additional language. It takes 20 days of training to gain a bonus language, and these days need not be consecutive. Each language requires a trainer who shares a language with you and knows the language you want to learn, or a book written in a language you know that explains the basics of the language you want to learn.

The new language does not count toward your maximum number of languages (racial languages + bonus languages from Intelligence + Linguistics ranks). You can train this way only a number of times equal to 1 + your Intelligence bonus.

Well, I look stupid now.

Still, that doesn't really cover teaching languages to intelligent animals or little children which is the closest reference point. After all, if the learner doesn't know any languages yet, this rule doesn't really work.
Well, at least for familiars, it seems to have solved itself because they know languages simply because they're magical. Although since familiars aren't entirely under the master's control, this needn't be a language the master actually knows. Depends on your DM.
Although I kinda love the idea that, through Speak With Master as a shared language, my familiar could teach me Sylvan or something. I'm not sure that's how Speak With Master works, though.

Melkiador wrote:
As for familiars, I don't see anything saying they understand language by default, but they should benefit from linguistics and can learn language that way.

Familiars don't gain skill ranks, so they can't put them into Linguistics either. Not sure about other animals, though.


First level familiars have an intelligence of 6 and are therefore capable of learning a language due to the high enough intelligence score (they do not need to spend a skill point in linguistics to do this). This was covered in the blog Rub-Eta linked above.

Monkey See, Monkey Do blog wrote:
Once a creature's Int reaches 3, it also gains a language.

The "Speak with Master" ability does not have any wording precluding this.

What "Speak with Master" does is provide the familiar the ability to speak with the Master (which is important for familiars that did not have it before) and that that communication is unintelligible to others without magical aid.

Sovereign Court

I think distinguishing between "putting in" and "using" ranks in linguistics is really reading more into the text than is meant to be there. I'm pretty sure you get languages for having ranks, not for getting ranks. Otherwise you could artificially increase your languages by retraining away skill ranks from linguistics and putting them back.

Familiar rules wrote:


A familiar is an animal chosen by a spellcaster to aid him in his study of magic. It retains the appearance, Hit Dice, base attack bonus, base save bonuses, skills, and feats of the normal animal it once was
(...)
Skills: For each skill in which either the master or the familiar has ranks, use either the normal skill ranks for an animal of that type or the master's skill ranks, whichever is better. In either case, the familiar uses its own ability modifiers. Regardless of a familiar's total skill modifiers, some skills may remain beyond the familiar's ability to use. Familiars treat Acrobatics, Climb, Fly, Perception, Stealth, and Swim as class skills.

If you look at it carefully, you see that the wizard player is instructed to "use" the ranks of his wizard or the base creature, whichever is higher, to determine the familiar's skill performance. By stating "use" rather than "uses", we know it's an instruction to the wizard player about what to do, not a statement about what the familiar is doing.

Scarab Sages

Whenever the master puts a rank in a skill, the familiar gains that rank too, so long as you have more skill ranks in that skill than the familiar. It is highly unreasonable to say the familiar has ranks in linguistics... but doesn't gain the benefit.

The arguments I've seen here against it would fit the case of a headband of vast intelligence giving ranks in linguistics. Which would be absolute bunk. So, yes, the familiar gains languages this way.

They also gain 1 language for having an int over 2. You'd get to pick the language as the player of the familiar.

Most familiars can not speak, but understanding is good enough for giving commands.

If they did not... well, than a 1st level familiar would not be able to be commanded at all. Meaning you'd have a pet that is absolutely useless until you get speak with master. Which, again, absolutely bunk.


Daw wrote:

Since becoming a familiar brings the animal (now magical beast) to Int 6, I believe that the master .teaches. It one language the master knows.

Edit. Nefreet is right I think, my interpretation is from pre-pathfinder.

The elf could still communicate via the Empathic Link.
Now if the master had a point in Linguistics, the familiar would get a point in linguistics, would that give the familiar a language?

I don't think it would gain a language. However, it could use the masters ranks to try and decipher the words. Standard written text is DC 25. Simple text has a DC 20. For spoken rather than written, I would modify the DC by -5.

For a master talking to the familiar, he probably uses simple words, so... DC 15. At 1st level, the familiar has Int 6 = -2 mod, and linguistics is not a class skill. Thus, the familiar has an effective -1 in linguistics, assuming the master put a rank in. To correctly understand the master, it needs to roll a 16 on a d20. If it fails, it needs to make a DC 5 wisdom check to avoid drawing a false meaning. Since Wisdom seems to be near 10, this check should be easy.

A simpler way is a flawed gold nodule ioun stone for 1,000 gp. Only problem is getting that cast at level 1.

Flawed wrote:
This stone grants you the ability to comprehend and read, but not speak or write, a single language (chosen by the ioun stone's creator).

Since the familiar has Int 6, it can activate the stone, and as a slotless item, it can use it also.

/cevah

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder RPG / Rules Questions / Can a 1st level familiar understand language? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.