Does the sending spell work better with some languages than others?


Rules Questions


Most people here have English as their first language, or if not, as a second language for a very long time.

The sending spell has a hard limit of 25 words per casting. In English, what counts as a word is pretty simple to define (compound words and contractions notwithstanding).

Just like with real-life communication, casters of sending have a couple of options to fit more information into the same space, like using prearranged code-words for complex concepts.

But not all characters speak Common (and, perhaps more importantly, not all players speak English, or at least, shouldn't have to do so in order to play a game they enjoy).

So, for sending (and similar effects that say "in [X number of] words or fewer"), how does one accommodate different languages, both in-game and out-of-game?

For example:
In English, the only grammatically-correct one-word sentences are commands or imperatives: "Move!"

But in a language with case-endings like Latin, Romanian, Greek (modern and ancient), etc., you absolutely can have one-word sentences. In Latin, "Emovebitur" means "[he/she/it] will be removed," and the conjunction "and" can be rendered simply by tacking the suffix "-que" on the end of another word: "senatus populusque" means "the senate and the people." In addition, prepositions such as "by", "for", "from", "out of", "in", "on", "to", "towards", and "at" can be left out if the case ending of a noun or the prefix of a verb implies it.

Latin and Greek can even use participles to convey complex conditional sentences very succinctly. Some Roman sundials were once engraved with "datam do, negatam nego," which in English is best approximated as "If it has been given, I display [it], [but] if it has been denied, I do not [display it]." (Translated literally, it's the considerably more obscure "I give [the] given [thing]; I [do not] say [the] denied [thing].")

For agglutinative languages like Sumerian and Turkish, the amount of information packed into one word can become absurd:

"muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine"

is the Turkish word for:

"As though you are from those whom we may not be able to quickly make into a maker of unsuccessful ones."

So, if you were speaking Turkish, you could relate:

The school principal, who thinks every teacher can be made quickly into a maker of unsuccessful ones, gets angry. He invites the teacher to his room and says "You are talking as if you were one of those we can not quickly turn into a maker of unsuccessful ones, right?"

(which is 50 words)

with:

Bütün öğretmenleri kolayca muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriverebileceğini sanan okul müdürü bu duruma sinirleniyor, ve söz konusu öğretmeni makamına çağırıp ona diyor ki: "Muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine laflar ediyormuşsunuz ha?"

which is only 23 words.

But the word limits of sending and similar spells is a game balance issue. So, should the word limit of a message be determined by the length of its English/Common translation, or by the language of the message?

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

First, this is a fantasy world with fantasy languages. We are just using our language to approximate the languages spoken by our characters.

Thus, for game purposes, I would assume that Common is approximate to whatever language the table uses out-of-game. If a player wanted to stretch the restrictions on sending by using another language, I'd probably take their intended message and add a d20-10 words to it to represent such variations. Quick, easy, and keeps the game moving.


Quote:
But the word limits of sending and similar spells is a game balance issue.

I suspect it's not a game balance issue for most people. I bet the only reason the word counts exist is that "a short message" would be too vague.

Side note: English may seem like you can't get across a lot in so many words, but English has a lot of subtext, implications, and nuance that don't exist in all languages. You could fit a poem into a sending that could convey quite a lot. It just won't be as clear as "King Wordsalot is sending troops to our western border. 1000 cavalry, 3000 infantry. We suspect at least 10 wizards. What are your orders?" though that fits too (23 words)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

25 words in French usually convey less than 25 words in English for example

25 mots en français expriment en général moins de choses que 25 mots en anglais par exemple

14 words vs 17 words for the exact same meaning

Suggestion is even worse


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Interesting idea.

As for what language does the word count use - I would say that has to be the the language that the game is being played in.

I suppose if you wanted to make a rule of some sort, some way to mechanically adjudicate trying to fit more information into less words using linguistic tricks, off the top of my head, you could make a ruling that you can use a number of words equal to 20+(int. mod.)+ Ranks in Linguistics words, using the lowest numbers between the two characters for both, or just allow adding of words based upon Linguistics ranks.

I've seen many sending spells written out in advance, word counted and trimmed to convey the most info in the least amount of words - I've also seen the opposite happen - where some characters waste words to fulfill their on particular idiom. ("Hello Mister Smith, this is Bill Brown...and I wanted to let you know that is is very important that...[end transmition]")


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The Raven Black wrote:

25 words in French usually convey less than 25 words in English for example

25 mots en français expriment en général moins de choses que 25 mots en anglais par exemple

14 words vs 17 words for the exact same meaning

Suggestion is even worse

Oh, if you think that's a huge difference, look at some of the polysynthetic languages (mostly Native American) sometime. Nouns, adjectives, and adverbs are simply expressed, most of the time, as affixes on the verb.

So the sentence in English "We have not yet begun to fight with them, but we will" would probably be expressed as A SINGLE WORD. In twenty-five words, I could write a novel.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I am guessing that the more complex words in polysynthetic languages do not have their own dictionary entries in that language -- you would have to look up the components that make it up and know the rules for combining them. So, if you have to look up five words in your language's dictionary to figure out the meaning of such a word, it is probably best to count that word as five words.


David knott 242 wrote:

I am guessing that the more complex words in polysynthetic languages do not have their own dictionary entries in that language -- you would have to look up the components that make it up and know the rules for combining them. So, if you have to look up five words in your language's dictionary to figure out the meaning of such a word, it is probably best to count that word as five words.

Well, most polysynthetic languages don't have dictionaries to begin with..... but, yeah, just like most makers of English dictionaries don't list plurals as separate entries for regular nouns (or gerunds as separate entries from their verb stems), most of the rudimentary dictionaries don't bother to list the various affixes.

But that's not because "-ing" or "-s" is a separate word.


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You're limited to 25 words in English... or whatever language you and your GM are using to talk to each other.


Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
You're limited to 25 words in English... or whatever language you and your GM are using to talk to each other.

Except that the message spell is explicitly language-dependent, so it should depend on what language I'm speaking. If I'm speaking Tolkien's Entish, for example, it's explicit that one word runs on for about a meter and a half and includes many meaningful elements.

E.g.,
Taurelilómëa-tumbalemorna Tumbaletaurëa Lómeano
Forestmanyshadowed-deepvalleyblack Deepvalleyforested Gloomyland
``there is a black shadow in the deep dales of the forest''


drumlord wrote:
Quote:
But the word limits of sending and similar spells is a game balance issue.

I suspect it's not a game balance issue for most people. I bet the only reason the word counts exist is that "a short message" would be too vague.

Side note: English may seem like you can't get across a lot in so many words, but English has a lot of subtext, implications, and nuance that don't exist in all languages. You could fit a poem into a sending that could convey quite a lot. It just won't be as clear as "King Wordsalot is sending troops to our western border. 1000 cavalry, 3000 infantry. We suspect at least 10 wizards. What are your orders?" though that fits too (23 words)

25, actually. You wrote 1000 and 3000 using numbers so it appears shorter. In words, that is "one thousand" and "three thousand".


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
You're limited to 25 words in English... or whatever language you and your GM are using to talk to each other.

Except that the message spell is explicitly language-dependent, so it should depend on what language I'm speaking. If I'm speaking Tolkien's Entish, for example, it's explicit that one word runs on for about a meter and a half and includes many meaningful elements.

E.g.,
Taurelilómëa-tumbalemorna Tumbaletaurëa Lómeano
Forestmanyshadowed-deepvalleyblack Deepvalleyforested Gloomyland
``there is a black shadow in the deep dales of the forest''

There is however no rules support in the spell that says you get 30 words if you speak Elvish, Draconic, or any other langauge.


Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
You're limited to 25 words in English... or whatever language you and your GM are using to talk to each other.

Except that the message spell is explicitly language-dependent, so it should depend on what language I'm speaking. If I'm speaking Tolkien's Entish, for example, it's explicit that one word runs on for about a meter and a half and includes many meaningful elements.

E.g.,
Taurelilómëa-tumbalemorna Tumbaletaurëa Lómeano
Forestmanyshadowed-deepvalleyblack Deepvalleyforested Gloomyland
``there is a black shadow in the deep dales of the forest''

There is however no rules support in the spell that says you get 30 words if you speak Elvish, Draconic, or any other langauge.

There is, however, also no rules support in the spell that twenty-five words of English is the same as twenty-five words of Draconic. That's an unwarranted and implausible assumption.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Orfamay Quest wrote:
David knott 242 wrote:

I am guessing that the more complex words in polysynthetic languages do not have their own dictionary entries in that language -- you would have to look up the components that make it up and know the rules for combining them. So, if you have to look up five words in your language's dictionary to figure out the meaning of such a word, it is probably best to count that word as five words.

Well, most polysynthetic languages don't have dictionaries to begin with..... but, yeah, just like most makers of English dictionaries don't list plurals as separate entries for regular nouns (or gerunds as separate entries from their verb stems), most of the rudimentary dictionaries don't bother to list the various affixes.

But that's not because "-ing" or "-s" is a separate word.

Whether a given affix should count as a separate word would be a judgment call for somebody with expertise in the language in question.

But wasn't Turkish given as an example of a polysynthetic language? I would be very surprised if no Turkish dictionaries exist.

Scarab Sages

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If the player wants to use linguistics to pick a different known language which increases the effective word count of this sort of spell, I don't see a huge issue. Not really different from the player looking up big words in the dictionary which cover a large concept in less words. Maybe 1 extra word for every 5 they succeed over the DC (I'd use the spellcraft ID DC, for this linguistics test. So a DC 15+spell level linguistics test, with each 5 over that target gaining them a word).

The main thing is that whoever recieves the message would also need the shared language, if the player is attempting such thing.

A houserule, I suppose, but doesn't seem any different than the player using the dictionary or thesarus for better wording of their attempted message. Main issue from a GM stance, is if it requires lots of real time for them to decide on the message. A few extra words doesn't seem like an issue, if they can quickly pick them.


The other thing to keep in mind the rules for what is a "word" can vary by languages (part of why Japanese doesn't use spaces most of the time and translators are paid by character count).


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
You're limited to 25 words in English... or whatever language you and your GM are using to talk to each other.

Except that the message spell is explicitly language-dependent, so it should depend on what language I'm speaking. If I'm speaking Tolkien's Entish, for example, it's explicit that one word runs on for about a meter and a half and includes many meaningful elements.

E.g.,
Taurelilómëa-tumbalemorna Tumbaletaurëa Lómeano
Forestmanyshadowed-deepvalleyblack Deepvalleyforested Gloomyland
``there is a black shadow in the deep dales of the forest''

There is however no rules support in the spell that says you get 30 words if you speak Elvish, Draconic, or any other langauge.
There is, however, also no rules support in the spell that twenty-five words of English is the same as twenty-five words of Draconic. That's an unwarranted and implausible assumption.

Realistically speaking, who cares? Seriously. We don't have any idea how Draconic or Orcish or any other fantasy language would parse out. So we use our own languages as stand-ins. Twenty-five words in English were assumed to be a nice balance between expressive and limited. The presumption is that anyone casting that spell in one of these fantasy languages has a limit on the amount they can directly communicate that's also a balance between expressive and limited.

Sovereign Court

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As a side issue, I've always wondered how much time the recipient of the Sending gets to think over his reply. If he gets some monster synthetic sentence of huge words, can he still parse that just as fast?


You'all are worried too much about a metagame numeric value. Maybe it is 25 words in the universal language of magic, which is something completely different.

To make calculation easier with a spreadsheet, try this:
A1: <text to be sent>
A2: =LEN(A1)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",""))+1
This counts words by counting how many spaces are in the phrase. Makes it a lot easier to type/edit and have a count.

/cevah


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I love this thread!!!!

I would tend to say you get so many semantic units or parts of speech NOT counting the "little" words like "the" or "to" -- which a lot of languages don't use and which don't add much to the sentence. Think telegramese. Yes, one word in some languages includes a lot of parts of speech -- well, it gets dinged for them all. And when English indulges in complex, multi-word verbs or prepositional phrases, we should get a little credit.

So "We have not begun to fight with them, but we will" could arguably count as only 8:
We / have begun / not / to fight / with them / but / we / will [begin].

It was 11 words, so that's a fair amount of condensation... but some languages would do an even better job at it. In some "begin to fight" would always be one word. And I believe that many, like Spanish, are unlikely to use at least one of those "we"s (because it's implicit in the form of the verb), and so would escape with a slightly lower count there. (Unless an alert GM insisted on the subject being included.) In any case, another language's version should come out similarly if the English version counts as 8, but might well come out much different than 12.

Taurelilómëa-tumbalemorna Tumbaletaurëa Lómeano:
Forest / many / shadowed / deepvalley / black / Deepvalley / forested / Gloomyland -- 8, assuming that "deepvalley" is one word like "ravine"

There / is / a shadow / black / in the dales / deep / of the forest -- 7, separating deep out as an adjective, and making "there" serve as an actual subject, which is controversial.

8 vs. 7: Close enough, I say. A lot closer than the literal English count of 12:
There / is / a / black / shadow / in / the / deep / dales / of / the / forest.

25 words in French:
25 / words / in French / usually / convey / less / than words / 25 / in English / for example. -- 10.

25 / mots / en français / expriment / en général / moins de choses / que mots / 25 / en anglais / par exemple -- an identical 10 elements.


Yes, I have to pull things out of order to make my counts work. If a GM wants to look at a message and not bother counting it out, more power to them. But IMHO it's better to pull things apart and count semantic units than to assume that Terran or Orcish have the same word count as ANY language spoken at the game table. (If you feel that 25 semantic units is more than was intended, cut it, perhaps to 20.)

~~~~~

Btw, Navajo for instance has a dictionary, but it's not one that's easy to use if you can't speak the language well. Most verbs, in particular, are listed in a form that looks very different from anything you'll generally find in use. (All those affixes aren't just piled on as with an agglutinative language like Turkish; oh no, they get compressed into the root, changing it into something unrecognizable.)


What if I write a string of 0 and 1 ?
No spaces.
One word.

Maybe "one short message" is not so vague :p


I always assumed 25 words was more a metagame construct in order to quantify what a 'short message' is and that attempting to parse its various effects per language is both beyond the scope of Pathfinder and against the spirit of the ability.


I once played a 3.5 game where we were pulled into the world's largest dungeon. (Beat it btw).

You're all teleported in from different planes. One player played a samurai. After 5 sessions the GM asked who spoke orc. None of us did but the samurai mentioned then he only spoke Japanese.

"Then how have we been talking? We only speak common."

That's when we realized there could only be one answer....

Scarab Sages

Alderic wrote:

What if I write a string of 0 and 1 ?

No spaces.
One word.

Maybe "one short message" is not so vague :p

So "0" is a word by itelf, "Zero," and "1" is also a word, "One." Using symbols doesn't change the from being words, it just makes them shorter to write (and easier for math).


So "0" is a word by itelf, "Zero," and "1" is also a word, "One." Using symbols doesn't change the from being words, it just makes them shorter to write (and easier for math).

There are only 10 type of people in the world.

Scarab Sages

Alderic wrote:
Quote:
So "0" is a word by itelf, "Zero," and "1" is also a word, "One." Using symbols doesn't change the from being words, it just makes them shorter to write (and easier for math).
There are only 10 type of people in the world.

Fixed. You and extra slash in the second use of quote.


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I hate quotes :p can't use them.


David knott 242 wrote:

But wasn't Turkish given as an example of a polysynthetic language? I would be very surprised if no Turkish dictionaries exist.

If it was, the example was erroneously given.


Cevah wrote:

You'all are worried too much about a metagame numeric value. Maybe it is 25 words in the universal language of magic, which is something completely different.

To make calculation easier with a spreadsheet, try this:
A1: <text to be sent>
A2: =LEN(A1)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A1," ",""))+1
This counts words by counting how many spaces are in the phrase. Makes it a lot easier to type/edit and have a count.

Awesome! Everything in Chinese is only one word!

我們還沒有開始與他們戰鬥但我們會

(Chinese for the fight-with-them sentence above.)


Murdock Mudeater wrote:
Alderic wrote:

What if I write a string of 0 and 1 ?

No spaces.
One word.

Maybe "one short message" is not so vague :p

So "0" is a word by itelf, "Zero," and "1" is also a word, "One." Using symbols doesn't change the from being words, it just makes them shorter to write (and easier for math).

Well that still causes a problem. If we make a representative alphabet (or just use ASCII; here I'm using a 5-bit letter representation with spaces being 00000 and a period being 11111), then we get weird results.

I SEE AN ORC. -- 4 words

01001000001001100101001010000000001011100000001111100100001111111 == 1 word or 65 words?

0904CA5005C07C87F = 1 word or 17 words?

Both are 5 words, actually, but you could express them in 4

10397867060654229631 = 1 word or 20 words or...

Ten Quintillion Three hundred Ninety Seven Quadrillion Eight Hundred Sixty Seven Trillion Sixty Billion Six Hundred Fifty Four Million Two Hundred Twenty Nine Thousand Six Hundred Thirty One

... 28 words?

Hard to tell.

But there is no reason not to assume that people have made a way of "compressing" messages to deal with sending's size limitation (since similar methods have arisen in our world for similar reasons). Linguistics has its uses.

Edit:

Actually, I propose Prisencolinensinainciusol, a language created for use with Sending. Every sentence in Prisencolinensinainciusol is one word ("Prisencolinensinainciusol" is Prisencolinensinainciusol for "In this language, every sentence is a word.").

If sending's limit is a problem, it only makes sense that this has already been addressed somewhere in-world. You would have to take Prisencolinensinainciusol as a language (or purchase the time of a Prisencolinensinainciusol speaker) in order to decipher the message, of course. If you are a non-speaker, your DM may allow you to write down the message to decipher later with a successful Linguistics check.


Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhen­u akitanatahu is one word. It is roughly translated as The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one which is 28-29 words depending on whether land-swallower is one or two words.


Kitty Catoblepas wrote:

I SEE AN ORC. -- 4 words

01001000001001100101001010000000001011100000001111100100001111111 == 1 word or 65 words?

Sorry, if you are speaking in binary, then your words are broken out thus:

0100100000100110 0101001010000000 0010111000000011 1110010000111111 1

So 4 words and a bit for old school magic.

More recent magical advancements however might place that at 2 words and a bit.
01001000001001100101001010000000 00101110000000111110010000111111 1

Or even 1 word and a bit.
0100100000100110010100101000000000101110000000111110010000111111 1

And exceptional advanced magic can do it in one word, with room to spare.
01001000001001100101001010000000001011100000001111100100001111111


Can you use sign language?

Can you use verbal approximation of sign language?

You could get a hell of a lot further with 25 word in ASL than you could in English?


Absolutely fantastic thread! To add to the topic, what about words that technically aren't words but we all understand instinctively anyway or only become official (waaaay) later than its adoption in actual used languages (buffyspeak). What happens to inflections? Stretching out syllables or even just sounds? Does it count 'Ummm'? I mean, does the spell register which sounds, and so words, are uttered with the intent of transmission and which are mere static? Sneezing, coughing, hiccups? Can I 'send' a fart during my wizard 101 class? If the words actually need to be spoken out loud shouldn't backgroundnoise interfere, like calling people at a raveparty?

In short, there's too much to consider. Its easier to just use it in the language the table uses to play the game. You can explain it with some typical fantasy nonsense like it uses the 'language' of magic itself, like with verbal components.

Scarab Sages

In english, it's a new word whenever you'd have a "space" in between two groups of letters.

So regarding binary, it really depends how you'd read it. 1000 could be read as a single number, One Thousand (2 words), or One Zero Zero Zero (4 words). Could also do One Triple Zero (3 words).


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Contrary to my original post, I'm now hoping the design team does have to look at this, if only so they have to read this awesome thread.


IamAfraidOfWhatWillHappenWithThisThread


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I use a house rule where instead of 25 words you get 140 characters. It's an update to the protocol, is all.

Scarab Sages

ohako wrote:
I use a house rule where instead of 25 words you get 140 characters. It's an update to the protocol, is all.

Been thinking about it more, I think I'd just use a pictionary timer and give a piece of paper to write it on. Then I call time, and hand the paper to the PC (or myself, if NPC) and they get to try to understand what is written (especially if they ran out of time and only have a partial message).

The Exchange

The timer's a great house-rule, and would probably reflect the intent of the spell ("a brief message") better than a limitation that gives "I am" the same weight as "antiestablishment parliamentarian".

(We should make 'em write out a haiku.)


I'm sorry to have been away; this is a great thread!

Hugo Rune wrote:
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhen­u akitanatahu is one word. It is roughly translated as The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one which is 28-29 words depending on whether land-swallower is one or two words.

I count it as 19.

The summit / where / Tamatea, / the man / with / the knees / big, / the slider, / climber / of mountains, / the land-/ swallower / who / travelled about, / played / his / nose flute / to his / loved one.
I did go with two words for land-swallower, but one each for "travelled about" and "nose flute" -- they seem likely to be single words in a culture that wants to talk about them. 21 words, in short, if you split those. {"Loved one" clearly can be one word, "beloved."}

{But then I can also get on board with using a timer. How long?}


As an aside, which real life, non-esoteric language is best for sending terse spoken messages without mangling the meaning too much (grammatical correctness is irrelevant so long as meaning comes across)?

For example, using this as a baseline:

drumlord wrote:
"King Wordsalot is sending troops to our western border. 1000 cavalry, 3000 infantry. We suspect at least 10 wizards. What are your orders?"(23 words)

In English, I can get that down to:

"Wordalot sending...Our western border...thousands:one calvalry, three infantry...suspect 10 plus wizards. Orders?" (15 words)


I think that can come down 1-2 words at least. You don't need 'sending', arguably you would make more sense replacing it with 'troops'. You don't need to define 'our' border, you would be unlikely to refer to the enemies border.

"wordsalot western border thousands:one cavalry, 3 infantry..." (13 words)
"Wordsalot troops western border..." (14 words)

If you allow for inflection/question (the proper term escapes me) "10 plus wizards?" would obviate the need for 'suspect' (12-13 words).

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