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Alternative language learning

   
Alternative language learning

Hi all,

I recently had some thoughts about the Speak Language skill. I felt that it seemed like a potential sink for skill points, and is obviously limited to specific class' in-class lists. It seemed a little odd to me as well, that certain people can only learn so many languages, despite their potential skillset.

So, what I was thinking, kinda inspired by Pathfinder's "Linguistics" skill, that the Speak Language skill gets scrapped altogether and is instead lumped into two existing skills. Diplomacy and Decipher Script.

Diplomacy is being able to communicate with people, influencing their attitude towards you. Surely spoken language skills are needed here? With my proposed alteration to the skill, every 2 ranks invested in Diplomacy allows a character the ability to speak another language, and understand someone else speaking that language.

Decipher Script allows a character to crack codes, identify magical texts and similar acts of cryptography. I kinda feel there's not much point if you don't then understand other languages. Much like my alteration for Diplomacy, every 2 ranks in Decipher Script grants a character another language that they can understand in written form, but not necessarily speak fluently or conversationally.


Obviously, this is just idea pitching. Does anyone have any suggestions for alterations to the above, or have similar ideas of their own?

Pathfinder (the Paizo version of D&D3.75) has two interesting points on that
a) the Linguistics skill lumps speak language (1 lang per rank), forgery and decipher script in the same packege
b) if a skill is a class skill, you get a lump bonus when you take your first rank, but cross class skills don't cost 2 skill points.

That kind of thing (as well as the single Perception skill instead of Spot, LIsten and Search, and a single Stealth skill instead of the silent movemen t and hide skils) is why, when I master a D&D3.xx game, I'll use the Pathfinder skill system instead of the original 3.5 one... makes things simpler, skills more useful, and deemphazises skill point rarity.

Pathfinder's horrible cross-class skills system doesn't really work very well with Linguistics, but otherwise the skill makes more sense than Speak Language - as you learn more languages, your general linguistic ability goes up which helps you understand or decipher other languages. That's not unrealistic, and makes the skill slightly more attractive - as it is, you're probably only going to put a rank in Speak Language if you really need a language (typically, Common) and don't get it from your race or base Int.

However, I don't think it makes sense to combine it with Diplomacy. There are loads of persuasive people who only speak one language, and you can be a polyglot with perfectly average (or worse) Diplomacy. Sure, it's about the ability to communicate, but only insofar as trying to make a Diplomacy check when you don't actually speak the language is likely to fail.

Whaddyamean Fred? In PF, Diplomacy is combined with Gather Information, but not at all with linguistics.

Yeah, I know - but the suggestion in this thread is to combine Speak Language with Diplomacy, which I'm arguing makes a limited amount of sense.

I would wonder if languages are an area where it’s just better to be simpler, and stick to the old traditional D&D model of “You either know a language or you don’t.” Not complicate it by trying to integrate it with a skill system at all.

Yes, in the real world, language competency is complicated and involves many different things, and the kind of fluency where you can pass for native in a language that’s not your own involves an extremely high level of active command. But it’s probably not important enough in most games to be worth having different levels of ability, and that way lies the madness of trying to reflect situations like when people have a high level of passive reading knowledge, but can hardly produce the language at all in conversation. Anyone for a quick game of Swords and Syntax?

My own preference would be to say that people are fluent in what their Int bonus or whatever gives them, and they can make an Int roll at the GM’s option also to have a few words of tourist’s Orcish in situations where it comes up, or to have studied a bit of Old Elvish in their wizardly education.

EDIT: Looked up the skill (not a 3.5 player), and it doesn’t even reflect different competencies. Yes, I really do think it’s unnecessary, then. Just let people pick up “a smattering of Dwarvish” if they spend time living among dwarves for a bit. Roll dead languages of scholarship or arcana into the relevant lore skills.








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