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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default Languages Expanded (Whiteleaf, In Progress)

    This is a House Rule for the Whiteleaf (YTLF or Y~F) campaign setting, a 3.5 game environment loosely based on Greyhawk. Its status is Under Construction.

    *****

    It doesn't seem to me, from the admittedly slim knowledge I have of Actual Play, as though your choice of spoken languages in D&D 3E is especially significant on a very regular basis. The very simplistic "knows/knowsnot" binary, the relatively small number of languages, the ability to fairly easily start the game knowing 6 or more of them, and the relative inadvisability of ever spending skill points to acquire more than that...all combine to make the very existence of different languages in D&D seem like almost an afterthought. I put a lot of thought into choosing flavorful and in-character languages for each individual I create, and the rules don't reward me much for bothering.

    So in an attempt to add a little extra spice and variety to my game, with minimal effect on power level, I'm creating a handful of very small little abilities that come with choosing a particular language known. Characters can get a lot of these abilities, and they won't come up much or have much effect; that might make them more trouble than they're worth, and if so they certainly don't need to be used, but if you're interested in bothering they provide a tiny bit of incentive for deciding whether your character has studied Auran in the libraries of Raptoran wizards or has picked up a smattering of Abyssal from the tattoo-festooned roughnecks that hang out down at the city docks.

    Languages will be added to this list as I think of them. Because I love the virtual sound of my own digital voice, I will include a few ramblings about the language itself as I picture (well, soundbyte) it in my mind, along with the actual rule and various setting-specific usage notes (adjustments to the Bonus Language options for YTLF's variants of the races, and similar details).

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    Default Re: Languages Expanded (Whiteleaf, In Progress)

    Common

    Being the universal language of not only the far-reaching Tradespeak Empire but of virtually all civilization on Terrestra, spoken by nearly everyone and constructed by the Celestials specifically to be easily apprehensible even by those who have yet to properly learn it (even if their command of it is seldom up to the exacting standards of the Imperial Linguistic Standardization Academy), the Common Tongue is of such practical utility that knowing it is mostly its own reward. The vast majority of characters know Common as of their creation, and derive no special advantages as a result. However for those who are not raised in the language's company and who have made an effort to seek it out, there is a negligible benefit as a result of the way in which their comprehension of the universal tongue has expanded their worldview and clarified their understanding of other societies (most especially the Empire itself, of course).

    Benefit: If your character has selected Common as a bonus language or purchased it with the Speak Language skill, he or she receives a +1 bonus on Diplomacy checks with creatures who automatically know Common.
    Last edited by willpell; 2013-01-30 at 11:13 AM.

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    Default Re: Languages Expanded (Whiteleaf, In Progress)

    Draconic

    While their domination of the world is either long-past or was mythical in the first place, and most have seemed fully content to remain largely sedentary for the last ten centuries and as many more to come, dragons by nature make a big impression wherever they go and whatever they do, and the ripples of their occasional passage through the world are still being felt. Said to be "both source and end of the arcane forces" by quite a few mystical scholars (though, admittedly, most of them are easily suspected of having been biased on the topic), dragonkind takes naturally to magic in both theory and practice, and so its intimate connection with the craft of wizardry is inevitable - as much so as the awe and anxiety which the languages originators can evoke at even the rumor of their presence.

    Benefit: A character who speaks Draconic receives a +1 bonus on Spellcraft checks related to arcane magic, and a +1 bonus on Intimidate checks against creatures without the Dragon type or the Dragonblood subtype.

    Notes: Characters with the Half-Dragon template do not automatically receive Draconic as a language known, as the Monster Manual may indicate; instead they may substitute Draconic for Common as their native language, or may select it as a bonus language in addition to all of their other bonus language options.
    Last edited by willpell; 2013-01-30 at 11:13 AM.

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    Default Re: Languages Expanded (Whiteleaf, In Progress)

    Sylvan

    The forest is surely Nature's greatest triumph, for in no other ecosystem does such a diversity of life exist in such inextricable symbiosis. Even when nothing sentient walked in the wilderness, it was in a state of constant communication, a wordless tongue of mutual codependence where all survived through their entanglement with all others. So perhaps it was inevitable that in time a common form of expression, for concepts too complex to understand purely through instinct, must have arisen among even the most dimwitted of creatures in such an ecosystem. This hasn't stopped the Elensetharsai ("elves" to the impatient Mayfly People who have "recentlY" surpassed the extent of their once-superlative civilization) from claiming total and unapologetic credit for the Sylvan language's existence. Exclusively thanks to them, these ancients boast, every creature in every Terrestrial in the known cosmology - from elephants to field mice, dryads to paper-wasp hiveminds, and extraplanar spirit-wolves to fungus-encrusted jungle demons - is capable of holding a dialogue with every other such creature if the situation demands it. If the still-older denizens of the deepest sylvan morasses know otherwise, they've yet to contradict the elven boast, at least anywhere it would have wound up on the public record.

    By necessity, given the absurd variation among the creatures who know it, the Sylvan tongue is entirely percussive; it matters not what sounds the speaker makes or at what volume or speed, only the rhythm in which they are made. Inevitably this also makes its dialogue relatively prolonged, limits it to the simplest of communicable concepts, and leaves it rife with potential ambiguity outside of the most obvious of situations. The only creatures who can claim to speak Sylvan "well" are those both highly intelligent and possessed of the inordinate patience that comes with longevity; the two largest categories of such beings are elves and treants (dragons come in a distant third, mostly due to having some trouble with the "patience" part in their own relative terms), and these are responsible for virtually all of the relative handful of actual conversations in Sylvan that ever occur, as well as for the fact that it has a written form (consisting of what one human druid referred to dismissively as "dots and dashes", to the substantial annoyance of his elvish peers). The intricacies possible in these discussions are unheard-of in the mainstream tongue spoken by animals, plant-creatures, tempermental dragons and attention-span-challenged fey; such "High Sylvan" is virtually a separate language, and a more codified version of it forms the basis of the secret Druidic speech.

    Benefit: Nothing moves through a forest without disturbing its intricate equilibrium slightly; even the elves who pride themselves on their natural discretion, if they manage never to snap a twig underfoot, at least cannot help but have nudged a few leaves away from where they fell. And should a creature mystically obfuscate his actual trail completely, his presence was doubtlessly still observed by the eyes, ears and noses of literally thousands of lifeforms, and a few of them will manage to chatter of the fact to their kindred before the memory submerges into the tumult of their tiny, presentient minds. As a result, no one can have ever been in a forest without, to be a bit less than technically precise, the forest itself having noticed. And those who can overhear the gossip of its residents will learn at least some of what the forest knows in very short order.

    Any character who knows Sylvan receives the benefit of the Track feat while within any forested area (excluding extraterrestrial "forests", but including extraplanar ones, even if they are as alien as the poison jungles of the Abyss or the black-metal "woodlands" of rural Acheron). If the character already has a feat, he gains a +2 bonus to Survival checks made to follow trails in such an area. Additionally, characters who pass through such areas are considered to have left a record of their passage in the "consciousness" of the local fauna and flora, and thus are counted as having a trail even if they are under the effect of a pass without trace spell, which only Sylvan-speakers may find or follow. The trail-maker's Wisdom modifier is applied as a penalty to rolls attempting to detect this path, and once the character is outside the bounds of the forest (DM's discretion, but generally a stone's throw or so beyond the treeline, or instantly at any sort of dividing line such as a road unless the woodlands resume on the far side), the spell once again conceals their passage completely.
    Last edited by willpell; 2013-01-30 at 11:12 AM.

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    Default Re: Languages Expanded (Whiteleaf, In Progress)

    I like it! I assume a Comprehend Languages spell does not confer all of these boni on a character at once? Now I'm tempted to add this type of thing to my in-progress world.

    I absolutely agree that languages are a bit too cheap in these games, I wonder how it would affect the game to make bonus languages come from every 2 points of Int modifier instead of just 1? It'd make it harder for a party to have almost every likely-to-be-useful language covered.
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    Default Re: Languages Expanded (Whiteleaf, In Progress)

    This is so fantastically amazing! Thank you so much for posting, willpell!

    I've been saying for years, pretty much from the very first time I created a character, that D&D really lacks depth to how languages are handled. But there was never a really convincing reason to change it: a more complicated system makes the player's life harder (they're less likely to be understood), and makes more work for the DM (keeping track of not only what each party says, but what they other person thinks they said). But dropping little bonuses in the form of useful modifiers and flavorful extras seems like the perfect way to encourage players and DMs alike to see languages in all their beautiful complexity.

    Thanks again for posting this!

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    Default Re: Languages Expanded (Whiteleaf, In Progress)

    Wow. I was just recently considering getting rid of Common to increase the importance of language in the campaign I'm running. My players, understandably, didn't like the idea. This would be the perfect way to give an incentive to expand on languages. Thank you for putting this up, I will most certainly be showing it to my players! Just a suggestion: do something fairly big for druidic, because the fact that it's a secret language should have some deeper purpose, in my opinion. Maybe make it so that you can always speak to animals if you know it, or so treants will always be friendly toward you if they hear you speak it, or something cool like that.

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    Default Re: Languages Expanded (Whiteleaf, In Progress)

    Quote Originally Posted by Screech-*Lime* View Post
    I like it! I assume a Comprehend Languages spell does not confer all of these boni on a character at once?
    Definitely not; the bonus is for knowing the language, not being able to understand it. CL only translates; you don't start thinking in the comprehended language or anything, and thus it can't inform what you do in any different way, any more than having a fish in your ear could.

    (Oh, and does anyone who knows a word starting with "cerem" see an amusing parallel here? Anyway, I guess I've got my segue....)

    Undercommon

    Cobbled together from their mutual original tongues by drow, duergar, svirfneblin, underfolk and similar expatriates from the surface world out of desperate necessity, Undercommon is everything that Common is not. Rather than a language of commerce and friendship, it is a minimal common denominator useful in tense negotiations and for the placement of warning signs. Everything about its grammar and syntax reflects the grim determination and reflexive hostility necessary to survive in the claustrophobic, resource-sparse depths of the earth; it is a paranoid language for races of murderously efficient survivalists who are beset by alien horrors on every side, and frequently view their traveling companions as emergency rations or predator insurance.

    Benefit: A character who speaks Undercommon gains a +2 bonus on saves versus any of the following spells (or a corresponding spell-like ability): Maze, Imprisonment, Blindness/Deafness, or any fear effect. This bonus does not stack with any racial bonus versus spells and spell-like abilities.

    Note to Readers: Feel free to suggest other spells that are thematically fitting to add to this list. For the moment I'm making them not stack with drow and dwarf racial bonuses, as this seems like it would be overpowered on drow, but if it's too much of a buzzkill for dwarves feel free to say so, I can be talked into reversing the ruling.

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    Default Re: Languages Expanded (Whiteleaf, In Progress)

    Quote Originally Posted by Screech-*Lime* View Post
    I wonder how it would affect the game to make bonus languages come from every 2 points of Int modifier instead of just 1? It'd make it harder for a party to have almost every likely-to-be-useful language covered.
    In one game where I wanted it to be more difficult for PCs to be able to talk to everything under the sun, I changed the language system to something like that. Each race only spoke its own language by default with Common as a bonus option for everyone, and each character had one language slot per point of Int bonus; spending one slot on a language got you a rudimentary understanding ("Thog want crush puny man!") and two slots got you fluency. It was simple and effective at getting players to care about what languages NPCs spoke.
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