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The Badger/speaklang

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Because SRD's Speak Language is stupid, I'm making this. Hopefully it'll be better, or at least more reasonable. How many languages does the average adventurer really know?

New rules for acquiring languages at character creation

You start at 1st level knowing one or two languages (based on your race), plus an additional number of languages equal to half your starting Intelligence bonus (rounded down). When selecting bonus languages you may only select a language that has the same alphabet as one of the languages you already know (ie, if you know Gnome and Common you may not select Draconic as your bonus language). Furthermore, you may not select Elven as a Bonus language (this language must either be a racial language, or learned using the speak language skill). These are considered "Native languages", and require no checks to use. You are considered fluent, and literate in these languages (unless otherwise noted by a flaw, or some such).

Using the Skill

Speak Language (INT; Trained Only)

Common Languages and Their Alphabets
Language Typical Speakers Alphabet DC Mod
Abyssal Demons, chaotic evil outsiders Infernal +1
Aquan Water-based creatures Elven +0
Auran Air-based creatures Draconic +1
Celestial Good outsiders Celestial +1
Common Humans, halflings, half-elves, half-orcs Common +0
Draconic Kobolds, troglodytes, lizardfolk, dragons Draconic +0
Druidic Druids (only) Druidic --
Dwarven Dwarves Dwarven +0
Elven Elves Elven +2
Giant Ogres, giants Dwarven +0
Gnome Gnomes Dwarven +0
Goblin Goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears Dwarven +0
Gnoll Gnolls Common +0
Halfling Halflings Common +0
Ignan Fire-based creatures Draconic +1
Infernal Devils, lawful evil outsiders Infernal +1
Orc Orcs Dwarven -1
Sylvan Dryads, brownies, leprechauns Elven +1
Terran Xorns and other earth-based creatures Dwarven +1
Undercommon Drow Elven +1
Spending Ranks

There are two methods of acquire ranks in Speak Language

  • You can purchase Speak Language just like any other skill, but instead of buying a rank in it, you choose a new language that you can speak. This language is considered a "Non-Native" language, and requires checks to use.
    • It costs 2 ranks to learn a new language (whether Speak Language is a cross-class skill for you or not). The first point represents learning to speak a language, the second represents learning to write a language. The cost of learning a new language may be split among two sequential levels. Elven, because it is incredibly complex, requires 3 skill points to learn. In this instance, the first two points represent learning to speak Elven, and the third represents writing it. Elven may not be learned over more than two levels, despite its additional cost. If you only get a single skill point per level you cannot learn Elven.
  • Alternatively, you can place ranks in Speak language like any other skill. These ranks do not earn you new languages, but count as your accumulated wealth of knowledge for making Speak Language checks. Ranks spent here work just as any other skill point.

Using a "Non-Native" language requires a check against a set DC. Because some languages are harder, or easier, to learn than others, use the above chart to modify the DCs of certain checks. Speaking and listening are free actions, whether the language is native or not. Reading, writing, or translating is a standard action for a native language, and a full round action for non-native languages. Translating from a native language to a non-native language, or vice versa, is treated as translating a non-native language, and therefore a full round action. Reading aloud a non-native language, without attempting to comprehend what is being said, is a standard action.

DCs for Speak Language
DC Action Try Again
3 Convey/Understand basic idea (with gestures) Yes
5 Convey/Understand basic idea (without gestures) Yes
5 Understand (by reading) See Text
7 Understand (by hearing) Yes*
10 Write See Text
11 Translate See Text
12 Speak Yes*
17 Speak Fluently No
30 Pass as a native speaker No
Taking 10 or 20

You may take 10 or 20 on checks that involve reading, writing , and translating. Otherwise, you may not take 10 or 20 on Speak Language.

Try Again

If you fail a DC marked "Yes*", you may retry it. However, a penalty may be imposed if you are trying to negotiate with a hostile party. Similarly, if a communicating with a friendly party they may speak slower and clearer to make the check easier.


Like other skills, you are often not aware you've failed a check until it is too late to fix it. Imagine climbing up a wall when you realize your Use Rope check has failed, or wandering around in the woods for hours because you unknowingly failed your survival check. When you fail a check that involves speaking you will often find out right away that you've said the wrong thing (based on your audience's reaction), and when listening you might notice soon that it is unlikely that the canoe is supposed to ride you up the river. However, checks involving reading, writing, and translating are trickier. Often you won't realize you mistranslated the riddle until you press the wrong button and get turned to stone. Basically, you think you've made the correct translation, much like you think your knot will hold, until it comes up. Only after a third party points out your mistake can you retry the check. Failing to "pass as a native speaker" results in you speaking fluently, but with a noticeable accent (Thus, alerting any native listener that you are not a native speaker. You still may fool non-native listeners, however). Failing to "Speak fluently" results in you stammering, stumbling over words, pausing, or perhaps hesitating to recall vocabulary. You still are able convey your thought very clearly. Otherwise, failing by less than 2 means, with work, you get your message across, or understand the gist of the conversation, but might miss key elements (ie, the lake is two days away, not two miles). Failing by more than 2 on any given check results in complete misunderstanding, or complete failure in speaking that language(to follow the example before, you don't know there is a lake, let alone how far it is).

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