[Whiteleaf Discussion] Languages Expanded (repost from GITP)

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[Whiteleaf Discussion] Languages Expanded (repost from GITP)

Post by willpell » Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:14 pm

Post by: willpell on March 02, 2013, 01:19:35 PM
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 Whiteleaf's variants of the races, and similar details).

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Common

Post by willpell » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:54 pm

Post by: willpell on March 02, 2013, 01:21:09 PM

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, clarifying 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.

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Draconic

Post by willpell » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:54 pm

Post by: willpell on March 02, 2013, 01:22:25 PM

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 language's 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.

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Sylvan

Post by willpell » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:55 pm

Post by: willpell on March 02, 2013, 01:31:20 PM

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 forest 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 that 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 on Mon Apr 18, 2016 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Undercommon

Post by willpell » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:57 pm

Post by: willpell on March 02, 2013, 01:35:40 PM
Screech-*Lime* wrote: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....)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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: 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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Illumian

Post by willpell » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:58 pm

Post by: willpell on March 02, 2013, 01:53:01 PM

The above were the four entries in this system which I got posted on GITP during January, before I was banned. I now resume work on the homebrew here with an idea I had today, which prompted me to copy what I had back into public view.

Illumians are a race derived from a lineage of once-human beings, who have mystically transformed themselves through a ritual of arcane linguistics; they literally have words in their blood (impossible to read without a microscope, and difficult even then since they constantly move through the circulatory fluid, but still), and thus it's only natural that the language they themselves speak would bear distinct similarities to virtually every other language ever conceived. Common and Celestial are both particularly strongly echoed in the Illumian tongue, as it consists in part of extrapolations from the original Words of Creation...but it also incorporates elements of the Dark Speech and the doggerel of Chaos, so it is by no means a language of Good, nor does it serve only to facilitate cooperation among the widely divergent, as Common was conceived to do. Still, mastery of this magical conlang cannot help but prove beneficial in understanding the structure of other tongues...up to and including the "True Speech" which is rumored to be THE original form of communication.

Benefit: A character who knows Illumian receives 1 extra skill point at each level, which may be spent only to purchase the Speak Language or Truespeak skills. (This extra skill point is in addition to the unrestricted one gained by humans, half-orcs and half-elves, should one of those beings have made the effort to learn of the Illumian's existence and then to acquire understanding of their language, or to have learned of the language directly from a scholar of the obscure - who may or may not know that its speakers ever actually existed.) If the character does not have the ability to purchase a rank in either of these skills for 1 skill point (because the skill is in-class for him, or because he has the human-only feat Able Learner), he must spend one of his normal skill points in addition to this free point in order to acquire a rank. If the character does not spend the bonus skill point (for this or some other reason), it is lost; they cannot be accumulated between levels.

Note: I thought about throwing in Craft: Calligraphy or the like on the list of options, but since giving away free skill points, even sharply limited ones, is potentially rather strong compared to the tiny bonuses I've given to other languages, I'm being conservative for now in designing this ability.

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Celestial

Post by willpell » Mon Apr 18, 2016 11:19 pm

And now, years after I initially proposed this concept, having imported it to another site, been banned from that site, and then had that site cease to exist due to the incompetence of its webmaster, I have transplanted it to here, and am finally expanding it with a new entry. Composing this post, describing the Celestial language as I "enhearing" it, gave me the idea.

The Celestial language may predate the existence of an actual universe or beings capable of speaking it; said to be a more conversational version of the Words of Creation, with which some ultimate overdeity literally spoke the cosmos into existence (proponents of this theory offer no explanation as to who or what must have spoken that being into existence previously, etc. ad infinitum), the angelic tongue is designed to speak only Good concepts, describing the tenets of a benevolent and socially-conscious life in exhaustive detail, but barely even capable of acknowledging the existence of Evil, and never as anything other than "that which must be opposed at all costs". Designed to be spoken by a multitude of voices, either many human devotees chanting in syncopated unison or a single Celestine intoning a sonorous decree layered with half a dozen meaningful subharmonics, Celestial is a complex but inexact language, very "fluffy" and flowing, which carries implication well, can contain a lot of well-packed meanings, and has a way of getting everyone on the same page quickly. Its many broad terms can be used either for extremely precise and unambiguous definitions or for a broad umbrella with much subjectivity (again, doing best at thusly describing topics that match its ethos, and poorly at those which blatantly contradict it); not only this, however, but speaking and even thinking in the Celestine words has a way of making people feel more cooperative and empathic, to such an extent that Evil characters often describe the language as "creepy" and claim that it "brainwashes" the speakers into forgetting their individuality. (They're wrong, but it's an eminently understandable mistake from their perspective.)

Benefit: Speakers of Celestial get a +1 bonus on the roll to Aid Another, and an additional +2 when the Aid Another task is being performed out of combat. These bonuses are reduced by 1 if the Celestial speaker and the target of his Aid Another are not both Good, and by another 1 if either one of them is Evil. (Thusly, a total of +1 applies on cooperative noncombat endeavors when a Neutral or Evil speaker works with another Neutral or Evil person; the full +3 bonus works only when the character is Good and works with another Good person. Since the roll to supply Aid is only DC 10, even a +1 bonus is likely to be relevant, but those who apply +3 become extraordinary enablers of teamwork, especially if the DM allows the granting of larger Aid Another bonuses on very high rolls; Whiteleaf incorporates this rule, and these Celestiphone coordinators are a big part of the reason why Good has such an enduring presence in that cosmology.)

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Halfling

Post by willpell » Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:54 am

The halflings who share the Tradespeak Empire (and its various friendly or disgruntled neighbor-states) with humanity have long since discarded whatever language they originally spoke, during the three-thousand-or-so-year window between the "smallfolk" race's original development, and the ostensible advent of Celestial emissaries who granted a magically perfected language to the most stable of humanity's kingdoms at the time. It's unclear whether the hobbits were always included in the nascent Tradespeak Empire's plans to standardize communication among the various branches of mankind, but if they weren't at first, that was fixed quickly, in order to put paid to any semblance of Fantastic Racism between the human race and its closest fantastical offshoot. There was a brief period early on when the Imperials and their halfling neighbors spoke exactly the same language, but that time is past; the Imperial Language Standards Academy has firmly reined in the naturally chaotic tendencies which Angelic Saxon seems to encourage in its speakers, and those efforts have always been studiously ignored by the nomadic and clannish halflings. Linguistic drift seems to have accelerated in the smallfolk's discourse, as if to compensate for ILSA's attempt at fixing the tongue in its "ideal" form; the various tribes of hobbit-kind often speak radically different dialects of Halfling, and the vernacular often takes mere years to shift noticeably through usage.

A noteworthy difference between modern Halfling and its ancestor-tongue Common is the use of capitalization; the root words are usually more or less then same, but spelling varies widely, and while the exact schema for encoding variant letter pronunciations by case is radically divergent, no tribe passes up the opportunity to effectively double the supply of available graphemes. Several fairly consistent examples of this practice are found in the most common dialect, and extend to several of the others with little or no variation; nearly every halfling agrees that the word "wait" is to be written wAt, while the identical-sounding Common "weight" appears as waYt and is considered clearly distinct in pronunciation (no hobbit bard would try to rhyme the two, even though few human ears can make out the distinction). Similarly, "flower" is flOoR (pronounced more like "floh-ur") while "flour" is FloOr (verbally resembling "fluh-or"); to further confuse the issue, "floor" becomes a simple flor with no capitals. "Breed", "bride", "bridge" and "bright" all become brY plus one final consonant; the first two are both written with the letters Bosom, Root, Youth and Drum, but "bride" features a capital D while "breed" does not, and referring to a blushing halfling girl on her wedding day as brYd instead of brYD is as insulting as calling her a "brood mare" (while ironically, the word "brood" in Halfling requires seven letters). Of course, all this is only true about 60% of the time for any given band of the Folk, given the aforementioned sprawl of linguistic variants; the availability of Tongues scrolls, frequently at aggressive discounts, discourages many scholars from bothering to try and master this endlessly confusing subject.

Benefit: Because the halfling tongue shifts constantly, those who speak it (either natively or through study) learn to think on their feet, whether or not those appendages are large and hairy and habitually kept bare. Hobbitophones who commit a verbal faux pas are often able to pass it off as an error in word choice, caused by confusion between dialects or failure to learn the latest shift in slang; a quick rephrasing is often enough to smooth any ruffled feathers. To represent this, a character who knows how to speak Halfling, and is currently speaking either Halfling or Common with a person who also speaks one of those languages, may reroll a failed roll on appropriate Skills once per day. Most Charisma-based skill checks are valid recipients of this ability (with the obvious exception of Use Magic Device), although the DM may prohibit the application of this feature to any roll which is not governed primarily by the actual words one speaks (for instance, an Intimidate check could gain this benefit if it was purely a verbal threat, but not if the DM judges that scaring this particular person into cooperation requires a display of physical force; context is everything, since words alone are more likely to suffice when the character has a well-developed reputation or holds some influential position in the local government, rather than just being some random person in a tavern). Non-Charisma skill checks (such as an attempt to pass off an INT-rolled Forgery, or even a Heal check which attempts to treat a purely mental - and non-supernatural - malady through talk therapy) may occasionally benefit from this power at the DM's discretion. In any case, the character must accept the result of the reroll, even if it is worse than the original (if the character is attempting to improve a Complex Skill result, and blows the attempt instead...well, these things happen when you try to appear brilliantly witty, without knowing when to stop pushing your luck). In all cases, the reroll does not obviate the previous roll; the character who blew his Diplomacy check with a "1" has still said something heinously insulting to his intended target, but the ability to pretend this was an honest error in word choice allows the Halfling-speaker to laugh off, apologize profusely for, or otherwise correct his mis-speech. This power is considered an extraordinary ability.

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Re: [Whiteleaf Discussion] Languages Expanded (repost from GITP)

Post by willpell » Tue Sep 11, 2018 2:45 am

Abyssal
The demons of the Abyss are the most pestilent, horrific ultra-survivalists in the cosmos; thousands of new ones are born with every passing second, often all at once, when a cloud of spores erupts from a swelling tumor and each spore begins to achieve a glimmer of sentience, as it swims through the air in search of a growth matrix it can root into and begin extracting nutrients from. Given such fecundity, the main purpose of the Abyssal language is to grant unique names for every demon born; these names often consist of over two dozen syllables, and the described demons are more than happy to use nicknames, rather than risk knowledge of their True Name getting into the hands of some spellcaster who can more easily compel them with its aid. These names aside, Abyssal is a concise language, suited to the short tempers of demonkind (nearly all demons are the equivalent of hair-trigger psychotic murderers who just woke up with a hangover; only a handful of varieties like the Succubus and the Dybbuk even have a concept of patience), and bluntly describing every concept in the most straightforward fashion possible. Intentionally insulting someone in Abyssal is difficult, because even the most innocuous sentence tends to sound obscene; ordering coffee in a tiefling-run restaurant might involve telling the waitress to "gok foog yeersoff", while actually expressing the sentiment this resembles requires only a single word, which sounds so much like the onomatopeia for an act of sexual penetration that it is not presented here. With such ugly words, such a lack of inherent rhythm, and the constant background noise of the Pit's many screaming, howling denizens, making oneself understood to even a minimal extent often requires shouting at such volume, and with such throat-gurgling and tooth-gnashing enunciation (all of which comes completely naturally to demons, even five minutes after they hatch from some pus-filled boil on the upper back of a man with no limbs and his eyes dangling by the nerve fibers) that the small amounts of nuance that were originally possible become lost quickly. Telling someone to "go away" is easy enough, but describing exactly how receptive you will be to them coming back later, that is a far more challenging matter.

Benefit: While it is difficult to speak in a subtle fashion when using Abyssal, those who can manage it are well-suited to dealing with the blandishments of others, particularly if they happen to be insane (since the inherent logic of the language is mildly corrosive to the speaker's mental health in the first place, and those who have lost the battle already are best-positioned to embrace the demons' tongue). An Abyssal speaker may apply his Strength bonus to a Sense Motive check to oppose another creature's Bluff check, in place of his Wisdom modifier. Doing so is possible even when the Bluffer is not speaking Abyssal, but it becomes far more difficult; the Strength bonus is halved in this case, and if the Sense Motive roll fails, the Abyssal speaker likely interprets the Bluff as personally insulting, and his attitude toward the Bluffer worsens by one category unless he succeeds on a Concentration check, with a DC of 30 minus the speaker's Charisma score. Bluff checks performed by a succubus are unaffected by this effect, since these unusual demons are accustomed to the use of honeyed words; the DM should not inform the player of the Bluffer's nature, but simply mentally treat success on the PC's Sense Motive roll as failure instead, unless the normal Sense Motive check would have succeeded.

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