Linguistics (Apath)

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Unofficial rules compendium

Publisher: Trailseeker.

Additional Uses

This skill has a number of additional uses.

Book Research

With access to a book or library containing the information you seek, you can find much information. This works like the Knowledge skill, but takes 10 minutes of reading. The information you can find is similar to what a person who passed a Knowledge skill check of the same difficulty would know by heart, you cannot gain deeper insights into a subject without having the relevant Knowledge skill.


You write and decode text messages. Each code has a certain DC to decipher or break the code. To code or decode a message takes one minute per page of text (the standard time for decipher script) assuming you know the code. It is common practice to take 20 on such tasks.

When creating a code, you decide how complex a code you want by setting a base DC for later coding and decoding attempts. A high DC makes the code hard to use and to create, but also more secure. The DC to create or break a code is ten higher than the decoding difficulty. Standard codes have a DC from 25 to 40. Codes are commonly made to use some other text, such as a work of literature, and any attempt to use or break the code without a written version of this text becomes more difficult.

Coding examples Linguistics modifier
You do not understand the language the code is in, nor do you have a translator or dictionary -10
You do not understand the language the code is in, but have a translator or dictionary -5
You do not know which language the code is in -5
The code is built around a text you know of and have access to +5

To make a code is time-consuming. Make one check each week against the desired code DC, on a success the code is completed. Failure by 5 or more results in a code you find credible, but which in fact has a Break DC of only 20.

Breaking a code is much more difficult. If the roll succeeds you realize what language the code is written in and what text it is based on. It takes a margin of 10 on the Linguistics check to actually break the code. Succeeding by five points, but less than ten points, results in a jumbled version of the original message. Failing the check by 5 or more results in a failed, jumbled message. Each attempt requires a day of work. You can make no more attempts to break a code than you have pages of encoded text.

Not that spells that translate languages will not translate codes.

Cultural Understanding

Learning languages, you have also absorbed some knowledge about the culture and know what to do and what not to do. When communicating with a creature whose native language you speak, creatures who would normally start out with an attitude of unfriendly to outsiders are indifferent instead. In certain cases particularly isolated communities unused to a stranger speaking their language might even improve from indifferent to friendly in this way. See the Diplomacy skill in the core rulebook for rules on attitude. Note that magical translation does not give the cultural background needed to gain this result.

Lip Reading

A DC 20 Linguistics check allows the reading of lips to get the gist of a conversation in a known language. Linguistics checks to read lips suffer a -1 penalty per 10 ft. of distance, and visibility conditions can further modify this. Reading the lips of one person is a move action; it is possible to read the lips of two people at once if they are within 10 ft. of each other and you can see both of their lips. See zone of silence.

Maps, Rutters, & Directions

You are adept at reading maps and deciphering odd route descriptions and codes that give directions, such as navigational books and treasure maps. Use the normal difficulty of deciphering script.

Speed Reading

You can attempt to read a text faster than normal. Any time a certain text takes a given time to read, you can make a Linguistics check DC 20 to reduce the time required by half. For each additional 10 on the Linguistics check, the time required to read the text is halved again. Texts that require a Linguistics check to comprehend at all have a speed reading DC of 10 + the Linguistics DC to understand the text.

Written Riddles

You can apply your knowledge of symbols and logic to a written riddle. If you hear a riddle spoken, you must write it down to decipher it. This is generally an opposed Linguistics vs. Bluff roll, and the base time is one minute.

Human Languages in Greyhawk

The following languages are spoken by different human cultures of The World of Greyhawk:


The trade tongue of the Flaness and the standard language of World of Greyhawk campaigns. Spoken in the central and south-west Flaness, it is the universal second language of the Flaness and spoken by most people to one degree or another. Common is a mix of Oerdian, Suel, and Flan, with Baklunish loan words and grammatical influences.


The language of the recently dominant human people, now spoken mostly in the feudal areas of the central and eastern Flaness.

  • Aerdi: The original dialect of the Aerdy, the main tribe who settled the Great Kingdom, especially the southern and central parts. Aerdi is sometimes refereed to as "High Oerdian" and was the court language of the Great Kingdom.
  • Ferral: An old Oeridian tribal language spoken only by officials of the Iron League. Ferral is used for military command and identification purposes and is not a living language. Many fear that infiltration by agents of the Scarlet Brotherhood has compromised this code-tongue. The main interest in ferral today is that it is the basis of military signaling.
  • Keolandish: This widespread dialect of Old High Oeridian has local admixtures. It is spoken in and around Keoland, but is generally an obsolete language today.
  • Nyrondese: This High Oeridian dialect of Common is spoken in rural areas of Nyrond. It is the primary language of peasants, shopkeepers, and other common folk who distrust outsiders. Learned folk speak Common as well.
  • Velondi: A dialect of Oerdian, originally spoken by the Vollar tribe of Oerdians, it is still spoken in Veluna and western Furyondy.


The language of the ancient Suel civilization and their few surviving modern descendants. An important historical and magical language. The main concentration of modern speakers is in the Tilvan penisula in the north-east and the Drawmidj Ocean region.

  • Amedi: Only Suel of the Amedio Jungle speak this corrupt form of Ancient Suloise. Its few written symbols are Suloise alphabet characters.
  • Cold Tongue: A dialect of Suel spoken by the Suel barbarians of the north-east. It is usually written using Dwarven runes.
  • Lendorian: This obscure dialect of Suloise (influenced by Common and full of nautical terms) was spoken in the Lendore Isles by humans before they were deported by elves in 583 CY. Only human refugees know it now. It has no relation to the Cold Tongue and is not written.


The language of the original natives of the Flanaess, spoken as a secret language by peasants and tribespeople everywhere. Only a few remote lands, mostly in central northern Flanaess, still have Flan as a first language.

  • Druidic: The druids' tongue of the Flanaess shares roots with Flan, but it is specialized and static, focusing only on the natural world and agriculture.


Spoken by the civilized successor states of the Baklunish Empire in the north-west of the Flaness. Written Baklunish is very uniform. The spoken tounge has dialects, and it is generally quite easy to place a speaker by his accent, but most speakers can understand each other quite easily.

  • Ulagha: The language of the Uli is a debased form of colloquial Baklunish.


A second language family of the western plains, Paynim spoken over a very wide area.

  • Ordai: This dialect shared by the Wolf and Tiger Nomads bears some resemblance to Ancient Baklunish, but it is most similar to dialects spoken among the distant Paynims. Its written form is based on Baklunish script.


A mix of different tribal languages, often spoken as a trade tongue in Hepmonaland. Sort of the "Common" of that area, but much less developed than the common tongue of the flaness.


Unrelated to any other human language, Rhenne speak Rhopan, as does some natives of the Shadowfell.

Languages Outside the Flanaess

  • Chakji: Spoken by arctic peoples.
  • Nipponese: Spoken in Nippon, a land of anthropomorphic animals to the west of the Pearl Sea.
  • Olman: Olman slaves taken by the Sea Princes or Scarlet Brotherhood speak this strange tongue, as their masters hated it. Its huge, complex "alphabet" is really a vast set of pictographs. It is heard most often in the western Sea Princes' lands and in the Amedio Jungle.
  • Osirian_ The language of ancient Erypt, a land dominated by the dead and by the ruins of a glorious past.
  • Tuov: The trade tongue of Hepmonaland and the tribal language of the Tuov peoples.
  • Wrang: Spoken by the conquered people of the Nippon territories.
  • Qudran: Spoken in the desert lands on the far side of the mountains of the Nippon Territories.
  • Zindian: Spoken in Zindria, the civilized jungle nation south and west of the Amedio jungle.
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