The D&D game does languages lousily. But it can work for people that do not really want languages to be a challenge. It is extremely easy for people to be fluent in languages and most characters will start out being able to speak many languages. There is no distinction between a native language and learned ones and one either knows a language or not. And literacy is just as bad as everyone but the barbarian is automatically literate in all the languages they can speak. And if that was not easy enough there are easy to learn low level spells that completely trump any type of language challenge a DM might have. Of course I am sure there are many gamers who this does not bother. But for people that want to make language a bit more realistic and offer a challenge then may I present to you Ars Lingua.
Ars Lingua is a book by Tangent Games. It is a fifty nine page PDF. It is a book filled with text as there are only two pieces of art in the whole thing. The book has a single column lay out and it does have a bit of white space and could have been done a bit tighter in that area. The book does have book marks and is easy to read and follow. Well, I did have a little trouble with the German opening but that was more of a point on the different levels of understanding people can have with a language.
Ars Lingua does make learning and speaking and writing a bit more complex. It removes the speak language skill as it is in the PHB and each language becomes it?s own skill based on intelligence. No race automatically learns common anymore. Each character selects one language to be their native language. They then have then intelligence in ranks in that skill. At first level the character also gets an additional number of skill points equal to their intelligence to spend on speaking and or writing languages. It says more ranks can be placed in the native language. One thing that confuses me though is the skill rank limit that skills normally have. Native language is obviously going higher then that and the text does not say one way or another if the language skills are limited by that. Then each level a character gets their intelligence bonus in more skill points that can be spent on language skills. Once a character gets twenty ranks they are considered fluent and get bonuses to other skills when speaking the fluent language. As I said it is a bit more complex then the normal PHB language rules.
The book is not just about languages but also about communication. It also introduces the skills of profession cryptography, profession translator, and use signal device.
The book presents plenty of new language based feats. The writers did a nice of job of making these useful and the type of feats that players might actual select. It does seem that with the thousands of feats out there that players might find plenty that are neat but rarely select the odder ones with their very few feat selections. Arcane Linguist is a very neat feat for arcane casters. It allows meta magic feats to be applied to spells without the increase of spell level. One just needs to make a speak language skill check of a DC dependant on the amount of spell levels the meta magic feat increases the spell I really like that if the check fails, the spell fails to. That is a good balance. There are many feats that take advantage of the spoken word and do some pretty cool things with it.
As I mentioned in the opening certain spells really make languages a breeze. So, in the magic section of the book they redefine those spells. The spells are still very useful but just not automatic. I also like how they include rules for speaking languages of creatures on can turn into. That can make those spells useful in another way. There are thirteen new spells here including some power word spells. They have a Power Word Heal as an arcane spell. It will make a good spell for people that want to give arcane casters some healing power but obviously people who like to keep healing a divine spell will not like that one as much. I like the Babel spell that causes people to not be able to understand each other and can mess up spell casting.
The next section deals with languages and different type s of communications. In addition to just having people use the speak language skill a DM has further ways to complicate it. It has information on dialects and how it can be harder to communicate with someone who speaks a dialect of a language known. The book does the same thing with slang and accents. It deals with contact languages, languages that are a mix of two or more other languages, non standard languages that are a bit alien, and plenty on non verbal communication. There is a lot of information here and it should satisfy DMs that really want to incorporate more complexity and a bit of realism into the languages.
<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>
[4 of 5 Stars!]