Linguistics (Int, Trained only)

You are skilled at working with language, in both its spoken and written forms. You can speak multiple languages, and can decipher nearly any tongue given enough time. Your skill in writing allows you to create and detect forgeries as well.

You can decipher writing in an unfamiliar language or a message written in an incomplete or archaic form. The base DC is 20 for the simplest messages, 25 for standard texts, and 30 or higher for intricate, exotic, or very old writing. If the check succeeds, you understand the general content of a piece of writing about one page long (or the equivalent). If the check fails, make a DC 5 Wisdom check to see if you avoid drawing a false conclusion about the text. (Success means that you do not draw a false conclusion; failure means that you do.)

Both the Linguistics check and (if necessary) the Wisdom check are made secretly by the GM, so that you can’t tell whether the conclusion you draw is true or false.

Common Uses

Learn a Language

Whenever you put a rank into this skill, you learn to speak and read a new language. Common languages (and their typical speakers) are listed below.


Spoken By: Aboleth and other deep sea (aquatic) aberrations.


Spoken By: Demons and other chaotic evil outsiders

The language of demons, Abyssal is often spoken by evil spirits.


Spoken By: Derro, inhuman or otherworldly monsters, evil fey.

This ancient tongue is spoken by strange eldritch entities, and certain ancient beings.

Aquan (“Tongue of the Sea”)

Spoken By: Aquatic and water-based creatures

The so-called “tongue of the sea” is spoken primarily in the sunken nation of the locathahs— those who trade frequently with the ocean empires often speak this tongue as well.

Auran (“Tongue of the Heavens”)

Spoken By: Flying creatures, air-based creatures

A soft-spoken, breathy language, also known as the “tongue of the heavens.”


Spoken By: Boggards.


Spoken By: Angels and other good outsiders.

The language of angels.


Spoken By: humans and the other core races


Spoken By: Cyclops and their kin.

Once the ancient language of the giants, this tongue was created before the rise of humanity by the cyclopes.

Dark Folk

Spoken By: Dark creepers, dark slayers, and dark stalkers (creatures of the Dark Folk subtype.)


Spoken By: dragons, reptilian humanoids

Drow Sign Language

Used By: Drow.

Like Druidic, drow sign language is a “secret” language.


Spoken By: Druids (only)

Druidic is a secret language known only to druids. It is a free language for a druid; that is, it doesn’t take up a language slot. Druids are forbidden to teach this language to nondruids and has its own alphabet.


Spoken By: Dwarves.


Spoken By: D’ziriak.

The insectoid d’ziriak language consists of buzzes and chitters. It is an obscure one known by few outside their race.


Spoken By: Elves, half-elves


Spoken By: Cyclops, ettins, giants, ogres, trolls

This brutish tongue and its numerous minor variants are spoken in any region where the wrath of giants is known.


Spoken By: Gnolls


Spoken By: Gnomes


Spoken By: Bugbears, goblins, hobgoblins

The official language of hobgoblins, this dialect is similar to the goblin tongue.


Spoken By: Grippli.


Spoken By: Halflings

Ignan (“Tongue of Fire”)

Spoken By: Fire-based creatures

Also called the “tongue of fire.”


Spoken By: Devils and other lawful evil outsiders

The language of devils is often spoken by evil spirits.


Spoken By: undead

An ancient language of the dead, this whispering tongue is shared among undead and is also often associated with necromancy.


Spoken By: Orcs, half-orcs


Spoken By: Proteans.

Like the proteans chaotic nature, the protean language itself is mutable, evolving so quickly that few outsiders can understand it without magical aid.


Spoken By: Rougarou.

Rougarou speak their own tongue.


Spoken By: Sphinxes.


Spoken By: Centaurs, fey creatures, plant creatures, unicorns.

The language of the fey.


Spoken By: Tengu

The official language of the tengu race.

Terran (“Tongue of Earth”)

Spoken By: Earth-based creatures.

Also called the “tongue of earth.”


Spoken By: Treants.


Spoken By: Drow, duergar, morlocks, svirfneblin.

This language is derived from an ancient combination of Elven and even older tongues.


Used By: Vegepygmies.

Vegepygmy is not a spoken language since vegepygmies cannot speak. They communicate via a crude language of rhythmic taps, beats, and clicks.

Create or Detect Forgeries

Creating a forgery can take anywhere from 1 minute to 1d4 minutes per page. Detecting a forgery using Linguistics takes 1 round of examination per page.

Table: Detecting Forgeries
Condition Linguistics Check Modifier
Type of document unknown to reader –2
Type of document somewhat known to reader +0
Type of document well known to reader +2
Handwriting not known to reader –2
Handwriting somewhat known to reader +0
Handwriting intimately known to reader +2
Reader only casually reviews the document –2
Document contradicts orders or knowledge +2

Forgery requires writing materials appropriate to the document being forged. To forge a document on which the handwriting is not specific to a person, you need only to have seen a similar document before, and you gain a +8 bonus on your check. To forge a signature, you need an autograph of that person to copy, and you gain a +4 bonus on the check. To forge a longer document written in the hand of some particular person, a large sample of that person’s handwriting is needed.

The Linguistics check is made secretly, so that you’re not sure how good your forgery is. As with Disguise, you don’t make a check until someone examines the work. Your Linguistics check is opposed by the Linguistics check of the person who examines the document to verify its authenticity. The examiner gains modifiers if any of the conditions are listed on the table above.


Varies. Deciphering a page of ordinary text takes 1 minute (10 consecutive rounds). Creating a forgery can take anywhere from 1 minute to 1d4 minutes per page. Detecting a forgery using Linguistics takes 1 round of examination per page.

Retry? Yes.


  • Trained You must be trained to use this skill, but you can always attempt to read archaic and strange forms of your own racial bonus languages. In addition, you can also always attempt to detect a forgery.
  • Special Members of the same organization (such as a city’s thieves’ guild) gain a +2 circumstance bonus on Bluff and Linguistics checks to pass secret messages to each other, and on Sense Motive checks to intercept messages from their allies. Source PPC:OO
  • Special A sign language or gestural system can be used as a free action to silently communicate simple concepts to others who know the language or code, so long as those communicating can clearly see each other. More complicated conversations require additional time, just as with verbal speech. Some gestural systems are too simple to communicate more than basic tactical information. Onlookers unfamiliar with the gestures can interpret the secret message with a successful DC 25 Linguistics or Sense Motive check. Source PPC:OO

Linguistics Unchained

Source PFU

About This Section Optionally, a character who reaches 5, 10, 15, or 20 ranks in a skill unlocks various bonuses and abilities unique to that skill. The unchained rogue uses these rules extensively, but others can gain access to them with a new feat.

In this system, characters unlock additional abilities when they attain 5, 10, 15, and 20 ranks in a skill. The skill unlocks system interfaces with the unchained rogue to make the rogue the true master of skills.

Skill unlocks give characters new abilities and ways to use their skills upon reaching 5, 10, 15, and 20 ranks in a skill. Any character with the Signature Skill feat can earn skill unlocks for a single skill, and they are a prime feature of the revised version of the rogue who uses her rogue’s edge ability to gain skill unlocks for several of her most iconic skills. Alternatively, you might make skill unlocks a universal part of the game, but you should be aware they add significant power and flexibility to skills, so giving them for free to all classes would grant power boosts to other highly skilled classes such as the investigator and bard, particularly in comparison to the rogue. Another alternative is to eliminate access to the Signature Skill feat, limiting skill unlocks to rogues and rogues alone.

With sufficient ranks in Linguistics, you earn the following.

5 Ranks: You can use Linguistics instead of Sense Motive to intercept and interpret secret messages (as the Bluff skill). You gain a +1 insight bonus on Perception and Disable Device checks to detect or disarm written magical traps. This bonus increases by 1 for every 5 ranks beyond 5 you possess in Linguistics.

10 Ranks: If you succeed at a Linguistics check by at least 10 when examining writing, you can learn the precise meaning rather than general content, and you never draw false conclusions on a failed check. A successful DC 30 Linguistics check reveals the general meaning of speech, a successful DC 35 check reveals 1d4 pieces of specific information, and a successful DC 40 check reveals exact meaning.

15 Ranks: You can decipher magical writings (as read magic) by succeeding at a Linguistics check (DC = 25 + caster level). If you identify a written magical trap in this way, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus on Disable Device checks to disarm it.

20 Ranks: You can attempt to decipher magical or non-magical text at a rate of one page per round. If you instead spend 1 minute per page, roll twice and take the better result.

Additional Information


The following information is not official in terms of general campaign usage. It is copied from the Pathfinder Society Organized Play FAQ section because we thought it might be helpful information for a player or GM in adjudicating common problems or questions. Usage is up to the GM of your game.

What does a deaf PC (or other creature) need to do in order to read lips?

Any PC may learn to read lips with a rank in Linguistics as if they had learned a new language. When reading the lips of a speaking creature within 10 feet in normal lighting conditions, the reader need not make any skill checks. In situations of dim lighting, extreme distances, or to read the lips of someone trying to hide their words from the reader, the reader must make Perception checks (DC determined by the GM based on the situation). A lip reader may only understand spoken words in a language it knows.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. Copyright 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.

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