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.
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.
The language of demons, Abyssal is often spoken by evil spirits.
This ancient tongue is spoken by strange eldritch entities, and certain ancient beings.
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.
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: Cyclops and their kin.
Once the ancient language of the giants, this tongue was created before the rise of humanity by the cyclopes.
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
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: Grippli.
Spoken By: Halflings
Spoken By: Fire-based creatures
Also called the “tongue of fire.”
The language of devils is often spoken by evil spirits.
Spoken By: undead
Spoken By: Proteans.
Spoken By: Sphinxes.
The language of the fey.
Spoken By: Tengu
The official language of the tengu race.
Spoken By: Earth-based creatures.
Also called the “tongue of earth.”
Spoken By: Treants.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See this skill in FastPlay format.
Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. Copyright 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.