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Ars Lingua
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Christopher H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2009 21:58:04

This product goes a long way toward handling languages much more realistically than the standard d20/OGL rules. I really appreciate the work that went into this product. However, when I tried to use these rules in a 3.5e campaign, my players and I found them to require rather more bookkeeping than we expected, so it didn't work out as well as I had hoped. The idea may be better than the practice here.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Christopher, Thank you for the constructive comments. If you want, please feel free to email us with any ideas or suggestions you have to improve the product. I use these rules all the time, and it does take a bit more book-keeping at the beginning. I've found that players do like the extra realism and are usually willing to put in a little bit of extra work for it. However, we're open to any ideas you have to improve the product. Thank you, Geoff Habiger Tangent Games ghabiger@tangent-games.com
Ars Lingua
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Robert P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/28/2006 00:00:00

Rules for degrees of knowing languages-cool! In d20, you either know a language or you don't-no grey area. In this product, you have rules to be a native speaker, someone who took maybe a course of German in school, or someone who has immersed themselves in a culture to learn. Ranks, just like with all of the other skills in D20. Only five, so a PC can't add bonuses to it.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ars Lingua
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/25/2006 00:00:00

Ars Lingua is a supplement from Tangent Games. As part of their Campaign Dealer line of products, this book is world-neutral. The zipped file is just over 1.2 megabytes in size, and contains a single PDF file. The PDF is fifty-nine pages long, taking into account a page for the cover, half-a-page for the credits/legal, a page for the table of contents, one-and-a-half pages of ads, and a page for the OGL. The table of contents is hyperlinked, and the product has full bookmarks.

Perhaps fittingly, Ars Lingua, as a book about the written word, has little in the way of illustrations. The cover is full-color, though it?s subtle, with only light shades in the background of the Rosetta Stone. Beyond the color images in the ads, the only pictures in the book are the two pictures of example NPCs for the new prestige classes; there aren?t even illustrations for page borders. This makes the lack of a printer-friendly version largely a non-issue.

Ars Lingua attempts to add more depth to the way the d20 System handles language. It notes that having language be so easy, with a skill point or two conferring total written and spoken literacy, is too dismissive of one of the most fundamental building blocks of how we interact with the world. Anyone who has ever tried to learn a foreign language knows that it takes more than one or two skill points.

The book makes some bold first steps to correcting this. First, the Speak Language skill becomes Speak Language and Read/Write Language. Next, each language is measured the same way other skills are, with varying skill ranks; a rank of 20 means you?re fluent in that language. Characters get, based on their Intelligence at character creation, extra ranks to their native language (apparently in violation of the cap on skill ranks by level, though that?s never called out), as well as extra ranks to a few other languages. While the book mentions that these rules are optional, much of it assumes that you?ll use these changes. Perhaps disappointingly, there?s no mention given to any sort of epic uses for these rules ? what does it mean to have more than 20 ranks in a language skill, for instance?

The book then moves on to new skills. Here, it gives a proper description of their revised Speak Language skill, as well as Read/Write Language, two new Profession skills (cryptographer and translator), and Use Signal Device.

The next few sections deal with crunch ubiquitous to most kinds new supplements. Nineteen new feats are given, two of them metamagic. Many of them deal with the aforementioned new way of measuring languages. Bilingual, for example, lets you have two native languages, applying your bonus skill points at character creation to both of them. Others are modeled around making a Speak Language skill check (dealt with later in the book).

Several items of new non-magical equipment are then given, before the spells section begins. Interestingly, the spells section begins by reinterpreting several spells from the PHB to fit in with the new rules on language. After that, fourteen new spells are given, and while they?re all fairly innovative, you get the feeling more could have been added. There?s no ?zone of understanding? spell, wherein everyone can automatically understand everyone else, for example. The magic items section is quite short, barely listing potions and wands based on the new spells before giving seven new magic items. Worry not though: the babel fish is here.

The next section is decidedly different, as it expands n the first section in terms of the game rules for language. It first deals with spoken communication, and gives explanations and rules for using dialects, slang, and accents with the new language rules here, as well as for pidgin, creole, and non-standard languages. For non-spoken communication, it covers and gives mechanics for the four different forms of written language (alphabetic, featural, syllabic, and logographic), as well as things such as sign language, pheromones, codes, and more.

Dead languages are then touched on briefly, before two new prestige classes are given. The Linguist is a master of verbal communication, whereas the Rune Master is one of non-spoken communication. Both have an array of special abilities given for both using and not using the optional language rules from the beginning of the book. Each also has a sample NPC statted up. Finally, the book closes out with expanded magic item tables taking into account the items in the DMG, and here.

All in all, Ars Lingua does a very good job of expanding the language options in standard d20. By breaking speaking and reading/writing into different skills, and having each language be treated like a separate skill, but at the same time giving fairly generous language-only skill points at character creation, the book lets you more closely simulate what it?s like knowing a foreign language. Likewise, there?s plenty of new feats, spells, magic items and more here to build on that. Still, some more polishing would have helped. The first section doesn?t explicitly say that the bonus skill points can exceed the normal cap on skill ranks (though that?s obviously their intent), nor are the sections of hard crunch very expansive. Perhaps the biggest complaint about this product is that it fires the imagination, but doesn?t go as far as what it inspires. It could easily have handled twice as many new spells, magic items, etc., as well as given things like epic language uses.

Still, Ars Lingua does a very good job of giving you a wider vocabulary for languages in your game. This is a product that proves that mere pictures are not worth a thousand words. <br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: The new rules for language usage were great, firing the imagination, and the crunch that expands on them is the icing on the cake.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: While this product had a lot, it could have done much more. Even a single read-through is enough to inspire ideas that weren't touch on in the book.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ars Lingua
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/22/2006 00:00:00

Ars Lingua

The D&amp;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>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ars Lingua
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Matthew J. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/21/2006 00:00:00

Good product, simple with some inventive new feats and spells. For the German example at the beginning . . . strange to use a modern German translation of a medieval Italian poem . . . stranger still to believe that "Angst" translates as "anger." Might want to put a few more points into German.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Good solid set of mechanics for handling languages.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Yes - I'm afraid I did not roll very well on that German language skill ckeck. I only have a couple of ranks in German right now - all self taught! I'm glad you like the product. Feel free to send us more comments or suggestions to queries@tangent-games.com Geoff
Ars Lingua
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Andrew B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2006 00:00:00

The speak language skill is one thing that's always bothered me about Third Edition D&D. Sure, its simple, but it doesn't reflect the reality of language. Worse, it eliminates the potential roleplaying challenges presented by NPCs that speak another tongue. When a single skill point gives a character total fluency in a language, it isn't hard to quickly master an awful lot of languages. If a typical D&D campaign can be compaired to medieval Europe, that means a fairly intelligent adventurer could speak English, French, German, and Spanish with native fluidity by spending a handful of skill points. And if he's really serious about language, why not toss in Japanese and Swahili?

Ars Lingua presents new rules to make language more realistic and interesting while keeping the game simple and playable. Rather than the simple one skill point per language system in the core rules, Ars Lingua gives each character a number of special language points to assign as they see fit. Skill checks are required for languages other than a character's native tongue, which allows for the possibility of misunderstandings. Speaking and writing are also broken up into separate skills, meaning a character could speak eloquently but lack the gift of the written word.

Since the new language rules take up very little space, the rest of this book is devoted to additional language related material. First up are new skills. Of these, Profession (Cryptographer) is my favorite. I'm usually a little leery about adding new skills to the mix, but new professions can be invented without disturbing the balance of available skill points. There are also some nineteen new feats. Some of these allow a player to make a Speak Language check to enhance a class ability or lower an opponent's resistance. Others give a character bonuses to language related skills. The book continues with new spells, magic items, prestige classes, and equipment. There are some good ideas throughout, and everything meshes well with the overall theme of the book.

My only problem with the new Speak Language rules is the necessity of making a check every time a character attempts to speak or understand a non-native language. This seems like an unnecessary complication, slowing the game down with a series of dice rolls every time the characters are trying to talk to someone. This sort of problem can be avoided by only calling for skill checks in stressful situations or instances where the outcome is important to the plot. As written, I think the rules are a bit cumbersome. Furthermore, if the PCs are encountering a lot of foreign NPCs, the Speak Language skill is going to become very important, and a lot of skill points are going to go that direction. That's fine if you're interested in running that sort of campaign, but a standard D&D game might quickly become too language dependent without the GM meaning it to.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Overall, Ars Lingua is a good idea and a well-written product. The new rules are pretty good, and they certainly expand language without overly complicating things. The supplemental rules, such as the new spells and feats, are unexpectedly good. I also like the attention the authors gave to existing rules affected by changing the Speak Language rules.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: There are only two pieces of art in this book, and they are both characters created with the free Hero Forge utility. I've nothing against Hero Forge, but it looks somewhat pedestrian here.

Also, I would have liked to see the new rules taken a little further. Draconic is supposedly the language of magic. Why not some bonus to spellcasting for characters that speak fluent draconic? Little rules such as this would help make the new language rules more palatable for characters not participating in a language-focused campaign.

Finally, for all the focus on speaking language, its seems the authors missed a chance to give the languages themselves a little detail. They clearly understand the importance of language in the real world, why not delve into some non-crunch details about the tongues of dwarves and men?<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ars Lingua
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/14/2006 00:00:00

If you want new feats, classes and spells relating to communication, this is a great resource.

Unfortunately, there is only 11 pages devoted to languages, writing, sign language, codes and such. And that is why I bought the product and the reason I consider it a 3 star product.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Derek, Thank you for your feedback. 11 pages devoted to communication is certainly more than what the PHB currently gives us, but if you have suggestions for additional material please feel free to send us your ideas at comments@tangent-games.com. We might be able to include them in a revised version of Ars Lingua in the future. Geoff Habiger Tangent Games
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