Knowledge (Religion) and Linguistics

Long before Pathfinder Unchained brought us cool new ways to use skills (looking at you background skills, skill unlocks, and Lore), I made house rules for some skills that I thought deserved more attention. Specifically, I felt that Knowledge (religion) and Linguistics didn’t properly reflect study in those fields. While making the game “more real” can sometimes become a grind, I felt that just the right tweak could provide more character background and development without overcomplicating these skills.

For my own characters, I wanted to specify which religions I was studying, or how much of a language I learned, with each skill point spent. I started tracking this as a PC for awhile and felt that it helped me flesh out another angle of my character. Ultimately, I settled on a three rank system representing novice, practitioner, and expert.

Next, I wanted to codify my house rules, but I did not want to completely rewrite how the skills worked. To that end, I decided that the skills should still be used as written, except that you would be better in matters related to your selected fields of study. Doing this enables a character to still play just fine in another adventure under another GM that doesn’t use these rules.

Knowledge (religion)

(Int; Trained Only)

When adding ranks to Knowledge (religion), you select a religion (deity, belief, or philosophy) for each rank. You may select the same religion a maximum of three times.

0 ranks in a particular religion allows you to make Knowledge (religion) checks as normal. At the GM’s discretion, you suffer a -2 penalty on Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks when dealing with members of a faith you have not selected to focus in.

1 rank in a particular religion makes you more knowledgeable than you would be otherwise. You no longer need to make Knowledge (religion) checks to identify common holy symbols, texts, or avatars as belonging to the faith. You can now pass as a member of the faith. You no longer suffer the penalties to Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks involving the faith.

2 ranks in a particular religion gives you more insight into the faith. You are able to quote many of the important pieces of literature. You know most of the deity’s forms and avatars, as well as allies and enemies of the deity and the faith. You can pass yourself off as clergy of the faith. At the GM’s discretion, you now gain a +2 bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks involving the faith.

3 ranks in a particular religion marks you as a scholar and historian of the faith. You are familiar with all known tomes, and likely have the major works memorized. You can now take 10 on any Knowledge (religion) check associated with the faith. Additionally, your bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks increases to +4.

Linguistics

(Int; Trained Only)

When adding ranks to linguistics, you select a language for each rank. You may select the same language a maximum of three times.

0 ranks of a given language lets you make linguistics checks as normal. At the GM’s discretion, you suffer a -2 penalty on Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks involving the language when speaking to native speakers or while in the language’s native land.

1 rank of a given language lets you communicate in the language, but it is obvious that you are not a native speaker (in both spoken and written forms). You no longer suffer the penalties to Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks involving the language.

2 ranks in a given language enables you to speak and write as a native, with a single dialect of your choosing (based on how you learned the language). At the GM’s discretion, you now gain a +2 bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks involving the language.

3 ranks in a given language allows you to easily recognize and emulate all known dialects of a given language. You can now take 10 on any Linguistics check associated with the language. Additionally, your bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, and Sense Motive checks increases to +4.


After further play testing, I realized that this concept can be applied to all Knowledge skills (Knowledge (local) looks especially enticing), by simply selecting a focus with each skill point, up to three points for each focus. This may also render Lore unnecessary.

Characters of a divine class count as having two ranks in their deity / religion / philosophy. All characters count as having two ranks of linguistics in their racial language. If extending this variant to other knowledge checks, characters could count as having two ranks Knowledge (local) [home town].

The implementation is up to the GM’s discretion and style, but the intent would be that a successful check in a field you aren’t studied in would provide an answer in the form of “you remember hearing in a conversation that …” or “somebody once told you about …” while a successful check in a field you are versed in would be in the form of “you remember reading that …” or “having memorized the book of … you know that …”.

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