HoH:TL - Mercere, Question about 'Gift of Tongues'

Gift of Tongues Heroic Virtue fro HoH:TL-Mercere allows you to speak any language with a person fluent in it. Other people listening can hear you speak ths language (if they understand it).

But how good are you? Are you fluent - like ability score of 5 - IMHO the Virtue inducated this? It might be important for things like writing books.

And what about reading/writing? IIRC you can read and write any language you can speak, providing you know the writing system. Meaning you have high enough Artes Liberales and can be said to have learnt this.

Thing is I have a Heroic Redcap with Gift of Tongues and Artes Liberales 4, and she is defined to know Latin, Greek, Arab and Persian. So she should be able to read any language using these 4 alphabets, right?

If one assumes a theoretical score of 5 in Languages, what if she wanted to be better at writing? When writing a Summa one writes Com + Language levels per season. Supposing I'd like her to be better at this, can I boost any language? I'd say yes, but I need to gain enough exp as if raising from 5 to 6 to get +1 Language ability.

Anyone else ever noticed this? Any comments?

(Edit: Typo)

We don't let anyone read/write with this. We view it as a magical effect that allows you to converse orally with beings.


So if a character with this wants to read/write they'd also need to learn the Language in addition to Artes Liberales. Making this Virtue less attractive if you're also investing heavily into languages. Sure you can still speak those you haven't learnt, but maybe you'd be better off with Well Traveled.
I'd rather have an addtional Virtue 'Gift of the Scribe' to allow reading and writing.

Being able to read and write any language is a whole different level of power than being able to talk with someone else. If an advantage allowed you to read any written language, would you need to decipher lab texts or would you automatically understand them? Would you be able to write in Adamic, the language written in Anchient Magic? There are whole levels of power creep that come into it if you allow a virtue to let you read and write any language.

Sure, there is a power-balnce thing to take into account for this. And I'm not suggesting it should be used to read any secret cipher, lab texts or ancient, mystical languages
Supposing the character just wanted to read and write those languages used in the region and which have teachers readily available should the occasion arise. Languages spoken regularly backed up by a high enough Artes Liberales score to know the alphabets in question.

seconded. It's basically an InMe effect.

If you want to speak/read/write a large number of languages try Linguist (HoH: TL p. 25)

I kind of get the appeal of Gift of Tongues. You want to be able to travel anywhere and speak to people. Other mythic creatures can speak any language, so having a virtue that lets you do that seems to somehow fit in.

But "Gift of the Scribe"... If it works for you, great, but I don't quite feel like it is as appropriate.

Linguist and sufficiently high Artes Liberales are possessed by two members of my game, one a widely read academic and the other an explorer. Language has become an important part of the game, and the ancient mystical languages noted in Sub Rosa's "Sorceror Kings of Garamantia" free supplement are something the magi are chasing down threads on.

If a player wanted the sort of virtue you describe, I'd first ask why.
I myself would be more inclined to add an ability to Linguist that allowed you to gain more written languages than Artes Liberales normally allows - perhaps the equivalent of +2 languages, as if you had "puissant reading skill".

The other option would be to rework how spoken and written languages interrelate, so that Artes Liberales was no longer hooked into the written aspect.

The virtue, for me, makes the world feel "smaller" and also possibly gets in the way of mystery and intrigue, which Ars Magica has a hard enough time dealing with already due to Intellego magic.

Just my 2 denarii.


I've never used the Gift of Tongues virtue but Thoughts Within Babble spell comes into play. I treat that as "borrowing" the language ability of the targets and lets you talk at their level of proficiency.

I don't see any reason why an analogous spell couldn't borrow reading ability but that will only work if you actually have someone nearby who can read the language in question. It won't take the mystery out of cuneiform when you're digging through the ruins of Babylon.

I do think it should be easier to learn languages and dialects when you already know one relation. The rules for changing between medieval Greek and archaic dialects in the latest tribunal book seem much too onerous in a game where one skill gives you all of the liberal arts.

I've never seen a problem with the number of written languages, but that's probably because of our interpretation of alphabets. Specialize in alphabets and by the time you get to Artes Liberales 3 you can handle the majority of languages in Europe if you've chose alphabets like Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, etc. Choose a slightly different set for the Middle East or another area if you're on the periphery. Still, the point is that Artes Liberales provides alphabets, not languages. Our interpretation is that lots of languages use the same alphabet with slight variances as opposed to each of those languages actually having its own alphabet. I think this makes a lot of sense in game terms from my own limited experience with several Latin alphabets (English, French, Spanish) and one non-Latin alphabet (Russian). The first three are fairly easy variants from each other, but the last is nothing like the first ones; lucky for me I studied physics and so am quite familiar with the Greek alphabet. Anyway, if you are a little looser with the alphabets, the real cap will tend to be the languages themselves because you soon start to run out of all but the very rare alphabets.


"Gift of Tongues" only applies to spoken word, not written language. The way I play it is along the lines of the biblical definition of Tongues; meaning that whenever you speak (presumably in your native language), others hear and understand what you say as if you were speaking in thier native language. So, say you are speaking German, the guy on your left hears it in English and the guy on the right hears Spanish. The other way around, whenever someone else is speaking, you hear their words as if being spoken in your own native language. No linguistic knowledge is exchanged or gained.

I've never paid much attention to the alphabets connection to Artes Liberales. If you're already literate in your own language and if you actually learn a foreign language then the appropriate script should come for free. I can tell you from personal experience that learning Greek and Cyrillic scripts is trivial compared to actually learning anything useful of the languages that they's used to write.

I have mixed feelings on that, having learned to write some Chinese characters... I think it all comes down to what you want Living Language to represent. Some games do it that way. Ars Magica doesn't.

Exactly. That's why we interpret Artes Liberales allowing you to be literate in every language that shares an alphabet instead of just one language. That's a much greater amount of knowledge than gaining literacy in a single language. Just how many alphabets/syllaberies were there in Europe and surrounding areas at the time? Italic, Runic, Glagolitic, Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian? I'm probably missing a few, and I've intentionally left out a bunch of much older ones that weren't in use at the time (not much point in knowing Linear A, right?). Still, If you have an appropriate half of those, you can be literate in just about any language in your region. If you just took Italic, Cyrillic, Greek, and Arabic, you would cover the majority of the ArM5 game area with a bunch of spots missing, and that's only Artes Liberales 3 with a specialty in alphabets/syllaberies. That doesn't feel so tough to me.


Chinese might be an exception. I don't know anything in particular about that language but I do understand that it takes enormous effort for even native speakers to master the characters. I'm sure others here have more knowledge on this. For European and Middle Eastern alphabetic systems, I would argue that the script is the easy part.

Ok, thanks for all your input.

I can certainly see that the intent of Gift of Tongues is speaking only, this makes most sense. And that there are severe balance issues with expanding it, especially is reading languages is too easy it could risk becoming abusive regarding copying, writing and in general reading strange, exotic langauages.

So a character with this Gift can easily communicate verbally with anyone he meets on his travels, but need to work for it to be able to read and write. He'd need to re-learn all languages separately, as well as learn Artes Liberales for alphabets, and Gift of Tongues does not help with this at all. But the Linguist virtue mentioned sure does.
I think I'll just redo the character for this. I need languages!

I think i would prefer assuming a score of 4. Enough for handling the language decently but not as well as a native.

And totally not any reading or writing thanks to this Virtue.

And from personal experience i can say that learning a language is far easier than learning a completely new alphabet.
In my case Japanese. I totally failed learning it until i simply didnt bother with the script.
My friend learned the kana scripts in a few weeks but cant even handle 1/10 of the number of words i can, nor has he picked up on barely any of the surrounding stuff or grammar, like for example why its a much better idea if i use "boku" in referring to myself rather than "atashi" even though both mean "i". The former is male, or assertive form, the second is female form.

Anyway, the belated point being that its very different between people.

But NO WAY that you get the script for free!
You might convince me that language skill could include some sort of very simple shorthand or "notebook" kind of written script, but serious writing, not a chance.

You need about a thousand kanji to read a newspaper in Japan, and kids are expected to learn that quite early in school(i dont recall by what grade).

Somewhat simplified in some cases:
Wendish(old Prussian)

Enough for you?

I've found this site very useful because its breakdown fits the game's breakdown well and it's focused on Europe. (Remove the spaces - can't remember all the rules on outside sited being linked so I'm playing it safe.)

www .durenmar .de/ articles/ languages.html