A simple and straightforward spell to speak with animals. Nothing to discuss, I think. Just thought I'd share.
Converse with Animals (InAn 25)
R: Voice, D: Conc, T: Ind
This spell allows the caster to talk with and understand a single animal for as long as he concentrates and the animal remains in range. It does not force the animal to converse, so the magus may need to entice the animal with food or trinkets, depending on the animal's nature and disposition. This spell does not change the fact that most wild animals flee humans on sight and that even domesticated animals shy away from magi with the Gift, making them unlikely to wish to converse with the caster.
The unanswered question in AM is what the animals have to say to you. The game's intelligence rules suggest that animals (and even worse, vegetables or minerals) won't have much more to say than would their 21st century mundane equivalents. The flavor of the game however suggests that beasts, trees, and rocks can all be useful conversationalists if the right spell is employed.
Well, animals can mostly talk about simple things like:
Did they see [something] today? (Humans, fire, predator, monster, etc.)
Is there [something] nearby? (A danger, a village, a road, a river, etc.)
And they are always willing to talk about food...
It is, obviously, more useful to talk with magical animals who have either a high Cunning score, or outright Intelligence. The same applies to trees and, in a way, to rocks. Most have little to say. You have to ask the right questions.
I think the spell can be quite useful to a magus looking for a potential familiar.
The spell is fine IMO. Just one question about its execution in the game: how does the caster speak to the animal? The spell is InAn, so will not create some concepts directly in the animal's mind. Rather the caster knows how to address the animal and make it understand. But just how will he go about it?
I imagine the caster communicating by animal-specific pantomime and sounds, which might look very weird and confusing to bystanders not knowing what is going on.
The Base 10 guideline doesn't specify that, exactly, but there are hints at something similar.
In the introductory text above the specific guidelines, its says "To communicate with an animal, you must bring yourself to the animal's mental level -- a process that might have strange, though temporary, effects on you. For example, you might have a craving for raw meat or speak very slowly for a moment after communicating with a bear."
So yes, you are probably using animal sounds and physical signals, because you now intuitively understand them for the duration of the spell.
The spell is fine by my book, too -- it was, in fact, a starting spell of one of my saga's magi!
Technically, I agree with the fact that it acts by making you understand how to address an animal and interpret its responses. So, to speak with a cat, you'd meow; to speak with a bird, you'd chirp.
Still, my troupe found it a bit silly, so -- as a clear house rule -- we allow magi to just speak "plainly", even though with a slight "accent" related to the animal -- a magus conversing with a snake would probably bob his head slightly, and would ssomewhat ssibilate when he sspeakss.