Tome of Prowess (3.5e Sourcebook)/Cultures

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The cultures skill represents your dedication to the studies of the peoples of the world, their languages, and cultures. Those who spend time learning about others learn their language and can better recognize them when they meet, in peacetime or war. Those who learn a great deal about others can also use that knowledge to try to activate magic items, even when they have no idea what the item would do. They can also pick up new languages just by being exposed to them.

Key Attribute: Charisma


Speak Language[edit]

Each rank, up to 5, that you put into cultures allows you to speak and write one additional language. You must receive approval from your DM before learning any secret or planar languages with these ranks.

Untrained Uses[edit]

Culture and Creature Insight[edit]

Your worldly knowledge of places and the people who live in them has also given you some understanding of the strengths and weakness of various humanoids. For example, you may recognize the difference between the goblins of the Frostmire and the goblins that plague the Forests of Durmalin. Or know the differences between a hill giant and a cyclops. You have a bit of knowledge about all of the humanoids, monstrous and otherwise, as well as the giants who inhabit your world. As an immediate action, you can attempt to identify a creature you are facing. The DC for this check is 15 + the creature’s CR. The creature does not have to be alive for you to try to gather information about it, though deceased creatures need to be largely intact.

Special: The cultures skill only allows you to identify humanoids, monstrous humanoids, and giants, and there are several other skills that provide similar knowledge for other creature types. If your GM is a nice guy, he’ll just tell you which skill you need to roll to gather information about a creature. As this may reveal more information than they want, they may not tell you which skill you need. In that case, only roll once for all skills; just add your modifier from each skill to your roll and give him all 5 results separately.

Base DC: 15 + the creature’s CR
Check Result:

  • DC+10 and above: You correctly guess everything in the lower success results, as well as every other special quality and attack that the creature has. In a less serious game, you can just ask the GM for their notes and read up on it while everyone else gets into position.
  • DC+5 to DC+9: In addition to the information learned from a basic success, you also correctly guess 3 special attacks or qualities of the creature. These are either determined randomly from those you have not yet witnessed, or you may ask for further details on one you have witnessed (type of DR if you have witnessed it, type of breath weapon, etc.).
  • DC+0 to DC+4: You correctly guess the creature’s type, subtypes, and any traits that would come as a result of those categories. If the creature is sufficiently common, you also know its name, and that may provide other information.
  • DC-1 and below: You are unable to reach any conclusion that you are happy with. You can not retry this check until you witness one of its special abilities or qualities first-hand; sometimes getting struck by lightning jogs a memory.

Rank 4 Uses[edit]

Blindly Activate Item[edit]

Magic items, like other crafted objects, are a product of their time and culture. You know enough random bits about magic and devices from assorted cultures and traditions that you can try to activate magic items even when you have no idea what they do or how they work. The DC to activate an item in this way is 13 + the item's caster level. This generally requires a standard action, but if the item takes longer to activate, you use the normal, longer action instead. If you have previously activated the item before, you gain a +3 bonus to this check.

Activating it doesn’t mean that you necessarily control it, however, and there is a chance that you may not actually get the item to do what you want it to when activating it in this way. Once activated, you have a 50% chance of controlling it, plus 5% for each point that you exceeded the check by. You should make this percentile check yourself. If you succeed, you dictate how the item functions within standard spell targeting and item rules. Continuous-use items may instead be used for the remainder of the round. If you do not control the item, the GM is encouraged to be entertaining with the effect. Maybe it fires off one too many charges and both take effect, maybe it selects a different valid target, or maybe the effect is delayed for a round. For continuous items, maybe you suffer an equivalent penalty instead of a bonus. When you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, magic can be a tricky thing.

Special: If your use of this ability triggers a cursed item, the cursed item becomes activated and functions normally for you until the curse is broken by a spell, class feature, or similar ability. This indefinite duration replaces the normal single use or 1 round duration. There is no chance of a cursed item functioning improperly when activated in this way (it's already haywire as is). An item will not respond to additional uses of this ability while it is activated.

Base DC: 13 + item caster level
Check Result:

  • DC+10 and above: You activate the magic item without risking a mishap.
  • DC+0 to DC+9: You activate the item, but you may not control it. You have a 50% chance, + 5% for each point by which you beat the DC, of controlling how the item functions. If you fail to control it, control falls to the DM. They are encouraged to be creative and entertaining with the effect, and are given some leeway to ignore standard item procedures.
  • DC-1 to DC-5: You fail to activate the item.
  • DC-6 and below: You fail to activate the item. If it is a charged item, it also loses 1d4 charges. If it is a daily use item, it loses 1d2 daily uses. If it is a permanent or continuous use item, it becomes non-functional for 1d10 rounds.

Rank 6 Uses[edit]

Acquire Tongue[edit]

Your knowledge of languages makes it easy for you to pick new ones up. You no longer select new languages after you gain 6 ranks in this skill. Instead, anytime you are exposed to a language you do not speak, you receive a check to see if you learn it after 1 minute. There is no limit to the number of languages you can learn to speak in this way. The DC for this check is at least 25; languages that use a very different structure or sounds may have a higher DC but will not exceed 40. If you fail this check, you may not retry it without 1 hour of additional exposure. Each additional hour of exposure to the language provides you a +2 cumulative bonus to further attempts to learn the language, but this bonus reverts to 0 if you go two weeks without being exposed to the language that provided the bonus.

Generally, passing this check also allows you to read their written works. Languages that use a radically different character set, pictograms, or other form for their writings may require additional time and checks to learn. These will have a DC between 30 and 40, depending on their complexity, and require between 1 day and 1 week between checks. All of this is determined by the GM, who should save these things for very rare or important circumstances (and generally make them non-decipherable to comprehend languages or tongues without a CL check as well). You cannot learn or understand the written version of a language without first understanding the spoken version with this ability.

Base DC: 25 to 40, as determined by language
Check Result:

  • DC+0 and above: You learn at least the spoken version of the language. Generally, you also become proficient in the written language, but may be required to make additional checks for that portion. If this check was made to learn the written portion of a language you already speak, you have learned it.
  • DC-1 and below: You fail to learn the language you have been exposed to. You may not retry it without 1 hour of additional exposure, which may also grant a bonus on your next attempt.

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