[RPG] How to one establish communication with intelligent creatures lacking language


The ice toad (Frostburn 140-1) is a magical beast with an Intelligence score of 6 yet no language. Beyond being conceptually annoying and making me feel bad for the handful of aberrant genius ice toads that lack the capacity to express their brilliance outside their own heads, this utter lack of language makes the often neutral ice toads almost totally inscrutable.

  1. Can intelligent creatures with no language learn languages? For example, could the ice toad just sink a couple of skill points into the cross-class skill Speak Language and pick up Common? Could the ice toad then speak Common?
  2. Besides the extraordinary ability tongue of the sun and the moon of a level 17 monk and maybe the obscure 8th-level Drd spell speak with anything [div] (Masters of the Wild 94), is there a spell or special ability that permits communication with such language-adverse yet intelligent creatures?1 With such creatures, the typical go-to methods all seem to fail (the supernatural ability telepathy and the spells comprehend languages, tongues, and arguably even telepathic bond).

1 Early access to the special ability tongue of the sun and the moon would be acceptable, I guess.

Best Answer

The psionic power mindlink does exactly what you want: It's low level and works on any creature that has an Intelligence of 3 or higher. (As long as you spend the points to make it work on an unwilling target.)

And most importantly:

You can communicate telepathically through the bond even if you do not share a common language.

As a backup option, as long as you can touch the ice toad, you can cast tongues on it. Tongues doesn't require a willing creature, so as long as the ice toad fails its will save this should allow it to speak to and understand you.

This spell grants the creature touched the ability to speak and understand the language of any intelligent creature, whether it is a racial tongue or a regional dialect. The subject can speak only one language at a time, although it may be able to understand several languages.

This won't allow it to speak to other ice toads:

Tongues does not enable the subject to speak with creatures who don’t speak.

So if you want it to be able to speak to other ice toads, you'll have to cast the spell on them too.

There is one other fly in this ointment:

The subject can make itself understood as far as its voice carries.

This is potentially problematic, because if ice toads don't have a voice (which may or may not be the case), they will be able to understand you but not speak loud enough for you to hear. This will enable any communication method that relies on the creature understanding you, and might allow communication methods that rely on the creature having a language. (Depending on whether understanding every language counts as "having a language"; I can't find a rules definition of what that requirement actually entails.)

Alternatively, with one-way communication established, you may be able to talk it into accepting a telepathic bond or some other method that relies on having a willing target.