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The tooltip says that they can communicate telepathically with any creature that has a language, but does that mean that they must share a language? one of our players insists that he can somehow communicate with someone/thing that he shares no language with.

As "proof" that he can't, I am looking at another skill talking about communicating telepathically, Send Thoughts.

It allows the player to send a message of so many words, and then the other person can send a message of similar length back. If the message has to be so many words, how do you form words if you are not using a language?

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In earlier editions, the "any creature that has a language" definitely did allow a character to communicate with someone who he doesn't share a language with. In fact, some fiends did it all the time. 4th edition changed a lot of things, however, so this might not apply. –  GMJoe Jun 5 '12 at 7:24
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Note that the specific word length may be a meta-game way of explaining to players how much information can be conveyed in a telepathic message, rather than a strict "it transmits this many letters" within-the-world restriction. The gist I get is that Send Thoughts sends THOUGHTS, rather than WORDS, but since real life people can't relate to the practical restrictions of telepathic thought-sending communication, we describe the message in terms of words so the players can actually say what thoughts they're thinking. This would also support the idea that language is not actually relevant. –  Soulrift Aug 7 '12 at 22:58
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3 Answers

Excerpt from the Shardmind racial description (PHB3, pg12):

Telepathy: You can communicate telepathically with any creature within 5 squares of you that has a language.

Note that it does not place a restriction on whether you speak the same language, nor does it provide details about the nature of the communication.

Excerpt from the Sending ritual (PHB1, pg312):

You convey a mental message of up to 25 words to a person you know.

Note that unlike the Shardmind racial description, Sending explicitly says the message takes the form of words.

This is interpretation, of course, but what I would take away from this is that telepathic communication can take a variety of forms, including but not limited to words.

If a shardmind character communicates telepathically with someone who does not share a language with them, then they probably can't use words (since the other creature won't understand those words). They probably can send & receive images, and possibly (subject to DM approval) emotions.

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I dunno, I have been assuming the "That has a langauge" just means it has to be an intelligent creature, as in, he can't communicate with a cow or a gelatinous cube. Also communicate just means to send or convey something. I can "communicate" with someone that speaks only spanish, just not in words, or they may not understand what I am communicating. He can "communicate" with them, though they may not understand what they are trying to communicate with each other. –  andrew Jun 5 '12 at 4:03
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Communication implies that the recipient is able to extract at least a little bit of the message's meaning. Communication can be very crude, such as vague hand gestures, but it still successfully conveys some information. If they don't understand him at all, then he's not communicating, he's merely trying to communicate. Again, the racial ability says he can communicate, it just doesn't say how WELL he can communicate. –  Oblivious Sage Jun 5 '12 at 4:32
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For ease of play it's probably best to assume that the Shardmind can talk normally to anyone who has a language. You can convey some pretty complex ideas through pictures, emotions, or even a shared telepathic "hunch". Though that could be a fun roleplaying experience to make the Shardmind describe what (s)he sends. –  Cthos Jun 5 '12 at 15:29
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I agree, although this could be simpler. I'm not even sure it requires telepathy to extend beyond words; it just assumes automatic perfect translation. The test is this: Does the recipient have a language? If yes, communication is possible. Period. (Please note, of course, that "can" is not "will" and this may require the telepath to initiate or at least be open to the communication; if it's not listening to you / your thoughts, you can't talk to it.) –  M. Alan Thomas II Jun 9 '12 at 0:15
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You can communicate with anything that has a language whether or not you share a language.

from the Rules Compendium pg. 316:

A creature that has telepathy can communicate mentally with any creature that has a language, even if they don’t share the language. The other creature must be within line of effect and within a specified range. Telepathy allows for two-way communication.

Emphasis mine.

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Could you unpack that a bit? I see how the emphasized portion adds, but could you expand your answer to explain the impact, and how you see this working? –  wax eagle Jul 5 '12 at 11:20
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@waxeagle I am not sure how to unpack that. It's basically what it says, you can communicate with anything that has a language weather or not you share a language. and it's a two way communication. –  herrozerro Jul 5 '12 at 13:48
    
This seems to imply that Telpathy re-ortients the message to the recipient, as opposed to delivering the information as raw data that needs to be interpreted. ie, If you only spoke Common, you could theorhetically Telepathically communicate to someone who only 'spoke' in Sign Language. –  B.A. Thomas Aug 13 '12 at 20:15
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Telepathy between two creatures is not about words. We put words to our thoughts, not the other way around. So the language barrier does not apply to telepathy as it is thought not language.

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