This question is for the first edition since the site tags do not yet differentiate between the two.
I am struggling with the Elves of Mirkwood - Cultural Virtue The Speakers on page 109 of the core rules.
You have learnt how to communicate with almost everything, from any living being to grass, stone and water. This means, for example, that you can hear from the stones in a path who trod it recently, or sing to soothe an unquiet animal.
To use this gift you must make an appropriate skill roll. Which skill you use depends on what you are trying to do and is at the Loremaster’s discretion, but here are a few examples: to interpret the words of the stones in a path requires a roll of Riddle; to restrain a scared horse requires a roll of Song; to listen to the voice of a river requires a roll of Insight.
This will be the second time that this has appeared in a game I am running. The first time it came up, I spent hours after the session creating a complex documents for handling the speaking to anything and what kind of information could come from it. First I went over each skill and illustrated what I expected to fall under it. So for example under battle, I decided that only things meant for battle would work, a kitchen knife that happened to have killed someone would not work, because that was not the items true intent. I then went and dealt with the elements, stone, water, wood, air. Next I worked on animals, on how size and function (prey, hunter, domestic, pet, ...) would impact it. Then I went over objects. I was also careful in how the item was addressed could affect its outcome. Speaking to a house as a whole was very different than speaking to the boards it was made of (this actually happened, and every board in the house started screaming in pain at the elf...it was a little bit of a traumatic experience for her).
It worked for that first game, but I was never sure if I went and did the right thing. This lead to some funny examples of the skill in use, such as they stole a handful of dirt from a farmers field, instead of talking to the entire field. Since it was only a piece of the whole, the dirt was basically lobotomized and unhelpful. They did almost the same thing to a river by speaking to a handful of the river instead of to the river which was right there.
It was both fun and frustrating attempting to RP as every little item they wanted to talk with. Ive asked some friends and one of the suggestions that was made was instead of everything just being awake, instead things have to have been talked to for awhile in order to bring it awake. It was an interesting idea that would help prevent constant use, but at the same time, I worry that it could prevent them from talking to something they really wanted to.
The reason why I am wanting to possibly alter how this ability will work in my next game, is its taking place in the Mines of Moria, and while I have something in place to prevent speaking to the mountain to find out where someone might be in it, that isnt true for speaking to a more distinct tunnel.
Is the way I set up the usage of this ability good? How have others handled working with this ability? Are there better ways or more correct ways to handle the ability?