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The Iruxi ancestry has an ability flaw in Intelligence, which means that Iruxi characters who didn't take a boost somewhere else would have a negative Intelligence modifier at level 1. Every class in the Core Rulebook references this modifier, e.g. for the monk:

Trained in a number of skills equal to 4 plus your Intelligence modifier

This is distinctly different from the language specification in the ancestry definition, which for Iruxi (in the Lost Omens Character Guide) reads:

Additional languages equal to your Intelligence modifier (if it's positive).

Should I interpret this to mean that a Monk with a -1 Intelligence modifier would start with only three skills from their class?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The rationale for languages not getting penalized for low Intelligence is likely just practicality - your Iruxi would have to choose between knowing Common (necessary for most campaigns, practically) or knowing Iruxi (the language of your people). Since missing either would be either a mechanical or narrative nuisance, I'd guess Paizo just ignored penalties specifically for languages. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Jul 5, 2023 at 16:35

3 Answers 3

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Negative intelligence reduces the starting skills

The wording used by classes for your trained skills isn't unique, for example the same wording is used a lot in Chapter 1 of the CRB:

Your character’s Perception modifier measures how alert they are. This modifier is equal to their proficiency bonus in Perception plus their Wisdom modifier. For more about Perception, see page 448.

On page 448 the corresponding check is explained in full and we can see that 'plus' is literally '+':

Perception check result = d20 roll + Wisdom modifier + proficiency bonus + other bonuses + penalties

So if your class states something like:

Trained in a number of skills equal to 4 plus your Intelligence modifier

Then you do a proper addition, even if the modifier is -1: number of trained skills = 4 + Intelligence modifier = 4 + (-1) = 3.


The defining feature of a modifier is that it can be either positive or negative. This is just mentioned in passing in Step 1 for checks:

You’ll then identify all the relevant modifiers, bonuses, and penalties that apply to the roll. A modifier can be either positive or negative, but a bonus is always positive, and a penalty is always negative.

If we were meant to ignore negative modifiers by default, then the notion of a modifier just wouldn't exist in the rules and every modifier would be a bonus instead. That clearly isn't the case, so in general we need to account for the negative modifiers, unless we are explicitly told otherwise (i.e. the languages, as you've already noticed).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Might also be worth pointing out that starting with a penalty but not losing a Trained Skill would actually make it so the character is able to get more skills than if they did not have the penalty. Ends up with a kind of cognitive dissonance and imbalance... a very minor imbalance, but still there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jul 5, 2023 at 12:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso I hadn't thought about this, but now that I've checked I've noticed a problem. Leveling up might work that way for languages: "If an ability boost increases your character’s Intelligence modifier, they become trained in an additional skill and language." Even though I agree that it is dissonant, the argument that 'skills should not work like that' isn't particularly convincing if languages do work like that. Thoughts? Worth a separate question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Jul 5, 2023 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Languages is different because if you don't have a non-zero, positive modifier, there is nothing to take away. It isn't "three languages plus your modifier", it's just your modifier. Being below average intelligence should still allow you to communicate in Common (although I would fully support some form of being terrible at communicating in such situations) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jul 5, 2023 at 20:55
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I would say yes, even just from a simulationist point of view. If you're less intelligent, presumably you can learn less skills. Perhaps, just to even the Monk with the rest of the party, you can rule that the Iruxi doesn't have to only take three skills, and can take 4 or some other amount. Maybe there's some errata somewhere that specifies otherwise, but I can't find any.

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tldr : Yes, you lose a trained skill if you have an Intelligence penalty, but not a language.

Those are two entirely separate rules, and worded differently for a reason. Logically, if you were to have a penalty reduce your number of languages, you would potentially lose the ability to speak Common, which would be difficult to play at the table. (quite possibly painful for all concerned!)

For Skills, since you start with a few anyway, losing one isn't the end of the world. It also means all attributes have some level of importance to all characters, even those more physically inclined.

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