A member of my party I DM for has Reading Spectacles, whose text is simple:

You can read any language (the spectacles do not grant the ability to speak or write a language).

I would like to present them with a text whose script is Barazhad (i.e. the alphabet of Abyssal or Primordial) but the actual words are in Supernal.

It seems apparent the reading spectacles ought to let the reader decipher the Barazhad; the question is, will they be able to understand the Supernal words written?


The common definition of "read" is "look at and comprehend the meaning of (written or printed matter) by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed." As a result, I think that understanding the Supernal words is within the scope of the item's intended use.

On the other hand, if you want to add more of an obstacle, you could make the significance obscure without a Religion check. (I can read a medical or mathematical text if it's written in English; that doesn't mean I know how to make use of it without the appropriate knowledge.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is my understanding as well. And this fact is what lead me to not only writing a book in Drow, but to encoding it with a substitution cipher. Just because they can read the words, doesn't mean the words make any sense. :) \$\endgroup\$ – DampeS8N Oct 14 '13 at 12:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DampeS8N I'd disagree with you, actually. I think that the Reading Glasses would defeat your substitute cipher — the intent of the device is that the message of the words is delivered as if there were no barriers to communication. Using a substitute cipher is basically the same as the "different alphabet" above. However, if it were a true code — the blue owl has seven pinions — or simply about a subject that the reader didn't have the knowledge to use, that would be more effective \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Oct 14 '13 at 14:35

The spectacles allow you to read any language; that is to understand the meaning of any standard form of written communication.

My question to you is: Is this writing in a language?

It's written in Abyssal script, but the words are Supernal; is this because that's the form of writing common to a particular culture [ie. it's a language] or is it a deliberate attempt to obsfuscate its meaning [ie. it's a code]?

To me the answer depends on which of those it is; the spectacles let you read any language, they don't let you break any code.

  • \$\begingroup\$ For bonus credit (as I had to deal with regarding the "one-time" pad above), when the Native American "code-talkers" were employed in WW2, their code was the use of a language whose number of speakers had diminished to almost nil. It was common to a particular culture (that no longer existed) and a deliberate attempt to obfuscate its meaning. Works or not? ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Oct 16 '13 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting insight, I wouldn't think the answer depends on that. As it happens the intent was to obfuscate the text by writing it in a different script than the content-language would suggest. I think the spectacles probably ought to work consistently regardless of intent of the writer. \$\endgroup\$ – jedius Oct 17 '13 at 22:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not saying it necessarily distinguishes based on intent, but based on whether or not it's ever been a language. Navajo code talkers were using a language, known to them. But a normal code is something that has never been a language. \$\endgroup\$ – Stephen Coffey Oct 19 '13 at 20:43

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