Comprehension Cypher use with animals

Reading through the cyphers as a Numenera newb I thought the comprehension cypher was really cool, and when it said it worked on creatures that don't even normally have a language I thought it would be neat to stick one on an animal companion or pet so they'd be able to understand the Truth (or whatever language the player speaks).

When the description said they are highly coveted by beast trainers, I started thinking more and wondered if this meant it works the other way and allows someone to understand the "language" of creatures with no language. That didn't really make sense to me, but it seems that since it's a permanent device once used, it wouldn't really be any more useful to a beast trainer than to anyone else, right?

I mean, if my dog can understand English, and it already is inclined to do what I ask (because i'm the alpha), then why would I need a trainer for him? And if an animal isn't inclined to do what someone wants, then understanding what they say won't necessarily change that. SO Iwas trying to figure out why it would be so interesting to trainers (more than anyone else I mean).

Has anyone used one of these cyphers in a campaign? How did it get used?

I'm just looking for thoughts on the device, since I'm considering giving one to a player to see what he does.


  • What if you want a more nuanced answer from your creature than "LOOK I FOUND A THING!" or "SQUIRREL!"  That's what this does.  I want my creature to look for the thing, retrieve the thing when it finds the thing, and not be distracted by the squirrel.  With the comprehension disk, there is the possibility that I can ask him to do all that and more.  The ability to give my creature the understanding of a D&D familiar or give me the ability to understand what it is saying I think is truly invaluable. 

    "Timmy is stuck in the well?" 
    "Yes, by the scent trails, He fell into the well by Aeon Shrine.  The little dumbf*ck was standing too close to the edge when, what smelled like a Travinus Ul came up and pushed him in.  I smelled the Ul's poison anyway, so he may not be able to climb back out by himself."
    "Go find the Sherriff boy, while I go and get the climbing gear and set up at the shrine"
    "Okay, It's your funeral, the scent was still strong so the Ul is probably still in the area."
    "You heard me."
    "Well...You better go find the others too."
    "Yeah that might be a good idea..."

    Much better than the other option:
    "Timmy is stuck in the well?"
    "Well... Which one?"
    *Whine, Bark*
    "Is it that one?... or that one?"
    "Well, go find the Sherriff boy, while I go and find the well and help Timmy"
    *Bark Bark*
    "What's wrong, Boy?"
    *Head Tilt, Whine*
    "Whatever, just get going!"
    *Growl, grumble, grumble, bark*    -- I have pugs, they grumble, a lot. 

    The actual exchange would depend on the GM or which character is wearing the Comprehension Disk but you get the idea. Maybe two disks would be better...
  • Your example is great, but it illustrates why I asked the question in the first place.

    Can I get one that lets me understand "dog"? Dog's don't have a language really, so is there more in his barks for me to understand than "Squirrel!" ? 

    On the other hand, if I stick a "human comprehension" disk on my dog, then he will understand my requests, but it still doesn't give him the ability of speech, or create a new language made up of barks and growls, does it? So I can say, "Bark once for yes and twice for no" and that will work fine for basic two-way communication.

    The part that perplexed me most was why "trainers" would find them particularly useful. Beast trainers tend to train animals for other people, right? So unless you are just a terrible/lazy trainer, and you are cheating by secretly handing out comprehension disks to the animals and claiming that you trained them so well...

    It seems to me they'd be most useful in a situation like yours, where you have a single animal companion that you want to be able to order around more effectively. But I just wondered if I was missing something about the intent of such a device. 

    I hope that makes sense.

  • According to the text, the comprehension graft just allows the understanding of one language that is not your own.  A very one-way understanding.  To be able to understand what my in-laws are saying about me at Christmas I would need a comprehension graft for German.  But since they already speak English and German, an English graft would do them no good.  So with that logic you would need either a "Dog" disk for yourself (though dogs don't actually have a language) or a "Truth" disk (or the language of your choice) for your dog.  So for a true conversation with your dog you would need one of each. 

    You are correct though, contrary to popular belief your dog does not actually understand it when you speak.  It knows the responses you want or expect to certain sounds that you make.  This follows the other part of the text that "Trainers covet them" because they can make the animal truly understand what it is that the trainer wants.  The trainer still has to teach the animal the appropriate skills for those commands but at least part of the language barrier is no longer the problem and actual training time would greatly decrease.

    I personally feel that diplomats should want them more than trainers, but that's me.  The text does not say, on the other hand, that there are disks that interpret animal to human, its just about the language.  That little extra would be up to the GM, I'd probably allow it or make you go find a different kind of cypher that would.  I hope that clears it up.
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