So I'm finally able to get back to trying Rails development on my Ubuntu box and the first real error I found was when I tried to create a database – I couldn't get into MariaDB unless I used sudo – very, very odd. I found the solution on Ubuntu Forums:

sudo mysql -u root
use mysql;
update user set plugin='' where User='root';
flush privileges;

Honestly I have no idea what this is. Sigh. Oh well it works and it is documented at least.