D&D General Do you use languages in your D&D game?

How often do languages matter in your game?

  • They matter a lot and come up frequently

    Votes: 16 15.1%
  • They come up from time to time in a consequential manner

    Votes: 64 60.4%
  • They come up from time to time in a non-consequential manner

    Votes: 13 12.3%
  • They rarely come up

    Votes: 12 11.3%
  • Never

    Votes: 1 0.9%

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
And if so, how much?

For me, I think I can count on one hand the number of times language really mattered in a D&D game I was in. Occasionally a DM will ask what languages people speak and generally somebody speaks the right language. If not, if the info is hidden behind a language gate, we get the info some other way if it matters. It's rare for a DM to introduce an NPC and not have us able to talk to them.
 

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Ondath

Hero
I tried developing languages thoroughly in the first setting I built - different megaregions of the world had different "Commons", I even drew a linguistic map of my game world... Then it never came up.

Now, I'm running a multiversal game so it comes up even less. Making the party learn a new universe's common every time they jumped to another setting would be unwieldy, so everyone speaks a multiversal Common. Other languages are only used when the party/the NPCs want to talk between each other secretly, or if there's a minor puzzle, but even then that becomes trivial with a spell like Tongues or Comprehend Languages.

It was my dissatisfaction with not getting any returns from my investment into linguistic worldbuilding that really pushed me to consider ditching languages mechanically in the other thread I've started.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
One campaign where it mattered a lot was Tomb of Annihilation, wherein many creatures and characters are encountered who cannot speak Common. My bard was using Comprehend Languages and Tongues a lot in that campaign.

In a current Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus campaign that I'm in, three party members speak Celestial, and will sometimes use it to speak with each other if we feel like we're being spied on.
 

I too can't recall languages being a major gameplay element - they're mostly worldbuilding or character flavor.

Quick example: in a dungeon we came a cross a couple semi-friendly npcs. My character speaks Quori, so the dm ruled that meant I could speak to the other psychic npc. This allowed for some neat roleplaying, but all the vital info was presented in Common.

The only time I think not knowing a language really hurt us was playing Storm King's Thunder with no one knowing Giant. That was a persistent social encounter penalty, although Giants could all speak Common. If we had spoken Giant, it would have been easier.
 


payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I think languages are one of those things that folks either really like going through the process over and over and over and over, or you just don't care for it. As a GM I'd rather put my efforts into things more interesting to me. As a player, I'd be fine with it if the GM did interesting things with languages, but if it was the routine of you don't understand each other over and over and over, id ask them to drop it.
 

Yes and also no.

When I'm running a game I usually provide a list of commonly encountered languages for the players and keep track of what they know. If the players run into an NPC that shares a common language I generally handwave the interaction with the assumption that someone is translating if not everyone in the party understands the language.

On occasion I will have the players meet an NPC/monster that they need to talk to that doesn't have a shared language which necessitates them finding magic or a local translator.

Where I generally am stricter on language enforcement is when the PCs find journals/books/writings in old tombs/ancient sites. Depending on the age of the writing I will require the players to translate the contents into a modern understandable format. Generally this will take 1d8-1 (min 1) days of translation and requires an Int check (with prof if the character doing the translation has proficiency in the modern version of that language.
 

And if so, how much?

For me, I think I can count on one hand the number of times language really mattered in a D&D game I was in. Occasionally a DM will ask what languages people speak and generally somebody speaks the right language. If not, if the info is hidden behind a language gate, we get the info some other way if it matters. It's rare for a DM to introduce an NPC and not have us able to talk to them.
sometimes it matters more then others... Starting in 3e we had a string of (and I am as guilty of any of us in my group) "this hidden language wasn't an option to learn, and the comp language spell doesn't work on it" to make it matter. With 5e having so much less known languages (no more int mod) and having a built in 1 or 2 secrete ones (yeah PCs CAN know druidic or theives cant but they have to be class or background) has aloud us to use it more.

I often have commoners not speak common... "Hey sorry your in high elf lands 40-60% of the population don't leave and are not bilingual"

but as for the
If not, if the info is hidden behind a language gate, we get the info some other way if it matters.
that is a bit of a pain... on both sides of the screen. If you want language choice to matter you HAVE to leave the PCs without the info unless they find away (and there are magic ways or just hireing a translator) to get around it...
 


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