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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%

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I don't worry about languages in D&D.

If someone can't speak my language, I just speak really loudly and slowly and use my hands a lot. Better than casting Tongues. Works great too, just like real life!

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Specific languages come up once in a while (I think about a handful of times in our campaign which is running for 1.5 years), but then it allows the knowledgeable character to obtain additional information that might otherwise not easily available at this point in time. It's not game changing, though, and mostly will provide just a bit of an edge.


I used languages a little bit in some games to tie into the setting background with one fantasy Mesopotamian ancient civilization run by giants having used celestial and another one run by dragons having used draconic and the ancient fantasy Egypt having been run by elves used elvish and the players ended up doing some scholarly research where who knew what language came into play when the party split up in doing their mythos investigations with different lore being found in different books from the various cultures. Some players had wanted to be academics so there was some discussion at character creation of languages and what they would be tied to and sometimes this came up in play.


It was more a thing in my 3e/Pathfinder games where it was easy for a character to put skill ranks into languages and gain up to a new one every level.


Victoria Rules
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.
It's not always the DM, though. The "can't understand each other over and over and over" piece more often comes up when two or more characters within the same party don't share a language, which is a) allowed and b) happens surprisingly often.

Example: if you're a PC with an Int score (usually 7 or less) that only allows you one language and you're from the Alotanian (faux-Spanish) region of my world, your only language* will be Alotan. If no-one else in the party can speak it, communication immediately becomes a real problem.

* - your first language, or "native tongue", is always that of the culture in which you were raised. Common is not and cannot be anyone's native tongue.


In 3e I cut out common as a thing everyone knew, but I required PCs to spend a skill point to know it if they were not human. This way all PCs could talk to each other, but most NPC dwarves would probably only speak dwarvish.

In 5e in my games in practice it comes out mostly the same, by the rules PCs speak common +1 language and NPC languages are a DM's purview.


No rule is inviolate

I'll provide players with a small list of common curses or sayings in their native language and encourage them to make more. Adds to ambiance and uniqueness of playing something different than others. I keep my own cheat sheet of those behind the screen for adding flavor. We'll shamelessly borrow from the internet if there's nothing in the core material (e.g. using Star Trek Klingon for the rough, earthy grumblings of dwarves, who, like Klingons, have a very fine range for singing if you can convince them).


I'll use dialects and local languages, treating Common as a rudimentary way to universally communicate basic concepts (e.g. "Me want dagger" instead of "I'd like to purchase a dagger please.") If a native finds a PC who fluently speaks their language, that's often a big deal in improving relations.


PCs who discuss their battle plans in front of monsters who understand that language had best expect the DM to plan accordingly. However, like a real-life sports team, those who've practiced together long enough can send basic ideas with a gesture or a look that your teammates would know.

Li Shenron

They come up here and there in most of campaigns, and almost always in either of these forms:

- PCs are scouting and eavesdropping on a group of monsters who of course speak among themselves their own language and not common

- PCs encounter/intercept an inscription, manuscript, sign or message meant for someone speaking another language

If one of the present PCs know the language, they will have more information or clues they can use to their advantage.

I almost never use non-common languages in direct social encounters, but I think I've allowed someone to gain advantage by using just the right language to impress during a conversation.


If you just keep to the languages in the PHB, it almost never matters. Almost everyone will speak common, even a good chunk of monsters. In my Greyhawk, I've included the ethnic human languages and ancient versions of many racial tongues to add variety. All human speak their ethnic language, and while the majority speak Common as a 2nd language, not everyone will. While it's generally considered rude to speak anything but Common among outsiders, most people are going to speak their local language when casual. This greatly shuts down eavesdropping, unless they happen to also speak the same language. I've also modified the number of languages based on Int modifier, including a negative reducing your number of languages. All of this makes potential language barriers an issue, improving the value of Comprehend Languages and Tongues.


Yes, but good luck having them be nothing more than Auto-Translated English sounding discussions that language speaking player informs the party while everybody else pretends they don't understand the convo.

I don't really have time to learn Gaelic for Elvish/Slyphan or Hebrew for Dwarven.

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