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Homogenized Races?

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
TL;DR, I'm looking for other people's opinions of the way in which non-human FRPG societies seem to be homogenous across the world. Is this something you're okay with? Do you mix it up? Take different approaches? What are they?

(Oh, and don't even get me started on the fact that there's a language called "Common" :))
I actually kinda like common. In general, things seem more fantasy (or mythic, perhaps) to me, if everyone can talk to everyone else.

You could conceive of Common as just "the gift of language" in the sense of communication, it's not just a language everyone strangely learns, it's the language everyone who can speak at all, can speak by default. All other languages would then be intentionally "secret" means of communication, that take that gift, but obfuscate it.

Why do humans speak Common, while other races each keep a secret language? Are humans just a naïve 'young race?' Are they cursed? Blessed? Are Thieves and Druids competing to establish their languages as the official "Human" language? Is establishing a Language of their own the first step to differentiating a new Race? Is that why there's so many elves?
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
As for alignment, I don't really know what you mean. They've never been particularly mechanical. They are I think a bit overly simplistic but they might just be complex enough for the purposes and anything more complicated is likely to be vague to the point of being meaningless, or else actually "mechanical".
They've had more or less mechanical impact in some eds (and I'm sure, some places/groups/etc back in the day, when we were a less disunited-by-the-internet, merely more diverse, community). Obvious examples of early alignment mechanics are alignment requirements for classes, damage for touching an artifact that doesn't match your alignment, detect this and know that, etc... 3e peaked, with the "Go Team Alignment" constellation of spells. 4e all but walked away from alignment. 5e has put back relatively few mechanical effects.
Of course, that's just me jumping on the /game/ mechanic sense of mechanical.
D&D 9-alignment system is also mechanical in the sense of mechanistic, I guess, being a neatly-filled grid, and with the Great Wheel being organized by alignments and all.

And I confess I have a bias. Everyone whom I've ever played with who told me that Alignment was too simplistic to capture real human morality has played their PC in Pawn Stance, and their actual problem with Alignment seemed to be that it's existence nagged them away from their preferred Pawn Stance play.
Not sure I see the connection (but, then, I recognize Pawn Stance as Forge jargon, so it may meant the exact opposite, inverse, cube-root, or reverse-ogive of what I think it 'obviously' means).
Or is it disconnection?

Pawn stance is controlling your character in third-person, like a game piece, picking 'good' 'legal' moves for it, no? (Who am I kidding? It can't be that intuitive.) Doesn't alignment just define a set of illegal moves? Your good pawn can't use poison. That kinda thing?
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
I tend to only give Common to characters from the region where the adventure starts. The “common” of another continent will be quite different, and some areas won’t have a lingua Franca or “trade tongue” at all.

A PC will generally have the right common even if they come from a distant land, unless everyone at the table is on board with the stranger from a strange land having a language barrier with the rest of the party.

Monocultures rarely exist in my worlds. A nation or kingdom or other state might be founded by 1 race and have a majority of them, but it’s almost never “that elf kingdom”.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
As a factoid, "lingua franca" or literally "tongue of the Franks", is a medieval dig at Rome by Constantinople, in that Latin was the language of Barbarians (the Byzantines called all Germanic barbarians Franks), because Rome had been conquered by barbarians.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
LIngua francas, koines and creoles exist. Indeed the English language is said by some to be a well established Koine Creole.

So I have no problem believing that a whole lot of races forced to live in the same area would soon find a common way of communicating with each other, especially given that long lived races provide a point of language stability and the gods and other powerful beings back their language preferences with authority.

As an analogy Consider if Shakespeare was an Elf. The language Shakespeare uses was poetic but generally understood in his era, but takes on complexity to the modern ear. But imagine if Shakespeare was an elf and his elven peers still spoke that way and had done so for the past few hundred years - their language would remain stable and if they backed it up with producing a lot of writing and being active in teaching others their language then I can see a situation wherein humans (who die every 50 years) loose their original species language and eventiually just speak 'Common' Shakespearean.

Orcs and goblins are marginalised and so develop their own dialects an languages (and also have a lot of non-verbal communication too)

Dwarfs are biologically adapted to subterranean caverns in the mountains, and when they leave those conditions they suffer - excpet that Dwarf stamina means they can endure the discomfort but it still makes them grumpy and too onery to speak that Elf lingo
 
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Aldarc

Adventurer
I’ve always thought of Common as either a trade pidgin or constructed language (like Esperanto), the most common primary/secondary language in the world (think Greek, Latin, French, and English, in turn), or a mechanical mesh mash of both.
The Indonesian language is basically an artificially standarized variety of Malay, which has been used as a trade language among the archipelago for centuries. The actual most common language of the archipelago is Javanese. So "Indonesian" essentially exists as everyone's shared second language.

[MENTION=6994832]The Session Tapes[/MENTION], as far as D&D settings are concerned, I would recommend looking at Eberron. There are still traces of monocultures and languages - it's certainly not perfect - but it tends to have more nuance than normal for D&D. "Common," for example, only applies to the continent of Khorvaire. "Common" (i.e., "Galifarian") descends from "Old Common," which was the language of settlers from Riedra, who speak "Riedran" and not "Common." But "Common" was the language used by the united Kingdom of Galifar before the Last War, which explains its widespread use on the continent.

Elves have a variety of cultures, even in relative close proximity. The Aerenal elves have a different culture than the Tairnadal elves (located on both Aerenal and Valenar), who themselves consist of different tribal groupings. Plus, there are the Khorvaire elves who adopted their surrounding national customs, religions, and languages. There are the Dragonmarked elvish houses. There are even the elves still connected to the House of Vol. This is not to mention the different cultures of drow on Xen'drik. And their religions will differ.

On the whole, your culture in Eberron is more determined by nation rather than species, though some nations do tend towards being ethno-states for various species. (Though I also think that there was some intentionality there given the parallels between Eberron's Last War and fragmentation of ethnocentric nation-states around the time of the First World War.)
 
Pawn stance is controlling your character in third-person, like a game piece, picking 'good' 'legal' moves for it, no? (Who am I kidding? It can't be that intuitive.) Doesn't alignment just define a set of illegal moves? Your good pawn can't use poison. That kinda thing?
More or less exactly what I'm trying to convey.

My experience with, "Alignment is unrealistic. I can roleplay a more nuanced realistic character without it!" is that the more "realistic" "nuanced" characters where indistinguishable from Pawn Stance, in that the decision making process about "what this character would do" seemed to be basically "what do I need to do to win". Giving your pawn an alignment implied there were moves which might be practical at the moment, but which the pawn maybe ought not do. And the player simply didn't want the pawn to have an independent motivation or wants and desires of its own.

And that often ends up being a specific example of the larger subset of arguments I call "arguing against alignment by taking an alignment position". For example, one argument against alignment I consistently hear is, "Alignment isn't realistic because real world morality is subjective." Congratulations, you are Chaotic Neutral. Next.

In the case where someone tells me, "Alignment isn't realistic because morality doesn't exist" or isn't practical or is too simplistic or whatever, I tend to now tell them, "Just play a neutral." Because, one take on neutrality is simply that morality isn't a very important concern, that successfully surviving requires examining the situation, and moral extremes are to be avoided. And pawn stance, where the only overriding concern of the player is simply "winning the game" by any means necessary while not making more enemies than you need to (because that would detract from winning) tends to look a lot like that in practice.

I can think of two good arguments against alignment. One is that I've heard cases of DMs using it as an excuse for being a Director and telling the player how they should play their character, often by holding up a big stick such as loss of level or class. And the second is that some real world beliefs tend to seem incoherent if you try to place them neatly on the two axis alignment grid, and that ultimately what you end up with is representing something by analogy (the alignment system) that would be better to talk about directly (the thing itself). Derailing the exploration to try to classify which alignment the philosophy fits in for the purpose of D&D fantasy would run contrary to the presumed goals. But that tends to mostly be a problem if you are setting something in the real world, which D&D tends not to do.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
More or less exactly what I'm trying to convey.

My experience with, "Alignment is unrealistic. I can roleplay a more nuanced realistic character without it!" is that the more "realistic" "nuanced" characters where indistinguishable from Pawn Stance, in that the decision making process about "what this character would do" seemed to be basically "what do I need to do to win". Giving your pawn an alignment implied there were moves which might be practical at the moment, but which the pawn maybe ought not do.
So they were being dishonest?
Alignment was a rule - you had to choose one - and it had mechanical effects, including things the character /could/ do, items it could use, etc, as well as restrictions on it. So, I'd think, even from a purely "gamist" (not necessarily in the Forge sense) perspective, you'd want to choose the 'best' alignment for your strategy, rather than try to talk the DM out of using the mechanic, at all, since that would remove benefits, as well, and reduce the available depth of play.

And the player simply didn't want the pawn to have an independent motivation or wants and desires of its own.
Well, any restrictions on it's legal moves, it sounds like. (I'm still set on 'pedantic' from another thread, so I feel the urge to point out that no imaginary character has /independent/ wants or motivations, but that's silly.)

And that often ends up being a specific example of the larger subset of arguments I call "arguing against alignment by taking an alignment position". For example, one argument against alignment I consistently hear is, "Alignment isn't realistic because real world morality is subjective." Congratulations, you are Chaotic Neutral. Next.
LoL.

I can think of two good arguments against alignment. One is that I've heard cases of DMs using it as an excuse for being a Director and telling the player how they should play their character, often by holding up a big stick such as loss of level or class.
Certainly happened.

And the second is that some real world beliefs tend to seem incoherent if you try to place them neatly on the two axis alignment grid, and that ultimately what you end up with is representing something by analogy (the alignment system) that would be better to talk about directly (the thing itself). Derailing the exploration to try to classify which alignment the philosophy fits in for the purpose of D&D fantasy would run contrary to the presumed goals. But that tends to mostly be a problem if you are setting something in the real world, which D&D tends not to do.
One thing I liked about "Unaligned" instead of neutral was just bowing out of the alignment system. Even better might have been to have the 9-alignment system with it's benefits & prescribed behaviors for being of a certain alignment, and an unaligned alternative, that can't access the benefits, but is left to it's own devices as far as imagining motivation.
Though, again to get a little gamist, and a little narrativist, in genre, there is /often/ a critical test of the hero that is based on morality or integrity - in D&D, that tends to be based on alignment, and the unaligned character'd be looking at a 'loss.'
 

Jer

Explorer
One thing I liked about "Unaligned" instead of neutral was just bowing out of the alignment system. Even better might have been to have the 9-alignment system with it's benefits & prescribed behaviors for being of a certain alignment, and an unaligned alternative, that can't access the benefits, but is left to it's own devices as far as imagining motivation.
Though, again to get a little gamist, and a little narrativist, in genre, there is /often/ a critical test of the hero that is based on morality or integrity - in D&D, that tends to be based on alignment, and the unaligned character'd be looking at a 'loss.'
I can't remember where I picked it up, but I know I didn't get it on my own. There was a variant of the alignment system we used where your choice of alignment was basically you swearing to the "Cosmic Cause" of either Law or Chaos - always with appropriate Capitalization - and if you weren't either then you were neutral. It wasn't about how you acted, it was literally about your "alignment" i.e. "whose side are you on". That was the only axis that mattered for spell effects and whatnot because we were playing with B/X alignments - you only picked an alignment if you were part of that cosmic conflict and so most of the NPCs you met were just neutral. Monsters had alignments - which were almost always Chaotic at low levels - because in the big picture they were the pawns of the Lords of Chaos. People could be aligned with Law and be evil or good, and people could technically be aligned with Chaos and be good (but it never happened - Chaos was always evil and Law was mostly good with few exceptions).

It was clearly based on Moorcock's stuff, but none of us would have read Moorcock when we used it. It was only later that I read Moorcock and realized where it had come from, and by that time I'd been fully indoctrinated in how AD&D 1e used alignment and it had infested my B/X games. Was it possibly a variant published in a Dragon magazine or something?
 
So they were being dishonest?
That's very hard to know. I can only be confident of what I've observed. Most logically, they weren't being dishonest with me as much as they were being unreflective on their own motivations. I can say that there stated beliefs did not seem to conform to my expectations regarding what would logically follow from those beliefs. That is, they didn't seem to play characters I thought were particularly nuanced and complex, much less that they were too complex to neatly fit on some grid for the purposes of certain spell effects.

Alignment was a rule - you had to choose one - and it had mechanical effects, including things the character /could/ do, items it could use, etc, as well as restrictions on it. So, I'd think, even from a purely "gamist" (not necessarily in the Forge sense) perspective, you'd want to choose the 'best' alignment for your strategy, rather than try to talk the DM out of using the mechanic, at all, since that would remove benefits, as well, and reduce the available depth of play.
Sure, but what if your estimation of the alignment that had the best mechanical effects (say "Lawful Good") conflicted sharply with your estimation of the alignment that had the most effective moves (say "Chaotic Evil"), and you decided that rather than attempting to argue with the DM that your pawn was Lawful Good despite the Chaotic Evil direction you were giving him, you just decided that the easiest approach was to claim the alignment system wasn't realistic.

Well, any restrictions on it's legal moves, it sounds like. (I'm still set on 'pedantic' from another thread, so I feel the urge to point out that no imaginary character has /independent/ wants or motivations, but that's silly.)
No, I get your point. However, much of 'acting' whether we are talking about performance acting or role-playing involves imagining being someone other than yourself, and that can include imagining having wants, beliefs, and motivations that are contrary to your own.

One thing I liked about "Unaligned" instead of neutral was just bowing out of the alignment system.
I see it as bowing out of the system only in a cursory sense, since 'unaligned' is really only a synonym for 'neutral'. In fact, it literally is such a synonym. I think that it served a purpose of letting players feel like they were opting out, but in fact 'unaligned' is just one philosophical justification for the alignment called 'neutrality'. To be neutral is to not be aligned, whether by a conscious philosophical choice or by indifference doesn't move you out of that part of the graph, just changes how willfully you are staying there.

Though, again to get a little gamist, and a little narrativist, in genre, there is /often/ a critical test of the hero that is based on morality or integrity - in D&D, that tends to be based on alignment, and the unaligned character'd be looking at a 'loss.'
Well, that depends on who is giving the test.

I think I should talk a bit about how I see WIS and INT interacting with alignment.

The higher the intelligence of the character, the more their alignment tends to require some sort of intellectual grounding. That is to say, the more they feel they need some sort of systematic justification for their beliefs. But alignment isn't the philosophical justification, but the practice of those beliefs. So you might have a low intelligence person who is intuitively self-centered and so acts to further their self-interest, but also intuitively recognizes that if they are a jerk then people won't be nice to them in return and that in the long run this will harm their self-interest. So even if that low INT person can't explain why they act like they do, they'll behave in a certain manner. A high intelligence person on the other hand will need to rationalize this behavior, both to themselves and to others, and so might (among many options) adopt the philosophical framework akin to Objectivism. In both cases, we might say that the person is Chaotic Neutral in that their moral framework is pretty much based entirely on (mutual) self-interest. (I don't mean to start a debate critical of that framework, it's just that CN is one of the easier alignments to provide clear cut examples for without grossly violating rules against discussing religion or politics.)

I don't really see 'Neutral' and 'Unaligned' as being anything but different degrees of having rationalized your belief system there in the middle of the grid. A high INT character that rationalizes that there is no good or evil in the world, but that everything is true from a certain point of view, and that in order for the world to continue there must be a balance between life and death, light and darkness is philosophically adopting a framework of 'Neutrality'. But a low INT character that simply is just trying to get by in the daily struggles of life without rocking the boat and paying no attention whatsoever to matters of morality is no less neutral than the high minded philosopher.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
As a factoid, "lingua franca" or literally "tongue of the Franks", is a medieval dig at Rome by Constantinople, in that Latin was the language of Barbarians (the Byzantines called all Germanic barbarians Franks), because Rome had been conquered by barbarians.
There was a trade language at the time that was based in Italian (mostly northern dialects) with a whole lot of loan words from other languages. This pidgin, sometimes otherwise called "Mediterranean Lingua Franca" or Sabir, was what they were referring to, rather than Latin.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
There was a trade language at the time that was based in Italian (mostly northern dialects) with a whole lot of loan words from other languages. This pidgin, sometimes otherwise called "Mediterranean Lingua Franca" or Sabir, was what they were referring to, rather than Latin.
Venetian? I don't know. But that's what I would suspect just hearing about it.
 

Michele

Villager
It's a lot of time since I GMed a truly fantasy setting, but I never had problems with differentiated species. We regularly had the so-called (by the humans) high elves, forest elves, and dark elves. The dwarves had several kingdoms; IIRC there never was a dwarf PC, so I just dealt with those by assuming that the PCs couldn't get most of the cultural differences because they did not know enough. We had orcs who preferred living in the open wastelands, and others who preferred staying underground and could see in the dark. Etc.
It never was too difficult for the players. Just like there were many different human countries.

Yes, there also always was a common trade language. Occasionally, there was a communication snag because some isolated community of whatever species (including humans) wouldn't know the lingua franca or any other language known by any PC; but I played that card only rarely. Once in a while it may be interesting and require creativity; constantly having that problem is not fun.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Venetian? I don't know. But that's what I would suspect just hearing about it.
Venetian and Genoese dialects, yeah. Significant amounts of Catalan and Occitan as well. And then loan words from pretty much everything on the Mediterranean Sea, as you'd expect for a trade pidgin.
 

Desdichado

Adventurer
It's already too complicated that we have all of these humanbutnothuman races in D&D as it is to be practically playable. These simplifications may or may not be realistic (who knows what a supposedly alien demihuman thinks, believes or behaves like anyway) but making it "realistic" doesn't make the game any more fun or playable; in fact, it quickly crosses the Rubicon into making it considerably less fun and less playable to get caught up in some esoteric "realism" fetish that probably only you care about.

I had to face this after having my own crisis of linguistics with regards to gaming years ago—since linguistics is a hobby of mine, I wanted to overly complicate it to highlight stuff that I personally thought was interesting. I had to let it go; nobody else cared, and in fact, found the focus kind of irritating at best, and extremely stupid and crippling to play at worst.
 
I had to face this after having my own crisis of linguistics with regards to gaming years ago—since linguistics is a hobby of mine, I wanted to overly complicate it to highlight stuff that I personally thought was interesting. I had to let it go; nobody else cared, and in fact, found the focus kind of irritating at best, and extremely stupid and crippling to play at worst.
Yeah, this echoes exactly my experience. There are a ton of ideas that I've had that I thought were cool and came from my understanding of "how the real world works" that turn out to be just annoying when you implement them in a game and don't add anything to the game, but instead detract from it.

Realistic languages are near the top of that list, but I'll add of the top of my head...

Realistic currency.
Realistic taxation.
Truly medieval cultures.
Numinous magic items.

You have no idea how much time I spent (and wasted) as a teenager trying to define original cuisines and cooking styles for the different cultures in my game.

It's not that any of those things are bad, it's just that they make (for somewhat different reasons) terrible focuses of play. Once they start intruding into your game, they start taking up time that could be spent on other more interesting issues. There is only so long that most people, including interested students of the subject like myself, are going to be interested in playing out realistic currency, realistic taxation, money changers, or even fiddly magic items with unexpected emergent properties if those unexpected emergent properties only have fiddly impact on the game.

What I've instead learned from all of this is that you can keep all this in a tool bag, and use it when it can add something to the game. So for example, you can keep the numinous magic, just apply it only to a few important items across the whole group, not to every single item that the players come across. You can do the whole "culture shock" thing when the players move between region, combining exposition with a bit of funny gameplay and a rare spot light on skills that might otherwise go unused (like knowledge of accounting or law). But if you make the pervasive problems of mundane life the focus of the campaign, it's going to get as dull and frustrating as mundane life often is.

And yes, ironically this means Gygax was more advanced in his DMing than is I think generally credited, and my objections to how "unrealistic" everything was were less intelligent than I thought they were when I was younger. I didn't really fully appreciate the 1e AD&D DMG until I was much older.
 
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the Jester

Legend
Okay, folks... here's a good discussion topic for you;

Racial languages/religions/alignments.

I personally really dislike the "homogenous" races idea which seems to be present in a lot of TTRPGs, (D&D in particular). The idea that an entire race follows the same pantheon or speaks the same language, regardless of where in the world they're from just doesn't ring very true to me. This is why the idea of "racial" anything seems very incongruous to me. I have a hard time believing that the Elves of Silverymoon and the Elves of Cormyr speak the same language, let alone worship the same pantheon or have the same cultural structure.
In my campaign, several of the nonhuman races are extremely long-lived, which leads to a significant amount of linguistic stasis. Elves, in particular, live thousands of years, or at least they did until the last generation or so. But they travel and disperse themselves at about the same rate as humans, so widespread elves speaking a single tongue makes good sense to me. Likewise, dwarves live several centuries and are extremely linguistically conservative on the whole.

Despite this, I do have Ancient Elven (from long, long ago) and Old Dwarvish. And two elves (or whatever) from sufficiently far apart might not speak the same tongue; a long time ago, a pc elf arrived via long-distance teleportation and spoke a language that was similar to Elvish called Elfisti.

I do think some degree of the culture of a given race arises from their makeup- call it their genetics, their soul, or whatever. So the fact that my dwarves are almost universally conservative cultures, slow to change and with significant reverence for the ways of generations past, is not *just* a cultural thing- it's innate to some degree. Those innate traits are part of what make dwarves not-human.

As for Alignments, I don't use them anyway... I think they're WAY too "mechanical" to reflect true morality. I think the devs themselves even realised this; adding characters like Drizzt and gods like Eilistraee to pay lip-service to "moral complexity" within the cultures. But for people who use them, do you ever have issues with the idea of an entire race having the same moral compass? Or does it just not come up?
Did you play 3e? In 3e, a monster's alignment wasn't just "chaotic good"; it was either always, usually, or often (? might be misremembering that last one) chaotic good. So I would treat elves as "usually" chaotic good. Not all elves are, but the average elf you meet probably is.

No, I don't have an issue with a race having an innate moral position. In a game where there are actual demonstrable gods of moral positions, it only makes sense.

(Oh, and don't even get me started on the fact that there's a language called "Common" :))
There needn't be. The Common Tongue in my game is currently Imperial, but a while back, depending on where you started, it might be Forinthian, Strogassian, or Peshan- hell, it might even be Elvish, if you came from the right place.

Common Tongues are real- today, it's English. Not too awfully long ago, it was French (thus lingua franca). At one point, it was Greek or Latin. But I will agree that, generally, a language actually named Common would be weird.
 
Common Tongues are real- today, it's English. Not too awfully long ago, it was French (thus lingua franca). At one point, it was Greek or Latin. But I will agree that, generally, a language actually named Common would be weird.
I'm pretty sure the convention is, like so much of fantasy, from Tolkien.

In the Lord of the Rings, several characters make reference to "the common tongue" and I think that the writers of D&D assumed that "common" was the name of the language. But "the common tongue" being referred to is actually called "Westron" and is basically is Numenorean what modern English is to Norman French. Ironically, the language isn't even really used in the text, as unlike any of the other languages in Middle Earth, when a Westron word or name would appear in the text, Tolkien produced an Anglicized equivalent to make the sound more pronounable and familiar to the reader rather than alien or foreign (which is achieved by leaving the other languages in their 'true' form). "Westron" itself is an example of this, as the word an actual speaker of the language would use for it is "Aduni". The "real" name of the character "Sam Gamgee" is Banazîr Galbasi.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
I'm pretty sure the convention is, like so much of fantasy, from Tolkien.

In the Lord of the Rings, several characters make reference to "the common tongue" and I think that the writers of D&D assumed that "common" was the name of the language. But "the common tongue" being referred to is actually called "Westron" and is basically is Numenorean what modern English is to Norman French. Ironically, the language isn't even really used in the text, as unlike any of the other languages in Middle Earth, when a Westron word or name would appear in the text, Tolkien produced an Anglicized equivalent to make the sound more pronounable and familiar to the reader rather than alien or foreign (which is achieved by leaving the other languages in their 'true' form). "Westron" itself is an example of this, as the word an actual speaker of the language would use for it is "Aduni". The "real" name of the character "Sam Gamgee" is Banazîr Galbasi.
I think you may be over complicating things and although it may seem strange now I think the phrase common tongue was once more common than we realise. For instance in one of Winston Churchill’s speeches in Canada he states that “the gift of a common tongue is a priceless inheritance

there’s also some scholarly articles which wax poetic using the term “the common tongue of England” distinguishing it from Welsh and Anglo-Norman. The distinction of Saxon English of the common folk and prestige Norman is illustrated in Ivanhoe thus:

“ old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon epithet, while he is under the charge of serfs and bondsmen such as thou, but becomes Beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him.“
 
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At one point, it was Greek or Latin. But I will agree that, generally, a language actually named Common would be weird.
In Greek, Koine literally means "common" or "shared." In general, I have no problem with the notion of a common tongue.

With regard to cultural homogeneity - or a lack thereof - in nonhuman creatures, it really depends on the understanding of that "monster" group within each particular game's internal logic.

If they are "folkloric" entities - and they are understood as such by the (human?) characters - then a homogeneous, unchanging culture seems fine - Pendragon might describe them in this way.

If they are "funny looking humans," à la Star Trek (elves are magicky, long-lived, pointy-eared humans; dwarves, squat, bearded, axe-wielding humans etc.), then it's reasonable to expect them to have internally divergent cultures, religions, languages etc., in the way that human societies do. I feel that this is D&D's default assumption, although individual games certainly need not follow this model - I tend to prefer a more "folkloric" approach.
 
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