D&D General Languages in D&D Are Weird, Let's Get Rid of Them.

Cruentus

Adventurer
I work languages in the following way:
1) There is no "common"
2) I have regional languages that are known by particular countries (usually 2 or 3, sometimes including humanoid tongues, sometimes not).
3) If you have the same "language" as another speaker, you can understand each other just fine.
4) If you speak a language in that region (one of the couple languages known by that country), but its not an exact match, you make an Int roll/check on a d20, and the closer to 1 you get, the more information is able to be shared/understood. If you roll above your Int score, you aren't able to understand what they are saying. There may be penalties or bonuses (situational) for what is happening - in combat: likely penalties, over dinner or specifically speaking slowly: then likely bonuses.

When you travel outside of your region, then hopefully someone in the group studied a language out there, or you can hire an interpreter. I have also removed spells like Tongues and Comprehend Languages (or severely limited them), to make communication more challenging.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't see too many mechanical effects of languages.

But I love them from a world building perspective. They can create an in-game sense of otherness to help explain why these elves don't like those elves.

They also give minor spotlight to various character. "Anyone speak goblin? You do? Ember, they are yelling tactics, about how they are all going to rush around to the left go after the cleric."

But I'm back to not liking them if they lock away information. "There's an inscription in draconic along the ancient wall. Anyone read it? No? Okay."
In 1e Thieves had a chance to read anything, starting at 4th level and improving from there. Failing that, this sort of thing is what the Comprehend Language spell was made for.

Not all information has to be presented on a platter. Better that they have an opportunity to choose to ignore it, I think.
Depending on your group, you could hit all of those with "hey, who speaks X" and let the players decided for their characters on the spot (and mark it).
Nope. Languages known are determined during roll-up as they are part of a character's background, and learning a new one takes quite a bit of in-game time.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
With your example you have at least four languages and probably eight without metagaming
Sure. No problem there.

In the party of six I'm currently running there's probably 20 languages known of which 10 will likely enter play once at most, if ever at all. One of the characters, for example, speaks unicorn; and I don't think I've DMed a unicorn into play since about 1987 and have no upcoming plans to do so (though wandering monster tables might say different sometime).

That said, those languages that never become play-relevant still serve to inform the character's background somewhat. Why did the unicorn speaker learn it? What led up to this? Etc.; for the player to fill in if so desired.
 



Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is why I think D&D needs more languages and some sort of rule for fluency,

For example, Dwarven, Giant, and Northern are all Runic languages. If you speak one, you can communicate in basic conversation in the other 2.

However should you go up to a Dwarven highlord speaking Giant, you'll have trouble saying anything advanced and require a interpreter to get or speak details. But learning Dwarven on downtime if you speak Giant is easier.
In my world, if you go up to a Dwarven highlord and start speaking Giant you'll get about three words out before said highlord brings a hammer down on your blasphemous head. :)

You're right, though, in that some sort of idea of what languages relate to what other languages would be useful. It would, however, also be a hell of a lot of work to produce such a table or chart for settings with more than a few dozen languages (mine has hundreds) to show how they all interrelate and which ones are close enough to which others to allow some understanding.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't mind a fluency system, but I'd rather it be something like... You are fluent in your racial language and common. If human you are fluent in common and a language of your choice. Any further languages spoken due to background, feats, etc. are at rank 1(basic) and allow for limited communication. Each level you get 1 rank point to add to a language of your choice, either a new one or in an existing language below rank 3.

Rank 1: basic ability(can communicate with difficulty)
Rank 2: Intermediate ability(Can communicate well, but will have the occasional hiccup)
Rank 3: Fluent(can communicate freely)
I prefer more randomness - roll a die (we use open-ended d10) to see how good you've become at this language during your life thus far; repeat for each language known. If you want to try to improve knowledge of a language while adventuring, every few in-game months you'll get a roll to see if you've got anywhere with it.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Nope. Languages known are determined during roll-up as they are part of a character's background, and learning a new one takes quite a bit of in-game time.
What should be done with languages is what we are discussing in this thread. Since there no supporting evidence here on why this is more than an opinion, it really has no more meaning than your preference.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Not without destroying who and what D&D dwarves are. I mean, do you really think the dwarven gods would create the dwarves and say, "Surprise! You speak the language of giants, our and your most hated enemies!"?
The giant gods claimed they created it first though.

Isn't that the new joke in the 5e Giants UA: The Giant Gods and Dwarven Gods both claim to be the creators of runes.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
What should be done with languages is what we are discussing in this thread. Since there no supporting evidence here on why this is more than an opinion, it really has no more meaning than your preference.
Languages aren't something one can learn on the spot*. They're something that take time to learn, and thus would necessarily be part of a character's pre-adventuring background. Ideally in all editions but particularly in 5e where BIFT is a thing, basic background details like this are determined before the character enters play...if for no other reason than to determine who else in the party the character can in fact talk with.

* - occasional magic effects notwithstanding, of course. :)
 

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