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

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
Either way, they wouldn't be speaking the same language, even if using the same writing. Even if somehow they started with the giant language, the dwarves are the kind of stubborn, proud race that would literally create a new language than use the giant one in any form.
 

log in or register to remove this ad



Ondath

Hero
This. Your idea, while perfectly workable, is more of the sacrificing verisimilitude for gameplay stuff i would prefer to minimize.
In case this was directed at me, I'll disagree with the idea that removing mechanics from languages and replacing them with social affinities sacrifices verisimilitude. If anything, I'd say it increases it. As they are currently designed, Languages are things you can be perfectly fluent in a few weeks' time, have no gradients of proficiency, and are the same across cultures and even worlds. There is nothing that gives a sense of closeness to reality (which I think is what verisimilitude aims) in this format.

If instead you say that language has no relevance mechanically and that the GM is able to run it however they'd like, then the GM can design their world with more complex languages, and there is no game balance expectation that everyone should know Common + 1 Language + 1 Tool (which seems to be the way One D&D is taking things). That path, which started from racial languages, is where we ultimately ended up with sacrificing verisimilitude for gameplay stuff. If instead language has no mechanics, you can have a world with Tolkienesque degrees of conlang design or a world where languages work on the MCU logic of "everyone seems to understand English" and mechanically it wouldn't matter. If anything, accounting for how different social classes fare between each other (it is easier for an aristocrat to convince a king while an urchin can use their street smarts to find a shady contact) should add more verisimilitude to how social encounters are run.

Perhaps I presented my idea incorrectly (though saying "let's get rid of languages" does engage people more easily than "let's remove languages mechanically from the rules and let GMs do what they want for each campaign").
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
In case this was directed at me, I'll disagree with the idea that removing mechanics from languages and replacing them with social affinities sacrifices verisimilitude. If anything, I'd say it increases it. As they are currently designed, Languages are things you can be perfectly fluent in a few weeks' time, have no gradients of proficiency, and are the same across cultures and even worlds. There is nothing that gives a sense of closeness to reality (which I think is what verisimilitude aims) in this format.

If instead you say that language has no relevance mechanically and that the GM is able to run it however they'd like, then the GM can design their world with more complex languages, and there is no game balance expectation that everyone should know Common + 1 Language + 1 Tool (which seems to be the way One D&D is taking things). That path, which started from racial languages, is where we ultimately ended up with sacrificing verisimilitude for gameplay stuff. If instead language has no mechanics, you can have a world with Tolkienesque degrees of conlang design or a world where languages work on the MCU logic of "everyone seems to understand English" and mechanically it wouldn't matter. If anything, accounting for how different social classes fare between each other (it is easier for an aristocrat to convince a king while an urchin can use their street smarts to find a shady contact) should add more verisimilitude to how social encounters are run.

Perhaps I presented my idea incorrectly (though saying "let's get rid of languages" does engage people more easily than "let's remove languages mechanically from the rules and let GMs do what they want for each campaign").
I don't like how 6e does things, and do not support it. I want more things to matter mechanically, not fewer. Make languages in the game more detailed, closer to reality, and add in something like your social mechanic too. That is a good idea.
 

Regarding the exotic languages, it could lead to some incongruous situations if they were actually enforced. I have this vision of someone being possessed by Pazuzu and having to keep consulting an Abyssal to English dictionary and just keeps coming up with these broken taunts like "In... In he...helll, your mother makes the fellatio"
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Regarding the exotic languages, it could lead to some incongruous situations if they were actually enforced. I have this vision of someone being possessed by Pazuzu and having to keep consulting an Abyssal to English dictionary and just keeps coming up with these broken taunts like "In... In he...helll, your mother makes the fellatio"
This is why demons use telepathy. There are no words in the mind - only thoughts that get interpreted as words.

That said, I would love to see Pazuzu struggling with its dictionary!
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Just for the record, I like having multiple languages in a setting. My table has had fun messing around with languages. I was running a Ravenloft game once (using GURPS, which has different levels of language proficiency) where we had two PCs from Tepest and one from Lamordia, and they were speaking to someone in Darkonese. The Lamordian character was well-educated and had a Native understanding of Darkoneses, while the Tepestani people were basically hicks and had only a Broken level of understanding in Darkonese. The conversation went something like:

Lamordian PC, in Darkonese: Don't mind those two; they're idiots.

Tepest PC, in Tepestani, to Lamordian: What is <switches to Darkonese> "idiot"?

Lamordian PC: It means good person.

Tepest PC, in Darkonese: Yes, we are idiots!

A good time was had by all. (We use ASL fingerspelling signs to indicate what language we are using--a bit harder, now that we meet only via Discord because of camera angles, but easy at the table.)

But...

Not just each species, but each culture within those species unless a species is assumed to be mono-cultural.

Gnomes might have a few distinct languages or dialects; Dwarves a few more; Elves a fair number; and Humans a boatload. And monsters would have their own. Yes this means there might be hundreds of spoken languages with a setting. So what?
Actually, would all of these races have that many languages? Many of them live a long time and would be able to remember their languages for centuries or even millennia. There wouldn't necessarily be as much drift with elves, dwarfs, and gnomes as there would be with humans and orcs. Plus literacy and writing seems to be much more universal in most D&D settings, thus providing another link that would keep language the same. And that's not even considering teleportation and long-distance magical communication which would help to keep far-distant communities in touch.

There likely would be different terminology, maybe even enough that "high elf" is a fairly different from "wood elf," but I don't think that they would necessarily be separate languages. More like modern regional differences, like the differences between American English and Australian English.

If I'm playing a faux-Norse PC it just doesn't make sense that I can go to faux-Rome for the first time and immediately be able to converse with everyone there.
Depends on the setting. If one pantheon made all the humans, they may have made it so that all humans speak Human. If one pantheon made all the humanoid races, then they all might speak a single language, with only minor regional differences. If other languages are commonly spoken by humanoids, then they would probably be heavily influenced by non-humanoid languages, or be conlangs, or have been gifted by gods who are part of the pantheon but wanted some language differences for some reason.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Actually, would all of these races have that many languages? Many of them live a long time and would be able to remember their languages for centuries or even millennia. There wouldn't necessarily be as much drift with elves, dwarfs, and gnomes as there would be with humans and orcs.
That would depend on how isolated their communities are and-or how much regular interaction there is between them.

I mean, in the real world we have significant dialectical differences within the same country in theory speaking the same language in at least two ovbious instances - the UK and the USA - and that's with lots of interaction between them.
Plus literacy and writing seems to be much more universal in most D&D settings, thus providing another link that would keep language the same.
Not in my games. Literacy is only guaranteed for mages, as it's a job requirement. Everyone else, if they want a shot at literacy, have to pull out the dice during char-gen. If illiterate, a character can spend several in-game months learning literacy (in one language!) once the campaign begins.
And that's not even considering teleportation and long-distance magical communication which would help to keep far-distant communities in touch.

There likely would be different terminology, maybe even enough that "high elf" is a fairly different from "wood elf," but I don't think that they would necessarily be separate languages. More like modern regional differences, like the differences between American English and Australian English.
I'm thinking at the least it would be more like a Texan trying to converse with a Highland Scot. :)
Depends on the setting. If one pantheon made all the humans, they may have made it so that all humans speak Human.
At the beginning, sure. But if that beginning was any longer ago than just a few generations, growing differences in laugnage between different communities (and, later, cultures) will soon appear.
If one pantheon made all the humanoid races, then they all might speak a single language, with only minor regional differences. If other languages are commonly spoken by humanoids, then they would probably be heavily influenced by non-humanoid languages, or be conlangs, or have been gifted by gods who are part of the pantheon but wanted some language differences for some reason.
Perhaps. I think you're underestimating just how much language evolves over time. :)
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
That would depend on how isolated their communities are and-or how much regular interaction there is between them.

I mean, in the real world we have significant dialectical differences within the same country in theory speaking the same language in at least two ovbious instances - the UK and the USA - and that's with lots of interaction between them.
And they're all the same language. I did say there would be regional differences, but they would be more like UK versus US, which, while there might be very broad differences in places, it's not like the differences between two different Romance languages, and especially not like the difference between English and Cantonese.

Not in my games. Literacy is only guaranteed for mages, as it's a job requirement. Everyone else, if they want a shot at literacy, have to pull out the dice during char-gen. If illiterate, a character can spend several in-game months learning literacy (in one language!) once the campaign begins.
But your games are not D&D standard. And that's fine, I'm not saying that your games have to be. But your rules on language are neither RAW nor RAI and thus are not typical for D&D games.

Eberron actually has public education, for instance. There is, or at least was, lots of private education throughout Ravenloft. The Realms has a god of writing and I'm sure his clerics teach literacy.

I'm thinking at the least it would be more like a Texan trying to converse with a Highland Scot. :)

At the beginning, sure. But if that beginning was any longer ago than just a few generations, growing differences in laugnage between different communities (and, later, cultures) will soon appear.

Perhaps. I think you're underestimating just how much language evolves over time. :)
I don't think I am. Language does evolve over time... in the real world, where people have short lifespans, literacy was uncommon to very rare, and transportation, and thus the spread of language, was highly limited. But in D&D world, people don't have short lifespans, literacy is very common, and transportation includes teleportation, magical communication, and flying mounts.

Sure, there's a huge amount of difference between modern English and, say, Old English--but Old English was spoken about 1,500 years ago. In a D&D world, there are going to be creatures that are still alive after 1,500 years. That's only a handful of elf generations (and if you use the idea that elves reincarnate and remember their past lives, then even that doesn't matter). That's one generation of lich or vampire. s, relatively few deal with the multuple tens or hundreds of thousands of years that the real world had to deal with.

With humans, in the real world, it seems to be that the first small language developed at point X in Africa and then people spread out, developing their individual languages as they went. If, as I mentioned, the gods created (modern) humans fully-formed and plunked them down all over the place knowing the same fully-developed language, then the changes afterwards are going to be much smaller.

Plus, let's face it--nearly all D&D settings are static. New technologies and philosophies just don't take over. There's no reason language would also change that much.

For the record, I'm not saying that D&D games should only have one or a very few languages. I'm saying that it's not actually illogical for such a setting to have few languages.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top