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

It's interesting that, if really Tolkien was the D&D inspiration for inclusion of languages, they botched it so badly as to have racial language, when Tolkien specifically didn't create elvish, but quenya and sindarin, because the race was split long enough to have evolved two different languages.

Languages in D&D are weird because they have a chance of being chosen before the campaign pitch. There are some games where character choices inform the GM about what the player wants, but I don't think it's often enough the case here to assume that if a character elects to learn Sahuagin, then the GM should feel forced to include some Sahuagin... he might have a desert-based campaign instead.

The weirdness also comes from D&D having no default world, as was mentionned already above: in the example, they have to resort to race language because anything else wouldn't really fit (class-based is weird, even Thieves cant, and alignment-based is outlandish...)

Also, there is a mechanical cost to learn new languages, and not all campaign can afford the required downtime.

All those flaws, however, doesn't mean they should be discarded in favour of a weird pre-Babel world where gods introduce languages into sapients brain (if they can put a language in their creatures' mind, they could also put there a fear of X and it's a ship that has sailed). It should be divorced from character creation as it shouldn't be a mechanical part of the character but a part of its backstory.

How to deal with language should be moved to the DMG with advice on how to use them and say "Everyone is speaking English for some reason in this world" if one doesn't want to deal with it, and introducing different options based on campaign scope and probability of actually having to use those languages.

[Assumption that Common = English is also something fun... I have seen adventure where an NPC was thought to be a male and was in fact a female, and yet the PC could find a piece of writing from said NPC... that would give away the gender unless being very careful in other languages where adjectives or worse verb carry a gender mark].
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
A four PC party at first level should start with at least 9 languages and maybe around 15.

They aren't really a limitation
If they're meta-planning rather than just picking based on RP, sure. If they're picking based on what their characters would learn, there will be overlapping languages, which is a good thing. It's useful to be able to plan in a language no one nearby knows.
 

bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
If they're meta-planning rather than just picking based on RP, sure
Unless they're all the same race with the same racial language they'd have a spread of at least three and that's with race being split evenly.

Plus, until One D&D comes out most characters start with more than three languages. It's hard to not have a party with double-digit languages.
 

Hussar

Legend
This is a great example of where world building butts heads with game play.

From a world building perspective it’s a fantastic resource.

From a game play perspective, it’s less than great. Enforcing language seriously nerfs any class that is language dependent, such as enchanters. It also really hurts any “face” type characters.

Which in turn means that those characters will search out auto translate magic items in which case the whole point of multi language campaigns as world building tool goes out the window.

It’s not an easy thing to resolve.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Unless they're all the same race with the same racial language they'd have a spread of at least three and that's with race being split evenly.

Plus, until One D&D comes out most characters start with more than three languages. It's hard to not have a party with double-digit languages.
Again, unless they are metagaming, there will be considerable overlap among the other languages chosen. You'll end up with a few taking elvish and orcish, maybe three pick goblin.
 

bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
Again, unless they are metagaming, there will be considerable overlap among the other languages chosen. You'll end up with a few taking elvish and orcish, maybe three pick goblin.
With your example you have at least four languages and probably eight without metagaming
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I’d much rather strengthen the mechanical significance of language.

Let language proficiency provide benefit when speaking to a creature in their native language, treat language proficiency as proficiency in the basic knowledge of the culture tied to the language, give languages relationships to eachother, etc.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
With your example you have at least four languages and probably eight without metagaming
Okay. So they speak some languages. Probably half of those will be PC race languages like elvish and dwarvish. The rest? Nobody is arguing that PCs won't be able to talk to things. They just won't be able to talk to anywhere near everything. I don't mind the PCs communicating with monsters.
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
If new languages were easier to learn, I'd be okay with that. Otherwise you're unnecessarily limiting how far the party can range without having a ton of communication problems.
Part of the intent of grouped languages in my concept is that while Common isn’t as common, knowing one language goes further for you than just being used to communicate that specific language, so yes, while there’s a chance you might not know a specific language there’s a much greater chance your group may know something that can communicate with them.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
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?

There's enough real-world examples where one would expect exactly this to happen and it doesn't to tell me the creole idea doesn't hold water. Instead, different neighbourhoods within a city have and retain their own primary language, and one - ususlly the national one - is used as a defult for all often as a second language.

Or, and more appropriately, as an occasional hindrance to easy communication. I don't mind this.

That's exactly what I don't want to see. Sure it's convenient for play, but it's also highly unrealistic and rather boring.

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.

Sure, keep these languages - and the other few hundred as well!

The only languages I've never used are alignment tongues. I did have Thieves' cant in my games for ages but nobody ever used it, so out it went.

Your social-affinity idea might be on to something, but as an add-on rather than a replacement.
This. Your idea, while perfectly workable, is more of the sacrificing verisimilitude for gameplay stuff i would prefer to minimize.
 

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