• Welcome to this new upgrade of the site. We are now on a totally different software platform. Many things will be different, and bugs are expected. Certain areas (like downloads and reviews) will take longer to import. As always, please use the Meta Forum for site queries or bug reports. Note that we (the mods and admins) are also learning the new software.
  • The RSS feed for the news page has changed. Use this link. The old one displays the forums, not the news.

5E Languages

So I was just wondering how to determine if PCs can communicate with a creature.

Each creature has a list of languages it can speak, but what if the PCs don't have any of these in common? The player's handbook says that many languages are just different accents of the same language, but it doesn't list which languages belong to the same accent except for the example of elemental languages.

Any clue?

For example I'm wondering if PCs can understand undercommon. Is that just a different accent of common? Or a completely different language? It seems strange to me that underdark creatures (which don't speak common) couldn't communicate which creature of the surface at all.

Anyone can point me where it's defined which languages are just different accents from each other?
 

iserith

Explorer
There is no call-out in the rules for dialects other than Primordial. So as far as I am concerned, PCs that speak Common can't speak Undercommon, nor can creatures that speak Undercommon speak Common. Personally, I prefer it that way as it gives choice of language relevance and sets the PCs up for needing resources such as spells or NPCs to assist with communication. It's another problem for the players to solve.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Explorer
The player's handbook says that some languages use the same alphabets, but I don't know anywhere where it says that many languages are just different accents of each other.
 

aco175

Explorer
I look at undercommon as the common trade tongue that all the underdark races speak. This is separate than the surface common that only the surface races speak. There could be something called seacommon where all the ocean races use to communicate.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I look at it thusly: Common is the lingua franca of the surface world, and undercommon is the lingua franca of the Underdark. They are not the same.

Both however started as pidgins of languages from the surface and evolved into full languages (much like modern English). Or, you can take either as the vulgar Latin to another language where it is used as the everyday language of people, but nothing is written in vulgar form so its a written only language that mutually intelligible to "high" form of the base language (they're really the same thing, but nobody uses idioms and what not in official written documents or in scholarly texts).
 

Monayuris

Explorer
So I was just wondering how to determine if PCs can communicate with a creature.

Each creature has a list of languages it can speak, but what if the PCs don't have any of these in common? The player's handbook says that many languages are just different accents of the same language, but it doesn't list which languages belong to the same accent except for the example of elemental languages.

Any clue?

For example I'm wondering if PCs can understand undercommon. Is that just a different accent of common? Or a completely different language? It seems strange to me that underdark creatures (which don't speak common) couldn't communicate which creature of the surface at all.

Anyone can point me where it's defined which languages are just different accents from each other?
No idea other than what is posted above.

I assume characters that don't speak the same language can't understand each other (each language is different enough to be in-interpretable). So Common and Undercommon are two completely different languages.

A lot of times I do make a 1 in 6 roll to see if a particularly intelligent creature speaks Common or at least broken Common.

If not, the players got to find an alternate means of communicating, which can end up being a lot of fun.
 

Shiroiken

Explorer
One of the uses of Intelligence in the PHB is to communicate with someone you don't share a language with. I'd set a DC based on how complicated the ideas expressed are.

I've personally redone the languages to fit my campaign. In addition to granting additional languages/tool proficiencies by Int modifier, I've added human languages (humans get +1 racial language) and broken the languages into common/uncommon/rare/secret. Common languages are highly encouraged, because that's what civilized people speak. Uncommon languages are mostly the non-human languages and older languages that aren't used much anymore, or are regional. Rare languages are basically the ancestral versions of languages, lost languages, or extra-planar languages. Oh, and I broke Draconic into Reptilian and Wrymish, because it doesn't make any damn sense to me why dragons and every reptile/lizard/snake got thrown in together for language. I also reforged Abyssal and Infernal into Fiendish to offset Celestial.

Edit: I forgot the original point of my digression on my campaign languages. Most languages are associated with other languages, and if you understand one, you have advantage on the Int check to communicate to someone who understands the other.
 

Charlaquin

Explorer
The player's handbook says that some languages use the same alphabets, but I don't know anywhere where it says that many languages are just different accents of each other.
Rya.Reisender seems to be referring to this passage from the PHB:
[FONT=&quot]Some of these languages are actually families of languages with many dialects. For example, the Primordial language includes the Auran, Aquan, Ignan, and Terran dialects, one for each of the four elemental planes. Creatures that speak different dialects of the same language can communicate with one another.”
[/FONT]
My guess is that there is (ironically) a translation error going on somewhere, and the subtlety between “dialect” and “accent” is getting lost, but they’re not wrong that the PHB says speakers of some languages can communicate with each other, but doesn’t specify any such languages other than the Primordial language group.
 

Hriston

Explorer
I think that passage is saying Primordial is a single language with four mutually intelligible dialects. Another obvious example would be Goblinoid, of which Goblin, Hobgoblin, and Bugbear would be separate but mutually intelligible dialects. Personally, I like to think of Orcish as a collection of dialects derived from Common, but which are unintelligible to orcs from different tribes as well as to other speakers of Common, so technically a bunch of separate languages. Ultimately, I think it’s a concept that makes language more customizable for use in one’s game-world and opens up opportunities for higher degrees of characterization. Wood elves could have a different dialect of Elvish from high elves, for example. There could be a different dialect of Common spoken in an exotic part of the world in which the party is adventuring, etc.
 
Last edited:

iserith

Explorer
I think that passage is saying Primordial is a single language with four mutually intelligible dialects. Another obvious example would be Goblinoid, of which Goblin, Hobgoblin, and Bugbear would be separate but mutually intelligible dialects. Personally, I like to think of Orcish as a collection of dialects derived from Common, but which are unintelligible to orcs from different tribes as well as to other speakers of Common, so technically a bunch of separate languages. Ultimately, I think it’s a concept that makes language more customizable for use in one’s game-world and opens up opportunities for higher degrees of characterization. Wood elves could have a different dialect of Elvish from high elves, for example. There could be a different dialect of Common spoken in an exotic part of the world in which the party is adventuring, etc.
The DMG also has a section on languages in the campaign world planning section that basically tells the DM to figure this out on his or her own according to the kind of setting he or she wants to present.
 

Advertisement

Top