D&D (2024) The changes to languages are a good start

the Jester

I've been doing a lot of work on languages in my game for a while now. Much of this predates the One D&D playtest stuff; and my lists are incomplete as of yet, as I'm compiling them as I do a major edit of my monsters and am on "Varakhut" right now. Bearing that in mind, and with apologies for formatting issues, here's what I have so far:

my notes said:
Languages can be broken down into several (fairly arbitrary) categories.

  • Common Tongues: These are tongues that are widely spoken. Everyone speaks a common tongue, but what language that is depends on where you are. In most places where the campaign takes place, the “Common” that pcs speak is Imperial.
  • Ordinary Languages: These are languages that people are broadly familiar with and have heard of. It's not uncommon to find speakers of these languages.
  • Exotic Languages: These are languages that aren't widely spoken, and that many people have probably never heard or, in some cases, even heard of.
  • Extinct Languages: These are languages that have no surviving native speakers. Either the language has evolved into new forms or the people speaking it have died out.

Similarity: Similarity makes it easier to learn a new language. It is a discount in the time required (e.g. if you speak Imperial and you wish to learn Low Forinthian, you take only 200 days instead of 250 to reach full proficiency).

A creature that speaks a language with a similarity of 75% or higher is half-trained in that language.

Immersion: Being immersed in a language, where nobody around you is speaking any other language for the vast majority of the time, increasing the speed at which one gains proficiency in a language. Each day in such conditions counts as 2 days towards proficiency without spending downtime on training. A creature that actively trains under such conditions can instead count each day as 5.
Half Trained: Once a creature has reached the halfway point in learning a language, it can have a basic, but not complex, conversation with a speaker of that language using a combination of words, gestures, and pidgin.

Imperial Rapidly fracturing. 20% s. to Low Forinthian, 10% s. to Halfling, Orcish
Planar Common
Trade Eastern; 30% similar to Strogassian, 25% s. Peshan, Strog, 20% s. Imperial
Undercommon 10% similar to Dwarvish, Gnomish, and Terran

Dolphin 50% similar to Merellin, Whale
Draconic 20% similar to Yuan-Ti
Dwarvish 40% similar to Old D., 20% similar to Giant, 10% similar to Undercommon
Elvish 50% similar to Ancient Elvish, 10% similar to Drow, Halfling, Phanaton
Giant 20% similar to Dwarvish
Gnoll 10% similar to Abyssal
Gnomish 10% similar to Halfing, Sylvan
Goblin 20% similar to Imperial, 10% similar to Orcish
Halfling 10% similar to Elvish, Gnomish, Imperial, Pegataur
Imperial Sign Language 50% similar to Snap
Merellin 50% similar to Dolphin, 20% similar to Whale
Orcish 10% similar to Goblin, Imperial
Peshan 25% similar to Trade, Ancient Peshan; 10% similar to Hengeyokai
Sahuagin 10% similar to Aquan, Locathah
Snap 50% similar to Imperial Sign Language
Strog 25% similar to Trade
Sylvan 20% similar to Ancient Elvish, 10% similar to Gnomish
Tabaxi 20% similar to Ancient Miloxi
Whale 50% similar to Dolphin, 20% similar to Merellin, 10% similar to Aquan

Abyssal 20% similar to Kopru, 10% similar to Gnoll
Aquan 25% similar to Primordial; 10% similar to Sahuagin, Whale
Auran 25% similar to Primordial
Blindheim Language of flashes of light emitted by the blindheim's eyes
Blink Dog
Bullywug 20% similar to Grippli, Grung
Canus 10% similar to Ancient Miloxi
Celestial 20% similar to Lammasu
Clockwork Horror Spoken via radiocommunication only
Deep Speech
Dire Corby
Dopegee 40% similar to Umbral
Dromite 10% similar to Tlincalli
Drow 20% similar to Ancient Elvish, 10% similar to Elvish
Drow Sign Language
Druidic Secret language of druids
Giant Eagle
Giant Elk
Giant Owl
Githyanki 75% similar to Githzerai
Githzerai 75% similar to Githyanki
Grippli 20% similar to Bullywug, Grung
Grung 20% similar to Bullywug, Grippli
Gulgar Subsonic
Hengeyokai 10% similar to Peshan
Hook Horror Language of clicks made with hooks on carapace
Ibixian 20% similar to Abyssal, 10% similar to Strogassian
Ignan 25% similar to Primordial
Khen-Zai Language that includes wriggling of face tentacles (ethergaunts)
Kopru 20% similar to Abyssal
Lammasu 20% similar to Celestial
Locathah 10% similar to Sahuagin
Moonling A language of modulated light color and intensity
Nishruu A language of pulses and changes in the color and intensity of its glow
Odopi A language of gurgles, gestures, and hand claps (requiring dozens of hands)
Pegataur 35% similar to Elvish, 10% similar to Halfling
Phanaton 10% similar to Elvish
Plains Runner
Primordial 25% similar to Aquan, Auran, Ignan, Terran
Scalamagdrion Silent language of head, mouth, claw, and wing movements
Spirit Tongue
Susurrus Language of multi-voiced droning created by forcing air through many holes in the creature's body
Tabaxi 20% similar to Ancient Miloxi
Tako A language of color changes and tentacle gestures
Terran 25% similar to Primordial
Thieves' Cant Secret “language” of rogues
Thri-Kreen Language consisting of clicking mandibles and waving antennae
Tlincalli 10% similar to Dromite
Umber Hulk
Umbral 40% similar to Dopegee
Winter Wolf
Yuan-Ti 20% similar to Draconic, 10% similar to Ancient Peshan

Ancient Elvish 50% similar to Elvish, 20% similar to Drow, Sylvan
Ancient Forinthian 30% similar to High/Low Forinthian
High Forinthian 30% similar to Ancient F. 40% similar to Low F. 20% similar to Imperial
Low Forinthian 30% similar to Ancient F. 40% similar to High F. 40% similar to Imperial
Ancient Marru
Ancient Miloxi 20% similar to Tabaxi, 10% similar to Canus
Ancient Peshan 25% similar to Peshan, 10% similar to Yuan-Ti
Old Dwarvish 40% similar to Dwarvish
Strogassian 30% similar to Strog, Trade

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An awful lot of people just assume there's "sign language" and that it's somehow international,

An awful lot of people do that with a vocal language as well.

It's extremely interesting that some posters here reads "common sign language" as the indication that it underlines the existence of other sign languages (as opposed to say an unmentionned draconic sign language) while I see it as a sign that they lump all cultural languages as Common and they simply apply the same logic to all the cultural signed language.
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A suffusion of yellow
There's a lot of good stuff in the new languages lists:

The elevation of sign language -- in a way that reflects that sign is not a single universal language among all deaf people in the real world -- is fantastic. It's recognizing deaf gamers (I DM for one!) while also providing an obvious tactical use for languages for folks who aren't normally terribly excited about language selection. Fantastic inclusion, no notes.

That said, the rest of the list could be further improved:

1) For starters, we're still perpetuating the idea that every member of a species is the member of a culture with a single language, something we humans, with a globe-spanning presence, certainly haven't mastered. I think it'd be ideal if the 2024 PHB suggested that these are abstractions and realistically, most of these languages would actually be a number of languages -- many of them shared across species -- rather than singular languages, and when there is a species-spanning language, there's usually a supernatural reason for it happening, at least in part. (If the emissaries of the dwarven gods all speak Dwarvish, that's a strong motivation for dwarves to learn and use that language.)

2) D&D long ago tossed alignment languages into the trash can. It's probably time to do the same thing for Druidic, unless there's a compelling argument why they're more likely to have a secret language than other classes and why that secret language wouldn't just be Sylvan or Primordial. What special communications are the druids having -- and about what -- that they want to keep secret from dryads and water elementals? This is a weird holdover that doesn't seem to have a point. I've been playing since 1E and I've never seen it used in game, as opposed to Thieves Cant, which is used regularly in my rogue-heavy games.

I’ve always taken Druidic to be the set of gestures, body language and words that Druids use to speak to animal companions, then being used as a cant bewteen themselves. But yeah its not a biggy if it disappeared.

Thieves cants I’ve taken to be things like Cockney rhyming slang or Polari, used not just by thieves but also by theatre performers (Bards?), market hustlers, beggars, prostitutes and vagabonds.

Common is a Creole that developed to allow communicatiin between different species across the trade network. It has become established as a first language among some urban humans, thus the mistaken notion that it is a ‘human’ language.

Anyway beyond that I loathe racial languages and dont use them, indeed Humans and Giants living in the same region are more likely to speak the same language than two sets of humans from different nations. IMC I’ll thus use national or regional lamguages rather than racial ones.
of course there are certain species traits that might be common - eg Tabaxi language includes trills, growls and tail movements that express emotion and intent in a way that other races cant replicate (other than Druids :p)


Racial languages are weird and should be dropped.

Knowing a language should mean you know about the culture too.

So knowing the language (northern barbarian) would mean that you also effectively have the skill history & culture (northern barbarian) too.

Same for planar languages etc... You want to interpret an elementals behaviour? If you can speak primordial odds are you can.


There's an irony that of all the things D&D took from Tolkien, the one thing it didn't take was the richness of languages in his world. Tolkien would have scoffed at the notion of there being one Elvish language!

That said, I'm not crazy about how languages are handled in the game, particularly the notion of racial languages. However, there's a pragmatic argument for keeping the number of languages limited. The more languages that you have in a setting, the less useful the language skill becomes. One way to go might be to make languages optional and then let each setting offer it's own guidelines - maybe organize languages more around regional clusters, as in the real world. So that fluency with one offered a bit of help in understanding related tongues at a simple level.

To be honest, although I do use different languages in game, I mostly just hand wave the issue when it isn't directly useful to the plot.

It never occurred to me that sign language was not universal. I always thought it was just one language that every deaf person learned. I do think it would be cooler if it worked that way.


Using lots of languages in your campaign makes it more realistic, but for me it's one of those things, like tracking encumbrance or ammunition or spell components, that I mostly handwave away to keep the game moving. There's a reason most scifi ignores the difficulty that aliens would have in communicating. Unless there's an interesting story to be told about that difficulty, having language barriers gets in the way of the story you do want to tell.


Using lots of languages in your campaign makes it more realistic, but for me it's one of those things, like tracking encumbrance or ammunition or spell components, that I mostly handwave away to keep the game moving. There's a reason most scifi ignores the difficulty that aliens would have in communicating. Unless there's an interesting story to be told about that difficulty, having language barriers gets in the way of the story you do want to tell.
Speaking of interesting stories....

"Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra."


He Mage
Nice original post.

On these in my campaigns:

6) That said, what do the residents of the Neutral Planes speak?
I have the Neutral immortals speak Primordial, and the Neutral Outer Plane be the same thing as the Elemental Chaos.

What's the common language of Sigil?
Sigil is Neutral, whence its native language is Primordial, but it is cosmopolitan and multilingual.

Or the residents of the Shadowfell?
The residents of the Shadowfell speak the languages that they spoke in life. Shadowfell is inherently multilingual. There is no native Shadow language.

  • For starters, residents of the Planes of Law, of everyone in the entire multiverse, would be super-keen to have their own language, spoken across half the Upper Planes. Taking a cue from 3E, call it "Axiomatic."
Axiomatic works for me. In my campaign, the Lawful immortals speak "Mechan".

  • Meanwhile, residents of the Planes of Chaos seem likely to speak their own local languages. There is no organization likely to impose a common language on everyone and the residents of these planes are too fractious to go along with it for long.
The Chaotic immortals speak "Liberan", prizing personal freedom above all else.

  • Another 2E language that has drifted into obscurity is Jannti, the language of genies. Xorn and frost salamanders are unlikely to sit around and chew the fat, but genies are all about seeing and being seen, visiting each others palaces and cities with great retinues and fanfare. They need a courtly language that lends itself to poetry, seduction, diplomacy and betrayal. (It also distinguishes them from other elementals, whom you know the genies look down on.)
Elemental creatures such as genies speak Primordial.

What do you think?

History is the skill for languages and cultures, including decoding cyphers and solving riddles.

A History check can figure out an unknown language or an unfamiliar dialect.

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