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


He Mage
If I recall correctly, in previous editions, Thieves Cant isnt a separate language.

It is a method of using slang and double-entendres to communicate criminal information while speaking casually in plain sight.

The Cant can be highly detailed but takes longer to communicate.

Accordingly, any language can be used for Thieves Cant.

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Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In my own game, I haven’t broken languages into levels of proficiency, but I do have a linguistics skill, and each language has related languages with degrees of relation. Eg, Spanish and Italian have a closer relationship than Latin and French, even though they’re all related languages. One use of Linguistics is to attempt to interpret a language you have either passing knowledge of, or proficiency in a related language.

I’ve thought about treating languages as skills, and your Upbringing languages are always considered mastered, but you don’t spend skill ranks on them, they have their own pool of ranks.


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.
FR did do regional languages, that could be considered as local culture.

But, I would not drop racial languages.

In a game where we have gods and clerics it's very easy to explain why whole race can speak the same language,

1. All clerics are mandated to know it, and by it, if you need any service of them, you will speak to them in that language.
Similar how church used Latin for centuries despite the local languages being different around Europe and the rest of the world.

2. "Gods did it". Divine intervention or genetic memory, you just know your racial language as you know how to breathe.
If you can teleport, or breathe fire or create darkness, you can know a language innately.

3. Traditions, as with clerics, we could say that specific racial language is only "official" language for state business.
All laws, decrees, royal charts and what not is only done in that language.
Sure, there can be translation for "common tongue" with that in pair, but racial language is mandatory.

I agree with everything. Not much to add, but having different elemental language and planar languages would make the whole thing more interesting.

Imo, Celestial and Primordial are the Common tongues of the Upper and Elemental Planes, with each divinity or elemental group having their own distinct languages.

I kind of like the idea that Lower Planes have no Common tongue because a) nothing is easy and b) because of of the War. It keeps the grunts at the front lines from deciding that fighting each other is pointless and turning on the generals.

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I kind of like the idea that Lower Planes have no Common tongue because a) nothing is easy and b) because of of the War. It keeps the grunts at the front lines from deciding that fighting each other is pointless and turning on the generals.
There are normally common languages used in war, because you can't question prisoners, negotiate surrenders, etc., without one.


Pedantic Grognard
The core problem is that there's no single, universally-satisfying answer to what to do with language. Realistic-historical language variance is a massive annoying pain (or a sink for spellcasting) unless your table is specifically getting fun from playing it. Everybody in the entire multiverse speaking the same language is obviously and jarringly unrealistic. Every compromise between those two points simultaneously mixes some level of annoying pain with some level of jarring unrealism, and thus can be argued against from both sides simultaneously.

Given that, my personal opinion is the best way to handle things is to basically stick with the 5e list (which this does), which is itself a compromise of the 3.x and 4e lists (the 5e "Primordial with dialects" is, of course, a baltant compromise between the 3.x separate Aquan/Auran/Ignan/Terran and and 4e "Primordial" elemental language).

I mean, adding "Common Sign Language" is fine. Swapping "Humans" out and "Anyone" in as speakers of Common is minor. Renaming "Exotic Languages" as "Rare Languages" is a fairly obvious "sensitivity" change. Putting Druidic and Thieves' Cant explicitly on the list is a change, but they were already mentioned in the 5e druid and rogue class entries.

But a deep rethink of the list, as being suggested in this thread, particularly for what's not supposed to be a major edition change? I don't think it gains enough to be worth the incompatibility with existing material. A bit in the DMG about "Languages in Your Campaign", now, that'd be potentially worthwhile . . .

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