Ruins of Adventure
As for everything else (“sentient” races, rulers, gods, and year-numbering systems) there is a plethora of linguistic variety in the Realms. There are racial languages and regional dialects, professional symbols and secret tongues. There are five “universal” written scripts, and as many differing individual languages as there are those to speak them.
Most people are only semi-literate at best, that is, they know enough of the written language to get by in their daily lives. The fact that written language is not universally understood accounts for many of the specialized sigils and runes within the Realms, as well as the popularity of bards.
Literacy is most common among the upper and more professional classes, but even then it is rare. Westgate, southern Sembia, and perhaps Hillsfar in the Heartlands and Waterdeep on the Sword Coast are predominantly literate areas. Elsewhere one must “trust to your tongue,” as wayfarers say.
Common Tongue: Almost all intelligent creatures one might encounter can understand and speak “Common”, a “trade pidgin” of humans, spoken with little variance all across the known Realms), although they may pretend not to. From region to region of the Realms, common may have different accents and slightly different vocabularies as it becomes influenced by other local human and non-human tongues. While a native of Thay will be able to communicate with a denizen of Baldur’s Gate, each will be aware of the other’s ridiculous accent.
The Common tongue is useful for carrying out basic communication, but lacks complex syntax and nuance. One can use it to purchase goods and convey basic ideas intelligibly, but the Common tongue does not support complex communication.
Note to players: If your character is speaking in the Common tongue, you should limit your communication to words of not more than 2 syllables, and to basic subject verb object grammar.
In a similar fashion, non-human tongues each belong to the same linguistic tree, so that elves native to Evereska, Evermeet, and the Elven Court may understand each other (barring, again, local dialects and accent).
Druids and thieves have their own private languages, which they do not share with individuals outside their community. They cannot be learned by an outsider but are available to individuals who are druids and thieves (thus is similar to the illusionists’ use of Ruathlek).
Finally, some creatures can communicate with animals or plants, and some spells grant the same abilities. This does not mean that these beings have a language or intelligence, merely that communication is made possible on a deep, almost empathic level. With a few exceptions (such as gnomes speaking with burrowing mammals), such communication may not be learned as a language.
Languages of the Realms:
Ancient Languages: (Ancient Languages proficiency)
|Language||Family||Region||Google Translate Equivalent|
|Auld Tharian||Thari||Moonsea, Ogre Magi|
|Noga 10||Mulani||Northern Moonsea, The Ride||Tamil (transliterate to Roman characters)|
|Auld Cormanthan||Thorass||The Great Dale, Elven Woods|
|Auld Wyrmish 1||Dragons|
Human Languages: (Modern Language proficiency)
- Note: Because of their similarities, a character can learn to speak all languages within a given family (excluding Ancient Languages) for a cost of 3 non-weapon proficiency slots.
|Language||Family||Region||Google Translate Equivalent|
|Bothii||Illuski||Barbarian Kingdoms, High Forest|
|Drueidan 8||Waelan||a.k.a. “Druidic”|
|Daelic 8||Waelan||Druids of Chauntea|
|Rauthlek 8 9||Netherese||Nimbral|
|Easting||Netherese||The Vast, Impiltur||Bengali (transliterated)|
|Uluik||Ulou||Sea of Moving Ice|
|Ulutiun||Ulou||The Great Glacier|
|Northern||Thorass||Neverwinter, Mirabar, Silverymoon, Waterdeep|
|“Shadow Cant” 8||Thorass||a.k.a. Thieves’ Cant|
|Cormanthan||Thorass||Cormyr, Dales, Sembia||German|
|“Trade Pidgin”||Thorass||a.k.a. Common||English|
|Maiden’s Tongue 8||Thorass||Priests of Loviatar|
|Zhent Argot 8||Thari||Secret tongue of the Zhentarim|
|Akurian||Chessan||Samarach, Thindol, Tashulta|
|Shaartan||Chessan||Lake of Steam, Shaar, Tharsult|
|Durpari Creole||Durpari||Eastern Shar|
Non-Human Languages: (Modern Languages proficiency)
Oddly, the languages of most non-human races differ only in their dialect despite their regional location and distance from one another. There is, as yet, no explanation for this phenomenon. Some sages believe that this homogeny among nonhuman races is an expression of the divine might of the nonhuman gods…others scoff at this theory.
- Translate as Persian.
- Kentaur (Centaur)
- Dolphin 2
- Draconic, Chromatic 1
- Draconic, Gem 1
- Draconic, Metallic 1
- Draconic, Linnorm 1
- Dragon Turtle
- Dethek (Dwarvish)
- Translate as Danish.
- Espruar (Elvish)
- Faerie (a shared tongue among sylvan fae folk)
- Genie Tongue
- Jotun (Giant Common) 3
- Jotunhaug (Hill Giant) 3
- Jotunstein (Stone Giant) 3
- Jotunise (Frost Giant) 3
- Jotunild (Fire Giant) 3
- Jotunskye (Cloud Giant) 3
- Jotunuvar (Storm Giant) 3
- Giant Eagle
- Gnim (Gnomish)
- Chuklian (Goblin)
- Hatian-Creole. Reverse syntax.
- Luiric (Halfling)
- Translate as Latvian.
- Invisible Stalker
- Translate as Dutch.
- Yipyak (Kobold)
- Translate as Turkish.
- Lizard Man
- Night Hag
- Jogishk (Ogres)
- Icelandic. Always punctuated with exclamations!
- Replace T, F, and þ with P. Change non-accented i and e to u.
- Daraktan (Orc)
- Macedonian. Transliterate to roman characters.
- Remove all m, n, y, and i characters.
- Planar Slang (“common” tongue of the planes)
- The Were-Tongues of Lycanthropy 6
- Troll (Troll Hills) 4
- Umber Hulk
- Undercommon (Underdark common) 5
- Whale 2
- Will-O-Wisp 2
- Translate as Vietnamese.
Sign Languages: (Sign Language proficiency)
1 Auld Wyrmish is the ancestral language of all dragons, and the tongue which they use when communicating with each other across species lines. In addition, there are four common tongues shared by dragons of similar temperament. One each for Chromatic, Metallic, Gem, and Linnorm dragons. Each dragon subspecies has its own tongue, derived from auld wyrmish. These tongues may be treated as separate languages, though a knowledge of auld wyrmish or one of the generic dragon tongues will serve the traveler well.
2 While these creatures have a common language among themselves, the nature of the language is undetectable by humans-dolphins use sounds higher than human hearing, whales use sounds lower than human hearing, and will-o-wisps use intensities of their own lights.
3 Giants have a common tongue used by all of their race and in addition have their own sub-languages. Common giant and hill giant would be considered two separate languages.
4 Trolls speak in a variety of tongues, consisting of corrupted and debauched phrases and loan words from other languages. Speaking troll refers only to the dialect of the Trollbark Forest and High Moors. Beyond this (say, in the Great Gray Land of Thar), the speaker might as well be talking in Midani.
5 Undercommon is the trade language of the Underdark. It differs fundamentally from the common used on the surface and uses sentence structure and loan words from the races beneath the earth.
6 Each type of lycanthrope has its own native tongue that is shared by the others of its breed. Each were-tongue must be learned separately, and cannot be used with lycanthropes of different breeds. In other words, a person speaking were-tiger cannot communicate with a were- bear.
7 There are numerous dwarven clans, each with their own unique set of signs. The most prominent are Clan Adbar (in the area around Neverwinter), Clan Battlehammer (in the Spine of the World mountains north of Silverymoon and the Barbarian Kingdoms), and Clan Griff (in the Galena Mountains and the Moonsea Region).
8 These are so-called “Secret Languages”, only available to members of specific classes or kits.
9 Rauthlek is the magical language of illusionists (as noted above). However, unlike illusionists, the people of Nimbral have developed Rauthlek into a fully developed spoken language, covering topics both magical and mundane.
10 All record of the Nogese culture has been erased from the recorded history of the Realms. The Ancient Languages (Noga) proficiency is forbidden without special approval by the DM — usually because the character is a Mystic of Nog or member of the churchs of Duvan’Ku or The Blessed Afflictor.
Like other Proficiencies, each language that a character knows has a proficiency score. This is typically equal to the character’s Knowledge score, but may be improved by spending additional proficiency slots and subject to other modifiers. The guidelines below can give you an idea of what level of communication your character is capable of. The GM may also call for proficiency checks for using a known language under certain circumstances.
|1-2||Recognizes and is able to produce the sounds of the language, but knows at most a handful of words. Illiterate.|
|3-4||Recognizes and speaks a few simple phrases. Illiterate.|
|5||Moderate level speaking ability, around the level of a 4 year old child. Illiterate.|
|6-7||Can recognize written letters and numbers, but cannot read.|
|8-9||Adequately fluent, enough so that if spoken to slowly and clearly, and in simple terms, will understand. Illiterate|
|10-11||Conversationally fluent, can hold relatively simple conversations, ask for common things (food, drink, where’s the outhouse, etc.). Reads at the level of the average first-grader.|
|12-13||Good fluency in speech, able to converse at a normal conversational level, though with unusual accentuation if not the character’s native language, and most idiomatic expressions are difficult. Reads at the level of the average fifth-grader.|
|14||Adequate level of literacy equivalent to the average freshman.|
|15||Most idiomatic expressions known. Literacy at the level of the average secondary school graduate.|
|16||Exceptional speaking ability, familiar with complex expressions.|
|17||Highly literate, at least collegiate level reading and writing skill.|
|18||Familiar with highly complex expressions.|
|19||Exceptional literacy, at the level of expert novelist.|
|20||Linguistics expert in speaking, reading, and writing, can accentuate perfectly in the language, even if it is not the character’s native language.|