Why do I -strongly- dislike racial languages

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In a world where Gods are real and their miracles are an everyday event. The Clergy is probably what unifys races and peoples into having common languages. Aren't a lot of the PHB languages decended from supernatural sources? Fey, Elemental, Astral, Giants.....

These would fragment into thousands of dialets... if the Gods were not paying attension. As the patron god of Dwarfs, it is in Moradin's best interest to make sure all dwarfs speak dwarf. To increase unity among the Faithful. In most prior Editions you did not see so much of regional, or national languages, you saw racial languages, and they were pretty much broken down across religious lines. In 1E Wood elves spoke wood elf and worshiped Sylvanous, Sea elves spoke sea elf and worhiped the elven god of the seas, gnomes spoke gnomish and worshiped the gnomish gods, and so on.... Goblins, Bugbears, Gnolls, Dwarfs, Halflings, Ogres, Drow... All were racially and religously seperate.

It was the Gods that promoted racial languages and unity of each race. At least in prior editions.

You may know ALL the rules, but I KNOW the Spirit of the Game.

I think there is 2 basic considerations.

1) Are you playing a Game where everyone wants to just roll dice and have fun and work together. Or...
2) Are you playing a Shared Story, where it is not so much about the rules as about the unfolding story and everyone adding to it.


These have to exist independently of each other?
Not really. But, in my experience groups and individual lean toward one or the other.

And... the advice handed out usually falls into one or the other.

You may know ALL the rules, but I KNOW the Spirit of the Game.

Back in the day, we had alignment languages. That's right, every Chaotic Evil critter could speak with every other Chaotic Evil creature.

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Of the two approaches to hobby games today, one is best defined as the realism-simulation school and the other as the game school. AD&D is assuredly an adherent of the latter school. It does not stress any realism (in the author's opinon an absurd effort at best considering the topic!). It does little to attempt to simulate anything either. (AD&D) is first and foremost a game for the fun and enjoyment of those who seek the use of imagination and creativity.... In all cases, however, the reader should understand that AD&D is designed to be an amusing and diverting pastime, something which an fill a few hours or consume endless days, as the participants desire, but in no case something to be taken too seriously. For fun, excitement and captivating fantasy, AD&D is unsurpassed.As a realistic simulation of things from the realm of make-believe or even as a reflection of midieval or ancient warfare or culture or society, it can be deemed only a dismal failure. Readers who seek the later must search elsewhere. - Gary Gygax. 1e DMG.
Sorta off-topic, sorry.

I remember when I first started watching Stargate: SG-1 and being angry that the linguist on the team wasn't being used very much. Despite going to different worlds, everyone just seemed to speak English. It didn't take very long for me to realize that if these characters had to overcome a new language or dialect in every episode, it'd get tedious as hell.

I was kind of annoyed with languages in 3e (with each new race introduced, a whole new language would crop up - remember Raptorans and their language, Tuilvilanue?), but 4e has managed to tamed this beast a little.
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
all races should be able to speak their native tongue (whichever that would be, nation or race or group of races or nations), some trade and diplomacy language of the larger region (the so-called "common") and have an option to speak other, more distant languages. And end it at that


That could work fine for all those DMs who like to homebrew their worlds, but I think for the default game, there's a segment of the maret who likes having a generic default world.  Particularly, DMs want to know which monsters are intended to be able to interact with the PCs and which cannot.

I suppose they could list languages as "Local", "Trade", "Foreign" and "Alien".  Local means the race should speak the common tongue of the vicinity in which it is found.  "Trade" means the race is sufficiently cosmopolitan to be able to speak whatever is the world's "lingua franca" used by traders as a common language.  "Foreign" means the race speaks it's own personal language, be it racial, or foreign.  "Alien" means the race speaks a language from another world, that only speaers from that world can speak.

PCs would all get one "Local" language.  Most will want to learn "Trade".  It's then up to the DM to decide what other languages are available for PCs to pick up.  In addition, they might be able to take proficiency in "Foreign" and "Alien", which means they've studied languages in general and have a chance of being able to communicate crudely with other creatures that speak a foreign  or alien language

This is all sounding unnecessarily complicated though.
Off topic (real-world language discussion)...

Furthermore, I don't know about the Latin based languages, but Medieval German, Dutch and English are surprisingly similar

Actually, not the least bit surprising. It has something to do with the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. The Angeln, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians were the four major Germanic tribes in that invasion. They lived in an area now known as the Netherlands, Denmark, and northwestern Germany, with the Saxons having  most of the land but the Frisians and Jutes having most of the coast (and the Angeln sort of tucked in a corner near the eastern end of the modern border between Germany and Denmark). They would all have spoken closely-related languages, and Old Frisian - spoken in the Netherlands - is regarded as the language most closely related to Old English.

and while deciphering such texts is not particularly easy it is not hard for me either

Try reading it out loud. Just pretend it's badly spelled modern English, read it, listen to what you're saying (or have someone else listen) as if it's badly pronounced modern English.

I don't recall if I figured this trick out myself, or was told it, back when I was in high school and tried to read Beowulf in Old English. But it also works for Old Dutch birth and death records.

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
TL;DR, make languages based on political distinction, not racial.

Didn't really read the whole thread, but as some have probably said, political boundaries are entirely campaign-specific.  There's no way a book like the PHB could outline a list of languages that would be any more helpful than "Language 1, Language 2, Language 3, etc."  The place for this is in specific campaign setting materials, which has indeed been done.

Furthermore, a great majority of players and DMs could care less about languages.  95% of the sessions I've been in used nothing but Common.  Languages like Elvish or Dwarvish are often just used to add ancient or exotic flavor to carvings on a temple or goblet.

If languages are important to you, they are the easiest things in the world to homebrew.  If books tried to cater to every small need like how you might want to use languages in a campaign, they'd be thousands of pages thick.  Just do it how you want - there are 0 mechanics involved here.
Furthermore, a great majority of players and DMs could care less about languages.  95% of the sessions I've been in used nothing but Common.  Languages like Elvish or Dwarvish are often just used to add ancient or exotic flavor to carvings on a temple or goblet.

True, but can be played with in amusing ways.

My Eladrin dancer once recited an Eladrin nursery rhyme in the Elvish equivalent of Pig Latin, as part of a bluff "ritual"...

I got a good dice roll, so he succeeded in convincing the local humans that he was just barely succeeding in restraining the shaman's minotaur-spirit companion - as long as they didn't entice it with the smell of fresh blood. The just-starting riot abruptly stopped.


"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
I think the racial languages thing arose because the game was designed to be kind-of "generic." Most people just don't care about the languages, and they've seen Lord of the Rings where it really does seem like everybody speaks the human language, and all Dwarves speak Dwarven. There are three explicit elven languages, but most people don't know that. They also can't tell you that actually, there are several different human languages... Adunaic and Westron, to name but two of the many. Of course the bad guys all speak "Black Speech." It is actually very illustrative of the fact that most people who "know" what vampires are like based on Dracula have not actually read the book, and get it collossally wrong. 

Anyway, long and short of it is that for most people, the current system is "good enough." Being married to a linguist, I know it is unrealistic by I just don't care enough to put in the time to make something more realistic. And is more realistic better? For some people, sure. I prefer spending my DM thinking time planning plots and encounters and cool new toys to give my players (like magic items, themes, mounts, that kind of thing). If you want to spend your DM thinking time coming up with a much more realistic structure for languages, that's awesome. Totally respect that, I can understand it. It's just not for me.

What the OP is talking about is also something that, as pointed out, must necessarily be somewhat campaign specific. I never use purchased worlds because I always find them annoying; I prefer world building (not for everybody, but I enjoy it). I guess just spend the time at it, if it bothers you and you would enjoy spending time at it. As a player, I would appreciate it for sure. As a DM, I want to do other things. The racial languages are good enough for me. As it happens, in my setting, there is very good justification for everybody speaking a single unified human language... however, since 400 years have passed, local variations have no doubt come up... but at this stage are almost certainly mutually intelligible.

Now to call the police and talk to them in a language I barely speak about something that concerns a great deal of money. Whee! 
Resident jark. Resident Minister of Education and Misinformation.
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