Languages & Literacy

Our thanks goes to WineGod for originally compiling this guide. References used included, Races of Faerun and The Player’s Handbook (v3.5).

Languages work as follows:

  • You start at 1st level knowing one to four languages (based on your race and class), plus an additional number of languages equal to your starting Intelligence bonus.
  • You either know a language or you don’t.
  • A literate character can read and write any language she speaks. Each language has an alphabet, though sometimes several spoken languages share a single alphabet.
  • Note: Barbarians are not considered to be literate.

Automatic and Bonus Languages
Depending on the Race and Region of a character, he may have one to a few Automatic languages. He may also take Bonus languages based on his Intelligence Bonus. (ex. 12 INT = 1 bonus language). The following languages are always available as bonus languages to characters, regardless of race or region:

Abyssal, Aquan, Auran, Celestial, Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Goblin, Giant, Gnoll, Halfling, Ignan, Infernal, Orc, Sylvan, Terran, and Undercommon.

To know how many languages a character will know upon creation, first find his racial entry below. That race’s Automatic Languages are languages that all members of that race know. Once Automatic Languages are determined, a number of Bonus Languages may be chosen equal to the character’s Intelligence bonus.

A Shield Dwarf with an Intelligence score of 16 will know Dwarven and Common as Automatic Languages, and then will be able to choose three additional languages because his Intelligence bonus is +3.

Low Intelligence
Characters with a negative INT modifier will lose languages from their automatic list depending on the negative score (8 INT is -1 score, so you lose 1 language, 6 INT is -2 score, so you lose 2 languages). However, the DM team has decided that every character will know a minimum of 1 language. So even Half-Orcs with 6 INT will be able to choose either Common or Orc to speak (albeit very, very badly).

Languages have dialects, but a dialect is just a dialect, and not a separate language. For example, [Wild Elven] is a dialect of the Elven tongue, any Elf who speaks Elven will be able to freely communicate with Elves who speak with a Wild Elven dialect, but that Elf will not speak with a Wild Elven dialect himself (unless he chooses to and is able to for some valid storyline reason).

One real world example of this would be the various dialects of the English language. The English that’s spoken in England is different from that of Toronto or New York, and those in turn are different from the American southern dialect. But they can all understand one another and communicate (in most cases). It has also been decided that only Elves or Half-Elves will be able to properly understand the lesser known dialects of any language (such as the Wild varieties).

Home Region Human Languages
Please consult the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting sourcebook (or the list below for Humans) for a list of regional languages. Please note that these languages are all Human variants of the Common tongue, and no region offers Elven, Dwarven or any other different racial language as a regional choice.

Some non-human races may have the human language of their home region as an automatic language in addition to their racial language and Common.

Regional Languages List

  • Aglarond: Aglarondan
  • Amn: Chondathan
  • Anauroch: Midani
  • Caimshan: Alzhedo
  • Chessenta: Chessentan
  • Chondalwood: Shaaran
  • Chult: Chultan
  • Cormyr: Chondathan
  • Dalelands: Chondathan
  • Damra: Damaran
  • Dragon Coast: Chondathan
  • Evermeet: Elven Great
  • Dale: Damaran
  • Halruaa: Halruaan
  • High Forest: Chondathan
  • Hordelands: Tuigan
  • Impiltur: Damaran
  • Lake of Steam: Shaaran
  • Lantan: Lantanese
  • Luiren: Halfling, Shaaran
  • Moonsea: Damaran
  • Moonshae Isles: Illuskan
  • Mulhorand: Mulhorandi
  • Narfell: Damaran
  • Nelanther Isles: Chondathan
  • The North: Chondathan, Illuskan
  • Rashemen: Rashemi
  • Sembia: Chondathan
  • The Shaar: Shaaran
  • Silverymoon: Chondathan, Illuskan
  • Tashalar: Tashalan
  • Tethyr: Chondathan
  • Thay: Mulhorandi
  • Thesk: Damaran
  • Unther: Untheric
  • Vaasa: Damaran
  • The Vast: Damaran
  • Vilhon Reach: Chondathan, Shaaran, Turmic
  • Waterdeep: Chondathan
  • Western Heartlands: Chondathan

Learning Additional Languages in this Module
The DM team has decided to use the “Appraise” skill to represent the PnP “Speak Language” skill. Characters wishing to learn additional languages beyond that of their INT bonus languages may take ranks in the Appraise skill to represent a new language learned. Every 1 rank in the Appraise skill will represent 1 language. Note however, that any bonus ranks in the Appraise skill due to your INT modifier do not count toward extra languages. A Player must literally place a rank in the skill to learn a language.

Note: The Appraise skill is not used for anything else in this module. Keep that in mind when making a character and deciding where to allocate skill points.