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Languages

Your race indicates the languages your character can speak by default, and your background might give you access to one or more additional languages of your choice. Note these languages on your character sheet.

Choose your languages from the Standard Languages table, or choose one that is common in your campaign. With your GM’s permission, you can instead choose a language from the Exotic Languages table or a secret language, such as thieves’ cant or the tongue of druids. Some of these languages are actually families of languages with many dialects. For example, the Primordial language includes the Auran, Aquan, Ignan, and Terran dialects, one for each of the four elemental planes. Creatures that speak different dialects of the same language can communicate with one another.

By default, all characters can read and write the languages they are proficient in. This is certainly the most convenient way to handle things, but you may want to use different rules if you wish to depict a universe where the written word is rare and precious. To that effect, you can use the following optional rule:

You can speak, but not write in the languages you are proficient in, unless you are learned.

You are considered to be learned if you are proficient in at least one of the following skills or tools: Arcana, History, Investigation, Nature, Religion, calligrapher’s supplies, forgery kit.

If you are learned, write “Learned” next to the list of languages you are proficient in.

If you are learned and proficient in the Performance skill or in a musical instrument, you can read sheet music. Otherwise, you can only learn a tune if you hear it. Write “Sheet music” next to your list of languages if you can read and write music.

Your character can be learned from 1st level or acquire it later by becoming proficient in one of the relevant skills. The phase of your life during which you became learned (whether due to your species, background, or class) will give you an idea of how old you were when you learned to read and write. The skill or tool through which you became learned will also provide context and background information: learning the alphabet from a master forger is not the same as learning it in the course of studious religious classes in a monastery. You can draw from these elements to imagine snippets of your past.

Standard Languages
Language Typical Speakers Script
Common Humans Common
Dwarvish Dwarves Dwarvish
Elvish Elves Elvish
Giant Ogres, giants Dwarvish
Gnomish Gnomes Dwarvish
Goblin Goblinoids Dwarvish
Halfling Halflings Common
Orc Orcs Dwarvish
Exotic Languages
Language Typical Speakers Script
Abyssal Demons Infernal
Celestial Celestials Celestial
Draconic Dragons, dragonborn Draconic
Deep Speech Aboleths, cloakers
Infernal Devils Infernal
Primordial Elementals Dwarvish
Sylvan Fey creatures Elvish
Undercommon Underworld traders Elvish

Language Descriptions

Language descriptions below via Fateforge Role-Playing Game Adventurers Core Rulebook

Celestial

This language designates itself as mdw-ntr (pronounced meh-dou net-chair), meaning “the godly words.” Celestial is warm, soft, and alluring. It takes a certain mastery to be able to pronounce it correctly and to succeed in giving one’s words both the lightness of a feather and the majestic strength of a great raptor.

Deep Speech

An eerie tongue, Deep Speech is a clicking language with unsettling vocalizations that can almost sound like noise. Vibrating, creaking, and trembling sounds complement this mode of communication, making it hard for humanoid vocal cords to mimic.

Demonic

Demonic is a melodic tongue with a strange vocal aesthetic that seems to ring out in multiple echoes. Evil voices in cursed places or on Melancholia might sound similar to polyphonic or diphonic singing.

Someone who speaks this tongue sounds like they are speaking in multiple vibrating voices, drawing out certain syllables.

Diabolic

Solemn, regal, and powerful, the Diabolic language seems to have been created to be spoken by emperors.

Complex, with elegant, crisp writing, it snaps and rings out like an order, an oath, or a sentence.

Depending on the speaker and circumstances, it can sound like a gong, a whiplash, or sometimes the low hissing of a snake moving through sand. Many cannot help but shiver when they hear even just snatches of this tongue.

Draconic

This language has harsh sonorities that may be reminiscent of shouting or growling. It has two main variants: the one spoken by dragons and the one that humanoid people make use of. In their written form, the two are very similar, but when spoken, the dragon variant always sounds more powerful. This is because these creatures are able to pronounce part of their words as infrasounds, meaning that they carry over long distances, similarly to the low, far-reaching rumbling of thunder. In certain cases, a dragon’s speech can be heard over several miles.

Draconic is the only language to remain perfectly intelligible whether the speaker is whispering or yelling.

Primordial

The primeval language of the spirits of the wild has soft, heady sonorities with mineral accents, reminiscent of wind, echoes, vibrations, and resonances. Each elemental expresses itself in accordance with its nature, be it with the sounds of lapping water or the roaring of flame. However, no matter their mode of vocalization, the breath of life that animates them and connects them with Eana manifests itself in the same way. Learning to speak Primordial means learning to listen to the world.

Sylvan

Sylvan is a whistling tongue that brings to mind the singing of birds and the whisper of the wind through the trees. The vocabulary and grammar of Sylvan has many similarities with Elvish, which is not surprising considering the fey origin of elves.

Sylvan speakers are capable of reaching very high tones, sometimes even ultrasounds. It is a common occurrence for humans to remain mystified before the near-inaudible speech of fey beings, while their dogs react with alarm or curiosity.

Undercommon

Undercommon is a hybrid language with elements (vocabulary, syntax, and grammar) cobbled together from Deep Speech, Dwarvish, and Elvish.

Its sonorities find their roots in these three tongues, resulting in a heterogeneous mixture in which soft and harsh sounds alternate with clicking syllables.

Written Undercommon may appear rather easy to understand, but its oral version is harder to master.

The elocution is rapid, with many abbreviations and subtle intonations that give meaning to the message as distinctly as words do. Nonverbal language plays a big part and varies depending on the species.

Drow, duergar, and svirfneblin do not always use the same signs. It is not unusual that a particular hand movement or look complements the speech, transmitting nuances to the interlocutor or an additional message to a third party—to suggest a surprise attack, for example.

Secret Languages

Certain social groups make use of particular intricacies of communication to exchange messages whose meaning remains hidden to the uninitiated. Thieves and druids are the prime examples.

Their Secret Languages are not actually languages proper, but rather jargons: they use the grammatical structure and part of the lexicon of a language, replacing words and expressions. As such, users of a Secret Language still need a common language to communicate with each other.

A thief of the Free City who exclusively speaks Cyfand will not be able to make herself understood by a foreign thief who only knows Kaani, even if both have mastered thieves’ cant.

Thieves’ Cant

The lexicon of thieves’ cant includes verbs, nouns, and expressions whose purpose is to describe civilized society (guards, burghers, commoners, etc.), dangers (traps, guard dogs, lookouts, etc.), methods of thievery and swindling (with details aplenty), the splitting of loot, and legal punishments.

Therefore, one could organize a heist with thieves’ cant, but not discuss the finer points of philosophy, for example.

Druidic

The language of druids is more of a poetic technique of expression. It makes use of archaic terms, metaphors, similes, and allegories that refer to a complex cultural body. Apprentices are frequently encouraged to meditate upon myths with several layers of interpretation: historical events, references to the cycles of nature, teachings about Eana, etc. Some of the greatest secrets of druids are hidden inside legends that many bards know and sing to whoever wants to hear them. However, whoever hasn’t mastered Druidic will be unable to grasp their full meaning.

To understand the secrets of a myth, poem, or tale newly created in accordance with the codes of druids, someone who speaks Druidic can make an Intelligence (Religion) check. The DC depends on how concentrated and concealed the information is, and can range from 15 to 30.