Friday, March 18, 2016

Other Monster Languages

Let's say that you're determining languages known for a pregenerated PC, an NPC, or a magic sword. The table on AD&D DMG p. 102 is a good resource; it includes most of the well-known monster types for the game, with preference given for the most common types (e.g., 5% each for elves, dwarves, and orcs; combined 8% for giants and 10% for dragons; 4% for ogres, 3% for lizard men, etc.). One limitation: the largest category of all, the 86-100 roll, is devoted to "Human foreign or other (Select a foreign tongue, choose an unlisted creature language...)". What to do in that case?

Here's a supplemental tables of 100 other monster types that you can roll on in that case. These include only creatures from the Monster Manual; and Intelligence must be "Low" (as for ogres, trolls, hill giants) or better. I've deleted unique types, most undead, and some other subjective choices. I've left in a few types of exotic Men, assuming that they have their own dialects. (Here's an ODS spreadsheet if you want a closer look or to edit your own selections.)


  1. Interesting that you give all the types of demons different languages. When one demon summons another, would that mean they can only converse in their Alignment Language?

    1. Good observation, I guess we could infer that, yes?

    2. Yeah, I wasn't sure how keen you were on actually using alignment languages was the one uncertainty in the inference - it's a contentious subject for some people. Also interesting in that it would make it very difficult for players to talk to demons or devils unless the individual creature was determined to know Common (or you have evil party members).

    3. Yeah, I actually don't mind alignment languages; I think playing really by OD&D rules with the 3 basic alignments it makes more sense. When you expand the alignments to 9 then I agree that it becomes less coherent.

  2. Jeff Rients posted a good article Nov 8th 2008

    Observations and Speculations

    " When dwarves and elves meet, they can communicate in gnomish, goblish, or koboldish. My guess is that gnomish is the polite choice, while humanoid tongues are used to express disdain.
    " Gnomes can communicate with Criosphinxes in the tongues of burrowing mammals. Criosphinxes can communicate with Hobgoblins in Carnivorous Apish.
    " The number of sylvan folk who speak common surprised me. I am led to consider the possibility that every human village knows one or two local fey.
    " A titan and an ogre meet at a crossroads. They start telling each other dirty jokes in stone giantish.
    " The PCs need the help of the Treant King, so they must first gain the help of the local wood elves to act as interpreters. I hope a party member speaks elvish!""

  3. More observations from Gygax's 1st edition Monster Manual by Jeff Reints:

    " If you want to parlay with the monsters orcish and goblin seem like good languages to know. Given the ubiquity of orcish, its regular association with goblish, . .. I've decided that orcish is in fact the monstrous equivalent of common. Basically orcish is a mish-mash patois, based upon a foundation of goblish but peppered with idiomatic phrases and vocabulary borrowed from hobgoblish, koboldish, ogrish, gnollish, trollish, stone giant, and even the gruntings of carnivorous apes. Aside from those listed, about 1 in 6 monsters capable of speech know enough orcish to be able to ask where the bathrooms are located."