One of the first things that Eberron really does to distinguish itself from the traditional understanding of race and language in Dungeons & Dragons games is in how it deals with language. In previous versions of the game an Elf almost always knows the elvish language and is able to speak it fluently from the moment it is first brought into the game. Monsters, too, speak their own racial languages and are able to understand each other through that mode.
Eberron dispenses with this notion of automatic racial languages by tying how a character learns language with their culture and geography rather than their race (pg. 6). Just as a Hispanic person might not know Spanish, so too might a Dwarf not know Dwarvish.
I like the un-pairing of languages from your race as it never made much sense to me that the demi-human and monstrous races were able to speak a language simply because they were that race; but Eberron, Rising from the Last War doesn’t go far enough. We still see racial languages as noted on the Standard Languages of Eberron (pg. 6) and Exotic Languages of Eberron (pg. 6) tables. These imply that at one time the racial languages existed within the setting and that all creatures of a certain type inherently spoke and (possibly) read a unified language.
After going through the effort of noting that “. . . languages reflect culture and geography . . .” (pg 6) and describing how “Goblin” was a trade language for the goblin empire before it vanished from the planet; why not go the extra step and completely break that connection between languages and race?
Instead of Dwarvish call it Mrorian. Instead of Elvish we could call it Valenarian.
We can make these changes to re-emphasis how geography and culture help establish the linguistic traditions of the world rather than an individual’s genetic makeup. But if we continue to call the language “Elvish” or “Goblin” then we’re only making this break in the most half-hearted manner possible. We either need to break the connection entirely or we need to not waste the effort at all.
I choose to make the break. Here’s my alternative table for your consideration.
Alternative Standard Languages of Eberron
|Khorvairian||The Five Nations, trade language of Khorvaire||Khorvairian|
|Droaamish||Darguun, Droaam, Shadow Marches, monsters of Khorvaire||Droaamish|
|Xen’dish||Inhabitants of Xen’drik||Xen’dish|
I’ll have to put this handy chart on my DM screen when I begin running in Eberron but this should make a huge difference for me as it will make where you come from so much more important than just what you are. This idea has the potential to shift how we think about the game in a subtle, but substantial way as it will make the question, “Where do I come from,” more meaningful than just filling out a line on the sheet.
What do you think about it?
Crawford, Jeremy, et al. Eberron, Rising from the Last War. Wizards of the Coast, 2019. pg 6. PRINT