Languages in Eberron

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

LanguageMain SpeakersScript
KhorvairianThe Five Nations, trade language of KhorvaireKhorvairian
MrorianMror HoldsMrorian
ValenarianAerenal, ValenarValenarian
DroaamishDarguun, Droaam, Shadow Marches, monsters of KhorvaireDroaamish
TalentianTalenta PlainsKhorvairian
Xen’dishInhabitants of Xen’drikXen’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?

Works Cited

Crawford, Jeremy, et al. Eberron, Rising from the Last War. Wizards of the Coast, 2019. pg 6. PRINT

3 thoughts on “Languages in Eberron”

  1. Language still belongs to the race that created it. Sure, not everyone of a given race might speak the racial tongue but that race still created it. I like the idea of giving the languages names instead of just referring to them race, but it still should be noted that certain languages were racial languages. To remove that link actually causes the language to lose a bit of its identity.


  2. I don’t agree by any measure.

    As the book states on page 7 “. . . languages in Eberron reflect culture and geography . . .” which is closer to the way that languages develop in the real world. For example, we didn’t develop a language known as “Caucasian.” Instead we developed French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and so on with each language taking its name from the culture and geography that birthed it – just as the languages in Eberron should do according to the book. So it makes more sense to establish the languages by the geographic and cultural identities that developed them than to name them by a racial identity.

    To put it another way, we don’t lose anything by changing “Dwarven” to “Mrorian.” Instead we gain a cultural binding that we can use to help identify people of a certain region – not just Dwarves, but anyone who resides in the Mror Holds. But if we take it back to “Dwarven” we only know that the people speaking it either were Dwarves or had dealings with them. There is so much less there when we do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve done something similar in my 2e game. One thing I note with your language names though is that four end with “ian”, three with “ish”, and then there’s “Riedran” — slightly suspicious 😉

    For each my languages I tied them to a real world language, and then looked to that language for naming inspiration: Shem, Slova, Hooshian, Fennic, High Täuschung, Stumpfheit, Akkahzadic, Gwybod, Deall, Mynyddoedd, Gwylio, Gwybodaeth, Old Methric, Oggam, Etruskrit, Dontiala, and Mots.

    Mixed in there are some dialects too (which I grant a 50% comprehension to same family language). One game I had the elves in the party translating to some freed dwarves who then interrogated some goblin captives; who then relayed the answer back through the chain. For the goblin language I just made Mars Attack martian sounds.


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