One of the benefits of going through my old game notes from the mid-to-late ‘80s as part of Forgotten Realms Week was unearthing a few bits and pieces that must have been of dire importance at the time. Looking at them now, I’m not sure what the hell I was thinking. The purpose of trying to rework Johnny Cash’s “Dark as a Dungeon” into a dwarven work song for example is something I’ll likely never recall.
Another one of these Notes of Vital Importance (At the Time) that I discovered was my master language list. I wrote this up during my Forgotten Realms campaign and I remember quite clearly going through each entry of the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II, as well as the FR boxed set and whatever sourcebooks I owned at the time, seeking out each and every mention of creatures or races that spoke a distinctive language or dialect. Once my master list was composed, I organized them all by rarity and (I think) used this list during character creation to determine what languages a PC could begin the game with.
Looking at this list now, I remember why I disliked 3.5’s decision to condense all the known languages into a mere handful of tongues. Even though I can be rather cavalier about the need for realism and common sense to be an important part of the game, I found this reduction to rob the game of some of the fun that previous editions had with languages. Once upon a time, you had to choose which color of Dragon you spoke, and a poor or unlucky choice could land you in soup some years down the line. Now it seems everybody spoke boring old Draconic - even the kobolds.
I’ve reproduced that list below. If its missing anything, the fault is completely my own. I recall being rather thorough in my research, but it always possible that I skipped a tongue or two.
Languages and Dialects Common in Faerun
Commonly Known Languages
Barbarian Tribal Dialects*
Ruathlek (Illusionist Script)*
Thorass (Auld Common)*
Small Burrowing Mammals
Very Rare Languages
Dragon Common – Evil
Dragon Common – Good
*denotes a language from a Forgotten Realms supplement or boxed set.