16
\$\begingroup\$

The Wild Shape feature description from the PHB/basic rules says:

You can’t cast spells, and your ability to speak or take any action that requires hands is limited to the capabilities of your beast form. (PHB p. 67)

And the mimicry trait of a raven says:

The raven can mimic simple sounds it has heard, such as a person whispering, a baby crying, or an animal chittering. A creature that hears the sounds can tell they are imitations with a successful DC 10 Wisdom (Insight) check.

As a Druid PC, I've heard all the simple sounds that make up a language that I can speak. So, by RAW, can my wildshaped raven form speak all the languages my character knows? After all I do keep my character's mental abilities when I 'shape', am I able to mimic sounds good enough to speak?

As slowly or weird-sounding as it may be, would it be clear enough for other people to understand?

\$\endgroup\$
22
\$\begingroup\$

Your reasoning seems sound to me

As a wildshaped druid, you:

retain your alignment, personality and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores

(PHB, pg. 67)

In other words, your retain your mental capacity and your character's mind, and thus your memory, creativity and reasoning abilities, so there's no reason that, given the Raven's Mimicry trait, you wouldn't be able to "mimic" the sounds you've heard in life to effectively speak (in any languages you know as a druid) as a Raven.


The only way in which this falls down is that some may argue that language doesn't come under simple sounds, as mentioned in the Raven's Mimicry trait's description:

The raven can mimic simple sounds it has heard, such as a person whispering, a baby crying, or an animal chittering.

However, real life ravens can mimic human speech, so what is considered a simple sound vs. a sound too complex for a Raven to mimic, and where the sound of a person saying a word falls into that, is for each DM to decide.

At the very least, I would argue that a single word is a simple sound (simple enough for real life raven's to mimic anyway), and it's the druid's intelligence that can then string those into a sentence, so I would still argue that the fact that the Raven's Mimicry trait calls out "simple sounds" wouldn't stop this from working as you intend.


It's worth pointing out that this differs from Kenku, since Kenku have a curse that prevents them from being able to create new sounds, as they are cursed to be unable to express creativity (as this question goes into).

\$\endgroup\$
5
\$\begingroup\$

Not quite.

You are attempting something similar to what Kenku do (see quote below), so it is certainly within range of normal intelligence.

Mimicry: You can mimic sounds you have heard, including voices...

Languages: You can read and write Common and Auran, but you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait.

However, the raven's Mimicry trait only allows for...

...simple sounds it has heard, such as a person whispering, a baby crying, or an animal chittering.

[emphasis mine]

These sounds are not as complex as voices that a Kenku could make, so it is likely that whatever speech you accomplish would be insufficient for adequate communication in most languages.

What is a simple sound?

When discussing linguistic sounds, we can turn to phonetics to decide if a sound is simple or complex. Simple waves lack any overtones. The simple sounds listed are all examples of sounds that can be imitated with simple waves.

Complex sounds, like speech, would require a number of overtones to initate and are thus made up of complex waves. This is a rule abstraction that relegates the raven to only creating simple sounds. Therefore, speech is limited or impossible. Try to speak while only holding your mouth and tongue in a single position and you can understand the problem. You will only be able to create simple sounds (sounds that can be imitated by simple waves) but not complex ones.

Keep in mind, though, there may be some languages in D&D that only have simple sounds. These languages could be effectively mimicked via the raven's ability.

\$\endgroup\$
1
\$\begingroup\$

Usually, but it depends on the language

Most languages would probably be mimicable (albeit with a loss of subtle features like sarcasm), but anything that's tonal (like Mandarin) or extraordinarily complex (like most elven dialects) probably wouldn't be. In the end it's up to the GM and probably based on what sounds you could reasonably expect a crow or parrot to be able to speak. I'm sure you could find IRL videos of birds talking to use as a guidepost.

And since it's reasonable to assume it takes practice to get used to speaking with the crow's body maybe give your GM a heads up so they can assume you practiced with a given form during the level up training. If it's your first time assume you're speaking slowly and may be hard to understand (i.e. not giving complex orders as overwatch in the middle of combat)

\$\endgroup\$
-1
\$\begingroup\$

Maybe focus on the "it has heard" aspect? If you consider the raven form a new raven each time the form has been assumed, and the raven form can only mimic something it has heard, communication becomes tricky but not impossible. This could lead to some amusing interactions.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ The asker requested a RAW answer. Do you have any rules that support the idea that "it" refers to the raven form and not the creature as a whole? \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jul 13 '18 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ When a druid wildshapes into an animal, s/he doesn't become a new beast, only takes the form. Therefore it's the same creature each time. \$\endgroup\$ – FenrirG Jul 13 '18 at 21:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.