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The Monster Manual entry for hook horrors (p. 189) says:

Hook horrors communicate by striking their hooks against their exoskeletons or the stone surfaces around them. What sounds to others like random clacking noise is actually a complex language that only hook horrors understand, and which carries for miles through the echoing Underdark.

How can a character communicate with them?

They're monstrosities, so speak with animals won't do it. How then?

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Tongues

The Hook Horrors entry says that they understand the Hook Horror language.

Therefore, you are able to communicate with them using the tongues spell, which specifies that:

...any creature that knows at least one language and can hear the target understands what it says.

Furthermore, any other effects that permit a creature to communicate with any creature that has language will also work (i.e. the monk's Tongue of the Sun and Moon feature, the Great Old One warlock's Awakened Mind, etc.).

This will let you handle communication to the Hook Horror. I'm not sure it will cover the responses as the stipulation is that you understand "spoken languages," and so it might be a DM's call as to whether banging on your chest counts as spoken. All voices are just vibrating vocal chords, so there's some merit to the notion that banging on an exoskeleton and creating deliberate vibrations qualifies as a spoken language.

If the DM rules against that, you would need some sort of two-way telepathy, such as Rary's telepathic bond. You might want to start with tongues, though, so that the creature lets you try the latter.

If you want to get really high level, you can true polymorph into an angel and just know all languages and have telepathy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Tongues came to mind, but the 'spoken' languages might be up for debate. Awakened Mind has no stipulation for spoken. \$\endgroup\$ – Luke Aug 31 '18 at 6:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Luke I'm unclear on the purpose of your comment as I addressed the 'spoken' issue directly. Awakened Mind only permits one-way communication, you won't be able to understand the response, so it's the same issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Aug 31 '18 at 12:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm. Telepathic bond says "willing" creatures. Might be hard to establish that initial connection with a ferocious predator of the underdark. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Aug 31 '18 at 14:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical - Oh, you mean start with tongues so that they understand you, then switch over to telepathic bond once you've convinced the ferocious non-very-smart predator of the underdark to let you invade its mind. Actually, that's kind of clever. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Aug 31 '18 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jack I suspect you might need to rough them up a little to make them compliant, but they are smart enough to have a social structure as well so they ought to be able to understand some complex ideas like, "I can talk to you, but can't understand your responses. Let me perform a spell on you so that I can also understand your responses or I'm going to have my friend push the sword all the way in." \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Aug 31 '18 at 14:51
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A "Great Old One"-patron warlock would be able to communicate with these creatures using the Awakened Mind class feature (PHB, p. 110):

Awakened Mind

Starting at 1st level, your alien knowledge gives you the ability to touch the minds of other creatures. You can communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you. You don't need to share a language with the creature for it to understand your telepathic utterances, but the creature must be able to understand at least one language.

The hooks' clacking sound is considered a 'language' that only Hook Horrors understand. So they know a language. There is no other requirement for Awakened Mind.

As referenced in this Q&A, from a Rules as Intended standpoint, Awakened Mind is intended to only work one way, so you'd need to get responses through the age-old 'one bang for yes, two bangs for no, 3 bangs for I'm about to shove a hook through your heart' method.

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