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My party befriended a Faerie Dragon who is now tagging along with us, but only one of us (a Dragonborn) is able to communicate with it. According to the MM, faerie dragons only know Draconic and Sylvan, and none of us know Sylvan either.

Instead of having to ask the Dragonborn to translate every time we want to talk to it, what are some ways the rest of the party can easily communicate with it? (or at the very least, my PC, who was the one who was originally interested in the faerie dragon in the first place)

The party consists of:

  • Paladin Dragonborn (Common, Draconic)
  • Cleric Half-Orc (Common, Orcish, I think maybe Dwarvish as well)
  • Wizard Forest Gnome (Common, Gnomish, Elvish, Dwarvish)
  • My PC, a Sorcerer Aasimar (Common, Celestial, Elvish)

We are all level 3. The dragonborn player keeps track of the faerie dragon's stats and stuff, but the DM roleplays it.

I am asking mainly for the sake of the characters in the game. As players, saying "the dragonborn translates everything" hasn't been a problem, though my GM says that only works when you have time to translate -- in situations like combat, we effectively can't communicate with it very efficiently.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If this is mainly an issue during combat you may want to include that in the question. There may be solutions that would work in general but not under the restricted time pressure of a combat \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jun 24 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sdjz For the time being, the current plan is to have the dragonborn "teach the party members a few words" to help communicate simple ideas like "run away" "come here" and so on, but ideally we'd all like to be able to communicate freely -- if the dragonborn is captured, for example, we lose our way of being able to talk with it. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyritie Jun 24 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ have you tried a spray bottle? ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Ditto Jun 24 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xdtTransform answers in comments hurts our Q&A process, so please don't answer (not even partially) in the comments. The comments are for clarifying and improving the post only. Answers in the comments section will be removed by the community, so please, if you have a valid complete answer move it to the answer section. See this post for our policy. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jun 25 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pugmonkey see^ \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jun 25 at 16:06
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There aren't any options at level 3

There's a few options that seem like they might work, but they won't quite do the trick

Comprehend Languages won't work because it only affects the caster (and does not translate for the caster)

So the Sorcerer and Wizard could learn Comprehend Languages to at least understand what the dragon is saying, but they wouldn't be able to reply in kind; they'd have to speak to the Paladin in Common and have the Paladin talk back to the Dragon.

Helm of Comprehending Languages has the same problem

The Helm of Comprehending Languages is an Uncommon Minor Magic Item. A permissive DM might allow you to obtain enough of these (it is a Minor Magic Item, after all) for the whole party to understand the Dragon; but you'd still have the aforementioned problem that only the Paladin could reply to the Dragon.

At Level 5, Tongues becomes an option

The spell Tongues solves this problem far more effectively, even if only for a few hours a day:

This spell grants the creature you touch the ability to understand any spoken language it hears. Moreover, when the target speaks, any creature that knows at least one language and can hear the target understands what it says.

Tongues, Player's Handbook, 283

After this spell becomes available, you would only need your Cleric (or the Wizard or Sorcerer if they want to choose the spell as a known spell) to cast Tongues on the Dragon, and for an hour at a time, the whole party would both understand what the Dragon is saying, and also be able to speak to the Dragon and have the Dragon understand them.

With the DM's cooperation: Teach the Faerie Dragon how to speak Common

Faerie Dragons have an Intelligence score of 14, meaning they ought to be relatively adept at learning new things. At your DM's behest, you could teach them Common over the course of 8 weeks of downtime:

Given enough free time and the services of an instructor, a character can learn a language or pick up proficiency with a tool.

Resources. Receiving training in a language or tool typically takes at least ten workweeks, but this time is reduced by a number of workweeks equal to the character's Intelligence modifier (an Intelligence penalty doesn't increase the time needed). Training costs 25 gp per workweek.

Downtime Revisited, Xanathar's Guide to Everything, pg. 134

Treating the Faerie Dragon as though it were a character in its own right, and treating the four party members combined as a single instructor, the Faerie Dragon ought to be able to learn how to speak Common given enough time spent with the party.

Of course, the DM is not required to use PC rules for NPCs, and this rule is considered an Optional rule, so this will require the DM to agree that this is an appropriate use of these rules. As DM personally, I think this is a valid use of these rules.

You could also use the language training rules found in the Player's Handbook if your DM does not like the Xanathar's Guide to Everything revision of those rules, although it would still require the DM agreeing that it's appropriate for an NPC to use these rules. If so, the training would take approximately 35 weeks.

You can spend time between adventures learning a new language or training with a set of tools. Your DM might allow additional training options.

First, you must find an instructor willing to teach you. The DM determines how long it takes, and whether one or more ability checks are required.

The training lasts for 250 days and costs 1 gp per day. After you spend the requisite amount of time and money, you learn the new language or gain proficiency with the new tool.

Training, Player's Handbook, pg. 187

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for mentioning learning Common during downtime, since depending on how quickly party level advancement occurs in terms of in-game time, this is very possibly faster than any magic solution. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Jun 24 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The answer is saying to treat the entire party as a single instructor. I think the idea is that no one party member is devoting their full time to teaching the faerie dragon common, but between them, it could be equivalent to one full-time instructor. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Jun 24 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ "The Helm of Comprehending Languages is an Uncommon Minor Magic Item. A permissive DM might allow you to obtain enough of these (it is a Minor Magic Item, after all) for the whole party to understand the Dragon; but you'd still have the aforementioned problem that only the Paladin could reply to the Dragon." If you could get enough of them for all the PC's to understand the dragon, wouldn't it be just as plausible to get one more of them for the dragon itself to wear? \$\endgroup\$ – Admiral Jota Jun 24 at 18:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Understanding a language may not be the same as being able to speak it, but one way communication gives you and enormous advantage compared to no communication at all. For instance, once the comprehended creature understands that you can understand them, you can mime out what you want to communicate and have them explain what they understand, then you can correct any misunderstanding in the same way. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Booth Jun 25 at 12:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyritie Magic items change size to match to the user/wearer. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Jun 25 at 14:38
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The most straightforward option is for everyone to...

Learn Draconic or Sylvan

Using the optional rule from Xanathar's Guide, p.123

Training Given enough free time and the services of an instructor, a character can learn a language or pick up proficiency with a tool.
Resources. Receiving training in a language or tool typically takes at least ten workweeks, but this time is reduced by a number of workweeks equal to the character's Intelligence modifier (an Intelligence penalty doesn't increase the time needed). Training costs 25 gp per workweek.

At your DM's discretion, the Dragonborn could teach you during camp; I'm not sure if that's supported by RAW.


Various Magical Solutions (of various levels)

  • Comprehend Languages. It can be cast as a ritual, but only on self. and it only lasts an hour.
  • Rary's Telepathic Bond. I know you're not high enough level yet, but another ritualable spell and this affects up to eight creatures.
  • Tongues. Another spell that's too high to cast, but it's only a 3rd level spell.

Other Miscellaneous Solutions

  • Helm of Comprehending Languages. An uncommon magic item, so it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for your party to get a hold of one.
  • Class Feature.
    • Monk gets Tongue of the Sun and Moon at level 13
    • Druid circle of the Shepherd learns Sylvan at level 2
    • 10th level Divination Wizard can read languages
    • Eyes of the Rune Keeper. A warlock with this invocation could read any writing.
    • Knowledge Cleric learns two languages at level 1 and can read thoughts at level 6
    • Draconic Sorcerer learns Draconic at level 1
    • 3rd Level Mastermind Rogues learn two new languages.
    • Rangers can learn a language when they gain a new favored enemy, including level 1
    • 3rd level Cavalier Fighters may learn a new language.
  • You MIGHT be able to teach the faerie dragon common under the downtime rules, but it's not defined that NPCs can spend downtime, so you're definitely approaching homebrew.
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Typically there isn't a lot of long conversation in combat. Work out a few hand signs for "go stab that guy", "I got the one on the right", or "run away". Then hope your DM lets you role play simple speech like that without making you come up with a full list of signs ahead of time and sticking to it. Especially if he is the devious kind who would develop encounters where the list is mostly useless.

In the long term, I agree with Xirema's answer: buy a Common-to-Draconic dictionary and get someone to learning.

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There is an option on your next level up. Whomever wants to speak with the dragon, take a dip in the dark side. A Warlock with the Great Old One patron gains the ability Awakened Mind at level 1! It states you can "communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet. You don't need to share a language with the creature... but the creature must be able to understand at least one language."

It may not fit your story, but the question was what is the easiest way. Come, get to know the Great Old One. We have cookies.

This submitter is in no way affiliated with the GOO and will receive no commission for converts. (rolls for persuasion)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI, it's a bit unclear on two-way communication. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 25 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree it is at worst unclear if the response would be telepathic. It is quick, easy, and available to the whole party at any level. \$\endgroup\$ – Jammin4CO Jun 25 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ The wording of the GOO warlock's Awakened Mind feature was changed in the latest printing (though it's not noted in the errata) from "You can communicate telepathically with any creature" to "You can telepathically speak to any creature". This does more clearly favor the apparent intent of the feature (as stated in the Sage Advice Compendium) for it to be one-way. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 26 at 4:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Thanks for that, I haven't seen that copy. \$\endgroup\$ – Jammin4CO Jun 26 at 13:24

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