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If a wizard finds a spell book in an unfamiliar language, which he can understand via the Comprehend Languages spell (but not otherwise), can he transcribe these spells in his own spell book?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 3 '19 at 7:33
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Spells aren't written in any language

The rules for copying spells into your spellbook states:

Copying a Spell into the Book. When you find a wizard spell of 1st level or higher, you can add it to your spellbook if it is of a spell level you can prepare and if you can spare the time to decipher and copy it.

Copying that spell into your spellbook involves reproducing the basic form of the spell, then deciphering the unique system of notation used by the wizard who wrote it.

It doesn't mention that spells are written in language of any kind. Possibly they are written in magical runes and diagrams. If there are notes written in language, then they appear to be inconsequential to learning the spell.

The spell is not written in language at all. Asking if you need to use Comprehend Language to learn a spell is like asking if you need to use a dictionary to understand a drawing of a tree. To be clear: you do not need Comprehend Language, there is no language to comprehend.

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    \$\begingroup\$ also even if they do use a language the deciphering the unique system of notation used by the wizard who wrote it. part suggests that as long as you understand whats written you can copy it. \$\endgroup\$ – Bruno Souza Dec 3 '19 at 12:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BrunoSouza imho it means that you ALWAYS have to learn the personal "language" of the wizard writing down the spell (but since copying spells is a thing), I'd assume that this is always possible. \$\endgroup\$ – Hobbamok Dec 3 '19 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jgn So would you then say that a wizard can learn a spell from a book in a language which he cannot comprehend, even without using the Comprehend Languages spell? i.e. he would just thumb through a book, stop at page 50, and say, ah, see, this here isn't a language, it's a spell. And sit down and learn just that? In any case, before I accept this, could you please add a sentence, saying yes, or no, or depends, to the initial question? \$\endgroup\$ – TheChymera Dec 3 '19 at 23:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheChymera The spells are not written in language. There is no language at all. Forget language entirely. You are looking at a diagram of how to cast the spell. The diagram is written in special wizardly notation unique to each wizard. There is no language of any kind. There is nothing to even attempt to comprehend. Imagine looking at a circuit diagram, a drawing, a blueprint of a house, that contains no text at all. Do you think pulling out a dictionary will help? It won't. You aren't looking at language. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae Dec 4 '19 at 2:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheChymera, think of spells of mathematical formulae. Korean, Polish and Tunizian scholars use the same "language" \$\endgroup\$ – András Dec 4 '19 at 8:57
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Spells are not written in any particular language

Copying that spell into your spellbook involves reproducing the basic form of the spell, then deciphering the unique system of notation used by the wizard who wrote it.

Notice how they pretty much directly avoid saying "language"?

By my reading this directly implies that spells aren't written down in any particular language, but always in some personally-derived script by each wizard.

This would also make a lot of sense, because a) magic isn't something that really fits within regular speech (grammar- or sensewise) and b) spells are way more than just words. The passage also mentions practicing the gestures, sounds etc. after transcribing it. And since this is then more of a choreography than an incantation (like Harry potter spells mostly are), a special notation makes a TON of sense, because describing this choreography with (any) regular language would probably fill pages, when your custom script can do it in three lines.

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