In 5e, seemingly all races know "Common and [at least 1 other language]" for their languages.

Are there player races or subraces published by Wizards of the Coast, either officially or in UA, that do not speak common?


All the races in Planeshift:Ixalan might not speak Common

Planeshift:Ixalan includes optional rules for not everyone speaking Common. When using these rules, the merfolk, human, vampire, orc, and goblin subraces presented therein do not speak common, and neither does the new-to-that-material siren race.

Kenku don't speak common

Because they can't speak at all. They can read it and understand it, though.

Grugach and Grung don't speak common

Grugach, from the Elf Subraces UA, only speak Sylvan.
Grung, from the 2017 Extra Life charity stream, are even more limited and only speak Grung.

What does it mean for something to be 'official'?

WotC only uses the term 'official' sparingly. It comes up a lot because it's used in the UA boilerplate:

This is Playtest Material

The material here is presented for playtesting and to
spark your imagination. These game mechanics are in
draft form, usable in your campaign but not refined by
final game design and editing. They aren’t officially part
of the game and aren’t permitted in D&D Adventurers League events. If we decide to make this material official, it will be
refined based on your feedback, and then it will appear
in a D&D book.

That boilerplate makes it sound like there are two groups of material, 'official' and 'unofficial' material, and there are clear rules about what goes where. This is not the case. In actuality, very few books include self-labeling or marketing as 'official'-- the PHB does, but, for example, Xanathar's Guide to Everything doesn't and hasn't had any ads run that way (at least that I've seen-- it's difficult to be certain in the age of digital marketing). Instead, there are layers of canon as typical for D&D games, where different groups make sets of different component materials and several competing sets lay claim to the 'official material only' term. Is Planeshift official? They are published with a different disclaimer, one that avoids that language, and published officially by WotC e.g. on DM's Guild. Mike Mearls says no, though, and they aren't sold as physical copies.

Are livestream things official? The WotC website sure seems to think so. Dndbeyond doesn't, though.

Ultimately, what you have to come to terms with is that the designers haven't put a lot of stock into the idea of 'official' content. There's a clear distinction between AL-legal and not-AL-legal sources, but beyond that everything is a lot fuzzier. I've chosen to use a very big-tent approach to the definition of official in answering this question. You might disagree with some or all of the races listed counting as official, but hopefully you can understand how someone else might see that very same game content as an official WotC product.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that Planeshift: Ixalan isn't quite official/in UA - it's still worth mentioning, but should perhaps have a note about its unofficiality. On a sort of similar level is the Grung race from One Grung Above (which was recently added to D&D Beyond, and may have been the impetus for this question) - it's by WotC, but not really designed/balanced for normal play, as it was basically just thrown together for WotC's 2017 Extra Life Twitch stream and then released to raise funds for charity. They only speak Grung. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Feb 18 '20 at 9:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast What makes the Planeshift series unofficial? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 18 '20 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ In essence, the Plane Shift PDFs are essentially James Wyatt's untested homebrew, though they're released on WotC's website. Mike Mearls addressed them in an AMA: "Planeshift is not official. It's basically a thing James does for fun, and we don't want to burden it with needing all the work required to make it official." The Ravnica book is official, however, and sort of arose out of the popularity of those Plane Shift PDFs. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Feb 18 '20 at 19:57


All official player races in D&D that have been published in books so far speak common, because that is simply the way you're expected to communicate with eachother during the game. All the current sourcebooks that add races have them knowing and speaking common and that is unlikely to ever change; there is only one exception, and that is a technicality.

Kenku understand common and they can pronounce common words, but they can't actually 'speak' common, because they lack the ability to speak. Their ability to be creative was taken away from them, and as a result, so was their ability to speak. They now mimic things other people have said to them and the sounds of things around themselves to get their ideas across. (Which is, ironically, a very creative way of solving the communication problem for a race with no creativity, but eh, their lore is weird already.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I'm only including officially published races, that were published in the books. I'm not including unearthed arcana or races thrown together for charity funds. One Grung Above is fine, if you're running an all-grung party like they were in that twitch stream. I fully expect that if they ever release Grung as a player race in a book, they will speak common, simply because not doing so will lead to pointless arguments and everybody will houserule them to speak common anyways. Even for the Kenku, they mention that you shouldn't get out of control with their "can't speak" gimmick. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Feb 18 '20 at 9:46


As kenku (Volo's Guide to Monsters, p. 109) don't speak at all, they don't speak common either.

UA: Grugach Elves

Published in UA and not carried forward to Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes unlike other options in the same article, Grugach Elves have a languages trait which excludes common:

Languages. Unlike other elves, you don’t speak, read, or write Common. You instead speak, read, and write Sylvan.


While published by WotC, One Grung Below is not offical, nor UA, but a charity supplement for Extra Life. The grung playable race included does not speak common. (Credits to V2Blast for the find)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Kenku understand and write common, and can telepathically "speak" it, right? So not sure if they count for yhe purposes of the question. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19 '20 at 5:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir Where do you have the telepathic ability of Kenku from (I'm not seeing it in my copy of Volo's)? \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Feb 19 '20 at 10:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking of someone else using for example Sending spell. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19 '20 at 10:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir Telepathy in general doesn't require the recipient to understand the language "spoken" by the telepathier (for lack of a better word) (may depend on the specific telepathy feature). Whether a kenku gets the full benefit of the sending spell sound like its own question for the stack, but it is not speaking so not explicitly relevant for this Q (nor A). \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Feb 19 '20 at 10:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ After reading a bit more about Kenku, the implication/intention seems to be: they are unable to put out original communication, because they have their creative spark removed, so not limited to speaking, but including every means of communication. Then it becomes a matter of definition, if they speak in common or not, when they mimic things said by others in common, while understanding what they say. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19 '20 at 12:12

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