Spined Devils have 11 intelligence and they don't know common. Can they learn common language from a NPC/PC?

For reference, I'm a player in this game. The DM said he remembers something like you have to have 1+int modifier for learning a language with normal ways (ı mean just by from normal teaching, not linguist feat etc.) but we don't remember clearly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking a lore question, such as “according to canonical lore sources, can spined devils learn common?”, or are you just asking if the DM is allowed to have a spined devil speak common? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2021 at 21:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ is there any spesific rule to block them from learnin languages mechanically. Like they have 11 int so they can't learn any language. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2021 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you the DM or a player? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2021 at 21:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm a player, dm said he remembers something like you have to have 1+int modifier for learning a language with normal ways (ı mean just by from normal teaching, not linguist feat etc.) but we don't remember clearly. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2021 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Intelligence doesn't affect the number of known languages in D&D 5e. This might be a house rule, in which case, only your DM would know whether additional languages can be taught. See related: Is language tied to statistics, ability scores, and/or skill proficiencies according to the rules? \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Aug 17, 2021 at 21:58

2 Answers 2


There are no rules for how the DM designs NPCs.

The DM has complete freedom over every aspect of world building, from designing geography and cultures, down to the details of any particular NPC. The Dungeon Master’s Guide says:

The world where you set your campaign is one of countless worlds that make up the D&D multiverse, a vast array of planes and worlds where adventures happen. Even if you’re using an established world such as the Forgotten Realms, your campaign takes place in a sort of mirror universe of the official setting where Forgotten Realms novels, game products, and digital games are assumed to take place. The world is yours to change as you see fit and yours to modify as you explore the consequences of the players’ actions.

And this particular change makes plenty of sense. 11 intelligence is smarter than the average human (the commoner stat block has 10 intelligence). Spined devils aren’t dumb.


I generally operate on the principle that NPCs and PCs must abide by the same rules as much as possible.

The downtime rules allow a character to learn a tool or language, so I would allow an NPC to do so as well, if it was capable. There's nothing that says a devil would be incapable.

The DMG and XGtE have different rule options for how long it takes and how much it costs; I'd say to use whichever rules for the spined devil that you are using for the PCs for that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This principle existed in 3.5e, but doesn't apply in 5e anymore. Now NPC don't have any classes, levels, hardly have a race. Why do you think that going back to 3.5 approach with this makes sense? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Aug 18, 2021 at 0:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @molot it doesn't need to make sense to you; it's not your game. PhilB is describing how they run their game and why, not providing as rules interpretation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Aug 18, 2021 at 4:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Molot While it eventually always boil down to subjective preference (weighing pros and cons), an objective "pro" of it is that it allows players to make deductions about NPCs. Outsmarting an enemy or solving a mystery through deduction can feel more satisfying that way. If your players like to play smart (be it in combat or politics) they might appreciate the guarantee that there are no Deus Ex Machinas and everyone (or at least everyone that's not a "Monster") plays by the same rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Aug 18, 2021 at 8:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @molot It's not a suggestion either. It's a statement about how PhilB runs their game, that gives context to their answer. There's no reason to question it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Aug 18, 2021 at 11:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, it has nothing to do with D&D 3.5e, which I only played once. That's how I have run my D&D games since AD&D 1e, and it's how I run my other roleplaying games as well. It's a philosophy of how one runs an RPG, and it is relevant to how I answer this question (and many others). \$\endgroup\$
    – PhilB
    Aug 18, 2021 at 16:47

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