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The Kenku race's Languages trait states:

Languages. You can read and write Common and Auran, but you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait.

The features of the Hexblood lineage state:

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language that you and your DM agree is appropriate for the character. If you are replacing your race with this lineage, you retain any languages you had and gain no new languages.

If I replace the Kenku race with the Hexblood lineage, would the Kenku retain the Languages trait and be incapable of speaking? (The Kenku's languages feature states that the Kenku cannot speak except through the Mimicry trait, which is lost upon becoming a Hexblood.)

Or does the now-Hexblood retain the Common and Auran languages but lose the trait, therefore allowing them to speak normally?

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Your DM will need to judge if you would be able to speak at all

You cite all the relevant rules text yourself. The hexblood lineage says

If you are replacing your race with this lineage, you retain any languages you had and gain no new languages.

You are replacing the Kenku race with the lineage. So, you do not gain any new languages from the lineage because you replace the Kenku race with the lineage. You do not gain Common, you do not gain another language.

You retain any languages you had. The languages you had are

You can read and write Common and Auran, but you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait.

So, you can speak with Mimicry. That is the languages you had.

However, the Ancestral Legacy trait of Hexblood (VRgtR, page 19) states:

Ancestral Legacy. If you replace a race with this lineage, you can keep the following elements of that race: any skill proficiencies you gained from it and any climbing, flying, or swimming speed you gained from it.

This does not include the Mimicry trait. It is debatable if the Mimicry trait would be retained part of the language trait due to being referenced there, or if it is an independent trait that is just mentioned in languages and does not transfer. In the latter case, you would not be able to speak at all. Thomas makes the point that this could be a case of specific beats general, where the specific mention of the trait as part of Kenku speech overrides the general restriction of Ancestral Legacy.

Even if you can speak you would only be able to Mimicry speech:

Mimicry. You can mimic sounds you have heard, including voices. A creature that hears the sounds you make can tell they are imitations with a successful Wisdom (Insight) check opposed by your Charisma (Deception) check.

One could argue that all you would need to do is to spend enough time around people speaking Common that you can hear all the words that you need to speak, and then Mimicry them. You eventually would approach being able to speak any sentence, but other people still get a Wisdom check to realize something is off due to the choppy nature of your speech patterns.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "It is not clear to me how that eventually would differ from full normal speaking fluency," - first, you would need a "library" from one person. Then, listen to dr Hawking's speech, his communicator is a full library from one person. Noticing something is off would be DC 0 check to my ear. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Mar 15 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot, good perspective. I'll update the answer. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, and by the way, Hexblood would need to use mimicry trait, but mimicry trait is not listed in the "If you replace a race with this lineage, you can keep the following elements of that race:" list. So they don't really have it? This part seems tricky. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Mar 15 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, or at least the DM needs to call if mentioning of Mimicry in language means it is part of language. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15 at 14:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot I think I see a way around it. Groody, I think you can make the case that the kenku's languages presents a specific rule that allows you to retain your mimicry trait as an exception to the general rule for lineages that you lose all your other traits. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15 at 14:44
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You are no longer constrained by the Mimicry trait, but you may or may not be able to speak (depending on a DM ruling)

The introduction to lineages in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft state:

[...] If you choose a lineage, you might have once been a member of another race, but you aren't any longer. You now possess only your lineages racial traits.

The languages portion states:

If you are replacing your race with this lineage, you retain any languages you had and gain no new languages.

The Ancestral Legacy portion of the Hexblood Lineage states:

If you replace a race with this lineage, you can keep the following elements of that race: any skill proficiencies you gained from it and any climbing, flying or swimming speed you gained from it.

If you don't keep any of those elements or you choose this lineage at character creation, you gain two skills of your choice.

The Kenku race has the following relevant portion to combine with this:

Languages You can read and write Common and Auran, but you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait.

Taking all of these together we need to ask three questions:

  1. Is Mimicry a Racial Trait?
  2. Is Mimicry a Language?
  3. Can you speak as a result of your lineage?

Answering these questions will give us our answer.

Is Mimicry a Racial Trait?

Yes it is. As a result of the first rule for lineages quoted above, you no longer have the Mimicry racial trait. So you cannot use the Mimicry trait, but equally you are not constrained by it, provided there does not exist a more specific rule contradicting this rule.

Is Mimicry a Language?

The one rule we do have that might contradict this one, it is the one on languages, which states you retain any langauges from your race. So we must ask, is Mimicry a language, to which the answer is no.

It's not on the list of languages in the PHB or DMG.

It is not listed as a language in the Kenku's language section, but instead as (emphasis mine):

[...] your Mimicry trait.

Therefore, Mimicry is not a language, it is a racial trait, and by the rules of the lineage you do not have this trait anymore.

Can you speak as a result of your lineage?

Maybe. You can certainly read and write Common and Auran (as they are languages your race that you are replacing with the lineage specifically had). However it is silent on whether or not you can speak it (or indeed speak at all).

A DM could reasonably rule that you don't know how to speak (due to the loss of your Mimicry trait) and thus must learn to speak once more. Equally they could rule that the Mimicry trait is no longer restraining you from speaking normally, and since you know Common and Auran, you can speak them (though your accent and pronunciation may be off due to having lost your Mimicry trait).

What would I do as a DM?

If this DM were asked this, it would depend entirely on how recently the lineage had been applied in the character's backstory. If it were something that happened only very recently, then they would be able to understand other people speaking Common and/or Auran, but their speech would be odd, and they may default to trying to mimic another person's speech and find they cannot, or it sounds completely off. If on the otherhand this is something that character has had for a while, then they can absolutely speak normally with their own voice.

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If your DM allows the Kenku as presented in Monsters of the Multiverse this is not an issue.

The kenku is one of the races that received an alternative variant in MOTM (p. 24). This new variant of the kenku has no language feat unique to it but uses the Languages feat/rule that applies to all race options in MOTM (p. 5). This feat/rule states that you can "speak, read, and write Common and one other language you and your DM agree is appropriate for the character."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ -1, it is good information, but seems more like something to be added to an answer than an entire answer itself. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16 at 14:25

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