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Finding the most common language is easy1, the number is written at the top of the Monsters section.

Finding the second most common2 is also not hard, you just click through the list of languages, and note the second highest number. However, it is not necessarily the second most useful. That would be the most common language spoken by those who do not speak Common.

What is that language? Finding it might be a huge amount of manual work, clicking through for every monster, and collecting the languages, but is there a clever search pattern I can use?

(I am aware that the most useful language is largely campaign and level dependent.)


1 unsurprisingly, it is Common
2 it is Draconic

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are two factors that need to be used that we really can't know with any certainty: total number of speakers being the biggest one, and secondly, frequency of meeting someone else who speaks X language. While a lot of monsters speak Draconic, the vast majority of those never make it to a major city. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carduus
    Sep 30, 2022 at 16:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've made a revision. The question as originally posed was a little bit XY-ish: while it made clear its goal to learn the most useful language by this specific criteria, instead of asking for that language (X) it asked for a clever search pattern to find it (Y). But what if someone knew the answer (X) but there wasn't a clever search pattern (Y)? Now, the title is more direct and just mentions the exact criteria instead of “most useful”, and also the Q directly asks for what that language is (X) in addition to asking about the criteria (Y). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30, 2022 at 16:43

2 Answers 2

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Aklo, followed by Draconic and Undercommon

Searching

I searched for language:(-common aklo) ((-tongues -truespeech) OR Neothelid OR "Children Of Mhar") filtering for creatures (which includes both Monsters and NPCs), and I repeated this for each language.

The language:(-common DESIRED_LANGUAGE) part of the query is self explanatory, while the ((-tongues -truespeech) OR Neothelid OR "Children Of Mhar") part seems arbitrary, but is necessary for accurate results.
Tongues (as a constant spell) and truespeech are both effects that allow the creature to speak to anyone, so we need to exclude them from our results for the same reasons we want to exclude creatures that can speak Common. Unfortunately, even though tongues and truespeech are listed with the languages within statblocks, searching for language:(-tongues -truespeech) doesn't work.
Searching for -tongues -truespeech instead will erroneously exclude creatures that just happen to use those words in other parts of their statblock or even in their description. I did a second pass and found that (at the time of writing) only the Noethelid and the Children Of Mhar would be erroneously excluded, so to prevent this I added their names directly into the query.

Results

Language No Common No Common, tongues, or truespeech
Aklo 98 95
Draconic 102 81
Undercommon 79 78
Abyssal 77 65
Celestial 80 46
Sylvan 46 45
Infernal 62 33
Aquan 29 28
Necril 25 24‡
Mwangi 24 24
Tien 22 21
Terran 21 21
Jotun 18 18
Auran 16 16
Requian 20 15
Daemonic 14 14
Elven 14 14
Ignan 12 12
Akitonian 10 8
Protean 11 6
Alghollthu, Arcadian, Arboreal, Azlanti, Boggard, Caligni, Cyclops, Destrachan, Druidic, Dwarven, D'Ziriak, Erutaki, Formian, Goblin, Gnoll, Gnomish, Grioth, Hallit, Hwan, Ikeshti, Iruxi, Jistkan, Jyoti, Minatan, Munavri, Nagaji, Okaiyan, Orcish, Osiriani, Samsaran, Sasquatch, Senzar, Shadowtongue, Shobhad, Sphinx, Tengu, Utopian, Varisian, Vudrani, Wayang, Wyrwood Single digits Didn't bother checking
Adlet, Amurrun, Anadi, Androffan, Anugobu, Calda†, Ekujae†, Garundi†, Girtablilu, Goloma†, Grippli, Halfling, Jistka†, Kelish, Kibwani†, Kitsune, Kovintal, Lirgeni†, Mi-go, Mzunu, Ocotan†, Rasu†, Shae, Shisk†, Shoanti, Shoony, Skald, Strix, Thassilonian, Vanara, Varki†, Vishkanyan, Xanmba, Yithian, Ysoki None None
At least one language 474 432

† No creatures speak these languages, interesting.
‡ 4 of these creatures could know Common from their past life, and another 2 could know ancient Common, so depending on the DM, Necril creatures can go as low as 20 or 18.

Caveats

Obviously, these numbers are not representative of the actual languages and creatures you'll encounter in any given campaign. For example, your campaign's themes and setting might favor some languages over others. Moreover, you're likely to encounter several individuals who are the same creature, yet here they are counted only once.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a very smart query, well done. I'm curious about one thing: you and @GroodytheHobgoblin arrived at different numbers for the number of creatures that spoke Draconic but didn't speak Common. I'd have expected you to find more than Groody, given that you searched the NPCs too. Either of y'all have an idea what caused such a difference? Groody's answer doesn't even mention Aklo, but perhaps Groody you just didn't look at Aklo? \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Oct 1, 2022 at 18:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE I later noticed I can exclude NPCs from here and when I do my results for Sylvan, Undercommon, Jotun, and Abyssal match Groody's exactly; only Draconic differs. I ran complementary queries for Draconic and when I add the results they match the totals here, so no creatures are missing. I double checked the result tables with Ctrl+F, I checked a few creatures at random, and I still couldn't find any mistakes on my end. I looked just now and the Young Black Dragon isn't missing from my results either. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Oct 1, 2022 at 21:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I only wanted to double check Groody's numbers before upvoting, but I ended up writing an answer because I couldn't replicate his results for Draconic (that and then I noticed tongues was significant). The possibility that my Draconic results were wrong has been on my mind the entire time I was writing my answer, so I double checked Draconic at every step of the way. All this to say that I'm as certain as I can be about my results, short of manually clicking through every creature that knows Draconic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Oct 1, 2022 at 21:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ruse, I did my homework by using my own script to do the intersect and you are right. There are 101 monsters that speak draconic but not common. Your list includes an NPC, named Racharak, making your list one larger, as I only looked at monsters. Other than that, we match up, and I updated my answer - it does not change, otherwise draconic remains the common language with most speakers that do not speak common. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2, 2022 at 6:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like Aklo-speakers are much rarer creatures, particularly in the typical pathfinder campaign, than Undercommon and Draconic (particularly Undercommon). \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 3, 2022 at 12:47
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This would depend on your setting

Each world has different monsters and different numbers of them. There cannot really be a generic answer to this. For what it's worth, my bet would be on Undercommon if your world has an Underdark -- it's like a second world below the world.

This is also supported by monster count for the languages - Halfling is listed as a common language, but only 6 monster types speak it, while Abyssal is listed as an uncommon language, but 134 monster types speak it. So counting by monster type, even by the game rules, does not determine how common a language is.

Monster Count: Draconic is the best common choice

I did a little counting: there are 747 monsters that speak common, 238 that speak draconic, 188 that speak sylvan, and 131 that speak undercommon. The other common languages are much less represented -- Jotun 90, Elven 57, Dwarven 27, Gnome 19, Goblin 15, Orcish 9, Halfling 6. I then did count how many of those did also speak common, for those that have enough monsters to have a chance to win. Out of curiosity, I also looked at Abyssal, even though that is an uncommon language, and so I would exclude it from running.

Language Overall Common No Common %Common
Draconic 238 137 101 58%
Sylvan 188 142 46 76%
Undercommon 131 52 79 40%
Jotun 90 73 17 81%
Abyssal 134 58 76 43%

Draconic wins. Draconic is so high as many fiends that do not speak Common also speak it, as the language of magic, I guess. Abyssal is closely trailing Undercommon. Dragons proper funnily enough nearly all speak Common.

So, I was ready to bet you 100 Rep it is going to be Undercommon, and I would have bet wrong. Draconic is the best option by absolute count and also by your measure with 101 monsters that speak it, but no common, followed then by Undercommon with 79, as the second best option.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for correctly answering the question "is there a clever search pattern I can use." There isn't one, and can't be. No analysis of the monster manual will tell you (for example) whether goblins are more common than kobolds in a particular setting, and even if all monsters were somehow equally common, that wouldn't affect how common encounters with those monsters will be in a given campaign. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Sep 30, 2022 at 21:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ For future readers, if you are scouring for useful languages and are playing in a Paizo AP, those often list some helpful languages. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Sep 30, 2022 at 23:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was certain it would be Abyssal \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Oct 1, 2022 at 7:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thing is, if you have a Kobold in the party, you already have Draconic \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 3, 2022 at 12:50

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