Comprehend Languages allows you to read and understand spoken language, but not speak or write.

Tongues allows you to speak and comprehend spoken language, but not read or write.

Is there anything (spell, class ability, magic item, etc.) that would allow a creature to write in an unfamiliar language (possibly in conjunction with one of the above spells)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't "rules-as-written" but if it were my campaign, I would simply invent such a spell if I wanted it. Copy the stats from Tongues, change the school to enchantment, and switch up the material component with something else (if you like that sort of thing... a lot of people skip material components entirely). \$\endgroup\$ – Dietrich Epp Oct 3 '16 at 19:37

The Belt of Dwarvenkind (DMG p. 155) allows the attuned wearer to speak, read and write Dwarvish.

It you're willing to delegate, there's a mundane solution: a scribe is a skilled hireling who will charge 2 gp per day for their services (PH p. 159), and you can check their work is reliable with comprehend languages.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If you delegate it out, unless you can read the language in question, how can you be sure the message you're telling the hired scribe to write is accurate and conveys the message you want to come across. \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Cohoon Oct 3 '16 at 14:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JesseCohoon With the spell Comprehend Language you can read what he is writing and see if it is what it is conveying. To prove that it is the required language it may be harder, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Oct 3 '16 at 16:27

With only 250 gold pieces and 250 days steeped in training, you can learn a new language between adventures, according to PHB p187 under "Training".

  • \$\begingroup\$ That wouldn't be an unfamiliar language though. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 3 '16 at 15:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I also had that thought; then again, most of the answers here accomplish writing in the unfamiliar language by having OP learn it for a time. This one's just permanent, while taking longer to achieve. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Oct 3 '16 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie this falls in the class ability, etc part of the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Oct 3 '16 at 17:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin But it doesn't let you read an unfamiliar language. It makes the language familiar, letting you read it because it's a familiar language. This is materially different than the examples provided of what the question is looking for (comprehend languages, tongues), which let you understand an unfamiliar language while it is still unfamiliar. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 3 '16 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ In most cases if you need to write something in a particular language, you need to do it today, or this week at least, and not almost a year from now when you've learned the language (even assuming you could find someone to train you) :) Still it is one way of being able to write in a (previously) unfamiliar language, albeit a bit of a slow solution. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Oct 3 '16 at 20:36

As far as I know and read, there is nothing that allows to write in an unfamiliar language directly, but there are some workarounds.

True Polymorph

If you know the race this is your best bet: you can polymorph* into a creature of that race and write in the language of your new form

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the new form. It retains its alignment and personality.

This is the most direct way of writing in another language that I can think of.

*- Crawford twitted a comment on True Polymorph and languages. Also, there is this question about language.

If transformed by the true polymorph spell, the creature would speak what the new form speaks.

Wish your way out

For a more permanent solution but as risky as a moody DM can be, the spell Wish can make you "learn" a new language (with all its implications). For a "risk-free" way wish it to be temporal.

Get external help

I was tempted of not including this one since it is obvious, but there is a particular spell that can help you in a situation where everyone is your enemy: Dominate Person. Fetch yourself a creature with the language that you desire, apply the spell and watch your new assistant do all the work for you. The downside is that it wont be able to write you a book since the duration is up to 8 hours spending an 8th level spell slot.

While the target is charmed, you have a telepathic link with it as long as the two of you are on the same plane of existence. You can use this telepathic link to issue commands to the creature while you are conscious (no action required), which it does its best to obey.

Also, spells like Conjure Celestial are alternatives if the particular language are within any race that can be summoned and can write.


The only thing I've been able to find doesn't explicitly allow you to write an unfamiliar language but it does allow you to read it. And if you can read it, what's stopping you from writing the same thing you read. The feature I'm talking about here is the Warlock Eldritch Invocation "Eyes of the Runekeeper" which simply says that "You can read all writing"

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