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Comprehend Languages 5e D&D Guide



Comprehend Languages is a 1st-level spell in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition that allows the caster to understand and communicate with any spoken or written language, even if they are not familiar with it.

This spell provides invaluable assistance when dealing with foreign tongues, ancient scripts, or magical writings.

Here are the details of the spell:

Comprehend Languages:

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (a pinch of soot and salt)
Duration: 1 hour

Spell Effects:

When you cast Comprehend Languages, you gain the ability to understand the literal meaning of any spoken language you hear or read any written language, provided that you are touching the surface on which the words are written.

This understanding doesn’t grant you the ability to speak or write in the language, only to comprehend its meaning.

Using Comprehend Languages:

  1. Reading Ancient Texts: Comprehend Languages is often used to decipher ancient scrolls, inscriptions, or runes that characters encounter in dungeons or ancient ruins.
  2. Negotiating with Foreign Cultures: When dealing with cultures or races that speak unfamiliar languages, this spell can facilitate diplomatic negotiations, preventing misunderstandings.
  3. Interpreting Magic Scrolls: Comprehend Languages can be used to understand the instructions on magical scrolls or to decipher magical writings that might be cryptic or encoded.
  4. Eavesdropping: By casting the spell and touching a surface with written text, you can understand conversations in foreign languages, allowing for covert eavesdropping in certain situations.

Rules Clarifications:

  • Literal Understanding: Comprehend Languages provides a literal understanding of the language. It won’t help you understand idiomatic expressions or hidden meanings behind the words.
  • Written Text Requirement: The spell requires you to touch the surface containing the written words. This means you need physical contact with the writing to comprehend its meaning.
  • Doesn’t Grant Speaking Ability: While you can understand spoken and written words, you won’t gain the ability to speak or write in the language unless you already know it.
  • Magical Languages: Comprehend Languages doesn’t decipher secret codes, magical languages, or other secret communication methods unless they are encoded in a standard written language.

FAQ about Comprehend Languages:

Q: Can I use Comprehend Languages to understand magical languages, such as Druidic or Thieves’ Cant?

A: No, Comprehend Languages doesn’t decipher secret codes, ciphers, or magical languages, unless those are encoded in a standard written language. It only works for spoken and written languages.

Q: Can Comprehend Languages translate secret or hidden messages within a document?

A: Yes, Comprehend Languages allows you to understand any written language, including hidden messages or codes, as long as they are part of the visible text. However, it won’t reveal messages magically concealed or hidden through non-standard means.

Q: Can Comprehend Languages help decipher spoken words that are spoken backwards or in a coded manner?

A: Comprehend Languages allows you to understand the literal meaning of spoken languages. If words are spoken in reverse or coded, you would still understand the words’ literal meanings, but you might not grasp any hidden intent or meaning behind the coded speech.

Q: Does Comprehend Languages work on creatures that communicate through telepathy or mental communication?

A: Comprehend Languages specifically works for spoken and written languages. It does not extend to telepathic communication or other forms of mental communication between creatures. Those methods of communication would require a different kind of magical or psionic ability to understand.

Q: Can Comprehend Languages be used to understand ancient or dead languages?

A: Yes, Comprehend Languages can be used to understand ancient or dead languages, assuming there are written texts or inscriptions in that language. It doesn’t, however, grant knowledge of the language’s grammar, fluency, or pronunciation, limiting its use for understanding basic meanings from texts.

Comprehend Languages is a versatile tool for characters seeking to overcome language barriers, unlock ancient mysteries, and engage with unfamiliar cultures.

Consult your Dungeon Master for creative ways to incorporate this spell into your adventures, and may it aid you in understanding the world’s diverse languages and cultures.

Safe travels!

Hey, I'm Alex Hawthorne, a D&D enthusiast for two incredible decades. From battling beholders to deciphering ancient runes, I've lived it all. Now, I'm here to share my adventures, wisdom, and a few critical hits. Let's roll!

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