Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Campaign Languages

Since beginning my OD&D sandbox it became apparent that I needed to define the languages used within my world. The reason for this was twofold. First, a reasonable intelligence grants a shit-ton of known languages using the OD&D rules. Second, it was an excuse for me to better define the various races and creatures within my milieu. Superficially this was an easy task. Creating a list took 10 minutes or so. But deciding to go beyond that beginning point, and go into a bit more detail took much longer. The following text contains my current languages list, with a description for each one. With something like Majick Script or Runic, I would probably offer an intelligence roll based on the character's % to know spells. If the percentage chance was too high (considering the obscurity of the text), I would reduce this to half or one quarter.


Avakin: The written and spoken Avakin language is eponymous with the southern folk who conquered Suthræm[1] some centuries past. Avakin is now the primary language of the south, in addition to being the antecedent language from which the Trade Cant was derived. Fluency in Avakin enables a speaker to accurately converse with the Avakin people. Those fluent in the Trade Cant will also be able to communicate with Avakins, albeit inexactly.

Chaos [Darkling]: Devotees of malignance, anarchy, and ruin may learn the darkling language. Many fell creatures know this forbidden tongue, passed on through the aeons. Beings who share a similar ethical paradigm can use this “language” to crudely communicate with one another. Opponents of chaos will find its utterance wholly repulsive.

Common [Trade Cant]: A trade language spoke throughout the continent. Its linguistic foundations are mostly derived from Avakin. Although the Trade Cant has become bastardised, those able to speak it can commune in approximate terms with Avakins, as the language still holds much similarity.

Druidic [Secret]: Once the spiritual tongue of the continent, the language of the druids has now become rare and secretive. Those “chosen” by the old gods may learn Druidic; it is useful for learning and enacting hidden rites. Isolated or cultic sects of Wæld and Væya still speak Druidic, but most will speak an offshoot.

Ecclesia [Priestly]: Devout and educated followers of Avagæd[2] study and speak the dialect of Ecclesia: namely priests, friars, monks, and knightly Templars. The most sacred texts of Avagæd are written in Ecclesia, therefore serfs are unlikely to speak or understand it, though the elite of Avakin society might.

Exterst: Save for some rare artefacts inscribed with alien symbolism, the “language” of Exterst would be all but a myth. For over a half-millennia, remnants of unknowable apparatus have been unearthed in south-western Nozræm[3]. It is dubious whether anyone actually speaks an Exterst language, but at one point in history it is almost certain that such a people and language existed.

Frog-Man: Consisting mainly of croaks and groans, the tongue of the Frog-Man is primordial and hardly the subject of worthwhile scholarly pursuit. Those in or near swamp-like environments might learn this language, mostly borne from necessity, for to ignore a Frog-Man is to invite death. Some depraved human hunters yearn for the taste of Frog-Man flesh, learning the language in order to eavesdrop and discern when the ripest younglings will be born.

Grekon: This is the chief language spoken by the people of Nozræm. Spoken Grekon is still prolific in the North, though centuries of Avakin conquest has caused this language to ebb; the Trade Cant has become prominent as the standard mode of communication.

Hillfolk: Dwelling within crags, mountains, badlands, and desert locales, the stunted Hillfolk speak their own language. Disparate from the flatter (and arguably tamer) areas of the continent, the Hillfolk language has drastically evolved from other spoken tongues. Interestingly, there are hundreds of divergent sub-dialects based on one’s tribe and location.

Law: Guardians of order, establishment, and munificence can use a variety of shared conventions to interact, broadly conveying a sense of commonality and intuited meaning. Opponents of law will find such utterances platitudinous and vapid, filled with tiresome clichés and moralistic inanities.

Majick Script [Secret]: Some advanced scholars have gained a cursory knowledge of the mind-bending symbolism of Majick. However, thorough knowledge of this language is reserved for true practitioners of Majick, enabling them to decipher unknown scripts. Dabblers with lesser knowledge may glean an overall notion of what a text contains, but they will remain unable to release the latent Majick unless their skillset somehow allows them.

Neutrality: Those possessing neither the unbridled whim of chaos, nor the considered gravity of a lawful society, may share a common sense of neutrality. Two beings of a neutral paradigm can broadly converse with one another, using certain words or non-verbal patterns. Extremists of law or chaos will experience this communication to either radical on the one hand, or insipid on the other.

Runic: Anyone learned in runic scripting will be able to roughly discern abstracted visual messages contained on the surfaces of carven rocks, tombs, road markers, parchments, and so on. Runic writing is derived from Druidic, which in turn was derived from Wæld and Væya. Although a derivative, unless a reader has taken care to learn the nuances of this written language, the original intent will be nigh indiscernible. 

Swamp-Tongue: The Swamp-Tongue developed as bog denizens deigned value in trading, staking boundaries, and engaging in parlay. While primitive, it is the primary language of the bizarre Quagkings. Some evolved Aquatic Apes have finally grasped the basest rudiments of this simple language. Even Frog-Men have seen the necessity for communicating in this language. Swamp-Tongue is mainly comprised of clicks, grunts, animalistic noises, hoots, belches, and the crudest elements of old Druidic. There is no written form of Swamp-Tongue besides a handful of symbols, most of which signify dangerous sinkholes or food-traps.

Thieves Cant [Secret]: Thieves and assassins congregate in their guilds, meeting halls, and in the subterfuge of dark places. Their secret cant, useful for enacting chicanery, is comprised of hand signals, passwords, double-entendres, pitched whistles, odd noises, curious symbols, and a political doublespeak capable of conveying multitudinous messages. Some non-thieves may learn a few aspects of this “language”, but the cant is heavily guarded and secretive, with passwords prone to regular change.

Væya: Perhaps the most ancient language, Væya is undoubtedly the most pleasant to behold. Although akin to the Wæld language, it is much less harsh and guttural. In written form, Væya is striking and complex, forming the basis from which Majick and Runic scripting developed, and from which the spoken language of Druidic eventually evolved.

Wæld: The spoken language of Wæld is harsh and guttural. Wæld forsakes the elongated and softer vowel sounds of Væya, dropping certain words from its dialect entirely. It would be incorrect to suggest Wæld is an unintelligent language. Instead, like the culture it represents, two words are avoided when one will suffice.

[1] The Southern Realm
[2] The goddess
[3] The Northern Realm

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