Thursday, May 7, 2009

More on Language

There are seven main languages:

This chart summarizes the main languages and their associations:


AETHERIS Aether Ad Astra Angels Universities Barbari
BARBARI Chaos Ad Avernus Orcs, Demons Outsiders Aetheris
RUSTICA --- --- Dryads, Treants Commoners ---
AERIS Air East Fey, Elves, Sylphs Politics Terrae
IGNIS Fire South Titans, Salamanders Urban Mid. Class Aquae
TERRAE Earth West Dwarves, Goblins Merchants/Trade Aeris
AQUAE Water North Merfolk, Undines Monastics Ignis

The Major Tongues

The Lingua Rustica, or common tongue, is the day-to-day language of most people in the known world. It is a versatile yet simple language with a strong emphasis on vocabulary that is useful for describing common activities in a predominantly agricultural society.

Lingua Rustica is said by reputable scholars to be derived from Lingua Aetheris, also known as the High Tongue. The Lingua Aetheris is sometimes described as a language of light. With a rich and diverse vocabulary, it is the preferred language of lawful philosophers, clergy, and poets. Within the civilized world, it is often called the "True" Tongue, a Lingua Veritatis.

Lingua Barbari, or the Low Tongue, is diametrically opposed to the Lingua Aetheris; if Lingua Aetheris is a language of civilization, then the Low Tongue is a language of chaos tinged with darkness. Linguistically, it is a vulgar variant of the Lingua Rustica, mixed with foreign words from beyond the civilized realm. Foreigners from outside the civilized world often speak Barbari, and it is rumored that fell creatures perform obscene rites in this tongue. Thieves and others on the margins of civilized society are wont to use it as a sort of cant. It is a common rumor that Lingua Rustica is really derived from the Low Tongue, rather than Lingua Aetheris, but learned sages have thoroughly disproven this absurd notion.

The Minor Tongues

The other four languages are tied to the classical elements and the four corners of the world. Their origin is unclear; some say that the Gods themselves taught their chosen people these tongues as a gift, but others see it as more of a curse. Others say that they are further corruptions of Lingua Rustica; dissenting scholars argue that Lingua Aetheris is itself a derivation of one or all of the four classical languages. In the known world, these languages are spoken by peoples of distant lands and by groups of mythical creatures; they have also been adopted by certain institutions and guilds as common languages due to tradition or utility.

Lingua Terrae, the language of Earth, has a detailed vocabulary for discussing minerals, stones, and other such solid materialistic topics. It is spoken as the vernacular in the Western Wildlands. Additionally, it is used by the Stoneborn: Dwarves, Goblins, and others who dwell beneath the mountains. It is said that Terrae is the native tongue of Gnomes from the realm of primordial Earth. Finally, it is a trade tongue, the language of merchants and commerce.

Lingua Aeris, the language of Air, is as different from Terrae as can be imagined. Whereas Terrae is weighty and definitive, Aeris is flighty and flexible. Most words have multiple meanings and it is possible to interpret a simple statement in a myriad of ways. Fey creatures such as the Elves and Fairies are known to use Aeris, as are Sylphs from the realm of Elemental Air. It is the vernacular in the Far East. Not surprisingly, Aeris has become the language of choice for politics and diplomacy; nobles, ambassadors, and barristers find the flexibility of its terms to be of great use.

Lingua Aquae, the language of Water, is a tongue with many contrasting dialects and users -- it is a language as inconsistent as the sea itself. On one hand, a dialect strongly tinged with Lingua Barbari is spoken widely in the lands of the Frozen North, which are said to be overrun with wild savages. On the other hand, there is a strong tradition of monastics and gnostics who craft calm and thoughtful poetry in the language's gently flowing verses. Meanings of words tend to be deep and nuanced, and both the monastics and the barbarians believe that a good story worth telling is worth taking time to tell properly. Lingua Aquae is rumored to be spoken by the Merfolk as well as by Undines from the elemental realm of Water.

Lingua Ignis, the language of fire, is opposed to the Lingua Aquae. Whereas Lingua Aquae is flowing and has many complex shades of meaning, Lingua Ignis is direct and forceful. Poets have called it the Tongue of the Unbound, and it is rumored that the Titans who taught man the secret of Fire also shared this language. Many giants and ogres speak it today. Of course, creatures from the primordial realm of Fire such as Salamanders are known to use its lashing and aggressive cadences. Peoples of the Burning South use this tongue. It has been adopted by several Arcane Guilds as a useful tongue for clearly expressing potent magical principles; it is also used as a language of creativity by innovators and artists who complain that Lingua Aetheris is too stodgy and formal. Many of the newly rising urbanized middle class -- still considered to be upstart peasants by the entrenched nobility -- speak Lingua Ignis.


It is important to remember that each language has sub-dialects, often tinged with other influences. For example, there are reports of savages in the jungles to the south who practice human sacrifice; these savages are said to speak Lingua Ignis, heavily mixed with that of Barbari. Other reports tell of a tribe of merchant nomads who live in the deserts, also to the south; merchants report that these nomads speak a combination of Lingua Ignis and Lingua Terrae.

It is theorized that the orientation of the heavens has a significant role to play in one's language aptitude. Astrologers claim that those born under the sign of Aquarious, for example, have shown a tendency to master Lingua Aquae. These individuals, they claim, are predisposed to be of a phlegmatic temperament.

Other philosophers dispute this, and claim that the languages one speaks have no relationship to their character or personality. For example, while Barbari is often spoken by criminals and vagabonds, it is also spoken by Constables and Inquisitors who are sanctioned by civil and clerical law to root out corruption. As another example, while most traders are familiar with Lingua Terrae, fluency is not necessarily required to reach the highest ranks in most merchant's guilds. It is not necessary to be fluent in the intricacies of Aetheris to become part of the Clergy.


All player characters begin play fluent in Lingua Rustica for free. Non-player characters and monsters are fluent in whatever language is most common in their area (which may or may not be Rustica!).

HOUSE RULE: If all players in the group decide to use another language as their common bond, the DM may allow them to learn that language for free; for example, if they are all playing tribesmen from the Southern Deserts, then all might speak Lingua Ignis. This might cause problems when the players reach civilized lands...

Fluency: All characters can gain fluency with 1 +/- INT MOD additional languages. Fluency means that the character can clearly understand the speech as well as read and write it. If this value is 0 due to an INT penalty, no additional languages may be taken. If this value is -1 due to a severe INT penalty, then the character may speak "pidgin" Rustica only. Finally, if the value is -2 due to a crippling INT penalty, the character cannot read at all and has a very limited vocabulary.

Pidgin Languages: A pidgin language is a simple form of communication oriented at getting key concepts across. A pidgin language allows for simple oral and extremely basic written communication, but no other benefits are gained. The user does not know Words of Power, does not gain any saving throw bonuses, and does not gain any other mechanical benefit. In fact, all social checks are at -1DP (-3 on a D20) when using Pidgin languages due to the crude quality of communications. One learns pidgin languages in one of several ways:

- Having an appropriate background. If the character is a demihuman or foreigner, then they may speak their native tongue with "pidgin" proficiency in addition to Lingua Rustica. For some reason the metaphysical benefits of their native language deserted them when they left the clan, forest, or other domain. For example, a dwarf with -1 INT may still speak Rustica and Pidgin Terrae, although he gains none of the benefits normally associated with Terrae.
- In the course of gameplay.
- By using a spell.
- By having an interpreter (follower, henchman, or fellow PC) who is fluent in the target language present.

Check bonus: Characters gain a +1DP (or +2 on a D20) when making saving throws against effects related to a language they are fluent in, or their language's opposed partner. For example, a priest fluent in Aetheris gains +1DP on saves against both a Demon's fearful gaze and an Angel's overwhelming radiance. This bonus only applies for fluent characters, not for those who speak Pidgin quality language only.

Words of Power: If a character has INT prime, then they are able to master and use unique Power Words from their language when weaving arcane spells.

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