A wonkish post today – I have some thoughts on languages in Minaria and related house rules. The writing is pretty rough, but I want to get this posted before kicking off the campaign…
Language Slots (House Rule)
In the Age of Autarchs, I’m differentiating between basic knowledge of a language and full fluency.
Basic knowledge means that a character generally requires a proficiency throw at 11+ to comprehend or communicate each statement. (Very simple concepts using “small words” can be understood without a check.) Fluency allows normal verbal communication – although the character might still speak with an accent if it is not his native language.
Languages are tracked using “slots”. Fluency in a language costs 1 slot, while basic knowledge costs ½ slot. Each rank in the Language proficiency provides one new slot.
In addition, fluency in one language can grant basic knowledge of related tongues for free. (See below for different language groups.) You can never become fully-fluent for “free”, though.
Literacy is tracked separately from spoken languages. Semi-literacy costs ½ slot, full Literacy costs 1 slot, and this is assumed to apply across all languages known to the character – you can’t be literate in Minarian but illiterate in the Black Speech, for example. Note that a semi-literate character will have a very hard time deciphering text if they only have basic fluency in a language.
(As an aside, in “real world” Ancient times reading silently to oneself was unusual. Julius Caesar was considered strange because, when he read something, he stayed totally silent and didn’t even move his lips. I figure that Wizards have the same creepy reputation in Minaria.)
Human characters start with 1½ language slots, +1 slot per point of INT bonus. Characters with low intelligence have reduced language capabilities:
INT 6-8: 1 language only (illiterate)
INT 4-5: ½ language only (“simple”)
INT 3: No languages (non-verbal)
PCs are expected to speak Minarian. A typical character with INT 9-12 would speak Minarian and be semi-literate. In play, they could decipher Minarian writing and understand spoken Rombune or Girionese on a successful throw (see language groups, below).
An “educated” character (INT 13-15) would probably be fluent in Old Rombune and fully-literate, but would still need to check for the Girionese dialect. A very intelligent (INT 16-17) wizard could add Black Speech, Sylvan, Draconic, or another obscure or secret tongue.
A character from barbrarian-controlled territories would probably speak Minarian and have basic knowledge of the relevant barbarian tongue, but would be illiterate. (A true “barbarian” would swap these, speaking only basic Minarian.)
The languages in Minaria are divided into several groups of related dialects. Fluency in one language provides basic knowledge of the other languages in the same group.
Most language groups happen to have three dialects. This means that if you can speak one language, you can pick up fluency in the other two dialects for 1 language slot.
Minarian (a dialect of Old Rombune) is the “common” tongue in this campaign.
- Rombune or Old Rombune was the root tongue of the Bright Empire.
- Minarian is the modern northern dialect.
- Girionese is the tongue of Girion and southern lands.
The neighbouring (off-map) human cultures each has its own native language. They are unrelated to one another, but are commonly lumped together by Minarians as “barbarian tongues”:
- Zornish is the language of the Northern hill people. Used in Zorn.
- Trazig is the language of the Eastern steppe clans. Spoken in Pon.
- Bel-Beni is the language of the Southern desert nomads. Shucassam.
Each demihuman race has their own languages:
- Sylvan is the root tongue for the Seelie/Unseelie people.
- Elvish is used both by “High” elves and “Night” elves.
- Gobbely for goblins/hobgoblins/bugbears.
- Giantish is an ancient root language, now forgotten (not available to PCs).
- Dwarvish is a runic language derived from it.
- Trollish is degraded and mixed with some Gobbely & Orcish.
- Gnomish is a mix of Elvish & Dwarvish (Gnomish fluency grants a basic understanding of Elvish & Dwarvish, but Elves & Dwarves can’t understand Gnomish without learning the language).
There are also a few Beastman tongues and “secret” languages. Secret languages are typically restricted to highly-educated individuals (INT 16+).
- Black Speech is a “secret language” of demons, associated with chthonic forces and Black Magic.
- Orcish is a mix of Old Rombune and the Black Speech. Fluency in Orcish grants basic understanding of both – but note that it’s not mutally intelligible with modern Minarian. Orcish does not have a written form.
- Draconic is the “secret” root language of lizard people.
- Kobold is a degraded form which shares some Gobbely and a bit of Orcish.
- Thrassian is a southern tongue, also spoken by Lizardfolk (not available to PCs)