The Circle Sea
This is something that has often bugged me, but reading GURPS clarified my thoughts. I dislike the ‘common’ language, as it makes communication a non-issue 99% of the time. While having some use with written text, almost every creature that you want to talk to will already know common.
On the flip side, I don’t want to make communication too difficult, but this is where GURPS comes in and how it handles languages. Languages have a ‘difficulty’ on how easy they are to learn, and the easiest to learn are the pidgen/trade languages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_language).
Thus, Common still exists, but it’s a pidgen; enough to trade goods or ask directions, but not enough for detailed conversation or entertainment. Characters (and most NPCs) would get the language of their native country, Common and whatever extra languages they qualified for; and learning new languages would be possible over time (without spending feats).
I’m going to think further on my languages idea, but it looks like it will go ahead with common as a trade-language, cultural languages (with some overlap/dialects) and special languages for some races/purposes (Draconic is strongly connected with arcane magic, Dwarven with architecture/engineering, goblin is a semi-secret language favoured by criminals and under-classes).
In general, I’m fine with people hiring translators/interpreters and using rituals, they all have their advantages/disadvantages and take time, which is often a significant limiting factor.
Comprehend Languages: lvl1, 10gp, 10min/24h
Didn’t realise this was 1st level. still, with 10min cast time, 1 language limit and being unable to speak/write the language until high (skill) levels, I don’t think this is too strong. Maybe have the skill-check matter, with different languages having different DCs; possible another ritual to block this ritual from translating? Secret Page or writing in codes could be more common.
Speech Without Words: Lvl3, 1 surge, 5min/1 message
Fine with this one, would allow similar things with just skill checks, but that would have a clear chance of failure.
Tongues: lvl, 1 surge and 25gp, 1min/10min
Damn, 1 minute casting time and you can speak/understand ALL languages! (but can’t read/write them). This one needs further review. The surge-cost and 10min duration are notable downsides, as is not being able to read/write… but I’m not sure how this one fits…
Decipher Script: lvl6, 1 surge, 10min/1 text
compare with Comprehend Languages. non-casters can’t have nice things.
Languages and their uses:
The trade-tongue of the Circle Sea, a pidgen comprising of elements of Orenian, Zakharan and other languages. It’s crude, simple and easy to pick up, but can’t be used to express overly complex concepts.
Spoken by: almost everyone. High-class people may choose to pretend they can’t speak it, but most do. Overly sheltered people (Dwarves in deep Dwarven Enclaves, prince(sse)s in ivory towers, etc) may truly not know it, but they are rare.
Forms: spoken, written (uses elements of many scripts)
Uses: trade, directions, simple conversation, battle commands
The standardised language of Orenia, as spoken on Orenia Island.
On Orenia Island and in the Imperial City, Orenian is the only language used, with social or even legal sanctions (acting against Orenian interests) being brought against people who use other languages openly.
As part of the Orenian conquest, the Orenian language is taught to every adult and child in greater Orenia and Orenian agents offer free lessons in the language in other cities.
Orenian makes a notable use of suffixes for honorifics.
Spoken by: Orenians, merchants etc who deal with Orenians
Forms: spoken, written (pictogram)
An ancient language created by Dragons in the distant past, taught to the lesser races to teach them arcane magic (or so they say).
Spoken by: arcane magic users/researches, dragons, dragon cultists
Forms: written, spoken
Uses: all, discussion/development of arcane magic
The ancient language of the dwarves, written with runes of varying complexity. It’s clear written form and Dwarven traditions of architecture and engineering has made it the de-facto language for those subjects.
Spoken by: Dwarves, architects, engineers
Forms: spoken, written, as part of technical diagrams
Uses: all, technical diagrams, engineering, architecture
Originally the language of Goblins, it fell out of use as Goblins mostly abandoned it for local languages and Common. A thieves guild headed by a Goblin taught the language to their followers as a secret language, which was a successful tactic for a time, but the practice spread and others learned the language to counter it.
Spoken by: goblins, criminals, pirates and low-class merchant types
Forms: spoken only
Uses: ‘secret’ talking, ‘secret’ combat commands, bartering
Despite being a complex and difficult to learn language, Primordial has a notable trait: All Genies/Elemental-creatures can instinctively read, write and speak in it (assuming they have suitable mouths).
Spoken by: Genies, magic users, mortals in Genie society
Forms: written and spoken
Uses: all, communicating with Genies.
While many languages include elements of others, showing common roots but different development, Deep Speech shares nothing with any other language. Spoken by creatures of the Far Realm and the cults that worship or enslave them, Deep Speech is strange and unsettling, lacking rhyme or reason.
Spoken by: Creatures of the Far Realm
Forms: Mostly spoken, no innate written form but can be transcribed phonetically.
Uses: Seeking the secrets of the Far Realms, strange cults
Originating from the Bright Reflection, a combination of many different primitive languages that have been standardised over hundreds of years. While there is a significant degree of deviation between dialects, it’s still possible for most Elven speakers to understand each other.
Spoken by: The Fey, those in Fey Lands, talking animals in the Bright Reflection
Forms: written and spoken
Uses: all, singing
The ‘giant’ language is either a refined or simplified version of Dwarven, based on who you ask. It is shorter and clearer then Dwarven, but lacks depth and finesse. Dwarves claim that this language was a form of Dwarven used for battlefield commands and ordering slaves/non-dwarven mercenaries; over time, the slaves and allies used the language more than the Dwarves and took it as their own.
Spoken by: Orcs, Giants, Dwarves
Forms: Spoken and Written
Uses: all, battle commands/orders
Special: Speakers of Dwarven can communicate with speakers of Giant (and vice versa) at a basic level, similar to that of Common.
A language spoken by both the Angels of the Astral Sea and the Devils of the Nine Hells, it is fixed in form and incredibly difficult for mortal races to learn, taking a lifetime of study is some cases. When spoken by a true Immortal creature, the words are heard in the native tongue of whose who listen.
Spoken by: Angels, Devils
Forms: spoken and written
Uses: All, proclamations
Special: when an Immortal creature speaks Supernal, it can choose to let all who hear it, understand it as if it was in their native language (creatures without language will not understand it).
Note: Supernal can not (generally) be learned in Heroic Tier.
A debased version of Primordial, spoken mostly by Demons and demon-cultists.
Spoken by: Demons, demon-cultists, those who make pacts with demons
Forms: spoken, written with the same script as Primordial
The language of the Zakharan kingdoms, sometimes called Medani. It is a rich and complicated language with lots of nuance strong traditions, although these traditions vary by area. Accents also vary by area, but suppressed with formal speaking styles.
Spoken by: Zakharans, Ayrians, those who trade with Zakharans.
Forms: written and spoken