Sunday, April 5, 2020

1d20 fantasy languages

Other ways u can get a sword in a hurry: do enough psychoactive drugs that u are able to see the glass tree behind the world, reach though to it, and snap off a twig (careful, they're sharp) -- idk about you but when I last tripped, a seed of the glass tree behind the world fell into my mind and it has grown into a brambly patch vibrating with swordsong

Spoken By
Trader’s Cant (Common)
Adventurers, merchants and travelers—Everyone on the Mountain.
1. Thieves’ Sign
Soldiers, criminals, deaf and/or mute people. (sign language)
2. High Charter
Wealthy/powerful goblinoids, Charter Nations aristocrats and gentry.
3. Court Obsequience
Wealthy/powerful orcs, River Kingdoms nobility and oligarchs.
4. Big Talk
Whales, ogres, historians—found on ancient ruins across the world.
5. The Old Tongue
Wizards, scholars—found on ancient ruins on the Mountain.
6. Angelfire
Angels, archons, fire elementals, sunbeams, open flames. Not ashes.
7. Arqot
Dogs and similar—Hyenas, foxes, coyotes, seals, bats. Not wolves.
8. Artifice
Complex machines: Mills, siege engines, clockwork. Wagons, barely.
9. Scale
Lizards, snakes, frogs, salamanders, testudines, dragonkin. Not fish.
10. Skittering
Especially well-educated moth elves, crabmen, all sorts of arthropods.
11. Swordsong
Bards, armorers, false witches, psychonauts, swords. Some knives.
12. Chew
Rats, moles, other burrowing mammals, rodents, mustelids, and procyonids.
13. Decay
Mushrooms, fungus, mold, bacteria, carrion scavengers.
14. Floran
Trees, eloquently, slowly, and at length. Other green plants, less well.
15. Glimmer
Gemstones, precious metals. Malicious, deceitful, and bitter if worked.
16. Whistle
Rivers, streams, boiling water. Not lakes, seas, or oceans.
17. Hadeal
Sharks, fish, deep currents, undertow, darkness underwater.
18. Serumic
Blood, tar, sap, syrup, other viscous liquids. Very sick people, rarely.
19. Ember
Glowing eyes seen in the darkness at night, charcoal, ashes.
20. Clatter
Undead, particularly talkative regular dead, bones in general.

Civilized Languages

Trader’s Cant: The common language of those who travel; everyone who finds their way to the Mountain is fluent. While it has many words for quality and price, it is unsuited to metaphor or complex meaning. +2 DC to interactions other than haggling in Trader’s Cant.

Thieves’ Sign: Originated in the mafias of the Charter Nations. Quickly adopted by soldiers, bandits, and the deaf or mute. Thieves’ Sign is silent and requires at least one free hand. It has no written form.

High Charter: Spoken in the mercantile courts of the Charter Nations. A language of incredible depth and breadth, it allows exquisite construction of compound words and vocabulary serves as a status symbol. You can apply INT instead of CHA to checks and reaction rolls when speaking High Charter.

Court Obsequience: High speech of the orcish River Kingdoms. In theory a simple tongue with few words, but in practice an elaborate work of metaphor, poetry, flattery, and implication. +1 to relevant checks per flattering title invented when speaking Court Obsequience.

Big Talk: A dead language, found on ruins and other artefacts from the Time Before The Sun. Written in angular strokes implying it was meant to be pressed into tablets. Exceptionally well-suited to intimidation, with as many ways to threaten as most languages have of describing beauty. +2 to relevant checks made to intimidate when speaking Big Talk.

The Old Tongue: A newly discovered tongue, found on ruins on or in the Mountain. Its alphabet is made up of intricate geometric shapes, meant, like Big Talk, to be pressed into stone or clay. It has similarities to Angelfire, though it is rougher somehow and carries power even when spoken casually. All fire damage dealt by you is increased by 1 if you speak the Old Tongue.

Accepted Languages

These languages are spoken across the old world, though more rarely than the civilized tongues above. Their use is accepted, though not—except Angelfire—encouraged, by the Church.

Angelfire: Angelfire allows communication with angels and fire elementals as well as sunlight and manmade fire. Especially pious speakers sometimes claim to hear the sun itself speak to them—though cross-examination by Church inquisitors invariably finds them either lying or convinced they are telling the truth but unable to recite what it is the sun said. Flames not created through the artifice of man do not speak Angelfire, instead communicating in the heretical language of Ember. Angelfire is considered holy by the Church, and spoken ritually in ceremonies such as marriages, funerals, and mass.

Arqot: Arqot is the barking, yapping, rough-spoken language of dogs and doglike things. Dogs themselves are of course the most prolific speakers of Arqot, chattering and babbling incessant idiocies from their empty minds and flailing tongues. Hyenas and foxes make much better conversation partners, though the former speak with thick accents and strange vocabularies and the latter consider the association with their domesticated cousins shameful and attempt to hide their fluency if at all possible. Wolves do not speak Arqot, in fact the sound of it invariably sends them into a slavering frenzy, attacking the speaker mercilessly and not stopping until they have been torn apart and silenced forever. Seals and sea lions speak the language better than anyone, to the great amusement of all involved.

Artifice: Artifice is the language of machines, spoken most elegantly by clockwork devices and great works of industry such as windmills and blast furnaces. A water clock can speak eloquently and at great length, while a wagon may barely be able to string a few words together. Simple weapons such as cannons are rarely capable of speech, but arbalests and breech-loading or wheellock firearms are sometimes more intelligent than their wielders. Devices are often single minded in their purpose and care little for things beyond it, though devices of great complexity may take interest in related topics—a trebuchet or siege crossbow may have opinions on battlefield strategy and fortification design, and a printing press is likely to have great knowledge of the texts it is used to produce.

Scale: Scale is the slithering, sibilant tongue of reptiles and amphibians, spoken by snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, frogs, salamanders, and others like them. Besides animals, it is the state tongue of Iolund in the far north of the civilized lands—though many would not use those words, precisely, to describe that frozen island where dragons rule over vast clans of kobold raiders and slave-takers. It is not spoken by fish and other scaled sea creatures, who converse in Hadeal and share a mutual hatred with the reptile and amphibian classes.

Skittering: Skittering is the language of arthropods and buglike things, spoken in the twitching of an antennae, the positioning of a limb, the clicking of mandibles. Individual insects often speak less than a single word, perhaps a lone phoneme, and each holds only a fraction of a thought—if that. The only way to speak with them is to converse with the hive itself, combining every lone voice into a sibilant, buzzing whole. Larger, more solitary arthropods can often carry on a conversation on their own, though they tend to have less complete minds than a hive; a crab might be able to converse with a sailor about the waves and deep-sea currents, but would have little opinion on them besides as they directly relate to it and its own well-being.

Swordsong: Songs are swords. Some say the pen is mightier than the sword—while this is not strictly true, it serves well as a metaphor; with a pen, you can make as many swords as you want to. This is because swords are songs and vice versa; a tune eventually hardens into a blade. There is a correlation between quality of song and elegance of blade, but even more so, there is a correlation between number of listeners and power of enchantment. It is widely known that this is where magic swords come from, vast caverns beneath the earth filled with the oiled and sharpened progeny of long-forgotten ditties. In a pinch you can whistle yourself a dagger if you know what you’re doing.

Wild Tongues

The languages known as “wild tongues” are considered heretical by the Church, their speakers hunted down across the civilized lands. Speaking one might be enough reason in and of itself for one to come to the Mountain.

Chew: The chattering, familiar language of rodents and other burrowing or scavenging small mammals. Mice are timid, rats crude, stoats and weasels sinister and focused, otters playful, badgers stoic, and raccoons clever. It is an essential tenet of all Chew-speaking creatures not to converse with anyone who has not brought something to offer them—people who speak Chew often carry additional food and small treasures for this purpose.

Decay: The soft-spoken language of rot and bacteria, fungus and mold. It can be heard in most places if one is paying attention; particularly where things continually grow and die in a cycle. Besides direct agents of decay it is also sometimes spoken by carrion scavengers.

Floran: The language of plant life in all its forms. Trees speak it in heavy, creaking voices and have amassed great knowledge in their long lives. Grass whispers it—thankfully, since it has little to say. Flowers speak it prettily, but are incapable as a rule of conveying anything of value to the listener. Clonal colonies are sometimes more knowledgeable than any individual, but interpreting their cacophony into a single thread of conversation can be challenging.

Glimmer: The sibilant and persuasive language of treasure, spoken by gemstones and precious metals. In natural formations they are both accommodating and wise, but once alloyed, cast, forged, cut, or worked they become bitter and filled with hate. Yes, one who speaks Glimmer can talk to coins—but they should never trust them.

Whistle: The bright and simple language of water in motion, spoken by rushing rivers, babbling brooks, and roaring waterfalls. It is not spoken by ocean waves, though whether that is a genuine incapability is a matter of much debate. Seawater can be persuaded to speak Whistle by boiling it, but the transformation to steam purges it of any memories it might have held and steam is often too fleeting to speak to in any meaningful fashion.

Hadeal: The cursed anti-language of the ocean depths, spoken by sharks, fish, eels, octopodes, currents, undertow, and any body of saltwater connected to the sea. It is not spoken by whales, dolphins, other aquatic mammals, or sea-dwelling arthropods—the last of which converse in Skittering. The ocean itself is very powerful and very wise, but its voice is too loud, slow, and implacable to be understood by mortals even if it deigned to speak to them.

Serumic: The cursed anti-language of the red darkness in the hearts of man. Spoken slowly and deliberately by pitch and tar, stickily-sweet by tree sap, but most eloquently in an oscillating flow between violent and sanguine by blood itself. Speakers have their ears filled with the chatter of their circulatory system, which is comforting to many but will seldom tell them anything they don't already know. The very ill sometimes wake from their deathbeds to recite the events of their lives in perfect Serumic. Known as the blood-confession, this was once a natural sacrament which preceded a peaceful death. In the years since the Church rose to power, it has instead been taken as evidence the patient has an overabundance of blood to be let by a surgeon—a much less comfortable end.

Ember: The cursed anti-language of burned things—charcoal, soot, and ash. It is also spoken spark-quick and frantic by unconsecrated flame, breathily by geysers and steam-vents, and slowly, heavy with the weight of ages, by magma. Even things that burn without ash can speak Ember, though the Church attempts to suppress this knowledge.

Clatter: The cursed anti-language of the ivory scaffolding that lurks within all vertebrae, the chains binding us to our chordate ancestors, the bars of the prison of the flesh. Cartilage speaks a dialect so different as to be almost impossible to understand, but teeth and horns translate easily enough. Hair whispers it; in short, broken strands or long, flowing curls, but is so vain as to be generally considered a waste of time to talk to.


  1. Do all folk understand the various civilised languages? e.g. to use Big Talk's intimidation bonus, does the other speaker need to also speak Big Talk fluently?

    1. More than a year later I have returned to clarify that no, you can just drop some words in, I think. Thank you for your comment.