Land of Lost Souls
Languages of Ansalon
Languages of the “Land of Lost Souls”
Each of the languages spoken throughout Ansalon has developed throughout time, often from other, forgotten tongues. Even languages that have been spoken for thousands of years (such as Ergot or Silvanesti) have changed considerably in that time. However, different languages that split away from each other or developed from a common root tongue retain many similarities. A character who understands a particular language will recognize these similarities in related tongues, even if he is unable to make any sense of them.
Each of the “language groups” contains languages or dialects that share many similarities, yet are different enough to require that characters learn them separately.
Common: This is a widely-spoken language that has existed in one form or another for thousands of years. The existence of a Common tongue is owed to the military empires of ancient Ergoth and Solamnia, as well as the far-reaching political and economic influence of Istar. Throughout the centuries, the Ergot language spread throughout Ansalon with Ergoth’s armies, becoming an accepted second language by many tribes and nations. However, a modified form of Ergot evolved as different cultures added their own words and idiom, particularly from the Istarian language of the powerful mercantile nations of eastern Ansalon. This “common” tongue was used primarily for trade, and was rarely written down; diplomats and scholars preferred more established languages.
In the wake of the Cataclysm, the Common tongue lost much of its Istarian vocabulary, due to the stigma associated with that fallen nation. The rise of roving human refugees and goblin tribes brought many elements of Ansalon’s tribal dialects into Common, and fluency in the language became necessary to communicate with people who rarely benefited from education in multiple tongues.
Some groups of society learned to use a specialized form of Common among themselves by adding hidden meaning to their slang, creating a unique cant. Examples include the cant of Ergothian thieves’ guilds and the mercenary slang of Abanasinia. This is a function of the Innuendo skill.
Optional Rule: Related Languages
If you hear another character conversing in a language that is related to one that you understand, the DM may allow you to work out the meaning with an Intelligence check against DC 10. If you are successful, you understand enough of the related language to listen to the character’s words and make halting replies for the rest of that encounter. You are unable to pass as a fluent speaker of the language, nor are you considered literate in it (this is a function of the Decipher Script skill).
Although you may have understood this related language in the past, there is no guarantee that you will be able to do so in future. Different speakers, subject matter, or levels of urgency can affect your understanding of a related language. If you have been making enough Intelligence checks that it seems like you should be learning how to speak the language, you are encouraged to spend 2 skill points to add it to the list of those known by your character.
Draconic Languages: These languages are descended from a very ancient and obscure tongue that existed in the Age of Starbirth, but is long forgotten now. Dragons share a mostly oral culture, and so Dragonspeak is rarely written down; it would be quite rare and unusual for a mortal to have had the opportunity to learn it. Draconian and Lizardfolk are both somewhat related to this ancient tongue, but are either an artifical language containing elements of the goblin, Nerakese, and infernal languages (Draconian), or a primitive language that bears only basic similarities to the root tongue (Lizardfolk).
Dwarvish Languages: There was one basic dwarvish language prior to the Cataclysm, and although dialects existed for each of the clans it was simple for a dwarf to make himself understood to those of a different clan. The Cataclysm changed all of this by isolating the Neidar and Zakhar dwarves from their kin, allowing variants of the original dwarven language to develop.
Elvish Languages: All forms of elven are presumably descended from the same ancestral elvish tongue that was spoken during the early Age of Dreams. Given the long lifespan of elves, it would be easy to assume that their language would endure unchanging; however, this is not the case. The elvish desire for cultural identity has lead to each elvish nation refining and redefining the language through works of poetry, literature, and philosophy. The result is that although all elves recognize the spoken words of their kin, they may have difficulty understanding their meaning unless specifically schooled in other elvish languages.
Ergothian Languages: Classical Ergot is the root tongue for most of the human languages of western Ansalon. Classical Ergot is quite archaic however, and would be considered barely comprehensible to a modern Ansalonian, as each of these languages has evolved considerably over the millennia.
Istarian Languages: The language spoken in Istar before the Cataclysm is no longer spoken in modern Ansalon, having fallen into disfavor by those who survived the destruction of Ansalon’s eastern nations in the Cataclysm. Its closest modern equivalent is Kalinese. However, those cultures that surrounded Istar before the Cataclysm share many linguistic traits with the lost language and with each other.
Ogre Languages: These simple tongues are descended from the ancient ogre language, but have evolved (or degenerated) so much over five thousand years that only the most dedicated scholars could point out the similarities.
Other Languages: These tongues are either unrelated to the other languages of Krynn, having some unique origin, or have developed into a dialect so different from the original that it is pointless to make comparisons. For example, Gnomish and Kenderspeak may have evolved from the language spoken by the original Chosen of Reorx, and thus be related to the dwarven languages, but they have since been altered beyond all recognition. Hammertalk, on the other hand is simply a unique form of communication unrelated to any spoken tongue.
The ancient Irda language forms the root of most spoken languages on Krynn, but has fallen into obscurity.
Alphabets of Ansalon
Ancient Ogre is a script consisting of pictoglyphs that can still be seen carved into the surface of ancient “Irda ruins” throughout Ansalon. It is all but indecipherable to modern readers (+5 DC to Decipher Script checks).
Draconic is little used, for dragons have an oral rather than a written culture, and lesser creatures (such as bakali) are rarely literate. However, the Draconic script is used in some arcane workings and to record the works of some ancient bronze and gold philosophers.
Dwarven runes are designed to be carved into stone or etched into metal, and therefor have a very angular appearance.
Elven is an elegant, flowing script that has been preserved in its current for for thousands of years. It has been very influential in the development of human alphabets such as Ergot and Istarian.
Ergot is the most widely-used alphabet on Ansalon today; variations on Ergot letters are found in most regions that once belonged to the Empire of Ergoth or the Solamnic Knights.
Gnomish is a tiny, cramped script that is actually very similar to Ergot. However, due to the difficulties in reading anything that a gnome writes, it is generally assumed by scholars that Gnomish is a separate alphabet.
Istarian was a widely-recognized script in the Age of Might, but has fallen into obscurity since the Cataclysm. Those regions once under the direct rule of Istar preserve scraps of the once intricate and beautiful alphabet.
Kothian is a subtle and complex alphabet that is distantly related to the Ogre script. It nearly died out during the Istarian persecution of Minotaurs in the late Age of Might, but was restored by the Minotaurs early in the Age of Despair as a symbol of their racial pride.
Magius is an ancient language in which magical research notes are often written; its spoken form no longer exists. Characters who can read Magius receive a +2 circumstance bonus to Spellcraft and Decipher Script checks to read arcane scrolls.
Ogre is a crude collection of letters and pictoglyphs used by many of the barbaric humanoids of Ansalon. It is very distantly related to the Ancient Ogre and Kothian scripts.