Today’s article contains another Kingdom write-up from my Shards Of Divinity Campaign. So far, these have appeared in exactly the same order as they were presented to my players in the initial pre-campaign briefing notes apon which these articles are being based. With this part, that changes; the next item on the agenda, if that pattern were to be followed, would be the Congressus Feyunctusora, the United Association of Fey, which is what I promised to address this time around. The Good News is that because the Fey have been a central part of the most recently-completed adventure within the campaign, I have done more development on this Realm than any other within the campaign. The Bad News is that because there has been so much development of the Realm, I don’t think I could have finished it in time to publish this article on schedule – so I’ve set the Fey aside for the moment and moved on to the Therassus Amora, The Centre Of Attraction. Which will only be about 11,300 Words…
The conceptual origins of this Realm were a combination of three strands of thought, which took place in three distinct stages of creation and conceptual refinement.
Line of thinking #1: The Common Standard
It’s a truism that’s been pointed out to me on a number of occasions by Ian Gray – Humans are the common standard against which all Fantasy races are measured, and hence every party should contain at least one human to make the uniqueness of the other races stand out. I agree with the first part, and can see his point with the second – though I don’t have 100% agreement with him in that respect. The logic connecting the “common standard” with the inclusion of a representative of that standard rests on the fallacy that characters (or individuals) from a particular race or culture will be exemplars of that race or culture.
When you’re dealing with cardboard cut-out NPCs, that may be true; but any decent NPC will have some individual traits that are not necessarily representative of his origins, and most PCs – at least those created by experienced or ambitious gamers – will be more individual than racial or social exemplars.
Most people, and most PCs, are not so much explorations of the cultural boundaries of their origins as they are partial projections from it. Their culture and society don’t define boundaries that restrict, confine, or channel their individuality; instead, there will be aspects of their society’s cultural ideals and standards that they exemplify, and aspects that they contradict, and aspects that never touch them.
This can be a hard concept to grasp without an example. The PHB (or equivalent volume) gives a page or more of description of elves and their society. These paragraphs don’t define limits beyond which elvish characters are not permitted to exceed; they define the mythical ‘typical’ elf, the statistical average if you will. Any given individual may vary from this model by a little or by a lot – but unless they are a cardboard cut-out of an Elf, they will vary from it in at least one respect. A race is a collection of individuals.
The Therassus Amora was intended to be the cultural equivalent of a “human” in Ian’s arguement. The Shared Kingdoms were so radical a concept that I wanted to include some familiar foundations, like the titles of nobility, which could act as touchstones for the players as they explored the world and the relationships and societies within it. Those cultural touchstones needed some point of origin. If there is a common standard of feudal society, you need at least one feudal society to provide that common standard for the other cultures to measure themselves against. Moreover, for the concepts within that society to be the universal standards, they must – at one time, at least – have been the dominant culture.
Line of thinking #2: Antithesis
The conceptual origin of this Realm was nothing more than the need to include a relatively “standard” fantasy feudal society. It’s history largely evolved as a result of the role it was intended to play within the broader society of the Shared Kingdoms. Of course, once it had provided those standards, once it had fulfilled that role, I was free to tinker with it, and take it beyond the equivalent of a cardboard cutout – to make it an individual unto itself. Certain elements of the culture had to remain fixed, because none of the other societies I had come up with were providing those elements to the Shared Kingdoms; but others lent more freedom. I didn’t need to integrate Wizards into the society, or Clerics, for example – because other members of the Shared Kingdoms were bringing those ingredients to the feast.
However, as I have noted in earlier parts of this series, I wanted each of the political ‘factions’ of the wider society to be evenly balanced with an opponent having an opposing principle. This not only provides contrast, but a structure of power struggles and convoluted politics, a delicate balance into which the PCs could intrude. Much of this opposition was built into other cultures that had been created, but there were a few areas that were left over. Where those elements were amongst the touchstones, fixed conceptual components that I needed to use as points of reference for the players, the opposition had to be placed into a new member of the shared Kingdoms, or added to the mixture of elements of an existing Realm; where they weren’t needed to be part of the common foundations of understanding, I was free to add an extreme ingredient to the makeup of the Therassus Amora.
At a metagame level, then, some of the social attitudes within this realm exist purely to act as antithesis and counterpoint to another of the member Realms.
Line Of Thinking #3: A dash of realism
When I first started playing RPGs, my concepts of Feudal Society were more fairytale than functional. The information provided in the AD&D volumes was scanty, to say the least, and I had not read a great deal of Fantasy literature; my first passion was Sci-Fi, and I had not strayed too far from those roots. I had read and enjoyed the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit, but that was largely as far as it went. (And the Incompleat Enchanter, I might add). Movies were a bigger influence than literature, so far as fantasy societies went. My education in history had focused more on the ancient civilizations, the exploration of the pacific, some key battles, and World War II. The Medieval period of European history was largely skipped over.
Over time, my conceptualization built up, added to by articles in The Dragon, and exposure to the fantasy creations of other GMs, and water-cooler round circles with those GMs, and exposure to other sourcebooks. I also found other fantasy authors, notable Raymond E. Feist, David Eddings, Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffery’s Dragon series, Robert Asprin, and a few others. Nevertheless, my concepts were still more cartoon than concrete.
That changed when I stumbled over a TV program from the BBC called Time Team. The whole process of recreating the society of the past through the archeological exploration of the remains of that society was fascinating, and reawakened a general interest in understanding the historical foundations of fantasy societies. That, in turn, led me to a few reference books on the subject (listed at the bottom of this article, if you’re interested).
While I did not intend to go so far as to create an exact replica of a medieval society, I thought that incorporating a little more realism into the social structure would add a unique flavoring. The end result is undoubtedly as romanticized as any other FRP society, but I think that I’ve chosen some different aspects of the society to romanticize than are traditional.
The Road not travelled
Finally, there are a number of conceptual areas that have been left blank in this particular society. This is quite intentional – I don’t intend to fill those areas until something happens in-game to make the matter significant to the PCs and I will then choose answers that are most relevant to the campaign at the time. So, fair warning – this Realm won’t be as fully realized as some of the others that have been described thus far, or as some of those still to come will be.
The Galliamic Empire has been mentioned in this series on a couple of previous occasions, most notably in the introduction to the Capitas Duodiem, capital of the shared Kingdoms. In essence, there was once – at least according to most human histories – a unified human empire, known as the Galliamic Empire. Its capital was the Buhrs Galliamus. Something happened to that Empire which caused it to disintegrate, and which caused the destruction of the Buhrs Galliamus, at the time the largest (Human) city in the known world – the details as to what happened, and who did what to whom, differ from Kingdom to Kingdom and usually reflect the prejudices of the narrator or philosopher trying to explain it.
While most of the Empire splintered into the different factions that are now independent parts of the Shared Kingdoms, one still holds true to the culture and traditions of the Empire, or so they believe. That one is the Therassus Amora. According to their history, the destruction of the Galliamic Empire was the result of an economic crisis that resulted from the sheer costs of administering the Empire. The former subjects of the Empire were released to form their own independent Governments and the Therassus Amora became just one member of a community of many.
Between them, the other Kingdoms dispute just about every aspect of this story. Some claim that the Empire was declared more as wishful thinking and the announcement of planned conquest by the Therassus Amora, and that forces opposing the conquest were victorious and destroyed Behr Galliamus. Some claim that it was a single ambitious nobleman of Behr Galliamus who not only carried out an attempted coup within his own Kingdom but planned the violent conquest of the other Realms, and that it was the rightful rulers of Therassus Amora whose armies destroyed the usurper and his city. Still others place the blame on moral decay and the influence of Dark Forces – though they differ as to the identity of those Dark Forces. Some say Demons, some say Dragons, and some say that it was a Wizard’s experiment getting out of hand.
Several historians have assumed that each of these accounts contains some nugget of the truth, and have attempted to craft a coherent and internally consistent account based on those nuggets, with some success – but they all choose different nuggets.
The bottom line, then, is that no-one is really sure and no history of the Therassus Amora can be considered accurate. It simply is, and the truth is shrouded in mystery and uncertainty.
In many ways, the Therassus Amora will be the most familiar nation within the Shared Kingdoms. They are a somewhat-generic Human Feudal Kingdom, and those have been a staple of the Fantasy Genre for so long that they are almost a cliché. And, superficially, the Therassus Amora would fulfill expectations in that respect – at least until you look beneath surface.
The Therassus Amora is the most decadent of the Kingdoms, the most formal and rigid in it’s social structure, and considers itself the most senior of the Shared Kingdoms and architect of the concept, but at the same time it is the most egalitarian in many respects. It is the most martial of the Kingdoms, responsible for maintaining and protecting the trade routes that bind the Shared Kingdoms together.
Although it appears a feudal society on the surface, closer examination reveals more than a little Plutocracy about the internal structure. While the familiar feudal system of interlocking debts and obligations is present, wealth dictates position within the nobility, and it is theoretically possible for individuals to climb the social ladder – or fall from grace. In practice, inheritance laws and taxes create a relatively-rigid set of social classes.
It can be generally stated that there are three hierarchies within the Therassus Amora: Farmers, Craftsmen, and Miners. Within each hierarchy are five levels – Worker, Peasant, Official, Noble, King. These are known by specialized terms within their own hierarchy but the features of each level are so similar that these distinctions are rarely applied, and it is generally sufficient to define and explain only these eight terms in order to have a working understanding of the society. Within some of these ranks are sub-ranks, the structure of which varies. Nor are the boundaries completely clear-cut; the edges are fuzzy, defined in part by birth and in part by prosperity. A particularly prosperous Official might outrank a particularly poorly-performing Noble, regardless of official rank or title.
If it is a self-renewing or renewable resource, whether it be grown on the land or extracted from a watercourse, it is the province of the Farming hierarchy. This branch of society therefore includes forestry and fishermen.
In general, farmer produce is not ready to consume as is; the results of their labors (save that for their own use) are passed to Craftsmen for preparation.
Farmers come in two varieties: those that work the resources owned by a superior within their hierarchy, and those that own the resource themselves in trust from a superior within their hierarchy. The difference is one of liberty; the former have less of it, but greater protections and lower expectations, making it easier to survive and prosper, while the latter greater independence but higher obligations and expectations, making it harder to survive and harder again to prosper. Another title that could accurately be applied to the first group could be “debt-slaves”. The default status is for the farmer (and his immediate family) to own the land in trust, from which they are expected to earn a living, and pay taxes to the noble who has granted him the trusteeship over the land. When they cannot pay these taxes, or are failing to sufficiently provide for their family or their own well-being (and it is generally assumed that the farmer will feed himself first and pay his taxes second), the trust will be revoked and the farmer’s family will be forced to work lands owned directly by the noble under the direction of his appointed representatives until the debt has been repaid. He will then be issued a new trust (possibly to the same land he held before, but more likely to some other local tract of land), and can make a fresh start. If he has learned from his supervision how better to manage his trust, he may prosper; there is no animus within the society against those who have been temporarily indentured, though repeatedly failing is looked down apon.
Some taxes will often be paid in the form of produce. Because this bypasses the expense of a Craftsman’s fees, this is the most profitable outcome for the farmer, because the prices are still set by demand and the quality of the produce by the Craftsman. For the same reason, the purchaser also generally receives more produce for his money. This income can be applied directly to the farmer’s tax burden, being in the form of currency.
There is usually some bartered direct exchange of produce between two farmers that bypasses the official markets run by the Craftsmen and provides some variety to the diet, but opportunities to conduct such trades are rare, and restricted to monthly Market Days, or to trade between immediate neighbors. Because these trades avoid all, or almost all, Craftsman’s fees, they are also likely to be highly profitable for both sides, but they do nothing toward the farmer’s tax liability save maintaining his overall health and hence ability to work toward meeting those obligations.
Most of the time the farmer will sell the results of his labors to a Craftsman. A specialist Craftsman known as a buyer will establish the value of the produce as it will probably be when it comes to market and purchase the produce at that price, recording the value in his ledgers. To the total value he then adds a fixed fee by weight, a fixed fee by consignment, and a further fee based on his assessment of he value of the produce after it has been prepared professionally, to determine the price he must charge (by law) for the produce. Another Craftsman, known as a Carter, will then purchase the produce at this price or less, as agreed between the two, and add a surcharge by distance (measured in time) to the market he adjudges most profitable for this particular produce. The more distant the market, the higher the surcharge and final price, but the greater any decline in value through spoilage and weather; factoring in likely demand, there will always be an optimum location to sell the produce. He then transports the produce to that market and attempts to sell it to a third Craftsman. The price to be charged is completely deregulated; it is a question only of how much the Carter wants for the consignment (minimum), and how much the purchaser is willing to pay to obtain it. Sometimes the Carter will have overestimated the value or demand for the produce, and will lose money on the transaction; on other occasions, he will have underestimated one or both factors and will earn an additional profit.
Until the produce leaves the control of the Carter, it is still considered to be transitioning between the Farmer or primary producer and the Craftsman system. The valuation prior to sale of the Carter is used to assess the tax burden on the Buyer, whose valuation is in turn used to assess the tax burden on the Farmer. If one undervalues the produce, or persuades the preceding link in the chain to accept a lower valuation, the income from the produce is reduced, but so is the imposed tax liability.
Thirteen times a year, each Noble holds a Market Day within the townships under his control. He is entitled to charge a small fee for entrance to this market, whether the attendee is buying, selling, or both, but derives no other income from any transaction conducted at the Market Day. Nobles will generally strive to keep this fee small; if they overcharge, the farmers will go elsewhere and he will receive no fee at all. Local Craftsmen, other farmers, and the Noble himself, are then free to purchase produce direct from the farmers, at prices set by the local Buyers, who receive a small fee from the Noble for providing the service. These purchases may be paid in coin (Craftsmen and Noble) or bartered exchange (other farmers). Either way, as noted above, these are usually the most profitable sales the farmer will make.
This is also considered a day for the dispensation of justice by the Nobles, the announcement of any new laws, and so on.
Some Market Days through the course of a year are popular and well attended, others are relatively poor (especially those in Winter). Produce is a seasonal commodity. Note that farmers are not permitted to speculate on the yield of a future crop – they can purchase using produce they have on hand, or coins received from produce they have previously sold, but may not sell orders in advance of the harvest.
If it involves manipulating, transforming, preparing, or creating something, it is the province of the craftsmen. This hierarchy includes professionals of all sorts, from cooks to waggoners to apothecaries to furniture makers. Because this is a catch-all for any occupation which is not expressly part of the other two hierarchies, it includes servants and waiters. It is also the military hierarchy.
In general terms, a Craftsman does something to something, and are paid according to expertise, production, and service. Craftsmen’s fees are strongly regulated, but at each stage in the Production/Delivery/Sale process, the value assigned to the products of their labor are assessed by the purchaser according to the current market and the quality of the workmanship.
Where a Craftsman is a professional whose services do not yield a tangible product, the value of the service to the customer must be negotiated prior to the service being performed, and may not be altered afterwards, but no more than 1/3 of the agreed total may be paid in advance. Standard bonuses structures for rapid delivery and penalties for late delivery are also applied to the final sum, as may additional bonuses for performance. If a Noble’s military forces sacks a village at the behest of the Noble, the soldiers and officers will receive their standard pay, a bonus or penalty for early or slow success, and (depending on the Noble) an additional bonus for performance in the field. Timely Success is all that matters.
Again, there are two subcategories within the ranks of Craftsmen: those who own their own tools and professional license, and pay taxes based on their income; and those who have failed to pay those taxes and who have been indentured to the Noble’s Service at a fixed rate of pay, but who do not have to provide tools or purchase licenses, until their debt has been cleared. However, there is considerably greater disdain within the ranks of other Craftsmen for Craftsmen who fall even once into the latter group. This is because much of a Craftsman’s valuation derives from their reputation for professionalism, workmanship, artistry & creativity, and reliability. A failure to achieve sufficient income to pay their tax burdens is considered indicative of a serious failure of judgment, which in turn impacts one or more of those reputation indices. The age at which this occurs is also a factor: the very young are generally given greater latitude to make mistakes and learn from them, while the very elderly may experience symptoms of decrepitude but have a wealth of experience apon which to draw. It follows that the harshest judgments are reserved for those who fail while in their professional primes.
The majority of craftsmen are of the type who convert one or more raw materials into a finished product, whether that be a meal, a saddle, or a sword. The series of trades and purchases that result in end-purchaser receiving the product they have purchased is very similar to that described for the purchase of farm produce, though the titles of the specialists change somewhat. In place of a Buyer, we have a Valuer; in place of a Carter, we have a Distributor; and in place of the Craftsman who ultimately purchased the raw materials, we have a Vendor or Peddler (depending on whether they maintain a foxed point of sale or a travelling point of sale). To avoid confusion over the use of the term Craftsman, I will assume the Craftsman under discussion is a saddlemaker.
The Valuer specializes in buying raw materials that a Craftsman – a saddlemaker, in this case – can convert into finished goods, assessing the quality of the raw materials and the price that a skilled craftsman will pay for them. The more highly-skilled the saddlemaker who will utilize the raw materials, the less likely they are to purchase inferior quality materials, while the lower that skill, the less profit the Valuer can expect to make from the resale of high-quality materials. The Valuer’s primary skill is his ability to determine who gets what, matching the quality of produce with the skill of the purchaser to whom he intends to sell. He buys raw materials at the price agreed-to with the Carter, and sells for a percentage of the estimated value of the resulting product AFTER the saddlemaker has employed his skills.
That estimated value rests on the reputation of the saddlemaker, his known preferences in raw materials, and the quality (and rarity) of the raw materials. The Valuer buys the raw materials and conveys them to the saddlemaker they expect to want to purchase them. Another factor of which the Valuer must be mindful is the “saturation of the market” – if a saddlemaker already has too much raw material, he will be less inclined to buy more. Often a domino series of transactions is required, in which part of the payment accepted by the Valuer is raw material of a lower quality which can be resold to a less-skilled saddlemaker.
Quite often, as in this case, there will be an intermediary step – the Valuer sells hides to the tanner, then he or another Valuer purchases the tanned hides on behalf of the saddlemaker (or some other leatherworking tradesman such as a cobbler). He then sells the tanned hides to a tradesman – hopefully, the one he based his assessment of value on – based on a negotiation between the two of them. The saddlemaker then uses the leather (and other raw materials from other Valuers) to create a Saddle, which he sells to a Distributor for a sum the two negotiate, again based on the reputation of the artisan and the quality of the finished product. The Distributor determines the market at which he is most likely to get a good price for the saddle, factoring in the costs of transport and storage, and his own commission, takes the saddle there, and attempts to sell it to a Vendor or Peddler. If he fails, he can either attempt to sell it at a less-profitable market, or leave it in storage for a time until his targeted market becomes more willing to buy (losing him some profit in the process). The Vendor or Peddler who buys it adds his own commission to the price he paid, and attempts to interest a customer in purchasing the product. The higher the price, the higher his target will be ranked, because they are the ones with sufficient capital to pay his price – though a gullible purchaser of moderate rank may be more profitable than an expert of higher rank.
Taxes are assessed based on the assumption of sale at the value placed on the commodity by the prospective salesman – so the first Valuer’s taxes are assessed according to what he thinks he can get for the hides he has purchased from the tanner, the tanner’s taxes are assessed according to how much he thinks the second Valuer will pay for the tanned hides, and so on.
The extraction of any non-renewable resource is the province of the Miners, as is the refinement of that resource into a saleable commodity if that is necessary. There is less scope for direct trade between them, but in most other respects this branch of society is similar to that of the farmers.
The major distinction is the collective ownership of the extracted resource by everyone who participated in the extraction process. Once again, there are two subcategories within the ranks of the Miners – those who own a share of the mine & refinery, and those who do not. The first group are expected to pay taxes and purchase licenses, but are permitted to profit from their labors; the latter don’t have the obligations, but don’t work for a profit, and is reserved for those who have failed to meet their tax obligations, and who are ’employed’ by a nobleman directly – usually to work a mine that is currently untenanted, though any manual labor may be required of them.
The Potential For Corruption
There is a huge and obvious potential for corruption within these economic systems. Undervalue something, sell at the true value, and pocket the difference – and only pay taxes on the lower value. Two functions within the society exist to combat this potential; the first is the system of tithes, which is based on external measurements of prosperity and forms a second tier of taxation; and the second, and more important, is the right of Dominant Assessment.
The authority issuing the license to mine, to function as a craftsman, or to work a tract of land, has the right at any time to seize 20% of the produce on hand, paying the assessed value on record in compensation. They must then sell this produce for whatever its true market value turns out to be. If that value is established as being in excess of the recorded value, the entire stock on hand at the time is considered to be undervalued by a like percentage, and the producer or craftsman is taxed at the higher rate so established – backdated by up to 5 years, or since the producer was last indentured. A degree of allowance is made for market fluctuations and slight under- or over-valuation, but significant excesses (more than 5-10%) are harshly punished.
If the actual value is significantly down on the estimate, the possessor of the merchandise is permitted to retain the inflated sum paid following the seizure – but the tax obligations owed are subjected to more intense scrutiny, and the process of Dominant Assessment is likely to be scheduled for early repetition. It is anticipated that over-valuing the product on hand means that the possessor will have trouble meeting his tax obligations, which are based on that over-inflated value. If there is a pattern of over-valued products and the citizen being able to pay his tax debts despite this, over a number of years, it is suggestive of some other illegal activity that is raising the needed funds.
Agents in the employ of the official, noble, or throne randomly spot-check all licensees within a five-year time-frame, so the punishment is always more than any actual gains through corruption.
Of course, corruption is still possible, through the use bribery on the Agents, or the unrecorded seizure of products for “Dominant Assessment”. To combat this, each level of society has the same right of Dominant Assessment apon the Agents of the rung immediately below them – so the Nobles spot-checks on Officials (the Agents), and the Crown spot-checks the Nobility. Successful systemic corruption by anyone except the Crown thus requires ever-increasing bribes.
Workers are those who do not hold licenses, and work on behalf of a license holder. Often family members, the license holder is expected to pay tithes and taxes (at one-fifth the standard rate) for workers, feed and clothe them adequately, provide them with suitable shelter, and so on. The definitions of “adequately” and “suitable” frequently vary considerably, however. The license holder is also required to provide all tools needed for the workers to carry out the tasks they are assigned.
A Peasant holds a license issued by an Official which must be paid for every year.
An Official is the holder of an Office granted him by a Noble for a period of time, renewable at the Noble’s discretion. The Official is permitted to issue a sub-license for any lands, mines, or businesses that he is in turn licensed to operate, but is not permitted to actively work these operations personally, and receives the taxes and fees for these sub-licenses. He may also perform other services for the Noble, for which he is remunerated by the Noble. His tax liability is assessed on the basis of this income, and he is tithed as a Craftsman.
The Official issues other licenses on the Noble’s behalf and on his instruction and accepts the proscribed payment for those licenses. He also collects taxes and tithes from the Peasants to whom he has issued licenses. The taxes paid are forwarded to the Noble who granted the Office, while the tithes are forwarded directly to the Throne.
Like Peasants, Officials may have a number of Workers in their employ. These (essentially) provide muscle. Some of these will be people who have been indentured for failure to meet their tax obligations, some may be contracted professionals.
Officials may also have subordinate Officials – who have to be paid out of the higher Official’s pocket. For obvious reasons, these subordinates will only be appointed if the income they will generate for the appointing Official will exceed the cost of employing them. Officials are also permitted to purchase licenses from the Nobles on whose behalf they are employed.
Nepotism and Bribery are rife within the ranks of Officials, and it is not uncommon for subordinates to pay regular Kickbacks to retain their positions. An Official is thus closer to being minor Nobility than the title suggests.
Nobles have to pay the Officials who work on their behalf. They will also have a number of Peasants and Workers in their direct service. Nobles have titles granted by the Throne which confers the right to earn income from them in return for meeting certain obligations imposed by the Throne. Some of the properties that accompany the Titles will be operated directly by the Noble using workers who have failed to meet their tax obligations, and who have to be clothed, fed, etc, by the Noble. Most such properties will be administered by Officials on behalf of the Noble, however, and subdivided amongst peasants licensed by the Official on the Noble’s behalf. Nobles receive the taxes and licenses paid to the Officials by these Peasants; some of this may be in the form of produce, but most will be in the form of currency, which the Noble can use to purchase goods and services.
Nobles do not pay taxes upward, but are required to provide services to the throne (such as supplying levees of armed and trained soldiers on demand), and are tithed far more stringently than those of lower social rank.
Nobles are required to house, feed, and pay Officials in their employ.
The King is the ultimate nominal “owner” of everything within the Therassus Amora. He receives tithes directly from every craftsman, peasant, and lesser Noble within the Realm. He has his own set of Officials who collect fees on his behalf for various public services. He will operate a few resources directly through his own set of Officials, but will mostly grant titles to others to operate his resources on his behalf.
In theory, anyone from any other rank can purchase ownership of property from the throne – if they can raise the money, and the King is willing to sell. In compensation for the moneys received for the purchase, the King gives up the right to tithes from the property, though the residents are still liable to pay taxes. In practice, only the most successful artisans and the nobility are able to afford to purchase property of their own. Although it may seem shortsighted, Kings are usually willing to accept such offers – at an exorbitant price – for the capital needed for large-scale civic improvements that boost the value of holdings he has not sold. The current monarch, Frugarus II, has also been known to sell titles to mines that have played out, and the occasional tract of useless swampland.
Nobles are required to tithe a percentage of their body weight in silver (or equivalent) every year to the Noble to whom they are beholden, on the basis that the prosperous will gain weight while those who are less successful will be gaunt and drawn (and will therefore weigh less). This also reduces the tax burden imposed by the crown after a lean season (drought, plague, whatever) while increasing it in years of plenty. It is presumed that other inaccuracies within this system will balance out, either year-to-year, decade-to-decade, or generation-to-generation.
In turn, the Nobles charge merchants, tradesmen, and other individuals not engaged in primary industry or public/military service, a percentage of their body weight in bronze every year for the privilege of not having their businesses nationalized and themselves forced into service to the crown until the debt is discharged. With businesses, this debt is paid directly from profits; individuals must work for the noble to whom the debt is owed at whatever rate of pay the noble decrees, within the limits set by the crown, effectively providing a rotating force of debt-slaves. For those engaged in primary industry, the tithe is generally 1/5th of the production by weight of the product of their labors.
Failure to pay the tithe results in confiscation of the lands not ‘leased’ from the Noble, plus a 25% penalty. The resulting allotment of land can then be turned over to another farmer (or individual forced into service by tax debt), hopefully to be worked more profitably. These base rates varied slightly (±25%) from noble to noble.
Taxes and Tithes are all reckoned on the second day of the 5th full moon of the year, which always commences on the 3rd moon after Midsummer’s Day. This is also commonly held to be the first day of autumn, when the harvests are all in and the winter crops are about to be planted. This day is known throughout Therassus Amora as The Reckoning.
Tolls, Fees, and Duties
The crown also charge tolls for the roads and maintains a network of inns along the most heavily-travelled, both of which are sources of direct capital to the King, which he uses to purchase mines and tracts of land; the ownership of which he leases or gifts to those members of his court which are adjudged best able to manage them (or most in need of a serving of Kingly largesse to ensure their continued loyalty). The king doesn’t quite own everything, but he owns many things and most of the land in between. As explained earlier, even these ‘bequests’ simply mean that the land is held in trust for the crown.
The Political Consequences
An awful lot of the preceding should sound fairly familiar to any fantasy enthusiast. The patterns are not quite the same as the villein-nobility-monarch relationship of the historical monarchy, but there are enough similarities that historians would find much that is plausible within the description.
The practical consequences are that the fortunes and power of the King are tied directly to the prosperity of the land, while that of the Nobility is not – and, to a large extent, the Nobility control the prosperity of the land. At the same time, the throne has the power to remove from power – if necessary by force – any Noble who is found to be acting against his interests. If a substantial minority of the Nobility were to oppose the King, the result would be Civil War – but that invites intervention by the other Shared Kingdoms, something neither faction would want.
Power is overtly, and tenuously, shared between Monarch and Nobles, and subject to ongoing revision and give-and-take, and is transferrable from one Noble to another – making the Court a hotbed of Machiavellian intrigue. It is not uncommon for one Noble to ally with another to undermine a third, even while collaborating with the third to disrupt the economic foundations of the second, in an elaborate scheme aimed at weakening an ally of a fourth for the – perceived – benefit to a fifth, who the first is hoping to woo into an alliance. Multiply this scheme a dozen-fold or more and the true complexity of the political situation becomes clear. It’s not uncommon for two nobles to be allies in one cause, opposed in a second, and feigning a relationship over a third.
More subtle is the power of the peasantry to bring a despotic noble to heel. Harvesting a little earlier or later than they should reduces the value of their crops, but also reduces their tax liability. The peasant thus foregoes a little luxury and profitability for the ability to influence the profitability of a greedy noble or oppressive official. If this pattern becomes sufficiently widespread, as is likely to be the case if many share the opinion of the peasant, they may be forced into the direct service of the King for a time – but the Noble will be ruined, if not beggared. If that keeps up for very long, the Noble will be stripped of influence by his rival Nobles, and then usually stripped of his holdings by the King.
A popular sentiment in Therassus Amora is that “Peasants are like raindrops – insignificant in isolation but given time and numbers, able to wear down the strongest rock.”
The Rules Of Inheritance
Inheritance of property (land & dwellings other than family estates) is from mother to daughter, inheritance of other property (including titles) is from father to son. Surviving eldest children of each gender at the time of the parents death inherit the entire ‘family fortune’. If there is no daughter, then the eldest son gets the property and the next eldest son gets everything else. If there are no sons, the eldest daughter gets everything. If there are no siblings, the crown reclaims title to the land, and whoever can make the best claim to being the closest companion of the deceased gets everything else. This ensures that the nobility must marry within its own social class or be reduced to relative paupers, while ensuring that families who gather sufficient wealth are able to bring fresh blood into the nobility.
Eldest children are educated solely in how to manage the property or estate or inheritance, such as it may be, and how to behave appropriately within the family’s social stratum. Junior sons and daughters are given more general educations and for the most part are expected to make their own way in the world; they may receive a lesser share in an inheritance at the whim of the eldest children. Girls are also educated in music, etiquette, politics, etc – everything they need to snare themselves a husband; Boys are trained in arms and one or more trades of some sort (which in theory gives them what they need to support a wife). Note that widows inherit nothing from dead husbands (but custom has it that they are then cared for by the daughter who inherits the land), widowers inherit nothing from dead wives (but are required to be supported by the eldest son until remarrying).
Nobles & Nobility within the Causa Domasura
The Nobles of the Therassus Amora use the standard peerage structure, as described in the first part of this series (about 1/3 of the way down).
One of the largest and best-populated of the Shared Kingdoms, the Geography of Therassus Amora is as complex as such a large domain implies.
The principle region of Therassus Amora is roughly shaped like a pie wedge running from the edge of the region controlled by the Capitas Duodiem, which is built apon lands “donated” (for a fee) to the Shared Kingdoms.
The right-hand base of the wedge runs roughly east-west along the Via Negotarentur (Trade Road) (pronounced Neg-Oh-Sha-Rent-Ur) to the Lihumen Negotarenture Transitum (Stony River Trade Bridge), where the road crosses the Lihume Lapillos (Stony River). The border then follows the line of the river north until it emerges from Behr Yuralvus (the home of the Endless Library), located in the Montis Nixculum (Snow-capped Mountains).
Therassus Amora’s northern border continues along the Montis Nixculum past the border with Behr Yuralvus; every accessible point and valley in these mountains west of Behr Yuralvus and East of the Lihume Pallibus (White-flecked River) is claimed by the Kingdom.
The river runs slightly west of due south until it joins the Lihume Limosa (Slimy River) to form the beginnings of the Lihume Magnusortali (Great Eastern River), which turns Southeast, flowing past the Atterro Montis (the Waste Range) and the Buhrs Galliamus (The Ruined City), former capital of the Galliamic Empire, until it reaches the Capitas Duodiem.
The only civilized realm that lies to the north of Therassus Amora is Behr Yuralvus. To the west and to the south on the western side lies the Arred Anigesasi (The Black Lands) – an arid, rocky wasteland, occupied by intractable non-human enemies. The central south is the possession of the Capitas Duodiem, and the eastern south is the province of the Ineodolus Imperascora (The Traders And Commerce Empire). The eastern border is shared with the Causa Domasura.
The southern parts of Therassus Amora are amongst the best farmland in the Shared Kingdoms, and especially those that lie to the East of a north-south line through the Capitas Duodiem – about half the Kingdom. The slopes to the north are heavily forested and one of the prime sources of lumber for the shared Kingdoms (this continues into the Causa Domasura). The more western regions are more desolate but suitable for goats and sheep. The northern and northwestern regions also contain numerous deposits of various minerals, while the southwestern line near the Lihume Limosa are a source of natural oil and tar springs, which give the Lihume Limosa its name.
The majority of the population are concentrated to the south and east within the Kingdom, where the capital city of Behr Magnificus (Magnificent City) is located. Other regions are more sparsely populated. A string of forts and fortified villages are located along the western border, containing a substantial military presence and population to support them, a bastion against the “nightmares of the wilderness”.
From A PC Perspective
The Therassus Amora is an ideal place for PCs to use as a base of operations. People of all ranks rub shoulders with each other, and there is no restriction on the freedom or activities of peasants – provided that their taxes and tithes are paid. Rank isn’t quite for sale, but a quick relocation when sufficient fortune has been amassed will solve that problem.
Of course, it’s not that easy; two out of three adventurers don’t return, and only one of three of those who do achieve any profit from their expeditions.
There are always political games afoot, but these rarely impact on the lives of the lower classes, so PCs can choose to get involved or let these pass them by. As a foundation point, it presents the best of all worlds to any PCs.
From A GMs Perspective
it is almost as desirable from a GMs standpoint, being naturally sandboxed. Adventure lies to the west and the south, as does the political centre of the Shared Kingdoms; the major trade rival lies just to the south; and the conflict between Behr Yuralvus and the Causa Domasura occupies the eastern border. There are also all the mines of the north, and what they might uncover. So there’s plenty of scope for adventure all around, but only what is immediately needed has to be prepared.
The Language Relationships Table: The Unusual Languages
Recap: There are 26 spoken languages in Shards Of Divinity, divided into four groups: Common, Unusual, Rare, and Obscure. Knowledge in one language at a minimum level or greater confers +1 miscellaneous bonus to attempts to speak or interpret another, due to the commonality of certain words and structural elements. Controversially, some scholars have attempted to use these language relationships to construct a history of the world from a lingual perspective.
In this pasrt of the article, we’re going to look at the Unusual Languages. Note that this table includes languages that are currently not known to exist in the campaign world.
|Old Kingdom||2 ranks||City-State|
|4 ranks||Original, Druidic, Trade Tongue|
|6 ranks||Kingdom, Gypsy, Aquan, Sylvan, Elvish, Draconic, Pious, Tribal|
|8 ranks||Halfling, Giant, Orc, Goblin, Celestial, Dwarven|
|10 ranks||Abyssal, Infernal, Ignan, Gnoll, Gnome, Pious, Undercommon, Draconian|
|Tribal (by tribe)||2 ranks||Tribal (any other), Orc, Goblin, Giant, City-State|
|4 ranks||Gnome, Gnoll, Ignan, Dwarven, Original|
|6 ranks||Gypsy, Sylvan, Draconic, Draconian, Terran, Infernal, Pious|
|8 ranks||Old Kingdom, Elvish, Undercommon, Abyssal, Celestial, Halfling|
|10 ranks||Kingdom, Trade Tongue, Druidic, Aquan|
|Gypsy||2 ranks||Sylvan, City-State|
|4 ranks||Druidic, Old Kingdom, Original, Elvish, Trade Tongue|
|6 ranks||Aquan, Draconic, Tribal, Pious|
|8 ranks||Undercommon, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Halfling, Kingdom|
|10 ranks||Draconian, Celestial, Gnoll, Gnome|
|12 ranks||Giant, Abyssal, Infernal, Terran|
|2 ranks||Gypsy, Elvish, Sylvan, Aquan, Old Kingdom|
|4 ranks||Halfling, City-State, Draconic|
|6 ranks||Undercommon, Gnome, Trade Tongue, Original|
|8 ranks||Kingdom, Draconian, Celestial, Orc, Giant, Tribal, Pious|
|10 ranks||Goblin, Dwarven, Terran, Abyssal, Ignan|
|12 ranks||Infernal, Gnoll|
|Halfling||2 ranks||Kingdom, Druidic, Gnome|
|4 ranks||Old Kingdom, Trade Tongue, Gypsy, Sylvan, Elvish, Aquan, Giant, Orc|
|6 ranks||City-State, Draconic, Dwarven, Ignan, Pious|
|8 ranks||Original, Undercommon, Draconian, Terran, Celestial, Infernal, Goblin, Tribal|
|10 ranks||Abyssal, Gnoll|
|4 ranks||Druidic, Gypsy, Aquan, Draconic, Gnome|
|6 ranks||Old Kindom, City-state, Undercommon, Giant, Orc|
|8 ranks||Abyssal, Celestial, Ignan, Draconian, Halfling, Dwarven, Trade Tongue, Original|
|10 ranks||Tribal, Gnoll, Goblin, Pious, Terran, Infernal|
|Gnome||2 ranks||Giant, Orc, Sylvan|
|4 ranks||Ignan, Halfling, Elvish, Draconic, Dwarven|
|6 ranks||Terran, Draconian, Gnoll, Tribal, Kingdom, Druidic, Gypsy, Aquan|
|8 ranks||City-State, Original, Undercommon, Abyssal, Celestial, Infernal, Goblin|
|10 ranks||Old Kingdom, Pious, Trade Tongue|
|2 ranks||Abyssal, Elvish|
|4 ranks||Draconic, Terran, Celestial, Infernal|
|6 ranks||Sylvan, Aquan, Druidic, Dwarven, Draconian|
|8 ranks||Pious, Gypsy, Old Kingdom, Original, Ignan, Orc, Gnoll|
|10 ranks||Gnome, Halfling, City-State, Giant|
|12 ranks||Kingdom, Goblin, Tribal, Trade Tongue|
Language Descriptions & Notes: The Unusual Languages
The following language descriptions frequently mention rendering text using particular fonts that I have in my collection. Some of these may have unrestricted licenses, some may be free only for non-commercial use, and a few may even have come with collections or software that is only available to paying customers. In the seventh section on Languages,, I’ll include a brief sample of text rendered into each language and displayed using the relevant font. For now, all that really needs to be noted is that I have chosen fonts that ‘look right’ for the language as I envisaged it for this campaign.
Similarly, a number of modified modern languages have been used as a shortcut for simulating the various fantasy tongues. The goal was not to create a genuine language, not even to be consistent, but simply to create an appropriately non-English “sound” with the right sort of accents and noises. I hope no speaker of any named language takes offense – or undue compliment – from the use of their native tongue. Such usage says nothing about the language itself, and even less about the people who actually use it; at most it is a commentary on the sounds and flow of syllables that result to English-speaking ears.
Some of the languages fall into multiple categories. While it might be redundant, each language description is included in all relevant categories.
Also known as ‘Divine Speech’. Used exclusively for the conducting of human religious services and ceremonies, the way churches used to use Latin. It derives from one of the City-State languages (described separately below), making it the most ancient human tongue still in regular use. As such, it uses a lot of generic terms for more recent innovations; it has no descriptive terms or proper names for different non-human species, for example. Instead, it has a number of terms for describing an individual’s state of Grace, from “Irredeemable” through to “Most Holy”, which are applied to whole classes of non-human. “Heretics” might be Orcs or Elves or Fey or Wizards.
Pious is used for all formal church doctrines and holy books, and this blanket terminology shapes theological attitudes to non-human species. For example, the title ‘Paladin’ literally translates as Protector or Defender. As such, anyone who takes up arms to defend a Church may be blessed as a paladin by the church, and treated in the same way as would a Paladin, giving rise to such phrasing as ‘The Paladin then gathered to him paladins to oppose the heretic’.
This sample phrase also shows other aspects of Pious deriving from it’s age: (1) a stilted, almost pretentious, phraseology; and (2) collective nouns are used only for the subject, not the object; ‘The Heretic’ might be one or it might be a besieging army. The next phrase in this story might well be ‘And the Heretic were layed low by the holy might of the paladin.” Sentences tend to be short and declarative, with full stops used where commas might be expected. It is also normal practice to number each statement.
Note that this language is not taught to non-priests, though many laymen will gradually pick up phrases here and there. To render text into Pious, translate into Greek without font change, then add or subtract vowels as necessary to permit a smooth flow.
Pious is considered a Common tongue for Human Clerics and Priests, a Rare language for other humans, and an Obscure language for non-humans.
Written form: display translated text using a Greek language or appropriate mathematical Symbols Font.
This is now a dead language, and is also known as the language of Paradise. Although some Elves and members other non-human species survive from the time when it was in use, it had fragmented into dozens or even hundreds of Tribal Dialects following the human Expulsion before contact with those species took place. Nevertheless, it is the mother tongue of almost every other human language. Compare the English of Chaucer or Shakespeare with modern English. Reconstructing “Old Kingdom” is a popular research topic amongst historians.
The legend/myth/theology of human history is that when Humans were driven out of Paradise (the reasons given vary) they fragmented into hundreds of isolated tribes, one of which were the Gypsies. The most central of these reunified their language into Old Kingdom through mutual contact with the Gypsy Caravans, which wandered from settlement to settlement carrying trade goods and lost skills. More remote – and more primitive – settlements had no such unifying influence, and their language continues to be a degenerate form of Old Kingdom.
Translating text into tribal is best performed by translating into each of the City-State languages (see below) and picking and choosing amongst them, word-by-word. Written text should be rendered in Comic Book Commando or similar, supplemented where necessary by Comic Sans MS.
Gypsy is a more florid, less formalized, and more sophisticated form of what became trade tongue. It is still spoken by the Pirates of the Solvo Mondibanus. The gypsies themselves became Traders (founding the Ineodolus Imperascora), evolved into the modern Bards as they found themselves more unwelcome and mistrusted, or became part of the Behr Yuralvus. Left behind by Civilized cultures, they had no choice but to evolve or segregate. Gypsy remains a common Linga Franca between the City-states of the Longex Dextora – which are really nothing more than tribes that have been civilized (to some extent) but which maintained political independence from the Galliamic Empire (aka the Shared Kingdoms).
In translations, simulate Gypsy by translating into Italian and adding or subtracting vowels and consonants for ease of pronunciation by an English-speaker.
Written Gypsy should be rendered into Nuptial or a similar cursive font if deriving from the Republic of Independent City-States or a Bard, into Devroye or similar if deriving from the Unified Association Of Free Ports, into Phosphorous if deriving from the Traders and Commerce Empire, and into Queensland if historical.
The first release of the Shards Of Divinity House Rules asserted that “Druids do not have a separate language’. Further examination of the campaign concepts have shown that this is both true and misleading; there IS a language called “Druidic”, but it is NOT a language that can be used to communicate effectively with anyone else that knows the language. Rather, it is a learned ability to communicate with nature, to hear what the surroundings have to say about the weather that is coming, the local conditions, any threats within the region, any sites with peculiarities nearby, where the nearest spring is, and so on. It is also employed to tell the spirits of nature that inhabit every geographic feature, that shelter and nurture every species of animal and plant, that bring the rain and the storms and the weather, exactly what the Druid would like them to do. They may not listen (they often don’t) and may not answer the request in a timely fashion (they don’t have the same concept of time as mortals, but neither do Druids, so that’s all right).
This “Druidic” language has evolved from little bits of a number of different languages, predominantly Elvish and Sylvan, but with a slight tinge of more human languages such as Gypsy and Old Kingdom. Each Druid’s Circle – and, in fact, each Druid – develops his own Druid’s Tongue. As initiates, this essentially comprises parts of the lowest common denominator amongst the “Druidic” of the Druid’s Circle that has accepted the initiate; as a character grows in understanding, so his version of “Druidic” becomes more and more unique, and more and more dedicated to the terrain in which he spends most of his time. It also, therefore, becomes less and less useful generically, ie when the Druid is outside his own terrain. Druids who adventure will often need to select companion species to accompany him; while they may be useful for other reasons, the dominant reason for their presence is to translate the Druid’s requests into the local dialect. Of course, the less native they are to the local environment, the less help they can be.
Druidic is considered an Unusual language for Druids, a Rare language for Gypsies, Elves & Fey, and an Obscure language for all others.
Translating into Druidic is an ‘entertaining’ exercise. Extract and translate proper nouns other than animal and plant species using a random choice of Sylvan, Elvish, or Kingdom. Translate the remaining nouns into sounds and/or actions that are characteristic of the creature. Reformat the rest of the text using Alphabet Of The Magi – then interpret loosely into animal noises, weather sound effects, hand gestures, and anything else that comes to mind.
There is no written form of this ‘Language’.
Halfling is, technically, the youngest language around. When first encountered, the Halflings spoke a dialect of Gnome and had no written language. Because Gnomish was not well-suited to their daily needs, they had already begun supplementing it with additional vocabulary, and quickly seized the opportunity to incorporate large extracts of Kingdom into their speech. Further, since Kingdom provided them with a written language for the first time, these supplements came to be the dominant feature in their language within a generation. In modern times, their language is essentially Kingdom with some phonetically-spelt Gnomish terms, rather more phonetically-spelt original terms, and a few supplementary bits and pieces lifted from other languages, such as Elvish, especially a fairly fundamental form of Druidic. They invent new terms at the drop of a hat to further supplement their language; these spread through the Halfling community like wildfire and usually vanish back into obscurity as quickly as they came, though a few persist (when they prove useful) and become part of the regular lexicon.
Halfling Names are as per the PHB, translated as below.
Translating into Halfling is best achieved by translating into Latin (as per Kingdom) and then stripping off Latin “affectations” such as the ‘-us’ from the words. ‘Primorus’ (First, Greatest) becomes ‘Primor’. Where this eliminates virtually the entire word, that word is omitted if possible and rendered into Gnomish otherwise, as are any terms that are untranslatable or that remain the same in Latin as in English.
Render using any Sans-serif font.
Supposedly, the Sylvan tongue is a derivation of Elvish. But Fey seem able to impart a layer of communications between one another over the top in some fashion, which is suggestive of a second Sylvan tongue. Sylvan, and Fey Names, are simulated using Gaelic via an online translator and simplifying for pronouncability. I use http://www.englishirishdictionary.com/ for the purpose.
Written Sylvan is a recent innovation and is achieved by rendering the Gaelic in the Tengwar Sindarin font.
A later element of the anarchy of the wilds was the discovery by Orcs of the Gnomish settlements shortly after human tribes became the political ‘currency’ of Orcish and Goblin politics. Deprived of their chance of empire through conquest of the Goblins, the Orcs sought to turn their will apon the seemingly-vulnerable Gnomes. The result was an almost-stable condition of anarchy, with no group strong enough to dominate. But the Gnomes proved to be naturally-gifted at the Byzantine politics that emerged and were able to trade alliances with Goblins, rival Orc tribes, Human tribes, Gnolls, Giants, Fey, and Dwarves as necessary to always maintain enough strength to resist and those who would conquer them. Eventually, the Gnomish Monarchy rose to power in response to the human tribes coalescing into the Longex Dextora, and the Parumveneaora joined the Shared Kingdoms, giving the Gnomes enough military backing that they no longer need fear Orcish conquest.
Gnomes once spoke Sylvan, suggesting to some that they are another branch of the Fey, but the dominant experiences which shaped their language were their encounters with tribes of Giants and Orcs, both of whom imposed much of their grammar and language on the Gnomes. When these unwholesome and primitive elements were pushed back by the growth of civilization at the height of the Galliamic Empire, the Gnomish settlements were left behind. The Gnomish language is a blend of all three sources.
- Gnomes use the Dwarven alphabet but associate different sounds with the Dwarvish runes. Replace all P’s with R’s, all H’s with N’s, all K’s with S’s, all Z’s with H’s. Add extra vowels as necessary, especially U’s and O’s.
- In construction, use PHB (except as noted below), but ignore the suggested names.
- Gnome names always mean something in common, often something ridiculous or seemingly incompatible. “Ash” and “String” might be joined to form the name “Ash-string”.
- To derive a gnomish name, use Spanish translations of what you want the name to mean and replace or remove consonants as per Dwarvish; then replace consonants as stated above and add vowels as necessary.
- Gnomes are not clan-oriented in Shards Of Divinity. In place of a clan name, a Patronomic is derived from syllables of the first name of the ruling lord in the region and the name of the year.
- Gnomes have a succession of 37 month-names that are 1 syllable long and are used in fixed order. Since there are 12 months in a year, each year can have a name derived from the months of the year which identifies that year with a name-pattern that will not repeat for 36 years. However, every 36 years they reorder the sequence using a lottery draw that extends the uniqueness indefinitely. The current sequence, which was introduced 28 years ago (and hence is to remain in effect for another 8 years) is:
1 BEW – 2 VIL – 3 SHI – 4 JUF – 5 LAK – 6 SOR – 7 GAH – 8 GOS – 9 PAD – 10 JUF – 11 GYS – 12 MAJ – 13 PUW – 14 FEN – 15 WOF – 16 ZAS – 17 FID – 18 LAJ – 19 HOK – 20 FOP – 21 WUD – 22 FAH – 23 BIM – 24 TUW – 25 FAL – 26 NIL – 27 KAS – 28 FUJ – 29 LAS – 30 FEH – 31 NUD – 32 LOB – 33 PAS – 34 KUD – 35 NER – 36 WAD.
- The specific pattern, by year number, is:
4: 37 + 1-11
7: 36-37 + 1-10
10: 35-37 + 1-9
13: 34-37 + 1-8
16: 33-37 + 1-7
19: 32-37 + 1-6
22: 31-37 + 1-5
25: 30-37 + 1-4
28: 29-37 + 1-3
31: 28-37 + 1-2
34: 27-37 + 1
…then repeat with new syllables
- That means that the current year is named Feh-Nud-Lob-Pas-Kud-Ner-Wad-Bew-Vil-Shi.
- The first-born takes the first syllable of the name of the current ruler, modified as appropriate, and the syllable formed from the vowel+ last consonant of the first month and the first consonant of the next month.
- The second-born takes the second syllable of the name of the current ruler and the syllable formed from the vowel and last consonant of the second month of the year of their birth and the first consonant of the 3rd month of the year they were born.
- …and so on. When they run out of syllables in the christian name of the ruler, they move on to the second name, then the surname, and then they start over. Again, this virtually guarantees a unique surname for the gnome.
Translating Gnomish is as described above. To display written Gnomish, simply render the resulting text in the Dwarvish font.
Simulating an unreal language
As promised, starting with this part of the series, I’ll be sharing tips and tricks for using the language simulation techniques described in the previous article (Causa Domasura, The Home Of Reason. Starting with: what’s the best approach to use in choosing a language as a basis?
Every language, to those who don’t speak it, has a particular sonic flavor when we hear it. Through character substitution (aka search-and-replace), two types of operation become possible:
- changing the pattern of sounds and syntax without altering the overall tone; and
- changing the overall tone by manipulating the syllables that generate it.
In order to choose a basis language, you have to (at the same time) consider exactly how you want to manipulate it to achieve your goals. That means that you have to identify the non-verbal components of each language and how they will fit the persona and style of the race that is to speak them.
Some languages sound harsh, such as those from Eastern Europe; others have a natural flow, like Japanese. Italian conveys a lot of passion because many of the words and names end in vowels, generally in a rising tone.
You don’t have to know these things, there is a shortcut, and that’s the subject of today’s tip: Use an online translator to translate a section of typical speech from the race or society in question. Note how many words won’t translate; attempt to sound it out based on an English-language rendering of the language. Look for common patterns and what you can do with them. Consider the history of the race and whether or not they would use some other race’s language for part or all of their speech.
The text to be translated should be more than a single sentence; it should be several sentences long, and perhaps even a full paragraph.
For example, to find a language for Dwarves, I might use:
The spirit of the earth is in his bones, the strength of the mountain in his heart. The bones of the world below speak to his feet. The no – beard (beardless) youth shows much promise. I shall lift (hoist) a tankard (mug) of ale in his name when we return to our camp. The wealth of kings will flow through his fingers, I am certain.
From this starting point, you can run through multiple possibilities for a foundation language quickly and easily.
- French: L’esprit de la terre est dans ses os, la force de la montagne dans son cœur. Les os du monde d’en bas parler à ses pieds. Le non – barbe (imberbe) montre des jeunes très prometteurs. Je lèverai (palan) une chope (tasse) de bière à son nom quand nous retournons à notre camp. La richesse des rois s’écoule à travers ses doigts, j’en suis certain.
- German: Der Geist der Erde ist in seinen Knochen, die Kraft des Berges in seinem Herzen. Die Knochen der Welt unter seine Füße sprechen. Die nicht – Bart (bartlos) Jugend zeigt viel versprechen. Ich werde heben (Hubwerk) ein Krug (mug) Ale in seinem Namen, wenn wir zu unserem Camp zurück. Der Reichtum der Könige durch seine Finger fließen, bin ich mir sicher.
- Hungarian: A szellem a föld az o csontjai, az erot a hegy szívében. A csontok, a világ alatt beszél a lábát. A nem – szakáll (beardless) ifjúsági mutat sok ígéret. Én Felvonó (emelo) egy korsó (bögre) sört az o nevét, amikor visszatérünk a táborba. A gazdag királyok fognak folyni az ujjai, biztos vagyok benne.
…and so on. With lots of z’s and k’s, Hungarian would be a good choice. Sure, there are some funny characters, like á, ü and so on – but they can be replaced by English-alphabet equivalents easily enough.
It’s as easy as that to choose a foundation language. Even with copy and paste, it took me longer to compile those three examples than it would have taken to try the translations – it’s that fast.
Next: Ineodolus Imperascora (The Traders And Commerce Empire). The Rare Languages. And how to choose modifying adjustments to your source language.
- The Non-Human Languages Generator
- The Shared Kingdoms: A Premise from the Shards Of Divinity campaign
- Bher Yuralvus, The Home Of The Endless Library
- Causa Domasura, The Home Of Reason
- Therassus Amora, The Centre Of Attraction
- The Ineodolus Imperascora (The Traders And Commerce Empire)
- The Longex Dextora (The Hinterlands)