Languages Of Shadow

Creatures who reach our modern world through Shadow gain an innate knowledge of English, Spanish, Russian, or whatever the predominant language happens to be in the area in which they arrive. To them, the language resembles Common, a language that was used in trade or other negotiations between different species in the world of their birth. Whether this is mere coincidence or part of some great design remains a mystery.

“Languages of Shadow” are languages brought to our world by creatures of Shadow. Like Earth languages, these languages can be grouped together in families. Languages that belong to a single family share the same root alphabet. However, knowing one language in a family doesn’t enable characters with the Smart hero’s linguist talent to automatically speak, write, and understand the other languages in that family.

Natives of our world—human and Shadowkind alike—can learn new Shadow languages only after they are exposed to them; they can’t master them spontaneously. To learn Draconic, for example, a character must spend time with creatures that speak Draconic or find someone with access to the written language (Draconic “books on tape” or ancient texts written using the Draconic alphabet, for example). Certain Shadowkind know languages commonly spoken among members of their species, and all characters may study and learn new Shadow languages, investing in the appropriate Read/Write Language and Speak Language skills as they advance in level.

Table: Shadow Languages by Family lists various languages of Shadow and their root alphabets. Shadow language families include the following:

Celestial: Elegant in its simplicity and purity, celestial writing tends to be direct in its language. Spoken, it has a gentle, flowing tone.

Draconic: A florid, powerful alphabet, Draconic is often used for magical messages and inscriptions. It is said to descend from the dragons themselves and is often referred to as the Original Language and the Words of Power.

Dwarven: Using an alphabet similar to the Norse runes, the dwarven alphabet was made to be carved in stone, and its letters look as if they were chiseled in place. Languages in this family are generally rough and heavily accented.

Elven: The elven alphabet is a thin, flowing freehand script with letters overlapping and curling in on themselves, suitable for inscription on metal, ivory, or very hard woods. It is used by elves (including drow) and has a melodic tone when spoken.

Fiendish: The Fiendish alphabet is a jagged, powerful script. The two languages that form this group—Abyssal and Infernal—are dominated by harsh gutturals and accents. Favored by evil outsiders, its presence usually indicates something malefic.

Halfling: The halfling alphabet makes heavy use of pictograms and lettering passingly similar in appearance to musical notes. The spoken language is a patois incorporating elements of Elven combined with distinctive halfling idioms.

Undertongue: Represented by harsh lines and stark hieroglyphs, this debased version of Elven is spoken by countless subterranean species, usually for the purpose of doing business with one another.

Table: Languages Of Shadow By Family
LanguageTypical SpeakersAlphabet/Family
Abyssal Outsiders with allegiances to chaos, evilFiendish
Aquan Water-based creatures Elven
Auran Air-based creatures Draconic
Celestial Creatures with good allegianceCelestial
Common Various Shadowkind speciesCommon
Draconic Dragons and other reptilian creaturesDraconic
Drow Sign LanguageDrow None*
Dwarven Dwarves Dwarven
Elven Elves, drow, and half-elvesElven
Giant Giants, trolls, ogres Dwarven
Gnoll Gnolls Dwarven
Gnome Gnomes Dwarven
Goblin Goblins, bugbears, and other goblinoidsDwarven
Halfling Halflings Elven
Ignan Fire-based or fire-worshiping creaturesDraconic
Infernal Outsiders with evil, law allegiancesFiendish
Orc Orcs and half-orcs Dwarven
Sylvan Forest-dwelling creatures and feyElven
Terran Earth-based creatures Dwarven
Undertongue Subterranean creatures Elven
*See the Footnote on Sign Languages.

Footnote on Sign Languages

Knowing one type of sign language does not grant knowledge of other sign languages. In the mundane world, ASL (American Sign Language) is a dominant form of nonverbal communication in the United States and may be used and understood by any character who takes the Speak American Sign Language skill. However, the communication is in the native language of the speaker. Two characters using ASL to communicate with each other must share another common language.

Screen printing