Escarnum’s history and cosmology diverges greatly from D&D’s various official settings. As such, the languages spoken here differ from those detailed in the published rulebooks.
The table below lists the languages spoken on Alm (as well as some that may be heard in extraplanar encounters) and how they correlate with those described in the core rules. Languages described in the core books that don’t appear here have been replaced by another, as indicated.
|Language||Equivalent to||Typical speakers|
|Bestial||—||Gnolls, other Beast-kin|
|Common||—||Most Almish folk|
|Pars||—||Humans, Awakened, Mor|
|Sorana||—||Soratami eladrin, Shar|
|Sylvan||Elven||Elves, Calanish eladrin, Jotun|
|Ur||Dwarven, Giant||Bannyr, Giants, Aethyr|
|Liminal||Deep Speech||Aberrant creatures|
|Supernal||Supernal, Abyssal||Angels, devils, other astral beings|
As in other D&D settings, Escarnum generally assumes that everybody can speak Common, for the sake of keeping a story moving. However, if your group finds it interesting to address communication barriers between nations, we recommend removing Common entirely and having everybody fall back on their “secondary” language(s).
These are the languages you’re likely to find spoken by the various inhabitants of Alm. Creatures not native to the material plane generally speak their own languages, which are listed in their own section.
An ancient fork of what would become Bestial, Abil was developed by the abilen into a carefully-documented written form using an abjad of the same name. Ashar adopted Common after the War of Empires, meaning Abil has largely fallen out of everyday use; however, it is one of the major linguistic influences on Common, particularly where mathematics is concerned.
Spoken by various beast-kin cultures for as long as anybody can remember, Bestial was Alm’s common tongue before the End of Empires. It is still spoken by many such people, particularly in Beasthome, although it has no traditional written form; those who need to record it in modern times usually render it into the Common alphabet.
The de facto language of Alm since the End of Empires. Once peaceful communication between the nations became commonplace, the languages of Ur, Bestial, Sylvan and Abil inevitably began to influence one another.
The nascent Common tongue was eventually codified by an international committee, which also developed a new alphabet supposed to encompass all sounds in its parent languages. While functional, the result was less than elegant; Common’s melting-pot origins are easily seen in its many bizarre rules, inconsistent spelling and pronunciation, and countless regional variants.
Largely unwelcome among beast-kin, gremblins developed their own language in lieu of Bestial. With no written form, it is spoken almost exclusively by gremblins, and remains ubiquitous among them despite their general adoption of Common.
Goblin is a highly contextual language, leaving much information implied rather than spoken. Those who grow up with it typically apply this style to all languages, leading to their speech seeming broken or childish to listeners who lack this context.
Rarely heard outside the land of Kaath, Kaash is the fiercely beloved language of the Wu-kan people. According to legend, the unique sound of Kaash is how Sunmon’Tzu, as a mortal, heard the words of Supernal spoken by his celestial keeper. When they eventually chose to share their divine nature with him, the celestial gave up the gift of Supernal, left with only Sunmon’Tzu’s version; imperfect, somewhere between angel and beast, and testament to the will to defy heaven for love.
Having retreated underground when verbal communication was still half-formed, the kobold people never came to use Bestial as a language. Rather, they were “gifted” a unique language and writing system by the tyrant god, that they might better serve it. Even after their emancipation they kept this language, now considering it theirs by right of spoils.
Scholars have observed that Lakoa is broadly cognate with the language spoken among dragons, a creature rarely seen in Alm. What exactly this indicates about dragons, kobolds or the tyrant god is the subject of some debate.
A hybrid of many similar languages, brought by humans and mor from Parosea. Although the Overseers once shared a common language, each regional ruler “improved” it as they saw fit, leading to a dozen similar-but-distinct forks using a mostly identical alphabet. Each group of slaves learned the particular language of their masters—which, after emancipation, were by necessity merged back into a single untidy hybrid.
Since their migration to Alm, most humans and mor speak Common, with Pars persisting mostly in names and songs. The exception is the theocracy of Aurion, where the church mandates that their scriptures never be malformed by translation. Thus, most Aurites still speak the original form of the Parsian fork preferred by its founders, which they now describe as “High Pars”.
Spoken only by the rahbe people, Rah is dependent upon their unique abilities. The verbal component is largely reminiscent of Abyssal, but the language is also composed of gestures, scents, and psionic impressions that are typically impossible for other creatures to communicate or comprehend. Accordingly, Rah is impossible to write with any kind of accuracy.
Rah can only be selected as a language by rahbe characters, or at the GM’s discretion by other psionic creatures that may be able to mimic its non-vocal components.
The ancient language of the Soratami eladrin, characterised by complex rules, multiple written forms and a massive vocabulary. These peculiarities mostly provide disambiguation and context, creating an informationally dense language that is daunting to outsiders. Unsurprisingly, Sorana is typically only spoken in Sorairo, and not often taught to outsiders.
Shar—at least those born within the Aganai—typically speak a much less formal dialect of Sorana, influenced by the speech of shadow creatures.
Rooted in Evernal—the language of the primal fey—Sylvan is spoken widely by their mortal descendants in Alm. It was also adopted by the eladrin who fled Sorairo to form Calanshae; they codified their own dialect based on the language of their elven allies, which they placed in contrast to Bestial as the speech of the “enlightened races”.
Sylvan has no unified written form, and is rendered in different scripts depending on the user and dialect. Jotunar typically use Urdrun runes, for example, while the Calanish form is written in the Rellanic alphabet devised by the early Calans. Prior to Calanish colonisation, elvish Sylvan was generally not written at all in favour of oral tradition; the colonisers saw this as a terrible wrong, and immediately set to designing a writing system to “complete” the language.
The ancestral language of the bannyr, Ur originally came from the continent of Aethys along with their first raiders. Although it was generally replaced by Common after the End of Empires, most bannyri folk still know at least a little Ur, primarily in the form of old songs, names, and insults. Its written form—using the runic alphabet of Urdrun—is still ubiquitous in Bannyr art and storytelling.
Ur also appears to be the root of the half-understood Aethyri language, a logical result of their shared place of origin.
To mortals, every extraplanar “outsider” seems to use a specific tongue unique to their plane of origin. These are not actually languages as such, but rather the result of mortal minds trying to process communication that bypasses language altogether. Such words are magical by their very nature, and indeed, form the basis of “spells” as described in arcane magic.
As perceived, extraplanar languages do have a consistent sound and appearance, so they can be studied and understood by mortals. However, when a mortal tries to speak or write in such a language, the words they reproduce lack the inherent power of their original forms. Only those mortals who command arcane magic—whether by study or by some other means—can begin to recapture some of the words’ original power.
Some species with extraplanar origins have inhabited the material plane long enough to become “native”—for example, elves and jotunar. Such creatures have long since lost the ability to use the planar tongues. However, the perceived sounds of their planar tongue often influence the languages they wind up developing.