[Runequest] The language of sorcery?

strobus at sympatico.ca strobus at sympatico.ca
Wed Aug 10 13:30:10 EST 2011

I would think it would be restricted to any single language. I'm not that familiar with Glorantha, but didn't the dwarves also practice sorcery? Would they not use their own languages?

Historically, Babylonian and Egyptian are both good guesses and sound like good choices, to me. But languages are not simple. 'Babylonian' was actually dialect of the older Akkadian tongue, as was Assyrian. Later Babylonians spoke Amorite, and later Aramaic tongues. The earliest Babylonians, and all who came before them, would have written in Sumerian or Akkadian. You also have to take script into account (if these sorts of details interest you, of course). Early Babylonians did their writing in Cuneiform on clay tablets. Neo-Babylonians, on the other hand, adopted later alphabets and wrote on parchment or papyrus as well as in Cuneiform. And of course, there were many other languages that existed at the same time and were also written down; Eblaite, Elamite, Harrapan, and so on. It seems perfectly reasonable that sorcery, as written, is a set of instructions which can be communicated in any form that someone else can read. So in practice, it could be written in any language/script combo. But it also seems to me that sorcery should be exclusive - something only a select few could read. This suggests you'd want it to be transmitted in an ancient tongue. Personally, I'd pick Sumerian, which survived as a written-only language for a long time after it ceased to be spoken, and could probably never be read by more than 1% of the population even in its hey-day. Sumerian dates back to 4000 or 5000 BC, I would guess, and predates the invention of writing. If it was something I only wanted to be passed down within a specific sect, I'd probably use a made-up language, a secret script, or obscure mathematics - just to keep it ultra-exclusive. There has been debate that an even older language predated Sumerian in Mesopotamia, thought it was never written down, of course, since it died out before the invention of writing, itself.

Date: Tue, 9 Aug 2011 21:39:17 -0500
From: styopa1 at gmail.com
To: runequest at rpgreview.net
Subject: Re: [Runequest] The language of sorcery?

In canon Glorantha, the language of sorcery would be Western - I'm not philologically certain, but I'd guess most of the western tongues are corruptions of an ur-language from Brithos.  Certainly whatever was written would be Brithini.  The closest language to that today would almost surely be in Arolanit.  

So I'd say that each Western language has its sorcerous version, that each sect probably would itself speak the language (or a corruption) of the region where it was founded.  Mystical writing would probably be much closer to the Brithini original than the spoken version.

For a fantasy medieval campaign, I'd probably be inclined to use Arabic - considering the preeminence of Arabs in astronomy/astrology at the time, and its 'exoticness' for most Euro/Western RPG players, it would fit, I think.

Re your PPS, I think that was the intent; in fact I'd say the effort 'not to be Tolkien' showed through in some places.  However, not with Halflings, lol.
Re the PPPS: it seems a way to make sorcerers more playable more quickly.   The only danger is that that might let them ramp up TOO quickly in the middle/later stages of development.
Note - normally you only roll once anyway, with the lowest % applicable.  So intensity 54%, range 13%, Viagra Spell 88%, duration 6% would be rolled as 6% to cast.

On Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 8:54 PM,  <royce at efn.org> wrote:

Hi, Guys,

   What is the language of sorcery?  Or, am I wrong in assuming that

sorcery is written and cast in a mode that we would call language?

(That'd be hard to explain.)

   In a Fantasy Medieval Europe settings, what would be the historically

logical linguistic choices for sorcery?  I had a few ideas, mentioned

below, but I'd be more interested in your opinions -- especially where

they disagree with my superficial notions.

A few superficial notions:

   One could argue that sorcery is handed down from the Babylonians and

Egyptians, and is therefore recorded in one or both of these

pre-classical tongues.  Or one could argue that the classical Greeks

would've been the ones to systematize sorcery; presumably through the

Library of Alexandria.  And there is Latin, which was the language of

the Empire, and then of the Church.

   Further, if one were to assume that the Church worships the Greco-Roman

pantheon (with a dozen altars in every Church), then Latin and Greek

would be the languages of Church divine magic, as well.

   Anyways, all thoughts are welcome.



P.S.  It just now occurred to me that a GM could go in plenty of other

interesting directions.  Perhaps sorcery could be written in a language

from fabled Atlantis -- or even from Neanderthals.  Talk about a dead


P.P.S.  By the way, did the description of orcs in RQ III (AH edition)

remind you more of extinct hominids than of Tolkien?  Just a thought.

P.P.P.S.  Not that anybody really cares, but I decided to simplify my RQ

sorcery rules by eliminating the manipulation skills and simply limiting

the magic points that can be allocated to manipulating a spell (intensity,

duration, & range) to 20% of the spell skill level.  In other words, if my

wizard has 53% in Erectile Enhancement, then he can spend up to 10.6, or

11 magic points to manipulate the spell.  He rolls to cast the spell, but

need not make a roll to manipulate the spell.  Sound practical?


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