Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Elder Tongues (Part II)

Here's the second part of my Elder Tongues' article, detailing how the elemental languages of Pathfinder/D&D 3.5 work, for those that enjoy such minutae.

Elder Tongues

On Elemental Grammar and Vocabulary (or “How it is written?”)

The Air Language does not seen to possess an original alphabet, although there’re outrageous claims to massive cyclones, hidden in the Plane of Air’s heart, whose rolling walls are marked with runes made of lightning. Other legends hint that Auran can be written on the air itself through some arcane (or alchemical) process still unknown to humanoids. The most successful alphabets employed to record Auran are usually Draconic (due to its arcane nature) and Elven (due to its lyric properties). Finally, some inventive human sages use musical scores to record Auran [This would require the Performance skill with musical instruments or song].

The Water Language possesses a strange and alien alphabet, whose complexities are still beyond the keen of most humanoid races. Aquan requires a three-dimensional medium to be fully written. Its vocabulary is hieroglyphic, holographic, highly stylized and otherworldly beautiful. Aquan rendered in a two-dimensional medium (like parchment) loses a good portion of its original meaning. There are recent rumors of an undine [from the Pathfinder Bestiary 2] alchemist that managed to create a special magic ink that can be used underwater to write the complex Aquan glyphs. One of its miraculous proprieties is that it can be later removed from a water medium and stored in a vial – if dropped again on pure water it’ll resume whatever was written.

The Fire Tongue uses a cursive and beautiful alphabet, written in a strange and hypnotic spiral pattern, from inside to outside. Ignan texts have the appearance as a filled circle when complete. Some claim that the known Ignan alphabet is actually the Efreet alphabet. The older “True Ignan” letters would still be unknown on the Material Plane.
Ignan texts are most of time written on runic style over brass plates – most of these texts use the Draconic alphabet. Texts using the Efreet (cursive) alphabet are rare on the Material Plane. Due to strange mystical proprieties, still poorly understood, archives containing texts in cursive Ignan are constant threatened by spontaneous combustion. A few wizards and sages believe that this problem can be averted by writing Ignan with special oils, over dragon skin, but the evidently higher cost of the process discourage its use.

The Earth Language uses its own runic alphabet and it’s known for its absurd level of complexity. Extremely small details like the depth of a particular rune and its direction in relation to a world’s poles (or Plane of Earth’s mythic center) are of utmost importance. The Terran alphabet is so long that many sages today believe it’s actually a planar pictographic system, instead of a runic code. A few clerics of Earth deities claim that there’s a unique symbol on Terran for each known word or concept – an idea heavily supported by Lawful outsiders.

High Mastery of Elemental Languages

Few inhabitants of the Material Planes can speak an Elemental Language beyond its simplest form. The primordial minds of Elementals beings, together with their strange alphabets, create a natural barrier to humanoid students. However, some manage to reach higher levels of comprehension.

This High Mastery almost reaches the level of a native from an Elemental Plane and involves mental exercises and esoteric studies that probably would drive many people insane (and in fact the institutionalization of Planar Grammatik students is relatively common).

High Mastery represents a special focus over one or more Elemental Language, enabling the speaker to control the alien intricacies of the idiom. This level of expertise not only allows a better relationship with the corresponding Elemental creatures, but also places the planar linguistic in closer communion with the elemental forces themselves.

In game terms, each High Mastery over an Elemental Language (Auran, Aquan, Ignan and Terran) requires a particular feat. Each High Mastery feat grants a +2 bonus on Diplomacy checks with the corresponding elemental subtype creatures and Elemental Plane natives. All these feats also grant an Elemental Talent, which is a supernatural ability that can be used once per day and that doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity. Unless otherwise noted, activating an Elemental Talent requires a move action.

Auran High Mastery
You can sing in Auran to be heard only by its target and you ignore the winds. 
Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus on Diplomacy checks with the Air Elemental subtype creatures and natives of the Plane of Air.

Air Talent (Su): Once per day you can use the message cantrip, once per round, as a swift action, for a maximum of 5 consecutive rounds. While activated, this talent also lets you ignore wind conditions for Concentration checks purposes and ranged attacks with normal weapons.

Aquan High Mastery
You can speak clearly underwater or even breathe below the waves. 
Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus on Diplomacy checks with the Water Elemental subtype creatures and natives of the Plane of Water.

Water Talent (Su): Once per day you can speak underwater unhindered (including casting spells with vocal components) and breathe underwater for 10 rounds.

Ignan High Mastery
You can start fires with your voice and calm the flames’ hunger against you. 
Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus on Diplomacy checks with the Fire Elemental subtype creatures and natives of the Plane of Fire.

Fire Talent (Su): You can start a small fire, merely by speaking, as long as you have combustive material within your reach. Or you can convert the next 5 points of fire damage suffered to nonlethal damage as an immediate action. This talent can be used once per day for each 5 character levels.

Terran High Mastery
The stones literally whisper their secrets to you.
Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus on Diplomacy checks with the Earth Elemental subtype creatures and natives of the Plane of Earth.

Earth Talent (Su): You can substitute Linguistics for one Survival, Perception or Knowledge (Dungeoneering) check while underground. Or you can substitute Linguistics for one Reflex save against a trap with stone or metallic components. This talent can be used once per day for each 5 character levels.