Wednesday, June 1, 2011

7K - Miscellaneous Details

Another post, from here. We pick up some of the random bits of information about the world, namely Language, Money, and the Elements.


There are a number of languages present in the Seven Kingdoms. Each of the Kingdoms has an official language. Tsoi and Is-Ka'ander both have numerous dialects, some of which are completely unintelligible to one another. Davrakotia also hosts two distinct ethnic minorities within it, which maintain their own languages.

In order to bring some order to this babble, there are also a number of "common" languages. These were originally pidgin tongues, that have gradually been accepted and formalized into true languages (at least, as much as any language can be in a culture without mass communication).

At the top is High Common, or Court Common. This is a variant of an archaic form of Iskandrian, which has since been liberally salted with a number of Lhiannan words and phrases. This is the language of diplomacy, etiquette, and law, and is taught to nearly every noble child.

Sitting all by itself is Draconic, a language which seems to have nothing in common with any other known language. However, it is the lingua franca of the academic world, and most scholarly texts are written in Draconic. It is also the basis of the magical language of spells.

An interesting tongue is Trade Common. It is supposed to be the universal language in which business is conducted. But, naturally, only merchants who frequently deal with people from distant lands are likely to take the trouble to learn it. So, it is less popular and less universal than you might think. The other interesting thing is that the people most likely to use Trade Common regularly are middle and upper class merchants, and sailors. As such, there are whole branches of Trade Common to deal with nautical issues, and whole other branches that are some of the most colorful curses you can imagine. Trade Common has seven different words for "gold," representing different grades and uses. It also has a different word for the male genitalia for each race.

The final widespread language is known as Battle Common, or Camp Common. It is widely used by soldiers and mercenaries, and is also the root language for most of the orcish languages. It is a rough language, focusing heavily on utility, and there isn't much vocabulary for beauty, emotion, or negotiation. However, the language is also unique in that every word has both a spoken version and a gesture, so the language can be used entirely silently if necessary.


Each kingdom creates its own currency. Many of the barons, jarls, etc. also create their own currencies. The tapestry of international monetary exchange is so tangled, that there are people who make their entire living simply as moneychangers.

However, that's all way too complicated for players to deal with. It's honestly too complicated for most merchants to deal with, but they don't really have a choice. For the purposes of the game, we use the most common international standard, the Davrakotian currency. It is backed by salt, which has a pretty stable value across the region. It also has the advantage of a simple, decimal progression, which most of the other currencies don't have. The largest coin is the Pegasus, which is primarily only used to negotiate large purchases. The common coin is the Gryphon, and 100 gryphons make a pegasus (a single gryphon has roughly the buying power of $20 American). The next smaller coin is the Sphinx, and 10 sphinxes make a gryphon. Finally, the minor coin is the Chimera, and 10 chimerae make a sphinx (and, hence, 100 chimerae make a gryphon). (Clever players might note that this makes the coins pp, gp, sp, and cp. Yes, a gryphon is equal in value to the gold piece in D&D.)

The Elements

It seems appropriate to follow up the discussion of magic with a discussion of the elements. The cosmology of the Seven Kingdoms contains ten elements.

The four major elements are the classic, Aristotelian elements. Namely, air, fire, earth, and water.

The four minor elements each sit at the junction between two adjacent major elements. Between air and fire is light, and its close cousin lightning. Mages have actually proven that light and lightning are actually the same element (electro-magnetism). Common wisdom holds that lightning is simply spears of "solid" light.

Between air and water is ice. This is always a controversial one for me. Isn't ice just the negative of fire? Therefore, shouldn't it be part of the fire element? Or, at least, equal to the fire element? And, yet, it isn't. I think it definitely should be a separate element. The power of cold just feels qualitatively different from the power of fire, not simply the reverse. And, at least in the Norse runic traditions, ice represents a very different magical power from fire (potential energy vs. active energy, FWIW). And, OTOH, couldn't ice be a part of the water element? That is opposed to fire, and it seems to make sense. But, I'm not sure I'd make that association, personally. So, I separate it out as its own element, but a subordinate one.

The junction of water and earth holds wood. It's actually more than wood, as it includes all organic matter, such as bone and flesh. I need a better name for it. But, it covers pretty much everything that comes from a living being.

Earth and fire border on mineral. This is metal, gems, and the like, i.e., the purified and worked bits taken from the earth. I am really unhappy about this one. But, I can't come up with a fifth substance that things are made from, or a better element between fire and earth. I'm open to any suggestions.

At the junction between the opposed elements, the elements are even weaker. Between air and earth is force (the raw force that is the basis of gravity, telekinesis, and spells like wall of force and magic missile). Experiments by mages have also determined that sound is the product of force vibrations, meaning that sound is part of the force element as well.

Finally, between water and fire is the force of decay and corruption, typified by acid. It also covers such forces as rust and disease (yes, disease is considered to be a force, not the action of microscopic animals).

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