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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Alignment Tongues - Do You Use Them?


I've been listening to the latest Roll for Initiative Podcast, where they are rolling up AD&D 1e characters, and alignment tongues or alignment languages came up.

Vince and the others are right. As best I can recall, they aren't explained very well in the core books and I don't remember ever using them in game. Sure, everyone had one, but it never got used.

Do you use alignment tongues? If so, how do you define them (spoken, secret signs, etc)?

23 comments:

  1. Telepathy, alignment languages are how you think. Alignment languages are "spoken" on other planes where common is no longer relevant.

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  2. Never used them. Barely used alignment except as an role play aid to quickly define npc attitudes.

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  3. I "use" them in the sense that people write them on their sheets. I can't think of one time in thirty-five years when they were actually relevant in play.

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  4. Like a lot of things, we used alignment languages. I don't recall any deep analysis of what they were. Then again when someone didn't show, we'd just roll 'em up and stick 'em in the back in the horse.

    These days, I'd say that there just another layer of complexity not really needed. There are so many more believable less fiddly ways to deal with language like nationality or guild affiliations.

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  5. I just read a little about this last night, while reading thru LL, the section on dragons there is a discussion about alignment languages. interesting stuff, although it didn't expand as much as I would have liked. I'm a bit behind on the podcasts, although I"ll be catching up next week.

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  6. I've used them extensively in a campaign or two (and totally ignored them in others).

    I've explained that they are languages granted by the gods of those alignments, which is how they communicate with each other and their worshipers. Not unlike glossolalia, it comes whole cloth to the speaker granted by the deity in question. All deities of that alignment speak that tongue, although they might have special languages for their clerics.

    Neutral does not get an alignment tongue.

    Alignment tongues have been used for secret communication, finding moles, discovering new alliances, and speaking with creatures who don't know common in my games. If a character changes alignment (either by choice or by force, e.g. a Helm of Alignment Switching or a spell) then the old tongue is instantly lost and a new tongue learned.

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  7. I think of it more as words having a secret meaning for "those in the know".

    For example, to some people these days 'liberal' means "puppy-burning, communist pedophile".

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  9. I flavor them (for DCC) as Common but with a slant to acknowledge laws and customs of the local area. These are traditionally reserved for speaking with people in positions of power, town officials, magistrates. It's basically alignment-based bureaucracy/lawyer speak.

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  10. Three questions to determine this:
    1. Do you routinely play that the party can communicate with any "good/lawful" race, regardless of species differentiation?
    2. Do you routinely play that evil races can cooperate easily with one another, so that orcs might be in a group with trolls and ogres (or whatever)?
    3. Do you routinely play that players can't just talk to any random orc, or read communications between evil races? (Or if they can, that communication is still very difficult, as if in a non-native language?)

    Then you already have alignment languages, even if you're not being official about it. To be honest, I've never played with anyone who didn't do these three things, so I think I've always used the basic idea, even if we never explicitly said "I'm speaking the Lawful language." It's just that language barriers only seem to matter when they keep the PCs from understanding the communications of some differently-aligned enemy, but never matter between commonly aligned allies.

    The place where Alignment languages get weird is where you switch from the 3-fold alignment system to the 9-fold alignment system, and suddenly "Neutral Evil" is a different language than "Lawful Evil".

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  11. I have never used alignment languages in my games, but have played in games where DM's have been quite vocal (no pun intended) insisting on them. I've always thought of them as an available option should they ever be needed for some reason or another -- like most of the old edition rules. :-)

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  12. I always liked the concept but almost never used them in play because we could never wrap our heads around what they would sound like in practice. It sounds like a lot of folks conceive of them as being magical in nature, or at least some kind of essential nature of a being with alignment X, which never sat quite right with me. I always kind of thought of them as a mixture of different kinds of slang, legalisms (maybe for LN), scriptural references from specific religions (e.g., LG), etc. that other people from different social classes/cultures/religions wouldn't necessarily share, in the same way that a Cockney chimney sweep in Victorian London would have a very different vocabulary and speech pattern from an English nobleman. We always used Thieves' Cant though because the idea of an underworld-specific slang just seemed to make sense and there were some Dragon articles on it, which helped (though I remember someone in a letter column pointing out that a thieves' cant shouldn't include sibilants and other sounds that would be too loud when whispered).

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  13. Yes, we use them, sparingly.

    I liken them to religious tongues- Latin for Catholics, for instance. Holy books are written in alignment languages.

    It's also cool to bark at the bad guys in Chaotic!

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  14. While putting together the house rules for my current (on pause) campaign, I dismissed alignment languages entirely. The campaign is in Mystara, and Thyatian is *close* to Common, but not always. I do not allow the selection of "Common" as a language, and language barriers have arisen during play (much to my delight). I do however have a graph of how languages are related and allow some communication along branches of the graph, and also make learning new languages possible during the game.

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  15. Use them for planar adventures. I think that is how they were intended.

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  16. Not used much but my rationale was that it was really a "liturgical" used by religions of that alignment. Similar in someways to how Latin was used in the medieval West.

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  17. I refuse to comment on this post as it's not written my native Neutral Good.

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  18. In some D&D campaigns (with the three alignment system), I've used them as sort of a proto-Latin, spoken by Lawful clerics and used to write their scrolls. Only clerics and the odd Lawful fighter learn it. Chaotic is a secret tongue spoken by dark cultists and some unsavory sorcerers. None of the magical stuff applies: Characters can't start with a different alignment tongue, but there's nothing to stop them from learning it.

    In DCC, I think I would actually use it as is, because... why the hell not?

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  19. In 1e I have always used alignment tongues. Of course, we routinely use Detect Evil and Know Alignment on one another because dopplegangers, etc. Yeah - my campaign is 36+ years old and like that.

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  20. Never used them, never even bothered to write them down as they may be the single stupidest thing in D&D. Makes no sense at all. But neither does alignment except if you're a cleric, paladin, or other role that requires adherence to a particular god's rules. Other than that, alignment is such a silly thing to include.

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  21. When I was younger, we'd write them on our character sheets, but I can't recall ever actually using them in play. Like alignment (well, I guess I have something similar to alignment in the "For King and Country" method), I wouldn't use them at all these days. I would prefer to stick to a more naturalistic approach to languages.

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  22. Never used them, not in 30+ years of playing...

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  23. Yes - they are even integral to the campaign. One party in particular used Lawful Good as a 'battle language'

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