Its occurred to me that the common tongue, as often used in fantasy RPGs, is one hell of an unrealistic crutch. Just look at Europe. How many languages are spoken there? Well, according to Wikipedia, the European Union has 24 languages designated as "official and working": Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish. Trust me, there are others that are spoken.
So, obviously "common" is used so player characters can travel the world without having language difficulties, but is it taken too far?
In my mind, "common" should be to a fantasy setting as English is to much of the real world - a language of international trade and business. Yes, many if not most of Europe (if not the world) speaks English as a second language, but that's the catch - it is a second language. At home, on the streets, in personal interactions among locals, it is rarely used. Such communications use the native tongue, not the common tongue.
Now, for those that the so-called common tongue is their native tongue, they may not have even bothered to learn another language. Sound familiar to anyone? ;)
Anyhow, just something to chew on when I run my next Swords & Wizardry Campaign...
If you want, I have some further thoughts and observations on tonight's episode of The Tavern Chat Podcast.
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