The Commonwealth is wide and diverse, including countless small regional cultures; it includes a rich multitude of languages.

Languages tend to correspond to cultures rather than races, and cultures tend to be regional: a given wood elf is likely to speak a language that is similar to (and influenced by) the other nearby cultures with (whom they have regular contact), and that language is likely to be totally dissimilar to the language spoken by another wood elf living a thousand miles away (with whom they have almost no contact).

Note that, before the internet, before the railroad, in the early days of the printing press, languages tended to be small and local, and they tended to be relatively fluid.

Things are complicated by the fact that many races cannot make the same sounds as one-another. For example, Gnolls and Humans cannot physically make the same sounds, and so they cannot speak one-another’s languages. It is common for people in mixed communities to have some fluency in their neighbor’s languages — even if they cannot actually speak that language.

Language Rules

Creatures can have one, two or three dots in a language.

  • If they have one dot in a language, they have a basic ability to speak it; they can understand and communicate basic concepts, and can make themselves understood with some effort.
  • If they have two dots in a language, they have conversational fluency; they can comfortably hold a conversation in that language, although they may have an accent, be missing some uncommon vocabulary or occasionally mangle an idiom.
  • If they have three dots in a language, they have native fluency; either they are native speakers, or they have mastered the language to an equivalent degree.

Any given creature can only speak certain languages (except some particularly gifted mimics).

  • Each creature (that can speak) has one or more language groups; these represent the sounds that they can make.
  • Each language also has one (or more, in rare cases) language group(s), representing the sounds that are required in order to speak it.
  • A character can learn (that is, purchase dots for) any language, and
    • a character can read, write and understand any language that they have dots in, but
    • they can only (physically) speak a language that they have the languages groups for.
    • (But see also the Torque of Speaking in Magic Items.)

Sometimes, communicating is difficult – for example, if a character was trying to understand a language that is mutually intelligible with their own, or if a character is trying to communicate a difficult concept in a language that they do not have native proficiency in. In these cases, you can use an INT×3 check to see if your character can communicate effectively (see Common Checks).

Note that, as usual, checks are not always appropriate. In general, a check is only appropriate when it is important to communicate a complex concept, and when limited time is available to communicate. In cases where characters have time to talk with one another, you may assume that any reasonable concept can eventually be communicated.

Common Language Groups

There are a few common language groups:

  • HHED: the sounds that humans, halflings, elves and dwarves can make
  • GR: the sounds that Gnolls and Ratfolk can make (commonly described as “several coyotes having seizures”)
  • DDK: the sounds that Dragons, Drakes and Kobolds can make (commonly described as “a rasping song-bird”)

Languages of the Commonwealth


Ashen is a complex and irregular language spoken primarily by Ash Elves.

  • Group: HHED
  • Partially Intelligible: Keillou (-10), Merchant Voyager (-10), Weal (-20), Shipwright Hud (-20)
  • Special: Ashen is a difficult language to learn, imposing a -10 penalty on related checks.

Ashen is the highly complex and irregular language spoken by the Ash Elves of the Haven Isles. It is a complex synthesis of several languages: while its earliest roots lie in Keillou (the language of the Shade Elves), it has since been influenced heavily by the (unrelated) languages of various Wood Elf and Shifter tribes, by Haven Weal, by Shipwright Hud, and even by Autumn Caravaneer.

On the one hand, Ashen is a very expressive language; it has access to a rich pallet of widely-varied elements. On the other hand, it is very difficult to learn, being composed as it is of a half-dozen different languages.

In an earlier draft of the document, Ashen was called Islander Elvish; it was renamed to more clearly associate it with the Ash Elves.

Autumn Caravaneer

A language commonly spoken by Halfling caravaneers.

  • Group: HHED
  • Partially Intelligible: some other Halfling languages

Autumn Caravaneer is the language commonly used by Halfling caravaneers. It is derived from an older language commonly spoken by Halflings in the region, but it has been heavily influenced by the language spoken by the people of Automn's Hold — Weal.

Commonwealth Standard

The Commonwealth's attempt at a universal language, which has become the common language of law, scholarship, and business.

  • Group: Any

Commonwealth Standard represents a partially-successful attempt at a universal language; it has been only partially successful.

When speaking, Commonwealth Standard uses a small set of abstract sounds, designed to be very distinct. For each abstract sound, each speaker picks one sound that they can make and substitutes it. This is workable, but hardly elegant; it can be difficult to speak and understand Commonwealth Standard, since any given speaker might use different substitute sounds than any other.

However, as a written language, Commonwealth Standard is a huge success. Commonwealth Standard is the almost-universal written language for governing documents, contracts, trade, and scholarship – even beyond the borders of the Commonwealth. Even in the nations bordering the Commonwealth, most merchants, administrators, and elites can read and write Commonwealth Standard.

Most formal education uses texts in Commonwealth Standard; because of this, more people can read and write in Commonwealth Standard than in their own language.

Names in Commonwealth Standard tend to be combinations of words, so that they can be translated. A Human telling a Kobold that their name is “Anden” is pointless if the Kobold cannot make any of those sounds; “Quicksmith,” however, is at least translatable.

However – mainly because some languages include names that simply can't be translated – there are systems for transliterating from other alphabets to Commonwealth Standard. These systems do not always result in pronounceable words. The Ratfolk of the Warren Isles name their city-states after ruling families; one major city-state, when transliterated from Chatter to Commonwealth Standard to Wheal, results in the relatively pronounceable Tetln, while another becomes "Tqcl".

Commonwealth often forms new words by combining existing words together; the word that has been translated as “Plane” in this text, for example, literally consists of the words “Great” and “Land” combined together.

Note that almost no-one has Commonwealth Standard as their native language; that’s almost always a regional or cultural language. However, some ability to speak Commonwealth Standard as a second language is common.


A language commonly spoken by the Ratfolk of the Commonwealth.

  • Group: GR
  • Mutually Intelligible: Heartland Gnoll (-20), Chatter (-30)

The name “Cqik” is derived from a somewhat famous – or infamous – letter that was written by a Kingdoms-of-Men diplomat visiting the Haven Isles; she attempted to describe what she thought a Ratfolk merchant sounded like, and “Cqik” is a transliteration from her Royal to Islander. The name is widely pronounced “kweek” (although some Ratfolk put visitors through something of an initiation by writing out “Cqik” in the Islander alphabet — which is almost the same as Weal’s — and cajoling them into trying to pronounce it).

Though Cqik is commonly spoken by Ratfolk living among the Commonwealth, it actually inherits more from Heartland Gnoll than from Chatter. When Ratfolk refugees settled in the Haven Isles, many of them learned Gnollish as a second language; the language of the much larger gnollish population eventually supplanted much of the Chatter that the Ratfolk had carried with them.

Heartland Gnoll

Heartland Gnoll is commonly spoken by the Gnolls of Heartland and Westward Provinces (and thus is a common language of the Commonwealth military).

  • Group: GR

Heartland Gnoll is a derivative of the language spoke by the Gnoll tribe that helped found the Commonwealth. As their fortunes grew, as they founded new cities and towns and became a people, they spread their language and cemented its place as the language peace and prosperity among those spoken by Gnolls.

Over centuries of close contact, Heartland Gnoll has absorbed many idioms from Weal. Though Heartland Gnoll is far and away the most common Gnollish language, many other tribal languages still survive.


Hel is a vulgar language commonly spoken in Northland Province; it is formed from vernacular Hud, with heavy influence from Weal.

  • Group: HHED
  • Mutually Intelligible: Hud (-20), Weal (-20)

Hel is a language that has sprung up in Northland province, combing bits of both Weal (as spoken by the humans and halflings among the early Commonwealth settlers) and Hud (an older Dwarven language spoken by most of the Dwarven clans). Though originally regarded as something of a vulgar language, it has since become ubiquitous in Northland province; today, many Northlanders view the common language of their province with pride.

High Kobold

High Kobold is spoken by Kobolds throughout the Commonwealth.

  • Group: DDK
  • Mutually Intelligible: Old Kobold (-20)

High Kobold is derived from Old Kobold, but has become far more complex. It has imported many words directly from Rak, and has borrowed idioms from Weal and, more recently, Islander Elvish. It has also grown to include countless neologisms — newly-coined words for things that Kobolds never encountered as an oppressed and impoverished population in the Kingdoms of Men.

Many kobolds find it somewhat amusing that some of the birdsong-like sounds they use strike other races as musical; as a result, High Kobold has come to include some idioms selected specifically for their lyrical quality.


Hud is a traditional Dwarven language, common in Northland Province.

  • Group: HHED

Hud is an older Dwarven language, dating back more than a thousand years. Hud exists in many forms: an older formal variant, commonly used in important documents, and the vernacular forms used by the various Clans and Holds – each of the latter having been influenced by the history and neighbors of the Clan.

Formal Hud is mainly used as a formal language, for interaction between clans (whose languages might not be mutually intelligible with each other), and for liturgy and ritual (which might be ancient).

Islander Furred

Islander Furred is principally derived from Haven Gnollish, though it has been influenced by Cqik. Like Islander Skinned, it is designed to be shared by the "furred" racees of the Haven Isles, and is slowly replacing their other languages as the primary language of the "furred folk" of the Haven Isles.

  • Group: GR
  • Partially Intelligible: Haven Gnollish, Cqik (-10), other derivatives of Gnollish and Cqik (-20)

Much as Islander Skinned, Islander Furred is a formalized, artificial language designed to unite several distinct communities in the Haven Isles, each with their own language. Islander Furred is primarily based on Haven Gnollish, though it also borrows from Cqik; like Islander Skinned, it has also been simplified and made more regular, to make it easier to learn and master.

It is slowly displacing Haven Gnollish and Cqik as a first language among the Gnolls and Ratfolk (respectively) of the HAven Isles — although, like Islander Skinned, each community has its traditionalists and hold-outs.

Islander Skinned

Islander Skinned is a derivative of several languages, principally based on Weal; it is slowly replacing regional variants of other languages as the first language for the Skinned — that is, furless — Folk of the Haven Isles.

  • Group: HHED
  • Partially Intelligible: Haven Weal (-10), other Weal derivatives (-20), Keillou (-20), Hel (-20), Shipwright Hud (-30)

Islander Skinned is a language commonly spoken throughout the Haven Isles; it is distantly based on Haven Weal, but includes elements of many other languages. The language is artificial; it is a formalized variant of Haven Weal, but also draws on many of the other languages of the Haven Isles, with the deliberate intent of creating a language that can be shared by the many "skinned" — that is, furless — folk of the Haven Isles.

As such, it is slowly displacing Shipwright Hud, Hel, Haven Weal, and several other languages as a first language in the islands — although many of those peoples and cultures have hold-outs attempting to preserve their original languages.

Like Ashen, the language is a complex blend of many unrelated languages – but unlike Ashen, it is easy to learn, as it was very deliberately designed to be "regular" in its forms.

In an earlier draft of the document, Islander Skinned was simply called Islander.


Rak is spoken by the Dragons and Rakes of the Dragonshire.

  • Group: DDK

Dragons have never had a large population, and they can speak with few other languages — kobolds were the only race commonly found on the Emerald Plane that could make the same sounds that they could. Rak was long an ancient, unique language that Dragons used only to communicate among themselves.

Though dragons are small in number, they are also extremely long-lived; this means that each individual dragon would frequently accumulate a library of unique idioms, quirks and turns-of-phrase. At one time, there were as many dialects of Rak as there were dragons.

All of this changed with the founding of the Dragonshire, with Karrach’s call for other dragons to settle in the Dragonshire and especially with the creation of the Drakes.

Rak became the common language of the Dragonshire’s nobility — of the dragons that led the nation as monarchs and the Drakes who served as their nobles and administrators. Over years in common usage, it has become more regular — and, as it was used as a written language of formal contract by the merchants of the Dragonshire, it has become somewhat more formal.

Rak is still widely spoken by the Drakes and Dragons of the Dragonshire.

Common Language: Voyager (Benath)

The language of the Merchant Voyagers.

  • Group: HHED
  • Partially Intelligible: the native languages of other nearby tribes, Ashen (-20), Islander Skinned (-20)

The Merchant Voyagers speak their own language. It's similar to the languages spoken by other nearby tribes, but dissimilar from any other language in the wider Commonwealth. It's had a particularly strong influence on Ashen and Islander Skinned, since a number of Merchant Voyagers have settled in the Haven Isles (and since many Ash Elves are, in part, descendants of Merchant Voyagers).


A common language in Heartland Province.

  • Group: HHED

Weal is a widely heterogeneous language. It is derived from Old Imperial, the language of the humans who built the Empire, but it has since been heavily influenced by the many languages that the Commonwealth has encountered and peacefully absorbed as it spread across the Emerald Plane.

Weal — or some regional dialect thereof — is commonly spoken throughout Heartland and Westward Provinces. Notably, Weal was carried throughout the Emerald Plane by early Commonwealth settlers, and has itself become the root from which several other, newer languages where derived; it is still mutually-intelligible with some of them, like Hel.

Languages of the Kingdoms of Men


Royal is the primary language of the Kingdoms of Men.

  • Group: HHED
  • Partially Intelligible: Weal (-20) and its derivatives (-30)

Royal is the language of the Kingdoms of Men. Like Weal, it is distantly derived from Old Imperial, the language of the Empire of Man; however, almost a thousand years have passed since the two languages began to diverge, and they are now quite dissimilar.

The culture of the Kingdoms of Men is conservative, and the language has resisted change more than Weal has. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this tendency is more pronounced in the East than in the West, and so the Eastern and Western variants of the language have diverged, with the Western variant showing more influence from Weal. Variants also exist between the language as it is spoken in the different Kingdoms, although these differences exist on a continuum – the differences between on Kingdom's Royal and the Royal of its immediate neighbors will be subtle.

Languages of the Shaded Sea


Chatter is the language spoken by the Ratfolk of the Warren Isles.

  • Group: GR
  • Mutually Intelligable:

Chatter, as it has been not-entirely-kindly named, is the indigenous language of the Ratfolk of the Warren Isles. It is not commonly spoken in the Commonwealth; most of the Commonwealth’s Ratfolk now speak Cqik. This in turn has meant that Chatter has become one of the common languages of crime in the Haven Isles, as the language is only commonly spoken by the Ratfolk of the Shaded Sea Peoples and their criminal and piratical allies.


  • Keillou: the language of the Shade Elves.
    • Keillou is a common language spoken throughout Shade Elven territory. It is primarily the language of the Shade Elves, but it has also been adopted by many of their tributaries.

    • The Shaded Sea Peoples — the Shade Elves, the Ratfolk of the Warren Isles and the Leapers — cannot share a language with one-another, and the shade elves are not inclined to learn the languages of their tributaries, so Keillou has had few foreign influences.

    • The Shade Elves themselves primarily speak a few specific dialects of Keillou; in turn, something of a vulgar keillou has sprung up, which has been influenced by the languages of some of the shade elves’ tributaries.

    • Shaded Speech: the common language of the Shaded Sea People.

      • Group HHED

Languages of the Raptor Protectorate


The language of the Terrace-Builder Raptors.

Group: DDK

Partially Intelligible: None

The language spoken by the Terrace-Builder Raptors, named for the way it sounds — like a burbling brook, or small rockslide. Originally, Brook was written pictographically; after the Ratfolk and Raptors began to trade heavily, a phonetic encoding was developed using the Ratfolk's alphabet.

While not a difficult language to learn to speak, it is difficult to learn to read the pictographic form of the script, because fluency requires the reader to memorize more than a thousand pictographs. Unsurprisingly, the use of the alphabetic script has become more common, and fluency in the old pictographic script has declined.

Mastery of the logographic form has become something of a status symbol, since most old and important documents are written with the logographic script.


The primary language of the Iron-Worker Ratfolk.

Group: GR

Partially Intelligible: Chatter (-20), Cqik (-30)

Ember is the common language of the Iron-Worker Ratfolk; according to legend, it got its name because it reminded a Terrace-Builder ruler-caste of the sound of a crackling fire. It does make use of a sound not present in either Chatter or Cqik, a "pop" or "snap" sound produced with the tongue.

While spoken Ember is similar to several other languages spoken in the Warren Isles before their exodus, its written form is unique. It uses an alphabetis derived from an alphabet used in the eastern Warren Isles, that all but vanished from the Warren Isles after that Ratfolk culture was subjugated and extinguished by their kin. Notably, several other cultures on the Warren Isles have adopted a variant of this script for their own use.

Protectorate Standard

The common language of the Protectorate, derived from a Ratfolk pigin.

Group: Any

Partially Intelligible: None

The common language of the Protectorate, Protectorate Standard derives from a pigin that Ratfolk refugees used to communicate with the Raptors that lived near the coasts. As other races sought to trade with the Protectorate, they developed their own variants of the pigin; today, in effect, there is an abstract 'core' language, which all the pigins share, and which each race uses a unique set of sounds to pronounce.

The language is the primary written language of exchange and scholarship in the Protectorate; it uses a variant of the Ratfolk's alphabet.


Songspeak is mimicry-based language of the Brightfeathers.

Group: Mimics

Partially Intelligible: None

Songspeak is the language of the Brightfeathers. It makes heavy use of the Brightfeather's uncanny mimicry; many words are represented by directly mimicking a sound associated with the things being referenced — "fire," for example, is represented by the sound of cackling embers. While some other words are formed by combining basic syllables — after all, what sound does a star make? — there is no standard list of syllables for their spoken language; while there are roughly thirty common phonemes, there are at least as many more that appear in at least one common word.

Their written language is almost as difficult to learn. Before the Iron-Workers came, the Brightfeathers used about a hundred pictographs; after the ratfolk came, they adapted a variant of the Ratfolk's script to encode the common syllables of their spoken language. Today, Songspeak "script" consists of about a hundred pictographic "glyphs" for common words, plus 28 characters (mostly adapted from the Iron-Worker Ratfolk's script) used for their common syllables, plus 36 "strokes" that are based on a part of a common pictograph; the letters and strokes are combined in a flowing calligraphy, interspersed with pictographic glyphs for common words. Making things even more complicated, the pictographs are often used representationally — that is, to illustrate a concept, not according to the rules of a language.

Fire: "Used representationally?" What does that mean?

Eager: It means that they use them like parts of an illustration, not according to the rules of a language. For example, I once saw a Brightfeather draw the glyph for a tree, leave a space, then draw "tree" again, to represent a clearing.

Fire: Seems like that'd be hard to interpret.

Eager: It can be, but I think it suits the literal Brightfeather mind.

Languages of the Goblin Empire

Classical Goblin

  • Group: GR + DDK
  • Partially Intelligible: Vulgar Goblin (-10)

Classical Goblin is a language of law, governance, and scholarship; it is an ancient, formal form of the language, preserved in the written Code and used throughout the Goblin legal system.

Goblins have an unusually wide vocalization range, and their language spans all of it. Few other races can speak it — which suits Goblin cultural values.


  • Group: Any

Speech-of-the-Lesser is a language designed to be usable by a large number of races, with diverse types of speech. It works much like Commonwealth Standard: it uses a number of abstract sounds, which speakers substitute for sounds that they can make.

Notably, Many Goblins do not speak Speech-of-the-Lesser — in their minds, it is not the job of the greater to make themselves understood to the lesser. This task often falls to slave-tenders — often Gremlins or low-born Goblins — who speak to their betters in Goblin and the slaves they manage in Speech-of-the-Lesser.

Vulgar Goblin

  • Group: GR + DDK
  • Partially Intelligible: Classical Goblin (-20)

Vulgar Goblin is the form of the Goblin language in use today. Vulgar Goblin has borrowed from the languages of many of the races that they have encountered (or enslaved) over the centuries.

Conveniently, much like Commonwealth Standard, Vulgar Goblin often forms new words by combining existing ones; this means that many words and place-names can be nicely rendered in Commonwealth Standard.

Other Languages


  • Group: HHED
  • Partially Intelligible: Hud (-20)

The Drahrat speak their own language, which developed from Ehanud, the Dwarven language spoken by the confederation of holds form which they departed (itself a variant of Hud).


  • Group: MS

The language of the Mudskippers. Mudskippers can only vocalize underwater, which makes the sound of their language unique.

Language: 'Skipper Sign

  • Group: Humanoid Tag

The gestural language that Mudskippers use to communicate on land.

Historical Languages

Old Imperial

Old Imperial was the language of the Empire of Man.

  • Group: HHED

Old Imperial was the language of the Empire, carried West towards the Worldspine Mountains by Imperial expansion.

In the millennium since those days, Old Imperial as such has died out; while some scholars of the ancient past can still understand it, it is no longer a living language. Both Weal and Royal are descended from it, although they are very different languages from it and from one another — Weal in particular is greatly changed from Old Imperial.

Old Imperial is notable for its aspirated H’s and hard consonants.

Old Kobold

Old Kobold was the language spoken by the Kobold populations native to the Kingdoms of Men.

  • Group: DDK

Old Kobold was spoken by the Kobold populations that resided within the Kingdoms of Men. Old Kobold passed away with the near-extinction of the populations that spoke it. Some Kobold populations still survive in the western portion of the Kingdoms; Old Kobold can still be heard there.