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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:46 pm 
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Location: Portland OR
A related question might be: "what does Yig really think about the "hairless monkeys" who worship her as Anshar?"

Does she love the gnomes and dark-kin who are part of her ecclesiastical Fight Club as much as she loves the Ssanu (and other scalies) that worship her directly? Maybe...

At GAMESTORM In 2012 Henry suggested she might not. Now I wish I had followed up that chain of thoughts (I got side tracked with a Henry story about the Kio and the Tir Betoqi). But if true then that might explain her different portfolios. She's (asAnshar) the Goddess of Suffering... because her true children the Ssanu are marginalized and oppressed by the naga and the Varn. She's the Goddess of Travel because her gift is the Gates. And maybe that gives her an excuse for going off and plotting. When Illiir says, "Hey Sis, haven't seen you in awhile." She can say, "Well you know...been out traveling."

I don't think Yig can be Belisarda. I'm not sure Belisarda can leave Onara. It seems clear to me that Yig can and does travel other planes.

Just 2 snakey cents

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Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 5:35 pm 
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Scale of Time

Looking at the Arcanis Universe--and really, any fantasy universe--it is really easy to loose track of time. In playing in the greater Arcanis adventures, I have on more than one occassion come across players (and more than a few writers) who seem to have trouble remembering that the scope of this universe is huge. The crowning achievement came when I heard at ArcaniCon that a Ss'ressen convinced a Gar that they were long lost brothers-in-arms, calling on their shared history dating back to their First War of Extinction against the Issori, and forging a close alliance. While an amusing anecdote, from a real-life perspective this is far fetched. Because of this, I thought it would be generally enlightening to provide some perspective on the timescales of the Arcanis universe, using our real life world's events at the same rough period of time for illustration.

First of all, let us start with the first 'known' event in the Arcanis Universe: The Great Ssethric Migration and the First War of Extinction. This event started some 11,000 years before the current timeline, with the end of the Issori War being approximately 10,547 years before the current story. This event is well characterized in the Blessed Lands book (to be released) history section (released to backers a while ago) and the old Ssethregore Sourcebook, and I've seen a lot of players trot this info out like common knowledge. Moving to our world, the end of the Issori War corresponds to 8532 BCE for us. For us, it is almost impossible to really comprehend this date, or really give a good example of what happened in human history since the earliest forms of true writing (Sumerian Cuneiform) won't be invented for another five THOUSAND YEARS. However, we do have a few pieces of information of note. At this time is some of the earliest examples of stone age settlers inhabiting Great Britain. The people of Peru first began practicing domestic agriculture with the bean and the chili pepper while the Mesopotamians of Iraq started using sickles to harvest their pseudo-wild wheat. The first city of Jericho--one of the oldest continually inhabited town/city on Earth--was settled only a couple hundred years before. In the Middle East the cultures there were only now beginning to experiment with copper metalurgy, but would continue using stone age technology for almost another 4,000 years.

Now, moving on in the Arcanis timeline, let us go to the next 'watershed' moment, namely the creation of the Elorii and their subsequent revolt against the Empire of Yahssremore. These two events happened (according to the Ssethregore Book timeline) 7759 and 6769 years before the current storyline. Going to our world, these dates would correspond between 5759 BCE and 4769 BCE. Staring with the first date, we are beginning to see evidence of the first settled cultures in China and Mesopotamia. The Sahara Dessert only NOW is beginning to turn into a desert from the lush prairie that it used to be, forcing the Semitic nomads who followed herds of cattle into the still-lush Nile valley. The first evidence of cheese and wine making was observed in modern Poland and Persia (it would be many centuries before these are combined for the betterment of all). Agriculture only now begins to be practiced in the Americas, even though the first few staple crops began domestication centuries before. Additionally, clay pottery is only now really becoming common among the general populace outside of the main 'civilized' areas of Mesopotamia, the Indus, and China.

Moving onto the second date (the Elorii Revolt), we see how much the world has changed in the intervening 1,000 years. The Nile is now reasonably well populated, but nobody has even thought about a nation called Egypt yet. Farming has been introduced into the pre-Indo European peoples of Europe after being developed thousands of years before in modern Iraq. The people of the Middle East begin what is now called the Copper Age, with an increasing number of metal tools being found from that era, though all other areas (including China) are still firmly in the stone age.

The next major event to consider in Arcanis would then be the God's War between The Other/Umor and the Pantheon of Man which lead to the fall of the Eloran Empire and the hegemony of Arcanis by the First Imperium of Man. This event happened some 4874 years before the current storyline, and corresponds to our date of 2859 BCE. This is the first 'time point' where we can reasonably give actual historical events in this article, as writing had existed (at least in Mesopotamia) for centuries, and early forms of writing were beginning to show up in the Indus River of India and northern China (near the Yellow River).

During this period, the Phoenitian cities of Tyre and Sidon are first settled and begin to become major maritime trading powers. In fact, shipbuilding is becoming more common as many of the major cultures--from Denmark to China--are also experimenting with maritime travel. The Great Pyramids of Giza are on the horizon (about 300 years AFTER this date), with Egypt now united and in it's Third Ruling Dynasty. The Elamites of modern Iran and the Harappan Culture of the Indus River finally take form, and Sumeria is the major power in the Middle East. The ancient cities of Babylon, or even Akkad (it's cultural precursor) still are half a milennia away, as the Semitic people who would later coopt Sumerian culture are still vaguely pastoral nomads at this point in time. The Indo-Europeans of modern Ukraine and southern Russia (maybe into Central Asia) first dometicate the horse, but it will be centuries more before they are used for anything beyond food and breeding to make mules. In the Americas they first develop pottery, delayed due to their isolation from the majority of humanity. Finally, Stone Henge was built around this date, showing that most of Europe was still solidly in the Stone Age, but becoming more ambitious and skilled in their techniques.

Moving onto the next major time point in Arcanis, we find ourselves at the end of the First Imperium of Man. Here, the First Imperium had existed for many centuries, reaching the height of both that culture, and its decadence before Leonydas val'Virdan threw it down in flame. This event happened some 2774 years before the current date, corresponding to our year of 759 BCE. By this point in time, the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean (mostly Greece, Phoenitia, the LEvant, and Egypt) through China are all literate and have existed as their own cultures for two and half THOUSAND years. Iron use is only now becoming more prominent and will become the main tool of Assyria's conquest of the lands of Mesopotamia and into Egypt. Greece has recently come out of it's Dark Age, and the the Greece we all know from history (Athens, Sparta, etc) are developing their cultures before they become a dominant power a couple centuries later. The Zhou Dynasty begins to falter and fall into feudal disunity, eventually leading to a blossoming of crisis-inspired philosophy, eventually culminating in Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism. The first signs of written language begin to appear in the area of Central America centered on the Olmec culture of Mexico. The Indus civilization of India has long-since disappeared and the Vedic (pre-Hindu) culture of the Ganges is now forming.

Moving to the last major time point that I'll look at is the Time of Terror and the formation of the Coryani Empire. This is the earliest point where we can be 'sure' of the history of the world, with everything that happens before this time point locked in the records of the Elorii, Ssethregore, or lost to the ages from almost 2,000 years of 'dark age' following the fall of the First Imperium. This event is relatively modern in our eyes, with 0 I.C. corresponding to 941 CE.

At this point, Rome's empire has split with the (mostly) Germanic tribes forging new kingdoms out of its eastern half, while the Eastern Empire (Byzantium) has been in decline for centuries, being attacked by Huns, Muslim Arabs, and the self-same German tribes. We begin to see the formation of 'modern' European states, such as England, France, and the Scandanavian countries. Ancient Persia has given way to the Muslim Abassid Caliphate, creating a Golden Age among Islam and the Middle East as high as the European Renaissance some 500 years hence. China has recently come out of its own Golden Age with the fall of the Tang Dynasty into decadence and weakness, only to be somewhat reunified by the Song a few decades after this point which will represent a high water mark in Chinese history that arguably they have never since reattained (subsequent dynasties would turn inward, and stagnate after the Song). The first major empires of Sub-Saharan Africa begin to form, the region opened up by Muslim traders crossing the Sahara and opening ports in East Africa. In the Americas, Maya civilization is beginning to collapse, while in the Pacific the Polynesians are forging across the Islands, spreading almost to the Americas.

As you can see from this, even the relatively recent foundation of the Coryani Empire would correspond to a period in our own history that the majority of people know nothing about. I am not sure how it is in other parts of the world, but in my own native Canada we barely cover the last 500 years in our history classes, and anything before 1750 gets little more than a few days of study. You have to either be a very independently-motivated reader of history or have studied it in further education (ie: College, University, etc) to really get more than a very rough view of what came before. Hell, this is even coming form the perspective of our modern day with the internet, easily accessable educational material, and hundreds of 'historical adaptations' on TV and movies. Imagine how hard it would be for a person even 50 or 100 years ago to learn more than the last few decades or centuries of history of their own nation, let alone world history or the development of civilization!

As an aside on this, I'd also like to mention something about language within this context. I've had a few arguments with people about the nature of Arcanis languages, specifically about 1) how Heroes should have free access to some ancient, obscure languages, and 2) about the nature of the Altharin language. To deal with the first one, go to with the example of the Gar/Ss'ressen 'bro-ing out!' in the Vault, I heard that the rationalization of how this was done was that the Gar still remembered how to speak Ssethric from their days as slaves to the Empire of Yahssremore. While this sounds neat on paper, we have seen above that for this to occur they would have to have passed down the language of their oppressors (if this tribe had indeed been descended from Ssethric slaves) down--orally, I might add, as it seems the Gar don't have a written language--for eight THOUSAND years. Humanity in our world hasn't even had written language for that long!!! This would be the equivalent of you expecting a modern person from Scotland speaking pre-CELTIC languages (let alone Latin or Anglo-Saxon or English) because their ancient ancestors from 4,000 years ago spoke it. Another example is that I recall having read that ancient Tenician (or a similarly obscure tongue) should be available because it is in the story. However, as has been brought up before 1) who will teach them this obscure language, and 2) how would they learn it? Using Tenecian as an example it uses its own alphabet which is distinct from the Altharin, Khitani, Myrantian, and Coryani scripts (as per the PGTA), and without any known syllabary, how do you read an ancient alphabet that you are unfamiliar with? It took the Rosetta stone to translate Egyptian Hieroglypics (the stone had the same passage in two other languages to act as references), and we still can't read the ancient languages of some people like the Indus River civilization or the Minoan civilization of ancient Crete because we don't have any means of comparing them to other languages. Languages often become 'lost' when the culture that spoke them or used their alphabets gets conquered or collapses, leading to a new language supplanting them in the former, or a loss of literacy in the later. Ancient Greece lost literacy nationwide (for the most part) for a period of almost 500 years between 1300 BCE and 700 BCE following the Bronze Age Collapse and the Dorian Invasions (if the two are separate events). To go the other way on this argument, some languages are kept around for various reasons in our world (typically for religious reasons), which have allowed us even the chance to reconstruct these more ancient tongues today. For example, Latin survived in Europe because of the Catholic Church, Sumerian survived in the Middle East as it became the Holy Language there until the Persians took over, and Hebrew continues to give us insights into ancient Semitic languages as it is the language of the Jewish religion. Equivalents in Arcanis would be Ssethric, Eloran, and Altharin.

To the second point about Altharin, I've had people ask me why they have to roll Linguistics Rolls to understand Altharin (especially spoken Altharin) in adventures, such as "Where the Wine Spills" or during the Vault of Larissa's Lament. Henry has spoken on the subject that the Altharin spoken in the modern nation of Altheria is supposedly identical to that of the First Imperium as a form of worship of Althares, which further supports the "why is this a thing?" What these people seem to forget, however, is that languages are not static, even Altarin. If you read the Cantebury Tales was written in a language some 630 years ago, and is recognizably English to a casual observer, but it is a tough slog to understand because the English spoken then was very different than modern English. Words had different meanings, different slangs and jargon were used, and pronunciations shift. Look at how we pronounce Latin (or ancient Greek) words today with the "soft-c" compared to back in Roman times. For example, we would generally pronounce Lucius as Lusy-us, instead of the more 'correct' Luke-e-us that the would have said millennia ago. Even accents change, with a person from London during the days of Shakespeare sounding nothing like a person from London today (fun fact: I've heard reconstructions of Shakespeare's accent being about halfway between an American Southern Accent and the Lucky Charms Cereal Leprechaun ;)).

This linguistic divergence (or imperialism, in some case) can be countered by a few things. One big one is the stubbornness of the cultures who use the language. Hebrew survived the Jewish banishment to Babylon because the Hebrews mostly held onto their identity between the sacking of Jerusalam and the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Great. Many First Nations/American Indian cultures still manage to maintain their languages despite the ubiquity of English, French, and Spanish. Additionally, languages (and history, and culture) can be maintained much better by people who live a LONG time. In humanity (especially ancient humanity), a culture could be wiped out completely in as little as 40 years because people didn't live long, so eventually there would be nobody alive to pass on the history, culture, knowledge, or language. However, races such as the Elorii, the Ssanu, and the Dwarves all live for centuries so it is entirely possible to keep this stuff locked safely in the heads of the people, even after their civilizations have fallen apart. This doesn't mean that things won't change, even for them (after all, I can see how much the language I've spoken has changed in the 31 years of my life), but these long-lived races would have a level of stability in their societies that our world lacks. They likely would not have experienced something akin to the Greek or European Dark Ages, as someone likely would survive for decades with at least part of the information they've lost. Hell, if Master Elebac of Solanos Mor existed in our world, we'd have a contemporary to 500 years of history, who could speak with authority of events dating back to the Protestant Reformation or the initial colonziation of North America by Europe!

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Cody Bergman
Legends of Arcanis Campaign Staff
Initial Author Contact/Adventure Vetting

Haakon Marcus val'Virdan, Divine Holy Judge of Nier
Ruma val'Vasik, Martial Crusader and Master of the Spear
Jorma Osterman, Arcane Coryani Battlemage


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 7:51 pm 
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Very well done sir! I am what they term ABD (all but dissertation) in history so from time to time I think about history in the terms you speak of. I did that once with the Lord of the Rings timeline and it really made me think. The battle at the end of the second age is over 3020 years before the events in the Fellowship of the Ring. To put that in human perspective it would be about the year 1006 BCE. How much reliable information do we have from that time? Not much. So as the movie said "History became legend, legend became myth, and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost." So yeah there is a LOT we as characters don't know and should not assume we know. But as a person who loves this sort of stuff it's hard not to pester Henry for every little snippet of Arcanis "history."

As for the Ss'Ressen and the Gar..ain't gonna happen at my table... :)

As for out characters we might know some of the details of the Coryani Civil War era given that was a generation before and maybe some "ancient history" if we are so inclined but I doubt in character we would much more than some legends about the founding of the Coryani Empire and only snippets about anything earlier.

As a character my thought is I can't change the past but I can shape the future and good and evil (in my book) are the same in any era. And that's how I roll. :)

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Michael T. Hebert

Haakon val'Ishi, Beltinian Exorcist 2.7 [Divine]
Ursula val'Holryn, Grand Master of the Tralian Hammer 2.2 [Martial]
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Rikitsa val'Holryn, Psion 1.9 [Arcane]


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2016 3:27 pm 
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Just a thought: Are there any topics that people would like me to muse over for future essays? I have a couple half-formed thoughts in my mind, but thus far they are just that.

Requests?

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Cody Bergman
Legends of Arcanis Campaign Staff
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Haakon Marcus val'Virdan, Divine Holy Judge of Nier
Ruma val'Vasik, Martial Crusader and Master of the Spear
Jorma Osterman, Arcane Coryani Battlemage


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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2016 3:39 pm 
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I don't have the Blessed Lands book with me here at work but the section on the Kalindruhl and how it differs in it interpretation of things from what we've been told in the past has all sorts of implications. Something worth chewing into. Now it's all well and good that the Sleeping Emperor/Dreaming of Larissa to tell us he means only the best, but we've seen (correct me if I'm wrong) that Valinor can and do have agendas that might be at odds with their original mandate. Make me wonder what this particular Valinor is up to.

Another topic is what the Voei really are. It's also too darn convenient (again assuming what we are told is the truth) that meteor strike just happens to hit to bar pursuit of the fleeing soon-to-be Khitani. Which gets me to thinking just what the heck is fervidite anyways.

Now of course some of this may have already been dealt with, but I haven't looked at every post on this forum. :( Just some ideas for Cody to chew into. :)

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Haakon val'Ishi, Beltinian Exorcist 2.7 [Divine]
Ursula val'Holryn, Grand Master of the Tralian Hammer 2.2 [Martial]
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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2016 6:01 pm 

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Generally anything involving the Elorii interests me.

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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 4:43 pm 
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Oh, great, Cody is writing another article on languages. . . I apologize to those who might be tired of me taking this angle for analysis, but I generally find the topic fascinating. I myself am NOT a linguist, nor am I a polyglot (I speak English natively, as well as bad French and bits and pieces of other languages). However, the more I read about history, the more I enjoy looking at the languages spoken as it is a reflection of so much of culture and history. While the idea of language derives FROM culture and that you can determine the essence of that society by its words doesn’t entirely hold up, the migration of languages can show you population movements in history (from conquests to simple migrations) is well established. Additionally, some aspects of language, especially WRITTEN language, shows cultural values more than a spoken language does when developed by a society. As such, like the geography in which they developed, you can see how a society and culture developed quite well by looking at how they speak and write. To that end. . .

Writing. It was this development in human history more than almost any other which has created the world we know today. With the development of the written word, no longer was humanity limited to the experiences of a single lifetime. No longer was the sum total of knowledge available to a person limited to what they could store (and remember) in their own brain. For the first time in human history, people could become immortal. Not literally immortal, in our modern sense of the word, I should point out, as outside of the necronomicon or a similar Nerothian text this isn’t possible. No, they became immortal in that even after a person is dead, those who came after would know their names, know their thoughts, and hear their words.

But you may say: Cody, with topics like Valinor and True Dragons and the Sorcerer-King, why would you think I’d be interested in things like “what would the Coryani use for paper?” Well, for that I can only assume that if you have read this far you would be. Like many of the more fluffy things in fantasy universes, we have a very mixed bag of information when it comes to the writing in this universe. As with usual, I will give a little bit of background on how writing worked in our world.

The earliest known types of proto-writing in our world date to around 6,000 BCE in China (for reference, this would correspond to the early ssethric empire of Yahssremore), though there are other similar symbols found scrawled on rock walls and inscribed in bones before that. The meaning of these earliest symbols is not known, but it is believed that they are little more than the first abstracted images for concrete ideas, like a simplified bird standing in for a bird. These systems ultimately evolved into similar systems for accounting purposes as societies began trading more and more stuff. For example, if you are storing thirty vases of olive oil in a room, you would seal the room with a clay tablet with an image of a tree on it with thirty lines next to it.

As inevitably happened, these symbols became more abstracted (usually because the person drawing them were less artistic or lazier), with something like a bull becoming a bull’s head, becoming a triangle until the library of symbols came to look like strange geometric shapes. It was (around) this point in development that someone then said “hey, if we combine the symbols, we can say words!” The way this works is that you would combine symbols for words which have the same sounds as syllables of other words. For example, in English you could theoretically write “selfish” with a symbol of a seashell, followed by a fish because “shellfish” sounds a lot like selfish. With this, true writing was born!

The story is, of course, more complicated than this, but it shows the current theory of how we (over some 3,000 years or more) as humans developed this oddly unnatural system. From here we can run the gamut of all sorts of different writings, from logograms to alphabetic systems. The system used in our world (at least when it was originally developed) speaks much of the values of the cultures at hand, with historically sedentary and hierarchical nations (such as Sumer, Egypt, and China) using extremely complicated logographic systems of thousands of glyphs/symbols/etc, while more mobile and trading-oriented groups (such as the Phonetians, Greeks, and Arameans) developing alphabetic scripts which are simpler but more abstract.

What does this have to do with Arcanis? Well, we have a few interesting tidbits of information about what the various nations of Arcanis use as writing systems. For example, it is fairly widely understood that Low Coryani (as well as most human languages) use an alphabetic script, be it a true alphabet like the Latin or Greek alphabet with vowels and consonants, or what is called an abjad which only contains consonants and the vowels are left to the reader to add like Hebrew or Arabic. As a side note, it could also be what is called an abujida which is kind of an in-between of these, with each ‘letter’ supplying both a vowel and consonant sound (such as in Canadian First Nation syllabics). While not expressly stated, there have been many puzzles and statements made in the history of the campaign specifying ‘letters’ (ex. “shaped like the letter C”), so it is a safe bet to assume that Low Coryani is a true alphabetic script. This also makes sense as alphabetic scripts tend to be the most versatile lettering systems in the world (as seen by the extensive use of the Latin alphabet in our world), and Low Coryani is the lingua franca of much of the world (even into the “Far Western Lands”) which means they’d need an easy to learn, easy to use, and versatile lettering system.

By extension, the nations and languages of Milandir and Canceri also use this same alphabet, which is stated as being the “Coryani Alphabet” on page 155 of the A:RPG, suggesting that these other nations 1) accepted the use of this alphabet, likely during their tenure as part of the Coryani Empire, and 2) that this alphabet was designed for High Coryani originally. This may not be entirely true, considering the history we have of Coryan the City before the Empire suggested they were not a particularly mercantile or intellectual power, which means that this script may have originated somewhere else in the Known Lands, but was adopted by the city of Coryan who then spread it throughout the world. In our world, this would be similar to how the Romans adopted the Italic script (a variation of Greek) which was an Etruscan development, and then modified it and exported it through the entire (though mostly western) Mediterranean.

We also know that there are at least two other, distinct Human (or, at least Mandai human) scripts in use: The Altharin script, and the Khitani script (note, the A:RPG calls these alphabets, but those likely simplifications of terms). From what we know, all of (Mandai) human languages are derived from Altharin, the language (and presumably, script) given to mankind by Althares as his Gift to mankind (different from the other two Gifts, by the way). We do not know how different these two scripts are from the Coryani script, but one would think that the Coryani one is at least derived from at least the same root at them. In various adventures, authors have allowed Heroes who speak a language fully understand the scripts that that language would be in regardless if they would even KNOW that script (ex. An adventure with an inscription in Altharin which any Hero can read). While entirely possible, I don’t now of a lot of people in North America who could read an inscription—even if written in English—if written in the Greek or Cyrillic alphabet, which is likely due to over-simplification (often necessary in RPG’s) than design.

Taking this into account, I think we kind of have to assume that Altharin and—especially—Khitani represent basically true Alphabetic systems. In fact, I think a reasonable comparison of these scripts would be Greek (Altharin), Latin (Coryani), and Cyrillic (Khitani), all being alphabets that are related to one-another. This is complicated by the fact that in our game Khitani is represented by mongrel Mandarin Chinese for the most part, and in our world that language is mostly represented by logograms. However, I cannot think of a single instance in our own history where people went to an intentionally MORE complicated script from an alphabet (you could debate Hebrew, but even that is an alphabetic script similar to Arabic which is very widespread). The only reason I could see the Khitani using a logographic script (or even an abjad or abugida) would be 1) if Altharin was one of these, and the Coryani is an evolution of that (like taking the Greeks taking the Phoenitian abjad and adding vowels), 2) if the Khitani adopted (or adapted) a script from the Far West such as a script from the Ossorian Empire or the Andaii (unlikely as I doubt the Sleeping Emperor would allow such ‘foreign’ notions to take hold), or 3) that the script was given to them by the Sleeping Emperor much as how Altharin was given to mankind. This last option is interesting, but I don’t think it is true as Henry has stated that the Valinor of Man (at least those in good standing with their Gods) seem to favour Altharin, as seen by the adoption of that language in Bastion by the followers of Xabal when they are surrounded by Auxunite, Khitani, and Infernal.

One other script of which we actually have a good and very clear set of data on is that of the elorii. It has been stated many times that the elorii write in ‘glyphs’, with the word “novaros” (never forget) being a single symbol. This means that the script used by the elorii is, in fact, a logographic script similar to Chinese or Ancient Egyptian where you can have entire words or phrases represented by a single symbol. Even more telling is that in the A:RPG, apparently the elorii use the SSETHRIC script, used by the modern states of Ssethregore as well as (presumably) the Black Talons.

This actually makes a lot of sense (to me) from a narrative point of view. These systems, as stated above, tend to be derivative systems originally used as a 1:1 representation of an idea (such as one symbol for cow, or king, or a specific river, etc) and are the first stages of developing true writing. The ssethrics the most ancient race that we know of that developed writing (there is no record in HP’s or books of the Issori or Eladru developing writing earlier, though they also likely had some), and they might have developed it independently even before they migrated north to what is now the Blessed Lands. Additionally, a complicated (some may even say arcane) script like this would actually fit with the cultural views of the ssethrics (by my understanding) very well, since as we see in our own records of similar Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Egyptian systems that the knowledge of how to use this script was known only to a select few (fun fact: the “Scribe Class” in ancient Babylonia and Sumeria was often equated with priests for the hidden knowledge they had). Since the ssethrics are extremely caste-based (often racially-caste based), and since the ruling ssanu wouldn’t want the ‘lower races’ like the iguadons and the ss’ressen from being able to gain knowledge to challenge them, having a writing system that is intentionally obtuse would suit their purposes. This system also makes sense to me as, in these ancient cultures which used these systems (and arguably even today in East Asia), it could take an entire lifetime to learn how to write in this script, which gives an advantage to the longer-lived races such as the ssanu, naga, and later the elorii over the shorter-lived ss’ressen, further cementing their power.

As an aside, I also had the thought that this system of writing may also be advantageous to the ssethrics because. . . well, their language may be very strange to write out. A logographic script represents THOUGHTS (though, most of them also became semi-alphabetic where these thoughts were then related to other ideas based on the sound of that thought, as per the “shell-fish” example above), which means that the script does not HAVE to represent the words spoken. We know that Ss’ressen (the language) uses a lot of held “s’s” (Ssshe wantssss to go. . . ), so writing those out could be complicated to put to paper. What this means is that you have a script that can be used for multiple different peoples since it doesn’t matter what their word is for ‘cow’ if the symbol means the same thing in to all languages. An example of this is in modern Chineses, where a lot of people (mostly the Mandarin-speaking “Han” Chinese) will state that there is only one single Chinese language, even though by sound Cantonese and Mandarin are about as different as French and Spanish. However, they both use the same script because the script transcends the SPOKEN language (to an extent), which means that on the page all Chinese is the same.

The only other system of writing that we really know anything more concrete about then “yup, people sure do write stuff with that” is Udor. In the A:RPG, it lists the ‘alphabet’ as “Runic”. Now, people who are familiar with Fantasy universes probably equate Runic as being something akin to the logograms that we read above (ex. “The xxx rune for yyy is. . . ), but in our world, Rune refers to a VERY specific script: that of the ancient Germanic peoples. In the ancient past, the alphabetic system of writing was developed in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon), likely from the Egyptian script, and from there it was exported to Greece, who modified it, and from there exported it to the Etruscans, who further modified it. I have already stated that the Latin system you are reading this in now is based on the Etruscan alphabet (known as Italic), but what I didn’t say is that this system isn’t the only one derived from the Italic script. In the ancient, long forgotten world, the Etruscan peoples were known to have contact with the ancient Celts of central Europe, and through them the Germanic tribes around the modern Baltic Sea. It was through these contacts that the Runic Alphabet was transmitted and changed, creating a unique alphabet system of its own. If the dwarves and giants (who are going to become a lot more prominent based on recent events) are using a ‘proper’ runic system, that means that their script is also alphabetic just like the Coryani script, and may represent a unique evolution of the system!

Using that as a nice place to switch topics, the mention of ‘long forgotten world’ involving written scripts brings me to the subject of writing material. Simply put, the average person in the modern world has absolutely no concept of HOW people of the ancient world wrote stuff down, and this ignorance leads them to make a lot of assumptions and carry forth a lot of prejudices. The average modern human cannot contemplate the fact that paper as we know it has only been around since around the first Century CE, well into the Roman Empire era, and even then only in China where it was developed. Modern papermaking wouldn’t even hit Europe until the ELEVENTH Century CE, well into the medieval times, having been brought to Europe by Muslim traders. Since our first true writing systems have been around since around 3,300 BCE, this means that there is a 3,200 to 4,300 year span where they were writing on something else!

The first known writing material (beyond on rock walls with stuff like ochre) was actually mud. In ancient Mesopotamia, they simply had nothing to write on since there are really no trees that naturally grow in modern day Iraq. What they did have lots of, though, was mud. They developed a system we now call cuneiform where they would make small tablets of soft mud, and push in little divots into the mud with a pen-shaped stylus. These mud tablets were then left to dry in the sun (remember, they couldn’t bake these because wood was rare), leaving a semi-durable record of what was written. This system then spread throughout the modern Middle East, and was adapted to other writing systems such as carved stone.

The earliest Chinese writing, on the other hand, was done on dried BONE or wood. Here, using a knife or similar sharp object the earliest Chinese symbols were carved into the hard (and heavy and bulky) material. These were then translated into multiple different long-term storage forms, ranging from intricate “bamboo books” where rolls of lashed-together wooden panels were collected into extremely bulky tomes, or during the Shang Dynasty (probably even with the earlier Xia Dynasty era) were used in divination rituals with forms such as the Oracle Bones.

The other primary writing material—this one found throughout the ancient world—was, simply put, trash. Specifically here, I mean pottery shards. When clay is fired into pottery, it creates a very hard material which, if broken, cannot be used for much else. Wishing to find new uses for what is otherwise bulky garbage, most ancient societies (from Greece to India) would then write (with ink or paint) upon these ragged shards and use them as we would use a post-it note or scrap paper. In fact, these shards (known as ostraca in Greek) were used in Greece to write names of people who were voted into exile in places like Athens, and is the origin of our modern English word “ostracise.”

The Egyptians also made a lot of use of mud in their writing, but they had another advantage: the papyrus plant. This plant produced fibres that could be flattened and stuck together to form long rolls of a fragile, but light-weight material similar to modern paper (though, I emphasize, MUCH more fragile and perishable). This allowed the Egyptians to become fastiditious record-keepers, and allowed for the storage of much knowledge (arguably more than anyone else before them in history). Papyrus was so much of a step up in technology that it (along with wheat) became a valuable export for Egypt, allowing them to make so much money that they remained a world power despite the fact that the country lacked good sources of other valuable materials such as gold, iron, or wood.

Before I move on, I should also point out that other types of ‘paper’ were developed around the world, but none were as well-used or in demand as papyrus. The ancient Etruscans would weave flax into linen which they would make books out of (interesting fact: Etruscan books are not like normal books, but have a distinct ‘accordion fold’, and the only other group which developed books like this that I know of were the MAYA of ancient Mexico), the ancient Indians (possibly as far as the Indus River Civilization) made use of a form of palm tree paper which had the keeping-power of tissue paper, and the ancient Mesoamericans made another type of paper which was actually on par or better than Egyptian papyrus, though they were an ocean away and couldn’t share their knowledge.


Eventually, however, the needs of advancing society outgrew what it could accomplish with material like mud, pottery shards, and wood panels. During the Hellenic age when Egypt was ruled by the Ptolomaic Dynasty who nationalized and heavily controlled the export of papyrus, other cities went looking for ways of creating more light-weight and cheaper materials to undercut the Egyptian stranglehold on writing materials. It was from here that the city of Pergamon in modern day Turkey (another Hellenic state) invented parchment, which is made from the dried skins of animals. While expensive (after all, animals were valuable commodities in the ancient world), nations who were enemies of Egypt could now produce written works for much less expense than they could on papyrus, leading to this material to spread from the Middle East (actually spelling the death knell of the Cuneiform script) to England, and would until the introduction of Chinese wood-pulp paper some 500 to 1,000 years later.

So, what does this history less mean for Arcanis. Well, one thing it should show you is how RARE the written word was in an ancient world. These writing materials (aside from things like mud and pottery shards) were extremely expensive to produce, which meant that only the rich could afford more than a few examples of them. In fact, we have records of people reusing material like parchment many times over the centuries, with examples of the Dead Sea Scrolls (made of parchment) showing multiple layers of ink on certain documents (the old ones being scrapped off and the material reused). This means that before the introduction of paper, the most people simply did not write for the fun of it. If you could write and had only a limited amount of material, you only wrote what you believed to be important. For much of the ancient past, this meant tax records an the like, and it is this reason more than any other why we don’t have a lot of diaries and personal records, novels, and even histories before the Hellenic Age (post Alexander the Great).

In fact, the first real ‘colour’ records we have of the ancient world are found in the works of Heroditus of Halicarnassas and his history of the Greco-Persian Wars, with all other records being short, to the point, and lacking of embellishments to really give you a ‘feel’ for the people and the personalities involved. In the ancient world, this was done almost exclusively by oral traditions and storytellers, as can be seen by the style that Heroditus transmitted his work (many believe it is actually a transcription of his oral performances of the same story).

Additionally, the transitory nature of writing materials (short of carving it into a mountainside, which is expensive and time-consuming) means that even if people wrote this stuff down, it probably wouldn’t survive until the modern day. Leaving aside how perishable materials like papyrus and palm-leaf is, and how likely they are to decay without proper storage, you also have to deal with the fact that most documents were only written down once or twice by hand, which means that each book was almost a unique resource. This left them more vulnerable to things like fire and government pogroms, as seen with the burning of the Library of Alexandria or the purges of Qin Shi Huang Di in the Qin Dynasty of China. Even the mud tablets of Mesopotamia were prone to crumbling unless fire-baked, which is why almost all of our records from the ancient world are preserved only because cities were burned in wars, baking these tablets that were otherwise left un-fired because of how expensive wood was in that part of the world.

This throws into start relief how strange I find it when players apply meta-knowledge of the Arcanis universe to their characters. A lot of people go on about how widespread knowledge of the ancient past is in the world of Arcanis, citing events which happened thousands of years in the past like it was common knowledge, and demanding to know why we don’t know more than we do. I know that I have talked about this in the past, but I feel that this topic brings it up again. Unless people of the ancient past thought something was worth writing down (taking into account the knowledge needed to write, the necessity of purchasing often expensive writing materials, and the need to story often very bulky and perishable works once written down), people simply didn’t write it down. Furthermore, even if this stuff was written down, it often was destroyed in freak accidents from floods, storms, and fires (or even simply decomposition).

It is through this that we have lost knowledge like the name of the First Emperor (though, I still think we should know more now that we have a literal contemporary of the man living again), or the culture of the First Imperium, or the records of the Eloran Empire. Hell, the only reason we know so much about the Empire of Yahssremore is because of those lovely gold tablets that they wrote their history on, especially because of how chemically stable gold is (like bronze) compared to say iron (which rusts very easily).

Additionally, I find it awfully strange (but understandable) whenever we come across some ancient mosaic or inscription when Heroes magically pull out massive sheafs of paper and do ‘rubbings’. For one, these are people who are living primarily in the woods, where these materials are exposed to moisture and the elements, not to mention how bulky massive sheafs of paper are to carry around. I have done much camping in my time, and even carrying something as small as a novel can be problematic. Additionally, while we do know that at least a form of paper (maybe not modern paper, but something tougher than papyrus) exists in Arcanis, writing materials are still likely very expensive, which would restrict how much of it an average person would buy. Hell, with the frequency people are hit by fire magic, I would think that nobody would bring such material with them for fear of become a literal human torch! I fully understand that we are modern people, and we reflexively apply modern notions to the world, but I still find it strange.

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Cody Bergman
Legends of Arcanis Campaign Staff
Initial Author Contact/Adventure Vetting

Haakon Marcus val'Virdan, Divine Holy Judge of Nier
Ruma val'Vasik, Martial Crusader and Master of the Spear
Jorma Osterman, Arcane Coryani Battlemage


Last edited by Nierite on Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 5:38 pm 
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Well done Cody. The historian in me approves. And my time in the library system at Miami University (Ohio) has show me what happened to paper products when they get wet. Not good. :( History was explained to me once thus: Twenty people see an auto accident. How many of those write down what they saw? How many of those records survive the ravages of time? You get the idea. So even though it pains me (since I love the back history), the idea that we learn of the history of Arcanis through player experience is probably dead on. And I love the bit about the rubbings!

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Michael T. Hebert

Haakon val'Ishi, Beltinian Exorcist 2.7 [Divine]
Ursula val'Holryn, Grand Master of the Tralian Hammer 2.2 [Martial]
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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 10:23 am 
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Very insightful Cody, and well written. I hadn't considered comparing Altharin to Greek before, I had always thought of it more as Latin...I really like the examination of Ssethric/Eloran script.

It is rarely a good idea to ask players to apply real world logic to RPGs, however. GM: "Why does your illiterate Yhing Hir carry sheets of paper and pencils?" Player: "Uhh...it's written on my character sheet."

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 Post subject: Re: Musings of a Canadian Nierite. . .
PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 10:50 pm 

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To be fair, there are reasons for players to have some of these beliefs. The first being an obvious difference between the game world and anything close to what you could consider comparable historical periods - literacy.

In real world history it wasn't until just before the founding of America that literacy started to become common. There is a reason why, as you mention, scribes were equated with priests for secret knowledge, and why just the knowledge of letters and numbers lead to magical beliefs about their powers, because literate people for most of history have been vanishingly rare. Even in in the days of lords, many rulers were illiterate and were entirely dependent on priests or scribes for their writing.

Some of this may have been because of the lack of access to writing/reading materials. As you discuss, those were rare and either very hard to work with, or very fragile/bulky/degradable.

Now lets look at the world system. Back in the 3.5 days every class but the barbarian was assumed to be literate. It is silent about NPC classes and other general folk. Considering that a scribe costs as much as a skilled laborer (mason, etc) but no where near as much as a sage or a lawyer, it appears the skill is fairly common among the common folk, but not ubiquitous by any means. But also, all nobles or anybody with means is assumed to be literate. I can see why players would assume it is a common skill, since any street rat rogue is assumed to be literate.

Plus, this astounding literacy rate (compared to historical precidence, not current literacy, I hope) seems to have been around awhile, since usually the game does not indicate much change in literacy over time. And this high literacy rate has two important effects:

1. It implies that there is plenty of reading material. There is a reason why the literacy rate went up after the invention of the printing press. Unless you can get written material, you can't learn to read. Additionally, unless it is reasonably common, many people don't see the reason to learn to read. Since there is a high literacy rate, it implies there are good writing materials available

2. It assists in the preservation if knowledge. More literate people means more people making copies of things, more people writing about things, and more written material in general. Additionally, while many a book burning has been done by very literate people like the Church, it is I think at least a hair more likely that an increase in literacy will increase the preservation of the written word, since a literate person is less likely to value a book only as a source of kindling, as compared to an illiterate, so I think the preservation of knowledge is greatly increased in more literate societies.

Now, beyond just this assumption of a very high literacy rate that the rules generated, there was also the very real fact that one key class, expansive across most races and known to exist since time immemorial required writing - the wizard needs a spellbook. I challenge someone to learn to read and write magic formulae without knowing a basic language first. Additionally, I challenge them to do it without paper or some similar material. In the early material for this campaign, the greatest ssanu caster - SS'koreth is defined as a wizard, and there is not reason to believe the great casters before him weren't, so our earliest knowledge of magic is of a class that requires spellbooks, and thus papers and written language. So again writing seems to be accessible, and thus there is no reason to not believe the dynamics that make literacy more common in the "current" fantasy world didn't exist at least since early Ssethregoran times.

I will also say, the tendency of at least one member to always be hauling around a large book on his/her back and generally having writing material as well, does lend itself to the idea of, "why wouldn't have have a piece of paper and some chalk and wax with me, I'm literate?" for players and their characters. Apparently paper of sufficient quality and quantity has been around as long as wizardry, so why not assume it?

And that doesn't even start to take into account the effects of magic on the longevity of knowledge (though it might have the opposite effect on the preservation of the written word). It is possible/probably that psionic races like the Il'Huan and the Voiceless Ones have no writing, because their knowledge may literally propagate at the speed of thought. That could make for unimaginable knowledge retention - until your race it wiped out. :) Additionally, we know there are magic items like psionic "thought bubbles" that can literally store memories for others to experience, and other similar stand ins for knowledge retention beyond just writing. Spirits, bound familiars, the magical possibilities for knowledge storage are limitless, though none of them are destruction free - just like writing.

Now, that said, the new ARG rules turn this a little on its head. No one needs spellbooks anymore, so the massive requirement to have books be a common resource back to antiquity is now gone. On the flip side, everyone in the Coryani empire can be thought of as literate based on the current write-ups. I expect the rules are meant to just say that characters are of course exceptional specimens, and thus even if you are a Coryani with the background farmer, you are a really smart farmer who self taught yourself to read - not that all coryani farmers/laborers are literate. But since the rules tie literacy to location, rather than background, a player can be excused for thinking that all coryani are indeed capable of reading and writing.

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