Alignment language is a handy game tool which is not unjustifiable
in real terms.
Thieves did employ a special cant.
Secret organizations and societies did and do have certain recognition signs, signals, and recognition phrases --
possibly special languages (of limited extent) as well.
Consider also the medieval Catholic Church which used Latin as a common recognition and communication base to cut across national boundaries.
In AD&D, alignment languages are the special set of signs,
and words which intelligent creatures use to inform other intelligent creatures of the same alignment of their fellowship and common ethos.
Alignment languages are NEVER flaunted in public.
They are not used as salutations or interrogatives if the speaker is uncertain of the alignment of those addressed.
Furthermore, alignment languages are of limited vocabulary and deal with the ethos of the alignment in general,
so lengthy discussion of varying subjects cannot be conducted in such tongues.
Each alignment language is constructed to allow recognition
of like-aligned creatures and to discuss the precepts of the alignment
Otherwise, the tongue will permit only the most rudimentary communication with a vocabulary limited to a few score words.
The speaker could inquire of the listener's state of health, ask about hunger, thirst, or degree of tiredness.
A few other basic conditions and opinions could be expressed, but no more.
The specialty tongues of Druidic and the Thieves' Cant are designed to handle conversations pertaining to
things druidical on the one hand
and thievery, robbery and the disposal of stolen goods on the other.
Druids could discuss at length and in detail the state of the crops, weather, animal husbandry and foresting;
but warfare, politics, adventuring, and like matter would be impossible to detail with the language.
Any character foolish enough to announce his or her alignment
by publicly crying out in that alignment tongue will incur considerable
At best he or she will be thought unmannerly, rude, boorish, and stupid.
Those of the same alignment will be inclined to totally ignore the character,
not wishing to embarass themselves by admitting any familiarity with the offender.
Those of other alignment will likewise regard the speaker with distaste when overhearing such an outburst.
At worst, the character will be marked by those hostile to the alignment in which he or she spoke.
Alignment language is used to establish credentials only
after initial communications have been established by other means.
Only in the most desperate of situations would any creature utter something in the alignment tongue otherwise.
It must also be noted that alignment does NOT necessarily empower a creature to actually speak or understand the alignment
language which is general in the ethos.
Thus, blink dogs are intelligent,
lawful good creatures who have a language of their own.
A lawful good human, dwarf, or brownie will be absolutely at a loss to communicate with blink dogs, however, except in the most limited of ways (non-aggression, non-fear, etc.) without knowledge of the creatures' language or some magical means.
This is because blink dogs do not intellectually embrace the ethos of lawful good but are of that alignment instinctually;
therefore, they do not speak the tongue used by lawful good.
This is not true of gold dragons, let us say,
or red dragons with respect to their alignment,
who do speak their respective alignment languages.
Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, someone asked Frank when alignment tongues came into D&D, and what there rationale is, and Frank directed the questionner here to ask you (Gary) instead. I can't find that topic addressed here already, but I may have missed it. So if I may, where did the idea for aligment tongues come from? Do you see them as fully fleshed out languages?
As D&D was being quantified and qualified bu the publication of the supplemental rules booklets. I decided that Thieves' cant should not be the only secret language. thus alignment languages come into play, the rational being they were akin to Hebrew for Jewish and Latin for Roman Catholic persons.
I have since regretted the addition, as the non-cleric user would have only a limited vocabulary, and luttle cound be conveyed or understoon by the use of an alignment language between non-clerical users.
Even given the inherent limitations of alignment language, I have still always found the concept interesting. Their existence suggests "secret societies" of alignment. Then the multiverse cosmology was built up with the outer planes arranged by alignment, further implying that these secret societies are based on real multiversal Truth, a Truth which governs even the gods.
Which do you suppose is the
primary allegience of the inhabitants of the Prime Material Plane? The
secret society of their alignment, or their religion (e.g., "Norse") or
god (e.g., "Thor")? Or am I barking up the wrong tree altogether?
If the DMs would have restricted the use of alignment languages--done mainly because I insisted on that as I should have--then the concept is vaible. In my view the secret societies of alignment would be pantheonic, known to the clerics of that belief system and special orders of laity only. The ordinary faithful would know only a few words, more or less for recognition.
Your broader approach is also quite viable as it goes beyond the limited scope of the immediate fantasy mileu.
Oh, this indicates to me that alignment language was meant for the Clerical types, maybe (for an OD&D example) Law being a Christian tounge (like Latin) and Chaos being some kind of Satanic cant or some such? If so, that would clear things up for me a great deal...
Not restricted to clerics, mut they and members of special orders--such as paladins and assassins--would be the only ones fluent in such speech, just as I noted in an earlier post I made today.
Regarding alignment languages, the approach you suggest sounds entirely sensible. It could be broadened out, so that clerics of related orders (for example, clerics of deities of one pantheon and other trusted followers) might all speak the same secret tongue. If the 'learned texts' of that society are also written in that languate, it might be argued that the well educated might also have some familiarity with it.
So, thanks for that clarification Gary, its an approach well worth using.
Happy to be of service in this regard, as alignment languages have been abused since day one--mainly because I was not explicit in describing them properly
Originally posted by roytheodd
First off, I need to thank you Mr. Gygax. For the last 20 years my head has been full of wonder and merriment due to your game. You've given me a gift that allows me to exercise my imagination and to present my findings with friends and to share goodness and joy. Thank you for that.
My question for you, since
you're still answering, is what prompted the use of Alignment Languages?
I've never read a book, seen a film, or in any other way uncovered a clue
as to why you created these. I can understand and appreciate them, but
I never did figure out your source for the idea.
Roytheodd, you are welcome, and as I so often say, I've surfe had a lot of fun too.
As for alignment languages, as I worked up the mindsets for the none, it seemed to me that each such groups would have developed their own patoise as a recognition means, more or less like sectrt societies have signs and signals to ID their fellows.
Never did I ensisage characters announcing their moral-ethical (or lack thereof) beliefs and convictions. Rather, the alignment languages were meant to be the means by which one might discover a like-natured individual. Similarly, conveyance of information or general conversation was not contemplated using such "language."
As for alignment language, I assumed that it was akin to Latin in regard to use.
Clerics would be fluent in their use of their alignment language, the devout and well-educated nearly as able, and at the middle and lower end of the spectrum only rudimentary communications could be managed.
Originally Posted by tenkar
Assuming that the minds of 13 year old DMs would hold up to yours was an ambitious thought
We kinda glossed over alignment
languages in my games. Wasn't really needed, therefore it wasn't missed.
I was so engrossed in creating new material that I too often glossed over things that needed more explanation so as to guide the younger gamers.
I still use pencils with erasers on 'em :\
Originally Posted by gideon_thorne
*chuckles* Me too! They blend much nicer with water..
But thats probably not what your talking about.
I've used the Venus line to "paint with pencils"! My aunt was a high school art teacher, my pal Tom Keogh won a proze from the Audabon society for an airbrish drawing of a bird and I can draw water as well as anyone
Originally Posted by Blair Goatsblood
I was curious regarding you
opinions reagarding alignment languages. What was the inspiration for them,
and what would the "game world" explanation for them be?
From a wargaming perspective, it makes sense, got to have some way for the masse armies of disparate lawful or chaotic troops to communicate with each other.
I have gone over this many times, but once more, in precis, won't hurt:
An alignment language is promarily keyed to the religious subjects that would be discussed or read about by those of that persuation. One might think of such a tingue as being similar to Latin for Roman Catholics or Hebrew for Jews. Ordinary members of the alignment will possibly not even understand what is meant when it is spoken, and those that are aware will probably not be sufficiently versed in it to respons in kind.
Originally Posted by RFisher
Is there only one language for each alignment or does each "religion" within an alignment have it's own language?
I always imagined a single alignment language per division, as in the D&D milieuneach alignment is relatively homogenous. Servants of particular deities will have recognition signals or spoken or signed sort.
Originally Posted by haakon1
Nod, I had guessed the inspiration. (I helps to be a Roman Catholic, and from heavily-Jewish New York.) But I had assumed (at one point) that everyone spoke both Common and their alignment language, automatically. I assume that's one of many rules I misread as a 12 year old. I don't think I've played AD&D that way in decades . . .
I usdually allowed most PCs and all important NPCs to be versed to some extent in teir alignment tongue. All Clerics know it backwards and forwards.