Sometimes i think about the idea of Common as a language in fantasy settings.
On the one hand, it’s a nice convenient narrative device that doesn’t necessarily need to be explored, but if you do take a moment to think about where it came from or what it might look like, you find that there’s really only 2 possible origins.
In settings where humans speak common and only Common, while every other race has its own language and also speaks Common, the implication is rather clear: at some point in the setting’s history, humans did the imperialism thing, and while their empire has crumbled, the only reason everyone speaks Human is that way back when, they had to, and since everyone speaks it, the humans rebranded their language as Common and painted themselves as the default race in a not-so-subtle parallel of real-world whiteness.
In settings where Human and Common are separate languages, though (and I haven’t seen nearly as many of these as I’d like), Common would have developed communally between at least three or four races who needed to communicate all together. With only two races trying to communicate, no one would need to learn more than one new language, but if, say, a marketplace became a trading hub for humans, dwarves, orcs, and elves, then either any given trader would need to learn three new languages to be sure that they could talk to every potential customer, OR a pidgin could spring up around that marketplace that eventually spreads as the traders travel the world.
Drop your concept of Common meaning “english, but in middle earth” for a moment and imagine a language where everyone uses human words for produce, farming, and carpentry; dwarven words for gemstones, masonry, and construction; elven words for textiles, magic, and music; and orcish words for smithing weaponry/armor, and livestock. Imagine that it’s all tied together with a mishmash of grammatical structures where some words conjugate and others don’t, some adjectives go before the noun and some go after, and plurals and tenses vary wildly based on what you’re talking about.
Now try to tell me that’s not infinitely more interesting.
I like the idea of Common being a pidgin language as described above – human cultures have a wide array of language Irl, so I assume they have them in D&D and other fantasy settings as well.
Which leaves Common to develop along trade routes and in temples, picking and choosing the words that work best collaboratively. Traders are going to speak a number of languages anyway, so it starts there and spreads as cities grow.
Undercommon, therefore, is also a pidgin language, but between the sentient races of the Underdark. Perhaps it sprang up on it’s own and eventually met Common and they two pidgins fused! Language in D&D is fascinating and not explored enough imho.
Aliens have captured you, and placed you in one of their nature preserves. However, they have sorely miscalculated on two issues: The amount of calories needed to keep a persistence predator sated, and the lethality/brutality of a hangry human.
first alien scientist in hover car: i don’t understand, all these creatures thrived together in the original environment, why is it eating them to extinction here?
second alien scientist: maybe we should add more crayfish? it ate the whole population in one sitting, that was kind of a surprise.
me, without looking up from scraping a caribou hide: i can hear you, assholes.
alien scientists: (staring)
me: yeah, i learned your language. you keep sitting there talking about me like i can’t hear you, that’s gonna happen.
first scientist: fascinating. we knew you were arguably sentient, but… (making notes)
second scientist: why are you eating everything? your food requirement in your home environment was less than half this.
me: i didn’t have to catch it myself, you idiots! you yoinked me out of the middle of a camping trip! i bought all that food at a store! i bought my CLOTHES at a store. i bought my BEDDING at a store. I DID NOT HAVE TO KILL MY OWN TENT.
me, finally looking up, shaking a flint knife at them: what the hell kind of scientists could go to earth and not notice the dominant species lives in cities? did you just swoop by in a hurry and grab everything out of the park without looking?
me: … oh my god.
scientists: we’re grad students.
I need this as a film.
i propose aldis hodge as the camper
I love this. Kind of like an inverted Predator. I want to know more about this character and his flint knapping because that isn’t a usual skill. (And how he picked up the language and so on. I imagine him grumbling to himself as he tries to spell what he’s hearing phoenetically with a stick.)
EVERY WORD HERE ?????? IS TRUE. YOU ARE THAT FROG.
I too have no space to worry about USA, already very worried about Poland and Ecuador, thank goodness Canada is still somehow holding up, but I’m horrified how far you let it go. FIX IT NOW or you’ll be sorry – truer words were never spoken.
Beware of requests for compromise when you are asking for justice and the other side is asking for consent to continue.
Hey btw, another worldbuilding thing: You can, and actually should have weird and impractical cultural things. They’re not inherently unrealistic, for as long as you address the realistic consequences as well.
Let’s say you’ve got a city where there’s tame white doves everywhere. They’re not pests, they’re regarded as sacred, holy protectors of the city, and the whole city cares for them and feeds them like they’re pets. They’re so tame because it’s a social taboo to hurt or scare one. Nice pretty doves :)
Then someone points out that even if they’re not seen as pests, doesn’t having a completely unchecked feral pigeon population – that not only isn’t being culled, but actively fed and cared for – mean that there would be bird shit absolutely all over the place?
A part of you wants to say no, because these are your nice, pretty doves. To explain that there’s a reason why they’re not shitting all over the place, maybe they’re super-intelligent and specifically bred and trained to not shit all over the place. The logistics of how, exactly, could anyone breed and train a flock of feral birds go unaddressed.
An even worse solution would be to not have those birds, editing them out of the world. No, they spark joy, you can’t just toss them out!
Now, consider: Yes, yes they would, but the city also has an extensive public sanitation service that’s occupied 90% of the time by cleaning bird shit off of everything. One of the most common last names in the area actually translates to “one who scrapes off dove shit”, and it’s a highly respected occupation. And thanks to the sheer necessity of constantly regularly cleaning everything, the city enjoys a much higher standard of cleanliness, and less public health issues caused by poor public sanitation.
The doves do protect the city. By shitting fucking everywhere.
While I absolutely love your idea, I just want to say that you can easily reduce public bird shitting from Pigeons by offering them comfortable lodgings where they can sleep and feed. Sure, you need to clean THOSE, but the pigeons shit a lot less all over town.
The Augsburg concept has one big pigeon house every 500m in which wild pigeons are fed, protected from weather and have nesting opportunities. Cities doing that have WAY less uncontrolled populations (since they can take out eggs if they feel they need reduce the population), way less shit AND a healthy population since it’s easier for veterinarians to notice and get to sick animals.
So I’d say one can of course still keep your general idea……but there’s also those MASSIVE palace-like pidgeon houses and only the most worthy are allowed to enter and directly interact with the pigeons (feed them, heal them, clean their lodgings). One big entrance for the human servants (priests??) and millions of small holes for the pigeons.
In fact, one could potentially turn your idea around IN THE PIDGEONS FAVOR. So your world is like ours and most major cities have a big feral pigeon population. And most of those cities HATE the pigeons and try to fight them and stuff. And they think that pigeon worshipper town is frigging cuckoo. BUT when comparing, then pigeon worshipper town is ridiculously clean and beautiful. No bird shit everywhere, no ruined house facades and statues from erosion through bird poop.
Pigeon haters go “how tf are you so clean, you have birds EVERYWHERE???” and the worshippers shrug and show their little bird temples spread around town that keep their precious birdies AND their town pretty.
I think this is a really good example of how research can greatly improve your worldbuilding! You don’t have to be perfectly accurate – it is fantasy after all – but the real world is so much more clever and beautiful than any of us know
advice that’s stuck with me: you don’t have to work inwards to justify a premise (e.g., ‘how would it ever be plausible to use snakes as currency’) as long as you work outwards in interesting ways from that premise (e.g., ‘how would a society that used snakes as currency look different? what would they use for wallets?’)
Wait, did you choose snakes specifically as a reference to that time when people literally used snakes as currency, or what is a random example?
Sorry, that time what
I love when straight cis women try to make fun of my partners “childish”/“unmanly” hobbies like collecting lego and collectible figures, meanwhile their husbands literally collect assault rifles and weapons and tactical gear they’re too stupid to use properly and I could out shoot their sedentary clumsy goofy asses despite not having stepped in a shooting range in nearly a decade
NOT TO MENTION my partner’s hobbies are actually safe and fun and fucking awesome, and he tries to make me feel included in them but doesn’t pressure me, and his face is cute as fuck when he’s happy and watching him patiently interact with children in the Lego store gives me baby fever ? but have fun with your gun swinging paranoid prepper white boy who can’t cook an egg
My husband was belittled and bullied by all of his previous partners into quitting his favorite hobby, collecting hot wheels.
Shortly after we started dating a dear friend of mine who was a lifetime collector passed away, leaving me with his collection. When my now-husband helped me go through them he mentioned how he used to collect them with his father, and it broke my heart to hear the sadness in his voice as he talked about it.
I told him that my friend would have loved for his collection to go to someone who was just as passionate about them as he was rather than to an estate sale or on ebay.
The following Valentines day I bought him a hot wheels car with his other gift and he lit up like it was Christmas. From that point on it became just something we did together, digging through hot wheels bins and garage sales. I even have a small collection of Dino-themed hot wheels of my own!
Now he collects and customizes them, sells some to his friends in the hobby to support his “habit” as he calls it hahaha. He has over a thousand in his collection now, He even got into carpentry so that he could build display cases for them!
Anyway I love men, especially when they have hobbies that are “weird” or “childish”
If someone makes you ditch your “weird” or “childish” hobbies they don’t deserve to be in your life. Let them go back to their sad boring ways alone.