Men & Magic
"Languages: The “common tongue” spoken throughout the “continent” is known by most humans."The fact that the term humans was used rather than men here throws me off a bit. The distinct and sudden shift from the term ‘men’ leads one to believe that there is a reason for such a change. Perhaps humans in this context refers to all player character races. Perhaps the authors are suddenly more specific so as not to confuse readers who might assume that ‘men’ refers to all player character races. Perhaps there is nothing more to read into this than the face value, simply that most humans speak common.
"All other creatures and monsters which can speak have their own tongues, although some (20%) also know the common one."I would assume that this 20% chance is to help the referee determine whether or not a non-player character type of dwarf, elf or hobbit knows the common tongue. There is a guide for player characters, so there is no mystery or random chance in regard to what languages they speak. It is not stated that any character type other than “humans” know the common tongue, other than through the 20% chance, so it is ultimately the decision of the referee. I would assume that unless the player character is from some unknown foreign land, he or she knows the common tongue.
"Law, Chaos and Neutrality also have common tongues spoken by each respectively."Clearly, this structure of spoken languages does not follow any historical example of our world. Firstly, there is a common tongue which presumably is the language of commerce and trade. Then there are the three divisional languages, which are the most difficult to relate to, and do not seem to be connected in anyway to region. Lastly, there are creature languages, which could be considered ancestral languages from a creature’s culture which is either an ancient, seldom used, lost tongue, or the language of a secluded enclave of the creature type; an enclave which is somewhat removed from the pervasiveness of mankind. For ease of game play, the common tongue is simply the language of all men. Those humans which do not speak it are either uncivilized or entirely foreign to the known lands described herein. One could perhaps make an effort to reason that the divisional languages are regional ones; those of cultures or societies of man (and even dwarves, elves and hobbits) that are at odds with one another. Or, one could explain these divisional languages as age old religious versions of spoken word, learned and handed down through the writings, scriptures and scrolls of the faithful leaders of the three major sects or divisions of some as yet undetermined persuasion. What happens when a character makes an alignment change, though? Surely he does not simply forget his divisional tongue? Ultimately I would simply leave divisional languages as a simple but never foolproof way of ascertaining whether a stranger is part of your normal circle of friends or not. Not at all a language in this context, but perhaps best described as an extremely limited slang form of the common tongue, with slang terms unrecognizable, for the most part, by those not of the same alignment. There are of course members of the three alignments who are intelligent enough to learn how to adequately mimic or fool casual observers, and even the rare individuals who can live amongst their foes through expert masquerading. To summarize:
Common Tongue: The Language of man, of the Land, of Commerce and Trade.
Creature Tongues: Ancient, Ancestral, Lost or Secluded forms of language associated with specific races or creatures.
Divisional Tongues: Regional, Cultural and Societal Slang forms of limited communication associated with Law, Neutrality or Chaos.
Based upon the passages in the CHARACTERS and LANGUAGES sections, each player character race begins with the following languages, and may add one additional creature tongue for every intelligence point over 10.
Dwarf: Common, Divisional, Dwarf, Gnome, Kobold and Goblin.
Elf: Common, Divisional, Elf, Orc, Hobgoblin, Gnoll.
Hobbit or Man: Common, Divisional.
~Sham, Quixotic Referee