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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The language of the gods

We are running out of Jamie's and my old Fighting Fantasy pitches that have proved so popular, but here is another one. It was based on one of our Empire of the Petal Throne campaigns, though with the exuberantly imaginative setting of M.A.R. Barker's Tekumel tamed down instead to fit into the committee-designed comfy quilt that was FF’s “Titan”. The Puffin editors preferred Keep of the Lich Lord so that is what posterity got.
Because your journeying has brought you, without any particular plan on your part, to the city where your friend Aramanthis the wizard lives, you decide to pay him a visit. However, on arriving at his home you are shocked to discover him lying on his bed surrounded by worried servants. When he sees you, he tells them all to leave. His voice is very weak, and it looks to you that Aramanthis is not long for this world. Once you are alone together, he struggles to hold off death long enough to tell you something of great importance.

"I have been beyond the world's edge," he says. "To the unknown land beyond Marpesia. You do not know Chargan the Golden, I think, but he is a sorcerer who has studied occult matters for as long as I. Together we undertook a voyage to the uncharted land, for Chargan had found ancient scrolls that told of a great empire that ruled there a hundred centuries ago. This empire was called Kamada Varrentis, and its rulers learned the Language of the Gods, whose nouns are worlds and whose grammar speaks with the force of natural law. Any wish or whim of the Emperors of Kamada Varrentis would instantly be gratified, as long as they phrased it in the Language of the Gods."

You can see that your old friend is fading fast. "Save your strength," you tell him soothingly.

"For what? I will be dead before the sands have run through yon hourglass. Listen to what I say, my friend. Chargan and I struggled through terrible hardships - ice jungles the like of which I have never seen in any part of the known world, three eyed savages who chased us with weapons of living liquid, pinnacles that rose a thousand feet sheer out of bleached salt marsh... But we found it. We found the ruins of Kamada Varrentis. And we found the books containing the Language of the Gods. Overcome with a lust for power, Chargan read three pages, and whatever it was he learnt has driven him mad. He no longer knew who I was, and as he turned from the book he spoke a syllable that made the sky shake! I fled from him in terror, and by some miracle I managed to get back here to tell the tale. But I am an old man, and the arduous voyage has proved too much for me. I must leave matters in your hands. You must stop Chargan before he tampers with the very fabric of our world. The mountains, the seasons of the year, the course of rivers even the motion of the stars - all of these can be altered as easily as a child builds a sandcastle, by someone who knows the Language of the Gods."
And our accompanying notes to the Puffin editors:

Probably this has the scope to be the toughest Fighting Fantasy book ever! The dangers of the uncharted continent are, as Aramanthis said, unlike anything in any other part of Titan. For the protagonist it is a case of sink or swim. He or she will have to quickly find out how to survive while trying to locate Chargan.

The protagonist will not recognize Chargan when they do find him. He has lost his memory and will attach himself to the protagonist's expedition in the belief that he is a travelling priest. Only as they penetrate further inland towards the ruins of Kamada Varrentis will Chargan begin to remember who he is and what has happened to him. His power to alter reality manifests itself in short bursts, and the protagonist will have to be alert to such clues in order to find out the truth.

Obviously Chargan is much too powerful a foe to overcome in a straight fight once his amnesia has gone. The protagonist will have to try and outwit him. There are several ways that this can be achieved, but none of them are easy. One alternative allows the protagonist to learn the Language of the Gods himself and engage Chargan in what must surely be the gamebook battle to end them all. The best way to win is to use the Language of the Gods to neutralize itself - thus depriving both Chargan and the protagonist of this "ultimate power" - but there are other ways.


  1. Hi Dave !

    I know someone who says he has invented "la Langue des Dieux" !


  2. Hi Olivier - intriguing, though easy to test if it were really the language of the gods. One would only have to assert a statement and see if it came true :)

  3. If only !!! Indeed I met the creator on the net and, by chance, it happened that he had lived in the same village as I. So we had a rendez-vous shortly before Christmas and he could explain to me that he took the names of different Gods to build the vocabulary of his language. He has developped a complicated cryptographic system around this (but I don't understand a lot....)
    Another Gods' language was Sanskrit (girvana bhasa) but it is excessively difficult.
    I won't contend that Sambahsa is the language of gods, if it became the language of some humans I'd be already happy... I've just released a full grammar in English:

  4. Hey Olivier, are you familiar with the languages that Professor M.A.R. Barker invented for his world of Tekumel? I was once invited for a meal with a dining club called the Omnipotent Azure Legion. When we were all in our seats, the president got up and gave me a welcoming speech in Tsolyani!

  5. Unfortunately not; I've just discovered it. That's a pity, because a mix of Maya, Urdu and Arabic must look and sound original. Paradoxally, I have been quite active on the scene of fantasy languages for the last year. I was a finalist at the competition organized for devicing the language Dothraki of HBO's next fantasy series "A Game of Thrones", and I have written an article in Sambahsa on the true nature of Herbert's chokobsa language in Dune:

  6. Tsolyani script is very beautiful and I have been using it as a decorative motif for various things since the mid-'70s. It even made an appearance in Zenith, the OU undergraduate science magazine. As for the sound - I've only heard it spoken with an English accent. The vocabulary came in quite useful when I was in the Yucatan!

  7. Dave, your ideas and material definitely pique my interest. I was wondering if it would be possible for you or Jamie to type up a short Fabled Lands expansion to instill faith upon your legions of fans. No pressure or anything, though :)

  8. Mike, I believe there is a whole FL book out there somewhere written by members of the FL Yahoo group. Jamie occasionally promises to get back to Book 7 one of these days (he already wrote 50 sections) but I expect we'll first have to see if the Megara and Mantikore-Verlag editions prove there's a demand for more.

  9. There is a fan written copy of Book 9 and most of Book 7 is actually complete, but the project has been at a standstill for close to a year now. I would work on it, but i'm in the process of launching a magazine (I don't own the publication, though) so I can't work on it at the moment but book 7 is around 120 pages or so and we need to fill in the blanks. If you or Jamie can glimpse at the notes and the copy of the unfinished book 7 and decipher the missing text, we would be all the wiser. Book 9 was written by a single person (Sarven Mclinton) and there's been mention of someone's work of a 100 page Devil's Peak expansion for the Fabled Lands.

    I personally believe that there should be an expanded, in-depth castle system for The Court of Hidden Faces, the ability to equip your crew members and bring them into battle, hirelings to work for you, and more substantial upgrades of your living quarters. Each religion should be differentiated amongst things with more weight than various bonuses. For example, why would you choose one Combat Bonus over another similar religion? I've noticed some error when it can to certain locations that allowed you to loop back around and continue nabbing items, thus allowing you to accumulated massive amounts of shards with little or no consequence. The Wizard's College in Dweomer has grand potential as well. You could divide it into various schools, courses, and rank. There will be rewards and consequences for passing/failing and such.

    I was wondering if you were pursuing to finish the series in print as well. I gave you quite a few ideas a while back in your email, if you'll recall. What needs to happen in order for that to be both viable and lucrative? I understand that Megara is releasing an iPhone app but that'll take quite a while to be released and there are many people that don't have any Apple products (myself included).

  10. Hi Mike - Megara are not only doing an iPhone app, they're releasing the game first in HD for iPad. That should be out around Christmas this year and they're already started on Book Two.

    I realize not everyone has an iPad (myself included) but it could give us a good platform on which to revamp the earlier books and even, possibly, continue the series.

    The Catch-22 with us starting in print is that a publisher is not going to get behind print versions of the first six books - in the way that Magnum Opus has spearheaded a whole new line of DW books, for example - because they would argue that most existing fans have already played those books. So we would have to start with books 7 and 8. But those need to be all-new content, and without a publisher there's nobody to cover the development cost, ie the writing.

    That's why I say that the Megara apps may be the catalyst we need. If Megara can make a success of those (and I've seen the current version and it looks great) then the revenue could start the heart of the FL project beating again.

    Incidentally, Mikael Louys, the head honcho at Megara, is making sure that all those loopholes you mentioned are getting fixed. The app versions will have random treasure, will lock out endless loops, and generally fix any bugs or shortcomings of the print editions. The beauty of it, of course, is that the iPad handles the book-keeping, checking codewords, updating your inventory, and so on.

    I should do a post on Dweomer because it was based on an old Ars Magica campaign idea of mine set in a university town called Fosseford. There was quite a bit of background material that I didn't have room to get into the FL books. The only snag is, Jamie has most of the FL notes in a format I can't open on my machine, and getting him to dig them out - or even to write a post on this blog - is like digging the Suez Canal with a plastic spoon!