Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Step 26: Languages
Picking languages for your setting might seem to be a step you'd want to complete earlier, but this is the best time to start contemplating what languages the people in your setting can speak. But where to start? Well, consider these categories of languages:

Racial Languages: Racial-based languages are probably the most common kind your characters will come across during their travels. This is any language spoken by a specific race such as dwarven or gnomish. It may also include monstrous languages like giant or goblinese. When adding racial languages to your setting, you want to make sure that only well established races have languages of their own. Relatively new races like elan (Expanded Psionics Handbook), artificial ones like warforged (Eberron Campaign Setting) and slave races like muls (Dark Sun) generally don't have languages of their own, mainly because they don't have a culture of their own, either because they are simply too new, they haven't been given the opportunity, or they don't have the inclination. These kinds of races typically speak the languages used by those areas around them.

Planar Languages: These include languages spoken in the Inner Planes, the Outer Planes, and everything in between. The elemental languages: Auran, Aquan, Ignan and Terran are generally common in campaign settings. The languages of good and evil, Celestial and Infernal are also widely used. Other planar languages like Astral are less common, and you may not want to include them. Planar languages get a lot of use by spellcasters, and by religious characters.

Magical Languages: These are the languages that are used primarily by spellcasters. Most often Draconic is the de facto magical language used, closely followed by Sylvan, but depending on your setting, you may want to include others like Sphinx in an Egyptian-styled setting. Magical languages also tend to blur the lines with other categories. In Arabian-themed settings where djinn are more common, spellcasters may scribe their spells in Ignan or Auran, making them both a planar and a magical language. In the Eberron campaign setting Giant could also be considered a magical language.

Political Languages: These are languages that are spoken based on political lines, either specific or loosely. Most languages used in our world could be considered political languages: French is spoken in France, as well as in former French colonies. These kinds of languages are less common in fantasy settings, but they can be found. Common, as well as it's Underdark equivalent, Undercommon can both be considered to be very rough versions of political languages based on the distinction of where they are spoken.

Secret Languages: These are the least common languages used, but when placed sparingly they can add a nice dimension of flavor. Languages like Druidic and the sign-language of Thieves' Cant are usually restricted by character class, and are used as a way for members to communicate with one another. This may also include languages spoken only by members of a particular guild or maybe even one that is only written and used by beggars to communicate with one another through graffiti.

Religious Languages: Most campaign settings fold religious languages in with planar ones, using Celesitial and Infernal as the standard languages of religion. Other languages might be used in religious ceremonies, and these may be considered magical languages as well, depending on the circumstances. In the real world both Latin and Hebrew would be considered religious languages.

Dead Languages: Dead languages are ones that are no longer spoken by the population at large. They may be relegated to hieroglyphics on the walls of a long forgotten tomb, or it may be a language only remembered by one elderly person. While these are uncommon, they can be quite useful in both creating mystery and as a jumping off point for an adventure.

Once you've determined which languages are available in your setting, make sure that every race has the appropriate options given to them. Classes that provide language options should also be altered to allow for an alternative. In a setting without dragons, wizards might not automatically learn draconic, and should have another option available.

Step 27: Creating a Cosmology
Now that you've built a place for your players to live and adventure in, it's time to think about where they can go if they leave. The most simple option is to use the Great Wheel cosmology. In the Great Wheel, the Inner Planes comprise of the elemental planes, the Outer Planes make up the worlds that focus on the alignment traits (Good, Evil, Law and Chaos) as well as where people go where they die. There are also a series of coterminous planes that intersect with the Material (your campaign setting): the Astral, Ethereal, Shadow, etc.

When creating a cosmology, remember that changes you make to the planes, especially the coterminous planes, can have an effect on what spells your players will be able to use. If there's no Ethereal Plane, then the ethereal jaunt spell shouldn't be available.

While creating new planes, consider where you can place your deities. Giving the gods of your world a place to live can help flesh them out even further, and even provide you with some ideas for adventures or even appropriate planar cohorts.

Step 28: Filling in the Blanks
Now most of your work is done, and it's time to go through what you've done so far, and check everything over. Look for anything you may have missed, maybe some work that you haven't completed, or a discrepancy between two sections. Revising and re-reading your work is time well spent. Take your time and consider making a couple of revisions to make doubly-sure that you've written everything you intended to.

Now is also a good time to playtest your material again


  1. Come up with a list of languages (Step 26) that will be used in your setting. You don't need to order them like above, but you should try to include as many different kinds as possible.
  2. Work out the cosmology for your campaign setting (Step 27). Try to include both separate and coterminous planes.


  1. The following languages are spoken in Penumbra:

    • Common
    • Draconic
    • Sylvan

    Racial Languages:
    • Dwarven
    • Elven
    • Giant
    • Gnomish
    • Goblin
    • Halfling
    • Orcish

    Planar Languages:
    • Astral
    • Aquan
    • Auran
    • Celestial
    • Ignan
    • Infernal
    • Terran

  2. Penumbra was once part of the Great Wheel, but since the Cataclysm, it has been separated, and now exists on its own.

    The plane is coterminous with the Astral and Ethereal planes, and is currently intersecting with the Plane of Shadow. Travel to the Plane of Shadow is impossible, but spells and abilities that allow travel through the Plane of Shadow work as normal, owing to the unique nature of Penumbra.

    Penumbra does not connect to any Inner or Outer plane. Access to these planes comes via the Astral Plane. These connections, which come from the Color Pools, are powerful enough to allow for summoning spells and for clerics to receive spells from their deities, but cannot be used to teleport through, restricting spellcasters from leaving Penumbra.

    The versions of the Astral and Ethereal planes available in Penumbra are restricted and are being slowly choked out by the Plane of Shadow. They only extend as far as the borders of the Material Plane, and no further.

    The Plane of Shadows is home to both Seebok and the Dark, while the Ethereal Plane is where Luneth, Liaque, Aubreth and Mantek reside. The rest of the deities live in the Astral Plane.

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