Home Forums Glorantha Glorantha Discussions “Written” Darktongue

This topic contains 18 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of David Scott David Scott 3 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #5305
    Profile photo of Scott Martin
    Scott Martin
    Spectator

    Simpering sorries to all grandmothers observing this thread but I was dipping back into the old Snakepipe Hollow supplement and saw the following among the “desperately seeking adventurers” postings:

    Quote:
    (On parchment, in black blood. Troll Darktongue symbols cover the right half of the page, repeated on the left side in Trade Talk.)
    EXPEDITION FORMING. Kill chaos. Glory to Kyger Litor. See Bolargi Black Troll under East Bridge. Beware great trolls.

    Now conventional wisdom about the gloranthoscenti has been that any form of recorded darktongue must focus on non-visual senses: something like Braille carved or punched into the medium or perhaps utilizing density and texture in some other way.

    It would be difficult to produce that kind of tactile effect with pigment on parchment, however, and creating a kind of sonar document with at best neolithic materials probably raises more questions than it answers.

    So can we keep this humble and ancient help wanted sign in canon? Sure — if a divergent form of troll “writing” actually represents scent trails recorded on surfaces by the application of pungent substances like special treatments of “black blood.” The blackness is incidental; the native Darktongue audience will actually snuffle out the message by tracking the snout across the parchment.

    If not for the happy accident (possibly engineered by the Arganargar cult in the Shadowlands and/or Ralios) of the standard “ink” being visible, humans would be unaware of the existence of “written” Darktongue at all. But this gives non-uz a way to recognize that there is text here and possibly learn the written form via outlandish training methods.

    This also opens a door to forms of troll mysticism and even a form of “cabala” in which naturally occurring scent trails are employed for divination. Blood spray, vegetable perfumes, resins, even pollen would deliver information to trollish senses that humans could never perceive without strong magic — this may be one of the ways they communicate with their insect familiars and one reason why troll and aldryami populations have pushed so close together since time.

    The Stinking Forest and Vale of Flowers may be troll holy places too, somewhere between naturally occurring “libraries” and cultivated collections of scent. Shadows Dance.

    The honorary grandmothers will now punish my insolence.

    #6614
    Profile photo of Robin Mitra
    Robin Mitra
    Spectator

    In my Glorantha I always figured that troll writing would be three dimensional, something like traffic signs made of stone, wood, garbage and human limbs. I believe that trolls have a more oral and only semi-literate society. I can’t bring to my mind trolls writing poems or even books of law. For most purposes where a troll wanted to pass on information a 3D traffic sign would be sufficient.

    I like your scent/smell/pheromone idea. But how long would such an information last?

    #6617
    Profile photo of Erick Eckberg
    Erick Eckberg
    Spectator

    I don’t know what the new stuff says about Darktongue, but the old material, as I remember it seemed to imply that it was a “real” enough script to be used by Vivamort cultists. Gotta say though, that never jibed with me. I think the ancient vampire of the forgotten Sun Dome remembered only Darktongue. I never could reconcile ancient vampires speaking the (assumed on my part) guttural and primitive language of the trolls just because they were both associated with darkness. As for Snakepipe hollow; I never liked any of the prospective employers; very “D&D trite” (an old hooded man approaches you in a tavern wanting you to recover some silly thing from a mythic den of chaos…). The troll ad was especially weird; why the hell would some chaos-hating trollish killers want to hire some local puny humans to aid their holy quest. Dumb. I ran the adventure with adventure motivations tied deeply to the campaign. It was a big deal, not some goofy dungeon romp.

    #6618
    Profile photo of Erick Eckberg
    Erick Eckberg
    Spectator

    Heck, it was big enough deal to get Beti Leika summarily elected Queen, and I doubt she went there to recover a lump of aluminum for some smith…. oh, or to rescue some “kidnapped” healer. What, are the broo also in the Taliban, holding contractors hostage in some cave?

    #6620
    Profile photo of Peter Metcalfe
    Peter Metcalfe
    Spectator

    Scott:

    Quote:
    Now conventional wisdom about the gloranthoscenti has been that any form of recorded darktongue must focus on non-visual senses: something like Braille carved or punched into the medium or perhaps utilizing density and texture in some other way.

    The authoritative word from the Guide is (which also appeared in the Genertela Boxed Set):

    Quote:
    Written Darktongue must be carved into stone or metal, and can be read by feeling with one’s fingers.

    p92 GtG

    I’d say they chew (or scratch with their teeth) any message and that wood can also be used as an appropriate media. Furthermore feeling with one’s fingers is how *humans* read darktongue, the trolls use darksense.

    Quote:
    if a divergent form of troll “writing” actually represents scent trails recorded on surfaces by the application of pungent substances like special treatments of “black blood.”

    Why would trolls use scent for writing? Smells don’t last in the way writing or scratches do.

    #6621
    Profile photo of boztakang
    boztakang
    Participant

    I think one could approximate darktongue by drawing it the way we draw cuneiform writing, and humans have probably done so. I don’t think that many trolls would recognize it in that form however.

    Trolls are very fond of poems chewed onto the bones of prey animals, with many traditional forms based on specific bones from different species. They will often spend many hours composing them, though the art is intended to be disposable, and rarely survives more than two or three “readers” before being eaten.

    #6624

    I would gess that enough clotted blood would allow a similar texture as wax or laquer seals do.

    #6626
    Profile photo of boztakang
    boztakang
    Participant

    but it would be brittle, and “backwards” and probably incredibly difficult to form properly… also parchment is delicious, and blood even mores… i can’t see a troll choosing to waste such delicacies on an advertising broadsheet.

    The parchment was clearly intended for human (pardon the pun) “consumption.” I would not be terribly surprised if there weren’t a “darktongue script” used in the holy country and amongst the kitori, that was easier for humans to write and read, which is probably the symbols seen here. That the other half is in Trade indicates an Argan Argar translator, who was probably human, and therefore used human methods to write both sides of the document.

    If a troll for some reason simply HAD to write on parchment, he would have almost certainly punched holes to form the symbols – much easier to read, and not a waste of delicious blood.

    #6627
    Profile photo of boztakang
    boztakang
    Participant
    Quote:
    Quote from Scott Martin on January 1, 2014, 21:51

    This also opens a door to forms of troll mysticism and even a form of “cabala” in which naturally occurring scent trails are employed for divination. Blood spray, vegetable perfumes, resins, even pollen would deliver information to trollish senses that humans could never perceive without strong magic — this may be one of the ways they communicate with their insect familiars and one reason why troll and aldryami populations have pushed so close together since time.

    I do have a player in my troll campaign who creates “art” of very much this sort, and is able to record and tell stories through carefully designed “scent machines” but, though his art is popular an well-recieved, it is definitely considered “avant-garde” and weird. Not something that a “normal” troll would think to do.

    #6628
    Profile photo of Simon Phipp
    Simon Phipp
    Spectator

    Although Darktongue is chewed/scratched/etched into rock, I’d have a written form that humans could use. It would be a simplified form and would have none of the subtleties, but could be done with pen and paper.

    For example, I am of the opinion that the more important a name is, the deeper it is etched in the material, so Kyger Litor would appear as a deep dark hole. A form of darktongue that is written with pen and paper would miss this completely. It would also miss rough and smooth symbols and those symbols that appear different when using darksense.

    #6630
    Profile photo of Scott Martin
    Scott Martin
    Spectator

    This is why I love the tribe. The mechanical limitations of pen-and-paper would also explain why even presumably expert human translators end up missing the nuances and deliver pidgin on the Trade side of the parchment. It’s actually a faithful translation of the sorry “Argar Code” or whatever human-accessible Darktongue is called.

    Avant-garde troll stink poets. Stone traffic signs. Broo “contractors.” Sonar inscriptions. The language of Vivamort and just maybe the language of Thanatar as well. Blood as seal inscription medium — perhaps with finger bones or other tidbits as gnawed applicators.

    This creativity is why I go back to these oldest texts to see what if anything remains fertile in all the ancient “you meet in a tavern and receive the call to adventure” stuff.

    My uz may end up with stink paint though, because why all the pigment on Holiday Guide 94 and “paint” in the note? The colors are incidental to the color-blind but the sense patterns are still meaningful in a ritual context — perhaps to cover over Darksensible scarring and so create a sort of erasure otherwise tricky to pull off in a sonar environment short of biting the thing off and swallowing.

    And the insect masters and the stink of the Stinking Forest.

    #6631
    Profile photo of Scott Martin
    Scott Martin
    Spectator

    Follow-up for the grandmothers:

    Can Darksense tell you what’s in my stomach or is stuff truly private in there? Because it is dark and deep and echoing, my stomach, but if we all know what each other had for breakfast our culinary taboos are more easily enforceable and our sense of shame is different.

    Would that I were William Church eager to turn a portrait of the Only Old One into a caricature of Freud Siggy Karrgson.

    #6633
    Profile photo of boztakang
    boztakang
    Participant
    Quote:
    Quote from Scott Martin on January 2, 2014, 21:05
    Can Darksense tell you what’s in my stomach

    according to trollpack:

    Quote:
    An interesting fact of darksense is that a troll can use it to sound an animal’s body cavities and see whether or not it is hungry (by looking for empty stomachs). This is a peculiar ability, but is only usable very close at hand.

    So your wife could tell that you have eaten without her, but not necessarily what you had eaten. She could tell if it was flesh or mineral, however, due to the different digestive paths, and might be able to spot distinctive bone fragments or other tell-tale (or especially reflective) indicators.

    MGF demands that any such inspection requires direct contact with the skin, and that some sort of disgustingly unpleasant goo be used as “sonic coupling.” If performed by a skilled nurse or midwife, the result is probably similar to a very low-resolution sonogram, though most trolls are not so skilled, and can only make out the approximate size and placement of organs.

    I do not know weather it is actually impossible for uz to look and listen inside a womb, or if they just have a deeply held taboo not to. But it is definitely Not Done, as prospective troll mothers do not know till the moment of birth weather they will deliver trollkin or not, which, it seems, could be easily detected by dark sense, or even just listening for heartbeats.

    #6634
    Profile photo of Scott Martin
    Scott Martin
    Spectator

    Clearly I need to carve out time to get back to the original Trollpak as well because I never looked closely at the physiological sections. On the other hand, my question is clearly absurd because…

    Quote:
    Quote from Dan McCluskey on January 2, 2014, 22:26
    So your wife could tell that you have eaten without her, but not necessarily what you had eaten. She could tell if it was flesh or mineral, however, due to the different digestive paths, and might be able to spot distinctive bone fragments or other tell-tale (or especially reflective) indicators.

    …I am still alive and have only been punished sometimes, therefore the specific contents of my breakfasts are blissfully private to me.

    #6635
    Profile photo of Niall
    Niall
    Spectator
    Quote:
    Quote from Erick Eckberg on January 2, 2014, 01:59
    I don’t know what the new stuff says about Darktongue, but the old material, as I remember it seemed to imply that it was a “real” enough script to be used by Vivamort cultists. Gotta say though, that never jibed with me. I think the ancient vampire of the forgotten Sun Dome remembered only Darktongue. I never could reconcile ancient vampires speaking the (assumed on my part) guttural and primitive language of the trolls just because they were both associated with darkness. As for Snakepipe hollow; I never liked any of the prospective employers; very “D&D trite” (an old hooded man approaches you in a tavern wanting you to recover some silly thing from a mythic den of chaos…). The troll ad was especially weird; why the hell would some chaos-hating trollish killers want to hire some local puny humans to aid their holy quest. Dumb. I ran the adventure with adventure motivations tied deeply to the campaign. It was a big deal, not some goofy dungeon romp.

    I must admit that back in the summer of 1980 when I first adventured in Snake Pipe Hollow, none of that came across as D&D Trite. Neither did the Troll request seem Dumb. It may seem so now or during the 1990’s, but hardly fair to say all that for when it came out first.

    My character died rather happy in his lack of knowledge whilst trying to rescue the Healer 😉

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