Languages of the Phoenix Empire
All of the languages listed under the Linguistics skill (Core Rulebook, p. 100-102) are available to characters as per the normal rules for racial starting languages, high Intelligence, and the acquisition of skill ranks. This includes any new racial languages presented in the Advanced Race Guide.
The common tongue of the Phoenix Empire is Hwan, taught throughout the Empire by Imperial decree since its founding. It has since largely supplanted the local, pre-Imperial tongues of conquered lands and assimilated peoples. Hwan is written using the Hwangeol script, gifted to the people of the Empire by the goddess Ja-Cheong-Bi. It is the most common source for personal and family names for Imperial citizens, human and non-human alike.
Rare Racial Languages
The languages of new races presented in the Advanced Race Guide are among the least likely to be encountered in the Lost Province campaign. This is not to say that they absolutely won't be encountered, nor to discourage any PC from acquiring any particular language as appropriate to a PC's personality and history; PCs wishing to invest limited language slots most efficiently, however, may wish to avoid these seldom-encountered tongues. Includes: Catfolk, Grippli, Samsaran, Strix, Tengu, Vanara, Vishkanya, Wayang.
Other Modern Languages
Though Hwan is spoken throughout the Empire, those who come from neighbouring lands as traders, explorers, or invaders speak a variety of different languages.
This is the language of trade and diplomacy among the kingdoms of Algolapata, where its status as the tongue of merchants and nobles has earned it the nickname of "the golden tongue." It is not commonly spoken outside of these classes in the Algolapatan kingdoms, and in places, teaching or inappropriately speaking it is forbidden.
Properly called Na-I-Nu, this is the tongue of the Icewalkers who live to the east and south of the Empire.
The tongue recognised in the Empire as Malkapuran is in truth somewhere between a pidgin and a creole language, and sounds unsophisticated to its native speakers, most of whom speak one of its parent languages as their native tongue.
The following languages are not commonly known in the Empire, save by scholars and historians. Most exist primarily as written rather than spoken languages.
This is an archaic written form of Hwan, rendered obsolete by the introduction of the simpler Hwangeol script. Its use persists among some spellcasters in the Empire, and it may also be used as a crude form of cipher.
Primarily found in the Empire's coastal and western provinces, this script is notable for its extensive use of accents and almost total lack of straight lines.
This complicated language is found only in ancient ruins associated with the Age of Giants, and for a long time was thought to be two separate languages, owing to its use of two different runic alphabets. Current scholarship instead interprets the frequent shifts between alphabets as akin to a shift in tense, tone, or speaker in a modern language.
Often encountered in the Ti Shan Mountains and further north, the blocky, interconnected characters of this script, dominated by densely-packed vertical and horizontal lines, have earned it the nickname of "maze writing."
These names may be used by speakers of Hwan throughout the Empire, regardless of race.
Example family names: Bai, Chae, Chun, Fong, Gua, Jiang, Jun, Kam, Keun, Lin, Mai, Myo, Nang, Reong, Shan, Soh, Tak, Tsui. Paired family names are also common, and may be written with a hyphen or without (though the same family always writes its name consistently), e.g. Fong-Lin/Fonglin, Myo-Reong/Myoreong, Soh-Jun/Sohjun.
Example female names: Chao, Chun-Hei, Eu-Kyung, Fei, Hei-Ryung, Hyun-Jae, Jae-Hwa, Kyung-Soon, Meilin, Mi-Soon, Qiao, Rui, Soo-Min, Yun-Hi, Zhi.
Example male names: Bak, Bi, Cho-Seol, Dawei, Hyun-Ki, Jianguo, Jung-Hi, Kwan-Song, Nam-Kyu, Shin-Il, Shuo, Song-Hwa, Yong-Chul, Zun, Zhen.
Hwan Naming Conventions
Several alternative naming conventions exist and are used by speakers of Hwan.
People whose family and given names are both hyphenated will typically "drop" one-half of one of their names, and the component hyphen, in everyday conversation. For example, Hyun-Ki Soh-Keun might introduce himself as Hyun Soh-Keun; if introducing both himself and his sister, Hyun-Jae, he might use the names Hyun-Ki Soh and Hyun-Jae Soh. This is not done when identifying oneself to an official or in any other very formal situation.
People may use descriptive names of various sorts. Most often, this means that a person simply takes an ordinary word, typically a noun, for their given name. Examples include Dawn, Duck, Fire, Gem, Lotus, Ox, Reed, River, Swan, or Wind; the variety of possible names is only limited by good sense and taste. Almost as often, a person takes a descriptive epithet before their given name; examples include Ardent, Blessed, Even-Handed, Lucky, Magnificent, Pious, Precious, Studious, Wandering, and Zealous. Again, good sense and taste are factors in how others will react to this component of a descriptive name; Lucky Duck makes perfect grammatical sense but is likely to draw some odd looks, and Magnificent Zhen's magnificence had best be readily obvious.
In a variation on descriptive names, some people choose (or are given) self-deprecating names. These tend to be relatively gentle rebukes that may frame the named person's failings as an excess of a neutral or even desirable trait; rather than being called Nosy or Intolerant, for example, a person might instead be called Inconveniently Curious or Excessively Righteous. Euphemisms, such as Hard-Hearted for Cruel and Quick-Fingered for Thieving, are also common. Names based on obvious physical traits, on the other hand, tend to be either direct or ironic, with the latter being considered somewhat barbed (the name Fat Kwan-Song merely acknowledges that Kwan-Song is fat, while Little Kwan-Song sarcastically mocks this fact).
It is not uncommon for people in the Empire to change their names, either officially or (more often) simply as a matter of their everyday behaviour. Sometimes this is done to discard a birth name, or one taken as a child or adolescent, that no longer fits them; the girl who grew up as Precious Rose may prefer to be simply Rose as an adult. The reverse may also be done, with people taking new names to better reflect their present circumstances or qualities; Dawei might prefer instead to be called Ox, Strong Dawei, or even Strong Ox. It is also relatively common for people to discard their family names upon taking a descriptive or self-deprecating name; this may reflect a person's deliberate attempt to distance themselves from their family, as in the case of a social climber who wishes to disguise his humble origins or a criminal who does not want to shame his family through his actions, but may also be done when a person's family, for whatever reason, is simply no longer relevant in his or her life.
The Algolapatan kingdoms tend towards a society that is highly conscious of social class, caste, and role; most, therefore, eschew family names in favour of a title designating their role. This title is considered a full and proper part of a person's name, and only close confidants or those of higher social standing can decline to use it without causing offence. In most cases, an Algolapatan name consists of the given name followed by their role; for example, Jarembe, a merchant, would be addressed as Jarembe Merchant rather than Merchant Jarembe. Exiles and outcasts have no role and thus no title.
Example female names: Akyende, Chemma, Keshwe, Mella, Ndei, Owannohn, Ruwa, Tayohn, Teteth, Xsara.
Example male names: Chennul, Ghanjun, Jarembe, Keywa, Madhu, Okha, Owatombe, Suwato, Tamoth, Zenjun.
Rather than using distinct family names to trace their lineage, the Icewalkers choose an ancestor's name for use as a surname. Most often this will be one of their parents, with no especial preference shown for either parent's name over the other, regardless of the sex of parent or child, but an Icewalker with proven blood ties to an especially famous ancestor might use that name instead.
Example female names: Ama, Ilannaq, Iqi, Kaalavaqi, Makinaak, Naaqtuuq, Suqi, Tavaki, Tuuya, Uputsi.
Example male names: Amaruq, Hanloq, Kaqamok, Malik, Oki, Qalut, Sivuugun, Tattuq, Ujurak, Yakonnon.
Malkapurans list their given names first, followed by their family names.
Example family names: Chossam, Dhaliyawat, Gheet, Kwannom, Manna, Neyum, Prasad, Shupra, Tandil, Teffikah.
Example female names: Alanka, Chandri, Dehwa, Farmeenah, Lakshi, Meeta, Noor, Prandiwi, Sareet, Urmi.
Example male names: Anandhan, Chettah, Gorat, Mittesh, Pranjid, Ruprath, Satyaban, Sonil, Tamoor, Yundat.