[RPG] Why are so many languages written using the Dwarvish script


If you look at the list of Standard Languages, you'll see that most of them use Dwarvish as their script:

  • Common: Common
  • Dwarvish: Dwarvish
  • Elvish: Elvish
  • Giant: Dwarvish
  • Gnomish: Dwarvish
  • Goblin: Dwarvish
  • Halfling: Common
  • Orc: Dwarvish

(While that's 5e, I found a similar chart for 3e.)

The Forgotten Realms Wiki calls this script Dethek and explains some of its history, but I can't see how the explanation there relates to the Standard Languages at all. I also know next to nothing about DnD in-universe history.

Is there an in-universe explanation for as to why these languages all use the same script?

I don't particularly care where the explanation comes from as long as it is from some DnD canon where the premise is true. I don't expect too many settings to have an explanation at all, which should keep this from being too broad.

Best Answer

Dragon Magazine 278 (December 2000)

A Dwarven Lexicon (p44)

Many non-dwarven races also use the Dwarven alphabet, even if they use different pronunciations and meaning for the characters. The gnomes, longtime allies of the dwarves, adopted the Dwarven script ages ago to facilitate communication in trade and their shared war against goblinoids. Bugbears, goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs rarely use written words, but those that do use Dwarven runes, as they are too lazy to develop their own and recognize the value of a widespread language.

Other than giants, all the races you ask about are described in the short passage I quoted above. This refers largely to the Forgotten Realms setting, as the previous paragraph mentions the dwarven god Moradin and how he created dwarves.


Volo's Guide to Monsters

Runes and Tale Carvings (p20)

For much of their written communication, giants use a modified version of the runic letterforms claimed by the dwarves as their own. This alphabet is used widely today, including by many traditional enemies of the dwarves such as orcs, giants, and goblinoids. That giants were first in the world and thus the creators of the script is a fact that giants take for granted but which dwarves hotly dispute.

This passage shows that either dwarves took the script from giants, or giants took it from dwarves, but which version is true depends on who you ask. This is also Forgotten Realms lore, due to the source.

As for why one would learn it from the other, it is likely due to the fact that (according to the 4e PHB and/or MM) giants had enslaved the dwarves in the past, and so the two races interacted closely and influenced each other.

Related Topic