Song of Names (spell song for elves)

I’m starting soon a BW campaign, and a way I’ve found to get myself hyped is to create some new rules, lifepaths, you know, stuff for the campaign.

While rereading the rules for new songs, I’ve thought about this one. Tell me what you think.

When sung, the elf recalls ands signs a fragment of the Song of the World, which contains all the True Names of things, as well as their fate. By reciting this fragment, elves learn a useful detail about the topic they’re singing about.
True names are long and composite, but reveal deep truths about that, which they name, and sometimes a tragic fate.
The Song of Names may be sung instead of any wise test, even if the character doesn’t have the appropriate skill. The player may not declare in their intention what they want to discover by singing, although they can formulate a question they seek to answer, or the bit of information they seek to “remember”. In case of a success, it works just as the wise test it replaced.
In case of a failure, the GM may declare the elf didn’t remember properly the song, or instead reveal a hurtful or tragic truth. If the GM chooses to do so, the elf gets a test towards grief, whose Ob is equal to the Ob of the failed spell song test. The category of the test for grief advancement purposes may not be lowered by any lament.

Obstacle: same as the wise test it replaces, although the GM may impose a +2 Ob if the topic is so narrow it already has a name (like “the castle of Namrok”, or an individual person, f.ex.), and/or +1 Ob if the topic is recent and didn’t exist when the Song of the World was written. This song works best for ancient and abstract or generic topics, like betrayal, wolves, the moon, and such.

+1d for coming up (the player) with an actual True Name for the topic, and explaining the parts or morphemes that compose the True Name. For example, Lehesdraum meaning, for wolf, “the trumpet of the moon”.
+1d for reusing a previously introduced part or morpheme, like, f.ex., Lehes, for moon, in another word, like mountain, Lehestagai.
It is responsibility of the player to keep track of the roots used, if he wants to attain the last bonus.

for Ob 1, 12 actions.
For Ob 2, 60 actions.
For Ob 3, 180 actions.
For Ob 4+, actions are equal to a 100 times the Obstacle.

A few notes:
The Song of the World is akin to the Ainulindalë, obviously. It’s the song that describes the whole of the creation and the history of the world, and only sung, not written, it’s fragments dispersed among many elves. It is so fundamental to the elves, any one of them will recognise a True Name or a fragment of the Song of the World, even if they don’t know it themselves.
The precision of this song often degrades as it abandons the early ages of the world, which is why it’s harder to recall fragments from recent times.
Things often have many True Names, not just one, and the singer may recall one that suits the question he’s asking.

What do you think? is it too punishing for grief advancement, or too easy to just spam this song and never use wises?


Have you and your players invented fantasy languages before? This could be really cool for the right group but for another it could become a nightmare. Not saying don’t do it; just suggesting that a rule that is based on how good a player is at something rather than how good a character is needs to fit the specific group.


Well, I have done conlangs in the past, but just me, not the players. You might be right on the song being something done for my interests rather than for the players '. Still, given that the elf pc is already made, I’ll tell the group about the spell song and check the elf player’s interest. It might just become a piece of color for the campaign.

Perhaps I could make the bonuses for actually engaging in conlanging even lower, in such a way that the player doesn’t feel he’s missing something if he doesn’t conlang. Lower than +2d, still, might not be worth at all the effort.

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Replacing Wises means that Elves miss out on a bunch of useful FoRKs, as well as a lot of the colour related to the character as they grow. Replacing then seems like something I’d do with caution.

It simultaneously will make the elves the most knowledgable, and limit a few things.

What’s the goal there? (I like the Colour of it, and it feels like Nature of All Things, Astrology, and Rune Casting tbh)

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It’s mostly about developing a part of the setting for my campaign. The elves are too devoted to the Song of the World, too trustful, and closely look there for information and omens, so I wanted some mechanics to show how valuable it is. It’s mostly gonna be color until the elf gets interested in picking up the spell song (if he ever does).

You’re right on the loss of wises tho, it might prevent the character from learning new wises.

Depends on how (whether?) you allow the Song to be an appropriate FoRK/help: for example, if you want to escape some guards who are searching for you in the darkness Back Alley-wise is perfect for an extra dice but singing is going to make the Ob higher because you’re easier to hear or even not be appropriate.


And that’s where my thing is, it’s gonna be hard for anyone to open Back Alley-wise, because an elf will likely roll this song instead. So later when someone needs a FoRK, they don’t have the Wise.

I want to stress that I don’t see this as wrong, but something to consider.

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It’s a factor to consider. I’m hesitant about allowing FoRKs with this song, as it could turn into an Astrology situation pretty easily (linked tests would work). I can only hope the limitations and drawbacks the song has, including the lack of FoRKs, might have the player switching between proper wises and this song.

This is a feature, not a bug, I feel. @KhimusVron, you want the Elves to be over-reliant on the Song, this is a good emergent drawback of that over-reliance.

I think the Grief advancement is a colorful and elegant price to put on the Song.

If you’re tweaking or making Lifepaths, I might add a trait “Addicted to the Song,” which adds a fourth Instinct, “When confronted by the unknown, Sing the Song of Names to learn about it.” And it can add +1 to starting Grief.

That would give some ink to the over-reliance in the culture as well as signal to the players that their own over-reliance on the Song might result in them getting this trait voted onto them.


Sorry for the late response, exams going on.

That’s a nice way to think about it. Ultimately, I’ll test it during the campaign to evaluate how does it feel to lose the wise fork capability.

Oh yeah, I’m definitely thinking of a scholar type lifepath for the Song keepers, which could include a trait like the one you suggest.

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No worries; good luck on your exams!

This is good stuff; please keep us posted!