Path of the Polestars
Dwarvish script, also known as Dethek, is used by the Dwarvish, Giant, Gnomish, Goblin, Orcish, and Primordial languages, as well as a few human languages. “Dethek” is also sometimes used to refer to the Dwarvish language as a whole.
The Dethek runic alphabet consists of 24 characters. The sounds “w”, “x”, and “z” are represented by the same character.
The Dethek method of counting uses a collection of straight lines, joined together to create a number. This means that each number appears as a single character. The characters for 1 and 5 are combined in various logical ways to create the numbers 1 to 9:
The characters for 1, 5, and 10 are combined to created numbers up to 20:
Numbers from 20 to 99 can be created using logical combinations of the 1, 5, and 10 symbols:
To make 100, simply invert a 10 on top of itself (10×10=100). The rest of the hundreds can be created using combinations of previous symbols:
To make 1000, flip a 10 symbol on its side in front of 100 (10×10×10=1000). Additional thousands are added with a notch in the flipped thousand symbol:
Clans and tribes and some of the most common words, races, or phrases have their own symbols, which are useful for sign-posting or creating runestones.
Each of the main races in Faerûn has a collective symbol assigned to it. The symbol applies to both singular and plural, leaving the reader to work it out from the context:
Other symbols are used for tracking and signposting. These are hieroglyphics based on commonly understood concepts: a foot to mark a safe trail, an inverted helm or drinking horn to indicate fresh water, and so on:
Others are “Marthammor Marks”, after the dwarven god Marthammor Duin, the Finder-of-Trails.
Dethek is extremely lacking in punctuation, most likely due to the fact that dwarves rarely record anything more than simple instructions, warnings, or spells.
The first letters of nouns and words that begin sentences can be capitalized. This is achieved with a simple horizontal accent over the letter.
Words are generally separated by spaces. To end sentences, the most common method is a large line or slash across the line.
To emphasize or show contrast against the writing surface, runes can be painted. In this case, names of people, races, and locations are highlighted in red, while the rest of the text is painted black or left unadorned.
Any numbers enclosed in boxes indicate dates, written as the day followed by the year.
Emotional content can be represented in how runes are oriented. For example, the dwarven warhammer Oath-Hammer was marked in slanted runes to express the rage of its creator.
Dwarf-written Dethek runes are preferably carved into durable stone, and less often into metal, and rarely written on paper or cloth due to the short life and fragile nature of such materials. Dwarven runes are usually carved or scraped into the stone walls of a building or cave; on a cairn, pillar, or standing stone, or inscribed or stamped on metal surfaces, such as a weapon. Particular forms of dwarven writing are books of bound metal sheets or stone tablets called runestones.
The simplicity of Dethek runes and their straight lines make carving them into stone simple. Despite this, runes inscribed on runestones are typically written in a spiral-form, from outside in.
Dethek runes date to back to the beginning of recorded history in Faerûn, but it is only one of a number of different runic scripts in use over the centuries, including individual clan codes. In the present day, Dethek has survived to become the most well known and commonly used runic script. Other dwarven runic scripts have mostly fallen into obscurity, becoming “dead tongues” with little useage.
Strong links between the gold dwarves of the Great Rift and the early people of Unther led to the Untheric language using Dethek runes.
The Siremun dwarves of the Firepeaks taught Dethek runes to the Raumviran people for the Raumvira language.
The Damaran language uses Dethek runes as a result of cooperation between the people of Impiltur and the dwarves of the Earthfast Mountains early in their history.
Speakers of the Shaaran tongue picked up Dethek runes from gold dwarf traders from the Great Rift.