The Altar of Words

The Altar of Words

Originally shared by Sean Dunstan

The Altar of Words

Deep below an elven monastery/library, behind a hidden door only the leader of the monastery even knows about, is the Altar of Words. The altar is a simple, squat column of black stone; a simple waist-high cylinder of stone covered in small crawling writing. The writing is a mish-mash of words, always appearing in the language of the viewer.

The altar is one of the most dangerous items in creation, because it allows anyone to sacrifice a word on it, removing that concept from reality. It cannot “erase” a name (like “Jerry”), but any general one-word concept is fair game.

When you attempt to sacrifice a word at the altar, concentrate on the word and roll+WIS. On a 10+, the word and its related concept are retroactively removed from reality. On a 7-9, nothing happens. On a 6 or less, the person performing the ritual is immediately transformed into a Word Demon for the word he was attempting to sacrifice.

When a word is sacrificed, it is removed retroactively from the world. It never existed in the first place; for example, if the word “weapon” was removed from the world, the simple concept of using an item to harm another never existed, and nobody will ever be able to come up with that idea. Not only will weapons never had existed, nobody will ever be able to come with the idea of a weapon. Period.

Only those present at the ritual will retain any memory of the word they deleted. Even then, it’s a half-remembered knowledge, like trying to remember a dream, and they will still be unable to use that concept.

The monastery’s master has sacrificed no less than four words from the world, but of course only he knows what they are.


5 thoughts on “The Altar of Words”

  1. So what about words like “I” “You” or “Altar” can the altar destroy itself thereby stoping it’s destruction? The same thing would be true about “Word” or “Sacrifice”

  2. I’d consider words like “I” or “You” to be effectively the same as names. Sacrificing “Word” or “Sacrifice” is possible, and would probably create an interesting paradox the PCs would have to try and fix.

  3. I imagine it would take effect and simply cease to exist along with the concept if the altar eliminated a word central to its function.

    This is an incredibly powerful narrative artefact, and when your players use it you could really scare the hell out of them with the repercussions that follow from eliminating a concept form history and the future!

    Destroying the word “word” would render written and verbal communication impossible, concepts and communication would have evolved in completely different directions! Having an NPC or some guardian spirit that paled in horror at some concepts the players toss about random ideas, and have all the monks guarding it fight any to the death that approach it.

    This is an object of pure terror, and I can’t wait to use it in one of my games!

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