The Runic Language:
Runic is an ancient language, known only in written form. It is found chiefly in the oldest known Dwarven sites, though it is also found in some Elven sites of the same era. It is believed that the Runes had their origin before the legendary fall of the Dwarven citadels.
Whether that is true or not, there is clear evidence of evolution of the language over time, with more recent Runes representing a distinctly different language than the oldest known examples. These changes, and the vast difference between Runic and the modern Dwarven alphabet, have led scholars to speculate that the Dwarves gradually adapted their written language during their diaspora before eventually abandoning it altogether in favor of an alphabet with greater similarity to other races.
Unlike modern Dwarven, Runic is largely pictographic. The most recent examples show a high degree of standardization, and the consistency has allowed scholars to reconstruct the language. Older examples, however, appear less standardized and follow significantly different conventions. Further, some pictograms are not readily translated, and indeed are so complex and irregular as to be not simply abstract, but alien. This has prompted speculation that the language was invented in the Other World, before the Dwarves took up residence in E’n, and those pictograms correspond to phenomena that do not exist in the Material Plane. The most radical investigators have even suggested that these Runes fell into disuse after the fall of the Dwarves because they contained concepts that were no longer of use to the clans.
Of course, many of the ageless Elves of the Other World were contemporaries of the Dwarves, and some students of the Runes have opted for the rather lowbrow approach of trying to relay questions about the language to them. Those replies that have been received have indicated haughty disinterest , and have at best hinted obliquely at answers. Some believe this reluctance to answer arises from some ancient enmity between the Elves and Dwarves. Others suspect the Elves just never knew what the heck the Dwarves were doing, and are too proud to admit it.
Crunch: For game purposes, Runic is divided into two different things:
Lesser Runic: The structured language of the more recent Runes. It is a standard language, albeit only a written one. It is an allowed bonus language for Dwarves.
Elder Runic: The language of the ancient Runes. This language is not known, and requires a Linguistics skill roll to interpret it. It counts as an "archaic form" of Lesser Runic for purposes of making a Linguistics skill roll (i.e. speakers of Lesser Runic may attempt to interpret it).