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Communication

The first thing to get out of the way is the general announcement type communication: as said elsewhere, town criers and posters and so forth are common ways of spreading news. (So are songs, plays, and also graffiti, the latter of which tends to show up in places with a high literacy rate and in times of trouble when the authorities are too busy to catch the miscreants, make them eradicate their own artwork, and then perform the stipulated amount of public service, usually in a cleaning capacity. Thus the well known Heralds' saying, which has been attributed to at least half a dozen people, that you can usually gauge the current government of a given place by the handwriting on the walls.)

There are two basic types of communication requiring sending and receiving, which break down into categories within each: magic and non-magic.

Both types include signs and symbols as well as the actual transmission of messages, and both can include the general ("broadcasting" as directly above) as well as the specific, or conveying messages between a sender and receiver.

Communication between individuals:

Magic

Elsewhere we've got posts on types of magical communications: scry stones, summons stones, and so forth. All of these different methods of magical communications parallel the same problem that the conveying of messages through time and space present: that is, getting the message to the intended recipient, without the message being tampered with or destroyed.

With items such as scry stones, the closest analogy is to radio broadcasting. Most scrying is done in the clear. It is possible to limit messages, but requires more effort at both ends, and of course a similar degree of effort to tamper with if someone so desires. Scrying requires the ability to "see" and "hear" (translating the mental plane into physical terms).

The most popular method of magical communications is what's generally been known as the scroll case, or magic desk. The scroll case is a physical container of some sort, which exists basically to place a limit on the area of transfer. The smaller it is, the easier the spells to contain the transfer area, therefore the cheaper it is to create and maintain. An object that can fit inside the transfer object can then be transferred to the other object. Each transfer spends a bit of the magic placed on the container that sends or receives. Spells must be renewed.

Scroll cases can be spelled to interact with any number of other scroll cases, but of course each layer of transfer is more expensive. However, one paper message cannot be replicated into ten pieces of paper with the same message, without a terrific amount of magic expended (which would take longer than writing and sending ten notes), so the scroll case holder who needs to send out a message simultaneously to a number of people has to send an illusory copy of a message, and the recipient must then transfer the illusion to reality with either physical copying, or the same sort of spell that is used in copying books. This is time-consuming and laborious. In such situations (usually the military, or in high politics) it is faster to employ scribes to write out the orders in an order book. Obviously there is always the danger of interception magic. The conflict between secrecy and speed of communication is an on-going one between mages who delight in that sort of game, much like cryptographers in the computer world.

Types of scroll cases vary all the way from the clever netsuke type to blotters on desks that scribes will sit at and write down messages as they come in, which messages are then relayed outward.

The key human here, in both cases, is the scribe. Scribes and (Runners, footmen or women, messengers, etc) are integral to the communication world.

Scribes can work with magic, as in the situations described above. Or scribes are involved in the conveying of letters and other types of written message.

Non-Magic Communications

Second thing to get out of the way is meta-communication, or communication about communication. For the most part, that is the job of Scribes first, and heralds and archivists second. Governments also get into it, usually from the perspective of advantage to be gained; then there are the historical questions such as, how did universal communication work in the days before the Fall of Old Sartor? Because if nothing else, the existence of a single language argues for it, but the three surviving Old Sartorans answer with disgustingly vexing responses like "Life was too different then," or "When communications now begin to resemble those of then, the answer will be self-explanatory."

Since the Fall, few nations have felt a driving need for universal or international communications. The closest they've come is communications among their own forces during empire-building and running, but this is exclusive, not inclusive. So there never has been, and is not at present writing, any kind of a universal "postal" system outside of Scribes writing to other Scribe Guilds, which may have delivery arrangements.

There have been some very sophisticated systems for communication, but those have broken down during times of troubles, sometimes never to re-emerge, other times to emerge again very differently. The most trustworthy way to send a letter to someone is to go to the local Scribe Guild, hand over your letter (or dictate it and pay for the work), then pay to have it sent. The Guilds all charge by distance. Scribes send post along trade routes. There are Scribe-run caravans for popular routes, and for seldom-used routes, the Guild pays for space on trade caravans. Many traders like to carry post as the Scribes pay promptly once you reach the destination Guild and have your manifest checked. (Your letter will thus have arcane Scribal markings on it, representing all the Guilds it touched before moving on.) But this can take a long time, especially if there is ship travel involved. International messages tend to be sent via magic, and most people don't mind the cost, as there is little demand for an international post.

During times of trouble, post breaks down fast, and stays that way. Trouble has been recent enough that most kingdoms are used to comparative isolation.

Within kingdoms, there are numerous methods for letters to be sent and received. The most sophisticated method is in Colend; the city of Alsais, at its best, has twice-daily general delivery, and of course there is a constant round of footrunners and messengers going hither and yon, employed by those who can afford them.

These are more or less official means of communication. There is always a flow of non-official or informal means, like asking a trader to carry a letter for you, paying one to, sending a message along with a traveler, etc.

Most business communication is done through guilds, which usually means magical comms. Not all, though.

Then there are personal messengers, like Scribes and Runners, dealt with elsewhere.

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Page last modified on February 18, 2008, at 01:39 PM