Featured image of post Tribe Alphabets

Tribe Alphabets

Wait, there's alphabets?

While we were going through assets that Robert Dubois (the guy in charge at Dream Pod 9) had found, he unveiled a treasure trove of graphic design work dedicated to the Tribe 8 RPG. This included fonts, multiple versions of various symbols, photos used for textures that appear in the books, and…alphabets.

Sun, Moon, and Doomsayer Symbol

The multiple alphabets caught my attention. There’s an image in the Weaver’s Assistant that was included in the GM’s screen that I always thought was just random symbols. While most of the symbols are not legible in the image, there are a few clear ones that are obviously from the materials that Robert shared with me.

Each set of symbols is different, though some common symbols or sets are obviously based on one another. I’m guessing they were part of iterative efforts to create the symbology in the published game. There are plenty of examples of the various Tribal and other symbols seen throughout the books. Others are astrological symbols, religious symbols, characters from multiple languages (there are a couple of katakana and Arabic symbols), hieroglyphics and runes, what look to be recognizable modern symbols, and plenty of invented ones.  

Katana, cuneiform, percent, shell, and Catholic symbol(?)

Seeing the progression of the graphic design on these alphabets feels like “game archaeology”. What were the thought processes in putting the sets of symbols together, especially the one with English letters assigned to the symbol? It adds some wonder to the game. It also reinforces that these people stumbling out of the Camps—dazed, confused, and wounded physically and spiritually—had everything burned away by The Fall and their enslavement by the Z’bri. They lost their culture, society, language, norms, and religion. Once they ventured into the ruins of the World Before, they interpreted what they saw with no context save flickering memories of past lives. Is the shell symbol inspired by the Shell Oil symbol? Did a nascent Tribal see it on the remains of a gas station sign and associate it with something they found there? Did one of them have a dim memory from a past life of an astrological or religious symbol that inspired them to draw it, even if they didn’t know what it represented?

I’ve always been fascinated that humans have passed down the same symbols and stories for tens or hundreds of thousands of years. We will never know how their meanings have changed before we were capable of recording them. So much spoken culture and tradition is irrevocably lost to us, and at the same time, what has survived was so powerful that it transcended the death of the cultures that spawned it. Seeing these symbols and thinking about a Tribal sitting in front of a campfire, carving a glyph into stone that they know has meaning but don’t know what it is, captures the mystery behind Tribe 8’s setting that I’ve always loved.

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