In most city-states, the templars restrict reading and writing. Common citizens and slaves can be executed for being literate. Merchants can be educated enough to keep accounts, although most are fully literate and seldom face repercussions. Nobles, templars, and other servants of the sorcerer-kings are allowed the privilege of reading and writing without fear. Some nobles teach these skills to their most valuable retainers and slaves, as well.
Outside the oppressive city-states, literacy is not constrained. Although few denizens of the wastes bother to learn to read and write, the ability is more common in the wilds than in urban areas. The skill becomes a problem only if one is caught and sold into slavery. Then, literacy is best kept secret.
Athasian player characters are assumed to be literate in the languages they speak (except Dwarven, see Languages) unless they choose not to be; a character’s theme or background might explain how he or she learned to read and write. Literate characters who were not born into nobility probably should not reveal their skill to the templars.