Saturday, September 1, 2018

Peoples of the Meager Country: The Rowing People

Ok, I should probably actually talk about what's in the Meager Country. Let's start with the people and the place they live. In this first post, I'll go over the basics and talk about the Rowing People, who my players have interacted with a lot so far. 

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Fairy Forest at Sunset, Ivan Bilibin, 1906

The Meager Country begins on the northern coast of the sea of Pearls, where the great river Sargal empties its frigid waters into the sea. From here, the Meager Country can be divided into 3 regions. 

1.The lower river is marshy, it’s wide delta tapering to a web of twisting streams. The steppe stretches east and west of the lower river, rolling in some places, rocky in others, soon finding the desert which hugs the north-eastern coast of the Sea of Pearls. 
It is home to the Koto Kete, the River Folk, the Orluk, and the Seluk Confederacy

2.The mid-river is straight and fast, the grasslands beside it are fertile and vast. Far west, the terrain become rougher, small forests spring up. This is Voich, it is where the Meager Country ends. 
The mid-river is home to the Koto Kete, the Kazan, the Seluk Confederacy, and the Kingdom of Voich

3. The upper river forks. The Sargal continues north-west, the river Altai stretches to the north-east, both explode into large and small tributaries. This region is covered in dense forests, pine and spruce. The Sargal tapers off into a collection of lakes connected by small streams, the lakes of Untamo. The Altai goes quickly northward, developing into swampy taiga. Eastward, its many streams run between the Uulung mountains.
It is home to the Orusk, the Hisvek, the Orluk, the River Folk, the Untamo, and the Lapuans

Some of these groups are the same type of people but are divided by ethnicity and history. Each has a number of guardian spirits who bless their people(s) of choice with certain gifts. If a PC gets close to any of these groups, they could be initiated into them and gain the use of that group's trait. No double dipping.

The typical icelandic houses with their grass roofs
For those of you who can't imagine a turf roofed house

The Rowing People:
Two icy eyes with rectangular pupils, like a goat’s, set into a long face the white-grey color of shale. Four sturdy fingers pawing through hair like hay or like red blood or like muddy water. Women with woolen dresses and complicated braids. Men in tunics with shepherds crooks and round shields. Chiefs and elites with beautiful furs or exquisite copper brooches. These are the Rowing People. There are no sailors like them. They live in turf roofed cottages and in long halls. Sheep love them and they love sheep. Their dogs have shaggy grey hair but bright, smart eyes. They are loyal to family, to tradition, to poetry but are brave and vicious and stubborn as well. The men love long stories and rhyme schemes. Women roll dice and enjoy seeing a job done well. Their voices are sing-song and clear. They have strong emotions and are moved to tears, to laughter, and to anger easily. They eat mutton and fish and milk and cheese. These are the Rowing People.

Speed: 30ft
-Advantage on Animal Handling checks involving domesticated animals
-Wide Eyes, 3 enemies, instead of 2, must be flanking you for them to gain flanking bonuses, or to gain advantage from Pack Tactics
-Can drink salt water safely for two days at most
-Can use a use a shield, as a reaction, to bear the brunt of a melee or ranged attack to completely negate damage, but not other effects, the attack would cause. This destroys the shield.

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Antiques from the Old Country

The Droven:
 They hail from far up-river, far past the lakes of the north west and across the sea from a country called Hislant-Tera. It is divided into four kingdoms. A quarter of the whole land is owned by a woman named Thegin Daughter of Regin who outlived five husbands and twelve children. All the people who come here are men, hearty and foul-mouthed. They all think they are heroes or know they are merchants. Many are exiles. Their ships are wide and heavy with fur and amber and ivory. They drink a horrible liquor they call barley wine. They tell stories of tremendous feuds and countless heroes who keep every promise they make and die for it. They will never break an oath. They form mighty shield walls and bellow the great War-Song, the voice of the Ancestral Chorus speaks through them.

Guardian Spirits: One Eyed Chief, Beloved Mother, Donar the Strong

Languages: High Droven Diction, Trade Tongue
-Gain +3 AC, rather than +2 from shields while singing the War-Song

The Hisveks: 
They have always been here, in the up-river country and along the networks of tributaries and reservoirs which flow from the west of the river Sargal. Their people were founded by two great heroes, Aivan and his cousin Truvor when they promised Sporoi, jealous king of the sky spirits, that their children would only offer tribute to him. This covenant was made at the secret Scorched Grove, where a huge burnt tree connects the sky realm, mortal realm, and underworld to each other. Hisvek men all wear white caps bestowed upon them by their tribe’s shaman when they reach manhood. It is disgraceful to take off one’s cap while the sun is up and Sporoi can see his people. Hisvek shamans are all men and can control wind, lightning, and rain. They cannot touch metal without calling down a lightning strike.

Caps are removed before Aivan's Successor
The Hisveks’ clothing is decorated with complex embroidery depicting stars, winds, water, and fire. They bind their communities together around an idea of shared identity, history, and destiny but are more divided than they would like to believe. Clan bonds are loose, families stick together but charismatic shamans and chiefs often draw large numbers of followers away from their traditional groups. Some tribes have stepped away from Hisvek society, returning to the worship of old spirits. These groups are led by shaman women, who have traditionally been shunned by their male counterparts. Currently, the Hisvek are dominated by the Orusk. They are often enslaved during raids or pay tribute to Orusk chiefs. They are not allowed to participate in the Orusk legal system or even know its laws and regulations. The Orusk have adopted some Hisvek traditions, both carve polls with the faces of gods and ancestors upon them now. Most of the Hisvek hate that the cultures of both groups are converging, that the bond they forged with Sporoi is becoming deluded.

Guardian Sprits: Sporoi the Thunder King, Aivan the Wise, Truvor the Flame Touched, The Lady of the Whistling Wind

Languages: Hisvek, East Droven Diction
-Have resistance to lightning and fire damage, so long as they keep their caps on

The Orusk: 
They came from far away, a place whose name is forgotten, and settled along the shores of the great lakes and the north western banks of the river Sargal. The men are covered in blue-green tattoos of animals and war-deeds and strange symbols from foreign places. They are middle-men, their existence secured only by tenuous connections between Droven merchants and a web of warring factions. They suck up traditions, beliefs, stories from all peoples and are always worried.

Зимняя #КоллекцияГИМ //  «Смотр служилых людей (XVI-XVII вв.)». По оригиналу Иванова С.В. 1908 г.
Review of Service Class People by Sergei Ivanov, 1913

Their society is based upon gifts. The dowry a woman receives from her husband. The food friends bring to each other’s tables. The silver torque a chief gives his chosen warrior. The sacrifice the seeress gives to the sprits to reweave the flow of destiny. They never buy and sell among themselves, they give and form bonds of debt. If one can’t repay in kind, she is enslaved and all her property forfeit. Every clan has a chief, a seeress, and a lawspeaker. The chief is married to the seeress, one who marries for love is scorned and will quickly die. When individuals seek the spirits’ aid, they come to the seeress. When the fate of the community is at stake, the chief steps up to entreat the ancestors and the land sprits.  His life is the best sacrifice he can provide to One-Eyed Chief, so long as he has been a brave leader. He will be hung and slit open and his people will find victory in all things. The lawspeaker remembers tradition and the great code handed down to his fathers by First Adjudicator. Every season, the lawspeaker calls the Assembly to order and all the members of his tribe bring suits against each other and prosecute criminals, they decide everything by vote. Every summer, the Great Assembly is called and all the Orusk gather to settle disputes between clans, amend the great code, and renew their people’s relationship to Mother Huldra to ensure a successful season of trade to come. The Great Assembly is lead by the Chief of All People, Od-Ovar.

Guardian Spirits: One Eyed Chief, Steward of the North Star, First Adjudicator, The Lady of Strings, Seeress in Black Robes, Mother Huldra

Languages: East Droven Diction, Trade Tongue
-Gain +1 to all saving throws while wearing a lock of woman’s hair tied round the forearm with a specific secret knot (Girls are taught the knot by their mothers before their wedding night)

(A note on language, Trade Tongue is a pidgin of many of the languages spoken in the Meager Country. It is terrible for communicating complex ideas. It also has enough Bronze Speak in it to be grasped by speakers of that language.) 

War flows down the river

Notable Rowing People:

Ingwar, the Terrible One, Orusk Druid/Warlock
He was exiled for perversion temporarily but remains shunned by all. He wears a woman's dress of dark blue, which he inherited from his mentor, and a shawl of raven feathers. His hair is dirty blonde but is starting go grey. He keeps his beard short and his long ponytail usually hangs over one shoulder. He has few tattoos for one of the Orusk, only three interlocking triangles on his breast.  He is generally cheerful and easy going but easily offended.

Ingwar is in the service of One-Eyed Chief and practices the same type of magic as a seeress, thus the dress and the exile. He can adopt the form of a wolf and an owl as he pleases and spends days in the depths of the spirit world, searching for hidden wisdom. There is no curse he cannot break and no spirit he cannot track down. All he asks for in return is the life of a pack animal and a favor. 

Favorite Poetic Verse: Bite off the head of your shame

Arnol Hrathsgotha, Droven Fighter
For five years he adventured in the Meager Country, for three he served the Slave Army in Kerzerk. His hair is a deep red and his eyes shine blue. His beard is huge and matches his stature. He owns a long ivory pipe and smokes purple Kerzerkian flowers when he can. His War-Song is like no other and he seems to know warriors and heroes everywhere. He is boisterous beyond belief and loves to tell stories. 

Arnol is making his way back to Hislant-Tera and assembling an army of the mightiest warriors to take back his kingdom from his scheming cousin. He will gladly take anybody along who proves themselves a true hero.

Favorite Poetic Verse: Once with maidens you did lie, Once all men must die 

Aura Daughter of Alfar, Orusk Druid
The life of a seeress is a simple one, really. There are bones to roll, sacrifices to make, children to take care of, ect, ect, ect. Aura keeps her light brown hair medium length and loose, she doesn't mind that it gets in her eyes. Her job is not about seeing things in front of her, it's about seeing things beyond sight. She dresses simply for a woman of her status, only a simple white dress and thin leather smock for her.

Aura is the wife of Dreng son of Holza, who governs the trading town at the fork of the river Sargal  and the river Altai. She is somewhat discontent in her marriage. Currently, she is trying to create support for clearing out the deep forest of evil spirits whose incursions inch ever closer to her home.

Favorite Poetic Verse: A sleeping wolf, seldom wins a sheep

Kreweld the Hier of Thunder, Hisvek Fighter
Since he was a child, Kreweld has been raised as the last hope of the Hisvek to throw off the Orusk once and for all. He speaks East Droven Diction like a native and knows all the Orusk poems by heart. He wears his white cap with great pride but dresses in fine furs from far up river. So far, he has engaged several Orusk chieftains in contests of wit and gathered a devoted following of warriors and shamans. He is ready to start shedding blood, he only needs the right opportunity.

Krewald cares deeply about duty and following procedure. He makes friends quickly and enemies only slightly slower. Grim sense of humor. He probably has a great destiny. 

Favorite Poetic Verse: Then come snowstorms and sharp winds, then the time approaches when the gods will fall

Irma, Hisvek? Rogue?
The life of a slave rarely ends well. Irma is a young woman, barely of age, but she is chief of a whole village. She was once the property of old chief Holza and was slated to be strangled and burnt on the dead man's pyre, as is traditional. However, she whispered in the dying chief's ear day after day before his candle was snuffed out. Just before he died, Holza named her as his third inheritor, after his two sons, and Irma walked away free and rich. She collected a number of followers and settled on one of the lower tributaries of the river Altai.

Irma has light red hair which she wears in a short braid. She wears dresses in the Hisvek style with complex embroidery. Before attending each Great Assembly, she cuts her hair as to be almost bald and dresses like an Orusk Warrior, lock of woman's hair round her arm and all. On her shoulder is a tattoo of a funeral pyre and a woman fleeing it. She is married to the seeress Astrid. Irma is cunning and proud, but knows when to be humble. She cares for her people deeply and is the only thing stopping the Kazan from filling them with arrows.

Favorite Poetic Verse: Remember thy oaths, but utter them not

Image result for goat eye
These are the Rowing People
So a lot of this information is a little useless. It's not necessary to know exactly how everyone dresses and what they eat, but I like having a strong image of both the more fantastic and less fantastic elements of the setting to ground my descriptions in. I often repeat lines, such as 'skin the color of shale' during play. Knowing the habits of all the peoples also gives the players some information they can use to navigate the world better. For example, the players know that the Orusk are covered in tattoos and Hisveks wear white caps. Then they meet somebody with the identifiers of both groups and they can quickly figure out how this character fits into Orusk/Hisvek society.

This post is dedicated to Evan Dahm, thank you for widening my view of what a person can look like

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