Thursday, January 9, 2014

[Urbis] Coastal Tribes of the Cold Frontier, Part II

Continued from Part I.

"He has gone too far north."
- Coastal Tribe saying for describing someone who has gone mad.

One aspect of Coastal Tribe society I haven't mentioned before are their Hunting Lodges, which every man (again, male gender, not necessarily male sex) is expected to join upon reaching adulthood. Each lodge is dedicated to a specific totem, from which their members draw strength and inspiration - literally so in the case of veteran warriors, who can gain minor supernatural abilities from their primary totem (this is distinct from shamanism and its spells). The biggest lodge in a village is always the one the village is named after - thus, Ghost Crab Village will have the Crab Lodge (built in a large log cabin), which is the main gathering spot for warriors following the Crab Totem in the area. Most villages will also have one or more "guest lodges" - smaller log cabins for totems with fewer followers in the village but which often serves as a home away from home for visitors. Due to their vital role as scouts for the whole Cold Frontier, each village has an Eagle Lodge, and the village will always provide food for any visiting Great Eagle mount. The most experienced member of the biggest lodge in the village is almost always also the chieftain of the village, in charge of defending it from attacks.

Members of the same Lodge will try to stay in contact with each other even if they live in separate villages, which encourages long "hunting trips" (inlcuding sleepovers with the local women, as described in the previous post) and cements friendships and alliances between villages. Offending a member of one lodge is an excellent way of making enemies of the rest of the lodge, even in other villages, as gossip travels quickly.

Young males - that is, juveniles at the age of 12 or so who have chosen the male gender - decide which Hunting Lodge they want to join, although usually their elders will nudge them into the lodge best suited to their personalities. If the main lodge of that totem is in another village, they will be escorted there by veteran members. Each lodge has its own initiation rites, which often include some amount of risk. Outsiders who are perceived as male gender by the tribals and impress them with both politeness and bravery might be invited to initiate into one of the Hunting Lodges as well, whereupon they gain a group of allies but will be expected to aid them (and their villages) in turn. Though if they later accept a more sedentary job in the colony - such as that of governor - this might lead to awkward conversation later on. "Uhm... we have nothing against you, we think you are a great person, but we'd rather stay among men in the lodge, if it's all the same to you." For maximum effect, this line should be delivered by a female-sex lodge member...

Another important aspects are the parties at the lodges. Parts will be recognizable to those familiar to frat parties, though there is usually less alcohol and rather more halluciogenic substances, which are frequently prepared for the lodge by the local shamans. Sweat lodges are also common. It is not uncommon for aspects of the lodges' totem to manifest and to praise or chastize individual members or just give advice or visions.

So, what are the long-term prospects of the Coastal Tribes? While the history of our own world would paint a depressing picture, the future history does not need to be a repeat of that. For starters, the diseases that ravaged the Native Americans won't be a problem here - they have survived Nardhome, a continent that birthed the God of Plagues, the first colonists from the Old World have already arrived more than three centuries ago, which means their accompanying diseases have already played themselves out, and the Coastal Tribes have their own magical healing to boot.

Some change is inevitable, and not all change is unwelcome - the Coastal Tribes have seen the usefulness of steel weapons and tools, and have begun to trade for them. How their relationship with the colony develops depends primarily on the actions of the player characters. Certainly, the PCs can exploit the natives, encroach on their territory, and steal their resources, resulting in conflicts in which they slowly wear down the Coastal Tribes until they have become weak and defeated - but they don't have to. If they take care to integrate them into their decisions - build new Hunting Lodges within the Colony, encourage veneration of the totems and give tribals positions of leadership and authority - then they might be able to form a new hybrid society that takes the best of both cultures. It will require intense, ongoing and difficult diplomacy not just with the natives but also with the colonists, who will likely be inclined to see them as "heathen savages" at first - but it will be possible.

Note: A list of all Urbis-related posts can be found here.