Saturday, January 21, 2012

The People

The Uruki and Ardeni stand about 2 meters tall, and tend to be lean but muscular.  Skin tone is generally bronze, hair color extremely dark and eyes very pale.  Women among them are much the same.

The Gnomes are shorter, averaging only 1.5 meters, and exhibiting all body types.  Their skin tends to be lighter, and eye and hair color both range from very pale to very dark.  Gnomish women are much the same, but average a bit shorter than the males.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Psychic Abilities

While psychic abilities are sometimes found among the men of Uruk and Arden, this is extremely rare.  Even rarer is the person who actually develops his abilities, for this takes time, and time is better spent on weapons training.

Among the gnomes, things are very different.  Gnomes watch their children for proclivities and talents, and provide opportunities for them to apprentice to masters... and they treat psychic talents just as they would any other gift, be it artistic talent, a green thumb, or a knack for gadgetry.

Gnomish children with psychic talents are apprenticed to master psychics, and live with them and their families until their talents reach full bloom.  When their apprenticeships are over, and paid for, they return to their birth families and use their gifts in the service of their own family and clan.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Flora and Fauna

Across the entire known world, all flora and fauna are at least partially edible, and most completely so.  While some, such as the grasses, are less easily digested, all plantlife can be counted on to provide at least a minimum level of nutrition.  There are no known poisonous plants.  

Animal life is primarily herbivorous, with some smaller jackal-like scavengers.  Wild sheep, cattle, horses and goats are all found, and both men and gnomes have domesticated dogs.  Owls and hawks are the largest known predators.

This abundance of readily available food explains why the Uruki have always been able to concentrate on their arms while ignoring the heavy labor of farming; families are able to fence off some land, and eat just about everything it produces.  The abundance of sheep has meant that wool is cheap.

It is only in Gnomish lands that true farming occurs.  As in any other skilled craft, Gnomish farmers have poured their creativity into their work, creating huge numbers of regional varieties of crops.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ardeni Law

The Ardeni Kingdoms are a peopled both by Pre-Reformation Uruki (PRU) and Gnomes and as such, Ardeni law is a mixture of the two older systems.  The ruling class of clan chieftains and kings mainly follow PRU, while the lower class families of both peoples tend to follow Gnomish laws.  Conflicts between the two are handled at the family or clan level.

As the two peoples have intermixed, some families from each have taken up the professions of the other; thus in the Ardeni Kingdoms there are now some Gnomish warrior families as well as some Uruki who have given up arms to become farmers or craftsmen.  In spite of this mixing, the election of kings still follows PRU exclusively,  so only a warrior may be elected king, and then only if he is blemish free.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pre-Reformation Uruki Law

The three pillars of Pre-Reformation Uruki law were the Family, Survival and the Oath.

The Uruki Family was sovereign.  No one outside a Family had authority to interfere in the internal affairs of a family, and thus no laws about private behavior were ever created.  Even a clan chieftain could not directly intervene in an internal family issue; though custom and respect for the clan gave him authority to hear cases if brought before him by the family.  Of course, this limit to the power of the chieftain did not prevent him from banishing a family from the clan if it looked like it was necessary for the good of the clan.  

Survival is the second pillar of Uruki law.  Because life on the Great Central Plain was so difficult, capital punishment was never practiced; instead a system of fines was created to recompense victims (or their families, in the case of murder) call weregeld.  This prevented blood-feuds and honor killings, which might have destroyed entire families.  In addition, a high rate of stillbirths among the Uruki meant that women were expected to have as many children as possible; while still performing their duties in the profession of arms.

The third pillar of Uruki society was the Oath, which led both to a structured hierarchy and to the requirement that the all persons were skilled with arms, first and foremost.  (This, of course, had an adverse affect on survival, because no one with any ambition would spend any more than a few hours a day on anything like farming, herding or weaving.) 

The High King was the chief steward of the Uruki, and was responsible for all common property (lands, herds, etc.), which he then granted to Kings, Clans and Families for their use and management.  He had the authority to change these grants as necessary for the good of the Uruki people.  This power flowed downward such that kings had similar powers within their kingdoms, and clan chieftains within their clans. 

One other effect of the three pillars of Uruki Law was the idea that in order to be an effective steward of the Army of the King Above, the high king and the kings had to be blemish free.  Prior to accepting the crown, a newly elected king was inspected by a member of the Ran (doctor/midwife) and a lawspeaker, who verified his physical health and wholeness.  Any major health problem or accident could disqualify one for the crown, and this led many people to spend as much time training for unarmed combat as with weapons.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Traditional Gnomish Law

Gnomish society honors private property as well as public property, and given their philosophical bent, might best be described as libertarian.  Law is not very strict, and is more thought of as custom. 

Society as a whole is considered to own undeveloped resources such as forests, lakes, mountains and fields, and anyone is free to use them, but is expected to manage them wisely.  For example, cutting down trees requires a Gnome to plant new trees to replace them, and such cutting must benefit the forest as well as the individual.  Should a Gnome break with this custom, he will be chided gently to repent and do the right thing; failing to correct his behavior usually results in his being shunned by the community.  Those who are shunned are literally ignored until they repent; and without the assistance of others, life becomes very difficult if not impossible.

Custom regarding relations among Gnomes is based on the same philosophy; what you add value to is yours; unless you choose to barter it, give it, or abandon it.  The trees a Gnome has cut down are his (assuming he’s recompensed society appropriately); no Gnome will touch them unless given permission, or a year has passed, signaling abandonment.

Gnomes practice apprenticeships to learn useful trades, and until an apprentice is released by his master, he may not spread the techniques he has learned to any other.

Gnomes do not have capital punishment, but use shunning to ensure compliance with societal norms.  While not strictly pacifists, gnomes will use weapons in self-defense, but will only attack first when gravely threatened.  Prior to the peace treaty in Arden, the gnomes felt they would be destroyed if they gave quarter, and this was the bloodiest period in their known history.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Social Structure

The family is the basic unit of society, among both men and gnomes.  The typical family is headed by a man and wife; and includes all his siblings and their spouses, and everyone’s children and grandchildren.  Growing beyond this, families tend to split into separate families. 

A clan is typically made up of around 100 families; many, but not all, interrelated.  In Arden, there are clans that include unrelated gnome families, and there are even a few clans led by gnome chieftains. 

A Clansmeet is held annually in the home territory of each clan.  Each family belonging to the clan turns out in force for a several weeks of training, carousing and feasting.  During the Clansmeet, the Chieftain can choose, or change, his Zec (designated successor), an able-bodied adult from his family, but not necessarily the oldest or even his own child. 

Typically, five clans form a Kingdom.   The Kingsmeet is held every five years, or as needed to elect a king.  All able-bodied adults of the clans gather to carouse, train, feast, and if need be, elect a new king.  Each king appoints a zec, at this level more an honorary position of assistant, since kings are elected.

There are currently seven kings in Uruk and three in Arden.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

On These Rocky Shores

To the north and west of the Grey Hills, the Borderlands slope downward to form broken cliffs overlooking the Northern Sea.  It is here that the Highsmeet gathers every 20 years on the rocky shores of a sheltered cove known as the Court of the High King.  The Highsmeet is made up of one representative of each family, each clan chieftain and 3 representatives of his family, and each King and 5 representatives of each King's family.  

The opening and closing of the Highsmeet are highly ritualized, and have always begun with these words, "On these rocky shores, we pledge our lives, to our family and clan, to our King and High King, and to the King Above.  We take this Oath in good faith."  This is followed by the actual Oath, then a long process where each member presents himself to each of the others.  This process takes days, and is followed by a huge "opening" feast.

The Highsmeet lasts several months, most of which is spent training by day and carousing by night.  Should conditions require it, the Kings and their Zecs will meet to discuss matters of state, including electing a new High King from among their number if there is no incumbent.  The High King is not a hereditary position, and the death or disqualification of the High King automatically invokes a Highsmeet.

The closing of the Highsmeet is similar to the opening, with all members again presenting themselves to all others, (though much less formally and therefore more quickly,) and then a closing feast, and the pledge and Oath, after which the Highsmeet disperses.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Valley of Arden

Northeast of the Great Central Plain, the Borderlands narrown to just 10 kilometers wide.  The ground continues to rise and becomes rolling hills leading into low mountains.  This area is known as the Grey Hills among the gnomes, and they have several settlements where they mine iron from particularly rich veins of ore.

Farther northeast, in the mountains, can be found the Valley of Arden.  It is actually a long series of valleys almost 150 kilometers long, and anywhere from 5 to 25 kilometers wide.  The Valley has rich soil, and abundant moisture, making the bottomlands very fertile and the highlands excellent grazing land.  It is home to both men and gnomes.

Since the peace treaty was signed here, the original clan has grown rapidly, having a much lower child mortality rate than in Uruk.  In addition, many gnome families have joined the clan, such that it has grown to become three Kingdoms.  In Arden, the blended culture has allowed the men from Uruk to continue their pre-Reformation lifestyle devoted to Arms; while the gnomes have provided the skilled labor so needed by the clans.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Borderlands

The Great Central Plain gives way on all sides to a comparatively narrow strip of broken terrain, ranging in width from 10 to 30 kilometers.  The Borderlands rise several hundred meters and are marked by blasted hills, deep ravines, and enormous rocky outcroppings.  Streams crossing into the Borderland flow downward, disappearing underground, only to reappear later and merge with other springs, eventually flowing down onto the plain in one of the three shallow rivers that feed Lake Uruk.

Grasses and stunted trees cover much of the terrain, with more healthy looking trees appearing farther out from the plain.  The Borderlands are not suitable for farming, but wild sheep and goats provide some sustenance for those forced to live there. They are home to a relatively small number of Uruki, mainly those who've been banished in the past few decades.  In some places rich veins of ores are found just below the surface or at the base of outcroppings where streams have eroded the coarser stone. The veins are not regularly mined, but some of the banished Uruki occasionally collect enough valuable ores to buy their way back into their Clans.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Great Central Plain

The Great Central Plain is a geographical region approximately 520 kilometers north to south, and 540 kilometers east to west.  The plain forms a vast, shallow bowl with Lake Uruk at its lowest, central point, about 75 meters above sea level.  The plain rises gradually in all directions, to the Borderlands, which stand about 100 meters above sea level.  The plain is occasionally broken by low rolling hills, kettle lakes and boggy marshes.  Lake Uruk is fed by three shallow rivers that originate in the Borderlands, and numerous streams from springs in the plain itself. 

The plain is home to the Kingdoms of Uruk, whose settlements are usually found in the hilly areas or near springs.  The Great Central Plain is taboo to the Gnomes.

Why am I here?

Why am I here?  My son is 15, and is running a 4e D&D campaign now... with players both male and female, from 15 to 18... and me.  He ran a 12 hour game yesterday!  It's been fun, but I've missed the old rules, which were so much simpler.  When I first started playing, being called a munchkin was a BAD thing, but in the newest rules, being a munchkin is simply how you play the game... 

Talking to him and his friends led me to looking over my old books, and my old material, and gave me the urge to start something new...