Wiki Update: Meta-Setting
I’ve written about a lot of nations and civilizations, but there are smaller things too. I find writing about tribes to be tricky, because there’s a tendency to make them sound primitive. They have different technologies and ways of life, but primitiveness implies a kind of value judgement about how they can interact with other people, one that anthropologists avoid in real life, and that I try to avoid in D&D. The People live in the icy north of what we know as Norway and Finland (remind me to talk about the map next week), and constantly battle the frost giants who live there. In the past century their way of life has been changed by an encounter with a dwarven colony, the fortress of Mattock, and the two cultures have banded together to make a better living in Stahlrim (sometimes I find words that I like and I played a lot of Elder Scrolls).
The People have a number of tribes, and their lands stretch down the coast and well into the southern end of Stahlrim. Most humans born in Stahlrim can point proudly to a point in their heritage where they are related to the People. However, the rule of the People is not absolute by any means. Each village has an Ingvar and a Hrafn, each tribe has an Ingvar of Ingvari, and a Hrafn of Hrafni. Only in times of great need do the doctors consult each other and elect a Herlief, a chief of all the tribes. Most positions use patronage to decide their heirs, with an Ingvar (Chief) or Hrafn (Doctor, Raven) choosing an heir midway through their lives, and training them to take their place. In southern Stahlrim, where there are larger towns, these positions collapse into more familiar positions such as mayor and council.
The People do not keep lengthy written histories. In fact, until their encounters with the dwarves, they didn’t even have a written language. Time is a somewhat transitory thing to them, because there are only three times of year. Planting, harvest, and war. Their skalds remember the great deeds of the heroes of old, in the spirit of Homer in real life, but whether these tales are true or made up is immaterial. The details are pretty irrelevant, because there is one thing in them that stands true. The People endure. Through giants and winters and famines and plagues, through the wind on the ice and the wolves in the snow, the People endure. With that in mind, the past becomes unimportant.
Relying mostly on druids and adepts, the People have no religion in the congregational sense. They have an evolved spirituality, and feel a kinship toward the beasts of the north, because they also endure. The bear has existed since there were People to hunt it. Only with the advent of the dwarves did they start to grow on real gods, attaching faces and names to the forces of nature. Most of their gods are human visions of dwarven deities. The People don’t see the mixing of their spirituality and their religion as mutually exclusive because they both work just fine. The gods don’t concern themselves with the honored beasts of the wild, and the honored beasts don’t seem very concerned with the gods, so it works out.
The People have plenty of magic. Druids, Adepts, Spirit Shamans, within the last three centuries they’ve gained Favoured Souls and Clerics. They’ve always had Bards, the occasional Wizard, but Sorcerers are the most revered among the People. Sorcery is the mark of the rarest totem, Dragon. Many of the People have Dragonmarks, but that doesn’t make them sorcerers. A sorcerer’s manifestation is a great event to be celebrated, but also means a time of trepidation, because Dragon does not come without a need. The practice of magic is similar, in a lot of ways, to fishing. When one of the People fishes, he brings his food to the village, and they share, because that food belongs to the village, not to the fisherman. When a mage or priest casts a spell, that spell belongs to the village, and ought to be used in the service of that village, not arbitrarily, or for personal gain. All magic is the gift of the gods and the honored beasts, and should respected and used wisely.