I've been a longtime lurker on the internet, avoiding social media as much as I could, but this summer I've been entertaining illusions of grandeur. So I've decided to start up Yet Another Fantasy Gaming Blog (maybe I should have named this joint YAFGaB).
I won't promise a posting schedule, since I've got senior papers and unemployment to worry about. But if you're the type to enjoy twists on standard fantasy settings and the occasional bit of system-agnostic lore, drop by once in a while and see if I've cooked up anything to your liking.
Without further ado, have some horseless steppe nomads.
"We are the People of Clay. We do not crumble. We do not crack. We mold ourselves to the will of our Tribe."
- The Speaker's Oath
Little is known, and even less has been seen, of a group of people said to live upon the boundaries between civilization and the untouched wilds of the Lukran Wastes. While many look upon the pirates and mariners of the southern islands as the least "civilized" people, these waste-dwellers are hardly recognized as a people at all. Indeed, to most bordering tribes and polities they exist only as myths, and as bogeymen for small children. But the peoples of the Taleen borderlands and the camel merchants foolhardy enough to caravan through the steppes surrounding the Lukran Wastes know full well that something--someone--is out there. And that someone knows far more of their neighbors, by comparison. If you were to take and put together all of the stories told of them, one would think the wanders in the wastes are a vicious and savage race who know nothing of society and live only for blood-lust, greed, and the sewing of fear.
The truth, however, is significantly deeper.
In their own tongue, which is a remarkably varied language composed of several dozen regional dialects, they are the Fokari (sing. Fokar). Somewhat shorter than average, but strongly built and mildly bandy-legged, these tawny-skinned, hairy, and snub-nosed people are consummate survivalists who have made their home in a land which gives up nothing easily. While the steppe is green enough at its edges, much of the interior is a vast, cold desert climate with exceptionally little rainfall and no large native animals to speak of.
The Fokar tribes hunt, as well as herd small and hardy livestock, most prominently a stocky breed of long-furred goat called a yuum. They dwell in camps of circular or pointed tents constructed of tough, decorated felt and the few pieces of wood and other plant matter they have access to out on the steppe, turned into poles and segments of latticework for their walls. Rather than wandering aimlessly as some might think, they depart from a region according to a carefully-calculated and surprisingly accurate seasonal calendar, leaving one area before it has been overgrazed or stripped of its other resources, and entering a new area which, while seeming untouched, has likely been part of a tribe's nomadic rotation for generations. Where water is found in natural bodies, they produce durable and practical pieces of claywork which nonetheless exhibit their own subdued, elegant art style. When pasture land becomes too scarce or a feud breaks out between two families, they mediate their disputes so that the issue is brought to as swift and as practical an outcome as possible. Punishment may be corporeal when needed, but exile rather than capital punishment is the most severe ever meted out.
Through it all, the Fokari make do without engagement with distant but lucrative caravan trade routes, nor with access (lawful or otherwise) to the products of agricultural societies. This has proved surprisingly fruitful in the past, as they have avoided the major conflicts which have devastated empires and rearranged huge swaths of the world throughout history. And on the other end of it all, they have come out mostly unscathed and mostly unknown.
Each tribe is led by a council of elders, chief among them being the elected positions of Speaker and Seer. The Speaker is always male, and is the somewhat more public face of the group, announcing decisions as well as officiating tribal and inter-tribal events in the camp. He is also a lore-keeper who commits to memory the entirety of the tribe's oral history, as well as decent swaths of the histories of related tribes. His is the duty of monitoring all youths in a tribe, watching them for any aptitudes as they reveal themselves, and guiding them on the path deemed to be the best compromise between tribal value and individual passion.
The Seer, by contrast, is always female. She is a shaman; the one who looks to the future rather than the past, reading portents and omens in the natural world and in the seemingly random events which befall a tribe. She consults with the grim and collective spirits of the tribe's ancestors, and negotiates with the fickle and capricious spirits of the land. She is also a priestess to the tribe, connecting her people with the vast and rich mythology of the tribes possessed of qualities of animism, totemism, polytheism, and dualistic bitheism. There is a proper and hereditary position of Chieftain as well, but in practice it wields little more power in decision-making than any other elder or respected tribe member with a vote.
Each tribe of Fokari is essentially independent, and they generally only intermingle or confederate with other tribes during extremely important social or religious events, or in times of dire need.
The smaller their numbers, the harder they are to detect, after all.
The less known about their movements, the safer they are from the outsiders and soil-slaves.