Mar 13, 2012

Dog Sledding On the Plains of Kadiz

The Iditarod is expected to finish up tonight. For those unfamiliar, it's a commemorative race for a great real life adventure, the 1925 Nome Serum Run.

Dogs

The Dawnlands has an abundance of dogs. All the major cultures raise, care for and use dogs in various ways. The Hill People in particular are fond of dogs, and raise great colonies of them which help startle the Kadiz's horses during raids.

The most common breed of dogs used for sledding are "elf-eared dogs", similar to huskies or Inuit sled dogs. Elf-eared dogs have forward-pointing triangular ears, large builds, and thick coats. They tend to patches of grey and white with occasional black and brown, and are used for herding, guarding livestock and children, and dog-sledding. They are an intelligent breed with lots of energy, and are allowed into the home, especially in the wintertime when they provide needed body heat.An adult dog stands about 3ft. high at the shoulder and weighs between 40 and 50kg in good shape.

Young Kadiz and Hill boys are given an elf-eared puppy to raise as a traditional gift around the time they can talk, and this dog will often become the lead dog of one of their teams. A sept typically has at least twice as many dogs as people. There is an old, humourous tale that gnolls originated from elves who loved their sled dogs too much, but gnolls and half-gnolls are known as being particularly good with dogs and sledding.

Sledding

Dog sleds are operated with the "Drive" skill.

The broken karst geography of the plains and the heavy snowfalls it receives in winter makes riding horses extremely dangerous. Snow hides the cracks between rocks and drifts hide when exactly one of the stone shelves breaks, and drops or raises to another. Any sort of fast travel on horseback almost inevitably leads to injury to the horse, and probably to the rider as well when the animal fails. To compensate for this, most septs own at least one dog sled to allow them to travel safely in wintertime. They are used for hunting, for defense, and to travel between one encampment and another.

A typical sled is 2m long and about 0.75m wide, weighs around 20kg, and has traces for between 12 and 22 dogs, depending on its load. Using a sled on thick snow (more than 0.25m worth) lets the dogs pull about twice their body weight each, though the ideal load for long term travel is half that (20-25kg per dog). The sleds have a step on the back for the driver, and a slingbag in front to carry passengers or cargo.

The Kadiz and Hill People do a lot of fighting and hunting from sledback, since winter drives the more vicious predators of the plains wild with hunger and nearer to their camps. Slings, javelins and throwing axes are commonly employed. There is an uncommon variant of the sleds that mounts the drive closer to the front and turns the back of the sled into a platform for an archer, but it is extremely difficult to stay afoot as the sled maneuvers with both hands on a bow.