Jan 18, 2012

The Dawnlands: The Kadiz Nomads

This is the beginning of a series of posts where I'll post write-ups of the major cultures of the Dawnlands. The first one is for the Kadiz nomads, who are the default group for PCs to be from.

The nomads call themselves the "Kadiz" whereas members of the Orthocracy are the "Kaddish". This is a shibboleth between the two groups. They speak mutually intelligible dialects of the same language, Kaddish/Kadiz.


The old kingdom of Kaddish was an oligarchic monarchy, with a king who controlled the city and various nobles and officials who controlled the surrounding countryside. When the revolution happened, about a quarter of the city was driven out of the kingdom (the nobles, the surviving royal family, their servants, and anyone thought generally to support them) and fled onto the plains. There, they allied with the "traitor clans" of the Hill People, the elves who had supported the Kaddish against the Cities of Night.


The nomads of the Plains of Kadiz are the remnants of the old oligarchic High Kaddish mixed with Hill People tribes. They have intermingled for about two hundred years. Humans and elves continue to form distinct ethnic subgroups within the nomads, but trade and intermarriage mean that the two races are co-extensive with one another - a clan may be mostly elf, but it will have a few human members, and at least as many half-elves. Humans are the most populous of the three races, with half-elves next and elves last.

Few other races are found amongst the nomads. The knowledge and tools required to soulforge races have been lost by them. Anyone else is almost certainly a slave, a trader, or a refugee from one of the cities.


The rootstock religion of the nomads is the old religion of the Children of Night. It features two main groups of spirits to be placated - the Storm Bulls and the Wolves of the Earth. The wolves hunt the bulls, which causes phenomena like meteor strikes, prairie flash storms, earthquakes and such. The nomads sacrifice cattle to the Wolves of the Earth to feed them and keep them from chasing the Storm Bulls. They burn great swathes of grass as sacrificial feed for the Storm Bulls. There are two different types of priests, each responsible for appeasing one group of the spirits and performing the necessary sacrifices. Generally, priests are not professionals. Priesthood is awarded as a title to worthy members of the community who know the rituals.

There are also a class of religious professionals who are shamans. A shaman is seen to be under the purview of a spirit that is not a member of the Celestial Herd or the Stone Pack. These kind daimons help or harm mankind for reasons that are clear only to them and perhaps the shaman. Most powerful clans keep a few around, but otherwise shamans are expected to wander from clan to clan as they please.


Briefly, human-dominant clans ride horses, elf-dominant clans walk. Not all humans own horses, but horse-taming is a skill humans brought with them to the elves, and the great herds remain in the hands of majority-human clans. Wagons are common, as are sledges. The Kadiz normally travel twice each year; once to their winter pasture, and once to their summer pasture.

Families and Clans:

Kadiz families are large, complicated, and confusing. The Hill People consider everyone in a clan to be related. This meant that to marry someone other than a relative, young elves would raid other tribes for wives. The humans brought the polygamous, matriarchal practices of their ancestors with them, and combined them with the Hill People's clan structure.

In practice, generally one man (elf or human) is in charge of each sept of the clan. He has many wives of both elvish, human and mixed descent, and attempts to father as many children as possible on them. The male children must go out raiding or trading to find as many wives as possible, while the female children are traded out to other clans or other septs by the older women. The wives of dead men are usually married off within the clan to other men, usually friends or brothers of the chief. Once a man has enough wives, he may start his own sept. Members of the sept and the rest of the root-clan are considered only distantly related to one another and may intermarry.

The men are generally so busy raiding or herding or praying that the women actually run the sept, and most inter-sept business within a clan is brokered by them. All wife trading is handled by women with minimal input from the man allowed.

This is a highly unstable system, and it is only the high mortality rate amongst men, the large families of the nomads, and the fact that they raid not just other clans but also the Kaddish, the helots of Dwer Tor, and hostile Hill People clans for any women they can find that keeps it functioning. Like most polygamous societies, there is a fairly stark dichotomy with some men having many wives, many children and much status in society, and many men having no wives at all. These men tend to form the bulk of the raiding parties sent out to capture new wives.

The nomads have very large families. Child mortality is low because the diseases that plagued their urban ancestors are not as easily transmitted with the lower population density. Food, in the form of cattle, sheep, goats and their byproducts are plentiful. The polygamous structure of families also means that four or five children can be carried to term within the same period of time. Having large families is culturally expected, and eventually founding one's own sept is desirable.

The inhabitants of Dwer Tor and the Orthocracy both have stereotypes of the Kadiz as sex-crazed murderous bandits that derive at least partly from these customs.