Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The Peoples of Ende
Almost ready to publish NOD 23 - just finishing up the monster stats in the Ende article, and putting some finishing touches on the conclusion of the Dungeon of the Apes adventure that started in NOD 22. Today, I figured I might get some extra use out of some of that Ende writing and blog about some of the peoples who dwell in Ende ...
Ende has long been a crossroads of the different planes of existance due to its being, for reasons unknown to all, a frequent battleground between the forces of Law and Chaos. As even a midling scholar of Nod could tell you, when an outsider is manifested into the Material Plane, it becomes a living, breathing creature with free will, even if it often takes a while for them to realize they are no longer bound to the wishes of their master. Many of these outsiders break away from their appointed tasks and mingle with the locals, so aasimar and tieflings are not uncommon in the region of Ende.
In Ende, the aasimars are called aasuras, and they usually belong to the higher castes of wise people and warriors. Of course, many, despite their blood, have fallen from their once high positions, and must make their way as mercenaries and adventurers, for they are ever too proud to work as artisans, laborers, and beggars (and the artisans, laborers and beggars would claim the haughty fools wouldn’t have the skill to do their jobs properly anyways).
While aasuras aspire to (and often pretend to uphold) the old ways of their ancestors, honesty, gravity, open-mindedness, far-sightedness and martial honor, the sad truth is that generations of life at the top of the social foodchain has left them decadent, over-bearing and aloof. While they are often respected, for even in their fallen state they are often driven to succeed at whatever calling they have chosen (callings which often involve killing or calling down fire from the sky), they are rarely well-liked.
In keeping with their castes, aasuras dress well, and decorate themselves with jewelry. They are usually perfumed or scented with fragrant oils, and even the poorest aasura will make every effort to keep a servant or slave. Aasura warriors prefer to wear aristocratic armor, usually banded or splint, rarely platemail imported from the north, and they carry shields and various sorts of swords and lances. Most work as horsemen or charioteers.
Most aasura take the lordly Indra as their patron, though those aasura who still hold to the old ways prefer Vishnu. Aasura characters usually have classes in paladin, monk, cleric, psychic, duelist or fighter.
DAITYAS (STONE GIANTS)
The stone giants of Ende are called daityas. They once served as mercenaries in the divine armies that fought here, usually for Chaos, and now dwell in the mountains as barbarians. The daityas are wild men and women, heavy with crude jewelry, their faces scarred and painted with images made up of swollen dots, the men cultivating fabulous mustaches that are a sign of power and fertility in their culture. Daityas wear no armor, only baggy pants and cloaks, and their wield giant scimitars and shields. They have skin the color of rust that is often marred with patches of white.
The gandharva are the elves of Ende. Once the masters of the plains of Gondar, their small, fortified villages eventually fell to humans and humanoids, leaving them to wander like gypsies. Most gandharva now are herdsmen and herdswomen (known especially for their ability to raise horses), entertainers, traders and, sometimes, ne’er-do-wells.
Like most elves, they are graceful and beautiful, with eyes that gleam like gemstones, deep olive skin and black hair. They dress in light, loose garments, or robes to hide their armor. Female elves are referred to as apsara, and they are known for their dancing.
Gandharva are cosmopolitan and easy going, with ready wits and a tendency to tell people what they want to hear. Charm is the hallmark of the gandharva, and they use it liberally to get what they want. Despite being graceful and alluring, the elves of Ende are skilled warriors, especially with staves and bows. Many elves train in the martial arts, combining dance with fighting.
Gandharva prefer deities of music and dance, and thus gravitate towards Saraswati, goddess of art and music, and Shiva, famous for his cosmic dance.
Humans make up the middle castes in Ende society, the artisans, laborers and farmers. They range from poor to rich, with the wealthiest humans usually being merchant princes. Most middle class humans are artisans, merchants or officers in the regions armies. Humans, here as everywhere, are cunning and clever and hold every opinion under the sun. Humans in Ende are often resentful towards the aasura because of their insistence on taking on airs despite their obviously lacking characters, and they fear and hate the tievas for their demonic powers and their close contact with death in all its fearful forms.
Humans are usually barred from the higher orders of society, though some are elevated into the upper castes due to their impressive abilities (i.e. high ability scores and capacity for bribing the aasuras and stroking their mighty egos). Humans with magical abilities are usually magic-users. Magic-users are not regarded as highly as psychics and clerics because of their dependence on material components, many of which are of an unsavory form. These magic-users do a good business in Ende, serving the middle and lower castes in the manner of doctors and advisors. Human warriors usually make up the bulk of Ende’s armies, and usually fight on foot or as light cavalry. Ende’s officer corps is mostly made up of humans, who serve as lietenants and captains. Higher ranks are held by the aasura nobility.
While they are barred from becoming clerics (again, there are exceptions), they are not barred from the druidic orders, and in fact dominate those orders. For this reason, the humans of Ende most often give their keenest devotion to the nature gods and goddesses, such as Agni, god of fire, Varuna, god of water, and Surya, the sun god, as well as Gunputty, the overcomer of obstacles (humans hate obstacles).
As the aasuras are descended from outsiders of Law, the tievas, who occupy the lower rungs of the social ladder, are descended from outsiders of Chaos. Swarthy of skin, bright of eye and quick of wit, they have gravitated towards the lower professions of thief, assassin, beggar, and charlatan. The best of them live a straight (well, mostly straight) life of honest labor in such occupations as tanner, butcher, or hunter.
Tievas deal in death in one way or another, which makes them suspect and low in the eyes of the aasura and most humans. They see themselves as the necessary evils that make the more comfortable lives of the upper castes possible. While tievas care little for virtue, they do have a strong sense of self, and when crossed or insulted they rarely let the act go unavenged. A tieva might strike immediately themselves if they think they can get away with it, but more likely they will attack in the dark, from behind, with many friends.
Tievas dress as commoners. They live in the shabby quarters of town, and congregate in taverns and other places of rowdy amusement to let off steam. Tievas are rarely found in the organized armies of Ende, even armies of Chaos, for they are generally thought to be untrustworthy and cowardly. They are, however, hired as spies by all the lords of the region, including lords of Lawful alignment.
Tievas usually worship Ratri, the goddess of night, Lord Shiva, the god of death, and the black earth mother Kali.
The yaksha are dwarves that separated from the dwarves of the west a very long time ago. As such, they are quite different from their kin in Antilia and the Motherlands.
While most dwarves are gruff in demeanor and generally unhandsome (from a human point of view), the yaksha are remarkably sensuous. The females are curvaceous and viviceous, the men dashing and ferocious when roused. They live in heated casverns, and prefer to show off plenty of skin – they’ve got it, so why not flaunt it.
The strongholds are highly ornamented, with many gemstones and carvings. They are well lit, and kept very plush, for the yaksha are the keepers of the wealth under the earth, and while they may appear to be softer than other dwarves, they are in fact skilled warriors who guard their monopoly on mining precious metals and stones viciously.
The yaksha are worshipers of Lord Shiva, who is not only a god of death, but also of the valuables hidden within the earth.