The Let's Play Archive

King of Dragon Pass

by Haifisch

Part 7: Praxians

Let's talk Praxians. The nomad beast riders of Prax are primitive, compared to the Orlanthi. They have some pretty complex societies, though, and they also have the immortal Jaldon Goldentooth. (Well, serially immortal. He dies, but he keeps coming back.) The Praxians are divided into tribes, who travel Prax based on the migrations of their totem animal, which each tribe rides and eats. The animals determine a lot about the tribes - how big they are, where they live, that sort of thing. Herding beasts are usually owned by women, and when a girl marries, she gets some of her mother's herd - as many as if the herd were divided equally between her, her mother and all her a woman with four daughters gives her daughter a fifth of the herd when she goes to get married. When a son gets married, he gets two bulls to give as a bride-price, plus any beasts he might have captured. Most Praxian tribes are monogamous, though it is not the only sort of marriage they practice.

Praxians never ride horses, and they hate all horse-riders.

Each tribe has many clans, who often meet and trade with each other. So while there's just one High Llama Tribe, it has the Bogriders clan, the Llama Green clan and so on. Clans vary in size by tribe - the Impalas tend to have around 100-300 people, while a Bison clan would have 500 at minimum. However, there are many more Impalas than Bisons, for they have so many clans. The Praxians also use paint and scars to decorate themselves. Battle scars get the msot respect, of course, but there are also the initiation scars for boys or the scars gained by brave deeds. Sable Riders give a new scar for the first herd beast captured from each of the other tribes, and in the Ostrich Riders a scarred woman loses some standing, because a scar shows she has some Death in her.

Work among Praxians is gender-divided. Men do one kind, women another. The only people who would ever diverge from this are the Sarzargia, the Upside-Down People who create their own society in exile, with men doing women's work and women doing men's. The Unicorn Maidens are a Sarzargia people who have been (barely accepted by the Great Tribes. The Tribes survive because each uses a niche that the others do not, as their herd beasts do not compete for the same resources. Impalas and Bolo Lizards eat different things, so the Impala Tribe and the Bolo Lizard Tribe do not compete. However, the tribes raid each other all the time and eat each others' animals. The herd must keep moving, so the nomads never hold land for long. Even oases are kept only as sources for resources like wood or slaves. They aren't essential, so they are less valuable than grazing land.

Some tribes are smaller, but this does not make them weaker, as the tribes do not roam together. Rather, each clan follows its own path. A Bison clan might get raided a dozen times in a year, for the Bisons are raided most of all tribes. About half of the raids will be by the Impala, and maybe two each by the Sables and High Llamas. The Morocanth might do one or two night raids, and the independent tribes would do the last. Generally, they would lose one animal in twenty per year to raids. The Bolo Lizards are much smaller than the Bisons, but they also lose around one animal in twenty to raids, for they are raided less often. Thus, both tribes thrive, despite the Bolo Lizards being much less numerous; indeed, the Bisons are raided more because they are more numerous. (Also, bisons give more meat than bolo lizards.)

Tribes are run by a Tribal Khan, who has final say on all matters of war and the physical world. T heir word is considered to be part of the Law of Waha, and can only be disobeyed or ignored if all tribal elders vote to do so. They also serve an important religious faction, serving as focus for the prayers of the clan to the tribal founder. The High Priestess of Eiritha sees to the well-being of the herds and has final say on all things involving herd safety. She determines when the tribe moves, camps, splits into smaller groups or bands together. The khan takes over in actual battle, though. Only in the Sable Tribe does the High Priestess hold more dominant power. Each tribe will also have a dominant shaman, generally a slightly insane one due to the contact with the spirits. The dominant shaman will have greater powers than a normal shaman, and has responsibility for all dealings with the Spirit World, including teaching magic, making charms and contacting the plains spirits. In some tribes, the Storm Khan may also have influence, though only real power when facing chaos. In clans that worship unusual deities (such as the Storm Clan of the Impala Tribe, who worship Orlanth), the high priest of the local deity may also have influence, but he will have no real power outside the clan.

The Five Great Tribes

The Five Great Tribes of Prax are as follows: first is the Bison Rider tribe. The Bison Riders are darker than most other Praxians, with dark hair and beards, even in summer, and they tend to be muscular. They need richer grasslands, and tend to stay in the north of Prax. Their structure is similar to the Orlanthi, with many septs and bloodlines descended from one Founder. Khans have many wives, and men who do great deeds may as well. The bisons like big herds, so a Bison clan often has a thousand or more bison (and people). Herd size is a sign of wealth, and a family with only thirty bison is considered quite poor. Bison Riders prefer to charge their foes, relying on brute force to shatter any line ahead of them. They prefer to avoid melee, fleeing if forced into hand-to-hand combat rather than repeated charges.

The Impala Tribe are pygmies, who shave their heads completely - even the women and children. They have black eyes and dark brown skin, and tend to be sinewy rather than muscular. They wear very few clothes, and go into battle often either wearing only a belt or bowstrap - if they wear anything at all. The Impala Riders always band together in a fight, preferring to use the short bow. They are masters of skirmishing, even when riding at full speed away from foes, and they have turned their small size and inability to wear heavy armor (as the impala could not carry it) into an asset, focusing on speed and range. The impalas prefer dry ground, and tend to split apart in summer and gather in winter. In summer, they are sedentary in small camps, while in winter they travel in large groups. Impala riders are thus most dangerous in winter. The basic social unit is the family: a father, a mother, any unmarried daughters and any sons who have not yet become men. Polygamy is more common among Impala Riders than other tribes. A poor family might own 15 impalas, while a rich one owns more than a hundred. Typical familes own around 30.

The Sable Tribe are average height and tend towards being less muscular. They are not as dark as the Impala or High Llama, and tend to wear paints and a cloak. Wealthy Sable Riders wear a headdress and well-made shoes. The Sable Tribe is unusual becaose of their Herd Queens, called Tribal Queens by outsiders. Whenever a decision is made that affects the tribe, the Queen has equal say in their actions, even in matters of war. Men, even the Khan, have no power in the world of women. No other tribe is like this. A few Sable families are polygamous, but the women choose their shared husband, not the other way around. Sable clans tend to be fiercly proud of their history, with rivalries between them that have led to the famous differences in Sable clan weapons, tactics and magic. Some Sable clans use lance charges, while others prefer bows. Since they always unite against the other tribes, this gives them a combined-arms skill that no other tribe has. However, it also means they won't dominate any area, as the other tribes are better at any specific thing. Sables usually gather in herds of a few dozen, and each herd supports one Sable warrior and his family. Herds graze seperately, but in sight of each other.

The Morocanth Tribe are hot human. Rather, they are giant tapir-like creatures who herd human-looking but unintelligent herbivores. They are unique in that the animals form warrior clans and the humans live off the plains. Unlike the others, the morocanth do not ride their herd beasts (being much bigger than them). However, some khans have trained their herd men to pull chariots or carry palanquins. Many morocanth also train hyenas as other Praxians train dogs. The morocanth follow the Waha closely, though they do not adhere to all human customs. Their marriage is very different, and they have no true family life. A morocanth will know all of his or her children, but politics are not governed by family. In combat, the morocanth prefer to hamstring mounts, using their superior strength, size and claws against the dismounted riders. This has made other PRaxians dislike them, and to say a man 'fights like a morocanth' is to call him dishonorable. The morocanth also love ambushes and night attacks, and they sometimes arm their herd men with clubs or rocks to serve as cannon fodder. The herd men are social animals that gather in large herds, so Morocanth clans tend to be large. However, the herd men are less good at survival than other beasts, so the Morocanth must control large areas of fertile ground. Any slave captured by the Morocanth becomes a herd man (and therefore food). Many humans thus automatically try to free Morocanth-held slaves, but Praxians do not unless the slave is from their tribe.

The High Llama Tribe ride the high llamas - tall animals that eat high tree leaves and have prehensile tongues. The riders hate areas with low plants, for their mounts require much more work to eath them, and they must gather the food by hand. This makes them mocked by other tribes. The high llamas gather in herds of 20-40, each ruled by a mature bull but led by a cow in travel. When kept by men, though, the herd size is about five times larger. High Llama Riders have olive skin and black eyes. Many shave their heads except for a ponytail in the back, with women have larger and more highly decorated ponytails. They dress lightly, wearing sometimes only leather straps and loincloths. They avoid large gatherings except when survival demands it, preferring small bands. Monogamy is the norm, but some women take multiple husbands. The High Llama Riders take pride in being literally above all other people, and more than any other tribe, they hate horses and horse-riders. (This says something, as all Praxian beast riders hate horses.) The High Llamas gtather in small septs, each made of an extended family, its friends and its hangers-on, usually around 20 to 40 people. Many septs gather to form a clan, and the sept is a patriarchy led by a father, male cousin, uncle or brother. When the sept leader dies or becomes unfit, the eldest warrior of his relatives takes on the job. Decisions are made by the leading woman of the tribe regarding grazing land and migration - usually the wife, sister or mother of the sept leader. Each clan is around 20-50 septs, and they gather about once a season. The highest ranking sept khan is the clan khan, but sept leaders can overrule him by unanimous vote. A khan rules for life unless the sept leader vote unanimously to oust him, in which case they choose a new leader by, again, unanimous vote. If consensus cannot be met, the clan goes to the tribal Khan for judgment, but usually this means one candidate will step down rather than to have to deal with that. A sept which has one beast per person is considered poor, while ten per person is very rich. Most have two or three per person. In battle, the High Llama Riders areh ard to surprise, and they use their height and speed to great advantage. They htrow javelins, then charge with lances before reverting to spears and long axes in melee, though they are poor fighters when dismounted. They sometimes make barding for their mouns in leather, but only use it when they know ahead of time that battle is ocming. Riders prefer to avoid armor, unless it is light armor taken from defeated foes, often for the legs or head.

The Ten Independents

The lesser tribes are numerous. The Babboon Troops claim the Monkey Ruins of Prax as the seat of a lost empire of baboons. Praxian legend disputes whether the baboons were originally baboons given intelligence by the god Waha or men who betrayed Waha and were cursed to be baboons. The baboons have their own myths. They do not use many weapons or armor, due to their body shape, but some use helms, spears and slings. The baboons are great shamans and primarily worship their ancestors.

The Basmoli Beserkers come from a far-off land. Their god was slain and they fight now to avenge him by slaying the minions of other gods. Their life revolves around hunting, and many worship the hunter god Foundchild, though they also retain the rituals of their Founder. No Praxian tribe likes them, for they are very aggressive and always fight. Group marriages are common among the Basmoli, with a group of brothers sharing a group of wives. They are walkers, not riders.

The Bolo Lizard Tribe are pygmies, famous for their spinning weapon, the bolas. They use this in war and hunting ,and are a remnant of a great empire that once ruled much of Prax. Their ancestors were destroyed, and they survived by becoming nomads. The Bolo Lizard people are matriarchal, focusing on the goddess Eiritha over the god Waha. Polyandry is fairly common, and sometimes polygamy and group marriage happen. The tribe has interbred with the others, but those who most resemble their ancestors are seen as the best, and this partially determines social rank. Bolo Lizard Riders are hunter-gatherers, not herders, though they will raid for meat. Many worship Foundchild, and their lizards are used mostly as mounts, though they also eat the dinosaur eggs and sometimes make the skin of a mount into a strong but light buckler. In war, they use bolas to entangle foes and then charge with spears and long knives. The Bolo Lizards run with their head and tail held low and horizontal, leaving plenty of room for the bolas to swing. Warriors rarely wear armor, but often use shields. The Bolo Lizard Riders travel in small family groups, and the lizards lay clutches of eggs and abandon them. The riders mark the clutches and stay in the area or come back when hatching time comes. It takes two or three seasons for hatchlings to become large enough to keep up.

The Cannibal Cult come from the time of Waha, and it is said that they were confused when the lots were cast to see who would be eater and who would be eaten. They say it is Waha's will, and everyone else is wrong. The Cannibal Cult gains power by eating their enemies, but no power from eating the weak or friends, so they always seek powerful enemies. This does not always help in the short term, but it does ensure a constant supply of strong magic if they don't get wiped out. Thier magic only works when they eat someone of the same race, but they will eat any type of intelligent creature. However, they avoid eating Chaos, and disdain eating animals and herd men.

The Men-and-a-Half, or Agimori, came to Prax in the name of their god, Baba Ulodra, also called Lodril. During the Darkness, things went badly for them, and they were stranded in Prax. They refused to abandon their way of life for the beast tribes, though, and took their place as independents, seeing themselves as above the beast riders. They use long spears and have extreme discipline, unafraid even of Bison charges. The Men-and-a-Half are immensely tall and strong, needing little food and water. They are easily the most powerful people, individually, in all of Prax. They herd nothing, but hunt the herds of others. Their religion has faded over the centuries, and Lodril has few worshippers among them now. Rather, they most often worship Foundchild. They are walkers.

The Ostrich Tribe is a pygmy tribe, but unrelated to the Impala or Bolo Lizard. They are the smallest tribe of Prax, save perhaps if the Hidden or Lost Tribes return. Both men and women ride, but only men go into battle. Men worship Waha normally, but both men and women worship the clan patron, Ostrich Mother, with only women serving as priestesses. This serves as a surrogate for Eiritha. Foundchild is also worshipped. The Ostrich Riders use strange ranged weapons, then close with spears, using their mounts' speed and viciousness. Their clan was once greater and worshipped sun gods, but many left the land and the solar dynasty was lost in the Dragonkill War (that'd be the fall of the Empire of Wyrm's Friends in Dragon Pass). They have an ancient agreement with the Bolo Lizard People and an unspecified, forgotten tribe, called the Two-Legged Alliance, so they are often near each other and rarely fight, though they have no such qualms about other nomads.

The Pol-Joni Tribes are Orlanthi who live in Prax. They respect Eiritha, but not Waha, and do not perform other Praxian sacred rites, save for the Peaceful Cut, which kills animals without pain. They are seen as outlaws, and the nomads hate them for the crime of riding horses. They rarely leave their lands save to raid. Their division between riding one animal and gaining support from another (cattle) is unknown in Waha's Compact, so they are called the Bastard Tribe. The Pol Joni are closer to Praxian than Orlanthi, though, and commonly raid the other tribes, so they keep many animals, not just cattle. Unlike true Praxians, though, they will not herd or eat herd men. The Pol Joni are a bare few centuries old, but point to the historical presence of the Pure Horse Tribe as justification for their presence. They have contacted the Pure Horse Founder and his support has let them stay despite many attempts to drive them back to Dragon Pass. Eiritha is worshipped by most women, and Orlanth and Storm Bull by most men. There are three known Pol Joni clans, and they are always led by Sartarites rather than Praxian-descended people.

The Rhinoceros Riders were one of the original Great Tribes, but dwindled through the ages. They are still too weak to claim anything but being an independent tribe. They are solitary, but travel in the same region, so they can form a protective unit when needed. Usually, though, one meets only one rider and hsi family, with a single rhino and its young. A few families make a sept, but this isolation is one reason the Rhinoceros People are nearly extinct. Some women take multiple husbands, but men rarely take multiple wives. Often, a rider has only his mount, though a khan might have several riders serving him. Tribal legend says that once, rhinos were so numerous that they had herds, but this has not happened for centuries. Rhinoceros Riders gather only for war, but often sell their services as mercenaries as well as seeking vengeance on their own. They are often hired by other tribes, and seeing a single rhino amongst a raid is not rare. They fight with lance charges, and it is so powerful that only the best infantry can stand before them - and no cavalry at all. Unlike the Bison Riders, the Rhino Riders do not pretend to tactics - they know that charges always win. In melee, they use long axes or maces, often mounted on rhino horn shafts. They rarely eat their own beasts, but often raid others, keeping the stolen beasts for milk. Most of their food comes from mercenary work. They make rhino-hide armor, which is very heavy, and have a secret art to turn rhino fat into magic armor.

The Unicorn Women are not a true tribe, but a confederation that rejects the restrictions on Praxian women under Eiritha's cult. They come from different tribes and backgrounds, and many worship Yelorna. The unicorns they ride are very intelligent, and often know more magic than their riders. No unicorn woman may marry, and the riders must be celibate. However, many ride traditional beasts, seeking fathers for their children at festivals or by stealing men from other tribes. Girls are raised among the Unicorn Women, but boys are traded to other tribes for unwatned girls. Common rumor says boys are killed or left to die, but this is untrue. The Unicorn Women use light cavalry tactics, and the lance and unicorn horn is deadly. The intelligence of the unicorns is also a great help. Many worship the goddess Yelorna, the Sun Daughter, and they maintain magic to let them speak telepathically to their mounts.

Last are the Zebra Tribe, the Pavis Survivors. Zebras are small creatures, and no myth has them matched to humans, for they drew none in Waha's lottery. When the hero Pavis built his city, one of his horse-riding followers named joraz Kyrem (believed to be a devotee of Issaries, the barbarian god of Trade and Fast Talking) overcame nomad horse-hatred by magically mating zebra and warhorse to breed war zebras, which the men rode. A special agreement with the priestesses of Prax allowed this, and thus they are accepted by the Praxians. During the wars of the Second Age, the war zebras were set loose and went wild. When the Pavis Royal Guard was outlawed by the Lunar Empire, the Zebra Tribe was born as the survivors of the royal guard. Their social system is based on the military cavalry model they brought from Pavis, and each clan is led by a commander, whose assistants have military rank. All memebrs grow on zebra-back from birth, ready to fight or flee at any moment. Some hunt and worship Eiritha, while others maintain connections with Pavis and assure the Lunars that they aren't being the Royal Guard. Their military skills are great, and many have good weapons and armor. These groups ride the sterile cavarly zebras when possible, made by mating war zebras and horses. They use lance and bow, but not shields.

Next time, I'll talk about some Praxian myths and gods.