Friday, 11 December 2020

Setting up a Proto-Neolithic Sandbox Part 3: Settled & Nomadic Peoples

 A series of posts about building a proto-Neolithic Sandbox for PARIAH:

  1. The Base Map
  2. Spirits of Place
  3. Settled & nomadic peoples
Yup, this week (month?) we're going to look at setting up human communities to inhabit the campaign map.
The tile-set has been customised to correspond with that used in the Pariah Wilderness Supplement, downloadable (for a fee) at the link below:

You can claim a free copy by joining the Atelier Hwei Discord server:

The map was also amended with a sliver of southeastern continental coast (definitely NOT France).

NB. If you've arrive at this site because I've packed so many cool images together, please note that I'm not recreating a historically accurate model of proto-Neolithic society. This is for a fantasy roleplaying game.

Now it's time to introduce some human civilisation.

A Young World?


Perhaps they're both a little off-the-mark, but at the heart of it is the notion that human culture is FRESH. The idea here is to escape the notion of "primitive" humans and instead embrace the idea that human culture has just recently arrived. This is to get away from juvenile notions of early human societies being cartoon caveman types, a topic Barney touches on at the start of this Loco Ludus podcast:

(incidentally, googling ludo locus will not help you when searching for Loco Ludus!)

Human cultures, even prior to the development of bronze technology, could be extraordinarily sophisticated. Some of the relics of earth's Neolithic are shown below:

Neolithic tool set

Heavy axes

Neolithic axehead with recreated haft
Highly polished set of Neolithic axes, chisels and polishing stones.

Neolithic societies had complex tools, religious rites and possibly social hierarchies. They also built permanent stone structures, many of which survive to this day:

Stonehenge, UK: the stone lintels were lifted more than four metres up and fitted to the top of the pillars with a tongue-and-groove join around 4,400 years ago,

Skara Brae, Neolithic settlement in Orkney, Scotland: more than 5,000 years old.

Çatalhöyük, a city founded more than 9,000 years ago, now in modern Turkey.

Çatalhöyük after initial excavation.

Göbekli Tepe, another Neolithic site in Turkey.
The megaliths are the oldest so far discovered at more than 9000 years old.
There are structures here dating back 12,000 years.

Some other cultural/technological innovations established before the Neolithic:
  • Control of fire predates modern Homo Sapiens. 
  • Birch tar as adhesive and waterproofing (200,000 YBP.)
  • Gold and silver working (30,000 YBP).
  • Domestication of dogs occurred more than 25,000 YBP.
  • Linen textiles from flax (Up to 30,000 YBP).
  • Pottery: Japanese pre-agricultural societies developed pottery around 16,000 YBP. Pottery in the middle east generally appears to have emerged after the Neolithic revolution.

Technological innovations of the Neolithic:

  • Domestication of cereal crops (Up to 12,000 YBP).
  • Cotton (7,500 YBP).
  • Smelting of lead (9,000 YBP).
  • Woodland management for charcoal production (6,000 YBP).
  • Written language 5400ya (though the Vinča symbols of 7,500 YBP may have been a script) .
  • Mud-bricks (11,000+ YBP).
  • Polished/ground stone culture (12,000 YBP).
  • Domestication of goats, sheep and cattle (9,000 YBP).
  • Sail boats (7,500-7,000 YBP).
  • Domestication of silk worm (Yanshao culture, 4,000 YBP).
  • Glassmaking (at least 5,600 YBP).
  • Possible domestication of the horse, Eurasian steppe (5,500  YBP).
  • Solid wooden wheel for transport (5,500  YBP).
  • Use of meteoric iron to make weapons (5,000 YBP).
Here is a recreation of an interior of Çatalhöyük:

Can't believe I have crib-envy for this 9,000-year-old interior.

Neolithic cultures would have existed a the same time as hunter-gatherer cultures. Despite the apparent sophistication of settled peoples compared to their foraging cousins, it seems that settled people died younger (though were less likely to die due to physical trauma), had worse nutrition and poorer dental health. 

Despite these differences between such populations, it can be speculated that they would have had similar thoughts and feelings to you, dear reader, within their entirely different range of experiences.

Three Factions

Prior to beginning this process, I already had a rough idea of the regions principal groups. I think 3 rival communities (alongside the various spirit-factions, individual agents and the pariahs themselves) makes for a good basis for drama: the pariahs have the option to pick sides, perhaps before realising how that might affect their relations with the other two sides...

In addition to each faction's relationship with the other two, there are entries for STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, HOPES and FEARS. 

Whitehawk Tribe

Reconstruction of the REAL Whitehawk woman, who died 5,600 years ago. No relation to the fantasy equivalent in this PARIAH game.

Semi-settled pastoralists and agriculturalists. They graze sheep and cattle on the chalk downs along the coast. They have uneasy relations with both the Bleak Isle Folk and the Painted Ones.
  • Strengths: strong communities with earthwork ramparts. Varied diet and physical lifestyle makes them good warriors. Strong sense of community. Everyone is trained to fight, though not always well.
  • Weaknesses: no surplus labour due to intense subsistence, little time for crafts and permanent structures. Major settlement and tribal "capital" Whitehawk is occupied by Bleak Isle Folk. Seem destined to be assimilated by the weaker but more numerous Bleak Isle Folk. Poor sailors.
  • Hopes: 
    • to reach an accord with the Bleak Isle Folk, whereby they'll just go away and leave them alone.
    • To quell the anger of the Blue Giant of the Sea.
    • To strengthen their burgeoning communities in the northeast.
  • Fears: 
    • the Bleak Isle Folk will destroy them.
    • The Painted Ones will overrun their communities, buoyed by the Grey Mist.
    • The sea will finally swallow them all.

Bleak Isle Folk

First they came as traders from Bleak Isle, many generations ago. Then they came as traders from the northern causeway, where once walked the women of the Wolf tribe. Then they stayed in their new villages, finally making huts in Whitehawk itself. They are craftsman and traders ruled by a cult focused on gods and goddesses of fertility and the creation of clay objects, and are part of a broader culture that has begun to colonise much of this burgeoning world.

Another reconstruction of a local resident, this one popped his clogs 4,300 years ago. 

  • Strengths: There's lots of them. They can call upon many allies from far away to fight for them. They know how to build really good boats. Masters of negotiating complex alliances from which they profit. Some command strong magic.
  • Weaknesses: Poor fighters but who needs weapons when you've got words? And other people willing to fight for you..
  • Hopes: 
    • to colonise the entire coast, and bring all that dairy, meat and wool to their leadership.
    • To destroy the Painted Ones, maybe using the Whitehawk tribe?
    • "Civilise" the wilderness and subdue the demons that rule it. 
  • Fears: 
    • The wilderness will not be tamed.
    • The Painted Ones will overrun their communities, buoyed by demons of the wilderness.

Painted Ones

Olga Kurylenko playing an iron age Pict warrior in the movie Centurion. Imagine no iron.

A tribe of dwindling forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers, cut off from their people as other settled communities grew around them. They form two populations, in the Broadhills and the Dankwood. They have fought against the Whitehawk tribe for generations and are happy to see them fall under the yoke of this puny settler, but are wary of forging alliances with them. They serve the spirits and their tribe only.
  • Strengths: Skilled hunters, warriors and craftsman. Egalitarian. Physically capable. Strong alliances with the spirits, can move through the wilderness easily.
  • Weaknesses: Their numbers are small, perhaps less than 500. Infighting between the two main populations, infighting within those populations. No human allies
  • Hopes: 
    • The Whitehawk tribe will grow weak from the influence of the foreigners, and they will be destroyed. 
    • The forest will grow and the deer will grow more numerous.
    • They will rejoin the community from which they have been separated.
  • Fears:
    • They walk with the spirits of the forest, they fear nothing: not even death...
    • ...there are worse things than death...
    • the sea. They are fucking terrified of the sea.

The Revised Map

With three factions, I decided to give them each 2d6 pretty sizeable (define: sizeable in this context... hmm) settlements, and arrange them according to the lore already mentioned. I chose not to give the Painted Ones any settlements, instead marking the two regions they occupied by the name of the two clans.

Yellow for the Bleak Isle Folk, mauve for the Whitehawk tribe. A trail was marked on connecting the Bleak Isle Folks northernmost settlements. 

How this all fits together with the domains of the spirits is a matter to be resolved next time. For the time being I'm content to sit on this for a little while...

The Pariahs

One thing that does occur in the creation of this region is the idea starting this game with the pariahs arriving by boat somewhere on the south coast, possibly even shipwrecked. It enables them to enter the region as foreigners, without prior knowledge of the world or ties to NPC and factions etc. 

* * * 

Download the art-free edition of PARIAH for no charge at the following well-known digital RPG stores:

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