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Well I said I would try and find my notes on Davania in the other thread, but I couldn't find them. So instead, here's some notes about the tribes of the Great Waste. This is totally non-cannon, and I used perhaps half of them in a campaign that was based around PCs escorting a caravan from Sind to Slagovich shortly after the Great War.
Tribes of the Great Wasteby Sirloin
The Great Waste is not the barren desert that its name implies. It is inhabited by many diverse tribes of the Urduk people. Theirs is a harsh existence, and survival is a constant battle. There are perhaps 50 distinct tribes that call the Great Waste home, ranging from tribes with 50 members, to small nations of several thousand people. Although they are subjugated recently by the Master of Hule's forces, not all of the tribes fall under his control. And many are too small for him to bother with. Below are listed some of the more notable tribes:
Northern Plain of Fire
The Jaculi tribe are nomadic, ranging across the northern Plain of Fire to the foothills of the Black Mountains. They are camel riders, possessing a large herd. They have no set camps, being truly nomadic, spending the summers in the foothills, and travelling south in the winter months. They are notable for one thing, the Jaculi Remembrancers. These are individuals with extraordinary memories, who are the historians of the tribe, and the collective memory of the entire desert tribes. Their training starts young, with memory tests being set for their children from birth, but only the very best go on to become Remembrancers. The young who pass their tests are apprenticed to a master, with one of their final tests being the retelling of their combined knowledge, an ordeal that can take many days. There are only about 10 Remembrancers within the tribe at any one time, due to the difficulty of the task, and it has been postulated that it is those who possess the magical ability to become wizards that are the ones who pass the rituals, which also accounts for the total lack of wizards within the tribe. They typically have 4 to 5 carers assigned to them as bodyguards and providers, to make sure that they can remain focused upon their task. The Remembrancers are also highly valued by other tribes, as they are called upon to witness the various treaties that are struck between the tribes over things such as water rights and grazing land. It is not uncommon to come across a party of Jaculi accompanying other tribes, and it is accepted by all the many tribes that the Remembrancers and their carers are sacrosanct, never to be harmed. They are also vital to the survival of the tribe on the harsh Plain of Fire, remembering the hidden spots where water can be found, and where the best pasture can be located in the foothills. They also know the locations of many other secrets, like ruins and lairs, if one was so inclined as to ask.
Western Plain of Fire, near the Great Pass
The Menket Tribe are one of the largest tribes of the Great Waste, and one of those who have been subjugated totally by the Master of Hule. Their proximity to the Great Pass meant that they were one of the first targets of his agents, and the tribe is now totally converted to the worship of Bozdogan. They are his proxies in the central Waste, attacking the caravans that he wishes, and escorting those that he looks favourably upon. They also fight alongside his humanoids, not sharing the typical nomad hatred for them. They are also supplied from Hule, meaning that they have grown much larger than they may have otherwise, given the harshness of their environment. The leader of the tribe, Hamut, is a huge nomad of legendary cruelty, and he leads his tribe with an iron fist. The tribe considers itself as "trueblood" Urduk, and have a massive contempt for outsiders. A large percentage of the warriors of the tribe were involved in the campaigns in Sind. They are excellent light cavalry, particularly in the desert, and masters of ambush tactics. One would be well advised to steer clear of their territory.
North Eastern Plain of Fire
The Akani tribe are thieves. They live in the borderlands between Sind and the Waste proper, and make their living preying on travellers on the border trail from Gunga Keep to Gola Keep. Those fortresses are garrisoned in part to keep the Akani away from Bharatpur and Khamrati, although they are not unknown in those areas. They are camel mounted, but attack on foot, under the cover of darkness. They avoid confrontation if possible, leading their perusers into the desert to escape. The tribe never stops in the same place for more than one night, relying on mobility for survival. The tribe does have contact with Sindhi merchants, selling back the wares they have stolen to the more unscrupulous ones, and tribesmen of mixed Urduk and Sindhi blood are not uncommon.
Northern banks of Lake Hast, and the foothills to the west.
Ever wondered why Sind doesn't lay claim to the north shore of Lake Hast? The Hastun Tribe are the reason. Fiercely independent, they are unparalleled hill fighters, retreating to their fortified villages when attacked. They are excellent archers, with entire regiments being decimated by hidden bowmen when Sind has sent expeditions to the region in the past. Their capital of Kazsul is built on solid stone outcropping deep in the hills, with only one track leading up to it, and has never been taken. They are shepherds by trade, spending the summer months in the lowlands around Lake Hast in tented communities, and travelling to their permanent villages in the winter months. The tribesmen themselves are very suspicious of outsiders, but very loyal once befriended. The family is the centre of their world, and it is a great honour to be invited to meet a Hastuns children. Their culture is deeply traditional, not having changed in several hundred years. Veneration of Djaea is also central to their culture, with his clerics being amongst the most honoured members of the tribe. They treat with Sindhi and Glantrian merchants, with the carpets they produce from their wool being in high demand.
Kesret Oasis to the Nawmiddi Salt Flats
The Korbut Tribe are one of the tribes that most outsiders come into contact with due to their summer camp at the Kesret Oasis. They are horse traders, ranging south to trade with the southern tribes in the winter. They are known for never reneging on a deal, but at the same time being extremely tough negotiators. It is not unknown for a caravan master to spend a night drinking with the Korbut, only to wake to find he has bought 5 horses while drunk. The Korbut were easy converts to Bozdogan, with his doctrines being very similar to the way they conducted themselves anyway. Still, many caravans choose to trade with them due to the high quality of the horses they sell. The tribe leader Malik is enormously fat, and rides a magnificent stallion. Many of the tribe were involved in the fighting in Sind as part of the Masters forces.
Region north of Kladanovic and Tyjaret
The Barak Tribe are goat herders, they travel from pasture to pasture, tending to their goats. They range up and down the Throat River typically, and are frequent visitors to Kladanovic to trade. They also prey on the weak on the trails between the two towns and the trail south from the Twin Oases.
The Burning Waste and The Barren Plains
The Josta Tribe are unique in that they are not Urduk, being descended instead from the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Josta, which fell some 1000 years ago when the Silt River, on whose banks they dwelt, dried up. Their society fell apart, and the modern tribe is all that remains of their once proud kingdom. They are known for their powerful wizards, which prevents other tribes preying on them. The spend the winters on the Burning Waste, travelling from water source to water source, and the summers in the marshlands of the Silt River Delta. Their campsite here is the ruins of Harlpex, the former capital of Josta. Here they fish, salting it to preserve it for the winters, and their wizards study in the underground chambers where the last remnants of their libraries.
South of Jaibul
The Portik Tribe were bandits, raiding Jaibul and the coastal trade route. They were fierce warriors, being excellent horse archers, and were for many years, a scourge across the entire eastern Barren Plains. However, they raided the Black Rajah's lands one time too many, and he sent a huge punitive expedition which wiped out much of their strength, much of the rest of the tribe were sold into slavery at the markets of Jaibul. The Portik's today are a shadow of their former selves. They are now lead by the young son of the former chief, Alat, a youth of 17. He burns with the desire for revenge, but the "adviser" provided to him by the Master keeps him on a tight rein.
East of Slagovich
Caravans on the Western Desert Route are often surprised to wake in the morning and find themselves surrounded by a regiment of Kerendan Heavy Cavalry, albeit in antiquated armour and uniforms. But this isn't some cunning Thyatian plot, it's the Ankash Tribe. The Ankash are newly arrived to the eastern Waste, having been driven there from their ancestral grounds on the Barren Plains by the Portik tribe. 200 years ago, the Thyatian Empire attempted to found a port on Ankash territory. This was not looked kindly upon by the tribe, and the settlement was wiped out. It was protected by a detachment of Kerendan Heavy Cavalry, and although they were wiped out to a man, the Ankash admired their bravery that they took their armour and weapons for themselves. So now, the Ankash ride into battle wearing 200 year old Thyatian armour and weaponry. They are currently reduced to preying on weak caravans after their suffering at the hands of the Ankash, but as the only heavy cavalry in the desert, it won't remain that way for long.
The Balash Tribe are a peaceful tribe of shepherds who live in the hills above Lake Halli. They are not warriors, and are raided regularly by other, smaller tribes of the northern Waste. They also clash a lot with humanoids from the Black Mountains to the north. The way that they fight back is through the use of camouflage and illusionary magic. It is said that you could pass 5 yards away from a Balashi and never know it. Their settlements are also well hidden in valleys and in the marshes that surround the shore. But perhaps best hidden of all is the Balashi's most sacred site, the Temple of Eiryndul. This ancient structure was found by the tribe 200 years ago, when they were a small struggling tribe driven west by the Menket's. The writings they found there form the basis of their illusionary magic, and it is well protected by wards and illusions. The architecture of the temple suggests it is of Elven construction, but its specific origins are unknown. But for certain it is ancient, and there are other ruins dotted around the hills of similar age. The Balashi refuse to explore these ruins out of respect, but adventurer's may not be so scrupulous.
Upper banks of the Kanda River (the river that feeds into Lake Hast from the west)
The Hanti Tribe are hillmen, and are pastoralist rather than nomadic. They are close neighbours and rivals of the Hastun Tribe, occupying the hills to the west. Like the Hastun, they are worshippers of Djaea. They subsist by farming, mainly rice and maize, in the hills around the Upper Kanda River. The Kanda is a small trickle for most of the year, but when the autumn and spring rains come, it roars into life, swelling to a massive size in a matter of hours. This is central to the Hanti's survival, as they have constructed an elaborate irrigation system that lets their crops thrive. The stepped rice paddies and canals are ancient beyond all reckoning, and are testament to the Hanti's longevity. Some have even theorised that they predate the Urduk's presence in this region, and may have been initially designed and created by an even older race. They trade with the Hastun, and through them with the Sindhi. They live mainly in small hamlets next to their fields, but in times of war, retreat to a hilltop fastness that has architecture quite unlike that of their other settlements, being constructed of solid stone, and built along strict geometric lines. In the centre of the town is a stepped pyramid, something else that is unique in the Waste, and scholars travel from far and wide to study the carvings and paintings contained within it. The Hanti themselves are totally disinterested in the whole thing, and just shrug when questioned about it.
Plains south of the Hanti Tribe
The Kalar Tribe are horse lords, ranging through much of the northern Waste, but commonly found in the plainlands adjacent to Kadesh. They control a large herd of horses, and their livelihood is totally entwined with that of their mounts. They are excellent light cavalry, and often carry out raids on other tribes, seeking to carry away the finest blood stock to improve their herds. Members of the tribe can also be found at the Kesret Oasis in the summer, trading horse flesh with the members of the Korbut Tribe. The Kalar are noted for their veneration of animal spirits rather than a specific Immortal, and the border of their lands can be identified by totems, normally horse skulls, that they use to ward against evil. These totems are enchanted to inspire fear, and many raids into Kalar territory have been known to turn back upon finding one.
Eastern foothills of the Black Mountains
The Landar Tribe of the eponymous Landar Highlands are merchants. They primarily trade in metal goods, buying high quality work from a couple of dwarven clans in the Black Mountains, and selling to other nomadic tribes. The Landar can be found all over the Waste, leading caravan trains of goods from tribe to tribe. They mainly trade in weapons, and also in goods such as belt buckles, stirrups and so on. They are rarely preyed upon by other tribes, as none want to risk losing access to Landar goods. The Landar typically return to the hills for the winter, where they reside in a cave complex deep in the hills. They also clash a lot with humanoids who come down from the higher peaks in a steady stream, and can also be found fighting side by side with their dwarven trade partners. Both sides recognise that common causes are in the best interests of both parties.
The Sind Desert
The Dar Tribe can be found anywhere in the Sind Desert, a vast train of people and camels, moving from water source to water source. They know the secret places where underground lakes and rivers can be found, and their Diviners range far and wide in front of the tribe to find new sources. The Dar are true nomads, calling no place home, and being, as far as possible, totally self sufficient. They are led by Afriz, also known as the Pearl of the Desert, due to his pale complexion, and his admired conduct. He is seen as a paragon by many in the desert, being the model of the honourable Urduk warrior. The Dar are a noble and proud tribe, refusing to stoop to raiding other tribes. One may think this a sign of weakness, but other tribes that make that mistake are soon righted in their thinking. As one of the larger tribes, they were targeted by the Master of Hule for subjugation, and currently, some 1,000 of the tribe serve in his forces under Afriz, who recognises that he cannot stand up to the forces of Hule alone. He works to preserve as much of his tribe as possible under trying circumstances. To prevent Afriz turning against the Master, the rest of the tribe are currently accompanied in their wanderings by some 500 orcish minion of Hule, as "protection" for the remaining women, children and old folk. But any resistance to the Master from the Tribes will surely revolve around Afriz.
Western Barren Plains
The Ankaz Tribe can be found anywhere in the western section of the Barren Plains, normally close to the Throat River. They are cattle herders, marshalling 3 vast herds of cows. The tribe is normally split into three parts, accompanying the separate herds on their grazing. In the autumn months, they travel down towards Kladanovic, where they trade with the townspeople, swapping cattle for other supplies. The Ankaz are also noted leather workers, and a set of Ankaz leather armour commands a steep price from other tribes. They clash often with the Barak Tribe, who rustle their cattle, but it is seen almost as a sport by the two tribes. It is commonly the young warriors of each tribe who take part in the raids, and deaths are very rare. Intermarriage between the two tribes is also common.
The Lonely Mountains
The Lonely Mountains are a small range of mounts that rise out of the Western Sind Desert. They are unmarked on most Known World produced maps, as they are seldom visited, and well away from the normal caravan routes. They are roughly between the two areas of badlands in western Waste, due north of the Twin Oases. This does not mean that they are unknown however. The one thing that the Lonely Mountains possess is ore. Lots of ore. As such, it came to the notice of the Master, who claimed the mountains as his own, and began mining operations. And the one thing that mining needs is cheap labour. The unfortunate Janga and Ko-Mit tribes are that labour. They were nomads of the western Waste, and they were rounded up by the Master's humanoid minions, aided by the Menket Tribe, to work the mines. Theirs is a wretched existence, working in terrible conditions, for ogre overseers that have been brought in to run the operation. The ore that is produced is shipped through the Great Pass back to Hule. A few members of the tribe do remain free, and raid these caravans to survive, but they are too weak to release the other members of their tribe.
The caravan experience
“I signed on out of Sayr Ulan, seemed a good way to make some easy gold. It was a decent sized caravan, 30 wagons or so, carrying cloth and dyes to Slagovich. There were 50 or so guards contracted, along with a couple of clerics and a mage. Most Sindians, as were the merchants, but there were a couple of adventurers from Akesoli, a pair a Atruaghin outriders and a pair of dwarves travelling over to Slagovich looking for work. The Sindians tended to band together, spending most evenings trying to set each others mouths on fire with that orc’s mess they call food. But all in all it was pretty nice, at least until we hit the desert. Two days out of Baratpur we came across the first burnt out wagon. Belonged to a caravan that had left the week before. After that we were coming across bodies and dead horses every hour. Seems they’d been hit by an Urduk tribe raiding across the border. We saw a few horsemen in the distance a couple of times, but no more. Just lucky I guess. We swapped our horses for camels at Gola Keep, from one of the breeders there, nice business if you can stand the heat. Then it was into the desert proper. We lost the first Darokinian a day later, woke up and stuck his foot into his boot, didn’t even have a chance to feel the scorpion sting him. We all slept with our boots on from then on. Two nights later we woke up with half the camels missing, two guards gone as well. The other Daro we lost at the Kesret Oasis, when he got in an argument with some fat Urduk about the fact that the camels we were buying were the ones that had been stolen from us in the first place. After that, I’m just trying to forget. I lost three fingers, my shield, and a good deal of my sanity in that desert. I saw things, and then killed and ate things that no man should have to. Sure, I’ve got a lot of gold for it, but most of that is going on a ship back to Thyatis, no way I’m crossing the Waste again.”
Stefanos Macredos, Thyatian mercenary and one-time caravan guard.
The great caravan trails across the Waste are some of the most dangerous, but most profitable routes in the Known World. Part merchant undertaking, part military expedition, they offer great rewards for those willing to risk all. The riches of the Savage Coast, or the sophisticated wares of Darokin and the Known World await those who are brave and wealthy enough to back these undertakings, and many of the richest people in the Known World have built their fortune on this trade.
From the Known World, the two most common starting points for caravans are Sayr Ulan, in Sind, and the Darokinian city of Akesoli. Both have large marshalling grounds outside the city precincts where the caravans are formed. There are squares within the city where merchants can go to hire on guards, wagoneers, clerics, mages or any of the other desired tradesmen for the journey. Wages are generally high if a flat fee is offered, but most caravans offer a cut of the profits to motivate the participants more. A guard can generally expect to walk away with either 200 gold pieces, or .5% of the net profit of the caravan, depending on the size and structure of it. Some caravans are composites of many smaller undertakings merged together for security, while some are massive expeditions from the Great Houses of Darokin or Glantri. Ylari merchants are also well represented in the Waste, and are one of the few nationalities who tend to hire Urduks as guards.
Caravans normally start out mounted entirely on horses, with most of the wares being carried by wagon. This normally changes later in the journey with some of the horses being swapped for camels to reduce the water required, and also to minimise the impact of broken wheels. Most wagons are lightly loaded to leave them easier to get out of patches of soft sand, and to allow the load of broken wagons to be spread amongst the remaining transport. Blacksmiths and wheelwrights are often taken along by the larger caravans also to make field repairs to allow the caravan to keep moving.
Most of the settlements along the caravan routes are also similarly equipped, Baratpur in Sind for instance being home to many wheelwrights, and also to several merchants who specialise in desert bred camels. Such merchants also exist at Gola and Gunga Keeps, as well as in the village of Palkat, and the Last Inn, a fortified hostelry on the edge of Slagovician territory. Small portable forges can also be bought at many of these places. Within the desert itself, wheels and re-mounts can be bought at the major oases for extortionate prices from Urduk tribes, or from merchants who call those places home. The smaller of the Twin Oases in particular is home to a Ylari merchant called Al-Haran, who carries on wheels and replacement tack for horses, but who is adjudged to be one of the richest men in the desert.
There are 7 main trails through the desert, each one moving from or to a major trading centre. There is the Gola Keep to Kesret Trail, which is the most heavily trafficked. This is mostly a hard packed dirt and sand trail weaving its way through a mostly feature-less landscape. As it is heavily used, it is all also heavily raided by the nomads and humanoids that call the desert home. The Sindhi garrison from Gola Keep does patrol the trail for a days ride from the keep, but further out from that, the caravans are on their own. The Kesret to Twin Oases trail is much the same, dull feature-less desert, broken only by the occasional rocky hill or scrub patch. There are a few minor water sources that experienced caravaneers can make use of along this stretch of the trail, but for the most part it is a long, hot, boring, dusty trail. The trail from the Twin Oases to Slagovich is at several places actually paved. The trail runs along some remnant of a past civilisation, possibly the ones who built the city which overlooks Ardat (the southernmost oasis). It also passes into more fertile plains before reaching Slagovich, which you would think would bring relief to the caravans, but as it is infested with packs of wild dogs, and also teeming with nomads, it is actually among the most dangerous stretch of the entire trail. The Kesret to Hule trail, through the Great Pass, is seldom taken. It is by far the toughest of the trails, running through hundreds of miles of hostile territory. Plus, at the other end, a merchant is likely to be slaughtered if he has not gained permission to enter Hule. The Hulean garrisons at Kesret or the Master’s Fist can give out passes to those seeking to enter Hule through the Great Pass, and will also pass word to the humanoid tribes of the Black Mountains that they are not to be harmed. But getting that far is a feat in itself. The trail from Kesret is very poor, and many caravans lose themselves before reaching the mountains.
The southern, coastal trails are slightly less perilous, but a lot longer. The eastern trail runs from Jahore, through Jaibul, and so on down to Tyjaret. It pass mainly through plains and low hills, so the landscape is a lot more forgiving than the northern trail. However, Urduk and humanoid attacks are more common, and wild animals are also more prevalent in these less harsh climes. From Kladanovic to Slagovich, the trail runs through the Konumtali Savannah, where raids from orcs and wemics are common. Water is common though along this trail, and it is in good repair, being based on an old Hulean road from a previous expansionist phase of that mysterious nation.
A typical caravan will be lead by a lead merchant. He will either be the owner or the largest contingent in the case of composite caravans, the largest investor in the case of share holder caravans, or by a factor appointed by the house leader in Great House/Merchant Company caravans. Under him there will normally be a Head Guard, and a Head Wagoneer. Each will be responsible for their own area of operations. Head Guard will command all the mercenary guards, and ensure the safety of the goods. The Head Wagoneer is responsible for keeping the caravan moving. He will have any blacksmiths, wheelwrights or animal healers reporting to him. The cooks and any clerics also answer to the Head Wagoneer, as he is responsible for the feeding and physical well being of all members of the caravan, be they human, dwarf or camel. There are sometimes official ranks for Head Cooks, Night Watchman (leader of the night guard shift), Head Scout (leader of the outriders) and Head Guide (leader of the guides), but this is generally dependent on the size of the caravan, or how traditional the leader is.
Goods carried by the caravan are normally high value and small volume. It is also very rare for cash to be carried beyond that required for expenses during the actual trip. Merchants generally carry credit notes to be cashed either in Slagovich or Sayr Ulan. These are held at the other end by either banks or representatives of the great merchant houses. This lessens the temptation of the mercenary guards to rob the caravan and disappear. Similarly, the wagoneers and guards are only paid at the end of the journey, particularly if they have negotiated a percentage of the profit as pay. This is also not without its dangers however, as thieves make the newly rich guards they number one targets, with several gangs in Slagovich specialising in robbing caravan guards one day after payment.
Those hoping to trade with Urduk would be well advised to carry different cargo however. The nomads care little for luxuries, and are more interested in well made weapons and armour, iron cookware, bows and arrows, fishing lines, nails and needles and so on. They also prize preserved meat, which is scarce in the desert, as well as dried fruit. These items can make many times their cost from a nomad, and considering the nomads sometimes hold credit notes “liberated” from dead merchants, a shrewd merchant can make a fortune dealing in low cost wares. Those goods that are made in the desert are traded at the great market of Ardat, and many caravans head there as their primary goal, seeking to trade for things to sell on at Slagovich, aiming for a double profit.