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A ramble on the Traldaran Gypsies

by Rick LaRue and James Mishler

I get a picture of your typical gypsies, maybe one or two tribes, consisting of several clans. Each clan would be an extended family that travels together. Each clan would have a reputation for something different, like seers, healers, entertainers, thieves, storytellers etc. They would travel in caravans of horse drawn Vardos(sp?), with farm animals (goats, chickens, cows etc.) trailing behind. Each clan would be lead by the elders (the oldest male and female). Typically, the oldest female would be the clan's primary seer/diviner/healer. The elders would have the final say on all matters that effect the whole clan. They would arrange marriages between clans to form alliances and diffuse feuds (as well as keep the clans strong and healthy). A clan might consist of one set of grandparents, one or two of their sons, their son's families and maybe their grandson's families. Typically, only unmarried daughters would still live with their blood relatives, going to live with their new clan upon marriage. Maybe a few clans operate barges along the larger rivers, transporting goods and people for a 'small fee' and acting as river traders and guides.

PCs might be primarily thieves and bards, with pure fighters being rare. There would be several types of Gypsy kits for each class, providing appropriate skills and flavour. Maybe a specialty Gypsy Seer kit combining wizard and clerical divination spells and a Gypsy Healer Kit.

They would play the role of bards in Karameikos, travelling from place to place, entertaining and spreading news and gossip. While in town, they would perform music, songs and dance, storytelling, fortune telling, healing, as well as do some trading. Secretly, they would act as spies for the remaining Traladaran Lords and maintain an information network between them.

Being freedom loving nomads with a strong history, they would resent the current government. Many would be convinced that Traladaran people should determine their own destiny. They would feel oppressed under the often harsh rule of the new Thyatian lords. Being generally a peaceful group, they would seek to embarrass these lords instead of hurt or kill, but never at the expense of their Traladaran brothers and sisters. Truly sinister acts by a Thyatian lord might bring serious retaliation and ultimately a Gypsy Curse. Removed only if he undoes whatever he did to earn their anger.

Obviously, they would be seen differently be different people. Those of Traladaran decent would see them at best as heroes and at worst as troublemakers. Those of Thyatian decent would see them as lawless thieves and con artists. The new mixed blood Karameikans might see them as a colourful remnant of the past, or dangerous and close-minded upstarts trying to destroy the new order. The church of Traladar would turn a blind eye to their various unsavoury actions, while the Church of Karameikos and the Order of the Griffin would actively discriminate against them. Their relationship with the Cult of Halav would be vague. While they might agree with the belief that King Halav will one day return to raise the Traladaran people to new heights, they would disagree that King Stephen, a Thyatian conqueror, is Halav reborn. Local elves might see them as kindred spirits, ignoring their less honourable tendencies and enjoying their love of life and freedom.

Officially citizens, many Thyatian Lords might barely tolerate them in their lands, and from time to time declare them outlaws and thieves for real or imagined crimes. Since most people know little about them, they might mistake them as a single group, instead of several independent clans. So the actions of one clan might cause trouble for the others. In many cases, problems occurring after a visit from gypsies are blamed on them, regardless of their guilt. For example, a farmer's cow dies the day after a gypsy caravan passes through town. Superstitious townsfolk may blame the sudden death on a gypsy curse.

Several clans might travel outside of Karameikos, to Darokin, the Five Shires and Rockhome. They would see the Darokin merchant's strict mercantile ethics to be humorous, perfect for taking advantage of. The Hin of the Five Shires would enjoy their visits, seeing them as mysterious and interesting. Their sheriffs might not agree, keeping a close watch on the light fingered nomads. The dwarves of Rockhome would dislike their larcenous reputation, but enjoy the chance to trade for colourful trinkets. Few clans ever venture into Thyatis or farther north than Darokin.

They trade for EVERYTHING, preferring goods, services, trinkets and services over Royals and Cronas. The often accept promises for later services in place of immediate payment. They interpret promises literally, so care must be taken on the exact wording. Everyone knows that crossing a gypsy is foolish. Many stories told to frighten children, tell of a broken promise to a gypsy and the terrible consequences. They most common stories tell of gypsy curses and kidnapped children, but in any case, breaking a promise to a gypsy brings a harsh, but fitting punishment.

Gypsies follow only gypsy law, such that it is. They ignore laws they don't like, completely unfettered by guilt. To a gypsy, justice is more important than law. They believe that it is not wrong to steal, since if the person truly cared about the stolen item, they would not have left it where someone could steal it in the first place. They have harsh views on murder and rape, seeing both as the most horrible of crimes. They also dislike broken promises and lies, but think nothing of twisting the truth in their favour. Gypsy punishments for crimes are always fitting. A broken promise for services might be responded to by the kidnapping of a young child who will perform services in their parent's place. Meanwhile the child will be accepted as one of the clan and raised as any other gypsy child. They tend to rationalise this by saying that a parent without honour does not deserve to raise such a beautiful child, and to protect the child, they will take him and raise them properly. Assault on a gypsy would be answered with a curse like 'May you always be the target of the anger of others' or 'May the pain of your victims haunt your sleep forever.' or something nasty and poetic.

Religiously, they would have a strong connection to Petra, Halav and Zirchev(sp?). They might also have a strong connection to the land, drawn to it, but unable to settle down. This might have something to do with a curse placed upon them, or maybe a sacred charge given them by the Immortals to always travel across the land, protecting it and keeping the old traditions alive. In any case, their motivation to roam across Karameikos should be deeper than simple wanderlust. The reason might even be so old, they no longer remember why they constantly travel, they just do. The few who settle down are usually restless, secretly longing for their old life. The gypsy blood in the children of these settled gypsies usually infects them with a similar desire to wander, causing them to seek a life as an adventurer.

Rick LaRue

I, too, have put together a little on the Gypsies of the Known World (the "Darine", in my campaign). The Darine, like the Traladara, are descendants of the Traldar (note that, at least in my campaign, MANY of the peoples of the Known World are descendants of the Traldar; including the Daro (the natives of Darokin are part Traldar, part Antalian); the Dairu (natives of Ochalea, heavy admixture of Oltec); the Milenians (and their descendants, the Minaeans); the Aran, or Danoia (part Traldar, part Dunael); the Alatians and Trikelians; and of course, the Thyatians (Antalian/Traldar folk)). Anyway, the Darine are descended from Traldar that migrated west into Sind during the invasion of the Red Orcs in 1000 BC (in myth the RW Gypsies were both from Egypt and India (Egypt/Gypsies); as the Traldar were descended from the Ptahr al-Dar clan of Nithians, I felt this was an appropriate origin). Never quite fitting in to the local culture, the Traldar Tribe that formed from these refugees moved out of the region in 600 BC and hasn't ever really settled down since... though the region of Traladara has become a "Homeland" for many of the clans, the Darine range all across the continent of Brun and beyond...

James Mishler

Bingo! In my research I found the same origins of the RW Gypsies. Historically, the gypsies (considered a separate ethnic group) were first found in north central India. It is unknown weather they lived in India as part of the caste system, or on the fringes of that society. Regardless, they began migrations from India, through the Middle East during the 9th century. Originally called the Dom, and later Rom (meaning 'the people'), they speak a language called Romany, a variation of Sanskrit with loan words mixed in. Their wanderings brought them to Europe in the 14th & 15th centuries where they gained the name Gypsy after their assumed place of origin, Egypt. They have a history as entertainers, blacksmiths, fortune tellers and horse traders. They usually practice the religion most common to where they live. They are insular and believe contact with non-gypsies to be 'polluting'. They practice marriage arrangement, have a strict moral code and have a strong sense of tradition. The Kris (an informal court) is used to address and mediate disputes, matters of common law and Gypsy custom, using it in place of established institutions. The have been and continue to be discriminated against because of their refusal to integrate into mainstream society. A rough estimate places current gypsy population at over 6 million worldwide, with several tribes and numerous groups living across Europe, the Middle East and North America.

With this in mind, and with Mystaros' notes on Traldaran descent, I think Karameikos is the perfect place for Traladaran or Mystaran Gypsies. My intent when I said they didn't travel far north or into Thyatis was not to keep them isolated. I figured that they wouldn't go to Thyatis because of hard feelings against their 'conquerors' and avoided Glantri because of the Glantrian attitude to strangers. Glantri blames the Dwarves of Rockhome for bringing a plague, what if they included the Gypsies too? I think that the idea of them travelling across Brun is cool, but was thinking about areas that might attract them. I don't picture them in Ylaruam or the Broken lands or the Northern Territories, but there is no reason they couldn't go there. Maybe taking on some different characteristics. The more I think about it the more I like it. :)

I also like the name 'Darine', but think they should have many names. Maybe the people from Darokin call them one thing, the Karameikans call them something else, and they call themselves something completely different.