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The History and Culture of the M'karby Geoff Gander
The M'kar arose roughly 5,000 years ago, on a world in another dimension. From the very beginning, they were a highly psychic race, able to read the surface thoughts of other sentient creatures without any effort. This ability conferred an enormous advantage upon them, despite their slow reproduction rate, as they were able to communicate amongst themselves very quickly and across greater distances than would be possible through speech, and therefore control more territory. The early M'kar tribes became organised very quickly, and there was much less variation in culture than was the case among the other sentient races of their world, because individual tribes were never truly isolated. Over the following centuries, the M'kar learned how to use their psychic abilities to fuel further advances to their civilisation, by creating simple devices powered by thought to aid in construction, transportation, and war. At the same time, they also discovered methods of using their psychic abilities to manipulate energy and the elements - with the result being the creation of a unique system of magic that augmented their power as a race even further. As a result, the M'kar became the dominant race on their continent roughly 1,000 years after establishing a true civilisation, and their empire covered much of their world less than 500 years afterwards.
The M'kar Empire was, like the M'kar themselves, highly stratified and autocratic. The M'kar comprised the ruling caste, and were served in varying capacities by their subject peoples - with each race's role being determined by their level of intelligence and the nature of their culture according to M'kar standards. Some races were relegated exclusively to the warrior caste (commanded by M'kar officers), while others became farmers, common labourers, entertainers, and the like. In all matters, even the lowest-ranking M'kar had greater status than a member of any other race by virtue of his or her psychic abilities, no matter how weak they might be. This rigid system of social ranking eventually led to strict separation between the M'kar and their subject peoples, to the point where each M'kar city had its own enclave where the ruling caste lived in their own world, rarely interacting with those who served them. Over time, this separation became so entrenched that many M'kar refused to even look at, or address, anyone of another race.
This highly stratified system, which produced a stable empire that lasted for centuries, also proved to be the M'kars' downfall. Over the centuries, the empire's rigid social structures let to stagnation, as contact between the M'kar and their subject peoples diminished, and the M'kar philosophy of conformity smothered innovation among the ruling caste. Among the M'kar, strict social divisions created a situation where the strongest psychics were looked upon to provide ideas and direction, while the middle and lower classes simply performed the tasks assigned to them. Meanwhile, among the subject peoples, dissatisfaction, and then anger, grew over the indifference of their masters to the needs and concerns of those who served them. While the M'kar lived lives of ease, the rest of the empire began to experience food shortages, rebellions, disease, and other calamities - many of which were the result of bad planning on the part of the M'kar, who based decisions on their own needs and not those of other races. While these problems were not insurmountable, the very nature of M'kar society made things worse, because the ruling caste would not consider that intelligent members of the subject races might have ideas, and their own knowledgeable people were too encumbered by tradition and the need to conform to do anything more than continue doing what has always been done. Expressions of open rebellion were crushed with brutal efficiency, and M'kar enclaves became virtual fortresses as the ruling caste sought to further limit its contact with an increasingly restive population.
After several decades of steady decline, the M'kar Empire erupted in civil war, as prominent leaders of the subject races banded together in a bid to survive by ridding themselves of the ruling M'kar. One by one, the enclaves fell, and the M'kar became even more fearful as the number of voices within their psychic community began to dwindle rapidly. Resistance was almost futile, as the M'kar were few in number compared to their former subjects, and had not fought personally for centuries. The gravity of the situation forced some of them to do something that had not been done in ages - think for themselves.
Knowing that they would be annihilated if they remained, the M'kar sought a safe haven. No place on their world was safe, as their empire covered every region of it, and there was nowhere to hide; the only solution was to find a new home on another world. The M'kar had studied their own solar system centuries before, and knew that there were no other habitable worlds nearby for them to inhabit. Fortunately for them, some thinking had been done during that earlier period on the existence of other dimensions, and it was this idea that they pursued. Within a decade, the M'kar discovered a way of opening interdimensional gates, using their long disused system of magic, and it was through this that the surviving members of the ruling caste fled their world. In so doing, the remaining M'kar were scattered across several worlds - one of which was Mystara. Although the Mystaran colony failed after 1,000 years, others may have survived.
As the only psychic race on their world, the M'kar learned very quickly that they possessed abilities unique to themselves, which both made their lives easier and gave them an advantage over other peoples. As a result, they came to think of other races as inferior and crude, and therefore destined to be subservient. These sentiments only became more prevalent after their civilisation began its meteoric rise, and became a world-spanning empire, as the advantages of their abilities became readily apparent to the M'kar. The M'kars' psychic abilities also resulted in their having a relatively uniform culture with few serious divisions, as the various tribes were always able to maintain mental contact to some degree.
The resulting philosophy of the M'kar, which came to dominate their empire in later years, was that uniformity of thought and action was the greatest virtue. Conformity was much sought after, and bold expressions of individuality were shameful. This also meant that dissenting thoughts of any sort, at least those that could be read easily, were not tolerated. Other races, who did not possess psychic abilities, could not access the thoughts of the M'kar; therefore, they could never be full members of society, and were destined to serve in some capacity. Furthermore, since psychic abilities could not be taught, social mobility was impossible - this ensured that the M'kar would always be the dominant race.
The rigid divisions between the M'kar and their subject peoples were also present among the M'kar themselves. Just as the possession of psychic abilities determined whether one would be in the ruling caste, the strength of those abilities determined how important an individual would be. Accordingly, those with the strongest psychic abilities occupied the most important positions of M'kar government, with order of precedence being determined by the relative strength of one's ability. To ensure that the most important roles in society were occupied by those best suited to the task, every M'kar was assessed at birth by a panel of highly developed psychics, who assigned a social rank to the individual that they would occupy for the rest of their lives. As psychic abilities could not be enhanced, there was no social mobility among the M'kar, either.