Night's Dark Terror
People of Karameikos
The PeopleMost of the humans of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos fall into two categories: Native Traladarans and those of Thyatian descent. Other inhabitants of the duchy include elves, gnomes, humans of mixed descent, a few dwarves and halflings, the savage demi-humans in their distant villages, and traders who’ve settled in Karameikos-and among that last category are representatives of practically every humanoid race and nation in the world.
TraladaransThe Traladarans, descendants of the native Traldar tribe of legend, tend to be fairly small (men average 5’9”, women 5’3”) and light of build. They tend to have pale complexions, brown eyes, and dark hair (deep brown to black).
In general, they are very superstitious people-if you can call it superstition when it’s based on truth. They are great believers in good luck charms, omens and portents (palm reading, the reading of tea leaves or sheep entrails, interpretations of natural phenomena if it’s a strange event, the Traladara consider it an omen), curses and evil eyes.
Outside the larger towns, education is not widely-spread. In the more rural communities, most villagers are illiterate, though often a cleric will be lettered. (Player Characters, being exceptional people, don’t have to worry about this; if you have enough Intelligence to be literate, you can be literate if you wish. If you prefer, because of the way you conceive your character, that he be illiterate, that is also your choice.)
For the most part, Traladarans don’t care much for Thyatians. They see the Thyatians as the latest wave of bad luck which keeps the Traladarans from re-achieving their Golden Age. Since many of the original Thyatian arrivals were rotten land-grabbers, many of the Traladarans see all Thyatians as being the same. (If you don’t wish for your own character to feel this way, he doesn’t have to.)
Though the majority of the population of Karameikos is Traladaran, the court language is Thyatian. Thyatian is the language of official documents and trade and is basically the “Common Tongue” of Karameikos. Most Traladarans under the age of 30 speak Thyatian, usually with a distinct accent which marks their Traladaran origins.
ThyatiansMost of the nobles in Karameikos are of Thyatian descent, and a sizeable proportion of the commoner population is of Thyatian descent.
Thyatians tend to be physically larger than Traladarans, men averaging around 5’11” and women about 5’5”. The Thyatians have had centuries to interbreed with other nations, and so there is no one Thyatian look; hair ranges from dark blonde to dark brown, with occasional redheads (including the Duke); eye color ranges from blues to browns and blacks. The Thyatians tan more easily in the sun than the paler Traladarans, who tend to sunburn easily.
The Empire of Thyatis is a large, flourishing empire with powerful armies, strong trade relations with the great nations of the world, lavish arts and entertainments, and a cultural standard equaled in few places in the world. So it’s natural that many of Thyatian descent tend to feel superior to the native Traladarans. Among many of the Thyatians, there is a sentiment that Traladarans are superstitious and ignorant, and many feel that Thyatian spoken with a Traladaran accent denotes lack of mental ability. (Again, this is a prejudice which you don’t have to foist on your own character if you don’t wish to.)
Half-BreedsIn the last thirty years, since the arrival of Duke Stefan and his followers, there have been born many children of mixed Thyatian and Traladaran descent. Most of them are the children of Thyatian men who immigrated to the duchy, fought in the Duke’s army, then retired to wed local women. Very few children of Thyatian women and Traladaran men.
A half-breed is likely to be somewhat taller than the average for Traladarans, usually with dark hair and blue or light brown eyes. How he feels about Thyatians and Traladarans will depend on the way he was raised, but in most cases the half-breeds recognize that neither Thyatian nor Traladaran has any great advantage over the another; the half-breed gets along well with people of both backgrounds.
The Shearing CeremonyThe native Traladarans have a custom which is an important part of the Karameikan national character.
Called the Shearing Ceremony, it was developed in the village of Marilenev (Specularum) and was in common use there and in surrounding areas in the centuries before Thyatis conquered Traladara. Since that time, improved trade with the inland communities has spread the Shearing Ceremony throughout the land. When Duke Stefan and the Thyatian settlers came, they were acquainted with the ceremony and generally adopted it.
It goes something like this: When a Karameikan youth approaches adulthood, either he will approach his parents or they will approach him with news that it is time for the Shearing.
Soon after, at a dinner to which other family members or village leaders may be invited, the youth stands silent while his parents solemnly dress him in traveling gear. The bottom of his cloak is sheared off and left ragged as a reflection of his condition: That of an impoverished traveler.
From that time, the sheared youth is considered a friend of the family but not part of it. He must make his own way in the world until the family decides he is worthy of the clan. Usually, living apart from the clan for a few years and participating in acceptable adventures or trading ventures is proof that the youth is able to prosper on his own; when his parent reach that conclusion, he is invited to another dinner, at which time he is presented with a garment bearing the clan’s markings or coat of arms. This indicates that he is once again part of the family.
All young men between the ages of 14 and 19 are Sheared. (Usually, the lad approaches his parents first, because it’s an embarrassment to wait so long that they come to you.) Young women are not approached by their parents, but may insist that they be Sheared. Being Sheared and living away from the family for a few years is a good way for a young woman to earn respect within her family.
When the Thyatians came to Karameikos, they saw in the ceremony a way to separate the worthwhile from the parasitic in their own families, and adopted the custom.
A Sheared youth from a titled family is not considered to have any title until he is invited by his family to rejoin their ranks.
Shearing is a human custom, not shared by the demi-humans of Karameikos.