The culture of "Clovius"

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The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Graybeard » September 16th, 2013, 8:55 am

OK, here's another opportunity for some world building.

The intrepid adventurers are heading back to civilization, such as it is, by way of a Northern Confederacy city-state called "Clovius." (BTW, info on where the name came from on request, although by PM as the answer may offend some readers.) As usual, being in the Confederacy, we have nothing about it in Errant Story, and therefore have a blank canvas on which to paint the image of a culture. So let's throw some ideas around. The boundary conditions, so to speak, are:
  • It's close to the border (such as it is) between the Confederacy and the troll lands, and is one of the hubs for the very limited and nervous trade that exists between Confederacy humans and trolls, with all that that implies. (We should sort through what those implications are.)
  • The economy is presumably based on mining and forestry, being that it's in a setting where scraping a living from farm lands is a rather marginal proposition due to climate and terrain. The forestry part of that might be interesting: between plain old necessity and the interactions with the trolls, the Clovians might have learned to do forestry in a more "sustainable" way than the rape-and-run approach to the industry prevalent in most of the real world.
  • Its location is such that the trade routes south, into the rest of the Confederacy, eventually lead to Salvus -- which is known from Errant Story, a brawling border town from which more developed, and presumably faster-moving, trade routes extend into Veracia. This means it's also comparatively close to both Santuariel, which Argus may want to visit to see his daughter, son-in-law and grandchild in utero, and Albigenish, which Rose of course very much wants not to visit. The existence of half elves would therefore be known in Clovius, although presumably, none live there.
  • For reasons that will become clear, the Veracian Church (or, if you prefer, government of Veracia, more or less the same thing) once had an outpost there, but doesn't any more, mainly as a result of simply losing interest in the place. The attitude of the Clovians toward wandering Veracians may therefore warrant some development.

So whaddya got on this place? I don't see it as leading to the extended story line that Goriel did (unless people specifically want it to), but there are still opportunities for development as people wish. It would also be a great place to bring in new players with new characters. I do have some ideas in mind for it, but would prefer that we work collaboratively, so let a thousand flowers bloom...
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Re: The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Alberich » September 16th, 2013, 4:14 pm

Well, lessee, when I see a land with mineral resources that isn't good for farming (because it's too cold or dry or whatever), I usually see people chasing or herding animals across it to start with (Alaska, Siberia, the Arabian peninsula, whatever). So --

maybe the inhabitants were at one time tribally organized nomadic hunters, chasing aurochs across the plains and woodland reindeer through the woods, and living on animal-based "iron rations" in the winter (maybe they invented the brand used by the Veracians to this day). Under competitive pressure from the trolls and other humans, some iron-handed moral-equivalent-of-Hiawatha united them a while back. When their desolate-looking country became a trading route, they responded first by exacting tribute, and later by getting involved themselves - to such an extent that you can't carry goods through Clovius without the "involvement" of a Clovian firm, who will of course provide native drivers, guides, and escorts. When some foreigner discovered the mineral deposits that are the basis of their mining industry, they insisted on keeping that industry under native control, so that anyone wanting to dig in Clovius has to hire on a bunch of meddling locals, or else go into partnership with one of the native firms.

Culturally I think their ancient tribal dueling code should remain. If they're a major trading route and deal with trolls they probably can't afford to be hostile (or blind) to magic, so I'm guessing it's in wider use than in Goriel. And I think it would be kind of fun if they had a national obsession with gambling -- a weakness that provides a chink in their semi-xenophobic armor.
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Re: The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Jack Rothwell » September 16th, 2013, 4:28 pm

A lot of woodland up there? I'm trying to gauge the possibility of any of Tamina's people migrating there.

If there's a bit of tribal mentality in the place it could raise the possibility of settlements of people who are excessively on the savage side. Myra is from the north, and her group was of the fur-wearing, tattooed, head-butting variety.
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Re: The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Graybeard » September 16th, 2013, 7:27 pm

The Alaska/Siberia model probably works up to a point, but I think the Sami people of northern Scandinavia ("Lappland"), as they existed in the 19th century, might be a slightly better one. Ironically, however, it's probably the trolls who fit these models better than the Clovians do. The trolls inhabited these lands long before the humans got there, just as the Sami, Inuit, etc., were the "indigenous" peoples whose territory was then encroached upon, just as the humans are doing in the Errant World (although I think the Clovians would have reached a state of live-and-let-live with the trolls). There are other similarities between Errant World trolls and real-world Sami, such as presence of a viable indigenous religion, language incomprehensible to their near neighbors, low population density, and so on. (A difference is that the trolls don't practice herding-based agriculture to the best of our knowledge, but that just means their population density is going to be lower, just as the Sami's once was.) By contrast, by the time humans got entrenched in the territory that now includes Clovius, they would have developed techniques for agriculture/forestry, trade, even governance, etc., in the south, and brought those along. Humans are the latecomers to this setting. They wouldn't have needed to go through the semi-nomadic phase, and indeed, would have been deterred from having such a phase by the presence of the trolls.

Jack Rothwell wrote:A lot of woodland up there? I'm trying to gauge the possibility of any of Tamina's people migrating there.

If there's a bit of tribal mentality in the place it could raise the possibility of settlements of people who are excessively on the savage side. Myra is from the north, and her group was of the fur-wearing, tattooed, head-butting variety.

It seems an unlikely place to run into kobolds, between nasty climate and the fact that there are plenty of, ahem, competitors :evil: for resources compared to what the Killikah have down south. Myra might be from Clovius, or she might be from one of the other northern city-states; if she's from Clovius, JR, what does that say about the place?
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Re: The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Alberich » September 16th, 2013, 8:15 pm

According to the Wiki,

"The Northern Confederacy is probably the only non-elven derived civilization in the comic (not that it warrants the distinction much, to hear people tell it). The core of its population seems to have been formed by human tribal bands that sometime during the Elven Golden Age civilized themselves when nobody was looking."

...it sounds to me as if the humans did go through their semi-nomadic phase up there, where their only form of governance was "tribal bands," and only settled down sometime after their arrival.

But I'm not proposing to map any particular Earth people onto them - only taking that as a starting point for a picture of what they might be like.

If Myra is from there, to me it says they've got bad booze and rude tattoos. And are probably one of the less civilized corners of the Confederacy. 'specially in bed (rowrrrr). (This is in keeping with the Wiki's statement that Northern culture is supposed to be "more than a little barbaric, some cities more than others." As Goriel shows.)
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Re: The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Graybeard » September 16th, 2013, 9:29 pm

Alberich wrote:According to the Wiki,

"The Northern Confederacy is probably the only non-elven derived civilization in the comic (not that it warrants the distinction much, to hear people tell it). The core of its population seems to have been formed by human tribal bands that sometime during the Elven Golden Age civilized themselves when nobody was looking."

...it sounds to me as if the humans did go through their semi-nomadic phase up there, where their only form of governance was "tribal bands," and only settled down sometime after their arrival.

But I'm not proposing to map any particular Earth people onto them - only taking that as a starting point for a picture of what they might be like.

If Myra is from there, to me it says they've got bad booze and rude tattoos. And are probably one of the less civilized corners of the Confederacy. 'specially in bed (rowrrrr). (This is in keeping with the Wiki's statement that Northern culture is supposed to be "more than a little barbaric, some cities more than others." As Goriel shows.)

Well, the humans are still the newcomers to the area; check out this installment of the Chronicles of Heretic Knowledge. Humans have been pushing the trolls back into the wastes for "centuries," according to Poe. Clovius is kinda the strike surface for part of that push, although at least for the moment, the two races have reached an uneasy truce there -- or at least, so I would prefer.

Fact is, we just don't know much about the Northern Confederacy. The "non-elven derived civilization" reference in the wiki turns out to date back all the way to 2006, before we knew much of the history of the Errant World, and it should not be taken as authoritative. However, nothing that I have been able to find in the archives, Chronicles of Heretic Knowledge, or Poe's on-line comments since then confirms the statement. I should probably delete it from the wiki, or at least label it speculation. Anyway, it shouldn't be taken as binding, particularly in the face of some later evidence that it may not be correct.

Incidentally, one thing we do know about the Confederacy is that they have far more advanced non-magical weapons than Farrel or Veracia do. What implications does that have for Clovius? Seems like it would be one of the places that would go to some lengths to have such weapons available, if the trolls break the truce.
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Re: The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Alberich » September 17th, 2013, 12:10 am

Thanks for the link - which I think is pretty close to the Wiki:

Poe wrote:Following the Elves’ self-imposed exile, the trolls were slow to return. By the time the tribes began to return, they found themselves sharing the lands with new competition, humans.

At first the trolls tolerated the humans’ presence, as it was clear they were just barely surviving after being abandoned by the elves. They soon came to regret that decision as the humans began to rebuild…


...this implies, though it doesn't outright say, that the humans were in a primitive state when the trolls showed up. It also makes sense given the gradual push-back you mention.

If the humans came north with a civilization (and "modern" forms of governance and military organization), I don't think they'd be pushing the trolls back slowly over "centuries." More likely there'd be bloody campaigns, Troll Wars, punitive expeditions, "great battles" that really decide issues, etc...but if the humans were organized on old-fashioned tribal lines, as the trolls themselves (usually) were, they could be engaged in constant but extremely low-level warfare for centuries, with only gradual shifts in who controlled which territory.

(By sheer coincidence I was rereading this when you started this thread - which illustrates over and over (1) just how constant intertribal warfare can be, and (2) just how inefficient it can also be...)

The uneasy peace you're talking about could date back to the unifying Hiawatha/Bismarck figure I posited in my original post -- maybe we could call him "Clovis" (Wikipedia tells me that "Clovis" is just a Latinized form of the German form of "Louis" - and that this is why "Louis" is such a popular name for Kings of France) -- who by whatever means got enough control of the united tribes to ensure that one of them wouldn't start any fights that all of them had to finish, and that there'd be no more unorganized land-grabs (though there might be a few organized ones...as when a new mine is discovered on troll territory and the Clovians simply must have it).

Also, if the humans started primitive, chasing the same game animals as the trolls did, but later on turned to mining and trade, that would explain how the uneasy peace became possible...since they would no longer be in direct competition for the food supply.

Graybeard wrote:Incidentally, one thing we do know about the Confederacy is that they have far more advanced non-magical weapons than Farrel or Veracia do. What implications does that have for Clovius? Seems like it would be one of the places that would go to some lengths to have such weapons available, if the trolls break the truce.


I quite agree...and the introduction of such weapons might well have played an important role in tribal unification as well (which may've included the Clovian equivalent of the Musket Wars) -- and more recently in the trolls deciding to respect that "uneasy peace" when the humans got around to announcing it.

In other words, before firearms and unification, the trolls might occasionally raid, kill a human or two, break or steal some stuff, and leave. The only retaliation would be a similar raid by the affected tribe or sub-tribe, who did such things all the time anyway (as fits a great deal of human history). After unification, firearms, and the adoption of more modern military attitudes by the Clovians, such a raid would (1) result in unacceptable troll casualties, and (2) lead to a serious, gunpowder-armed punitive expedition. From the human point of view, after the troll-Delphiniel war described in the link, letting Clovians pull random raids on the trolls runs the risk of provoking another such thing...so the Clovian government prefers to enforce the peace on its own people as well as the trolls.

If you agree with my proposal for what Clovius looks like, the government should probably include a council of elders (dating back to the times when the tribes had stronger separate identities), with an executive chosen by them as the Witan chose the Anglo-Saxon kings...maybe selected for life, but not necessarily succeeded by his designated heir, since the Council would be looking to ensure the next ruler had the necessary diplomatic and military qualities, generosity to themselves, and devotion to their "Clovius First" mindset. In a nod to the English, we could call it the Common Council, with the ruler called, let's see...(getting thesaurus)....well, you can't go too far wrong with "king."
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Re: The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Graybeard » September 17th, 2013, 9:32 am

Alberich wrote:If the humans came north with a civilization (and "modern" forms of governance and military organization), I don't think they'd be pushing the trolls back slowly over "centuries." More likely there'd be bloody campaigns, Troll Wars, punitive expeditions, "great battles" that really decide issues, etc...but if the humans were organized on old-fashioned tribal lines, as the trolls themselves (usually) were, they could be engaged in constant but extremely low-level warfare for centuries, with only gradual shifts in who controlled which territory.

Well, two points. First, for millennia now, the real world has had a population that, apart from natural disasters like the Black Death, has basically been full of people to the limits of its natural carrying capacity (and, in modern times, arguably beyond). The carrying capacity itself has increased, largely due to massive improvements in agriculture and medicine, but with very few exceptions (New Zealand, and I really can't think of others), for centuries the major landmasses have all been populated with as many people as the ability to feed hungry mouths and stave off disease would allow. (Again, exceptions for things that caused population crashes, like the Black Death; Europe wasn't overflowing with people in its aftermath, although it would be again within a century or so.) Not so the Errant World. Right up to the time of Errant Story, there appear to be considerable areas of the Errant World that could support human populations in principle, but in practice, don't. Consider the deal cut by Farrel to give their new friends in Tsuirakushiti the archipelago that is now Tsuiraku, which still isn't fully populated to this day. There's nowhere like that in the real world, and the result is that many of the population pressures that drive earthly events don't exist in the Errant World, at least not everywhere.

Second, the site of Clovius is not exactly prime real estate for human expansion to the extent that it is needed. The process of pushing the trolls back would have been going on for decades/centuries/whatever in the relatively hospitable climes of Veracia and Farrel, which would have been, if not filled to capacity, at least subject to population pressures. But that's not the way the Northern Confederacy is. If they need more land to feed a growing population, there are almost certainly better places to look for it (and take it away from the trolls if need be) than so high in the mountains that agriculture doesn't work well. The "competition" of which Poe speaks would have been (and, based on the encounter that Sara and Warrel had with trolls, would still be) active in Veracia and Farrel, and in more hospitable places in the Confederacy. It wouldn't be occurring in as inhospitable a locale as the land around Clovius ... yet. That day is coming -- the existence of Clovius tells us that -- but it's still in the future.

In any case, in contrast to Goriel, I don't think we need to worry too much about the governance of Clovius, because our heroes aren't going to be there for very long. The real question is what the people are like, and in particular, how they conduct themselves with respect to the trolls, trade partners in the south, and above all, unexpected visitors like our group. Whether it's a place in the aftermath of consolidation of warring tribes, as you prefer, or a bunch of recent arrivals living hardscrabble lives more or less in harmony with each other, as I do, really matters only to the extent that it affects Rose, Tim and colleagues as they pass through. So let's concentrate on that.
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Re: The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Alberich » September 17th, 2013, 12:16 pm

Graybeard wrote:Well, two points. First, for millennia now, the real world has had a population that, apart from natural disasters like the Black Death, has basically been full of people to the limits of its natural carrying capacity (and, in modern times, arguably beyond). The carrying capacity itself has increased, largely due to massive improvements in agriculture and medicine, but with very few exceptions (New Zealand, and I really can't think of others), for centuries the major landmasses have all been populated with as many people as the ability to feed hungry mouths and stave off disease would allow. (Again, exceptions for things that caused population crashes, like the Black Death; Europe wasn't overflowing with people in its aftermath, although it would be again within a century or so.) Not so the Errant World. Right up to the time of Errant Story, there appear to be considerable areas of the Errant World that could support human populations in principle, but in practice, don't. Consider the deal cut by Farrel to give their new friends in Tsuirakushiti the archipelago that is now Tsuiraku, which still isn't fully populated to this day. There's nowhere like that in the real world, and the result is that many of the population pressures that drive earthly events don't exist in the Errant World, at least not everywhere.


I think the operative words are "at least not everywhere." As you pointed out before, we have very little info on the Northern Confederacy, and can fill it in as we like. There's no need to assume that "wherever you go in the Errant World, every piece of land is underpopulated." Maybe that Farrelian peninsula you're talking about is the Errant World equivalent of New Zealand...the exception rather than the rule.

So if Clovius is not prime real estate for farming, but is still a place you can chase animals across, that would be enough to put humans in contact (and competition) with the trolls there, before mining and trade came to expand and enrich the human population. Doubly so if the "better places to go" (nearby) were, in fact, already full of humans by the time they reached Clovius. Especially easy if the other humans were still hunting tribal bands rather than settled farmers at that time - hunting supports a lot fewer people per square mile than farming, and for an area to be "full of" humans wouldn't take many people at all back then.

Graybeard wrote:The "competition" of which Poe speaks would have been (and, based on the encounter that Sara and Warrel had with trolls, would still be) active in Veracia and Farrel, and in more hospitable places in the Confederacy. It wouldn't be occurring in as inhospitable a locale as the land around Clovius ... yet.


I don't see why not; once the humans were there and satisfied they could live there, I don't think they'd have to flee just because there was competition, especially since fleeing anywhere else nearby would put them into conflict with some other group of humans. After trade/mining/unification, their wealth, organization, and priorities change...so that they're not actively fighting the nearby trolls any more.

Graybeard wrote:In any case, in contrast to Goriel, I don't think we need to worry too much about the governance of Clovius, because our heroes aren't going to be there for very long. The real question is what the people are like, and in particular, how they conduct themselves with respect to the trolls, trade partners in the south, and above all, unexpected visitors like our group. Whether it's a place in the aftermath of consolidation of warring tribes, as you prefer, or a bunch of recent arrivals living hardscrabble lives more or less in harmony with each other, as I do, really matters only to the extent that it affects Rose, Tim and colleagues as they pass through. So let's concentrate on that.


Well, I've given you my thoughts on that. (Because you asked for them; I'm not running any adventures there, though I expect to have a couple of N.C. characters involved in my Tsuiraku adventure when that gets moving again, and it may be one will be Clovian.) Strongly suspicious of outsiders and used to extracting tolls or tribute from them; fond of strong drink. tribal tattoos, and gambling; ready to fight on points of honor.
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Re: The culture of "Clovius"

Postby Jack Rothwell » September 17th, 2013, 3:57 pm

On the subject of Myra possibly being from Clovius, I could always tweak her background to make it so. She's never explicitly stated where she was from in the story anyway.

Profile is here, it paints the picture of a barren, stony city with a large plague-ridden criminal underclass and threadbare surroundings. Hope that's a help.
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