Campaign of the Month: June 2012
Languages: Alabic, rarely common
Religion: Ja’llam 50%, Ahuramazdan 35%, Other 15% (usually the Gods of the Tree)
Currency: Trade goods, The Al’Badian Feather when trade is needed.
Resources/Trade: Cloth, Leather, Phosphates, Iron Ore
Enemies: Al’Baid, The Phthyan Empire
Racial Breakdown: Human 90%, Halfling 2%, Elf 4%, Dwarf 2%, Gnome >1%, Other 1%
Major Cities: None, although there are semi-permanent trade sites established at each of the two wadi watering holes – Emmwadi and Ohawadi – as well as some oases.
Major Geological Features:
Life and Society: The classical, fully nomadic Al’Farai tribe lives in tents and raises camels. Their life is simple, elegant, and has a definite culture of its own, complete with laws of behavior and judgments passed down by the ruler of each family oriented tribe. The Al’Farai are true nomads with no interest in settling in one space, and they travel through the wastelands of the Dhakayah Mountains and the hills of al-Emmour as well as through the Deep Sands. When they come to cities such as TBA and TBA, they camp well outside the gates, sending in only a few traders and warriors at a time. They know that they are not welcomed in the cities, and they have no wish to stay.
An Al’Farai tribe has no fixed, permanent camping place; its wandering and grazing area is more or less firmly established by tradition. Occasionally, a tribe may become stronger needing more land for their animals to graze and thus increasing their tribal area, but this often causes wars between two groups who are both using the same territory. In the same manner, weaker tribes who can no longer protect their territory find themselves pushed out by the stronger ones who require new land. Rival tribes have clashed throughout history over disputed wandering areas and grazing and water rights. This has led to complex arrangements between tribes, oaths that may last one generation or many, and blood-wars that show no possible end. The Al’Farai people are stubborn, honorable, and very bound by their oaths and those of their ancestors. They are quite capable of continuing a war over water rights or grazing territory for generations until one tribe or the other is completely destroyed.
The Al’Farai are fairly poor, relying on trade of the goods they produce (cloth and leather, primarily) and the sale of their animals either for meat or for breeding. With herds of sheep and goats as well as camels, the Al’Farai migrate from one meagerly fertile area to another, taking from each the sustenance and shelter that they can provide. After a time, the tribe moves on, and the earth replenishes itself in their absence as they make great migratory circles through their chosen domains.
A tribe will come to the main cities only once or twice a year to trade animals and cloth for weapons and other metal items in addition to water and food supplies such as grain or flour. The Al’Farai are not an agricultural people, and such items are scarce among them. However, there is another time-honored means for the Al’Farai to gain this equipment and some money as well. The Al’Farai are known as a noble people but only to those they respect. As a culture, they have little regard for the city dwellers or for enemy tribes, and such caravans are, to their minds, fair targets for banditry, looting, and outright slaughter. It is dangerous to travel in the Deep Sands without a guide.
Al’Farai tribes occasionally raid trade caravans, or, more often, collect payment for protection or for allowing the interlopers to use their roads. Throughout history, tribes have raided the settled lands in the areas bordering the desert, even making incursions into the areas that now belong to TBA and TBA. Whenever the countries nearby became weak, politically and militarily, Al’Farai incursions and military strikes would gain control, wresting away the women, precious items, and food or water from the failing settlers. Like a pack of wolves ready to descend at any sign of weakness, the Al’Farai tribes are always prepared to take advantage for their own best interest. This trait in particular makes them much hated among the city-dwellers, who see them as little more than thieves and assassins. However, it can certainly be said that once an Al’Farai has given his or her word, he or she will die rather than break it. Understanding how the Al’Farai tribes work and what they respect is invaluable when traveling thorough their domains.
The basic unit of Al’Farai social organization is the tribe, known as the ashira. Most ashira are made of extended family groups, but some of the larger tribes can only assess their linked heritage through marriages or distant relations. Others count the “bonds of blood” (warriors who have killed the enemy together) to be as strong a tie as brotherhood. These tribes may range from 10 to over 200 people from warriors to women and children to the elderly who choose to ride in wagons rather than upon a steed. It is considered a mark of weakness to ride in a wagon, and all those who do so are seen with pity. For this reason, the Al’Farai consider merchants and trade caravans to be weak since most merchants prefer to ride in a comfortable wagon rather than on the back of a horse for long travels.
Frequently, several large tribes will gather to form a large tribal federation known as a qabila. Qabilas are not permanent and rarely last longer than a single season or year. The structure usually gathers at one of the large wadi, or watering hole, and establishes the unified tribe in order to more effectively govern the massive body of people while they are forced into a small area of habitation. The qabila tribe is usually led by a single sheikh, typically the strongest or most intelligent, who has bested his fellows in contests of wit and skill that last a week. During this week while the leader of the qabila is chosen, the tribes gathered will celebrate the opening of the wadi and the peace between them. Even if there are blood-oaths between two tribes or two individuals, no fighting is allowed during this Festival Week because it is believed that the gods themselves watch and would be displeased by bloodshed in anger or hatred at the wadi. The wadi will almost certainly dry up before the end of the season if this law is broken, and all the tribes will have to face the deadly dangers of a long, dry summer without enough water.
Once the Sheikh of Sheikhs has been chosen at the end of the celebration, he wields wide authority over the gathered qabila people, including a certain amount of authority over their personal and family affairs. Women may not marry without the permission of the Sheikh of Sheiks, and all significant trades must include some small tithe to him. In exchange, the Sheikh’s tribe is responsible for maintaining the peace, keeping the religious and martial law, and preventing needless bloodshed between rival tribes.
Few places in the desert are capable of supporting the life of even a small community for an extended period of time, and so the Al’Farai do not remain at the large wadis past the end of the season. By that time, it has likely dried up almost completely, and what water is left will be stored for use over the dry summer. When the rains come again, the wadi will fill once more, and the tribes will gather. Until that happens, the tribes resume their independence and move back to their migratory patterns, content that another year’s trading season has passed.
In such an unforgiving environment, any violation of territorial rights is viewed with severe disfavor. It is a hallmark of Al’Farai culture that such trespasses are neither easily forgiven nor quickly forgotten. At the same time, a shared respect for the dangers and hardships of the desert imbues Al’Farai Culture with a profound and justly celebrated sense of hospitality. In the vast silence and brooding solitude of the wastelands, simply encountering another person was, and in some regions still is, a rather unusual and noteworthy event. A new face is cause for great interest, for happy generosity and careful etiquette, and all values celebrated in Al’Farai for common civility poetry, proverbs, and songs.
Towns and Villages
No fixed settlements