I is for Indigenous People; the aboriginal natives of Karameikos.
We all know what a "native" is, right? A person born of a place. I'm both a "native Seattleite," and a "native Washingtonian." Technically, I'm a "native American," though the term is usually reserved for people who lived on this continent prior to European arrival, and the descendants of those people.
There is a human "monster type" (similar to the bandit, noble, merchant, etc.) found in the classic adventure module X1: The Isle of Dread titled "native." The description for the entry states:
"Natives are primitive people who live in jungles, wilderness, or on tropical islands. The warriors of the more warlike tribes (including cannibals) will all be 1st level fighters, but the natives of peaceful tribes are mostly normal humans with fewer high level leaders. Most natives wear no armor (AC 9), but some will wear the equivalent of leather armor (AC 7), and the tribal chiefs may wear special armor of hardened bone or lacquered wood that is the equivalent of AC 5 or 6. Natives may also carry shields."
Here we see the term "native" used in the pejorative sense of the term. "The natives are restless," likely had its origin in referring to the indigenous (native) people of an area and, over time, came to represent any "primitive" non-Western race that a European (i.e. British) conqueror might currently be in the process of re-making in his own image.
To the point where I asked my eight year old the other day, "when I say native person, what do I mean?" and he replied "Someone who lives in a hut or doesn't have a lot of food or stuff like we do." Oh my. We had to have a loooong conversation.
"Primitive" isn't a very good term for a non-industrial or "technologically advanced" society. I'm not a trained (or even amateur!) sociologist or anthropologist, but even a dummy like me can see that ANY people organized into a society has some sort of culture and cultural tradition...concepts and behaviors that have evolved and been passed down over generations...and any such organized society is going to be as culturally developed as another. The pre-European contact peoples of the Americas (and Africa and the Pacific Islands, etc.) already had a developed, advanced culture adapted for their lifestyles...nothing "primitive" about it. We equate a lack of specific technology (steel, firearms, ship-building, etc.) with a lack of intelligence and development...they're a step up from cavemen!...when really the only thing they lacked was the necessity and easy cross-pollination that occurred in other parts of the globe.
[you can kill someone with a stick or rock just fine, but when the guy on the other side of the mountain range is wearing metal armor, you better develop a weapon that will penetrate it...and figure out a way to get some armor of your own!]
Post-contact aboriginals of every landmass had no problems picking up, learning, and using advanced technology, even to the detriment of their would be "colonizers" (in parts of the U.S. it was a capital crime...i.e. punishable by death...to sell firearms to "indians" up through the 19th century). Even learning the language and customs of European was no big deal. What these indigenous people had a much harder time with (and were oh so stubborn about) was abandoning their own culture...their own language, customs, religion, and mindset...that had developed over the course of centuries, in order to adopt wholesale the culture of these invading people.
"Surely they must be primitive...look at them following these superstitious practices!" As if the Christian religion looks O So Grounded in scientific fact, yeah? Where'd I put that machine that measures grace?
Anyway, humans of all stripes have treated strange peoples as "barbarians" since at least the time of ancient Greece (I know this because the word barbarian comes from an ancient Greek word). Age of Sail Europeans were not the first folks to conquer, enslave, and impose their culture on "others," but developments in technology allowed them to have lasting impact on huge swaths of the globe. It is what it is...but let's not continue to judge different cultures by the standards of 500 years ago, okay?
SO...Karameikos. Going by the B/X description of the duchy, there's no mention of any native (i.e. indigenous or aboriginal) humans. There are peoples residing in the land: gnomes, elves, goblins, orcs, and frost giants...but no fellow humans to be "colonized" by a conquering adventurer. GAZ1 is the first place we're introduced to the idea of an "indigenous people" of Karameikos.
Yes, I realize the concept of Traldar is first introduced in B10: Night's Dark Terror. Here's the thing: the Traldar of B10 have no relation to the people of Karameikos; they are some kind of post-neanderthal slave race who've never been "outside the valley" of the Hutaaka. In the ancient history told by B10, there are no "humans left behind to fight the gnolls." There is no King Halav & Co. -- that part of the story is all spun by Allston in GAZ1. In B10, the Hutaaka simply take their proto-humans and leave the scene...centuries later, all one finds in the region is an unblemished (by human) wilderness ripe for conquest by Stefan Karameikos and other adventurers.
All that jazz about Nithia and a "Dark Age" following Halav's battle and whatnot? That's all ADDED to the mix beginning with the Gazetteer. The "Traladara" with their "shared national identity" is all spun from whole cloth by Allston. And while it's interesting to have the political and social ramifications of an on-site conquered people in one's adventuring region, I find the history problematic, and not just because of the pseudo-Gypsy nature of the indigenous natives.
For one thing, I just can't buy into the whole "high-culture-devolves-to-hunter-gatherer-stone-age-in-five-generations" thing. We're talking a single century that the original Traldar clan (from the pseudo-ancient-Egypt Nithian culture) is in Karameikos before losing their shit. Just wouldn't happen. They're not marooned on some desert island or extrasolar planet (like the MZB Darkover setting)...they're on the other side of the mountains for goodness sake! If times got too tough, they'd head back! And in the fantasy world of D&D wouldn't they have clerics, magic-users, etc. with them? And if they didn't (or if these adventuring types were all killed), isn't it a pretty safe bet that the colony would have all perished to a man? We're talking about a D&D wilderness here: one with dragons and trolls and frost giants! It's a tad more hostile than what Lewis & Clark faced on the Oregon Trail, people.
|From Egyptian to Gypsy|
in 1000 years.
Yes, yes...I am a dude with no imagination just pissing in the cornflakes of everyone who LOVES "Mystara" as conceived and published. Here's the thing about fictional histories and backstory, people: for most players of tabletop RPGs this stuff matters very, very little. It matters MAINLY in what it provides as adventure hooks and/or clues to solving current dilemmas (like "how do we defeat this menace" or "where do I find this particular McGuffin").
The person who will find it MOST USEFUL and (hopefully) interesting is the Dungeon Master running the campaign. The DM uses this stuff to understand how and why the setting operates; the DM uses the material to generate adventure ideas and scenarios. The DM uses it as a "setting Bible," a reference to explain to players the answers to questions (about the setting) that might arise in play. "Why do the dwarves hate our characters when we haven't done anything to them?" "Why does this particular village insist on wearing green for the entire month of July?" All that kind of "stuff and fluff" gets answered by the background material AS NEEDED.
[DMs who insist on burdening players with a bunch of extraneous setting detail run the risk of simply BORING their players. D&D is a game of active participation, not a book club]
SO...If I am the Dungeon Master that's running the campaign set in Karameikos, the damn setting better make sense TO ME. If it doesn't, I'm not going to be able to make the best use of it with regard to my players, no matter how cool some people might find a peaceful, advanced tribe of dog-people living in a hidden valley. Sorry.
Having got that all out of the way (and after, once again, deluging readers with a wall of text), let's get some possible ideas for spinning the indigenous folks of Karameikos in a way that doesn't suck too bad (from my perspective):
Option #1: No indigenous humans. This is the easiest, and most "B/X" option. Adventurers seeking to build strongholds or castles are required to clear the area of all monsters and monster lairs before building. As a monster is defined as "any creature or character not controlled by a player," I don't think it's unfair to consider the duchy to have been "cleared" of any pre-existing communities and societies. One might still find hermits, "mountain men" (and "women") or the occasional brave settler family living in the wilds, but most of these (if not all) should be recent arrivals to the region. Any ancient ruins or whatnot found should be from mysterious, long-since-vanished (or exterminated) peoples...and not necessarily human ones.
|Andals versus First Men|
|"Gath of Baal"|
|Black Eagle Barony?|
Ya. More tomorrow.