We’re rushing headlong into year 2 of the Coldforged book writing, and I’m going to hopefully tackle here as many things to get ready to have the book printed as possible. I hope we’re in the home stretch here. I’m also going to be pushing through “Completed” content as well when the time comes. Hopefully little of it needs much balance testing! This week we’re going to look at the kingdomless nations of the Hrondring!
What, or who, are the Hrondring?
When the idea for the setting, it felt like Barbarians would be a good fit. With a roman analog on one side and a French/German on the other, barbarians could be strong foils that both could play against. I needed them, in my head, to form wandering tribes in the plains and woods around Tyndaria as their homeland.
In addition to barbarians, I also wanted to make sure that there were lycanthropes as a constant threat because I like lycanthropes. This gave me, two different concepts to play off of one another: Roving lycanthrope warbands that threaten both Killbar and Tyndaria? I thought it was great.
This lead to the creation of the Hrondring, a barbarian civilization of Barbarians with totem animals that lived in the wilds between the Kingdoms. Over the years, I made a number of tweaks to the group in order to more accurately reflect my ideas. The final version is what we’ll be talking about today!
An Animalistic Bond
The Hrondring is a civilization of people that, while considered one monolithic group by many outsiders, see themselves as vastly different peoples with few ties to each other. Though they all live on the fingers of society, finding more comfort in traveling than they do in the sedentary towns of the Ulsha – the settled ones- they see their lack of commonality as a greater delineator than their common traits.
The common trait that outsiders notice first is the hrondrings affinity for animals, with each animal specifically depending on the tribe. Each of these tribes has further delineations, but the main tribes are:
Matoh – The Bear
Anuka – The Eagle
Tranka – The Wolf
Kashey – The Boar
Pogala – The Cat
Each tribe member has an affinity for their animal, though the affinity will vary according to each person. This also means that the tribe is often accompanied by a multitude of the animal they have an affinity with, and can form deep bonds with their companions.
Their affinity, however, goes beyond anything understood by more urban societies. The Hrondring aren’t simply humans who have a bond with a specific animal, they are people whose very being is derived from their animal counterparts. This expresses itself through the hrondring have four very forms, and the roles thoses forms take within the culture.
Many Forms, One People
The Hrondring people are different from other humanoids in that they have four different physical expressions of what a “Hrondring” is. The first and most common is the Humanoid form that looks a bit like a lycanthropic human, followed by a hybrid form which combines the features of both the Animal and the human form, then a fully animal form with great intelligence, and the final form being that of a human that can shapeshift between all three at will.
Each of these forms has its own role in society and participates in a manner that will take advantage of their unique skills. The human form makes up the bulk of the race and performs many of the tasks that require manual dexterity, speech, and craftsmanship. They build houses and vehicles, forge weapons, speak with outsiders, and create art and other products. They are the ubiquitous glue that binds the other groups together.
The animal form, while being just as intelligent as their human counterpoints, with emotions and pleasures to match, often take the roles of scouts, guards, and hunters. They work in tandem with humanoids using tools and vehicles to create teams, and these teams often come to regard each other as siblings.
The Hybrid form is a rare form, much more so than either the animal or humanoid, and is seen as an omen from the gods when birthed, an individual destined for greatness within the tribe and, often the greater world. Hybrids, with their distinct traits, are often chosen as leaders of hunting packs and guards, trained in the traditional beliefs to become shamans and priests, and taught fighting styles to maximize their specific advantages. Many of the most important positions in the tribe are held by a number of hybrids who represent a privileged caste.
lastly, there are the individuals who can change their shapes as desired, a trait often realized during adolescence and mastered during their adult years. This coming of age, which happens mostly to humanoid forms, but can occur in both hybrid and animal forms very rarely is often a troublesome time for the individual as they go through fits of rage, anger, and depression according to the cycles of the moon. Those who survive, though, become the blessed of the tribe, who lead them in war and peace and command all beneath them. A small tribe will normally be lead by three to five of these powerful individuals of varying age, with an ever-changing hierarchy of individuals based on respect, deeds, and power. Larger tribes can have whole cadres of these individuals, who become both leader and bodyguard, sitting atop the strata of the civilization, sometimes wisely and other times as villains.
The forms of the hrondring make them hard to classify together, but the fact that each version follows, to an unsettling degree, this same society makes it difficult to classify separately.
Once the physical form of the Hrondring is understood, their culture comes into clarity. They treat their many animal guardians and companions as beloved members of society, revere the shifters and take for granted many of the powerful hybrids.
That said, there is always a sense of respect between the individual forms. The animal form is smart enough to understand language and to wear and use armor correctly. The Hybrids are powerful warriors and those who can shift are gifted often in both physical prowess and arcane might. The humanoid forms craft works of art and tools for the entire tribe to use.
One of the strangest things about the hrondring is their childbearing and rearing. In a mystical and reasonably impossible way, many of the forms can have children of any of the other forms. If two Humanoids have a child, it could be a hybrid, animal or another humanoid, with the same holding true for all of the other forms. It is strange to see A hybrid mother caring for a humanoid child and their animal form sibling, but it is neither strange nor uncommon to them.
These barbarian tribes, these Hrondring that wander the land, do so with the knowledge that their true home (except the Anuka) is within the Valley of Hrond within the Toldirii Hills, east of Tyrandall. It is here, in these peaceful and rolling hills, broken with chunks of stolid stone and rock, that each of the tribes knows from lore and deep-seated personal belief emerged. Their homes after the sundering were safeguarded, somehow, and they have kept their homeland, often due to their knowledge and mastery of the terrain, free from the most egregious Tyndarian and Killbarum influences. Each Kingdom claims the hills, but between their own fighting and the power of the Hrondring clans, neither has been able to claim it long. That does not mean that there aren’t Killbarum and Tyndarian towns throughout, often intermixed, but it does mean that it is more dangerous than in most places to venture out, as an encounter with a Hrondring could spell the end.
Hrondring is generally a lawful and understanding group of people, though they have a stubborn and ingrained honorific streak that leads them to take even the lightest insults personally and repay those deeds many times over. Their discipline and natural tendency towards pack coordination and loyalty to their officers lead them to be treasured recruits on either side of any battle, and both Killbarans and Tyndarians often keep a number of Hrondring on retainer for insurance purposes.
Well, it’s short and pretty bumpy, but it’s out there.
Until next time!