Monday, September 29, 2008

Tibet



Above is an 1860 sketch of the Hemis Monastery, which, although indicated on the site as Tibetan, is also indicated as being under the present jurisdiction of India. The above, I think, is an interesting image in terms of D&D, suggesting a possible adventure in which monks are a) aided; b) slaughtered mercilessly; or c) no longer in residence. Obviously, there might be other possibilities.

Having finally completed the mapping of the Arabian Peninsula, I am at last, after a long period interrupted by my injury, finished with the entire Mideast, from the Libyan border to Pakistan. Some might argue that the latter is part of the Arab world, but not in the 17th century; at that time, the Indus Valley, the "Land of the Five Rivers" was firmly in the sphere of the Indian subcontinent and the Moghul Empire. Last night I began some of the sketch-work for both sides of the Karakoram and Himalaya ranges, which included Kashmir and a fair sized quarter of Tibet...which got me thinking.

An indepth geographical analysis of Tibet helps reveal the success of Buddhism among the mountains and salt deserts of the region. If there is a word to describe Tibet, it would be "isolated"...not merely from the rest of the world, but still more from itself. Tibet is a patchwork of valleys surrounded by glaciers, uninhabitable and non-arable lands, each of which exists in an unchanging, self-sustained fashion. Whatever the nearby lakes or grazing lands provide, that is what sustains the people...to travel the necessary forty or sixty miles to the next inhabited valley requires immense stamina and resolve. Most of the inhabitants, particularly before the colonial age, would never have done it, as there is very little the next distant valley, shrouded behind ranges of more than 20,000 feet, that this valley here does not have.

Most of the valleys in Tibet are between 14,000 and 17,000 feet above sea level. In the southern reaches, within two or three hundred miles of the Himalayan range, small rivers ebb from glaciers into deep lakes, frozen or partly frozen for eight to ten months of the year at those altitudes. The population is very sedentary, grouped into herders or fishermen, with the ruling class made entirely of holy men. In each valley, these holy men are respected and provided for, in a wholly feudal manner; and since the Lamaist Buddhists seek Nirvana and not earthly power, there is never any war between the valleys.

But then again, one could easily argue the lack of demand for goods encourages a social system which eschews war in favor of an eternally pacifistic, eternally unchanging culture.

What humanoid creatures, however, might exist in the D&D equivalent to Tibet? Are yeti potentially Buddhist? Are there stone giants, dwelling beneath the gentle culture, culling the working population like morlocks, even doing so with the blind eye of the lamasaries? That interests me, personally. The thought that a powerful monastery, full of various masters, would calmly disdain to stop the occasional stone giant roaming through a village choosing a tasty morsel for the evening. While the party watches, of course, their help not asked for, the villagers completely apathetic to the whole proceeding (as they accept whatever the monks say is proper). What then does the party do? Seek out the giants, possibly gaining some unexpected response from the monks? What might they be receiving from the giants in return? Or does the party confront the monks, only to discover they don't care the least about the earth-minding peasantry, being concerned only with "higher" affairs?

Interesting dilemna.

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