Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Don Cossacks I

The land of the Don Cossacks, called 'Dikoloj' by the people themselves, or the Wild Field, is a flat steppe as large as England that extends on both sides of the lower Don River, between the Caspian and Black Seas.  The land was settled by the Khazars early in the 12th century, a trollish race whose descendents dwell in diminishing numbers in an isolated pocket within Ottoman Kubanistan.  The Khazars were overrun in the 1180s by Cumans and Pechenegs, who destroyed many of the trolls before moving west against the lands of Kiyev.

For the next 60 years, the Dikolaj would be largely unoccupied except for scattered remnants of trolls and Cuman orcs, as well as Digorians, minotaur raiders and Turkish adventurers.  In 1238 Batu Khan of the Mongols would subjugate the region, but it would remain largely uninhabited.  This would not meaningfully change until the arrival of two human peoples, the Jassi from the west (Hungarians) and the Kosogi from the south (Circassians from the Caucasus mountains), who settled on the east and west banks of the Don River.  At the time of this settlement the Cumanese Kingdom had been well established, though that entity had little interest in lands to the east.  Digorian orcs occupied the western shore of the Caspian, while Jagatai orcs controlled much of the valley of the Volga. The Ottomans controlled much of the shore of the Black Sea (Kubanistan), but had not settled the hinterland.  The human Jassi and Kosogi were able to fill a power vacuum between these forces.

Both tribes had a long tradition of horse culture, and together formed a bond that would see much interbreeding, as well as a strong sharing of culture and religious tradition.  While the Jassi were of moderate Christian heritage, the Kosogi had retained many of the polytheistic roots that had begun during the early Bronze Age.  Both cultures were influenced by old gods in the region whose worshippers had past, but whose burial tombs were found and investigated, leading to a revival of the Yamna cult.  This manifests chiefly in a strongly held belief in the 'Red Maiden,' who is said to visit with warriors the moment before they die, either taking them with her or empowering them to destroy their foes.  This is said to have happened when Zynovey Chihirin fought the Turks at the battle of Hannah Flat in 1544 - the moment before he died, he was suddenly restored.  He and his small band then wiped out half the Turkish army before putting them to their heels, assuring that the Cossacks would retain ownership of the lands around Tarsk since.

From Spring to mid-Summer, when the Don River is too high to cross, the Kosogi, or south Cossacks, raid the lands of Digoria and the Safavid Empire.  During this time the Jassi, or west Cossacks, commonly raid eastwards into the lands north of the Caspian Sea.  In late Summer and throughout the Autumn, when the Don River grows low and the river is easier to cross, the tribes join together and raid west into Cumana and Poland, and north into Russia.  The tribes are among the best light skirmishers in the world on horseback, ride lightly armored, kill few of their enemies and normally take only enough to make their lives comfortable during the long winters.  By early October the raids end as winter settles in, whereupon the Cossacks return home to their families and a life of quiet contemplation and simple pleasures.


Jomo Rising said...

I love the flavor of regional history. Talk about something that is missing from games. A DM might tell us where the adventure is, and why, but that's about it. If you ever run out of stuff to write, do a history. Watching different cultures change and develop over a landscape is beautiful.

Oddbit said...

So you're saying produce extra so we can have an offering for the incoming raiders?

Or if we're REALLY slick, we invite them to stay with us for a while, give them a party, try and get away with sharing the minimum and open up trade with them. (and possibly convert them?)

Given we're pretty far to the south and surrounded by swampyness that might be a nice respite for the raiders...

Alexis Smolensk said...

Just tellin' it like it is, Oddbit.

Oddbit said...

How it is just so happens to be interesting adventure that will come to us on a yearly basis.

Early on we have to respond in a subordinate manner, but it means that any areas that are not hospitable to horses will be at an advantage.

Furthermore protecting against horsemen would make us a much less viable target meaning they would likely be willing to settle for less with less losses and less effort.

Also given their tendency for low body counts, it means if we tend likewise, we can at least have a respectful relationship between the two of us.

Also, I see a HUGE opportunity for exchange of services with people who literally wander the entire area on a yearly basis. If we establish trade they could even actively seek out items we want in their raids and supply us for a reduced cost.

This is all assuming we can get them friendly of course.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, assuming.

Well, the online party is not "surrounded by swampyness." There's a little bit of spongy ground by the sea, but the real swamp begins 12 miles to the east in land that is controlled by the Ottoman Empire. On the map I posted last week, you're in a small area that has a tiny bit of it that's wooded and mostly empty prairie (did we forget that a '7' means that it is 6/7ths empty?).

Apart from that, though, your strategy is sound.

Setting up a mission, you were bound to be thrown into some part of the world that was on the edge of civilization. Could have been worse.

Dave Cesarano said...

I hope someday you release a comprehensive gazetteer and/or world book.

Anonymous said...

It's good to see that the online game looks closer to resuming. I'm very much looking forward to this next stage of the game.