River Folk

From: David Swanson Millians (dragon@netcom.com)
Date: Mon 05 Feb 1996 - 22:59:24 EET

My name is David Millians, and my Glorantha game is set among the
riverfolk of the Zola Fel. There being little published material on this
obscure but apparently widespread people, I and my players have
extrapolated at length in order to better understand their society.

> The Riverfolk are a distinct culture, and their language is unrelated to
> Praxian. It is part of a family of languages spoken by river tribes in
> various parts of Genertela. Many speak Trade or Praxian as second languages.
> Note that the Baboons and Morokanth have lots of interaction with animal
> nomads, but don't speak Praxian as a first language (at least according to WF
> 6).

Where did you get the ethnonym "Mru"?

> The fisher folk who live on the Zola Fel have always been an
> independent and
> proud group.

My riverfolk are fisher/hunter/gatherers without the benefit of
metalworking or some other crafts.

> They claim kinship with the Waertagi.

Is this from a published source?

> Both men and women
> worship the river god, who brings them food, shelter, and safety. The Mru
> trust no one but their own folk and the Hasalaru (native farmers). They
> sneer at the proud warriors of the nomad tribes, who fear to get their feet
> wet.

My riverfolk aren't so much the sneering type. They, in fact, consider
most of the people beyond their river to be "dead," essentially ghosts
left over from Bad Old Days, to be avoided.

> Where they must camp on open ground, the Mru
> string their old nets on poles around the perimeter, each spread square
> between four poles. Then the nomads must either ride underneath, risking
> having the nets dropped on them, or cut the outer poles, creating a barrier
> as the inner poles still hold up their side.

Great tactic. I've adopted it forthwith!

> The only crisis the Mru have ever faced was the Jrusteli invasion.
> When the
> river fought against the Godlearners, the Mru became hunted from Robcradle
> (now inside the walls of Pavis) to Feroda (near Corflu). The Jrusteli wiped
> out entire clans and families. The folk survived in the marshes and
> headwaters, and returned to repopulate the river when the Jrusteli left.

Yes, the old ruins and irigation canals frighten them for the most part.
On of my players is eager to explore a ruin only a mile or so from her
clan's normal camp, but everyone else fears it and the possible outcomes
of her search too much.

> The Mru helped with the founding of Pavis, and later
> with the founding of
> New Pavis. The cities mocked the nomads, thus pleasing the Mru. The Mru
> would never allow a dam on the river, however, or allow any river traffic
> they did not control. They allow irrigation and bog drainage because these
> things please their god.

But the bogs are our great haven! A sanctuary, partially of water and
partially of land. To bind and control Zola Fel is to weaken him and his

> The Mru language comes from Riverspeech, sometimes called Boatspeech.
> It is
> related to the Cetoi language, and speakers of one can speak the other at
> 1/10 their skill. It is also related to Waertagi, but in a manner only
> academics would appreciate.

How is this?

> The total population is about 4000 souls. This has been steadily rising
> since the founding of New Pavis. However, every Mru still knows every other
> Mru, by sight and family if not by name. About 1000 call New Pavis home,
> another 500 live in and near Corflu, and the rest are spread haphazardly
> along the river, in villages of between 100 and 300.

I have clans, simply extended families (matrilineal, matrilocal,
semi-matriarchal), of about 50 persons spread all along the river, even up
beyond the Leaping Place. They are concentrated in the bogs, but live
along the banks in Sun and Pavis Counties. These camps are mobile,
allowing them to move to better fishing or away from hostiles. In fact,
the clans living below Sun County migrate to the coastal marshes each dry
season. The marshes are inhabited by a related people (scattered from
Kathaela to Teshnos). These people are in greater contact with merfolk
and other more primal denizens of the deeps.

Clans living along the upper river do not
generally make this long journey, for the benefits do not outweigh the

Clans tend to know only their traditional neighbors very well. There is
a tradition of hospitality, but even riverfolk from outside a general
region are thought to be odd. Clans along different stretches of the
river have been affected by their non-river neighbors.

> All adult Mru are initiates of Zola Fel, the River God. About 150 men
> belong to Issaries, and about 100, mostly wealthy men, belong to the Pavis
> city cult.

My traditional Mru would not consider them to be truly of the people any
longer, though they would not be hostile.

It's a pleasure to read your ideas, and I share mine only for comparison
and the hope of richer understanding on my part.



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