Dis: A tale of Life and Death
Tribes of Apija
The Tribes of Apija on Nim-Yola are the descendants of the fallen Apijan civilization, which left the world scattered with magico-industrial ruins once powered by magic and enslaved elementals. Most of the tribes make their living by following the mastadon herds, though they have adapted and evolved a great diversity in traditions, customs, and language since the empire’s collapse.
The Desert People
When the ice age ended, some tribes found themselves in the middle of an expanding desert. There, the mastadons lost much of their body hair, becoming a new subspecies that the Desert People call mûmakil. The Desert People have maintained a tradition of keeping domesticated mûmakil from the old days, but there is so little water in the desert that they must still move in great cycles as nomads. Since the mûmakil seem to have a better idea of where to find water than the human pastoralists, however, it’s generally they who choose the course, leading some to question exactly who has domesticated who.
The Desert People wear loose-fitting clothes to ward off the sun but still allow the breeze to cool them off. They live in tents which they can fold up quickly and pack onto their mûmakil. When two herds of mûmakil come to the same watering hole, the Desert People generally let them work it out amongst themselves, and then keep following their own herd, so territorial disputes between them are rare. When conflict does erupt between them, there are always certain members of the herd that they have trained as war mûmakil. These make the Desert People particularly feared by the other tribes.
Since their ancestors relied so heavily on magic to form their empire, naturally many people of the Tribes of Apija have a natural talent for it. Attitudes towards the empire vary, and attitudes towards magic usually go hand-in-hand with them. Those who think of the empire as a lost golden age tend to encourage it, while those who see it as an era of oppression and evil tend to be suspicious of magic at best. This leaves enough variation for some talented sorcerers to achieve some level of mastery of their art and unearth ancient magic left behind in the ruins of the empire. Sometimes these sorcerers are powerful enough to gain followers (or slaves), and declare themselves kings over one of the ruined cities scattered across the desert. The nomadic Desert People can often simply avoid these centers of power, but sometimes the sorcerer-kings go to war with the Desert People to press them into service. These are the most common conflicts that the Desert People find themselves drawn into.
While the end of the ice age left the Desert People in a desert, the Grasslanders found themselves in an open savanna. The Grasslanders also follow the mastadon herds, but with more water and more plentiful game, they have been able to follow a more hunter-gatherer existence.
Grasslander wizards rely more heavily on ecstatic trance and entheogenic plants to travel through the spirit world and find the best path for their families to follow. They paint family histories on cave walls, where they use their art, flickering fire light, and the contours of the rock to set the scene for psychologically powerful rituals.
The Grasslanders use fire to expand the prairies and provide good grazing for the animals they hunt. Besides mastadons, the Grasslanders also hunt aurochs and kirin. Worgs also hunt the plains, and though they typically avoid contact with Grasslanders, they do provide competition, and will sometimes attack when things are desperate enough.
According to the Grasslanders, when the empire fell, their ancestors were saved by the druids, who convinced four different species to adopt them as their own, forming the four clans: the Mastadon Clan, the Aurochs Clan, the Kirin Clan, and the Worg Clan. Each clan considers themselves to belong to that species, so, for instance, a Mastadon has some very large, four-legged kin, and some smaller two-legged kin, but all count as Mastadon. For a Mastadon to kill a mastadon would count as murder, but killing a human being from the Kirin Clan may not. Grasslanders must marry outside of their clan, which effectively does make all the humans you’re likely to encounter your kin, since they move about in extended family groups. This clan system makes warfare between bands complicated, since even a group of strangers will be full of fellow clan members that you are forbidden to kill. This generally makes conflict between bands more hassle than it’s worth, so they more often choose to resolve disputes with dangerous contests that test skill and bravery as a proxy for who would more likely win in a pitched battle.
The druids of Nim-Yola work primarily in the grasslands, not only because it is Nim-Yola’s most fertile and abundant region, but also because the Grasslanders honor them and are willing to go out of their way to aid a druid. The druids do ventures out into the deserts and the mountains, primarily in their efforts to make peace between the Tribes of Apija and the elementals and their kin, to fix problems left behind by the empire, and to ensure that its legacy does not continue to threaten life on Nim-Yola. The largest druid circle meets in the ruins of Apija-ro. They have long believed that the empire’s most destructive legacies still lie within that city and must be carefully guarded. Now that Dis has begun to digest it, they have a new concern. Will Dis simply eat the ruins of the city? Or must they move to stop it now, lest it threaten all of Nim-Yola? And what could they even do to stop it if they wanted to?
The Mountain Folk
The vast mountains of Nim-Yola are divided between tribes of frost giants near the poles, mountain giants closer to the equator, and the Tribes of Apija collectively referred to as the Mountain Folk. These tribes frequently find themselves in conflict with the giants, leaving them fairly warlike. They have many traditions and customs that focus on achievement in combat and glory won in battle.
Like the other tribes, the Mountain Folk also rely heavily on the mastadons, but whereas the Grasslanders and Desert People follow herds, the Mountain Folk rely on controlling narrow passes that the mastadons migrate through. They will roll boulders down from the hills, crushing the mastadon herds passing below. They live in villages made of mastadon bone stretched with hide and leather. They smoke and salt mastadon meat for storage. In colder climates, they keep ice pits to preserve their meat as well. One such tribe is called the Deathkin, who live at Nim-Yola’s north pole.
Note: For names, see “Apijan” in the Story Games Names Project, based loosely on the Chukotko-Kamchatkan language of Koryak, compiled by Jason Morningstar. PDF p. 17