Wednesday, November 27, 2013

World-Building: Los Legartos of the Rocas del Sol

The good news is that I finished the first draft of "Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki" a couple of weeks ago.  In the time since, I've re-written another story, "The Tower of Al-Kafiri" and started thinking a bit about the plot for the last story, which I'm tentatively calling "Sneax and Elaina Emboo in the Fire Islands."  That'll be the final story in the book, the one that ties all of the others together.

So.  I have a few basic ideas about the plot, but I've decided that actually playing through some of the plot-points with my kids is an integral part of the writing process both because my kids feel like that gives them input into the way the story's gonna go and because they occasionally give me ideas for characterization that I couldn't have come up with on my own.  So we're gonna try to play a bit this weekend, but before that, I have to actually set the campaign up.  I don't love world-building--it's probably my least favorite aspect of fantasy writing--but for better or worse, I find it helpful to put together at least some of the world structures that I'm gonna use in any given story ahead of time.  Then when I need them, they're already there.

I don't know why, exactly, I decided to stick a lizardman in this particular story, save that I thought that cold-blooded lizard-dudes made a natural warrior caste to the elves native to the Fire Islands.

Anyway, you can think of the Fire Islands as being like Wanderhaven's Hawaii, save that in the world of Wanderhaven, it's located more where Moracco is located in our world.  Then Aphritas is essentially Africa, save that my wife Sally had the idea of giving it more of a Latin/Spanish/South American vibe.  She spent more than three years in the Peace Corps in South America, so using her idea here gives the story a little bit of grounding in the history of our family.  That's an important aspect of this project.

Los Legartos of the Rocas del Sol

South of the continent of Sentralia lies another, warmer land.  This southern continent, Aphritas, is a land of the sun, of vast deserts and endless jungle canopies.  A massive high desert area called Los Rocas del Sol lies along the western coast, seperated from the jungles of Aphrita's interior by the Altos Dientes mountains--literally the "High Teeth."  Men find Los Rocas del Sol to be a dry, rocky, inhospitable place, but it is here that one finds the homeland of Los Legartos, the famed lizard-men of Aphritas.

Legartos are bipedal humanoid reptiles that stand between six and seven feet tall, with males perhaps a half-foot taller on average than females.  They are cold-blooded and carniverous, and by the standards of Continental Sentralia, they are generally thought to be lazy, although this owes more to their biology than to any actual lack of cultural work ethic.  It is not uncommon to see legartos laying about in the sun during the heat of the day, but as with any reptile, this is actually a necessary survival mechanism, albeit one that the legartos themselves find pleasurable.

Legartos are generally taller and stronger than humans, and in a pinch, they can move far quicker.  However, while legartos can be good hunters with excellent "dash" speed and superhuman reflexes, they are incapable of prolonger periods of exertion, owing to the demands of their cold-blooded biology.  Legartos function supremely well in hot, dry heat, but they can find themselves at something of a disadvantage when dealing with situations in which they must battle the cold.  As one might imagine, any magic that can keep a legartos warm during periods of cold weather is highly prized amongst their people.

Legartos have scaly skin that ranges from pale yellow to bright green and eyes that are either yellow, green, or red, and they have long, thick tails.  Legartos carry a poison gland where mammals carry their saliva glands, although for most legartos, the gland is merely vestigial.  Some few, especially among the Warrior Caste, can spit a poison mist that blinds or incapacitates its victims.

Culture and the Caste System
Legartos live in a loosely defined caste system based on size, physical prowess, and--eventually--one's place in the workforce.  Because legartos hatch from eggs, familial connections mean little in their society, save that size and strength tend to be hereditary.  Those at the top of the social order generally mate in ways that preserve their physical attributes along familial lines, but once a legartos is hatched, it's on its own.  Legartos parents make no effort to care for their young.  With that said, legartos that hatch together as part of a single clutch of eggs are called hatch-mates, and it is these hatching bonds that provide the closest thing to family that a legartos knows.

The Warrior Caste
The largest, quickest, strongest legartos make up the Warrior Caste.  These are the ones who hunt for the community and who defend the community in times of strife, and it is from this caste that the members of the Ruling Council are chosen.  Warrior Caste legartos also have the least physical responsibilities and are therefore most free to lay about in the sun during the heat of the day.

Many legartos who are not formally accepted into the Warrior Caste leave the Rocas del Sol to take up mercenary work on foreign soil rather than accept a guild apprenticeship or allow themselves to be forced into the Laborer Caste.

The Merchant Caste
Legartos are not generally known for their intelligence, but some few choose to take up trading as a vocation.  These are highly venerated, both because few legartos have the aptitude necessary and because trade requires frequent travel to distant, generally colder lands.

The Guild Caste
Legartos tradesmen and artisans make up the Guild Caste.  Guild Caste legartos must work to provide services to the community, but the work they do is specialized and commands a decent wage.  All legartos dream of joining the Warrior Caste, of course, but for one who is generally not large enough or strong enough, the Guild Caste offers an acceptable substitute and at least a modicum of respect amongst one's hatch-mates.

By the standards of other races, legartos tend to make particularly good blacksmiths.  This is because they are quite strong and because they work well in heat of the forge.  Their scaly skin also tends to be more burn-resistant than does a human's skin.

The Laborer Caste
The smallest, weakest, most useless legartos are forced into the Laborer Caste.  These are the legartos who do manual labor and who must therefore toil from dawn to dusk with nary a chance to lay in the sun and collect a bit of warmth.  Life amongst the Laborer Caste is generally brutish and short, with all of society looking down on you as something less than fully sentient.

In real life, Loa are spirits.  This one is
Legba, the intermediary between spirits
and humanity.
Most Laborer Caste legartos wind up working in the mines of the Altos Dientes.  Supervising these laborers is a task assigned to the lowest of the Warrior Caste, often as a punishment.

Spirits and Spirituality
Legartos know no gods.  Instead, they venerate the spirits of the land, which they call Loa.  Legartos shamen speak to these spirits and channel their energy in much the same way that priests and druids channel the energies of the divine on the Contient of Sentralia.

There are thousands of loa, but a few are far more important than the others.  Some of these include:

Rey Espirtitus - King of Spirits
Monja Verdad - Sister Light, spirit of the day
Elias Nevallo - The Warmth in the Rocks
Papa Negro - Father Night
Waku Temutu - The Keeper of Lost Souls
Legba - The Bridge, intermediary between the real world and the spirit realm.
Arcos del Rey - The King of Travelers

Full Disclosure: "Waku Temutu" is the name that my kids have for our dog when she's driving us crazy.  It's essentially her supervillain name.

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