A new race & culture

Here’s a race I put together for my Zaidan-Tai campaign. While there is no room for it in Tòlanar, they would fit into Djapar quite well, so I will probably stick them in there if I ever get around to doing that continent.

TSOAHATHA

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

The tsoahatha are gorilla-like creatures with heavy upper-body musculature. Their feet are roughly

Male Tsoahatha.
Male Tsoahatha.

soled and their toes have a limited ability to grasp objects. Tsoahatha have short, rough, copper-red fur

all over their bodies except on their faces, the palms of their hands, and the soles of their feet. Their skin is a rich chocolate brown. Most tsoahatha are around 150 cm (5 feet) tall and have arm spans up to nine feet wide. Males weigh 160-225 kg (350-500) pounds, while females weigh 110-180 kg (250-400) pounds.

Tsoahatha prefer to wear loose, brightly colours clothing, usually a short tunic (longer for females) and a light cloak tied over one shoulder. They are fond of belts, arm straps and leg straps, to which they attach weapons and tools that are tied down. The tsoahatha love gold and spare no expense in adorning themselves in gold jewelry. Bracers, arm bands, anklets, and head pieces predominate among males, while females prefer necklaces, nose rings, and earrings.

While the tsoahatha diet consists mostly of fruits, vegetables and nuts, they are omnivorous and have no trouble eating the food of human or demihuman races.

Children and young adults make up 40% of any community; adult females constitute 35%, and the remaining 25% are adult males.

SOCIETY & CULTURE

Tsoahatha are close-knit, highly religious, and well organized; most are lawful in alignment. They are powerful and proud, and they guard their culture fiercely. While most tsoahatha live in small villages, their society is centered on their cities. They are excellent climbers and some build tree houses, but most tsoahatha are ground dwellers. Their society is distinctly matriarchal, with the males doing the heavy labour and fighting while the females direct all household affairs such as finances, purchases, and dealings with other tsoahatha families. As well, it is only the females who vote on political issues.

Tsoan culture is primarily agrarian, with work based on farming tasks such as raising livestock (water buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry) and growing crops, including grains and potatoes. The people are largely self-sufficient in diet, raising enough for their daily needs. Although primarily vegetarian, meat is a part of their diet and is preserved through salting or smoking. The Tsoahatha are renowned for their preserved pork, which may be kept for 10 years or more. Local economies tend to be barter-based, however trade between communities use a cash-based trade system.

They also produce an alcoholic beverage made from grain, called Emi omi (Spirit water), which is similar to strong wine. Emi omi is drunk regularly and usually offered to guests and at ceremonies and festivals.

The Tsoahatha have large extended families, and several generations (great grandparents, grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc.) live together in the same house. Everyone lives in communal quarters, and there are no private bedrooms or living areas, except for females between certain ages (see the section on “coming of age”, below) who may have their own private rooms.

Tsoahatha homes consist of four rectangular structures arranged in a square, around a central courtyard. The first floor houses livestock, including water buffalo, horses, geese, and poultry. The main cooking, eating and visiting areas are also on the first floor. The second floor is commonly used for storage and for the bedrooms.

Tsoahatha females do all the housework, including cleaning, tending the fire, cooking, gathering firewood, feeding the livestock, and spinning and weaving. As well they are responsible for the governing of their communities and religious affairs. As mentioned above, males are responsible for the heavy labour outside the home, and for defence. Males also have responsibility for trade and inter-community commerce.

Tsoahatha families trace their lineage through the female side of the family. Occasionally, in fact, they may not know who the father of a child is, which does not carry stigma as in many other societies. Children belong to and reside within their mother’s household and have access to its land and resources.

The matriarch (known as the Sila, or grandmother) is the head of the house. The Sila has absolute power; she decides the fate of all those living under her roof. The matriarch also manages the money and jobs of each family member. When the Sila wishes to pass her duties on to the next generation, she will give this female successor the keys to the household storage, signifying the passing on of property rights and responsibility.

If there are no offspring of one sex, it is common for a child from another family to join an adoptive household. Such a child might come from a large family, or one too small to continue. Children raised in this sense are genealogically linked to their new households. They are treated as equal family members; in some instances, adopted females become the matriarchs of their adoptive families.

There is no traditional marriage in Tsoan culture. Therefore, there are no husbands or wives. Rather than a concept similar to the normal conception of marriage, Tsoan culture has abewo ajosepo, or visiting relations, in which partners do not live in the same household. Children of such relationships are raised by their mothers and the mothers’ families.

All on-going sexual relationships in Tsoan culture are considered abewo ajosepo. These bonds are based on mutual affection. When a Tsoahatha female or male expresses interest in a potential partner, it is the female who may give the male permission to visit her. These visits are usually kept secret, with the male visiting the female’s house after dark, spending the night, and returning to his own home in the morning. Tsoahatha females and males can engage in sexual relations with as many partners as they wish.

While it is possible for a Tsoahatha female to change partners as often as she likes, few have more than one partner at a time. They usually practice serial monogamy. Most Tsoahatha form long-term relationships and do not change partners frequently. Some of these pairings may even last a lifetime.

While a pairing may be long-term, the male never lives with the female’s family, or vice versa. Tsoahatha males and females continue to live with and be responsible to their respective families. The couple do not share property. The father usually has little responsibility for his offspring; it is the job of males of the mother’s family to care for their nieces and nephews rather than for their own children. A father may indicate an interest in the upbringing of his children by bringing gifts to the mother’s family. This gives him status within the mother’s family, while not actually becoming part of the family. Whether or not the father is involved, children are raised in the mother’s home and assume her family name.

While it is not uncommon for a child’s father to be unknown, the large majority of females know their children’s fathers; it is actually a source of embarrassment if a mother cannot identify a child’s father. But, unlike many cultures which castigate mothers and children without clear paternity, Tsoahtaha children induce no such censure. At a child’s birth, the father, his mother and sisters come to celebrate, and bring gifts. On New Year’s Day, a child visits the father to pay respect to him and his household. A father also participates in the coming-of-age ceremony (see below). Though he does not have an everyday role, the father is nevertheless an important partner.

Religion

Religion is a major part of Tsoan life. The Tsoan belief system is known as Emi Ona, or “spirit way”. Emi Ona has been a part of Tsoan culture for thousands of years, handed down through generations by word of mouth. It functions as a repository of most of the Tsoan culture and history. It is based on the existence of a spirit world where fiends and their ancestors’ spirits live. The spirits, which are lawful neutral and equal at most to demigods, influence the material world through magic and possession.

Tsoahathan clerics are always female and are known as Alufaa and perform community service with the powers they receive from their ancestors. Each community has a 25% chance of having a priest of level 2-7, who will have 1-3 initiates living with her and her family. Before an initiate can acquire the title and power of an alufaa, she must survive a year as a hermit with no shelter. Her task is to commune with the spirit world. If the prospective initiate survives, she gains the knowledge to cast spells.

Occasionally during these hermitages, initiates discover that tempting powers can be learned from fiends. Those who seek this arcane knowledge become Aje (witch). Aje remain hermits, and most maintain their alignments, though with great difficulty. A few aje who seek power too quickly or in too great a quantity often become the servants of their demonic teachers. Eventually, their alignments change to chaotic evil; in extreme cases, they become possessed.

On a day-to-day basis, Emi Ona plays a far smaller role in the lives of the Tsoahatha. The alufaa is mostly called on to perform traditional ceremonies at key events, such as naming a child, a child’s coming-of-age ceremony, a funeral, or special events such as the Spring Festival. The alufaa is also called on to perform specific rites if someone is sick.

Customs

Names

Tsoahatha names are gender neutral; any name may be given to a male or a female. Full names consist of a given name and the mother’s name preceded by the word omo, which means “child of”.

Coming of age

The coming-of-age ceremony, which occurs at the age of thirteen, is one of the most important events in a Tsoahatha child’s life. Before this ceremony, children all dress the same and are restricted from certain aspects of Tsoan life, particularly those that involve religious rites. Also, a child who dies before this ceremony does not receive the traditional funeral.

After coming of age, Tsoahatha females can get their own private bedroom, called an Aladodo Yara or flowering room; and, once past puberty, can begin to invite partners for “visiting relations”.

Hearth

This is the center of the household. It combines the worship of nature, ancestors, and spirits. Behind the hearth is a slab of stone and an ancestral altar where household members leave a food offering. They do this before each meal, even when having tea.

Funerals

Death is the domain of males, who make all funeral arrangements. It is the only time males prepare food for family and guests. Usually, every family in the village will send at least one male to help with the preparations. Alufaa are invited to recite prayers for the deceased. Tsoahatha believe that if a spirit does not have assistance of an Alufaa, it will be lost and will not be able to attain reincarnation. Caskets are small and square, with the deceased’s body placed in the fetal position so that it can be reborn in the next life. During cremation, a decorated horse is led around the fire, which Tsoahatha believe will help carry the deceased’s spirit away. Afterwards, friends and family gather to pay their last respects and wish the deceased an easy journey to their ancestral land.

Dogs

While some cultures practise the custom of eating dogs, this is strictly forbidden to the Tsoahatha. In Tsoan culture, a myth describes that long ago, dogs had life spans of 60 years while Tsoahatha had life spans of thirteen years. The Tsoahatha felt their life span was too short, so they traded it with the dogs in exchange for paying homage to them. Therefore, dogs are valued members of the family. They are never killed, and they most certainly are never eaten. During the initiation rites into adulthood, Tsoahtaha adolescents pray before the family dogs.

Government & Political Bodies

Each Tsoahathan village is headed by a council of the senior females of each household, known as the Iyaka Igbimo, or Council of Mothers, presided over by the oldest member, known as the Egbon-Iya, or Eldest Mother . As well each village has a dominant male leader called the Ogunolori, or war chief, who is selected by the Iyaka Igimbo. His duties include leading the adult males of his group in the defence of their community and carrying out the policies and commands of the local Iyaka Igimbo as well as the dictates of the local city. The cities are governed by a council, known as the Ogorun Igbimo, or Council of Hundreds. This body is made up of one elected female representative for every 100 households, thus its name. The city’s executive is known as the Ayaba Iya, or Queen Mother, who chairs the Ogorun Igbimo and is responsible for insuring its decisions are implemented. In subjugated cities the council’s authority is limited to strictly local issues, and the executive position is held by a deputy appointed by the Ayaba Iya, known as the Iyaka-Owo, or Hand of the Mother, who is responsible to the Ayaba Iya, not the council.

Drum towers in each community are used to pass news, report disasters, coordinate relief, and make public announcements. During battles, the signal drums of the Tsoahatha can be heard directing the action and making reports. Tsoahatha also imitate animal noises, howling to communicate over long distances. All Tsoahatha know at least a few drum signals and howl-calls.

Law & Justice

Tosahathan justice is administered by female judges, known as Adajo, and is quick and harsh. Although there is no death penalty, there are several options. Punishments include banishment, slavery, public service, mine labour, and corporal punishments. All punishments are accompanied by the permanent removal of a hand-wide strip of fur down the individual’s back, the mark of a criminal. Due to the great shame this causes, crime is rare among tsoahatha. Marked criminals often flee, sometimes becoming bandits to raid and steal for a living. Crimes in tsoahathan society include theft, murder, rape, cowardice in battle, destruction of community property, and failure to obey the dictates of the Ogorun Igbimo. Local councils often add to this list, often including the failure to obey the Ogunolori or a Alufaa.

Warfare

The tsoahatha are a warlike people and their city states exist in a near continuous state of low-level conflict, with shifting alliances and very fluid “empires”. Tsoahatha have sharp claws with which they can fight, but they do so only in extremis. They prefer to use weapons, either short swords or long spears. They generally do not wear armour, but they do use large round shields.

During wartime, a logical Ogunolori leads most of the adult males of his community into battle. A few adult males are left behind with the old and adolescent to defend their homes. Females are expected to protect and care for the children and are ferocious if threatened. Females usually attempt escape with their young before resorting to violence.

TSOAHATHA CHARACTERS

Tsoahatha characters possess the following racial traits.

  • +4 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom (male) or -2 Strength, -2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom (female).
  • Size Medium.
  • A Tsoahatha ‘s base land speed is 20 feet.
  • A Tsoahatha has a climb speed of 40 feet.
  • +8 racial bonus on Climb checks.
  • +2 racial bonus on grapple checks.
  • Ambidexterity (Ex): Tsoahatha use both hands as their primary hand. When wielding two weapons, if either is considered light, the penalties for two-weapon fighting are reduced by 2 each. Also, both attacks use full Strength bonus (if any) to damage.
  • Reach (Ex): The Tsoahatha ‘s long arms give it a natural reach much larger than other Medium creatures. Treat a Tsoahatha character as having a reach equal to a creature one size larger. Tsoahatha can still attack adjacent foes, unless using a reach weapon.
  • Feats: ** Tsoahatha can take the Two-Weapon Fighting feat even if they do not meet the requirements, due to their Ambidexterity.
  • Automatic Languages: Tsoahit (known as Tsoajin-go in Zaidan).
  • Favored Class: Fighter (male) or cleric (female).
  • Level adjustment +2.

Vital Statistics

Random Staring Age

Adulthood Simple Moderate Complex
15 1d4 1d6 1d8

 

Tsoahatha Aging Effects

Middle Age1 Old2 Venerable3 Maximum Age
45 years 60 years 90 years +2d20 years
1.      At middle age, −1 to Str, Dex, and Con; +1 to Int, Wis, and Cha.

2.      At old age, −2 to Str, Dex, and Con; +1 to Int, Wis, and Cha.

3.      At venerable age, −3 to Str, Dex, and Con; +1 to Int, Wis, and Cha.

 

Tsoahatha Random Height and Weight

Gender Base Height Height Modifier Base Weight Weight Modifier
Male 127 cm

(4′ 2″)

+5d10 cm

(+2d10”)

154 kg

(340 lb.)

+6d12 kg

(+8d20 lb.)

Female 127 cm

(4′ 2″)

+5d10 cm

(+2d10”)

108 kg

(240 lb.)

+6d12 kg

(+8d20 lb.)

Based on the Grommam entries in the Spelljammer appendix to the Monstrous Compendium and the Spacefarer’s Handbook; the Ecology of the Dakon article in Dragon #187; the Grommam article on Spelljammer.org, and the Mosuo article on Wikipedia.

 

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