Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Warrior Traditions

While, to the uninitiated, one fighting man appears little different than another, the fact of the matter is that, even within a single culture, there are usually multiple "warrior traditions," each reflective of a unique martial philosophy. Take, for example, the Thulians.
  • Bear-shirts: The bear-shirts were an ancient warrior tradition among the Hyperborean peoples, with the Thulians being perhaps their greatest exemplars. Bear-shirts were frenzied warriors dedicated to the god Mavors. They clothed themselves in bear skins -- hence their name -- and eschewed any other form of protection, believing that Mavors protected them, in addition to granting them superhuman strength and ferocity in battle. The Thulian emperor maintained a company of these warriors as his personal guard and was often inducted their brotherhood. The tradition declined after the rise of the cult of Turms Termax, which viewed it as an unseemly vestige of the Empire's barbarian past. Since the fall of the Empire, the tradition has been revived, with the Despot of Adamas employing bear-shirts in imitation of the Thulian emperor -- a practice the city-state's neighbors consider ominous.
  • Cataphracts: With the growth of the Thulian Empire came new warrior traditions, one of which was that of the cataphracts. Heavily armored, mounted soldiers, the cataphracts were the elite of the Empire's cavalry forces, striking terror into the hearts of enemies across the continent with their skill and tactics. Though the emperor wished to employ cataphracts more widely, the expense of both their training and their upkeep prevented this from becoming a reality. After the collapse of the Empire, the cataphract tradition survived, although it came to be even more strongly associated with elite soldiers, typically being reserved to those of high birth and/or material wealth. 
These are but two Thulian warrior traditions. Many others existed during the Empire, most of which survived its fall and continue to be practiced by fighting men of many regions. Likewise, cultures other than the Thulians have their own traditions, such as the two-weapon style favored in the West or the lightly-armored duelists of the South. And then there are non-humans like elves, dwarves, and goblins, all of whom have their own traditions as well. These and many other traditions ensure that there are as many different ways of fighting as there are fighting men. 


  1. I'd love to fight bear shirts. Talk about easy XP.

  2. Great fighting-man concepts. I wonder - and I'm probably alone in this - how well they'd translate into the OD&D/LL rules set, specifically 'lightly-armored' traditions.

  3. I think you'd have to be badass to wear a name like 'bear shirt' with pride. :P

    Are these playable 'traditions' for your players? And are there variant rules? These seem to border on subclasses...

  4. Double-take. When I first read "bear shirt" I thought I saw "bear t-shirt". Three-wolf-moon shirt anyone? :D

  5. Are these playable 'traditions' for your players? And are there variant rules? These seem to border on subclasses...

    I've worked out the basic details of both traditions as fighter variants on the model of the necromancer variant of the magic-user I presented here some months ago. I may eventually get around to posting these to the blog, or I might just save it for when I finally finish the Dwimmermount book I've been planning ...

  6. @ toddroe - I thought the same thing! Still need more wolves for the "guns" though. ;)