Saturday, January 8, 2011

More Details about the Khalik Vahr

I've fleshed out the culture and race I'm using for the Hill Cantons Domain Game. I present to you: 

The Khalik:
Although there are some physical similarities, the Khalik Vahr are not dwarves.  Physically, they appear more like large, stocky svirfneblin – almost totally hairless, with large ears and oversized eyes.

It’s rare that anyone see the face or body of a Khalik, though.  Most Khalik, men and women, wear woven garments that cover their bodies and hoods over their faces, especially when outside.  Silk cowls cover their features, dimming bright lights to a manageable level.  The natural color of the material they wear is stone-grey, but when they are on the surface they paint their clothing in vertical, irregular stripes in colors that match their surroundings, effectively camouflaging themselves.

Social Organization:
There are 2 main castes of the Khalik, the common, labourer caste and the noble, warrior caste.  Members of the warrior caste generally wear full-body armour with featureless, full-face helmets, made of a hardened insect chitin.  The natural color of the material is also stone-grey, but warriors also paint their armour when the caravans are moving above-ground.

Khalik warriors fight on both on foot and mounted.  Foot soldiers are generally encased in long hauberks made of overlapping disks of chitin, affixed to a flexible leather backing. They carry round shields made of the same material, and most carry long-bladed swords made of steel or chitin.  Their swords curve slightly and come to a wedge-shaped tip with a back-pointing hook.  Most Khalik also carry fighting picks, which double as tools, and iron flails.  Many Khalik also carry powerful crossbows along with their shields and hand weapons.  Polearms, mostly long-handled halberd or cleaver-like weapons, are also commonly used, especially when the Khalik are defending their Ways.

Mounted Khalik ride powerful lizards called Ehzak.  There are a number of different Ehzak breeds; the heavy-limbed Par’Ezhak that are used as small draft animals, the lighter Hur’Ezhak, used for riding and hunting, and the armoured, fanged Kla’Ezhak, which are trained for battle.  All Ezhak generally run on 4 legs, but can rise up to stand on their hind legs for periods of time.  Ezhak aren’t quite as fast as horses, but they are much lower to the ground, more stable and can easily scramble over rocks, up steep slopes and down banks.  Khalik riders tend to use webs of strapping to attach themselves to their agile mounts, and fight using light crossbows, lances, javelins, fighting picks, warhammers and flails.

Female Khalik of the noble classes are often fighters – it’s almost impossible to tell if most Khalik are male or female.   Some noble females belong to the Tannuth, who are the magic-users of the Khalik.  The Tannuth wear spidersilk robes and full-face masks, and are the only female members of the Khalik who are recognizable as such.  The Tannuth are effectively the educated class of the Khalik.  They are responsible for construction, engineering and scientific endeavours, in addition to being skilled users of magic, often specializing in illusions.

Religion:
The Khalik worship one god, Ohm’Khalik, Lord of the Paths Above and Below.  Ohm’Khalik is a god of exploration, trade and travel, but also of warfare, if necessary.  Many male members of the noble class are priests of Ohm’Khalik, and make up the religious caste of the Khalik.

Culture:
The Khalik are a semi-nomadic, tribal society that move between surface and underground sites in great armored caravans.  There are several major tribes of Khalik, and each tribe is composed of a number of semi-autonomous "Ways" or caravan-clan units that are tied together by treaties and kinship.  There are also a fair number of "Lesser Ways" that are not tied directly to the major tribes, but operate as intermediaries, allies or rivals of the larger tribes.

Wholks:
Khalik Ways move about the country using Wholks– these are giant beetles that have been bred to have holes and flat places on their carapace that allow wagons to be constructed on their backs.  The wagons have high sides and firing slots, allowing them to double as small fortifications.  All wagons have at least 5 dwarves, a driver, 2 crossbowman and 2 heavy infantry, aboard at all times.  They also each have 3 polearms (Halberds, basically) attached to hooks on the inside.  All Khalik are trained to move to the wagons at the first sign of attack, and to use the halberds to defend the wagons.

Wholks cost about as much as 4 draft horses, and can pull a similar amount.  The wagons carry as much weight as a standard wagon, and can be taken off the back of the Wholk and disassembled, allowing the caravan to move through fairly small spaces. Wholks-wagons can also be quickly broken down and rebuilt into a fortified laager.  Each wagon provides 50 feet of light fortification, and takes 2 people 1 hour to disassemble and set back up.  The Khalik often combine the laager fortifications with wooden stakes and a quickly-dug trench if expecting trouble.

The main advantage of the Wholk is that it eats damn near anything (although quite a bit of anything) and is effectively an ATV – it can easily navigate an underground or mountain environment that a horse cannot move through.  Downside is it’s a bit slower. moving at half as fast as a horse-drawn cart.

The other use of the Wholk is that it is a domesticated animal, used for food and materials.  A well-fed Wholk lays eggs regularly.  These eggs are round, tough-shelled and about the size of a basketball.  They are edible, and provide one of the major food sources for the Khalik.  In an area with ample forage, one Wholk produces enough eggs to feed 5-8 people.  The usual ratio of Khalik to Wholk in a caravan is between 5 and 10 to 1.  Wholks that die or are killed can be eaten as meat (food for 1 month for 25 people) and their shells are used as armor and building materials. Wholk also shed chitin regularly, and have to be “trimmed” in order to keep them useful for carrying wagons.  This shed chitin is used for tools, weapons and armor.

Wholk eggs are buried by the insect, and gestate for 6 months.  1-2 Wholk larvae hatch from each egg - the larvae are about 1 foot long and capable of defending themselves and burrowing to escape danger.  They eat plant material, insects, small animals and carrion ravenously, and grow to full-size in about 1 year.  A full-grown Wholk is about 18 feet long, 5 feet high, and moves on hundreds of small, powerful legs.  They are essentially giant millipedes.

Wayfinders:
The Wayfinders are small, detached groups, associated with the Ways, but travelling separately from them.  They act as scouts, skirmishers, foragers and warbands for the Ways.  Usually, Wayfinders are led and made up mainly of dwarven members of the Way they are associated with, but the dangerous, stealthy nature of the Wayfinder life means that outcasts and renegades from other races are often accepted into Wayfinder groups.  Some Wayfinders also work as mercenaries, selling their services to powerful Ways.  These groups are usually more highly-skilled and specialized than "regular" Wayfinders, and contain a high percentage of adventurers.