I’ve been participating for some time in an online collaborative worldbuilding forum. We’re just getting started on a new world – a classical-era mega-continent with magic and leylines – so I submitted my claim yesterday. If you’re interested in playing along, come join us!
The Wroden Lorn / The Lorn (people); Lode Gren (location)
History / Origins
The Lorn have lived in the forests of Lode Gren for generations – for as long as their recorded history, and presumably beyond. For the Lorn, the forests have always provided – food, shelter, safety and, most critically, ingredients.
The Lorn count time in generations and in Feld – that is, in successive changes to their physical forms. Rarely but inevitably, a new ‘deity’ is born – the Skalt – who is destined to uplift the Lorn to their next form, or Feld. The Lorn believe that they have been uplifted many times, and their documents/records ostensibly prove this. They believe they were once worms, then animals, and now, essentially humanoid. They believe that there are animal Skalt, and that other species undergo uplifts in the same way, even if other people don’t know/believe it. They believe they are eventually destined to transcend mortality, and that potions play an important role in that process.
The true Skalt is a powerful magic-user, but a Skalt’s identity may only be proven (or disproven) by their actual success: anyone may claim to be the Skalt – may even attempt the work – but unless they actually succeed in changing themselves/others, they are merely casualties along the way to the next Feld. Any identified Skalt may choose to submit to the Skalt’s Trial. The trial is completed by subjecting oneself to various potions, injections, baths, etc, believed to increase one’s magical potential (and ultimately grant one the ability to uplift other Lorn). Usually, these treatments result in deformations or death.
What the surviving Skalt actually does to uplift the other Lorn is unknown, as it has been a very long time since the last Skalt. In fact, whether or not the Lorn’s beliefs are factual at all is unknown, but their beliefs form the basis of their culture and their daily activities.
Government / Society
Lorn society revolves around potion-making, both to support the Skalt, to improve oneself and the world. Specialised technology has been developed to accommodate the gathering and processing of components and mixtures, as well as record-keeping about those processes. Most Lorn actively pursue the invention of new potions, medicines, drinks, dyes, inks, powders, etc, and such efforts are rewarded. Individuals and/or families earn prestige, gifts, privileges and more based on their societal contributions.
The Lorn government is generally centered around a master library and ingredients hold. The people who keep/control the ingredients and the knowledge of how to put them together are the highest authority in Lode Gren. Eight elders/masters and their families are responsible for keeping the books, which are categorized by rank and viewable only to people who have been awarded the privilege. The ingredients are similarly controlled.
These eight families are also responsible for determining the value of (or penalty for) contributions, inventions, crimes, work, etc. One’s rank is demonstrated by a tattoo given by specialists employed by the elders, using a rare ink. This tattoo is usually given on both arms, and undergoes changes as a person ranks up (or, in some cases, down).
The Lorn believe that the most important thing in life is to work towards the next Feld, and to help others do the same. This leads them to care immensely for animals and for other peoples, whether those animals or peoples are seen to be more or less ‘advanced’ is inconsequential. They thrive on and celebrate the readily-available wood, plant and fungal matter, using it for everything from alcohol, ink and medicine to clothing, books and bricks.
- Family: The Lorn typically dwell in small groups of families, forming what is often a polyamorous tribe. Tribes are mostly sedentary, occupying a small land area and usually specializing in the use and collection of its unique resources.
- Architecture: Structural styles vary by tribe, but conical wood-and-thatch structures are the most common dwellings. Other structures are built using wood or bricks, or by taking advantage of natural formations, such as caves or fallen trees.
- Food: The Lorn are completely vegetarian, and their culinary arts focus on sauces, spices, soups, marinades and other flavouring mechanisms. Food should not only be delicious, but beautiful, and it is popular to experiment not only with flavours but with texture and appearance. While animals are ignored, it is widely believed that everything else is edible, and those who discover new ways to eat bizarre foods are lauded. Animal products, such as milk and honey, are highly valued. Beer, wine and recreational drugs are popular.
- Literature / Lore: Every family has different beliefs and stories about the Skalts who came before, about the origins and lives of animals and other peoples. Most stories are told aloud to teach important lessons and especially to help memorise recipes. Few stories are written down, as most books are reserved for documenting potion-making or related processes.
- Art: Visual art is moderately popular among the Lorn, manifesting mostly as permanent murals and temporary banners, flags and paintings. While art is an appreciable pastime, it is the focus of few. Good artists are beloved pariahs, often traveling between different tribes that support their lifestyle in exchange for works. As such, artists often carry the most news from the outside world and between tribes.
- Performance / Music: Music and dance is popular among the Lorn, though few instruments are used. Songs usually mimic the natural sounds of the forest, from growling to chirping. Dance is performed for fun, to celebrate, to seduce and to duel.
- Textiles / Clothing: Lorn clothing rarely extends beyond the minimum for utility, and most people’s daily wardrobe consists of an undyed skirt/dress and shoes. Capes and scarves are worn in colder weather and/or for work, and most clothing is made from shorn wool, woven plants or mushroom leather. That said, most Lorn have more colourful, fashionable garments for celebrations and parties, all dyed bright colours, often heavily-textured and adorned with beads or other decorations. Colourful mushroom leather helms with integrated half-masks are often worn for momentous occasions such as births, battles, first loves, deaths and the Skalt’s Ritual. Flowers, feathers and other colourful accessories are considered fashionable.
- Hair, Beauty & Body Modification: hairstyles, makeup/paint and body modifications vary, but there are few expectations or conventions aside from leaving the forearms bare for tattooing only the markings of one’s caste/rank. Makeup may be used all over the body – the brighter the better – and on special occasions it is not uncommon to find whole tribes painted in rainbows of colour.
While ‘home’ will always be Lode Gren, many Lorn venture out into the world to gather foreign ingredients and/or to learn of new technologies or processes. While the Lorn can be very singularly focused, they are open-minded as to what may bring about the next Feld, and deeply curious about new elements, ingredients and methods.
People: The Wroden Lorn
The Lorn are humanoid in form and function; they are primarily bipedal but accustomed to crouching and crawling, with two lanky, arm-like forelimbs and two long, slender legs. Their bodies are typically lithe but misshapen, with many small appendages that appear to serve little purpose, such as short horns, tails, spinal ridges and undeveloped wingbones (these structures may all be vestigial or a sign of what’s to come, depending on who is asked). The average Lorn is between four and five feet in height, and weighs around a hundred pounds. Though their three toes are small and weak, their hands comprise three long, wide-tipped fingers and two opposing thumbs.
Lorn faces are familiarly human yet animalistic, with prominent cheekbones and slightly elongated skulls. They have triangular ears and long noses, and they usually exhibit a surprising amount of motor control over each. They have round eyes with large irises and thick, squarish brows.
Coloration is fairly standardized among the Lorn, and reflects their environment: hair, eye and skin colours range between shades of green, brown and black, while their nails, teeth and bones are black. Lorn skin is often speckled or spotted, especially among youths, and has a thick, leathery texture.
There is no sexual dimorphism as the Lorn are hermaphroditic, and each possesses four small breasts as well as a penis. There is no vaginal canal; rather, babies develop in a womb-like organ that is slowly pushed out of the body, until the skin that surrounds the unborn child(ren) is thin and blister-like – and eventually bursts.
Children are usually born in pairs, though singular children are not uncommon, and groups of up to five have been recorded. Life expectancy for the Lorn is optimistically up to 80+ years, though the average Lorn lives only up to 50 years.
Location: Lode Gren
Lode Gren is situated around a seemingly bottomless sinkhole situated on a rift. While most Lorn have little understanding or interest in the rifts, they are fiercely protective and reverent of the sinkhole. The sinkhole (and rift) has had unusual effects on the forest, including the manifestation of unusual animals, plants, etc. Grenwater is a common and powerful ingredient among the Lorn, and it is thought that the sinkhole is, in a way, the origin of life in Lode Gren (it is perhaps because of the hole’s power that the Lorn and other species were uplifted from lesser creatures).
Lode Gren otherwise bears many similarities to a taiga / boreal forest, with tall conifers and varied seasons. The landscape of Lode Gren is myriad, and ranges from swampy lowlands to rocky mountains.
Magic mostly manifests as an especially unusual mutation/disfigurement at birth. Children born with such a defect, or people who develop one later, are generally expected to attempt the Skalt’s Ritual, and few last long after that. Magic-users who refuse the ritual or who hide their abilities may use them as they please, but if they wish to avoid the Skalt’s responsibility, they should be very careful with their great powers ;)
Imports / Exports
- Major Exports: spices, dyes, inks, paints, powders, medicine, alcohol and other components/products of mixology. Wood and paper products (blank paper, books, scrolls, etc) as well as mushroom products (leather/cloth, bricks, artworks) are also exported.
- Major Imports: rare, unusual or exotic ingredients, elements, compounds, etc. Metal and metal devices of all kinds.