Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Inner workings of a human tribe

In the previous post on human tribes, I talked about their food source, boats, houses, and a few other things, mostly visible when you first meet them.  This post is about how the tribe actually functions.


Some tribes aren't organized at all, being just a handy way to describe the culture of the local humans.  Each settlement in a such a tribe governs itself independently.

Chiefs rule some human tribes, kings that come from the upper class of the people.  Their towns send some kind of tribute, food, laborers, or warriors.  Chiefs tend to inherit their position or seize it through war.

Many tribes are more democratic, decisions being made by a council of delegates or by a popular assembly of as many as can gather.

Tribal Leadership (d10)
1-3no central leadershipEach town is independent. There is no tribal leadership. Roll again to see how towns are typically governed.
4-5chiefA high-ranking person rules the tribe, receiving tribute/labor/warriors from the various towns. The position is likely inherited or seized in conflict.
6-7council of chiefsA council of the most important high-caste people makes decisions for the tribe.
8-9assemblyEach family/clan/town sends a representative to speak at the ruling assembly.
10popular consensusA large portion of the people gather together in one place to argue and come to decisions.

Some tribes use a mix of these, with a chief who chooses the clans to be represented, or a popular assembly that elects a council, or a pair of chiefs with different areas of responsibility, etc.

Men and Women

Of all the talking species, humans have the most rigid gender roles.  They tend to divide up tasks and areas of expertise into men's things and women's things.

(Goblins have gender roles but are more flexible on them, giants are too independent to worry about such things, and elves are basically all the same gender, biologically, so they don't really understand the concept.)

Most tribes follow the gender roles handed down to them by their ancestors (so related tribes tend to follow the same rules) or they've adopted the practices of their neighbors.

1-2warfare, hunting, woodcarvingfarming, weaving, settling disputes
3-4dealings with outsidersdealings within the tribe
5animals, stone and metal working, settling disputesplants, water and settlement rights, death rituals
6farming, constructionfishing, hunting
7only men eat potatoes, salmon, turkeysonly women eat corn, wild rice, deer
8warding off dangerous creaturesinterpreting dreams and signs
9trade, searching for thingsmaking and using fire, keeping the history of the people
10roll again, but switch the results


The Starving Time broke many people's understanding of the world, forcing them to resort to new ways of thinking.  New religious movements have cropped up (all with something to say about the apocalypse of our parents' day) and they've been spreading across the land.

I'll be doing a post about how human religions work later on (and how to roll up a random religion of your own) but for now let's look at how this tribe relates to religious practice.

Religion (d6)
1-2Holding to tradition in the face of all these strange new religions. Some have secretly converted.
3Enthusiastic converts to a new religious movement. A few are quietly keeping to the old ways.
4Most of the (d4) 1: men, 2: women, 3: youths, 4: common people; have joined a new religion while the rest follow the old ways.
5Most people have fallen away from their ancestors' religion and are eager to listen to preaching.
6Deeply divided between two different faiths.

Roll up a random tribe's workings with the table below.  (Sorry, I still haven't figured out how to get it to work on mobile.)  I've copied over the entries from the first post in this series, head back there for more explanation about what they mean.

random human tribe
what they lost
men and women

Coming up: who the tribe's rivals and allies are, and how they came to be that way.


  1. Your random generators are pretty slick. Props.

  2. Out of curiosity, do you have a map of the Northern Lands or at least have one in mind?

    1. I've got some working maps, but they're not polished up yet.

      My goal is to put out two different maps:
      1) A map of what the elves knew at the time of the apocalypse, mostly blank for you to fill out with your own adventures.
      2) My own version, with all the interior filled out.

  3. I just got an open-sea whaling tribe that doesn’t have boats, just sledges pulled by dogs.

    They hunt whales with spears, riding on water-dog pulled rafts I guess. In this tribe having to row your boat back yourself is the most shameful thing a hunter can do because it means your water-dogs abandoned you.

    1. Sounds like a shameful fate indeed!

      As for myself, whenever I get a combination that doesn't work (like open-sea whalers without boats) I presume one is the way the tribe was before the apocalypse, while the other is the way they are now.

      So these could be former whalers who lost the craftsmen who knew how to build oceangoing boats, now subsisting on coastal food. Or they could be dog-sledge people who picked up boatbuilding and whaling from another tribe recently.