CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

You Reap What You Sow

It's Halloween, my favorite time of year. We’ve already got a witch hunter and a god that fights against things that go bump in the night for our October posts, but this month is about more than just ghouls and ghosts. It is also harvest season.

Harvest time, especially during the technological equivalent time on Golarion, is profoundly important. It is something pretty much every culture has in common, although they may celebrate it differently. This week we’re going to come up with some harvest festivals from a few different countries. We will touch on both human and non-human cultures as well.

First we’ll delve into Taldor, the great decadent empire, and its many serfs; then the common folk in the dark land of Nidal. Next we’ll explore harvests in the deserts of Katapesh; Halflings and their grand celebrations; and the Kellid subsistence farmers in the tainted lands of Numeria. Let’s take a look how all these folk celebrate.

The massive underclass of "the unbearded" make up 99% of Taldor's population. Even so the Taldane nobility sees most of the profit from a harvest. Taldor has a devastating tax rate and laws designed to keep the unbearded in poverty. It could be said that in arguably one of the oldest empires in Avistan the Taldane serfs are practically slaves.

But the lords of Taldor know what open revolt looks like; they seek not to go the way of Galt to the north. During the harvest season the Taldane nobility put on a show for the peasantry. After crops of have been taken in, the local lords set up a festival day. The serfs from across the land are invited to come and feast with their overseers.

Now to the Lords this is just show, let the peasants feel as if they’re equals. Many of the richer noblemen put on gaudy parade with over-the-top floats. They throw baubles at the serfs so that they may dress themselves up as kings and queens. At the feast the farmers see the return of some of their food stuff to eat, but it is of the lowest quality, with the weakest watered down ale to chase it.

The rulers of Taldane know full well that this does nothing tangible for their charges, but the hope is that it’s enough to keep them in their place one more season. Thus far things have gone as planned and serfs look forward to harvest time every year. The Taldane lords just hope they never look to the west and the free country of Andoran.

Even the plight of the Taldane serfs pales in comparison to the outright fear that the common folk of Nidal have for their overlords, the chosen of Zon-Kuthon. Nidal is a dark and foreboding place that any sane person would want to steer clear of. The peasantry is rightfully terrified that if they try and leave they’ll be flayed alive.

Harvest season may be a time for bringing in the grain from the fields and the fruit from the trees, but in Nidal the bigger fear is the harvest of the soul. As the nights begin to get longer and the darkness has more time to settle in, the more sinister creatures begin to walk the land. The Nidalese people use their harvest festival as a time to ward off these evils.

Large bonfires are built at the center of small farming towns. Lanterns are hung from the trees around the village to keep light in the dark places. Although Zon-Kuthon is the only god allowed worship within the borders of Nidal, silent prayers are made to various goodly gods for protection. The people drink and tell stories, usually the elders regale the young about the time a monster actually did come to the area. Finally at the end, some of the harvest is thrown into the bonfire to appease the dark god and keep the town safe.

Not all harvest festivals are dark or just for show, nor are all harvest festivals in the fall. In the far off reaches of Katapesh the biggest crop is the Pesh cactus. This succulent blooms in the spring and so the people of Katapesh celebrate their bountiful harvest during the blooming months when the sun starts to stay out longer.

The Avistani drug Pesh is primarily used by addicts with little more knowledge of the plant than its intoxicating effects. In Katapesh the drug is renowned for opening the mind’s eye and is highly sought after by seers and oracles of all stripes. During the Pesh harvest soothsayers from across the land will come gather at harvest sites to get the purest and freshest Pesh in hopes of seeing something truly monumental.

The Day of the Open Eye has become a phenomenon now, focused around these ecstatic holy men. Large gatherings have cropped up and the whole event has become a time to celebrate for all. Of course Pesh use, even by non-seers, is common. But it’s also a time to drink wine and eat copious amounts of food. The whole event ends in the wee hours of the morning when the last seer utters his final words. There is, of course, a chronicle on hand to record all visions spoken by the oracles.

One of the more peculiar occurrences of these Kelesh festivities is that they tend to draw Pugwampi. The mischievous little gremlins are drawn to the fact that half the people there are in an altered state and just ripe for their shenanigans. To this end halflings are always invited to the festivities, already added as good luck charms to everything from noble’s courts to trading caravans. It is thought that the halfling’s natural good luck will ward off the Pugwampi’s misfortune.

Halflings abound all over Golarion, but not all places see them as lucky charms. Much of Avistan sees them as second class citizens and even slaves. The place where halflings are the most free is within the borders of Andoran. Here halflings own land, run for office, and live happy and healthy lives. With that comes much more to celebrate about, and celebrate they do.

The halflings in Andoran usually live in small clusters of larger family groups, with a handful of extended families comprising the whole town. Calling someone “cousin” is almost always because they actually are. Cayden Cailean tends to be a very prominent god in these halfling towns and as such it can be seen in the way they celebrate.

The Halfling families celebrate the harvest, not in one feast but over the course of a few days. Each major family hosts a gathering and they desperately try and outdo one another. Not for vanity mind you, but for the honor of throwing the best party. Food, music, games and most of all beer are prevalent throughout these Halfling bacchanals. Some of Cayden’s most fervent worshipers try to (and often succeed at) staying drunk for the entire week.

Abundance doesn’t come naturally everywhere. The wastes of Numeria do not lend themselves to anything more than subsistence farming. The Kellids grow mostly root vegetables to partner with the meat they hunt for. Grains are mainly the province of larger towns that can afford to import them from Brevory or the River Kingdoms.

Lack of available space isn’t the only problem that Numerian farmers have to deal with. The metals and runoff that have made their way into the land after falling from the sky have poisoned much of the soil. Sometimes these contaminants are unnoticed until too late, and they don’t just kill off those who eat the tainted food. Sometimes the tainted food eats them.

Legend among the Kellids speaks of the night of the killer potato; when the alien liquids had seeped into the land mutated one of the Numerian farmer’s spuds into a perverted form of life. The homicidal potato murdered the farmer and devoured others in the village before running off into the night. Many Kellids swear that the mutant potato still roams the Numerian wastes.

During the harvest season much of the food must be checked for contamination. This process has helped form the somber harvest ritual that many Kellid tribe go through before their meager victuals can be eaten. Not every part of their ceremony is dour. Usually one of the younger men of the tribe will dress up as the mutant potato and chase around the kids, who in turn whack him with sticks. When the Potato man finally “dies” the children are offered tasty treats for their heroism.

And there you have it, five different harvest celebrations. But Golarion is a big place and there are probably many other harvest traditions. Be it Golarion or Homebrew, figuring out the important customs of a people helps shape the culture. So what are your harvest ideas?

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