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, June 8, 2016

A People Out of Place

Examining the Kasatha

Monday I began my look at the kasatha—by reader request—making random rolls for a kasatha character. Today I’m going to actually take a look at the race as a whole. I will be looking at their place on Golarion and in the greater universe in which Golarion belongs. Creating a society for a race is something I touched on last week in my article "it takes more than a rib."

There is very little actual Pathfinder related information on kasatha. They are referenced in four different books which included their race write up in People of the Stars, and two one page snippets in the Iron Gods AP books; Fires of Creation and Valley of theBrain Collectors and their monster entry in Bestiary 4. I’m sure that the announcement of Starfinder means these creatures will get a bigger write up in the near future, but until then I’m going to take some creative license.

In this exploration, I would be remiss not to mention that these creatures have basically been taken wholesale from the Barsoom series books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read any of these novels. I was more of a Tarzan guy than John Carter guy. I did see the 2012 movie which I’m sure many of the younger readers will be more familiar with. That said a lot of the characterization that is to come will be from my own mind since I have very little knowledge of the source material.

I want to outline what little information we know about these creatures. They come from a desert planet that orbits a red sun. The planet—which they call Kasanth—has violent weather patterns and dangerous fauna, predominantly of a hexapodous variety. On their world they live a nomadic life style. Two of their only known customs are that they always wear something to cover their mouths, and before becoming an “adult” they take a ritual “tempering” where they travel the world on their own.

One of the most telling things about their culture is outlined in the bestiary entry. The kasatha are a matriarchal society. Women and men look ostensibly the same to most outsiders, as there is very little sexual dimorphism between males and females, but what does this mean for the kasatha? There are many reasons this could have come to pass, but I’m going to go with childbearing being sacred. Because there is little-to-no physical difference in height, weight, and strength men and women are equals in battle. Women, however, are the ones who bear and raise the young. In a harsh land where death can come at any moment, growth of the tribe is very important.

Names are an important part of any culture. How people choose their names or how their names are granted to them can tell you a lot about a people. For the kasatha, clan is all. As such they have only a single name and no last name. Everyone is of the clan and parentage means little. Kasatha also speak in a terse manner. Their names reflect this, being only one or two syllables long. When speaking among the clan they just use their name. When speaking to other clans or outsiders, they add a shortening of the clan name to their given name, to other kasatha this conveys much about who they are speaking to. So if they are named Hassak and they are from the Unesse clan when speaking to someone not of the clan they will announce themselves as UnHassak. For this reason non-kasatha often mistakenly believe that the name with the clan prefix is actually the individual’s given name.

Now let’s talk about general lifestyle. Although they travel, most of the other creatures on Kasath are violent and dangerous. Because of that, I feel that the kasatha probably don’t rely heavily on pack or riding creatures. Each kasatha’s life and worldly possessions are only what they can carry with them. Material wealth most likely means little to them as the more there is to carry the harder it is to move about.

With no general settlements, this means things like smithing, pottery, and other crafts that require large stationary equipment are probably unknown. Metal armor and weapons are probably unheard of with most of their equipment being made from bone and hide. Since hexapods make up a vast majority of Kasath's ecology and insects are one of the major hexapods the kasatha’s heavier armor would probably be made from chitin rather than steel.

Water probably plays a huge role in the kasatha’s life. Their arid world means what little they can find is probably sacred to them. Traditional rituals almost all involve the sharing of water. When two kasatha choose to be mates I imagine they have a ritual of co-mingling water that represents their new connection to each other. Spilling water rather than sharing it is probably one of the kasatha’s ultimate insults Spitting at someone, wasting water from one’s own body, is a challenge to the person at whom you spit.

The wearing of facial coverings at most instances, especially when dealing with outsiders, is mentioned in three of the four entries for the kasatha. If this is an important part of their culture we need to ask ourselves why? Living on a desert planet this practice probably arose to keep sand out of their mouth and nose. Like many things that start for practical reasons a culture has grown up around the practice as well. The kasatha are secretive and showing their faces might give away more than they may be willing to expose, so the practice has become a cultural norm. Kasatha who do not wear their face coverings around outsiders are thought to be giving away clan secrets and may well be shunned.

Religion is the next big thing. You have to question: do Golarion’s deities have sway in other solar systems of the universe? Do the kasatha have their own gods? Perhaps the gods of Golarion exist but the kasatha may call them something else? But since kasatha have no knowledge of their own history I would imagine their devotion to long-term religious beliefs are minimal. Any gods they do follow would probably be gods of nature and not ones of civilization or even more esoteric portfolios.

Although any race can choose any class, some classes may be usually more or less common because of genetic make-up (ability modifiers) and cultural mores. Also, by looking at a class that a race may or may not take, we can extrapolate more about their culture. As an example, it is well known that even with shared traditions and language, kasatha know nothing of their history. This tells me they probably have no bards. By saying they don’t have bards we can extrapolate that their race is probably very serious and doesn’t appreciate frivolity. Life is deadly on kasatha there is little time for song and play.

Being nomadic, I would imagine most of the truly learned classes are out. Wizards especially don’t seem like they fit the lifestyle of the kasatha. With very little in terms of plant life on Kasath I would also posit the alchemists are probably few and far between. In the movies, the martian creatures used guns but the kasatha of the Pathfinder universe seem a bit more savage and with a double bow using archetype, I imagine gunslingers are pretty much out for them as well.

Many of the nature-based classes are probably extremely common among the kastha. Rangers—including their bow nomad archetype—as well druids and hunters probably make up a huge number of kasatha adventurers. I can see shamans, witches, fighters, and brawlers as being quite common as well. Oddly, although they might be considered savage by most others, the kasatha are very strict with themselves so there are probably not that many barbarians among their numbers.

But what of the kasatha living on Golarion? It appears that pretty much all the kasatha who ended up on Golarion came from a single starship that crashed there. The ship wasn’t theirs, and they have no means to return home. They don’t even know where “home” is. The ship housed many kasatha of different tribes; some were used as experiments, some treated as pets, some put in a terrarium-like enclosure for study, and others allowed to roam the ship as friends. Oddly, the separate groups of Kasatha didn’t know the others were on board.

As far as has been written, the kasatha exclusively exist in Numeria. Here they stay hidden from the rest of the world in small nomadic tribes. The blasted Numerian badlands don’t quite mimic home, but enough so that I don’t think the kasatha would find it too difficult to survive. The one big difference is that Numeria is in the far north, practically under the frozen Crown of the World. The change in temperature from the arid sandy wastes of their home to the grounds that freeze for months at a time is probably a big adjustment.

Many of the kasatha traditions probably still hold true on Golarion. Especially those revolving around water. Numeria isn’t known for its supply of the life-giving liquid and many pools and streams are polluted with the waste of the stuff that came screaming from the sky during starfall. Plentiful sources of metal as well as random bits of technology have probably changed the kasathan reliance on bone and hide for weapons, armor, and other goods.

Many of the kasatha have only just awoken from life pods and stasis chambers. For this reason, the fact they are all but unknown to the world is easily explained. As the tribes begin to grow and the young must take to their “tempering,”  there is the perfect excuse for presenting a kasatha character to the world.

The kasatha are an interesting race and certainly one I would consider playing. With this new information, would playing one of the four-armed aliens on Golarion interest you? What kind of character do you think would be appropriate for one of the Numerian kasatha? Is their any other information you think could be added to what I’ve given here?

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