Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Passage to Manhood - long

Date: Thu, 29 Jul 99 14:48PM PDT
From: "Brian A. Murphy" Add To Address Book Add To Junk Mail
Subject: [GREYTALK] The Passage to Manhood - long

When one of the players characters was killed in the Abyss by the HrathnirDemon, he started a new character from Maldev. The character's name was Feather and he was a barbarian from the mountains around Kandelspire. Given the nature of Maldev's plight, I thought it quite reasonable when the player wanted to play a CN character.

Once the party re-entered the Abyss after defeating Lolth's armies at Kandelspire, the character returned with the rest of the party to Oerth. The problem was, he was 8th level and still needed to be trained by someone. Talking with Jontash about the probable location of Barbarian tribes that would be compatible with him (CN) he was directed towards the east coast, where he encountered the Tribe of Strong Spirits.

This is one of the smaller tribes that had joined the rest of the barbarian hordes in decimating Ratik (IMC they don't get along and have been trying to take the more fertile, lower lands for centuries). When Feather came upon them, they had lands in and around the border of Ratik and the Bone March. There is a real hot-zone between old Ratik and the Bone March, mainly due to the Barbarians.

At any rate, he needed to become a member of the tribe in order to train, and I had to write up something to explain why (and how) they let him into the tribe.

The following then, is what I came up with to explain the tribal adoption.
The Passage to Manhood
Excerpted from:
Observations on the Primitives in the Barbarian Reaches
Kynle Saru
Anthropological Humanologist
College of Greyhawk
The Passage to Manhood within the Tribe of Strong Spirits consists of seven stages:

The first step, named by the tribe as the Learning of Honor (a rather blatant misnomer in my book), is a rather twisted period for the initiate wherein the Elders of the tribe attempt to humiliate and demean the applicant, confusing him with contradictory and unpredictable commands and edicts.

The novice is the runner, gopher, servant and slave to everyone with the coveted second name in the tribe. The prospect is addressed in various uncomplimentary ways, from "Scum-licker: to :Schmegma-breath" and is expected to not only acknowledge and even thank the elder for the accurate observation of character, but must perform whatever despicable service the Elder requires at the time. From ditch digging to hunting to -----shoveling, no task is too low for the manling.

It is expected that the apprentice gains some higher meaning from this abuse, although this researcher has been unable to determine what beneficial effect this has on the prospective warrior other than to perpetuate the unpredictability of the tribe.

The second stage of the Passage is the Testing of Honor. If the manling survives the Learning (many don't), there is a rigorous ceremony centered on the adolescent. He is placed in the center of the tribal circle and all Elders (male, of course) begin by imbuing him with "The Essence and Wisdom of the Elders" (they urinate all over him). Then, he is made to stomp around inside the circle and amongst the steaming coals of the tribal fire, that all present may be aware of his level of wisdom. Apparently, the more powerful the aroma, the more he has learned.

Drinking of the Blood of the Tribe (a strong concoction brewed by the Shaman), the novice's eyes are opened to the Spirit World. He is then instructed to go out across the Lands of Death and bring back his Adult Spirit.

The novice then, under the light of the full moon, leaves the circle and runs into the night. This begins the third stage, called the Search of the Spirit. Howling and screeching to terrify the spirits of the tribe's dead enemies, the apprentice sheds all coverings and tools, to show the Earth Mother that ne needs nothing other than the Wisdom of the Tribe to survive her torment. Then, prior to first light, he must track down a wild creature and bring it to the Shaman alive in his arms. (Given the extreme hallucinogenic and anesthetic effects of the Blood of the Tribe, I have been unable to judge the veracity of any tales told of the Search by the Elders. A common thread appears to be dangerous spirit enemies intent on enslaving and eating the hunter.)

It should be noted that many of those who survived the Learning fail the Search and never return to the tribe. Although tribal members take this to be a sign of unworthiness, the reality may be something else entirely. While the tribe claims much of the surrounding territory as its own, there are many wild areas nearby, in "claimed" lands. Many dangerous denizens inhabit the area including trolls, lamias, displacer beasts and the occasional owl bear. Despite tribal claims that "no creature would be stupid enough to challenge our might," it should be noted that the Testing is one of the few times that a tribal member travels in open lands alone.

When the apprentice returns, bleeding and broken into the circle, the Shaman takes the animal from the novice. At this point, the apprentice is draped to the Women's Circle for the Test of Vitality, the fourth stage of the Passage. (This researcher has not borne witness to this test, but, in seeing the preparations, I shudder to think of its' implications. Ropes, feathers, stones tied together and oddly shaped sticks of wood are all laid out amongst a large bed of leaves. Various oils and liniments are also present, their use unknown. It wasn't the items themselves that disturbed me so; it was the suggestive gestures and odd looks on the part of the women when they noticed me observing them that caused me to beat a hasty retreat...)

At first light on the following day, after the novice returns from the Women's Circle -- if he returns, I noted that some young men ran kicking and wailing back to the whelps' huts -- he begins the fifth stage, the Claiming of Title. Otherwise known as The Telling, this period in the ritual seems to center on braggery and exaggeration, as the tales told rarely resemble probable circumstances. The initiate tells of his exploits, in the Hunt, in Battle, and in any other endeavor he feels can
increase his appearance to the tribe. I have heard many detailed accounts of applicants' slaying gigantic monsters with nothing but grass blades, toe-nails and even belly-lint! Tales of novices overcoming their enemies with nothing but the wisdom of the tribe (they seem to have a thing for aromatic attacks) and even exploits with women which seem physically impossible.

Once complete, the novice is then blindfolded, gagged and bound. Placed in a hole, he is then buried near the tribal graveyard to await the sixth stage of the Passage, the Decision of the Elders. This too, is a difficult time for the initiate, as the Elders must decide the validity of the novice's claims. Many times I have seen a prospect reach this step only to fail, not because the Elders decided against him, but because their decision was too late in coming.

Usually, as long as the Elders do not forget about the novice they will eventually decide to name him. Finally, after the novice is dug up and revived, the Elders then bestow the Tribal Name on the new adult. This name, while ostensibly a result of The
Telling, sometimes is the result of the Elders latching onto one facet of the tale found most memorable and expounding upon it. It should be noted that this tends to be something the Elders by consensus find amusing and derogatory to the apprentice. The end result appears to depend on a multitude of factors: the entertainment value of the tale, how well the initiate is looked upon by the Elders, the probability that the novice could be telling the truth, the whispers of the womenfolk and (probably most importantly), the ratio of hung-over to still-intoxicated Elders still conscious at the naming.

The Learning of Honor -- You hung in there and did whatever was asked!

The Search of the Spirit -- You returned with a wild boar.

The Testing of Vitality -- You awoke in the morning staked naked to the ground. The tribal women were all around you and seemed very pleased and strangely content?!?!?!?!

The Telling -- You described your tale of other worlds and Demon Queens, death and destruction, (completely true, who needs to embellish that wild of a story?) but they didn't buy it. In fact, they kept interrupting and cracking jokes, mostly centered on how well your skull "served" you (side note: The character had taken a goblin's skull and stuck it on one of his armor's shoulder spikes as kind of a warped second head. He was quite proud of it). You didn't get the joke, but they found it extremely amusing.

The Naming -- After waking up coughing dirt (and having strange dreams to boot), you are brought back to the center of the Elders. Bleary eyed and cringing in the light of the sun, the Chieftain and other look upon you and bestow your name:

Feather Skull-Humper

And you are accepted into the tribe!

You train and are at the next level, ready to return to Hillville.

Brian A. Murphy, MCP
Eikon Consulting Services

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