Cultural Cues: Aswahi cultures are inspired by the indigenous peoples of Meso-America, Polynesia and Africa. Though three tribes are listed below, there are doubtless many more to be found.
The northernmost part of Aswahi borders on The Wastes, a land so blasted not even the hardy Ikhten survive there. Crossing the Wastes is a serious undertaking – most who make the attempt perish. Only the most determined (and best-equipped) expeditions manage to cross the Wastes and come out the other side. As a result, most trade and travel with Aswahi is conducted by ship.
Beyond The Wastes, a mountain range runs along the northwest side of Aswahi. East of the range is a verdant jungle, populated by many small and variegated tribes. Among the largest and most feared of these jungle tribes are the Atzotl. Their home city of Tohuacan lies next to an enormous freshwater lake in a marsh, surrounded by forest, jungle, and more marsh. Up in the mountain plateaus, another tribe has carved its home directly into cliff sides.
South of the Atzotl, the terrain slowly dries and gives way to plains. Some of the tribes on these plains are nomadic hunters; others live in tiny villages. The Atzotl often raid these villages to seize prisoners for sacrifice. Some tribes, wishing to spare themselves the cost of war in addition to having to give up the inevitable sacrificial victims, will offer up hostages and tribute in exchange for sparing their people a raid.
Beyond the central plains lies a dry sere extending to the southwest tip of Aswahi. The sere lands are home to small villages that squat near mud flats or streams. The largest of these villages is more akin to a city, the great and legendary city of Zambutu, where thousands of Aswahi live, trade, and work.
Tribes live along the eastern coasts as well, using fishing to supplement their diets and traveling in tiny canoes along the myriad shoals.
Most Aswahi come from moderately sized tribal groups, each with a distinct culture. The three largest groups are:
Tohuacan is the main city of the Atzotl people, built on ancient ruins from a time before Aswahi. The Atzotl people regularly practice human sacrifice, and their endless need for victims has made them an aggressive, expansionist people. Prisoners of war are regularly bled into the earth, after which their hearts are burned. The ruler of the Atzotl is believed by them to be an embodiment of solar power, called Tlanextli.
Because the Atzotl are such a warlike people, their warriors are highly esteemed members of society. All Atzotl prize physical strength, both in combat and in athletic games. Most warriors play fiercely competitive sports with each other when not making war on their neighbors. The most elite warriors are inducted into one of two fighting schools – the Eagle Knights or the Jaguar Knights. Warriors are generally referred to by the honorific Yaotl, wear light leather armor into battle and fight with a macahuitl – a wooden or iron club studded with sharp obsidian blades.
While the Atzotl can be brutal in war and even more brutal when performing their rites to sun and earth, they are not without a sense of compassion or fairness. These sentiments are reserved, however, for those who have proven themselves worthy of such consideration.
In the great southern sere of Aswahi lies Zambutu, a city built of mud, clay and stone by the Zambuti tribe. Their neighbors consider the Zambuti to be loud, opinionated and rambunctions. Most of the inter-tribal trade which happens in Aswahi is conducted by the Zambuti, and Zambutu is a local trading hub for the area.
A loose confederation of elders and tradesmen keep the city at peace with her neighbors and oversee the general administration of the area. The Zambuti enjoy both giving and receiving gifts as a way to create friends, gain political allies and show off one’s social status and material wealth. Though they are not a militaristic culture, especially when compared with the Atzotl, a class of professional warriors trained in the staff and bronze edged weapons keeps the city safe from outside threats.
The Mahutec live very high up in the mountains of Aswahi, in villages connected by a network of suspension bridges and narrow mountain roads. Though these people also practice blood sacrifice, they are not as brutal as the Atzotl – small quantities of blood are freely given by all Mahutec people, who generally survive the practice.
Several Mahutec villages have been built along the coast, where fish and trade goods are taken up the mountains to be traded for cashmere and handmade goods.
The Mahutec civic system is unique in that it connects a group of hereditary monarchic states to form a union; each state (a capital city and its surrounding villages) is overseen by an ajaw, a hereditary ruler, but the ajaw collectively make laws and agreements for the Mahutec society as a whole, by reaching consensus about trade, military matters, and land ownership. The Mahutec have a thriving populace and have likely only avoided war with the Atzotl because their mountain villages are nearly impossible to reach with an army.
Aswahi is populated with a wide variety of tribal cultures – the above three list only the largest. If you are interested in playing a PC with a tribal background inspired by pre-Colombian South America, Africa, Polynesia, Australia or a similar culture, talk to Staff about your idea.