Cultures of Metal Age Kur

Copyright Peter Mork © 2015

Totem Tribes

Throughout the vast forests of the Wetwooods dwell the Totem Tribes. Each tribe can be found around the edges of the continent, with the exception of the northern shore (which is occupied by the Skelli). Whereas these tribes were once distinct cultural entities, time has eroded away the larger differences. The tribes can be treated as a single cultural group with slight variations.


The various clans and tribes are all nomadic. Roughly once each year, the tribe will move to a new location where they construct simple huts and furniture. During their stay, they hunt and forage for food. When the food supply dwindles, it's time to move own. They pack their belongings into clay pots and onto sleds or coracles (depending on the terrain). When they find a suitable site for their next home, the cycle begins anew.

When a tribesman's eyes change, it is time for the young adult to select a totem. This ritual often results in the selection of a totem with familial significance, but there is a steady influx of new totems. In general, the beaver, deer, and otter are the most common totems. But, these days it is not uncommon to meet squirrels, bats, larks, ferrets, skunks, perch, and others. (The raccoon is never chosen, for the raccoon is the stealer of souls.)


The tribes have generally unified around the traditional garb of the deer: lengths of felt (made from dog hair) over one shoulder, bound about the waist with rope and pinned at the sides with bone. This fabric is stained with dyes harvested from fruits and roots obtained in their travels. Particularly valued are deep blue dyes that require the heating of shellfish found only on the north coast of the Wetwoods (which is one of the few motivations strong enough to convince a tribesman to interact with a Skelli)


Marriages are recognized only after the two individuals have demonstrated their ability to live together for a year. At any time during the year, the pairing can dissolve without shame. Of course, if children are involved, the two are strongly encouraged by the tribe to find that they are compatible (regardless of the truth).

Marriage outside the tribe is unthinkable (for example with the Skelli or Ayrish). The tribes mix with foreign cultures only when children are claimed as trophies of war. Once the victims have been acculturated, they can marry another member of the tribe.


Each tribesman believes themself to be the enlightened descendants of a given animal. Thus, they will not harm those animals (as they are their primitive forebearers) and will even protect those animals, within reason. Saving an otter from a trap is one thing; going to war because another tribe hunted some venison is quite another.

The tribes each believe that other humans are spiritless shells rejected by their totem (hence the prohibition on marriage—it would be little more than bestiality!). Children captured early enough (before their eyes choose a color) still have the potential to be blessed by the totem.

Fears & Biases

The Totem Tribes preserve a rivalry among totems, but this competition no longer borders on the homicidal. Instead, the tribes are deeply suspicious of outside cultures, preferring to mimic alien technology while preserving their own cultural roots. The tribesmen see nothing hypocritical with this stance.

Deep in the Wetwoods, near the center of the continent, where Kur touches the Twilight the Totem Tribes have had brief encounters with the Fey. These encounters are mutually frustrating, and the tribes have, over time, developed an outright fear of Fey beings. (For their part, the Fey fuel this fear through a variety of means.)


The Skelli live along the northern coast of the Wetwoods. They are the descendants of the Otter, but their traditions have changed considerably. Most have put aside their nomadic ways and settled down as farmer and herders (of water buffalo). The urge to roam lives on in the Skelli sailors, a sub-culture devoted to sailing, trading, and exploring.

Allies of the Skelli include the Telquelli (to the north) and Dwarves (to the east). Their greatest enemies are the Sea-Krals whose raids threaten Skelli, sailor and farmer alike.


Most Skelli now live their entire lives within a few miles of their birthplaces. The loss of wonder and awe at experiencing the world weighs heavily on a Skelli's heart. Thus, they approach most tasks with a bittersweet smile for the safe predictability of rural life.

Days are a combination of herding water buffalo, tending rice fields, mining stone, and building walls. Indeed, the walls that ring each pasture sometimes run for miles. When forced to travel on foot, Sailors can often traverse most of the distance atop these walls, without ever getting their feet wet in the paddies.

At the other extreme, are the carefree Sailors whose lives are anything but stable (and yet many Sailors wonder if their chaotic lifestyle has any real meaning). The Sailors are equal parts explorers and merchants. Closer to home, they move goods among Skelli settlements and Totem tribes. Further afield, Skelli Sailors interact with the Telquelli and Dwarves.


The Skelli wear long trousers and vests, which they decorate with intricate stitching and beadwork in the style of the Otter. These trousers are kept on with an elaborate pattern of buttons and laces. For important ceremonies, getting into one's clothing can take the better part of an hour. With the exception of actively seafaring Skelli, they continually seek to outdo each other with the quality and extent of their decorations.


Frequent interactions with the Telquelli have demonstrated to the Skelli the importance of economic marriages. The parents of the newlyweds are expected to provide the new family with all of the basic resources needed to establish a new pasture farm or trade route. As the previous generation ages, this investment is repaid by the children. Few of these marriages are truly happy, but nobody expects them to be.


Skelli religion revolves around the cleansing power of water by the spirits that reside therein (generally metaphorically unless one has strayed into fey lands). Most Skelli bathe daily for religious reasons and holiday celebrations involve large public baths (which provide an ample opportunity to find distractions from unhappy marriages).

Fears & Biases

With the exception of Sea-Kral raids, Skelli have little to fear. For the time being, they lead largely idyllic pastoral lives. They distrust anyone dirty or unwashed as morally corrupt, the physical stains an external manifestation of the spiritual stains within.


The Ayrish live on the rocky islands southeast of the Wetwoods. In contrast with the Skelli, the Ayrish lead rugged lives. Resources are scarce among the granite outcrops, and the weather is just as unforgiving. Against this bleak backdrop, the Ayrish devote their lives to attaining perfect harmony.


Daily life for the Ayrish consists of nigh-endless labor. There are always rocks to clear from the barley fields, or fences to mend to keep in the scrawny gabbits native to the isles, or shellfish to dig out of the pebble seafloor.

Nights are spent huddled over meager fires, hiding in caves from the strong salty winds that etch away at the shoreline. In this austere setting, the Ayrish are slowly working towards what will one day be known as Philosophy. But, to the Ayrish, it is simply justice and harmony.


The Ayrish dress in many layers, using fabrics imported from the Dwarves. The outermost layer serves as a cloak, a blanket, or a tarp, depending on one's needs. (Where whales wash ashore, the Ayrish collect the blubber, which when combined with chalk, forms a waterproof grey paste.)

Ayrish men tends to keep their hair very short, while sporting long braided beards. Women wear their hair long, with similar braids.


Harmony is the Ayrish ideal. In order to live a long and productive life, one must find harmony with all things: the rocks, the birds, the wind, and each other. This quest to fuse inner and outer peace is a difficult one. Mistakes are frequently made.

Justice is the world's reaction to missteps. When one leads a life that lacks Harmony, the world is quick to demonstrate one's failing. Any setback is a sign that mistakes have been made, that one needs to work harder to find Harmony.

Ayrish missionaries sometimes leave the isles to spread the twin message. Strangely, most outsiders have little interest in the ascetic rambling that has become synonymous with "being Ayrish" (an insult among the Skelli that indicates excessive stubborness).


The Ayrish identify their spouses early in life, usually by age 13 or 14. Each vernal equinox, on every island, there is a mass celebration of nuptuals. The brides and grooms are decorated with flowers. They day is time for quiet contemplation of the lives they are to lead together. The night is time for dancing and revelry (and not a small amount of fermented barley).

Within Ayrish culture, marriage is forever. Difficulties in marriage indicate Justice is being meted out for failure to find Harmony.

Fears & Biases

More than anything, the Ayrish are averse to expressions of negative emotions. Sadness, jealousy, and anger are all signs that Justice is pending. Much better to suppress that rage as a demonstration of Harmony and self-improvement. This inner turmoil leaves the Ayrish with little energy to worry about external threats.


The people of the Wetwoods have access to the following skills.

Skill Category Skill Note
Armor • Light Textile
Artistic • Active Acting
Artistic • Passive Drawing
Artistic • Passive Poetry
Artistic • Passive Sculpting
Athletic • Endurance Rowing
Athletic • Gymnastics Contortions
Athletic • Gymnastics Pole-vaulting
Athletic • Gymnastics Rappelling
Athletic • Gymnastics Tightrope-walking
Combat Maneuvers Restricted Area Combat
Combat Maneuvers Seaborne Combat
Crafts Earth-crafts
Crafts Food-crafts
Crafts Rope-crafts
Crafts Stone-crafts
Crafts Textile-crafts
Lore • Magical Symbol Lore
Lore • Obscure Elemental Lore
Lore • Obscure Faerie Lore
Lore • Obscure Undead Lore
Lore • Technical Stone Lore
Outdoor • Animal Animal Handling Specific skills include Aerial, Aquatic, Arthropods, Carnivorous, Dangerous Herbivores, Draft, Flying Monster, Hybrid Elemental, Land Monster, Passive Herbivores, Reptile/Amphibian, Unearthly, Water Monster (see Creatures & Monsters and Fire & Ice)
Outdoor • Animal Herding
Power Awareness Read Runes
Power Manipulation Channeling
Power Manipulation Spell Mastery Specific skills for each spell list
Power Manipulation Targeting
Resistance Divine Resistance
Resistance Impulse Resistance
Science/Analytic • Basic Basic Math
Special Attacks Whip Grapple
Spells • Divine Open Lists Barrier Law
Spells • Divine Open Lists Concussion’s Ways
Spells • Divine Open Lists Detection Mastery
Spells • Divine Open Lists Light’s Way
Spells • Divine Open Lists Lofty Movements
Spells • Divine Open Lists Nature’s Law
Spells • Divine Open Lists Purifications
Spells • Divine Open Lists Sound’s Way
Spells • Divine Open Lists Spell Defense
Spells • Divine Open Lists Weather Ways
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Delving Ways
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Detecting Ways
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Elemental Shields
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Essence Hand
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Essence's Perceptions
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Lesser Illusions
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Physical Enhancement
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Rune Mastery
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Spell Wall
Spells • Impulse Open Lists Unbarring Ways
Spells • Psychic Open Lists Anticipations
Spells • Psychic TP Lists Sailing Mastery
Spells • Psychic TP Lists Sea Mastery
Subterfuge • Mechanics Camouflage
Technical/Trade • General Mapping
Technical/Trade • General Rope Mastery
Technical/Trade • General Sailing
Technical/Trade • Professional Architecture
Technical/Trade • Professional Mining
Technical/Trade • Vocational Boat Pilot
Technical/Trade • Vocational Cartography
Technical/Trade • Vocational Siege Engineering
Weapon • Artillery, Direct Ballista
Weapon • Artillery, Direct Catapult
Weapon • Chains Whip
Weapon • Chopping Axe
Weapon • Chopping Hammer

Starting Skills

Category or Skill Ayrish Skell Skell Sailor Totem Tribe
Armor • Light 1
    Textile 1
Athletic • Brawn 1 1 1 1
Athletic • Endurance 1 2 3 1
    Rowing 2
    Swimming 1 2 3 1
Athletic • Gymnastics 1 2 2 1
    Climbing 1 2 2 1
Awareness • Perceptions 0 0 0 0
    Alertness 2 2 2 2
Awareness • Searching 1 1 1 1
    Observation 1 1 1 1
Body Development 0 0 0 0
    Concussion Hits 2 2 1 1
Communications: Wrin 3 2 3 2
    Ayrian (S) 5
    Skelli (S) 2 5 5
    Totem (S) 5
    Wrin (W) 1 1 1
Crafts 0 0 0 0
    Earth-crafts 1 1
    Food-crafts 1 1
    Stone-crafts 2 1 1
    Textile-crafts 2 1
    Wood-crafts 1 1
Influence 1 1
    Rhetoric 1
    Trading 1
Lore • General 3 3 3 3
    Culture Lore: Own 3 3 3 3
    Fauna Lore 2
    Flora Lore 2
    Region Lore: Own 3 3 3 3
Martial Arts • Striking 2
    Boxing 2
Martial Arts • Sweeps 2
    Wrestling 2
Outdoor • Animal 1 1
    Animal Handling: Carnivorous 1
    Herding 1
Outdoor • Environmental 2 2 2 3
    Caving 1
    Fishing 2 2
    Foraging 1 1 2
    Star-gazing 2
    Survival: Saltwater shore (S) 1 2 1 3
    Weather Watching 1
Power Awareness 1
    Read Runes 1
Resistance 0 0 0 0
    Disease Resistance 1 1 1 1
    Divine Resistance 1 1 1 1
    Fear Resistance 1 1 1 1
    Impulse Resistance 1 1 1 1
    Poison Resistance 1 1 1 1
Spells • Impulse Open Lists 0
    Rune Mastery 1
Subterfuge • Stealth 2 1 2
    Hiding 2 1 2
    Stalking 2 1 2
Technical/Trade • General 1 1 3 1
    Mapping 2 1 1
    Sailing 1 1 3
Technical/Trade • Professional 0 0
    Mining 1 1
Technical/Trade • Vocational 0
    Evaluate Stone 2
Weapon • Chopping 1
    Hammer 1
Weapon • Crushing 1
    Sticks 1
Weapon • Pole Arms 2 1 2
    Spear 2 1 2
Weapon • Thrown 1 2 2
    Direct Thrown 1 2 2
Hobbies 4 4 4 4
Everyman Skills Rhetoric Sailing
Cost [1] 18 6 12 12

[1] To determine a character’s background options, add up the racial cost (40 for Human, Wrin) and the culture cost (6–18 for the people of the Wetwoods). Convert that total into talent points or background options using Talent Law. All of the Wrin/Wetwoods combinations fall in the 26-75 point range, resulting in 55 talent points or 6 background options.