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Totem

Their history was simple and rarely was there a need for a written account.
Their belief in the spirits around them and the animals they share the world with
were all they needed. Yet there was a time when the Onebearer called upon all
the Totem to ally against spiritbreakers.
In the gloried past they were contacted by elven magic and the Onebearer
was made aware of a savage alliance of monstrous creatures. An alliance was
being created to survive the enemy. The Onebearer in his wisdom secretly tried to
meet with the savage creatures to judge their actions for himself before
committing to this alliance of white-men and elves and light forsaken Underclan.
The worg-men elves called gnoll were a surprise at first, for they appeared
as though the bond had reached a level beyond ken. They hunted in packs and
lived close to nature. Their actions were harsh, and the Onebearer judged them.
They broke all that was around them, feeding on the worg presented as bond-gift.
They were judged spiritbreakers and held accountable for their folly.
The Onebearer tried to find the swamp-beasts, but no mixed words would be
broached by the spirits. The elves called swamp-beasts only words meaning foe;
no aid to translate would be found there.
The Underclan had explained that the troglodyte were the Blindclan; an
ancient foe beaten to the northeast range centuries before. The Blindclan
attacked the Totem with no hesitation and the Totem accepted them as enemies.
The Onebearer returned to the steppe. He had journeyed so that certainty
could weigh his decision. Though saddened at the prospect of war he knew the
choice would garner the respect of the spirits. The spiritbreakers had to be
stopped. The southron elves were growing desperate as the forces of the enemy
shattered their northern borders and drove them down. They were fighting as
fools.
The Onebearer told his Totembearers to show the elves how to hunt that
which is larger. They nipped at the tendons of the enemies legs, capturing
supplies, killing unsuspecting reinforcements and patrols behind the front lines.
How to lead with misdirection and strike the flank with the rest. For a time this
worked.
Then the black-men came.
The large men rode powerful hoofed animals. Atop these thunderous

creatures the black-men launched sharp tipped spears; their motility and precision
a deadly union. With this new threat the elves of the south retreated to their cities
to protect those who could not fend for themselves. An honourable decision
though it cost them their nation. The Totem were pushed back, the Underclan
forced to their lair.
Roc communicated the smoke plumes and scavengers amidst the empty
elven cities to their bonded. The southron elves were extinct. For a time the Totem
watched their territory against incursion, none came. No word could be heard
from under the mountains. It was a time of vigilance. A time when the fears of the
tribes had the potential to consume them.
A dream woke the Onebearer. Prepared him for what was to come. He heard
a voice the next morning during his meal. The northern elves explained that the
war was far from finished. The humans of the taiga were marching to meet the
spiritbreakers. A pact between the north-men and the remaining elves was made.
The elves spoke to the Underclan, and together the two dwarven races planned to
break the blockade.
Communicating via the elves the Totem struck the black-men from behind
while the Underclan fought their way out. Those ill lit dwarves marched from
beneath their mountains yet stayed true only to their nights and wondered at the
stars. With the Underclan attacking by night and the Totem by day they drove the
horsemen back to their own lands. As the dwarves mobilized to assault the blackmen's territory they were met by a group of young human spiritbearers.
The Totem found in these songbird black-men leaders a joined belief that
shunned walls and saw the light of day and warmth of fire revered. Where the
Totem saw the spirits reflected back at them through the eyes of their bond the
black-men saw spirits in their fires and song. This was acceptable and they were
accorded the honour of their name, the word Sraht was now known to the Totem.
The worg-men that at first glance would be friend were enemy, and the
Sraht they were told would be enemy turned friend. Truly wisdom was the
greatest gift the Totem received from the spirits.
Allied, they began a campaign to retake the south. Successfully they drove
northward through elven ruins until the threat of a great fortress of the enemy
loomed to the east. As a funnel this place drew more of the spiritbreakers from
the unknown eastern realms. Without taking it the enemy could tear at their
heels, but to capture the enemy bastion would end too many lives. The Sraht
were no siegers of fortresses, nor were the Totem. The Underclan while capable
were too few, and too far from their mountains and forges. Encamped, they
argued their next course. Elves ended the debate, promiseing to break the
fortress. In a month's time they would bring down a section of wall.
The Totem waited...

...Word was passed by grieving elves that the spiritbreakers were leaderless,
the price paid in elven blood and earth. The fortress would remain whole. They
would not speak further of their tragedy.
The forces of Underclan penned the fortress; echo of a vengeful spirit
reenacting their previous confinement. The Sraht and Totem moved to join some
of the human forces. They cleansed the west of spiritbreakers together. Whitemen siege equipment was deployed and the ancient fortress was cracked apart.
The allies went their separate ways after the sack. Elves and humans, both
Sraht and white-men, continued east pursuing worg-men and swamp-men. The
Totem returned to the steppe, the mountains, and their forests. They would
continue to speak with the Sraht. It was even spoken that an ambitious
Totembearer was trying to teach the horses-that-bear-Sraht to bond with the
Sraht. It had not been possible to name the white-men despite their earning a
name. There were just too many names they gave themselves.
It was at a later date that a spirit-borne dream would convince the
Onebearer to send a Spiritbearer with the elves across the endless waters to find
new spirits and make new totems. There would be need of them.
These are the Totem.
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A dwarven confederacy consisting of numerous tribes. The Totem
themselves are a darkly coloured less portly type of dwarf. They wear furs and
leathers and do not practise metalworking. They live primarily along a large series
of steppes ranging from temperate to alpine and along forests bordering the
massive mountain range that creates the steppe.
The Totem tribes will often have numerous totems within the populous. The
number of different totems in any tribe reflects the number of totemic animals
that inhabit the tribe's territory.
Not all Totem are part of a totemic order which consists mostly of warriors or
hunters with bonded animals. Each tribe can only sustain a certain amount of
Totembearers and totemic in the same way a civilized population can only field a
limited number of professional military. The more totemic the tribe has the greater
it's respect in the eyes of the other tribes.
Leaders of a particular totem are called Totembearers, and as their name
might imply they carry a small version of a totem as a back-banner, walking stick,
etc. These totems are often intricately carved with icons of the animal, the group's
history, beliefs, or other unique information passed down from Totembearer to
Totembearer. The Spiritbearer is the leader of the entire tribe, with Totembearers
acting as advisers. The leader of the entire nation belongs to the largest tribe and
holds the title Onebearer, which contextually translates to The bearer of the one

people. From Totembearer to Onebearer those in leadership positions are


considered to have a great burden placed upon them and must bear it for the
people.
Only certain types of animals are considered capable of being totem. Much
of the tribal population consists of Tenders which act as farmers or herdsmen of
animals not considered totemic. Skilled labourers such as leatherworkers are
known as Bearers and make up a significant portion of the population as well.
Tenders/Bearers are not considered a lower caste, they are by far the most
numerous and much of the Totem's internal politics are driven by a sort of vocal
democracy wherein the loudest or most numerous group often dictates how the
Spiritbearer should act.
The Bond is a spiritual magic which enables Totem and bonded animals to
form a deeper connection than is normally possible. While most are not able to
communicate outright the bond allows them to direct their animals and share a
profound empathy with them. As time passes the bond grows and communication
becomes easier, in some cases they are able to truly communicate with one
another in a mixed language of the animal's, body language, and a spirit-bred
telepathy.
The bond confers greater powers than communication, a sharing of strength
and senses is possible. The methods of acquiring these powers or links are
difficult. Most are tribal or even specific Totembearer secrets and this is an area
where player driven research can prove valuable.
While many different animals have been considered capable of acting as
totem the most numerous, well known, or well adapted are as follows.
-

Basilisk
Behemoth
Roc
Worg
Wyvern

Basilisk
A reptile similar in size to a komodo dragon possessing two pairs of front
legs, one set with claws for digging/fighting that continually grow and must be
buffed away; the other with slightly smaller more dextrous claws.
The basilisk has poisonous glands near it's nostrils that can spray a paralytic
poison from small holes on the roof of it's mouth. The spray is aimed at the eyes
and is accurate to a distance of 2-4 metres depending on the size and age of the
basilisk. Eye contact causes immediate blindness and paralysis within a minute, it
lasts for hours. Skin contact leads to paralysis of the immediate area in a few
minutes but does not completely incapacitate the target. The poison is a highly
prized medicinal by the surgeons of the Northern Coalition. It has no lasting ill
effects and can be used on patients to keep them immobile during surgery.

Patients cannot feel anything in the area if properly anaesthetized. (Only Coalition
Surgeons know the secret of properly anaesthetizing with this poison.)
The basilisk is in actuality, an herbivore. The poison is defensive. Often a
last resort as well. It has dun grey, brown, and green colouring that can slowly
change. The pattern and colouration will often alter with the time of day, season,
and type of terrain. It typically takes a few hours for a full colour change.
The Totem that bond with these animals will become immune to the toxins,
and can teach their bonded animals to spit on command. The most successful and
experienced can even get them to alter their colouration as needed; albeit any
change still takes a few hours to complete and are limited to dun colours.
Behemoth
An analog of the prehistoric land sloth Megatherium, this creature looks
roughly like a cross between a werewolf and a grizzly bear. Though behemoth
have a distinctly more predatory caste to it than Megatherium. It grows between 7
to 12 feet tall, and weighs a shittonne. Yes. A Shittonne.
It is an omnivore but without a consistent diet supplemented by meat either
through scavenging or hunting it cannot sustainably exist. It is considered the
apex creature and a sure sign of a rich and thriving ecosystem. Very few tribes
have this totem and it is one of the very few animals that the Totem dwarves use
as a mount. Adults often carry multiple Totem in a howdah-like contraption.
It has large claws on it's forelegs used normally for digging at burrows to
find prey, uprooting fruit trees, or tearing bark away. The claws are sharpened and
engraved when bonded animals go into battle. When not on the battlefield it is
used for it's prodigious strength to haul lumber, uproot stumps, even plough fields
for Tenders. It can be used as a pack animal and small groups will make slow
circuits around the tribes as something akin to a merchant caravan, with the
added benefit of garnering prestige for the owning tribe.
Their hides are vibrant shades of brown with a particular coppery lustre that
darkens with age instead of lightening. The oldest are nearly black.
Roc
This massive condor has an average wingspan of 7m. Typically a scavenger
that controls a widespread territory as a mated pair.
During peace the animals are used infrequently as messengers or carriers of
light goods. They are unable to act as mounts and have a small carry-weight
relative to their size. They are quite intelligent, and used as guides for hunters.
Rocs have an uncanny ability to learn the hunting patterns of local predators and
the grazing habits of their prey. They are adept at scavenging in a way no other
animal is because they can predict where prey will most likely fall. Totem hunting
groups make use of this and a bonded roc can be an invaluable tool to them.

In battle they are used to drop small objects on the enemy and it is
supposed that this is the origin of their name. They are not close in fighters and
will rarely engage with their beak or talons unless the enemy is wounded. This
being said a single swipe from roc talons can kill most humanoids. They have
fairly good accuracy and the rocks they drop are still of a weight to crush the skull
of a horse when dropped at a dive.
Worg
The worg of this world are similar to hyena, albeit on a different altogether
larger scale. They have a bulky upper body with a slow loping gait. At shoulder
they stand 1.2-1.4m fully grown. Worg are a communicative intelligent breed with
the characteristic yelps and howls of hyena though with a deeper bass to them.
Worg were the first bonded animals and honoured as the progenitors of the
bond. They are the easiest to bond, and the bond has reached it's deepest with
worg.
In battle the worg work in packs much like in nature. They are cunning,
possessing a capability to find the flanks and weak points of the enemy. Worg jaws
have a bite force that can inflict severe damage through leather, even crushing
iron armour.
In peace time worg are capable hunters and rarely used for anything else.
Because of their gait they are unsuitable mounts, although strong enough to carry
a dwarf. They are prodigious carnivores and their diet requirements keep them
hunting continually.
Wyvern
These relatively small winged reptiles have a wingspan of 1.5m. They are
sinuous, with a long prehensile tail and a thin neck. They have small hind legs and
do not have any forelimbs instead walking on their wings like a bat.
The species colouration is aposematic; as diverse and vibrant as poison dart
frogs. Wyverns are the most venomous creatures currently known. Their skin is
poisonous, although contact is not fatal unless prolonged. Near the tip of their tail
they have a spine similar in design to a stingray. The venom within is a lethal,
extremely painful, neurotoxin. Along both sides of the bottom jaw are two venom
glands that connect to multiple serrated fangs. This venom is cytotoxic and used
to aid digestion. The wyvern itself is immune to it's own toxins, as well as other
wyvern's toxins.
When bonded Totem begin to develop resistance to the poisonous attributes
of the wyvern in a matter of weeks, but it takes decades to become resistant to
their venom.
In war wyvern are capable of spitting their cytotoxin a short distance
mingled with their saliva, attacking from the air. They are not as accurate as
basilisk and often rely on their tails or a quick bite to inflict real damage. They are

fast, manoeuvrable, preferring quick strike and retreat methods.


They are among the least useful in peace time, as they will contaminate
anything they hunt. They have been used as messengers between totem bonded
to wyvern but anyone not bonded to wyvern have too much difficulty in handling
them to use this conveniently.
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Spirits
The foundation of the Totem culture upon which all else is built. The Totem
believe when they die most of their soul is lost, shredded in the act. What survives
death are the accomplishments they have made in life. Courage, dedication,
these add weight to the soul, harden it. When the body dies, the soul that has
lived honourably will have portions remain intact. These intact shreds of the soul
are what go forth to the spirits. These remains add their power to the spirits.
Spirits themselves were the soul shreds of the first ones, not yet dwarf yet
greater than beast. The shreds reaching a spiritual equivalent of critical mass in
far antiquity to become something greater. In this way the Totem believe the Bond
is a sacred thing, as it pertains directly to the belief that the spirits were midway
between beast and dwarf in life.
The gifts of the spirits are the Bond, and guidance from spirit-borne dreams.
The spirits need power to give these gifts, and that comes from the shreds of the
Totem souls that go on. This is the great impact the spirit belief has on the
dwarven culture. Without living a life that gives weight and hardens the soul there
would be no bond. Totembearers and totemic must uphold this tradition to an
even greater extent, they know the bond they have would not exist without those
who came before. Spirit-borne dreams are believed to be the most costly effort
the spirits can take to offer guidance. It is believed that it is easier to act through
the Bond, pushing the bond-animal taxes the spirits less. The animal can then in
turn help motivate the Totem. Yet when a more direct hand is needed the dreams
are the method the spirits will take. Because of the believed cost of the dreams
they are considered the most generous gift. Rare and to be given great
consideration.