The Uthgardt Barbarians
“Blood flowed like spring melt water from Uthgar’s wounds as he stood before his sons on the massive skull of Gurt, the lord of the pale giants. With voice unweakened, he spoke of his gift.
“’Mighty Tempus declares that I may no longer walk among you. I will not go without leaving you a final gift. You know that I have fought the beast gods and taken from each a part of their strength, which I in turn give to you.’”
“‘Teach the children these secrets. If they devote themselves to the beast gods, then they may call upon the beasts’ power’”
“And so speaking, Uthgar mounted his sky pony and joined his father Beorunna in the war halls of Tempus.”
The Uthgardt barbarians (named for Uthgar, their legendary founder) are a black-haired and blue- eyed people–large, hardy folk descended from a mixture of Northmen fugitives, Netherese refugees, and a few savage tribes, including the Beorunni (folk of Beorunna); who live by raiding, hunting, gathering, and farming.
The Uthgardt are divided into 10 tribes (at the present). Sometimes there are more, sometimes less. The tribes are named for the beast totems which Uthgar conquered–Black Lion, Thunderbeast, Red Tiger, Blue Bear, Great Worm, Sky Pony, Tree Ghost, Blackraven, Griffon, and Grey Wolf.
Although civilisation has come to the north in waves throughout history, much of the land is wild and untamed, the unbounded home of the Uthgardt. Their tribal lands extend north into the Spine of the World, south as far as The Stone Bridge, east to the Cold Wood, and west to Neverwinter Wood. They avoid cities, the High Forest and the lands around Hellgate Keep. Although some tribes have embraced agriculture and fixed habitations, the Uthgardt have few stable villages. Most tribes wander the wilderness in small clan or family groups and live within a few weeks’ travel of their ancestor mounds, their holiest of holy grounds.
Tradition is the centerpole of Uthgardt life. Yet it is blind devotion to tradition that keeps them savages. Strength is everything and civilisation is a weakness not to be tolerated. Among the Uthgardt, men are warriors and hunters, and women tend to food gathering and family needs. They have no written language and little art beyond geometric carvings and clothing decoration. Their religions and philosophies focus on war, plunder, and survival in a harsh land.
They are superstitious, with a paranoiac dislike of magic. To reveal oneself as a magic-user to an Uthgardt warrior is to ask him to kill you. The Uthgardt barbarians have little to do with city folk, other than to treat them as prey. Lone traveller or large caravan, both are ripe fruit for plunder (still, some Uthgardt have made beneficial “civilised” alliances).Though the Uthgardt prey on civilised folk and frequently fight among themselves, they are quick to unite, even with non-Uthgardt, against their common ancestral enemy: the orcs.
Clothing and Appearances
Most Uthgardt show the strong Netherese bloodlines in their dark hair and fair skin, like the folk of Silverymoon and Sundabar. From Northmen ancestors come mighty physique and blue eyes. The barbarians dress in fringed leathers and furs. They love bright colours, gaudy jewellery, and ornamental decoration–everything they own is embellished with complicated designs and geometric patterns interwoven with designs representing their tribal totems and other beasts. The men of the tribe tattoo their cheeks with simple images of their totem, and the women are the showcase for their warriors’ victories, wearing captured booty proudly.
Tribal Weapons and Proficiencies
In addition to the hand axe, knife, and spear, the Uthgardt favor the battle axe and javelin, and the long bow. The most common Uthgardt armour is leather and shield (AC 7). Some warriors posses shield (AC 7). Some warriors possess studded leather and shield (AC 6). A tribal chieftain may possess chainmail and shield (AC 4). In most cases, the shield is a spiked buckler (which can be used as a weapon).
Religion in the Tribes
Within the Uthgardt, all deities are allied to a central religion focusing on beast totems. Each tribe has its own totem. All other deities, including adopted “foreign” gods, are secondary and subservient to the beast gods. This includes Tempus (the Uthgardt war god) and Chauntea (the earth goddess, although she is worshipped exclusively by tribal women). Uthgardt legend tells that Tempus is the father of Uthgar, founder of the tribes (while other legends claim Uthgar’s descendency from Beorunna). Chauntea is worshipped as the “grandmother,” whose daughters (fathered by Uthgar after he ascended unto the halls of Tempus) are the wives of the beast gods.
These non beast gods are represented among the tribes by shamans of lesser power (rarely above 4th level). Chauntea’s clerics are always women.
“Southern” gods are occasionally found in tribal strongholds, tolerated only because they or their clerics provide something valuable to the tribe.
Beast Totem Cults
The Uthgardt barbarian tribes each worship one of the beasts whose powers were taken by Uthgar. The totem cult encompasses the worship of the tribe’s ancestors, including Uthgar, his sons, and long-dead chieftains and shamans.
The 10 Tribes
1. Black Lion Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Beorunna’s Well
Nestled in the wide valley that separates the North from the glacier beyond is the small village of Beorunna’s Well (mostly small huts, long houses and a few tents), which stands a respectful distance from the watery pit that is its name-sake. Here, the complacent Black Lions have forsaken tradition to become farmers and herders. Hunters still roam the wilds, but the tribe no longer depends upon them for survival. Agricultural success lets them trade with others for their needs.
In forsaking their barbarian traditions, they have also cast aside their tribal totem. Most folk of Beorunna’s Well worship the Tyr alliance of Tyr, Torm, Ilmater and Helm.
2. Blackraven Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Ravenrock
Of all the Uthgardt, the Blackraven are the most conservative, holding tightly to the old ways and reacting violently to the new. Pureheartman and his assistant, Wulphgehar, are the only shamans tolerated by the tribe. As far as the caravans who ply the north are concerned, the Blackravens are the worst of the tribes. Blackraven warriors are renowned as bandits, gaining this reputation because they prey on those whom they despise the most– foreigners, especially merchants and missionary clerics. They seek to destroy that which may threaten their way of life. The tribe is aided in their quest by their totem, the gigantic ravens of Ravenrock. The raiders sit astride massive ravens, swooping down out of the sky to rob and terrorize caravans. The Blackravens have little respect for tribes who dwell in towns (particularly the Thunderbeast and Griffon tribes), since those tribes have adopted foreign ways. In return, they are enemies of those tribes. King Gundar Brontoskin (Thunderbeast chieftain) offers a bounty for the destruction of the Blackravens’ eggs.
Because their raiding spoils are tainted with foreign influence (including gold, jewelry, weapons, fabric, etc.), these items are sacrificed to the Blackraven and secreted away in Blackraven shrine, near the Ravenrock ancestor mound. The Blackravens protect their shrine closely and do not welcome foreign intrusion. Woe betide the person who is caught searching for (let alone robbing) the tribe’s treasure-laden shrine.
3. Blue Bear Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Stone Stand
This tribe is evil, a pawn of Hellgate Keep. The Uthgardt tribes stand united in their enmity towards the infamous Blue Bear tribe. No longer a mere spirit, the blue bear totem has become demonlike due to the tribe’s association with the evil within Hellgate Keep. Likewise, the tribesfolk have degenerated and become brutal, possibly even more savage than orcs.
4. Elk Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Flintrock
The Elk tribe’s normal range includes the Evermoors, the plains east of the Dessarin and the Dessarin and lower Surbrin river valleys. Of all the tribes, they are the most arrogant, surly and self- indulging. Considered by many to be little more than bandits, they often raid other tribal settlements for food, women, and sport. They have loose ties with the rulers of Luskan but are unwelcome elsewhere.
5. Great Worm Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Great Worm Cavern
Unknown, except that they seem mostly peaseful, and hate evil creatures.
6. Grey Wolf Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Ravenrock
Though they are not the most numerous or the most powerful, this is the most feared of the Uthgardt tribes. Long ago, the tribe adopted human refugees from the lost city of Gauntlgrym. The evil that had possessed the city caused the tribe to be cursed with Iycanthropy. Any tribesman who possesses Greywolf blood becomes a wolf under the light of the moon (although those who are adopted by other tribes slowly lose the curse). On moonlit nights, the entire tribe roams the wilderness in search of prey.
During Runemeet, the Blackraven tribe tolerates the Grey Wolves at their shared ancestor mound of Ravenrock– so long as the moon is not full.
7. Griffon Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Shining White
Chieftain: Kralgar Bonesnapper
Ritual Enemy: The cities of the North
Chief Kralgar Bonesnapper is a populuar man of great charisma, and even greater ambition. Since assuming leadership, he has pushed his people towards greater accomplishments, making the Griffons foremost among the tribes in power, skill, and learning. His great goal is the conquest and possession of one of the northern cities. To this end, he has declared ritual war on the cities. Unallied clans seeking either plunder or the benefits offered by cities have joined the Griffons, swelling their ranks.
Even so, Griffons’ Nest, the primary tribal encampment, rivals some of the smaller northern cities. Without realizing it, Kralgar may accomplish his goal within his lifetime as Griffon’s Nest slowly changes from camp to city.
While the tribe wages incessant warfare against the cities, they welcome contact with outsiders, considering all as potential allies in their quest.
8. Red Tiger Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Beorunna’s Well
Like their totem beast (which is also called the snow cat, since its fur changes color in winter), this tribe is wild and solitary. They hunt in very small family groups and roam widely, primarily in the Cold Wood. They are wary of all strangers and would sooner avoid contact with things or folk which they do not know. The tribe has few shamans and no shrines other than Beorunna’s Well. The men of the Red Tiger tribe are strictly hunters, leaving gathering and trading to the women, elderly and children. The Red Tigers believe that the true test of a hunter is the ability to bring down prey unaided. Often, their only weapons are "tiger claws,’ short wooden handles embedded with three sharp stone daggers. The hunter holds these so the daggers project between the fingers like claws.
9. Thunderbeast Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Morgur’s Mound
The Town of Grunwald on the edge of the High Forcst is home to this most civilized of the tribes.
The tribe takes its name from the apatosaurus (brontosaurus), which in ancient times roamed here. tribal shamans claim that thunderbeasts still dwell in the High Forcst. The clan’s hearth at Morgur’s Mound is surmounted by an apatosaurus skeleton. It said that in time of great need, the tribal shamans can animate the skeleton to fight in the tribe’s defence.
In addition to the Beast Cult shamans, the Thunderbeast tribe in Grunwald has grown civilized enough to tolerate priests of other religions, primarily the druids of Silvanus, and the clerics of the Tyr alliance.
10. Tree Ghost Tribe
Ancestor Mound: Grandfather Tree
The tree Ghosts are wanderers who search for Grandfather tree, their lost and abandoned ancestor mound. At Runemeet, they worship at whichever ancestor mound is most convenient before resuming their wandering again.
Unlike the other Uthgardt tribes, the tree Ghosts totem is not a beast. The tree Ghost is a woodland spirit, similar in some respects to an elemental, but drawing life, energy and intelligence from the forcst and giving back its energy to the forcst as a caretaker and guardian. Supposedly, each forcst has a tree Ghost whose power depends on the size of that forcst. The elves disclaim the existence of such beings, but the IYee Ghost tribe stands firm in its belief in their tribal totem and are able to draw on the spirit’s power.
The tree Ghosts are cordial to foreigners, but will not ask for outsiders’ help in their holy quest for their ancestor mound. Although as a rule the barbarians hold the civilized folk of the north in disdain, the tree Ghost warriors owe allegiance to High Lady Alustriel of Silverymoon and would die to a man for her.