Worg's Paw Tribe
Common classes for this tribe are barbarians (Red Worgs), rogues (Black Worgs), rangers (Timber Worgs) and druids (Gray Worgs). It is very uncommon to hear of a fighter or a shaman (they exist, but are often ostracized as “lesser members”), and never has there been a sorcerer or wizard, as they tend not to survive the initial few years of wilderness training, or the typical mistrust of their fellow clansmen.
The tribe as a whole is divided into several clans, scattered throughout the northern regions, but there are several castes within each clan:
The warriors, named for their propensity to give in to the Red Rage and lose themselves in battle. Never stand before anyone in the throws of rage, least of all a Red Worg, as they will see any in their way as a foe. Fighters are known to enter their ranks, but are looked down on until they can learn and experience the Red Rage.
So named as they blend with the shadows of night. These are the thieves who will rob the caravans at night. Though, like the other castes, they will prefer to fight face-to-face or use the bow, rather than stab in the back.
The hunters, so named because they are the most at home in the wilds. They generally supply the food for the rest of the tribe. Occasionally, a thief might also find their place here, if they are exceptionally good with a bow.
So named for their wisdom, these are the clan druids and, or occasionally shaman or clerics, though shaman are less trusted due to their primary devotion to the spirits and ancestors, things which they have no time for, and clerics as “book learners”, unable to learn from nature alone, and those focused on worship, worship that takes time from survival and can prove a fatal distraction at just the wrong time. The eldest and wisest of the Gray Worgs from each clan is taught to read and write, and is the keeper of the tribal histories, so long as they are easy to carry.
Those who have not yet gone through the Ritual of Ascension.
Tribe Racial Mix
The makeup of the tribe is primarily human, with a few Wild and Wood Elves, and by extension, half-elves. No one knows how many there are, as no census of the individual clans has ever been done, but given the harsh environment and brutal training that each of them goes through, it is most likely less than 1000. Economically, the tribe sustains itself through hunting, fishing and raiding, and it is by raiding that the finer weapons and armor often seen wielded by the tribes Red Worg warriors originates.
Thane Ossric is the current leader of the Worg’s Paws, and change is in the air. A half-elf berserker, known for his frenzies against both enemy and ally (indeed, having killed more in trial by combat than any other challenger in recent history) has taken the mantle of leadership, and is trying to change the direction of the tribe. Having rid the long-derelict Blackguard Keep from the bandits and gnolls that had overrun it, he forsook the mantle of grand chieftain, and adopted the title of Thane, the first step in his attempts to bring civilization to the tribes. As none have come forward to challenge him (successfully), his word is law, though whether or not his motives are altruistic or selfish has yet to be determined.
Having consolidated his power and title, his next act was to call together the druids of each clan, and have them select envoys to negotiate trade with towns across the land, in an attempt to end the tribe’s dependence on pillaging alone. Most of these towns are reluctant, to say the least, about this, as many of the envoys end up demanding something more along the lines of protection money, but those who have accepted these agreements do so more out of a want to get revenge on a hated rival. Indeed, many of the trade goods can be linked to items acquired in previous (and some current) raids on neighboring towns.
The Worg’s Paw are naturally mistrusting of outsiders, and rarely are their customs seen by anyone outside of the tribe. Those few that interact with people outside of the usual raid are reluctant to discuss customs.
What is known is that each clan maintains its own rituals and tradition, and that there are few, but important rituals that all clans follow, including an annual meeting of representatives from each clan (which tends to rotate frequently).
Most of the tribe as a whole follow Kord, and revel in combat, so inter-clan games are not uncommon when trade meetings are occurring.
Leadership of each clan is determined in trial by combat, rarely to the death, but happens on occasion. The overall leadership of this disorganized band is determined in a similar fashion, though only the clan leaders are allowed to vie for that particular position (this is done to prevent disunity within the clans themselves, and is more of a tradition than an actual rule, as an upstart who beats the clan chieftain in either case is the new defacto clan chieftain). Each clan is more or less self-sufficient, and trade between other Worg’s Paw clans is not uncommon, though they are mistrusting of outsiders.
Crime and Justice
Justice is often through trial by combat if there is any doubt to the verdict. Depending on the severity, the elders of the clan will determine the nature of the combat (weapons, unarmed, etc.) and whether or not it will be to the death.
Marriage, Families, and Children
Mating is for life among the Worg’s Paw, and divorce is not acceptable: any marital problems, like their justice system, are solved in trial by combat. The primary role of life mates is both emotional and practical: they are to support and help each other, and to produce offspring to further the ways of the Worg’s Paw, but not so many as to harm the tribe. Given the child mortality rate, this is seldom a problem. A roll is kept by the wisest druid/shaman/cleric of the clan alone of who the birth parents of each child were, and only that druid may bless and join life-mates.
After birth and weaning, each child is raised by the tribe as a whole, rather than by just their parents. The reasoning is that no child is supposed to ever know who their birth parents are, so as to ensure loyalty to the clan as a whole, their life-mate second, and all others last. If a child is found, the child will be taught the ways of the tribe, but will be considered an outsider, and not a true member of the tribe unless it proves itself. By completing the Ritual of Ascension, then, and only then, is it a full member of the tribe (but still might be considered a lesser member by its peers).
The child is not named until such time as it is removed from its parents, and then only named by the chieftain, again to keep the parents from bonding too strongly with it. The name is then added to the arch-Druid’s rolls for keeping. Once the child can walk, its training starts in the ways of life for the tribe: hunting, fishing, gathering, making weapons, armor (mostly hides and leathers, as they are semi-nomadic, there are very few actual forges).
Ritual of Ascension
Before a child comes of age, there is one right that both genders must go through, and this is where the tribe gets its name: the Ritual of Ascension. Unarmed, and with only scraps of cloth for clothing (in the more lenient tribes; some do not even allow this much protection), they are thrown in a place prepared by the druids of the Grey Worg, and left alone. They must, without weapon or armor, survive until such time as they can find a worg, kill it and remove its paw, all without the aid of tools.
If they fail in this, and try to return to the tribe, they are summarily killed. If they are killed, either in this manner, or by the beasts of the wilds, they are forgotten: only those slain in battle or who have brought greatness to the tribe are remembered by the people (and the names vary from clan to clan, with a few that are universal). As the tribes are trophy collectors, this paw is then put on a leather cord, as their first real trophy, and is worn for the remainder of their lives.