Friday, 24 October 2014
Arrows of Indra: Understanding Clan
We’ve talked here before about Caste, and people make a big deal about it, but in a way, in the game, I think that Clan may be at least as important, and maybe more difficult to get one’s head around.
The Clan is not just your “family”, you can have people from the same Clan as yours who live in entirely different kingdoms and may even have less in common with you in terms of bloodline than your next door neighbour (who is nonetheless from a different clan). Its also not quite a tribe either. In european terms, the closest comparisons may be to the Scottish Clans, or, even more so, to the Polish herbu of the aristocracy, where polish nobles with different last names and from different regions nevertheless shared the same heraldic shield (rather than the more typical european system where every noble family had its own shield).
In Arrows of Indra, Clan affects a great deal of the background elements of your character. The clan served as a kind of social network and welfare system, it handled many (though not all) of the things that we’re used to government handling. Local disputes, marriage, trade, and many other everyday affairs. If you wanted to get married, you needed the approval of your clan chief (and your potential spouses’, of course) and often these chiefs would actually handle everything for you (up to and including picking your bride/husband). If you were traveling and wanted a place to stay, the clan would provide it. Need a loan? Your clan was good for that too, only make sure you paid, because they could also sell you into slavery!
They could also expel you; and being clanless is a bad thing because it means basically that you are outside of society; it may not be quite as bad as being casteless (though the two often go hand in hand) but it makes for huge dishonor and a complete inability to participate in some of the most basic aspects of Bharata society.
In an AoI campaign, the GM can decide whether to pick his player’s clan or to let them pick one; its recommended that clan be chosen only after background skills are determined, since some clans tend to be tied to certain specific professions. After that, the GM needs to figure out just how he wants to go about using Clans. He has a few options:
1. He could just ignore the whole thing. Make clan unimportant; if all you want to do with AoI is wilderness and dungeon crawling, then you don’t need to worry too much about clan politics and you probably don’t want to busy your players with clan affairs.
2. He could take an intermediate position; and decide that in his version of Jagat, clan matters, just not a lot. The clan can help the PCs, provide support, places to stay, loans, etc. but it doesn’t get to run their lives. PCs can choose to help their clan or interact with it a lot, or very little, to their tastes, without major consequences.
3. The most accurate position, from the historical point of view: Clan is hugely important in your game. Here, the PCs would need to understand that they are bound to obey the elders of their clan. If the PCs want to go out and adventure, they’ll need to have the blessings of their clan. If the clan wants them to do something, they need to go do it. And if the PCs start to become well known as heroic adventurers, the local clan heads will probably want to use that fame for their advantage; possibly, if they have any sense in their heads, trying to offer the PC more influence in the clan, maybe even by marriage (dare I say cousin-marriage to the clan-chief’s daughter?) or other situations of responsibility that the PC might not actually want (but will then have to figure out how to wriggle out of without offending their clan head).
In other words, if you want it to, the clan system can offer an astounding wealth of RP opportunities. And if you don’t want it, then by all means just gloss it over. Its your game.
Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia
(originally posted July 5, 2013; on the old blog)