[Returned Maztica] Maztican Society

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[Returned Maztica] Maztican Society

Postby Jürgen Hubert » Fri Nov 17, 2017 8:45 pm

And another entry for my Returned Maztica series:


Calpulli

When strangers arrive in a Maztican community, they will be asked questions like: "What is your village?" "What is your clan?" "What is your district?"? What new arrivals from Faerun might not grasp is that this is not just polite conversation - what the Mazticans are really asking is:

"If something happens to you, who will stand by your side to defend you - or avenge you?"

and

"If you do us wrong, who will make reconstitution for your misdeeds?"

Central to this is the concept of "calpulli" - a term that used to mean "city district" but means much more than that, a kinship group (whether they are actually related or not) smaller than that of the city-state, but larger than "family". Anyone who does not claim allegiance to a calpulli is viewed with suspicion - after all, they are not beholden to anyone and thus might attempt to do anything without consequence! On the other hand, those who do something to them might also have to fear little consequence - if the clanless want retribution, they have to do it on their own...

Calpulli have a distinct legal standing and were responsible for giving tribute to those they held fealty to - such as the Seven Storms during the Godless Time or the city of Nexal during the Nexalan Empire. Furthermore, smaller, weaker calpulli might hold fealty to a more powerful calpulli. Individual Mazticans are expected to be loyal to their calpulli above all other worldly concerns, even their own immediate family - and in turn, the calpulli would look out for them. However, within the calpulli there are individuals of greater or lesser standing - including noble lines ruling over it.

The term "calpulli" itself is rarely used in public. Instead, a number of different terms are used depending on the precise background and social standing of the individual (and the GM should freely change them depending on the situation). While they are all calpulli, they don't have all quite the same context and are more precise. These terms include:

District: Closest to the original meaning of "calpulli", this encompasses the people of a particular city district. However, in this current age of strife and chaos many members of a District have been scattered far and wide across Maztica - yet they still claim allegiance to their old home.

Clan: Primarily refers to the extended family groups of the Dragonborn - they had such groupings long before their arrival in Maztica, and it was close enough to the Maztican "calpulli" concept that they integrated fairly seamlessly into this structure. The same is true for the clans of the desert dwarves (who arrived from Faerun).

House: Used for the most powerful, wealthy and elite calpulli - consisting of noble lines and rich merchant houses. Usually, they will have one or more other calpulli who owe them fealty and tribute.

Village: Refers to rural settlements, and is sometimes used in a somewhat degratory manner - especially by "city people" and anyone who fancies themselves "sophisticated". Two "Village" groups bear special mentions: The hidden enclaves of refugee genasi slaves, and the original settlements of the halflings of Far Payit. In the current age the halflings have spread out to new lands, and tend to organize themselves into "Villages" even when living in cities. Since these "Villages" also frequently operate as organized crime rings, the term "Village" now has come to encompass other groups of organized crime - even when no halflings are involved.

Brotherhood: Used primarily by the Sword Brotherhoods introduced by the Dragonborn - groups of mercenaries who hold no allegiance to anyone but each other. They will famously take in even criminals and exiles from other calpulli - and indeed, joining a Sword Brotherhood means severing all ties with one's old kin.

Guild: A concept that spread from the Faerunian colonies in the northern reaches of the Kultakan Empire and the Lantanese exiles in Ulatos-Dragonport. These calpulli specialize in certain trades and craft and are usually found in multiple cities. While they largely keep their trade within their families, they are willing to take in promising apprentices from other calpulli - but while joining a Sword Brotherhood means self-imposed exile in disgrace, these apprentices are usually bought from their former calpulli. This does not imply slavery - they remain free citizens - but their overall allegiance is expected to switch to their new guild instead of their old calpulli.


Calpulli Patrons

Before the Godless Time, each calpulli had its own patron deity - frequently an aspect of one of the "main" Maztican deities worshiped in a slightly different form - and each member of the calpulli was expected to pay homage to that deity. However, when these prayers were no longer answered, many calpulli turned to other beings that still had power on Abeir, and who were able to grant some of that power to selected followers - warlocks, who then became the priests of the calpulli. The most popular were the animal lords (=Archfey patrons) of Xitonoc (the Feywild). Other calpulli would turn to ancestor worship (already popular with many Maztican regions) - and sometimes, these honored ancestors would answer (becoming the Undying patron). Sometimes these patrons would grant blessings to the warriors of the calpulli as well (creating Path of the Totem Warrior and Path of the Ancestral Guardian barbarians). Other calpulli would turn to alien or darker patrons (such as the Star-That-Shines-By-Day, a Great Old One - or even Fiends), though they would take pains to keep the precise nature of their patron a secret - even from uninitiated calpulli members. Since worship of a calpulli's patron was traditionally seen as a private affair, keeping such secrets was not particularly difficult.

Of course, in the current age the warlock-priests find themselves challenged by the clerics of the returned gods, who want the calpulli to return to proper forms of worship. The calpulli leaders now face a difficult choice - do they risk offending the returned gods and their clerics, or the patrons who stood by their side for several generations while the gods were silent?
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!
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Re: [Returned Maztica] Maztican Society

Postby Big Mac » Sat Nov 18, 2017 3:33 pm

This is an interesting concept.

The idea of Village Calpulli being seen as lawless is an especially interesting one. When I rewatched the movie Apocalypto recently, I sort of got the opposite feel. It felt like Mel Gibson was selling the cities as "bad" and the small villages as "good".

The 3rd Edition Dragonlance Campaign Setting put a spin onto "barbarians" and "sold" them as Nomadic people. I kind of felt that was a better way to pitch village people than using the term "barbarian". I've kind of been wondering if Maztica might need a similar (not identical - but similar) approach.

The city people are going to be tied to the ground. Their Calpulli are nailed down. They might well be more powerful. They are certainly going to be easier to find. They have things like big step pyramids that they live around. They will have markets and trade routes and all of that.

The village people are going to be practising forest gardening. They should have a fairly large territory and should move around gathering food. They might even demolish their village from time to time and rebuild it elsewhere.

I'm more interested in the 2nd Edition Era than the 5th Edition Era, so your idea of calpulli patrons is also an interesting one. That kind of suggests to me that some sort of shaman (not sure of the correct Maztican term right now) would be in the position of spiritual leader for the calpulli and that they would mostly be imposing that religion on everyone else. I guess that an entire calpulli could switch religion if there was a power struggle and the current spiritual leader was replaced.
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Re: [Returned Maztica] Maztican Society

Postby Jürgen Hubert » Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:50 pm

Big Mac wrote:This is an interesting concept.[/url]

For the record, "Calpulli" were a real world concept from the Aztec Empire - I simply expanded a bit on it to adjust for the particular circumstances of Maztica.

The idea of Village Calpulli being seen as lawless is an especially interesting one. When I rewatched the movie Apocalypto recently, I sort of got the opposite feel. It felt like Mel Gibson was selling the cities as "bad" and the small villages as "good".


Part of it is simply the prejudice of city dwellers - and of course villages consisting of runaway slaves would be blamed for all sorts of ills.

On the other hand, you only have to look at the description of halfling villages from the Boxed Set to realize that villages can be pretty horrible places as well (and we should also take into account that "rural life" is frequently romanticized by modern media). And since halflings have spread out from their original habitats in my version of Maztica and I saw them as founding their own crime rings, calling crime rings "Villages" seemed like a logical next step.

The 3rd Edition Dragonlance Campaign Setting put a spin onto "barbarians" and "sold" them as Nomadic people. I kind of felt that was a better way to pitch village people than using the term "barbarian". I've kind of been wondering if Maztica might need a similar (not identical - but similar) approach.


What I plan to do is make a clear distinction between the game description of classes, and what the people within the setting actually call it - in particular, what their social role is. From that perspective, it doesn't matter if a character is a cleric of Qotal, a druid of Maztica, or a warlock of the Parrot Lord - if they act as priests for the calpulli, they are referred to as "priests".

In the same way, when the people of Maztica talk about "barbarians", they generally mean "uncultured foreigners" - and if someone is a Totem Warrior, an Ancestral Guardian, or a Zealot, they are still simply warriors, although warriors blessed by a higher power.

I'm more interested in the 2nd Edition Era than the 5th Edition Era, so your idea of calpulli patrons is also an interesting one. That kind of suggests to me that some sort of shaman (not sure of the correct Maztican term right now) would be in the position of spiritual leader for the calpulli and that they would mostly be imposing that religion on everyone else. I guess that an entire calpulli could switch religion if there was a power struggle and the current spiritual leader was replaced.


I would simply use the term "priest" - "shaman", in modern English, has an association with "primitive cultures", and the Mazticans would reject their civilization seen as "primitive".

I would also distinguish between the "calpulli priest" who worships the patron of the calpulli - their goal is not to convert others, since worship of the patron should be taken as given by all members of the calpulli - and the priests of the great temples. The former look after the welfare of the calpulli, and intercede on behalf of their fellow clan members before their patron - as well as remind their fellow calpulli members of paying the proper respect to their patron (including sacrifices). The temples, on the other hand, are large organization who do seek new converts among all people of Maztica. Note that the people of Maztica are expected to pay homage to both their calpulli patron and the great temples, since it would be a terrible idea to offend either. Still, their patron is usually the one who gets the most attention, since they are expected to look out for their calpulli in particular.
Returned Maztica - a new vision for Maztica in the 5th Edition era of the Forgotten Realms! Learn how the continent has changed after invasions and dragonfire, and take part as the people of Maztica finally take their destinies into their own hands!
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