Environments

Chapter Five of the Topic: Life In Landscape – Being, visions of the Far Place, the gors and the gallt, with notes various on flora and fauna, hunting, herding, agriculture, food and matters diverse.

Far Place and Sartar Environments

These environmental types are primarily based upon the Euro-Siberian Province circa 5,000 BP.

HIGH MOUNTAINSIDE

Above the tree line, the upper mountain soils are frozen much of the year, and the conditions are desert-like. In sheltered regions, moss and lichen prevail, while the following plants will flower briefly – campions, saxifranges, sedge and dwarf willows. Some deer and birds will occasionally be found, as will Wind Children and Griffins.

BOREAL FOREST (literally, ‘Forest of the North Wind’)

Trees here are tall but shallow rooted. You will find small mammals aplenty – mole shrew, rats and squirrels. Larger animals include lynx, wolverine, marten, rubble runner, weasel and stoat. Woodpeckers and owls are plentiful, while wood grouse or hazel grouse nest among tree roots. Crossbills feed by winkling out pine seeds. Raptors include haggar, buzzard, goshawk and owl.

Elementals and Land Spirits are potent forces in these forests.

Deer take refuge in the high forest in the colder seasons, as wolves rarely penetrate here, preferring more open areas.

HIGH FOREST MARSH

Birds predominate here – swans, sandpipers, teals (ducks), wagtails and yellowhammers. The most common raptor is the hen harrier. The most sought-after fish are carp, pike, perch and salmonoids.

MIXED AND BROAD LEAF FOREST

This environment primarily consists of broad-leafed deciduous trees with marshes, plus clearings with deciduous ground cover. Animal life includes alynx, hare, rodent, snake, lizard, vole, hedgehog, weasel, red fox, rubble runner, polecat and badger. Larger predators include bear, horned boar, (small) tusker, wolf and lynx. Deer, ibex and chamoix spend the warmer seasons on mountain pastures, and winter in the forest valleys. Birds include treecreepers, nightingales, blackbirds, jays, bullfinches, tits, goshawks, buzzards and sparrowhawks.

(In Neolithic Europe the siberian tiger sat at the top of this food chain. A suitable Gloranthan equivalent would be sabretooth, griffin or wyrm).

INLAND WATERS

This is an environment of willow and poplar, peat moss and marsh marigold, bulrush, reed, waterlily and duckweed. Giant semi-intelligent turtles are the dominant species. Smaller life abounds, a multitude of birds and insects and fish. Common species include snail, frog, tree frog, salamander lizard, grass snake, otter, egret, and kingfisher (halcyon). Wild Horses, cattle and boar also inhabit the wetlands. Broo may often be found in the more remote marshes.

ELDER FORESTS

In the north of Far Point exist incursions of spore, giant mushroom and Aldryami forests similar to those found in neighbouring Dagori Inkarth and Shadows Dance. See TrollPack for details.

GINIJJI

In the west of Far Point lies the nightmare realm of Ginijji, known to outsiders as Snakepipe Hollow. This place is Chaos-cursed, and by its nature defies orderly description. Anything is possible (and probable) there. See Snakepipe Hollow for details.

General Notes, Comments and Continuing Questions

‘Every Sacred Time, Odayla the Great Hunter marks each animal destined to be killed by his hunters in the following year. Any true hunter can see this mark; it is a gift of heart-sight. Odayla marks enough; enough and no more. If we are greedy in the kill, then others will starve.’

Wisdom of the Tovtaros Tribe, 1624.

‘When I hunt Odayla’s deer, they stand still,
the spears, the arrows fly of their own accord.
So it seems when the God is with me.
Even when they are running away from me
I feel as though they are standing still.
How easy it is when I hunt Odayla’s Deer.’

Song of the Life Spear.

As stated above, these notes are presented as a beginning, and I will happily accept suggestions and additions. I notice that in earlier discusions there was some opposition to including non-european species amongst Sartarite wildlife. Given the ecology of Prax, I have no objections to including non-european species if they will add to the fun (though I have tried to be accurate in the listings above). Have you noticed how American and European small game pop in and out of Sartarite stories, depending on the home of the author?

Most animals will have personal names by which they are commonly known, such as Yinkin the Alynx. Many are kin, and have a special relationship with a clan as totems or protector animals. In the Taroskarla, among the greatest of the hero ancestors are the Animal Twins, who forged the Elemental Covenant that binds all the Tribes of Far Point – human, animal, plant and elemental – into a single community. As guardians of the Covenant, they are still alive, changing each Sacred Time into a different animal form. They breed each year and produce a single, magical animal offspring, the Herald of the Covenant. Because of this, the human and animal bloodlines are intermingled, and to the northern hunters animals are kin in the most literal way. Lifekind is a single family.

Of course, animals can only be fully integrated into a campaign if they have their own mythology and associated characteristics, taboos and totem stories. Often it’s local colour and belief that makes an animal memorable.

Generally, I think we have a long way to go in developing the nature of the ‘normal’ flora and fauna of Glorantha. Magical and non-magical, embodied and spirit are all part of one ecosystem, and regarded by the tribes as such.

However ‘straight’ the transplanting of plant and animal analogues seem to be, I always feel that we are dealing with very different forms of life, with unique Gloranthan characteristics. Magic (and Chaos) are virtually omnipresent, and bring strong selective pressures to bear on species. Often we don’t take Glorantha’s unique seasons seriously, preferring ‘stretch and squeeze’ adaptations from earthly calendars. There are many other unique factors as well.

Nothing is a simple earth-analogue. Plants (and to a lesser extent animals) have strong elemental associations, with effects on blooming, seeding etc. Darkblooms thrive on cold and shadow. Stormblooms extrude thick ‘armoured’ shoots before the general thaw. Fireblooms may generate flame when their flowers are crushed. Some powerful magical plants (with roots on the Other Side) bloom only in sacred Time.

What are effects of five seasons on breeding and growth? Depending on the area, Storm Season will be either an extension of winter famine (the usual case for Sartar, according to King Of Sartar), or a particularly rough spring. Both of these alternatives have profound implications for animal and plant life. What are the effects of magic on life cycles? Migration, if it occurs will be typically very different from earth. Both continents experience summer and winter at the same time. For my Far Point campaign, I’ve decided that micro-migration is very important, with birds and animals moving to different biomes within a relatively small area. And what about gestation periods and breeding patterns? What of gigantism, parked as I am against Dagori Inkarth? Or magical and non-magical cross breeding, as practiced on my tulas by the Youf not so very long ago?

The Mystery unfolds only slowly.

Proceed to Chapter Six: Wilderness Resources …

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