The Book of El
Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us form the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. …J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion
Society: The world of El is primarily a western medieval European society. It differs form the basic assumptions made by the Core Books because some of the core assumptions integrate poorly with medieval society. Herein lie general conceptions of what is different:
Communication: First, by virtue of being classed, the majority of society is illiterate. The illiterate include most everyone that does not have a proper education, which, by circumstance is most everyone. Second, not everyone speaks common. This would be the equivalent of everyone in medieval society speaking French. Because of this, the languages of El include additional regional languages that can be taken at the normal cost (see Below Languages, House Rules, Notes). There is a “common tongue” on El known as the King’s Tongue, the language of the Old Kingdom of Thor-on-dor, which is also used as a trade language throughout the inner sea. Additionally, most of the languages have an older form called “archaic”, typically a dead language.
Race: Race is the major determining factor for social interaction. Outsiders are always viewed with suspicion, especially at time of war, which is usually the case. Dwarves and Elves have an entire history devoted to not getting along, Minotaur would as soon as have a Hafling for dinner, as have him over for dinner (sarcasm), but for some strange and perplexing reason, Minotaur have an over-fondness for Gnomes.
Pervasiveness of Magic: El is a magic low world, in the sense that, Magic is not equivalent to modern day technology. (e.g. there exist no magical messenger services, transportation services, etc.) However magic developed right alongside the society, so most magic is “practical” in function, and misunderstood by the peasantry as destructive in nature. Wizards devote, almost, the entirety of their childhood to the study of the arcane; this explains the exorbitant cost of magic on EL (What is the cost of one’s childhood?), their extreme dislike of hedge-mages (sorcerers), and their tendency to jealously guard their most potent spells and rituals. Likewise, the hierarchical nature of the Orthodox Church leads to a distaste of uninhibited magical practices (of the various mage schools, Druids, Gypsic Rabbis and the like).
Social Class: Traditionally, medieval society is broken down into three categories; Those who fight (and for that matter rule), those who pray (usually from the same families as those who fight), and those who toil (everyone else). The typical medieval mindset is Lawful in nature. Law and order keeps society functioning, keeps the stability, and keeps the barbarians from your gate. Knowing your proper place in society is to be part of the society. Feudalism, lawful by nature, is the dominant social, political, and economic and military structure throughout El. It implies a complicated arrangement that governs the personal relations of lords, vassals and peasants. It entails a plethora of rights and duties between “superiors” and “inferiors”, where one’s land rights determine social rank, and military service and duty to the lord’s demesne replaced monetary payments. In theory it is a simple form of government whereby the one who owns land farms sections of his land out to others for payment in services. However, feudal societies are generally entangled in hereditary rights, land ownership, war, vassalage to two or more lords and so forth.
For more information (and some neat, but needlessly complicated, tables) see: A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe by Expeditious Retreat Press.
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