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DM Tips:Rjurik

The Rjurik are based loosely on a mixture of Celtic and Norse cultures. As this is a popular culture type for fantasy role-playing games there are therefore several possible sources - however
as sidhe society is also based on Celtic roots there is a risk that the two cultures will become blurred.
This is a collection of hints, tips, adventure ideas, etc for DM's running a campaign in the Rjurik Highlands, please add your own experiences and suggestions in any areas you feel relevant.

[top]Social strata

All Rjurik are family, tied by bonds of blood and honor. We chose our leaders from amongst us and these jarls rule over us wisely and without the greed seen elsewhere. Even our kings and queens are those who have proved themselves over the years and generations, not merely those born to wealth. Bori Holtson 22 HR.
For all the talk of equality, rulership tends to run in families in the Highlands as it does elsewhere. The effect of bloodlines in particular ensures that those who rule are likely to pass their domain to a child. That said the social strata are narrower in Rjurik society than elsewhere - jarls still control many of the law-holdings limiting the power of kings and queens and similar power sharing below holding level is likely.
Traditions that may limit power are:
  • Prohibitions on land ownership, if land is communal than it is harder to accumulate wealth.
  • Rights of commoners to challenge even high-born accusers
  • Strong rights for jarls and other nobles
  • The concept of juries and other communal judges


The Rjurik are still in many areas a tribal society, family ties are intense and as a result property may be communal in some areas, feuds may be endemic, charity within the tribe expected - and even enforced, etc.
Adventure ideas:
  • A cousin is lost while traveling after a severe storm and must be found.
  • A neighboring village has suffered a poor harvest after storms damaged their crops, hunters must find a herd of caribou and drive them towards the village.

[top]Men and women

women's work is worthy, without it the tribe would not grow, men's work is worthy, without it the tribe would be destroyed, to scorn either is the mark of a fool - Astrid Kaysdottar, 2012MA.
The Highlands are a harsh land of long cold winters and severe storms. The Rjurik are still in the process of turning from a nomadic society to a settled society, and most of the population relies on hard physical labor to survive. These inevitably gives those who are physically stronger and hardier more status, which in turn leads to men claiming most of the prominent social roles.
The Rjurik are not foolish however and so the gender imbalance is limited, even in the 'olden days' the Rjurik were not excessively prejudiced simply because they were poor and needed to make the most of all members of their tribes - and that included women.
Some holdover's may yet survive, particularly in the harsher areas. As a result some of the more isolated tribes may permit only male inheritance or rulership, or may not permit women to travel without a male escort. This sort of cultural more should be used sparingly - it is all too easy to be labelled as 'sad little boys' regardless of the historical accuracy of some such prejudices.

[top]Settled vs Nomadic

Settled Rjurik have formed villages, towns and even cities. They fish, farm and mine. nomadic Rjurik by contrast travel following various herd animals. Nomadic Rjurik may plant seeds as they travel - most follow similar routes from year to year so can undertake some minimal agriculture, however as they cannot remain and tend to crops the yield is far lower than it would be if they settled. The nomads may be poor as a result, but they are proud as well, they follow traditions which have served them since the days of ancient Aduria and they see no reason to change.
Unfortunately as the Rjurik have settled, two cultures have formed with wildly differing lifestyles and needs. Conflict arises between the two peoples regularly, and even the best efforts of the druids are not always enough to settle matters peaceably.
Possible issues:
  • Nomads are traveling through farmland - and foraging as they go. The farmers are furious at this blatant 'theft', the nomads are in turn angered by the hedges and dykes that hinder their path, and the attempts to 'steal the land' from the people.

  • A Nomad tribe is being forced to take a different route to their ancient trails as the reindeer herds they follow are avoiding the settlements that have been built up in the fertile places they used to forage. This in turn means that the nomads are disturbing goblins, ogres, and giants who dwell in the wild lands to which the nomads must travel. The nomads are too proud to ask for aid from strangers, but a known PC 'brother' or 'sister' could be called upon, or the druids might ask the PCs to eliminate some of the more dangerous threats.

  • Some settled folk greatly offended some nomads by mistake while hunting near their village by breaking some of the taboo's of the nomads. Now these youths are to be tried by the nomads, and the nomad courts are notoriously harsh. Someone needs to speak for the lads - someone strong enough to impress the nomads and quick witted enough to win around the nomads - or make the punishment tolerable.


In some cultures druids are isolated folk more concerned with meditation, or protecting trees and wilderness then interacting with people. In the Highlands however Druids are the people - they guide the society, mediate between families, tribes, even realms. Druids will oversee all festivities, marriages, alliances, creation of laws, courts etc - as such the druidic temples are more akin to the church of Haelyn in Anuire or Avani in Khinasi in their behavior then they are to temples of Erik outside of the Highlands.
The Druids will therefore be very interested in strangers (who might harm the tribe, or confuse the people and lead them astray) strongly oppose other faiths (who would definitely lead the Rjurik into foolish practices, possibly even undermining the Rjurik's independence or tribal structure). The Druids will most definitely not simply sit by and let their holdings be contested, let Jarls or Kings trample on ancient traditions, or otherwise let themselves be swept into irrelevance - currently every ruler at any social level probably will have a druid as their closest adviser - and the druids have maintained a relatively peaceful society for millennia.
Game issues
  • Although the Oaken Grove is more 'modern' than the Emerald Spire, Rjurik regents who start forming major guilds, or assimilating law holdings from jarls to create an Anuirean style realm with all power centered on the regent are likely to be opposed by the druids.

  • PCs with involved in conquest will likely see druids seeking to prevent conflict, or ensure that ancient rights of the tribes involved are respected.

  • The druids are likely to see PCs as great hero's - and as such an asset of the nation. PCs may be asked to undertake quests for the druids - possibly involving threats leagues away in which they have no personal interest. These quests may expose the Pcs to great threats - but also win them great fame.

  • PCs who are struggling in diplomacy can probably request aid from the druids - if they can convince the druids that their desired outcome will benefit the Rjurik then the druids may be able to intercede on the PCs behalf.

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