The Vinlandr culture is a general overview of the contemporary culture of Vinland, specifically pertaining to those likely to be involved in the crossroads setting.
Background Skills: Knowledge (Nature), Profession (Fisher, Hunter, Sailor, Housekeeper), Survival (Cold, Water, Forest), Swim
Background Feats: Canoe Mastery, Rugged Northerner,
Native Language: Norsq
Bonus Languages: Tuniititut, Inuktitut (Inuit), Francais (French), English, ___ (Cree), ___ (Algonquin)
Taboos: Fighting dishonorably,
Special: Vinlandrs are considered proficient with all simple weapons and with daggers.
Vinlandrs are an olive-skinned people, slightly fairer in complexion than the Inuit who originally inhabited the lands. They have black or brown hair and brown eyes, though blue eyes arise periodically.
Typical dress for a Vinlandr is made of fur and leather, though wool is becoming more common in some southern regions, gathered from trade with Europeans. Male and female garb is very similar, with a long-sleeved fur tunic that reaches the knees and is belted at the waist, warm leggings and boots, and seal leather or fur gloves. The tunic has a warm hood, and on the women’s tunic, there is a large pouch for carrying a baby in on the back. Both genders wear a slightly curved blade on the belt, usually made of walrus ivory, mammoth ivory, or iron if they can get it. The belt-knife is used for many purposes and is carefully kept sharp and clean, and both genders can wield it with skill.
Vinlandrs are quite conscientious about cleanliness and grooming, unlike many of their European neighbors. Traditionally, every member of the house bathes once a week and washes their face and hair each morning. Typically this is done with water from streams or rivers that flow too quickly to freeze over in winter, and it can be extremely bracing in the cold months. Well-combed hair is the norm, and both males and females wear their hair long. When a Vinlandr surrenders or is defeated in battle, they cut their hair off at about the neck level in shame. Thus, a warrior with very long hair is regarded as extremely strong. The men take great care maintaining their facial hair, which is much thicker than their Inuit relatives. The styling is up to the individual, but it almost always includes a moustache.
The daily life of most Vinlandrs consists of the business of survival, and the roles of men and women are balanced around this all-important task. Males spend the vast majority of their time hunting, fishing, or occasionally raiding. They are also in charge of crafting and maintaining their weapons, canoes, and sometimes their larger ships. Females stay with the house and perform all the other tasks of the household. They prepare, cook, and preserve the food their husbands bring back, they treat the hides to use in clothing or for trade, they tend vegetable gardens in the warm months, they make the clothes, and perhaps most importantly, they raise and educate the children in their everyday tasks. Women are also responsible for the majority of Vinlandr crafts. Children spend most of their time helping their mothers with their tasks. Some clans have wise women who teach the children about the world in a more in-depth way, educating them about the spirits, about monsters, about other clans and cultures, and the oral history of their people.
Arts and Crafts Edit
Vinlandr art is mostly in sculpture form, figures or statues made out of ivory, bone, wood, iron, or stone, and it is mostly produced by women. The Vinlandrs favor intricate and detailed carvings of animals, people, and spirits. These sculptures are usually representational, depicting a single being in a realistic fashion, and more stylized imagery isn’t uncommon, though fully abstract pieces are almost unheard of. Some Vinlandrs who have more contact with Europeans have learned the art of scrimshaw, and they are exceptionally adept at it. Vinlandr scrimshaws are somewhat popular art pieces in colonial homes, but they are largely disregarded as crude in Europe.
Technology and Magic Edit
Vinlandrs were the first culture on the New World to mine and refine iron ore into weapons and tools. The clans of Jarnholt, in the northern reaches of Vinland territory, work several iron mines and have extremely talented forge masters capable of creating beautiful and deadly steel and iron pieces. Magically, the Vinlandrs are as mystically rich as their new-world kin, with a strong population of arcane and divine spell-casters. They also have a unique form of magic, known as Runecasting, which has spread into the rest of Tuniitaq over the years.
Vinlandrs typically have arranged marriages, where the families of both partners arrange for their children to be wed while the children are very young. Love marriages are acceptable, but relatively rare. The wedding ceremony happens once both children come of age. The wedding is accepted, but not truly official, until the first child is born. Polygamy is perfectly acceptable, even something of a status symbol, but it’s rather rare, as the husband must be able to provide for all of his wives and children, which can be a struggle in such a harsh environment. Either partner may demand divorce under certain circumstances (such as infidelity or impotence), but more often these issues are resolved through an arranged spouse-trade between two families. This allows the spouses to change their situation, but also keeps each family intact, as the balance of the man and woman is important for survival.
Vinlandrs have two degrees of violence that are commonplace in their society. The first is raiding. Raiding takes places within Vinland and occasionally with neighboring tribes, and consists of one clan’s warriors attacking another clan to take their supplies or trade goods. While this is serious combat, there are rules of honor to abide on both sides of the battle. Raiders don’t kill those who surrender, they don’t kill children, and while they’re free to take all the trade goods and crafts they want, they must leave enough food and supplies for the attacked clan to survive a few weeks. Raids never make use of firearms or cannons, and any child orphaned by the raid must be taken care of, sometimes taken in by a relative within the clan, sometimes by the raiders. Typically, raids are fought with spears or belt-knives, though great warriors and jarls will often use iron weapons. The second class is more like a proper war. Wars are usually fought by several Clans joining together to fight a common enemy that has wronged them collectively or done something so wrong that it invokes the ire of those not even involved. In war, the rules of combat are much more relaxed. They still don’t kill surrendered enemies or children, but firearms and cannons are readily employed, there’s no rule to leave enough for the survivors, and children orphaned are usually on their own, though there is honor to be found in taking on an orphan even when it’s not socially necessary.
Vinlandrs believe it is important to die an honorable death, on the consequence of bringing shame on their ancestors. An honorable death is typically defined as a death that occurs in the act of accomplishing something. Death in battle is the most honorable of demises, but other honorable deaths include dying while on the hunt, dying during childbirth, or dying in an accident while at work on some craft or project. Dishonorable deaths come from sickness, age, starvation, and weather. When one dies an honorable death, the body is returned home, if possible, and mourned for one week. At the end of the mourning, the body is floated out to sea with its knife, to once more become part of the world. The dishonorable dead are simply put into the ocean. Some powerful or important individuals will be sent out to sea in a canoe full of valuables, which is then set on fire with a burning arrow. This is extremely lavish, as only the very powerful can afford to waste their goods so. These individuals may earn stone markers near the Jarl’s home that detail their life and accomplishments, and there are some stories of Jarls so rich and powerful that instead of a simple marker they left behind an inuksuk to bear their story.
Society and Culture Edit
Vinlandrs typically live in wide-sprawled clan settlements, with multiple related families living in close proximity to one-another. Each family is largely independent, but they cooperate on hunts or other large tasks and submit to the authority of the clan jarl. Sometimes multiple families will share the burden of a small farm to produce extra food or other goods, but only in latitudes that will support it.
Each clan is typically led by a Jarl, an elected male who settles conflicts between the families and generally looks out for the well being of the clan as a whole. The Jarl’s family moves into the jarlheim, a wooden or stone home centered in the clan’s territory. The Jarl and his family are fed, clothed, and generally supported by the rest of the clan, so long as he continues to serve their best interests. Most jarls have influence over between 12 and 20 families. The most powerful Jarls may represent as many as 100 families. Jarls are generally in charge of large-scale trading, selling surplus leather, ivory, food, and fur to their neighbors for various important goods such as boats, weapons, and iron goods. There’s no term limit for a jarl, but he can be removed at any time if he fails to look out for his clan. Typically, there is some warning to this as the tribute from the clan drops in quality as he loses popularity.
Social Structure Edit
The social structure in Vinland is simple. The man is considered the head of the household, though the woman has much more influence on issues and has many more rights than her European sisters. A child is considered to be under his parent’s authority all through his or her life, even once they become adults and have families of their own.
The typical family group in Vinland consists of a husband and wife, their children, and the husband’s surviving parents. The husband is considered to be responsible for every member of the household, and must provide enough food and goods for all of them. Families in Vinland are Patrilineal, with possessions and names being passed down from father to son. However, there are exceptions to this rule: an individual can make it known to the clan’s Jarl if they wish to make some other arrangement upon their death.
Vinland traditions are a blending of native Inuit traditions and Norse. One example is the Vinland wedding. The groom gathers a small band of friends and leads a ‘raid’ on the home of his bride. The family of the bride defends their child in combat, but eventually they are ‘overcome’ and the bride is lost to the raiding groom. This is all for show, and serious attempts at such raids are very, very rare, but the ritual clearly illustrates how much the community cares for the two of them, the bride through her defenders, and the groom through those willing to join his raid.
Other Races Edit
Vinland is home to a number of giantkin, specifically those of Inupasugjuk heritage, but Eldjotnar heritage isn’t unheard of either. These giantkin make up about 20% of their total population. Vinalnd is also the birthplace of the inunnguaq, the constructs given life through rune magic. These beings are relatively rare and most often serving the runecaster who made them, or an apprentice if that one has died, but the Vinlandrs are seeing increasing numbers of free inunnguaq and some find it hard to adjust. The Vinlandrs once upon a time clashed with the Tuniit, but were eventually brought into the confederacy through a sequence of political marriages with various jarls.
Vinlandr religion is very much concerned with the here and now, much like the Inuit religion it descended from. They don’t ‘worship’ so much as they ‘accept’. They have names for various natural forces and spirits who control various aspects of the world, but they don’t worship or pray to these entities, so much as they accept their existence and the rules that they must follow. It’s similar to the way Europeans might think of gravity. However, there is one holdover from the Norse religions. The biblical stories and legends have fused with the legends of the hero Kivioq the Hunter, creating a new being known as Qristr, who is believed to have been born from a virgin woman and conceived by Sila. The Vinlandrs believe in three afterlives. The main two are where the majority of souls go, one above the stars where fruit, berries, and vegetables are abundant, and one underground, where animals and game are everywhere. These two realms are paradise, where food is plentiful, it’s always warm, and there’s no work to be done or war to be fought. A soul can even be reincarnated from these realms if they so desire. Within each realm is a special hall, however, an exclusive greater paradise, where the souls of those who died honorably go to be treated like Jarls. Those souls who broke taboos or committed terrible crimes are sent to a third realm. There’s no food to be found in this realm, and the land is cold and impossible to work. The soul is cold and hungry forever, and can never be reincarnated.
History and Folklore Edit
One tale known by all vinlandrs is the story of the breaking of the colonies. More than 300 years past, there were two colonies on Greenland. But there was a terrible disaster. Some say a sea serpent destroyed the ships bringing supplies to the colonies. Others say a thunderbird attacked the colonies in a storm of elemental fury. Others still place the blame on pirates or warfare. But once the colonies broke, the survivors, barely able to survive the winter, begged the mercy of the natives they lived alongside. In their mercy, they let them into their tents. Over the following years, the children born on the coast were fairer skinned than their neighbors, and the Vinlandrs were born.
Vinlandrs speak Norsq, a fusion of Old Norse and Kalaallisut. The language shares most of it’s grammar rules with other Inuit languages, but borrows a lot of vocabulary and sounds from the Norse tongue.
Written Language Edit
Vinlandrs use a largely unchanged version of the old Norse runic alphabet to spell out the sounds of their words. The alphabet has a few symbols added to accommodate the new sounds of the native languages, and the Norsq alphabet has since been spread all through Tuniitaq.
Vinlandrs often inherit names from their ancestors. Vinlandr names are unisex, and so it‘s not particularly uncommon for a girl to be named after her grandfather. When a Vinlandr child comes of age, they can attempt to earn a title of sorts, by accomplishing some great feat, like hunting a monster or creating some particularly beautiful sculpture or powerful spell. The title is then used as a second name, the two being used interchangeably.
Cities and Settlements Edit
Most Vinlandrs don’t live in cities, and indeed, may go their entire lives without seeing a proper city. The Vinlandrs only have one truly notable city, Jarnholt, the city in the north where the Vinlandrs mine great quantities of iron and forge it into a multitude of tools, weapons, and even armor. Their settlements consist of family groups scattered through a small area of territory, centered around the clan Jarlheim. Most structures are simple tents of leather or hide, but in the further north they make houses of ice or packed snow.
Vinland economy is cycle of iron and food. Ships from the southern island sail north with food from their farms and fish from the fertile seas. Ships sail south from Jarnholt with iron weapons and tools. Once a year just before winter sets in, a massive shipment of cod makes the journey north in Nitthoq, a mighty artifact ship that’s sailed the waters of Vinland for almost 500 years. Along the way, it stops along the shores of Vinland to take on tribute for Jarnholt’s Jarl, gifts of furs, lumber, ivory, and other such things. The shipment is delivered to jarnholt and when the seas thaw again, it makes the journey south again, giving gifts of iron tools to those who paid appropriate tribute on the journey north. There is smaller-scale trading done between neighboring jarls, however, the chance that your neighbor will offer a trade or raid you for what they need is always present in such deals.
Example city Edit
The city of Jarnholt is in the north of Vinland, on the western coast of Greenland. There is only one overland route through the ice fields, and the terrain shifts each year. The port is quite full, with ships from all across Vinland eager to trade for iron. In the winter, the seas freeze over, leaving the city isolated. There are four jarls in Jarnholt, three representing the clans that work individual iron mines, and one who represents the clan of the city itself, who have the greatest ironworkers and forge the raw ore into weapons and tools. Some here hunt seals, whales, and fish, but most work in the mines or the forges, and the bulk of the city‘s food is gained in trade. Women and men work alongside each other in the forges and the mines alike.
Creating Vinlandr Edit
Characters Vinlandr characters are most often warriors, hunters, or runecasters, but there are a number of priests and shamans to be found as well. When creating a Vinlandr, consider where in Vinland they were raised, as the drastic difference in latitude can change how they lived day to day. The latitude can affect the availability of iron, the availability of vegetables and wine, and the wildlife they hunted.
Special Options Edit
Vinlandrs as Characters Edit
Vinlandrs have a wide breadth as characters, from a wise runescribe that records historical events, to a fearsome berserker who goes into a frothing fury in battle, to a hunter who seeks to slay some fearsome sea-monster, or a magic-wielding former Jarl seeking revenge for the slaughter of his clan.