Many months of sailing from Venza, along a towering range of mountains lies an inhospitable realm of barren plateaus and dark, treacherous valleys. The rough terrain renders roads impossible, and the land is alternately too rocky or too swampy to support agriculture. Most of the flora and fauna is carnivorous or poisonous, and in many cases, both. Life there is nasty, brutish, and short. Nonetheless, a civilization – of a sort – exists there. The land is home to several clans of barbarians who survive by simple virtue of being more savage than the wildlife.
Jirago is made of two kinds of terrain: bleak, windswept plateaus, and deep, dark valleys. The plateaus are almost completely barren, and prone to temperature extremes and sudden, violent windstorms. Water is practically nonexistent, although a very experienced survivalist can subsist for a time on the various lichens that grow on the leeward side of rocky outcrops.
The valleys are deeply recessed in the rock, such that sunlight only reaches the valley floor directly for a few hours at midday. In contrast to the plateaus above, thermal vents keep the valleys somewhere between cool and sweltering. Underground aquifers feed the valleys with water, which then evaporates and rises. Depending on the weather conditions on the plateaus above, the moisture is then either taken away by the wind or returned to the valley as a mist or light rain. Soil conditions can range from fairly dry to fairly muddy, but there are no rivers, and the competition between the aquifer and the heat means that there is little standing water, either.
While some valleys form extended networks, not all of them are linked, so that crossing plateaus is often necessary to travel from valley to valley. Even when it is not strictly necessary, it is often faster or safer. Jirago is not at all conducive to mounted travel, and Jiragans are not likely to be familiar with mounts or pack animals.
Jiragan wildlife is generally considered to be some of the most dangerous anywhere. Most of the plants are at least mildly toxic, and Jirago boasts more carnivorous flora than anywhere else on the continent.
In regards to fauna, there are few true herbivores in the valleys – even Jiragan deer will eat carrion if it’s available, and will not hesitate to stampede and trample another animal if it’s alone and does not appear overly large or threatening.
The denizens of Jirago are mostly elven, but several families of wild gnomes and humans live there as well. The half-elven population is also quite significant. Halflings and dwarves are rare and most likely to be encountered on the outskirts of Jirago, closer to civilization. Half-orcs are all but extinct: the barbarian tribes have long since exterminated any goblinoid presence in Jirago, and most Jiragans know orcs only as mythical enemies from song and legend.
The most common classes among Jiragans are barbarian and ranger. Magic users are generally limited to druids, witches, and oracles. There are a few bards, who are treated with great reverence: Jiragan bards almost always specialize in oratory, and are the repositories of the clan’s legends and histories. Sorcerers are uncommon, but not completely unknown. The other magic-using classes are all but nonexistent, including clerics. Jiragans venerate nature spirits rather than gods.
Thieving is treated harshly by Jiragans, so rogues are also fairly rare. Those that do take the class tend to have combat-oriented specialties. Fighters are likewise unusual, because their minimal skill set tends to give inadequate attention to the very necessary lessons of survival, wilderness lore, and stealth. This usually destines fighters for an abrupt and messy end.
The Clan SystemEdit
Jiragans are divided into roughly a dozen clans. Membership in a clan is matrilineal, and changing clans is very rare, but it has been known to happen under unusual circumstances. It’s more common that an exceptional outsider be formally adopted into a clan. Over the centuries, this custom has led to most clans becoming fairly integrated. In fact, the gnomes of Clan Shar now outnumber the elves. The bonds of clanship are strong and they transcend race: a Jiragan human would absolutely consider himself closer to a gnomish or elven clansman than he would to any other human.
Clans are further divided into tribes, which are each pledged to a clan. Membership in a tribe is at-will, and most Jiragans will change tribes a few times during their lives. It’s fairly common for a Jiragan to join another clan’s tribe, but in so doing he renders himself subject to the justice of the tribe’s clan, and not that of his own. Tribes are rarely more than 50 people, and may be as few as five or ten. Most tribes are nomadic or semi-nomadic, but a few are permanent.
Clans are ruled by a council of elders, most of which are bards, witches, oracles, and druids. Other classes are not prohibited from being elders; it’s simply that other classes don’t tend to reach old age quite as often and so are proportionally less represented.
In general, Jiragans tend to a chaotic society, and one whose savagery and demand for self-sufficiency and strength almost borders on evil, but the elder councils and the concept of clan honor are a stabilizing force. On the whole, Jiragan society is closest to true neutral.
Each clan has a yearly meeting during which a fair percentage of the members travel to a central steading. Disagreements between clan members are settled by the clan council during this time, but the major attractions of a clansmeet are the games and the drinking. Young men and women who have come of age undergo the Rite of Adulthood, and are then declared full members of the clan. Different clans hold their clansmeets at different times. They usually last for a week or ten days.
Every five to seven years, there is a Grand Clansmeet, where all the members of the clans come together. The exact timing of the Grand Clansmeets is determined by augury and astrology. At these convocations, differences between the clans are resolved by the Grand Elder Council. Like the individual clansmeets, the social situation revolves largely around drinking and games, where representatives of the clans vie against each other in part for prizes but mostly for bragging rights and honor. There is also a joint Rite of Adulthood for all Jiragans regardless of clan, and it is considered auspicious to undergo the rite during the Grand Clansmeet if possible.
Among Jiragans, clan names are sacred. First names, however, have a fair degree of variation. Some names are nonsense syllables, such as Kycee, Jadabat, Munda, or Tyndar, while others reflect some particular aspect of their personality or some particular story about them, such as Falling Over Stone, Bends Like Oak, or Digging With An Arrow. Particularly prized however, are the names of the 108 ancestors.
The names of the 108 ancestors are held sacred, and they are only ever assigned at the Grand Clansmeet, and only ever to one person at a time. Those who wish to bear a particular name take part in a contest of strength and skill, and the winner earns the right to call himself that name until the next Grand Clansmeet, where he must defend the name from challengers. If he failed to attend, he automatically loses the right of the name. In most cases, “contest of strength and skill” translates to “last man standing,” and serious injuries are quite common, although some names are traditionally reserved for healers or bards, and the contests are somewhat less violent.
Each of the names has a long and proud history, and the position of name-bearer is a great honor and great responsibility. A name-bearer is expected to do nothing to dishonor the name, or else he brings great shame to himself and to his clan.
Jiragans have little contact with the outside world, although some industrious traders do come to the border of the wildlands. While the risk is great, it is also exceedingly lucrative, as Jiragans have access to extremely specialized alchemical ingredients, magical components, and exotic furs, which they will readily trade for liquor and weapons.
Jiragans have a barter economy and think the concept of money is laughable. To them, gold is simply a soft, heavy metal best used as sling bullets.
Jiragans seem to be a lost faction of elves who were stranded in the mortal world during the Time of Darkness. How exactly they came to be stranded is unknown, but they appear to have been cut off from Fey society for some two millennia. The only remnants of their ancient Fey roots are the 108 ancestral names. In all other ways they are a people as savage as they land they hail from.
In the beginning, there was the Stonefather, who was alone in the eternal darkness. He breathed in and out, and his breath became the Eagle of the High Winds, which circled over and around him, endlessly. But it was still dark, and the Stonefather could see nothing. He could hear only the beating of his heart, so he tore his heart from his chest and threw it into the sky, where it became the Sun Wolf and brought light to the darkness. From the great wound on his chest flowed blood, which became the Snake Mother, who gave birth to all living things. But some blood grew dark and clotted, becoming became a crimson-black tiger called the Hunter in the Darkness.
The Stonefather could not see the Hunter and the Snake Mother well, as they were deep within the wound on his chest. The Stonefather’s eye suggested he might let it loose for a while, so that it could look on the Stonefather from above and see all that he had made, and then it would return to him. The Stonefather agreed, and placed his eye in the sky, along with the Sun Wolf and the Eagle of the High Winds, but the eye refused to come back to the Stonefather, and became the Trickster Moon.
Given their natural origins, all Jiragan spirits are essentially neutral, although the Trickster Moon is quite chaotic, and the Stonefather, the Sun Wolf, and the Hunter in the Darkness tend toward law, good, and evil respectively.
The language of Jirago is Jira'shae, which apparently evolved from a creole of Sylvan and ancient Elven, with a large number of Orcish and Goblin loanwords. Interestingly, the profanities from each of the parent languages have survived relatively intact, and Jiragans have invented dozens or hundreds of new ones over the centuries. Linguists who have studied Jira'shae estimate that it contains five or six times the amount of vulgarity as any other known language.
1 An alchemist needs the sap of a certain Jiragan plant. However, he neglects to tell the PCs that the plant is carnivorous. 2 A merchant has had several of his caravans disappear near Clan Tarrizh territory. However, Clan Gregga has a reputation as ruthless opportunists and they are not far distant, either. Is it banditry or wild animals? Or something else entirely? 3 An elven noble hires the PCs to investigate rumors of an ancient elvish keep deep in Jiraga. 4 A linguist asks for an escort to a Clansmeet in order to hear the clan's bards perform the ancient songs.