Sunday, August 30, 2009
For the large part, the primary food is game meat, which can include deer, elk, moose, rabbits. Fowl like duck and geese are eaten when available during the summer months, and summer solstice festivals usually make them the main course. The biggest game meat is of course, caribou, which some hunters follow around so much it's almost indistinguishable from herding. However, many tribes have also tried to subsist on the crops from the more southern kingdoms either by trading or raiding.
Clothes largely depend on season. During the long months, thick furs are worn as vests and fur bombers. Some tribes have also taken to weaving thick sweaters and scarves from wool. Hair is braided by both men and women to consolidate the warmth and prevent the winter chill from blowing through it. During the summer, and voyages to the south these clothes are usually shed, and we see very simple hides. Men and women like to wear jewelery that could consist of iron, wood, tooth or bone, depending on what is available.
Horses are expensive to feed, and there's not always much grass or grain available where they are. Therefore, most villages will have a pack (or, if they're prominent, two) of sled dogs to traverse the frozen wilderness. Their coats likewise protect them from the elements, and they're fed remains of game meat. The life of a sled dog is full of toil and not very long, but they are immensely valuable to the north tribes. They are thus revered and treated with respect. Pyres are sometimes lit for dogs that have been especially
While not a completely nomadic people, society in these regions is not built on towns Game may disappear, weather may be too cold, or other tribes may move in. The nomadic versus sedentary lifestyle is more or less a north to south gradient. For the villages that are more settled, we see many thatched huts surrounding a great log hall. There the people try to survive the blistering winters huddled over the fire drinking ale and telling epic stories. Some log cabins may exist for particularly revered members of the tribe, or those who wish to rough it out alone.
While a hunter society, Canucks can't help but interact with the outside world. This is especially prevalent due to the vast resources the north provides. With so much timber and metal, lumberjacks and metal smiths are considered as integral (if not as common) contributors to the tribes as hunters. When visiting Wisconsin, it's said the best way to tell the difference between a Cowboy and a Canuck is is the latter may be donning metal artifacts.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
The barrenness of the American desert is broken up by a collection of rivers. The altitude of the Rocky Mountain collects enough moisture to fill the rivers that pour into the Southwest. Communities then gather around these rivers to collect the water and moisture, creating their own canals to divert this water into their crops, in a process called irrigation. Irrigation can also help keep the ground soft after the cold desert nights. This is absolutely vital to surviving in the west, since rain falls so little, and the soil is otherwise hostile without human intervention. In the Industrial Age, there were concerns about the American Southwest having enough water for their needs, but the smaller population and lack of plumbing or intensive gardening have lessened the burden. However, nations and tribes do fight over water rights, since if a state is to expand, it would have be along the river lines. It has also given the governors absolute power over their subjects.
Communities are small, but very tightly wound together. All villages and cities tend to center around the major rivers used for irrigation and wells. This helps foster consolidated population densities. The denizens in Hydraulic nations tend to share common languages and have access to similar goods. We also see small but impressive middle-to upper classes that can concentrate on craftsmanship, education and health. This is because access to civilization is much closer, and there is no warrior class, but rather the Emperor's own private army. As such, the desert kingdoms are often much more advanced in fields like astronomy and medicine.
The exception is out deeper in the desert, where we see wandering bands of nomadic herdsmen. These people may be subjects to the Governor, and have to pay him tribute or have their sons and daughters conscripted into military, servant or even bridal duties. They are nominally considered parts of these kingdoms, but they often do not get along well with their farmer counterparts, and may be persecuted or treated like second class citizens.
The desert farmers have somewhat similar diets to those in the south, though there's less a focus on vegtables (Which tend to thrive in wetter regions) and rice (Which is downright wasteful in the desert). They often focus on crops that don't need as much water like blue corn, chile peppers, mllet and various beans. Fruits are very common, especialy oranges and dates. Most cheese tends to come from goats, who are the most valuable livestock out in the deserts, since they are highly durable and their stomachs can digest almost anything.
Clothes:Along the river banks, farmers and other denizens may dress much like they do in the American south--with loincloths and and ponchos and wide-brimmed hats. If straw is hard to come by, or the rich wish not to look like peasants, they may wear pieces of cloth similar to the keffaut, made out of cotton. It's also common to put black makeup around's one's eyes to block the rays of the sun. However, for villagers outside the rivers, where there is less moisture and buildings to mitigate the sun's rays, protection becomes immensely important. Here, loose, baggy clothes are used, and bandanas to protect them from sandstorms. Once we start getting out into the nomad territories, they may dress much like other herdsmen, however their clothes are looser and more colorful. Many people in the desert may also keep cloaks handy, for the nightfall turns the climate from blistering heat to bitter cold.
Much of the kingdoms are traversed along the life-giving rivers the communties cling to. Barges are built for the governor and his court to do business or just sight-see. They are also very important for transporting the infantry from one corner of the nation to another. Because most of the Hydraulic Empires in North America are located near mountains, wood isn't as hard to get. But it can still be expensive and something of a luxury. Therefore, most of the farmers and traders traverse by land. They ride durable beasts like burros and camels. The wealthy upper classes may still use horses for battle or envoys, since they will have large enough caravans to support less hardy beasts.
The isolation of these nations from the rest of the world, in addition to each other, has allowed belief systems to wildly diverge from the Christian east. A large element of many beliefs around here is the obsessing with the stars. The skies are very clear at night, and astronomy (as well as astrology) are valued skills out west. Many myths and folklore involve chariots of the gods, great ships that traverse the stars, and even creaturess from beyond who crashed out in the far reaches of the desert. Because of the lack of moisture, scholars are able to keep advancements and records very well documented.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Even though the farmlands of the south have fertile soils that can support all kinds of crops, and long, warm summers, they have their disadvantages as well. The diversity of life down south means more parasites and pests can get into the crops, and a larger variety diseases can infect the populace. Also, much of the American south is rainy and swampy, making it much harder to maintain crops, as well as structures.
North of regions like the Appalachian and the Chesapeake, growing seasons are shorter but the land much more fertile. This means that while there's less of a variety in crop, it can potentially feed a lot more people. It took a while for people to adjust to the bitter northern winters, but once they managed to adapt, very resilient people managed to emerge. The potential for higher, more concentrated populations was needed, because the Yankees live in a relatively more complex society. The soil needs the best medieval technology it can to function, so there needs to be specialized labor forces for ox-breeders and plow makers. The harsher winters mean houses and clothing have to be more elaborate. Stone cutters, lumberjacks and many other more specialized trades are needed to prevent people from freezing or starving to death. However, unlike in Hydraulic Empires, the greater and more diverse groups of people means that these bureaucratic societies aren't as autocratic. There's more compromise and politicking required.
The agriculture of the north supports crops that are much more durable, and are conditioned better to the soils. Cereal grains like wheat and oats are important simply because it's important to have bags of grain ready for the winters, but there's also a large focus on root veg tables like turnips and potatoes. The potato is the staple crop of the North. It is unaffected by snow on the ground, and the starches yield high calories for labor intensive medieval life. Apples, pears, blueberries and cranberries are widely eaten because the trees and bushes can withstand the weather, ready to produce another batch the next year. Because many of the Northern regions are connected to the ocean or the great lakes, there's a large proportion fisherman. Clams, lobsters, cod and bass make up more of the diet of many Northern cultures than meat or poultry.
In the South, structures may be relatively simple due to the common occurring of floods and hurricanes. Aside from the annual blizzards, people in the North really don't have to worry about natural disasters, the priority is in making big, durable abodes that they can all pile in for the winter. Such structures tend to be made of sturdy oak or, if they can afford it, stone. There's a reasonable availability of granite and limestone in some of America's colder regions, so it's very common to build a house with the chimney or hearth being part of the entire wall. The use of stone is valued not only for the insulation from the hot summers and cold winters, but because firewood may burning for so much of the year, there's a higher risk for flammability.
The Northeast of the US is not blessed with much unique resources. Just a great deal of wood. However, the cash crops of the South and the minerals of the farther North, as well as the seas and rivers create trade network that cities can sprout up on. Also, because people of the North want to concentrate on exporting rather than importing, trades in artisanship are very important. In order to stay competitive with the relatively little they're given, these places make it a point to be the best as textiles, metal-working and wood crafting that they can be.
Perhaps what the Yankees pride themselves most on is their scholarly pursuits. With so many Church districts nearby, a much higher proportion of the populace is well educated. Churchmen are often hired, not just to do many of the bureaucratic work, but tutor the children of the region's leaders. Many prestigious colleges of old were located here in the industrial age, and while some fell into disrepair, it was considered very important to keep the tradition of learning alive. While many of the kingdoms further south and west have no interest in enrolling their sons there for fear of going soft, the occasional kingdom (Usually in peacetime) will send important scions to Universities in the Northeast in the hopes of having a wise and well-versed leader succeeding them.
Monday, August 10, 2009
In modern times, Quebec has managed to remain culturally distinct. It is a province of several million people who have managed to carve out a society that speaks French on a continent that is otherwise rooted in English or Spanish. It has also felt more European than the rest of North America. It's a true quirk in the modern world. In Medieval America, it would be interesting to see what kind of identity it has taken on, especially since the linguistic world would be just as different as anything else.
The language would probably be very fluid and gradually changing from one region to another. There is the common ancestry, so from coast to coast it would probably owe itself to English. Dialects and colloquialisms would then splinter as we passed the Mason Dixon line, the Appalachians, the Great Plains, and the Rockies. These would be the barriers in which the tongues stop being as intelligible with one another. The south would also see be kissed by Spanish, with maybe even Creole working its way into the Gulf Coast. We may see more Amerind influence out in the western, isolated spots. (Give a thousand years, and the West Coast could morph into something else entirely) But what of Quebec?
French could possibly have worked itself into the language of as little as one million people, or as many as five million. The first thing to keep in mind is, if any language is intact in these nine-hundred years, it's Quebecois French. To the people in these province, nothing defines them and their way of life as much as their language. It could potentially be preserved as if it were Latin. The cold and relative isolation could certainly help in preserving it. But I do wonder if it would be satisfied being its own enclave. It doesn't have the best piece of real estate. Also, remember that Quebec prides itself on how different it is. Give the desperation of long winters, and a generally warlike medieval society, and it doesn't take long for "different" to transform into "better". I can imagine a cultural tide of conquest coming for and retreating over the centuries. This has probably affected New Brunswick and eastern Ontario, which take bi-lingualism more seriously than the rest of Canada. It has also led me to wonder about New York.
I found it funny White created a page for New York, but did not include its flag in the Northeast or Feudal Core maps. Culturally, New York can resemble the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, or even New England in some places. (Though New York City is part of the USA empire) There could be several reasons for this. One is that maybe it's just very unique, or mostly important as a trade stop. (White has another orphaned flag around Virgina) It may not be included as part of the Northeast because it is both feudal, and occupied by knights. (The Northeast nations are either republics, or mostly infantry) Maybe it's too inland to be part of the Northeast. But it did occur to me that maybe at one point, it was conquered by Quebec. It would be a decent prize. Better farmland, and access to the Hudson river would certainly make it the gateway between the Midwest and Atlantic. (Quebec has always lamented the Eerie canal and its "bypassing" the St. Lawrence River) It would make sense too, with the Statue of Liberty as its flag. Both a very New York (And Non-Denominational) icon, but also one that lends itself to France.
If Quebec is an empire, it's a vestigial one, maps indicate. But whatever its current state, I believe just as the Anglo-Saxons had a large effect on Mainland Europe, the Quebecois have had a mark on Northern America.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Interestingly enough, White doesn't give an independent "lifestyle" icon for the northwest--it shares the "Yankee" icon. Perhaps there's not much to elaborate on. It's the mildest climate on the continent, neither summers nor winters getting particularly extreme. In fact, in a lot of ways, the Northwest mirrors the Northeast, although cosmetically one could easily tell the difference between someone from New England from someone from Vancouver sound. The northwest's most distinct aspect however, is the vast amount of rain. Metals and woods are often cured to be water resistant, and they usually gravitate towards the resistant resources to begin with. Cloaks are probably not made from wool. And much of the architecture includes water spouts and various designs for expelling the rain. But other than that, the region is so well-suited to support life that it's surprising that the population is this low. Proportionately, it's a good drop-off from the current population, but one can't help but think this corner of the map would suffer much less than say, the Atlantic seaboard. Perhaps the environmental dogma has prevented them populating too much.
I've mentioned several times I think the Northwest is stridently environmentalist. And whatever caused the destruction of civilization probably helped convince people respecting the earth and living simple lives would not have gotten America in this mess. The religion seems to be Buddhism, or at least an on offshoot of it. It can kind of mean several things at this point, as it's kind of the non-religion religion, and put in the context of holy wars, it could mean many different things. Perhaps the forces of the earth are more sacred to its worshipers, or it has its own rules and pantheon, just with much less rites and Sabbaths than other faiths of the continent. Green may be the signature color of the area--with the environmental dogma combined with the almost everlastingly green colors of the wilderness. The Pacific Northwest may very well challenge Ireland for emerald identification. Variations do probably exist more, should totem poles still be prevalent. Totem poles have been perhaps the most well-known symbol in this part of the country, and the American Indian influence is probably the most valued (if not co-opted) around here.
In the upper northwest, we pretty much have the crux of its population, which White has simply labeled "Pacific Northwest". Maps display that it's a patchwork, probably of various independent city states that share languages, religions and lifestyles, but are constantly competing. They're probably very much mercantile states like the US, just much more divided. It may in fact be something of a "Hippie" version of the US. I wouldn't be surprised to see White have mentioned Hippies when talking about the region's culture. I do wonder how often they have had common goals. On the California page, White mentions every now and then San Francisco is conquered by the Northwest armies. This has probably led to merging of cultures every now and then, with the Bay area serving as a buffer between two otherwise quite different cultures.
The other region is The District of Colombia--a feudal state on the other side of the continent. The name probably derives from the Columbia river, though I've used the setting sun of BC for its flag. There are no cities evident in this region so far, so it may simply be a large collection of castles and villages that support the cities of the west. I'm not sure what their relationship with the merchant cities must be--probably not bad, though east of the Cascade mountains,t hey might not even think about them much. However,. there does seem to be an intense rivalry with Deseret. I don't have the best idea where one nation ends and the other begins, but I imagine the conflicts are too new for there to be a major blurring within borders. With the Asian influence and mountainous, sometimes volcanic terrain, you're left to wonder if it might at times resemble feudal Japan. Ultimately, the area has been too shaped by the European and Native population to completely go that way (especially since its Asian immigrants probably don't know that much about Japanese sword-melding), but a lot of the aesthetic could bear a passing resemblance. However, this seems to be something of a blip in the grand scheme of things--no major cities are even shown under its jurisdiction. Maybe Portland, as a relatively inland city, is its capital. It's hard to tell as White simply didn't give a link to this area on the main atlas.