|Art by Talon Dunning|
Most Partholonians will tell you that Kruthar aren't actually men, but merely man-like animals. And it is true that when barbarian corpses are cleared from a battlefield, many seem to bear but a brutish approximation of human features, and others appear more animal than human, but for many the tattoos and war-paint and ritualized scars seem to disguise the face of mere humans.
Recently, Morgana of the Iron Wolf clan became attached to the treasure-hunters operating out of Sham. She has learned a little of the common tongue, and has taught her lover Brianne a little of her own. Though communication remains difficult, the party is at last learning a little about the Kruthar. Some of this new lore is summarized here.
Kruthar society is divided into clans, castes, warbands, tribes, and hordes. The interaction and overlap of these groups is more complicated than Morgana can fully explain, but their practical function seems to be to give warriors an excuse to fight for status and power while simultaneously giving them a way to join their strength against outsiders.
Kruthar religion venerates the spirits of the wild and demons of the underworld. They hold destruction, killing, and cruelty as sacred. Many believe their role in the world is to purify it of weakness. Some believe their role is to burn the world down, and that the only purity to be had is the silent eternity of oblivion. Kruthar ethics are mostly variations on "Might makes right." What you are strong enough to take is yours for the taking. What you are strong enough to keep is yours to keep.
Gender roles are assumed but not rigid. Men normally become hunters and warriors while women typically see to the clan's home and rear the children, but there is no social stigma for those who deviate from the norm. Breeding is a sacred responsibility, as the harsh lifestyle and unreliable fertility of the Kruthar means extermination is a perpetual threat. Contributing many children to the clan is a good way to gain status, and many Kruthar of both genders take on multiple partners. It is uncommon, but not rare, for Kruthar to take lovers of their own sex. As long as such affairs don't distract from the clan's need for new blood, there is no stigma involved.
- The majority of Kruthar are born to the caste known as donadar, bearing little or no sign of Chaotic deformity. Although they have the lowest status, they are the most fertile, making donadars prized as mates by all castes.
- About one in four Kruthar will be a shalgar. Shalgars are bigger, stronger, and tougher than donadars, and are visibly marked by Chaos.
- Less than one in twenty Kruthar will be a morlak. Morlaks are huge, hulking brutes, sometimes twice the size of a man, but frequently stooped or hunchbacked. They are heavily mutated, barely human at all, and some even grow one or two extra arms. Morlaks frequently have little more than animal wit, but the few who are gifted with both strength and cunning become great warlords.
- The very rare skrag is among the most powerful of Kruthar. Skrags are even larger and more powerful than morlaks, more heavily mutated and frequently gifted with a burning madness. They are almost entirely inhuman, often growing scales, fur, and thorn-like spurs in patches. Extra arms are common, and some even grow an extra head.
- Clans are frequently led by a grugak, a magician with the power to bestow curses and change shapes. A strong clan will have a chief grugak and his lesser apprentices.
Sacred Madness: When Kruthar fail a morale check or are subject to any fear effect, there is a 1 in 10 chance that they will be overcome by a berserker rage. A berserk warrior of the common caste will have the following statistics:
Hard to Kill: A berserker with 0 hp can continue to fight until wounded again.
1 in 4 warbands encountered will be of the elite shalgar caste.
Demon Eyes: These Kruthar can see in total darkness, but reduce AP by 1 in sunlight.
Savagery: These Kruthar can fight with tooth and nail even if they are disarmed.
Sacred Madness: as above.
The party has not encountered morlaks, so no reliable data can be extrapolated from Morgana's lore. They have battled a grugak in Stonehell, and are aware that changing form seemed to heal his wounds, but have no more concrete data beyond that.