Freefolk (5E Culture)

The freefolk live every day on the threshold of war, and the deeply stratified social order of the Free Kingdoms leaves the majority of them at the mercy of the noble class. They’ve learned to jealously guard whatever they hold dear and are slow to accept outsiders.

CULTURAL TRAITS

  • Geographic Origin Free Kingdoms
  • Dominant Race Atlan
  • Secondary Races Any except fey races
  • Preferred Government Monarchy
  • Language (Dialect) Atlan (Freefolk)
  • Patron Enaros Alantra
  • Secondary Enaros Droth
  • Values Duty, honor, land
  • Aversions Dishonor, liars, necromancy
  • Favored Races Atlan, drothmal, orog, dwarf
  • Favored Cultures Maladorian
  • Unacceptable Races Any fey race
  • Unacceptable Cultures Fey
  • Public Opinion Skilled warriors with a strong sense of honor, but a people mired in the past

Manner

Freefolk are a practical people, willing to do whatever needs doing no matter how difficult the work may be. They don’t dwell on past tragedies, since they know that life is filled with pain. Wallowing in it accomplishes nothing. They are private and distrusting of outsiders, but they never break an oath and always strive to act with honor.

Appearance

Most freefolk live simple, hardworking lives and their clothing reflects this. It is sturdy and plain, designed for work, not show. Men keep their hair short, and most grow full beards. Women grow their hair long, but keep it pulled up under a head covering except at night. Among the common folk, grooming and hygiene are saved for special occasions, and outsiders will immediately notice the distinct odor of freefolk homes. Except among nobility, where gold and jewels are favored, ornamentation is rare.

Art

The common freefolk have little time to create art for arts sake. They will, however, express themselves in their handmade household items. Their pottery and clay tiles are often decorated with scenes of daily life and are known for their simple, common beauty. The freefolk nobility regularly import works of art from distant lands or hire foreign artists to live and work in residence as symbols of their wealth and power.

Music

Lute, pipe, and drum are the instruments commonly played by freefolk. Most songs are upbeat dance tunes written for performance on a tavern stage. In a few kingdoms, however, music is banned outright, having been deemed immoral by the freefolk holy orders that dominate those lands.

Food and Drink

Freefolk food is simple, hearty fare. Heavy stews, hard breads, and aged cheese make up the majority of their diet with small servings of fruit or vegetables when they are in season. Ale is the drink of choice and the freefolk are not choosy about the flavor or quality. As with most things, the freefolk nobles try to impress other nobles by importing exotic foods and drinks.

Homes

Most freefolk homes are simple wattle and daub buildings framed with heavy beams and covered by thick, thatch roofs. Scattered among these humble dwellings are the manors of the freefolk nobility. Half palace and half fortress, these impressive stone edifices are designed to provide optimal defense while simultaneously serving as a shining symbol of the owner’s wealth and status.

Values

When one of the freefolk is entrusted with a responsibility, they'll see it through no matter the cost. In addition, Oaths are never to be broken, and dishonor upon any person who fails in their duty. Freefolk also value land. The amount one controls is a symbol of a person's status in society. Unfortunately, very few individuals outside of the noble class control or own any land.

Aversions

Oath breakers and those who act without honor are the worst type of person in the eyes of the freefolk. Dishonor is a grave injury, and to bring dishonor on oneself or others through one’s actions is considered the vilest of acts. To have dishonor brought upon oneself by another demands satisfaction. Freefolk also detest liars.

Customs

Birth

Birth in the Free Kingdoms is an intimate, womanly affair. Men are not permitted in the birthing chamber, and even after birth the woman undertakes a five day period of 'lying in' during which she remains secluded in her chamber with the child. Only other women allowed inside during this period, and it could be six days before a father sees his child for the first time.

Majority

Upon reaching majority, freefolk children are taken before their immediate superior to pledge their fealty. It is a ritualistic process involving a scripted series of statements of loyalty and patronage and the giving of symbolic gifts.

Marriage

Marriages are always held at high summer, and all the people of the couple’s community attend. Among commoners, multiple couples will typically celebrate in a combined wedding.

Death

When one of the freefolk is dead or dying a Spirit Guide is brought to them as quickly as possible. They are terribly afraid of necromancy and live in terror of dying without the last rites.

Religion

Most freefolk are devoutly religious and have great respect for the holy orders. They make regular offerings to the Enaros, more out of fear of divine retribution than to support any particular ideal or moral code. The holy orders of the Free Kingdoms nurture these ideas, solidifying their important position in society.

Magic

Magic is rare among the freefolk. The constant state of war in the Free Kingdoms makes it difficult to allocate resources to magical research beyond what is needed for war.

Unusual Customs, Traditions, and Taboos

In the days immediately following the Cataclysm, chaos reigned in the land that became the Free Kingdoms. Endrori roamed the countryside by night, gangs and bandits preyed on defenseless villages, and the sick and hungry grew more desperate every day. The freefolk were only safe if they pledged themselves to a powerful military commander or warlord in exchange for protection. This system, initially adopted for survival, eventually evolved into the feudal tradition common throughout the Free Kingdoms today. Unfortunately, it has left most freefolk in a state of perpetual servitude.

Freefolk Traits for 5E


Characters that are one of the freefolk receive the following benefits and disadvantages.

  • Language Atlan (Freefolk)
  • Social Reaction1 Advantage Drothmal
  • Social Reaction1 Disadvantage Dalelander, feyen

Cultural Features

You may also select two of the cultural features described below. These features assume that you start the game on one of the lower rungs of the freefolk's social ladder. Talk to your GM if you want to create a character that is a true member of the nobility.

Feature: Experienced Forager

If there are settlements, houses, or farms nearby and you have an hour to search around. you can always find a meal. Perhaps you learned your tricks while on the run or maybe you were a poorly paid soldier who found ways to get by on whatever the countryside provided. A few eggs stolen from a hen house, a cup of milk from a unattended cow, or a loaf of bread nicked from a windowsill are quickly assembled into enough food to feed yourself for a day.

Feature: Subservience

Long ago you learned how to survive encounters with members of the noble class. You know when to bow, when to avert your gaze, and when to speak and stay silent. You gain advantage on social interaction rolls when you initially encounter a person of higher social class than yourself.

Feature: Noble Blood

You have noble blood in your veins and you have the means to prove it. This isn't to say that you're wealthy, respected, or powerful, but by producing your evidence you can gain advantage once a day in a social interaction where proving your lineage would benefit you.

  • Equipment A signet ring, document of lineage, or other bit of evidence that you can use to prove your connection to the upper classes of the Free Kingdoms.

Feature: Calloused Hands

You grew up working among the common folk of the Free Kingdoms. As a result, you're experienced in most forms of common labor. Whether you need to milk a cow, plow a field, or build a fieldstone wall, you've got the experience necessary to get the job done. If you pitch in on a commoner's work, you gain advantage on one social interaction roll with that person.

Suggested Characteristics

d6 Personality Trait
1 I never pass a shrine or temple without stopping to say a quick prayer to the Enaros.
2 I take great joy in the little things—after all, it could be worse.
3 Whenever I hear people break into song at the tavern, I've just got to sing along.
4 I always look for ways to subvert the rigid class structure of the Free Kingdoms.
5 Nothing impresses me more than rich, fertile soil.
6 When things get dicey I always fall back on military protocol.

 

d6 Ideal
1 Honesty. I will not lie and I won't abide liars. (Good)
2 Honor. I take no action that might bring dishonor upon myself or my people. (Lawful)
3 Fealty. Staying true to my pledge of loyalty is imperative. (Lawful)
4 Piety. The Enaros deserve our respect, devotion, and faithful worship. (Any)
5 Agrarianism. There is an unmatched purity in working the land. (Any)  
6 Power. Power is reserved for those with the will and the means to take it. (Any)

 

d6 Bond
1 My first loyalty is always to my lord/lady and our kingdom.
2 I serve the Enaros and they serve me.
3 My honor means more to me than my life.
4 My word is stronger than steel and an oath must never be broken.
5 The nobles may rule me, but my heart belongs to the common people.
6 This device marks me as a loyal soldier of my kingdom, and I wear it proudly.

 

d6 Flaw
1 It's not my place. I know which class I'm a part of and know better than to step outside it.
2 Me? Uncouth? What are ya *BELCH* talkin' about?
3 I'm not going to waste my soap. After all, I just bathed last month.
4 I prefer not to associate with sinful folk that don't respect the power of the Enaros.
5 I'm terrified of being impoverished again, so I'm slow to part with my money.
6 Dishonor me, and I promise, you will pay.

 

FOOTNOTES

Particularly as we get started posting new material, there will be topics we haven't covered yet. In most cases you an easily read between the lines to understand the meaning, but we wanted to note some areas where we have expanded material that we'll be sharing.

(1) Expanded Aetaltis rules for social reactions will be shared in an upcoming article.

ART AND ILLUSTRATIONS

  • Cliff Castle by Winfall Design
  • Holy Symbols by Ashley MacKenzie
  • Map by Nathan Mangion
     

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To learn more about the World of Aetaltis, check out a full index of our past content posts here!

All game rules published under Open Game License v 1.0a.

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