Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

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Winterwolf
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Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Winterwolf » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:05 am

On p12 of DoM, when the Dagmar and her group of warriors from Tyrant's Hill is encountered, it states:
"They are clad not unlike the Woodmen of Mirkwood, but do not bear the marks of any known clan."
So this suggests that Woodmen bear marks to denote the clan (or House) that they belong to.

This short essay is a projection on my part and merely a rumination of how this small aspect of Woodmen society might have developed, as I see it.

Background
In the Revised rulebook p266 is stated:
"The Woodmen of Wilderland are not united under a crown, but are divided into several Houses, as they call a group of clans or families who dwell together in the same great hall under a common token of kinship. Every house is ruled by its council of Elders, a circle of the old and wise. In times of need, the Elders from all houses meet at a folk-moot, a great gathering where the most important decisions concerning the Woodmen at large are taken. There are four main Houses of Woodmen in Wilderland: the House of Mountain Hall, the House of Woodland Hall, the House of Woodmen-town and the House of Rhosgobel."

Discussion
Some of the population of each of the Woodmen Houses would live in these (named) settlements but many would be scattered around in individual homes or smaller settlements. In an agrarian society best use must be made of the land and that means people spreading out to reduce the need to travel to tend animals or fields, despite the need for protection from the various threats nearby.
Most of the Woodmen population would also not travel very far usually, as there is work to do and transport is by foot most of the time. Thus even if the numbers of Woodmen in each House were not very large, they still may not have met or know ALL of the members of their House, let alone those of other Houses.

House Symbol
It would be reasonable to expect that, on meeting another Woodman (male or female) whether in a settlement or out in the Western Eaves, there very likely would have sprung a perceived need to quickly identify which House a Woodman belongs to. Some kind of symbol may have been suggested at some stage or just naturally have developed over centuries to represent each of the original four Houses.
This symbol might be something attached to the clothing.
(Another option, which I won't develop on, would be a tattoo - possibly obvious on the face or hidden on the wrist; a more permanent solution.)
My suggestions would be:
Mountain Hall - a pick to represent mining
Woodland Hall - a roofed Hall to represent their very large Great House, of which they would be very proud
Woodmen-Town - a lantern, for obvious reasons
Rhosgobel - herd animal (sheep, goat or cattle), since "As Rhosgobel is closest to the forest’s edge, it is home to the majority of the Woodmen’s animal herds." p94 HotW.

Later on, if included in the campaign:
Black Tarn Hall - black circle, to represent the Tarn
East Bight - an axe, to represent the Bight hewn from Mirkwood by the Northmen's axe long ago


Physical emblem/badge
My idea is that this symbol would be worn and made of simple and easily obtained materials, thus likely carved of wood or horn, or woven of wool or vine or something pliable and probably worn on the upper body outer clothing where it would be easily seen. Metal would be too scarce and thus too valuable to be carried by every Woodman when something like wood was everywhere and more easily shaped. However those Woodmen with available wealth might have an emblem made of iron - the symbol could be incorporated into something practical, such as into the shape of a cloak pin as worn by the figure on p67 RE.
If the original emblem was a good representation of the original symbol, over time it might have devolved into something more simple e.g. a pick becoming just a 'T' figure, a tuft of wool to represent a sheep or horn to represent a bull or goat. The emblem may not be very obvious to outsiders as it could easily blend into the wearers' clothing, but to all Woodman it would be looked for on meeting a stranger so their House could be quickly ascertained.
It is possible that there could be variations from the basic House emblem, to distinguish different clans within each House.
Their House emblem might well be given to a Woodman in their 'coming of age' ceremony to represent their becoming an adult and being a full member of their House. This would mean that children before that age would be running around without 'House ID' but since most would not stray into the territory of other Houses, that wouldn't usually be a problem.
Actual emblems would be small and could be the following:
Mountain Hall - a small carved pick, or more simply two small twigs bound together in a T shape.
Woodland Hall - a small carved end of a House
Woodmen Town - a small carved lantern
Rhosgobel - a tightly bundled tuft of wool, or a carved horn
Black Tarn Hall - a black circle of wood, or a ball of wool, dyed black
East Bight - a carved axe

Gameplay
The identification of origins of individual or groups Woodmen is probably not usually an issue but could be woven into the storylines e.g. the Outlaws of Mirkwood would have no emblem but those who wanted to hide their outlaw status might carve themselves an emblem so they could blend into normal Woodland society (for fair reasons or foul) if they so wanted, or at least give themselves a chance of doing so.
Woodmen (and possibly Beornings) would easily be able to distinguish which House another Woodmen came from whereas people of other Cultures would not, until the system was pointed out or an observant watcher worked it out for themselves.

I expect that other LM's might be able to think of more ways to use this in their game, especially if their campaign involves intrigue within the Woodmen Houses.

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Falenthal
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Re: Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Falenthal » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:37 am

I like the idea of this different houses as clans or tribes, and specially like you ideas under the "Physical emblem/badge".

Personally, after reading The House of the Wolfings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_House_of_the_Wolfings) -a book that not only influenced Tolkien, but also the definition of the Woodmen in TOR-, I tend to think more of animals as clan totems. I haven't given a thought about which one would correspond to each large settlement, but I'd like if someone gives it a try.

Maybe some bird from the heights for Mountain Hall, a Hound for Woodland Hall, a Sheep for Rhosgobel, a Boar for Woodmen Town (hunters), a Fish for Black Tarn, a Horse for the East Bight.

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Re: Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Otaku-sempai » Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:02 am

Falenthal wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:37 am
I like the idea of this different houses as clans or tribes, and specially like you ideas under the "Physical emblem/badge".

Personally, after reading The House of the Wolfings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_House_of_the_Wolfings) -a book that not only influenced Tolkien, but also the definition of the Woodmen in TOR-, I tend to think more of animals as clan totems. I haven't given a thought about which one would correspond to each large settlement, but I'd like if someone gives it a try.

Maybe some bird from the heights for Mountain Hall, a Hound for Woodland Hall, a Sheep for Rhosgobel, a Boar for Woodmen Town (hunters), a Fish for Black Tarn, a Horse for the East Bight.
The eagle seems appropriate for Mountain Hall. Also, maybe the stag for Rhosgobel. And specifically the trout for Black Tarn.
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Re: Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Majestic » Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:01 pm

Falenthal wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:37 am
Maybe some bird from the heights for Mountain Hall, a Hound for Woodland Hall, a Sheep for Rhosgobel, a Boar for Woodmen Town (hunters), a Fish for Black Tarn, a Horse for the East Bight.
If going with animals, I'd recommend going with the Hound for Woodmen-Town, as they were the "first to
tame the hounds of Mirkwood" and the ones with the Kennels.
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Falenthal
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Re: Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Falenthal » Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:31 pm

Majestic wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:01 pm
Falenthal wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:37 am
Maybe some bird from the heights for Mountain Hall, a Hound for Woodland Hall, a Sheep for Rhosgobel, a Boar for Woodmen Town (hunters), a Fish for Black Tarn, a Horse for the East Bight.
If going with animals, I'd recommend going with the Hound for Woodmen-Town, as they were the "first to
tame the hounds of Mirkwood" and the ones with the Kennels.
I mixed both. Thanks for the heads-up, Majestic!

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Re: Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Vuriche » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:40 pm

I just want to say that I really, really like this idea as a way of fleshing out the Woodmen and creating distinction between the larger settlements. They are such an integral part of the campaign setting as it is written in the supplements, but they are also kept somewhat vaguely described and I struggle to find them very compelling as a part of the story I want to tell.

So, thanks for this very neat idea.

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Re: Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Terisonen » Thu Aug 03, 2017 10:37 am

Very nice idea! Adopted.
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Winterwolf
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Re: Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Winterwolf » Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:04 pm

Thank you for your kind comments - pleased that I could contribute a little to this wonderful roleplaying world created by Cubicle7 and the other forum members.

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Re: Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Glorelendil » Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:34 pm

I second (or third or whatever it is) paying homage to House of the Wolfings.
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Re: Physical distinction between Houses of the Woodmen

Post by Halbarad » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:23 pm

Other possible distinctions might be hair stylings like the historical Suebian knot. Perhaps one house might wear it upon the left side of the head, another upon the right etc.

Leofrings in my own campaign have specific hairstyles. Unblooded warriors and unmarried women wear their hair long and loose. Married women wear their hair in two long plaits. Experienced warriors wear long plaits, tied at their temples(based on historical Hussars).

Perhaps the pinning of the brooches, previously discussed and again, to the left and to the right might be House markers.

Scottish Clans each have a plant that is associated with their clan that they would have affixed to their bonnets. Perhaps similar plants might be attributed to Woodmen Houses.

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