Tribes of the Ancient Lands
I've been thinking a lot on how to approach the many peoples of the ancient lands, going with sub-races, city-states, clan alliances, small empires, and so on. And I think what works the best for me is to go by culture. Each culture is represented as a tribe, which consists of a couple of hundred thousand people to a few million. These people share the same language, customs, rites, clothing, technology, and so on.
Northland Elves: These elves live in the northern parts of the Ancient Lands, in the sub-arctic forests and hills. They are relatively small in number compared to the other elven tribes and have few major settlements. They tend towards taller sized for elves and have dark hair and fairer skin than most other people of the ancient lands, only tanning slightly in the short summers of their homelands. The elves of the northlands usually work with stone and their homes and keeps can withstand almost all storms without any real damage. They dress mosty in wool and furs in winter, with finer cloths mostly being reserved for shirts and underskirts, as most of them are traded from peoples to the south. Many of the clans know how to work steel and warriors of the northland clans often wear chainmail and carry straight one-handed swords in addition to their spears and bows. In addition to their druids, who often live in small groups outside of the villages, northland elves also have many witches who serve as healers and protectors against magical beasts and evil spirits.
Northern Wood Elves: The Northern Wood Elf tribe is one of the larger tribes of the ancient lands. Most clans live in small villages of wooden huts, which are sometimes located up in the treetops, but not as often as with the southern wood elves. Members of the northern wood elf tribe have light brown skin and brown hair that is often in darker shades. Warriors usually dress in armor made from layers of textiles and plant fibres, covered by backings of leather, or more rarely scale armor and lamellar made from bronze. In addition to spears and bows, they often carry short swords and they are also the only elven tribe that uses hatchets and battleaxes in large numbers. Most villages have their own druid but witches are less common and are often hermits who do not belong to any specific village of their clan.
Southern Wood Elves: The southern wood elves resemble the northern wood elves in many ways, but are often distinguishable by their lighter hair colors that include dark blond and red similar to autumn leaves, which are very rare anywhere else in the ancient lands. Many towns and villages of the southern wood elves lie close to the sea and most ships that travel along the coasts of the ancient lands are manned by southern wood elves. While most of their weapons and armor is made from bronze, high ranking warriors often carry steel scimitars as symbols of their station and know how to use them.
Wild Elves: Closely related to the wood elves, the wild elves are more reclusive and live by a more primal lifestyle. Wild elves tend to have deeply tanned skin and usually dark brown hair. Armor is rare and usually made of plant fibres and leather, with bronze mostly used in spear and arrow tips and in daggers. Armor is often limited to a simple breastplate, but hunters and warriors often wear elaborate warpaint as well, with identifies their station. However, wild elves of other professions also often have their own painted markings. While wild elves don't trade as much with other peoples as most other tribes do, their reaction to outsiders depends entirely on the specific village and can differ greatly even within a clan.
Grey Elves: The grey elves are neighbors of the wild elves and have a very similar culture, but are easily told apart by their dark elven appearance with charcoal black skin and pale blond to light grey hair. Unlike other dark elves, their hair can also be a naturally dark grey, which is mostly found in clans that have close relationships with wild elf clans. Grey elves are generally more welcoming of outsider than either Wild elves or Dark elves and much of the trade from dark elven lands passes through their merchants.
Dark Elves: The dark elves are one of the larger tribes like the northern and southern wood elven tribes. Their skin is charcoal black and they have hair in many shades of pale blond and light grey. While dark elves use only very few iron and steel, they produce very sophisticated goods from bronze like short scimitars, kukris, scale armor, and lamellar. Among dark elves, druids are the nobility and have their homes on hills and around groves located above the rest of the town. While not welcoming of outsiders, their main enemies are the lizardfolk that live just beyond the borders of their territory.
Dusk Elves: The Dusk Elves are a small and diverse people of dark elves that live scattered throughout the northern lands, often isolating themselves from the wood elven clans that populate those areas. They have only a few major settlements that are well hidden and usually underground, mostly living in camps and having a reputation of vagabonds who are not much better than clanless outcasts.
Vandren: The Vandren are the major human group in the Ancient Lands. Originally from lands in the west, they arrived in the region only a few centuries ago as guards for caravans crossing the uninhabited plains west of the ancient lands. The Vandren have medium tanned skin and deep black hair, which makes them unmistakable for any of the few native human clans. The Vandren brought with them cattle, which are much larger than the goats, sheeps, and reindeer traditionally kept by the peoples of the ancient lands, and which are a great symbol of pride for their culture. They lack any main homeland in the ancient lands, but their settlements are often clustered along trade roads and rivers that run along the territories occupied by the other tribes.
Surri: The Surri are a small human tribe that has lived in the ancient lands for as long as anyone knows and who have been neighbors with the Northland elves ever since. The surri live mostly from raising reindeer and fishing in the many lakes and rivers of the northern lands, with some coastal villages also making their living by whaling. Like the elves of the region, the skin of Surri is relatively fair and they have bright brown hair of a much lighter shade than found in almost any of the other tribes.
Amakari: Like the Surri in the north, the Amakari are a small human tribe that has lived in the ancient lands long before the first Vandren arrived. The amakari have dark skin and black hair and beards, and are at home on the islands off the coast of the lands inhabited by the dark elves and lizardfolk. They have no armor and barely any metal, but they are great sailors who often trade with merchant ships passing through their home islands.
Hill Gnomes: Though not very large in numbers compared to other tribes, hill gnomes are the larger of the gnome people. They often make their home in mountainous terrain and the foothills of larger mountain ranges and are somewhat scattered around the northern lands. In addition to digging their homes in the ground, they are also highly skilled miners who produce many of the valuable metals in the ancient lands from ores mined deep within the rock of the mountains. Because of this, they are also the best smiths to work in steel and the guards of their towns and strongholds are often well equiped with steel scale armor and lamellar, and halberds and battleaxes.
Forest Gnomes: Forest Gnomes are mostly found in less rocky terrain and deeper within the great forests of the northlands. Their villages tend to be more accessible from the surface than hill gnome settlements but often just as hidden and secluded with few outsiders knowing where to find them. Forest gnomes rarely have to rely on hunting and instead tend to make it even through longer winters entirely with food they grew in their fields and the sheep they are raising. Unlike hill gnomes, forest gnomes rarely chose to bunker up and sit out and threats and instead rely much more on secrecy and evasion to deter any bandits or hostile neighbors.
Hill Kaas: The largest tribe of the kaas lives in the hills and plains west of the great forests of the ancient lands. They make their homes in large well protected camps and live mostly by hunting and herding and the farming of a few sturdy crops that can survive in the often harsh weather of the region.
Mountain Kaas: North of the hills and plains live the mountain kaas whose culture is centered around sturdy fortresses and strongholds up in the mountains. They are bigger and stronger than even the other kaas tribes and only their druids have a status that rivals that of their warriors. Larger clans often keep a few enslaved trolls for heavy labor, but usually only in small numbers to keep them from trying to fight back against their masters.
Forest Kaas: The forest kaas are a relatively small and dispersed tribe, consisting mostly of solitary clans that live on the edges of the wood elf lands. Their villages are led by their druids and hunters are not an uncommon sight in towns that are open to outsiders for trade.
Naga Tribe: The most powerful of the lizardfolk clans are those still under the rule of the naga. While there is a clear hirarchy with the naga at the top and lizardfolk at the bottom as slaves, the lizardfolk outnumber the naga to such a degree that they often hold positions of power such as town leaders and military officers. Though the naga dictate the course of action and make all the important descisions, most of the day to day administration is done by high ranking lizardfolk officials. The naga themselves are far from a unified power and often at conflict and even war with each other, but to outsiders there is very little difference between the clans.
Jungle Tribe: The lizardfolk of the jungle tribe overthrew their naga masters long ago and since then have returned to governing their clans themselves. There are thousands of clans all over the jungles and they are highly diverse, but they all share the heritage of the knowledge and magic their naga masters once possessed and still exist in small fragments among them.
Island Tribe: Off the coast of the southern jungles lie many islands that are home to some human clans and large numbers of lizardfolk. These lizardfolk were never ruled by the naga to any significant degree and they still preserve most of their ancient culture. Items made of bronze are rare among the island tribes and they still mostly rely on stone and obsidian for their weapons and make their armor out of plant fibres and whale bones.
Savage Tribe: Similar to the island tribe, the savage tribe is a loose collection of wild lizardfolk clans that have always existed beyond the territory controlled by the naga during the height of their rule. The savages are the most primitive of the lizardfolk tribes and also the most agressive. Savage clans are hostile to almost everyone, be it naga tribe clans, jungle tribe clans, or dark elven clans. They are also bigger and stronger and often eat their killed enemies.