The Uthgardt Tribes
The Uthgardt are a group of tall, black-haired and blue-eyed humans who have lived in the North for many generations. Each tribe has its own opinion on its exact ancestry, but none of these tales agrees with the others. Loremasters speculate that, given the members' similar characteristics, they must stem from common progenitors, most likely a mix of Illuskans, Netherese, and perhaps one or two other more primitive and savage tribes that once roamed the high country of the North. Most of the tribes are semi-nomadic, wandering through various stretches of the North while spending the harshest winter months in one place, most often a winter camp. A few tribes have broken with this tradition and established permanent settlements. With the exception of the Black Lions and the Griffons, the Uthgardt survive by hunting, gathering, and raiding across the territory.
While each tribe has its distinct characteristics and idioms, all venerate one of the beast totems of Uthgar. The barbarians believe that they take their name from Uthgar Gardolfsson, a famed warrior of Ruathym who became known for his triumphs on the field of battle. Yearning for greater challenges, Uthgar Gardolfsson set out to conquer the now-lost civilization of Illusk. While Uthgar succeeded n pillaging Illusk, the other civilized folk of the Sword Coast hastily mustered an army to counter the Northlander's invasion. These forces attacked his camp and destroyed his ships. Cut off from the sea, Uthgar and his followers retreated inland; the Illuskans did not follow, content to believe that monsters would devour the barbarians in the frozen wilderness.
Despite the hardships they faced, Uthgar and a sizable portion of his army survived. The barbarians sustained themselves by raiding settlements in the northern interior. He gained new followers from among the folk of the region he raided. Some were impressed with his battle prowess; others simply preferred to join that which could not be easily defeated. Eventually his forces grew so large and powerful that he was able to exact tribute from many of the northern communities, and most would pay rather than face the fury of his barbarian horde. Uthgar and the last of his Ruathym followers grew wealthy on the coins and goods they extracted by threat of force.
As evidenced by the descendants of his great army, Uthgar was a strong traditionalist and possessed of a streak of savage nobility. He considered the villages and hamlets that paid him tribute to be under his personal protection, and it was this notion of feudal obligation that would eventually kill him. During the later years of his life, an orc horde swept down out of the spine of the World. Uthgar and his horde met the creatures in a battle still remembered in the tribes' oral histories and war chants. Uthgar and many other warriors died in the battle, but they stemmed the tide of advancing orcs so effectively that few remained to flee back into their mountains.
Uthgar's followers buried their fallen chieftain, along with an honor guard of seven others who died on the battlefield. They piled the ground high above his body and covered the mound with stones to protect it from foraging beasts and hungry crows, and then placed a single gigantic stone atop the completed mound. The location of this sacred spot is believed to be what is now known as Morgur's Mound; it marks not only the resting place of their founder but the start of a traditional of burial that has endured to this day.
Tribes of the Silver Marches
Ten distinct tribes of Uthgardt barbarians remain in Faerûn, but only four - the Black Lion tribe, the Gray Wolf tribe, the Red Tiger tribe, and the Sky Pony tribe - actually dwell within the Silver Marches. The other six are scattered throughout the High Forest, the Savage Frontier, and the Sword Coast North. This section details the four tribes dwelling in the Marches proper, as~ well as the Black Ravens, another tribe that characters are likely to meet while traveling in the area.
The Black Lion Tribe
Although this tribe retains its beast totem name, its members no longer revere the Black Lion or Uthgar. Abandoning their former wandering lifestyle, the Black Lions constructed a permanent settlement near Beorunna's Well. Likewise, they have turned away from raiding and hunting as their primary means of support and toward a combination of agriculture, herding, hunting, and gathering. Tribal clerics now serve Helm, Ilmater, Torm, and Tyr. One cleric of the tribe (Patreveni Onehand, CN human male Clr 3 of Uthgar) still serves Uthgar, but his pleas and warnings to his fellow tribespeople fall on deaf ears. They have had enough of constant warfare, and they long for a less violent and destructive way of life.
Most of the other Uthgardt tribes, particularly the Red Tigers, are contemptuous of the Black Lions' decision to abandon tradition. The tribe's rationale for undergoing this marked change. is explained by their chieftain, Andar Heartwood (CN human male Bbn6): "War with the orc king is coming. Every day it grows nearer. When it finally arrives, it will sweep everything before it, like the waters of the spring flood. The Black Lions, too, will perish unless we plan for our future."
To this end, the Black Lions have started to trade with other folk, especially Quaervarr and Sundabar. Where once the sight of Black Lions walking the streets of a trading city would be considered rare at best, now it is merely uncommon. Thus far the tribe's economy is small, but agricultural and herding success have allowed it to grow rapidly. It is the chieftain's secret hope - shared with no one thus far - that he may be able to prevail upon the signatories of the Silver Marches to accept the Black Lions as a new member, giving the tribe powerful allies when the orc horde attacks.
The Black Lions' town, Beorunna's Well, is described in Chapter 1 of this book (Silver Marches). Surrounded by a low wooden palisade with pens for horses, sheep, and cattle just beyond the palisade, it might pass for any of a number of other small frontier settlements. The tribe still hunts the forests and hills near its settlement, but no longer depends solely on game for survival.
The Black Raven Tribe
The Black Ravens do not dwell in the Silver Marches, but they are known throughout the confederation as dangerous raiders and incorrigible bandits. This ultraconservative tribe is infamous as the scourge of caravans and travelers whose journeys originate in the Silver Marches and take them west toward the Sword Coast North. Riding their giant ravens, the warriors of the tribe swoop down out of the sky to harry and defeat their chosen targets. The Black Ravens particularly despise clerics who seek to spread their faith in the North, and they target these enemies whenever possible.
The Black Ravens have earned their reputation as the most unfriendly of the Uthgardt tribes. They do not tolerate visitors in what they consider to be their territory. Encounters with the Black Ravens in the Silver Marches are likely to be with raiders mounted on giant raven steeds. Members of the tribe are never encountered in any of the communities of the Silver Marches, and they have nothing but contempt for the Uthgardt tribes that have chosen to establish permanent settlements. Warriors of the Black Raven tribe will go so far as to attack Black Lions whenever they meet.
Like most antagonists who employ aerial steeds, the Black Ravens prefer to attack their targets by ambush from above. Their preferred targets are fat merchant caravans, and they like to catch these prizes when the victims are between civilized outposts. The stretch of Evermoor Way between Yartar and Everlund is one of their favorite hunting grounds, as is the eastern end of the Silverymoon Pass road as it clears the Nether Mountains and arcs toward Sundabar. Most of the spoils gained from banditry are sacrificed to their beast totem, because the loot represents the hated taint of civilization. Contrary to popular belief, the Black Ravens' acts of sacrifice do not include ritual destruction of this loot - merely denying the possession of these treasures to the rest of the world is sufficient in their view. Hence, rather than burning or crushing the spoils of their raids, the Black Ravens hide the loot away from the world, storing it in a shrine near their ancestor mound at Raven Rock.
The tribal chieftain is Ostagar Tenfeather (CN human male Bbn8). He is growing old, and many young warriors are trying to make names for themselves with daring acts in order to set forth a claim to leadership of the tribe when he dies.
The Gray Wolf Tribe
The Gray Wolf tribe shares the same ancestor mound as the Black Ravens (Raven Rock), but its members seldom journey there any more. All the members of this tribe are afflicted with lycanthropy. Legends speak of the curse being the ages of the tribe's foolish decision to harbor refugees from the lost city of Gauntlgrym, but the truth of the matter is lost among the snows of too many winters past. The result is a tribe that is now more bestial than human, and more savage than any of its fellows.
Savagery is a way of life among the Gray Wolves, and the tribal leaders teach the younger generations that their curse of lycanthropy is in fact a mark of distinction, and something of which they should be proud. Tales popular from Luskan to Citadel Adbar tell of the bloodcurdling rites the tribe performs under the full moon, howling around its campfires like a huge family of monstrous beasts. Prisoners unlucky enough to fall in the hands of the Gray Wolves are often sacrificed to their beast totem on these ceremonial nights, sometimes at Raven Rock, the Gray Wolf ancestor mound.
Unlike the other lycanthropes native to the Silver Marches, the Black Blood, the Gray Wolves have no association with Malar. In fact, the two groups give one another a wide berth. The Gray Wolves see the lycanthropes of the Black Blood as abominations in the eyes of Uthgar. It is almost certainly true that some of the depredations of Black Blood lycanthropes have been blamed unfairly on the Gray Wolves. The Gray Wolves live primarily by hunting, and they range far and wide across the northern stretches of the Marches, the Savage Frontier, and the Sword Coast North. Encounters with them are rare, but apt to be hostile if the Gray Wolves believe that they have been insulted or denied a kill they think is rightfully theirs.
The Red Tiger Tribe
The Red Tigers are one of the more traditional of the Uthgardt tribes. When folk of the Silver Marches mention the wild and savage nature of the Uthgardt barbarians, it is often the Red Tigers to whom they are referring. Proud and fierce, the tribe maintains no permanent settlements or camps, instead pursuing a nomadic existence far to the north of civilization. Members of the tribe are suspicious of that which they do not understand, and many Red Tiger warriors would prefer to fight unarmed than to wield a magic weapon that came from the hands of an arcane spellcaster.
The tribe numbers approximately one thousand individuals, who roam their hunting territory in small groups of from eight to twenty persons each. Carrying all that they require with them an their sturdy hill-bred horses, they hunt and gather throughout the Cold Wood, which they consider to be their personal hunting grounds. Intruders in the wood who run afoul of a Red Tiger hunting party are likely to be attacked, unless they are a demonstrably superior force. The Red Tigers are not stupid; if they observe a group of intruders that obviously outclasses them, they split into two groups, one to shadow the enemy's movements and the other to warn the rest of the tribe.
The Red Tigers' ancestor mound is Beorunna's Well, which they share with the Black Lions.
The Red Tigers consider it the height of skill and prowess to hunt game armed only with the three-bladed stone daggers they call "tiger's claws." These daggers feature three narrow, very sharp blades. A strike with tiger's claws is considered an armed attack.
Exotic Weapon - Melee
cost: 1 gp
Range Increment: n/a
Weight: 2 lb.
The clerics who worship the Red Tiger beast totem sometimes craft magic tiger's claws for the tribal warriors before a great battle, especially one in which the warriors must face orcs, the tribe's ritual enemy.
The Sky Pony Tribe
Members of this tribe seem to be constantly on the move, riding their shaggy mountain-bred horses from their ancestor mound at One Stone (in the eaves of the eastern Moonwood) westward across the North as far as Icewind Dale. A few legendary warriors of this tribe acquire pegasus mounts; a common quest for a true Sky Pony hero is to seek out such a mount. Unlike most of the other Uthgardt barbarians, the Sky Ponies perceive their beast totem as a manifestation not of Uthgar but rather his frequent ally Tempus. This does not seem to anger Uthgar, perhaps because the Lord of Battles has never espoused a dogma in which Uthgar could not see merit. As a sign of its devotion to the deity, the Sky Pony tribe makes war on the orcs of the North whenever possible, often tracking them high into the mountains in order to destroy their homes and erase their threat to the southern lands.
Naturally, the Uthgardt tribes are the homelands of many barbarians, fighters, and rangers. Rogues specialized in scouting and stealth skills are also found among the barbarian tribes of the North. While most of the Uthgardt tribes are no friends to the civilized settlers of the Silver Marches or the folk of the cities, the better tribes - Sky Pony, Elk, and Black Lion - are not necessarily their enemies, either. As long as the frontier stays where it is and advances no farther into lands roamed by the Uthgardt, these barbarians are likely to reserve their hatred for the humanoids and monsters of the Spine of the World, hunting them down any time they venture out of their mountain fastnesses.
An Uthgardt can easily discern the tribal affiliation of another Uthgardt with a few moments of conversation, or a somewhat longer period of observation at close range, by noting details of dress and equipment, scarring patterns or hairstyle, and mannerisms of speech. Uthgardt characters can attempt to conceal their tribal affiliation (a Disguise check would be appropriate), but this is galling to most tribesfolk. For non-Uthgardt characters, determining the tribe of a particular Uthgardt barbarian requires a Knowledge (geography) check against DC 15.
Black Lion Characters
A player who chooses the Black Lion as his barbarian character's home tribe should think about how the tribe's abandonment of tradition affects his character's outlook on life. Is he angry with his chieftain for breaking with tradition, deciding to venture forth into the world in order to carry on the old ways? Or perhaps he approves of these changes, and seeks to better understand the world by traveling through it and experiencing what adventures it has to offer. The Black Lion barbarian character must beware members of other tribes, however. Most other Uthgardt, particularly the Red Tigers, won't pass up any chance to mock or ridicule a Black Lion they meet on the trail. Some warriors from other tribe may even go so. far as to attack a Black Lion they encounter outside his village.
Black Raven Characters
The Black Raven tribe may not be as desirable a homeland, for a barbarian player character as other tribes. The Black Ravens are so traditional and consistently hateful toward civilization that it is unlikely that such a personality could be anything other than a hindrance to an adventuring party. The exception might occur when a Black Raven character has left his tribe under a cloud of some sort, and has no choice but to interact with the civilized world.
Gray Wolf Characters
A player character barbarian who hails from the Gray Wolf tribe is very probably a lycanthrope, and that presents some special challenges for most campaigns. The DM should consult the Powerful Races sidebar (FRCS page 21) before permitting a player to create a barbarian character that is afflicted with lycanthropy. If the DM chooses to permit such a character in the game, he or she should assign a level adjustment as described in Monsters as Races (DMG page 172).
Red Tiger Characters
The Red Tiger tribe makes an excellent choice for a player character barbarian. Though the Red Tigers are conservative and aloof, it is possible to play a tribe member who has decided to strike out on his own for a time. Red Tigers who join adventuring companies most often do so out of a sense of loyalty or gratitude (often to repay a debt), and sometimes for the opportunity to match their battle prowess against new and different foes.
Sky Pony Characters
The Sky Pony tribe is another good choice for a player interested in running an Uthgardt character. The Sky Ponies are somewhat less conservative than the Red Tigers and more likely to fit in well with adventuring bands from civilized lands. Many Sky Pony barbarians choose feats and skills oriented toward mounted combat, and often bring their excellent warhorses with them when they take up the life of an adventurer.
These huge earth-and-stone mounds are the holiest of sites to the Uthgardt. The mounds are the tribes' sacred burial grounds, and it is here that they inter, the bodies of their greatest chieftains, most heroic warriors, and most venerated spiritual leaders. Most tribes also believe that the bones of their founders rest beneath their respective ancestor mounds, and it is this belief that makes the sites the center of Uthgardt spiritual life. Many of the tribes return their ancestor mounds at specific times of the year in order to celebrate their holy days. Some make their winter camps near these sites, so that they may enjoy the protection of their ancestors during the most trying and dangerous time of the year.
All the ancestor mounds are constructed in a similar manner. Two outer rings built from rocks surround a single, larger altar mound. Both the outer rings and the central mound function as cairns, and the tribes bury the bodies of their honored dead beneath each. The outer cairn rings are for the mighty warriors who merit burial at an ancestor mound by virtue of valorous deeds. The altar mound is reserved for the great chieftains and clerics of the tribe. Normally, only tribal clerics know the exact location of the remains interred within the mounds, and this knowledge is guarded jealously. The burial rites themselves vary from tribe to tribe. Among the Black Lions, for example, the entire tribe participates in the burial service, while among the Red Tigers, only the clerics may perform the sacred burial rites after the rest of the tribe has paid its final respects to the dead.
Most folk living in the Silver Marches give the ancestor mounds a wide berth. Tales and legends concerning the grisly fate of those who foolishly attempted to violate an ancestor mound serve to heighten the aura of mystery and danger that surrounds these sites. It is commonly believed that vengeful spirits and ghostly forces guard the mounds against would-be intruders or tomb robbers. In truth, the only guards at an ancestor mound are those placed there by the tribe. In some tribes, such as the Red Tigers and the Black Ravens, defending the ancestor mound against possible defilers is an honor.