A Second Look at Medieval America (discussion-free)

This is the thread for finalized entries in the Medieval America project. THERE IS TO BE NO DISCUSSION, THIS THREAD IS FOR ENTRIES ONLY. If you wish to discuss and collaborate on the project, the link is in my signature.

EDIT: Before I forget, an entry must be vetted in the discussion thread first.
Culture: Nomadic Herdsmen
Where water is too scarce to support agriculture, nomads drive herds of ruminents from pasture to pasture. On the grasslands of Great Plains, the nomadic lifestyle has reach a peak of affluence with vast herds of cattle and horses driven by wealthy, healthy tribes of brutal barbarians. In the scrubland of the western desert, however, the nomads are a more sorry bunch, riding burros and leading flocks of sheep and goats from waterhole to waterhole, arousing less envy and fear among their agricultural neighbors.


Humans cannot digest the grasses that cover the priarie, but they can eat the animals that eat the grasses - cattle, sheep and goats. Because it's more economical to drain an animal again and again rather than simply slaughtering it, the staples of the nomadic diet are dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter; and blood tapped from non-vital arteries in small doses. In fact, the drinking of cattle blood is such an important part of the nomadic diet that it is one of the only Old Testament taboos not reimposed by the New Israelite religion. Meat is clearly secondary, although they do eat it almost daily, even in the dead of winter. It is usually roasted or barbicued over an open fire. They eat very few vegetables, except what they scrounge from the forests of the rivers and foothills.


The typical cowboy wears a light woolen workshirt, heavy leather boots -- pointy-toed and high-heeled to fit into a stirrup -- and leather pants to facilitate riding. He keeps the sun out of his eyes with a broad-brimmed hat of stiffened leather or felt. In colder weather, he will tuck a wool cap under his hat, and wrap himself in jackets and sweaters of wool and felt, quilted in flamboyant, abstract patterns (not shown). Woman dress similarly, except that they wear long skirts instead of pants.


As they drive their herds from pasture to pasture, the nomads drag their villages along with them, and tribe of cowboys on the move always includes a long dusty caravan of covered wagons drawn by teams of oxen. Whenever the tribe settles in for more than an overnight stay, a city of teepees will sprout up for extra living space.


Because wood is in short supply on the open prairie, the principle fuel of the cowboys is dried cattle dung, which usually contains enough undigested grass to sustain a low flame for cooking. In the winter, when they need larger flames, they generally withdraw to the foothills or riverbanks, where they can chop timber.

Tools and Materials:

For the most part, the tools of the nomads are manufactured from the bodies of their animals: woven wool; pressed felt; rawhide straps and thongs; glue from boiled hooves; composite bows of bone and horn; sheepskin parchment for the priesthhood. They make periodic forays into the mountains for the wood to build their wagons, and they trade with settled communities for the metal to make their knives.
Warfare: Horse Archers
Because it combined the mobility and long distance killing power that soldiers with a memory of indutrial era wars had come to expect, the horse archer was the first medieval fighting style to emerge after the collapse of civilization. For a few centuries, it dominated the old United States, until it was discovered that large warhorses carrying heavily armored knights could often stand their ground against an attack of horse archers; however, it was only in the settled communities of the forest zone that there was enough grain to feed these large horses, so the armies of archers on grass-fed ponies remained dominant on the open prairie.

Among the nomadic herdsmen of the plains and desert, just about every adult male (or roughly a quarter of the population) is trained in the arts of war simply because the management of a herd was so much like battle itself. The cowboys circle the herd on fast ponies, leading it in a chosen direction, splitting it into smaller sections and selecting a few head of livestock to pick off for the day's meal with a couple of well-aimed arrows. The techniques for slaughtering cattle and sheep work just as well for slaughtering people. The archers ride up close enough to send a volley into the massed enemy, and then veer off before the enemy can retaliate. They keep this up all day, thinning the enemy ranks and maybe creating gaps that can be slowly widened, wedging the mob apart into smaller, bite-sized groups.

Adding to the military strength of the nomads is their incredible long-distance mobility. Armies of the forest zone are tied to the land -- both defending it and working it -- and they can only spare a handful of their adult males for long distance campaigning. The nomads, however, can simply uproot their entire nation and drag it along wherever they go. In the quiet times between battles, they can still tend their herds and their families as if they were at peace, and they can thrive wherever their is enough pasture to support them.

It is the lack of pasture that limits the depth of nomadic invasions. As the invaders penetrate deeper into the farmlands, they leave a trail of devastation behind them. When the trees become too thick for easy movement, the nomads realise they should retreat to the highplains or risk destruction. The farmers then move in to reclaim the empty land.
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Religion: New Israelites
Because the alien cultures of the West have alien spiritual needs, Non-Denominational influence fades beyond the eastern farmlands. The nomadic herdsmen of the Great Plains have few towns, and therefore few churches. With a society structured by simple kinship, they also have no room for a fancy religious heirarchy. Elders and charismatic prophets instruct the people in the laws of God.

The cowboys strictly believe that Jesus was the Son of God and the Saviour of Man, but their lifestyle is so similar to the lifestyle of the early wandering Israelites that they have also taken a fundamentalist view of the Old Testament and its laws. They've resumed the Judaic taboo on pork because the hog is a dirty creature of the hated farmers, not a proper animal for a herdsman to bother with. They've restored the taboo on most images so they don't have to tote around Madonnas, Pietas and the icons of a hundred saints, although small crucifixes are still common. Lacking jails and dungeons, they practice immediate justice by exile, mutilation and execution by stoning. They circumsize their men and segregate their menstruating women from decent folk.

The Black Hills have a special significance to the New Israelites, and in times of spiritual crisis, a person will make a pilgrimage here in order to meditate and seek guidance. By common consent, the hills are considered neutral territory, and no pilgrim - not even one from an enemy tribe - is molested in his travels. The Black Hills therefore have become the site of several informal and spontaneous monastaries, which lack any permanent structure, but grow and fade as pilgrims come and go. The New Israelites also treat the faces at Mt. Rushmore with superstitious awe, and they consider this point to be the bridge between earth, heaven and hell.

For religious holidays, they've reverted to a lunar calendar, because it's easier for nomads to watch the phases of the moon than it is to measure the sun's shadow on unfamiliar ground. Their holiest festival is Easter/Passover (the week of the first full moon following the spring equinox) and its associated holidays such as Lent and Pentecost. They also celebrate Christmas (the first new moon following the winter solstice) with bonfires to rekindle the sun; and the Day of Atonement by chasing a scapegoat into the wilderness.

New Israelite influence mostly fades south of Kansas. The Oklahoman tribes have their own faith modeled after the old Indian beliefs with New Israelite themes, while the Texans follow the Non-Denominational Church, also with New israelite themes

Here be Monsters: The Jackelope
These are vicious creatures that hunt in packs across the open prairie. Cowboy scouts are constantly on the lookout for the telltale signs of jackalope activity -- mutilated cattle carcasses with the eyes and soft parts neatly excised. Whenever a tribe suspects that it is entering jackalope territory, the pastors perform complex purification rituals that have been handed down over the generations as the surest means of keeping jackalopes away. And, thankfully, the rituals always work. Nobody who has performed the ritual properly has ever been attacked by jackalopes.
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Governance: Plains Tribalism
The disintegration on settled life west of the Missouri has led to a restoration of nomadic life to survive. The vast majority of Cowboys follow cattle trails, although some do live in small 'boomtowns' where the trails cross rivers. Thus, most cowboys associate themselves in extended families, similar to many nomadic cultures around the world.

At the top is the Chief. He has the most cows in the herd and leads the cowboys into battle. This could be a heriditary position and many of the chief's might trace their lineage back to the pre-regression days- some even claiming descent from the first cowboys of the late 19th Century. Alternatively it could work through meritocratic 'best warrior wins' but that tends be a lot less stable. Honestly, it varies from tribe to tribe. Periodically, the various chiefs meet up, sort out some marriage contracts and exchange news, trade goods etc. They have a few big religious events - Christmas, Passover/Easter, and the Fourth of July - which have become the nexus for epic meetings - 'roundups'.

Next we have the priests (although many chiefs are also priests) and craftsmen. Each has an important role in society- the teachings of religion and recording of geneology, a wheelwright to repair the wagon wheels if they break, the smith making metal knives and so forth. These are roles that require a lot of intensive training- not everyone has time to learn. They probably have an apprentice or two at any one time. All would still be skilled horsemen and bowmen, but are likely to be among the guard protecting the wagons rather than in the vanguard.

The ordinary cowboys come next, the toughest of whom probably form into two units- the vanguard and the wagonguard to protect where they're most needed.

Then we have the womenfolk who basically get the menial jobs. They ride and shoot well enough, when not too heavily pregnant, and I would they form part of the protection for the wagons. The chief's wife is first amongst equals among them.

Oh, and there are the slaves - largely prisoners of war, they exist on the rock bottom of Tribal society.

Water is scarce in the Great Basin. Rainfall rarely comes, and when it does it often brings chaotic floods. Thus, unlike the fertile lands of the East, Westerners can't rely on rain for their crops. Thus, irrigation came into vogue, to the point that all people of the West, regardless of creed or ethnicity, are called 'Irrigators' by the Herdsmen and Northwesterners. With one exception, all major settlements are located on the snake-like rivers the crisscross the desert and provide water for irrigation.

Due to the usually hot and arid climate, most irrigation food is that which doesn't need much in the way of water. Vegetables are rare, and one primarily sees wheat and corn as the grains of choice. Beef, mutton, and chicken are the primary meats. Beans are ubiquitous. Peppers are common and popular, due to their ability to thrive in arid enviroments. Dates are the most popular fruit. Dairy is almost universally goat-based. Some regions will have more unique crops - for example, the Boise River Valley grows potatoes, while California is near-legendary for her vineyards and citrus fruits, to the point that Napa vintage can be found as far away as Asia. Popular dishes include tacos and burritoes, potato salad, and chili (although more associated with the Herdsmen, chili requires Irrigator peppers and chilis to succesfully make). Much of the cuisine is, in fact, similar to Herdsman cuisine. Most beverages are made from goat milk - water being too valuable.

And, of course, there is salt.

Wool and Cotton are the main textiles, and the single most universal piece of clothing is the wool poncho. A man's poncho is his most important possession, and will often be decorated with symbols representing his family. Women will wear a similar garment, the serape. The more ornate a poncho or serape, the more powerful the wearer likely is. Under these garments, a person will often wear a simple loincloth or skirt, breeches being too restrictive in the hot sun. Sandals serve as footwear, and only the most destitute beggars won't wear makeup to protect their eyes. Men will wear a wide-brim straw hat, while women will wear a simple veil.

Houses are built from mudbrick, mixed with straw to strengthen it. Such houses prove to be durable in the arid climes, and keep the bright sun out. Only the wealthy build houses out of stone, and they build them for ostentatious reasons. Only in California is wood-based housing common, and even then they leave the Sacred Redwoods alone.

Salt. The entire trade economy of the Southwest runs on salt. It is the most valuable commodity on the continent, and most of it comes from Deseret and New Mexico. The great salt mines produce that which is more valuable than gold to send it to the somewhat salt-deprived Feudal Core in the east.


The scarcity of water means that Irrigation politics is much more simple than others. In contrast to the heavily structured and layered nature of the East's feudalism, Westerm society has only two real groups - those who have, and those who have not. It is this nature that allows the Hydraulic Empires to exist. The main dividing lines are those of religion - the Mormons of Deseret, the New Agers of New Mexico, the Scientologists of the Californias, the Nevadan Heretics. Religion determines the differences amongst the empires - Mormonism, for example, does not endorse using eunuchs (officially), while New Agers believe women have innate healing properties and teach their womenfolk herbology. However, from the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City to Roswell, where the World of Man and the World of Elsewhere meet, to the Heretics' infamous City of Sin, one rule remains constant: He who rules the water, rules the people.
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (The Mormons Post-Regression)

One of the few institutions to survive the Regression in North America was the Church of Latter-Day Saints - Mormon doctrine advised its parishioners to stock dry foods and supplies in the event of an emergency, and boy, did they come in handy when emergency came. Combined with Utah's relative isolation, flanked by the Rockies to the East and the Bonneville Salt Flats to the West, and the Mormons managed to weather the chaos in decent shape.

With the disintegration of influence from DC, or even Sacramento, the LDS Church came to be viewed as the only legitimate authority, and Deseret transformed from a de facto theocracy to a de jure one. The President of the Church was the President of the State, and Deseret truly became a Hydraulic Empire. The rigid structure of the church lent itself well to bureaucratic needs, and the congregations - Wards - dictate much of daily life, from courtship to diet to labor.

From the Regression to the Yaeger Conflict, the LDS church changed little. Alcohol is now allowed, so long as it is domestically produced (even before the Regression, Utah produced a significant Barley crop), although non-alcoholic bevearage like goat milk is still preferred, but tobacco is still banned - although more pragmatic Presidents have allowed foreign vintage and tobacco to travel along the trade routes that pass through Salt Lake City (after taxing the bejeezus out of them, of course). Influence from the compounds and the desire to be populous have lead to a reinstatement of polygamy.

The President is voted on by the ruling family (currently the Reids), who are often quite numerous. He is, officially, advised by 12 Elders, but the President wields considerable temporal and spiritual power, and over-ambitious Elders will often find themselves walking into Nevada, to put themselves at the tender mercies of the Heretics.

Mormonism thrives on conversion, and this makes the faith expansionist - a theme that has only increased since the Cowboys and Columbians were driven out. Conquered areas, called Stakes, are carved out from Deseret's neighbours to spread the Book of Mormon. There are currently only four Stakes, based off the pre-Regression states - Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada (and Nevada only exists in a theoretical state) - but plans are in motion for new Stakes all the time. Stakes are formed when the Danite Templars (a misnomer originally used by non-Mormons) move into the territory. Menfolk who refuse to convert are put to the sword, women are given as prizes to the victors, and children are to be inducted into the Church. After eighty years of oppression and persecution by the Cowboys and Columbians - the so-called 'Diaspora' - Mormonism has become increasingly 'hardline.' The once-vaunted Zion's Legion may be only a shadow of its former glory, the Salt Lake Temple is now a ruin that is only slowly being rebuilt (the Logan Temple now serves as the current seat), and the Statue of Moroni now decorates some Columbian nobleman's garden, but the Church has survived, and it plans to keep on doing so.

Mormon holidays are roughly the same as Non-Denom holidays. Unlike the other three faiths of the Irrigators, Mormonism explicitly forbids castration.
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The Church of Scientology

Definately one of the weirder developments in Post-Regression culture, especially from an Eastern standpoint, is the growth of Scientology as the de jure faith of the Californias. And yet, it is relatively easy to see how this happened, if not why. The old ways had clearly failed, and something new was needed. Scientology had been embraced by many wealthy and charismatic figures, and when all was said and done it proved to be a relatively easy sell, albeit one that took several generations to be fully ingrained in California.

In the modern, neo-medieval world, Scientology is synonymous with the Californias - it is the state faith of the Republic, and the Free Zone is an out and out theocracy. While the more ... controversial ... aspects of Scientology have fallen to the wayside, many concepts remain the same. Scientologists still believe they are reincarnated souls called thetans, sent to Earth millions of years ago by the galactic tyrant Xenu, and forced to wear physical bodies. The central focus of Scientology is, then, to achieve spiritual enlightement, and thus Apotheosis. Neomedieval Scientology is, thus, not really different from Gnosticism. There's no real secrecy about their beliefs like there was before, but access to the holy works is still strictly regulated.

Since the average dirt farmer can't focus on spiritual enlightement, he is allowed to increase his OT levels by helping his ruler increase his. The average Scientologist peasant's (clear's) life is focused around making sure Those Who Rule are content and well off, and in return his own spiritual well-being is cared for. So if the Duke of San Bernadino wants his physical remains to be interred in an opulent mausoleum, then so be it.

The holy days for Scientology are All Heroes' Day (February 22), Hubbard Day (March 13), Childrens' Day (March 24), Exhibition (April 20), Dianetics Day (May 9), Integrity Day (May 25), Auditor's Day (2nd Sunday of September), and Freedom Day (December 31, Oi!)

Politcally, the faith is heavily tied in with the Californian nobility. They serve as rulers and priests. That said, the nobles are still warriors first and foremost, so the day to day minutiae of governance, both secular and religious, is performed by eunuchs.
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New Age

In the final days of Pre-Regression civilization, a movement began centered around the belief that humanity would go through a new spiritual phase, the so-called "Age of Aquarius", in the coming years. Called the New Age Movement, they began to congregate in the Southwest as the Regression approached. The new era wasn't the total shift in spiritual consciousness they envisioned, but none can deny the world did change.

In the following centuries, the New Age philosophy and theology obviously underwent revisions. The once freeform nature of the faith became more and more structured as those with water - and thus, power - declared their ideas to be doctrine and opponents' beliefs to be heretical. Many beliefs were co-opted from the Southwest Tribes, due to a belief that this would allow the New Agers to survive in the region. This proved to be incorrect, but the influence remains to this day.

The primary belief is the supremacy of a Sky Father, who rules everything. Below Him are the Earth Mother, who created everything, and the Great Spirits, personifications of nature who are prayed to by the Medicine Men for more specific favors. An observer would claim that this resembles the Catholics' belief in God, Virgin Mary, and the Saints, and would then declare that this is a relic from New Mexico's Latino population, but the New Agers deny any obvious similarities. For example, they point to their most holy ceremony, the Ghost Dance Ritual, or to their belief that gems contain healing properties.

New Age Medicine Men (Male) and Mediums (Female) are believed to have healing powers. While the mediums are simply believed to heal by touch, the Medicine Men lead their village in rituals meant to cleanse the body - exercise, meditation, and therapy like herbal teas. Astrology also plays a huge role in the New Age - no one, from the lowliest slave to the most exalted ruler, starts his day without a horoscope reading.

The New Agers believe in reincarnation - everyone has a spirit guide, and the lessons learned from meditating on one's past lives are considered an important step in spiritual progress. While they do believe women serve an important role in their faith, this is still a Hydraulic Empire, and irrigator society has little room for advancement regardless of gender - Mediums are largely over glorified masseuses who speak in tongues, and other women find themselves as beholden to their caste as the men do.

The New Age Movement has spread to the Oklahoman tribes, who incorporated it's methods with New Israelite beliefs, but is otherwise simply New Mexico's state religion.

Here there be Monsters: The Grey
At the back of every human's mind is the feeling that he or she is being watched. This expands to the fear that these watchers will seduce or kidnap the defenseless, drag them to their homes, and the poor soul is never heard from again. They have many names - elves, fey, sidhe, fairies, the Good Folk, the Gentry. But in the Southwest, one name surpasses all others: The Grey.

New Mexican art is surprisingly consistent on what the Grey look like - grey (obviously) skin, large black eyes, emaciated bodies, bald. They come from Elsewhere to kidnap lone humans and take the defenseless to their citadels. Sometimes, the human escapes and returns to the world of Man, where they quickly become valued as spirit mediums because of their experiences. But New Age mythology is replete with stories of those who weren't so lucky.
The State of New Mexico

Hear ye, all persons! Ye people as many as ye are! I have done this according to the design of my heart. ... I have restored that which was in ruins, I have raised up that which was unfinished since the Buddhists were in the midst of the Northland [Deseret], and the cowboys were in the midst of them, overthrowing that which was made, while they ruled in ignorance of the Aquarian Way. He did not do according to the divine command until my majesty. When I was firm upon the throne of Aquarius, I was ennobled until the two periods of years...I came as Alamagordo flaming against my enemies. My command stands firm like mountains, and the sun's disk shines and spreads rays overy the titulary of my august person, and my eagle rises high above the presidential banner unto all eternity.

--Final State of the Union inscription of President Bill Cisneros I

Located where several worlds meet, New Mexico is a land, both literally and figuratively, at a crossroads. Not 90 years ago the land colloquially known as the Four Corners was riven by civil war, between the rival colonels of Santa Fe, Phoenix, and El Paso over who would sit on the throne in splendid Albuquerque. Lifers armed with bronze weapons ravaged the kingdom, causing the valuable rivers to run with blood. Worst of all, there was no President to perform the sacred rites to keep the Other at bay. Colonel Bill Cisnaros, the ruler of Phoenix, finally broke the stalemate a half-century ago. Already controlling the bulk of the kingdom's copper mines, thus forcing the other two claimants to increasingly rely on Cowboy mercenaries, Bill launched a daring raid that seized the Cibola Salt Mine, completely disrupting his rivals' economy. After a few short battles he was able to enter Albuquerque and crown himself President, claiming a line of descent back to Pre-Regression Navajo rulers. He made the trip to Sacred Roswell, where the Other once touched the World of Man, and made the sacred rituals to keep the Greys placated. His final act before being buried in his pyramid was to resolve the succession issues that having multiple wives provided - upon his internment, his sons would race from Albuquerque to Roswell. The prince who arrived there first and completed the sacred rites would be hailed as President. The losers would be strangulated. And thus far, it has worked.

  • System of Government: Hydraulic Empire
    • Head of State:
      • President, chosen by and from the sons of the previous President by the ruling Cisnaros family after a special ceremony
  • Population: 950,000
  • Religion: New Age
  • Totemic Symbol: Zia Sun