Centaur, Nomadic

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Centaur, Nomadic
Climate/Terrain:Plains or steppe
Activity Cycle:Day
Intelligence:Average to very (8-12)
Treasure:Q (I,V)
Alignment:Neutral or Lawful Neutral
No. Appearing:2-20
Armor Class:5 (3)
Hit Dice:6
No. of Attacks:3
Damage/Attack:1-6/1-6 and weapon
Special Attacks:+1 with bow
Special Defenses:Nil
Magic Resistance:Nil
Size:L (8-9' tall)
Morale:Elite (13-14)
XP Value:420

The nomadic centaur is a hardier relation of the more commonly known sylvan centaur. Found in the wide open spaces of plains and steppe, the nomadic centaur is less outgoing and social, preferring to deal with its own kind. Living a harsher life than its woodland cousin, the nomadic centaur has developed a sterner outlook on life.

The nomadic variety shares those features characteristic of the race: humanoid torso, head, and arms. They are readily identified, however, by their shaggy coats. Their bodies, torso included, are covered with a thick layer of hair. This serves to protect them from the elements, particularly during the cold winters. The males have long, thin beards and mustaches, a sign of coming of age. Males and females alike let their head hair grow in long braids. A few males shave their heads in the fashion of the human tribes around them. Hair color is most often dirty gray or chestnut.

The nomadic centaurs speak their own tribal tongue, although most tribes in a large region speak a dialect of the same tongue. Very few know any other language. Common is the most frequent second language.

Combat: Except when sleeping, these centaurs are always armed. The weapons may be slung over the back while doing other tasks, but to travel without one.s weapons is inconceivable to the nomads.

Traditionally, nomadic centaurs use a shortbow (with quivers of 100 arrows), light lance, and saber. Some (no more than 15 percent) use small shields. They are masters of the bow, trained to shoot from childhood. They gain a +1 on their THAC0 when using a bow. They can move their normal movement and shoot an arrow at the same time, without any penalty.

The bow plays an important role in the centaur style of combat. They try to avoid straight-up fights whenever possible, since this deprives them of their two biggest advantages - speed and range. Instead they will keep a distance from the enemy, firing arrows and then galloping out of the way when the enemy charges. Among their own, they say that a warrior who fights with a sword is either a hero, an incompetent, or a fool.

Their second preferred tactic is the charge. This is usually made as soon as the enemy is discovered, before their foe has gathered his wits. They rush forward with loud howls and yells. If the enemy breaks, the centaurs ride them down. If he wavers or looks weak, they crash into his ranks with their charge. If the foe looks strong, they wheel off and take up harassing fire from a distance.

Although they can use their hooves to kick, the nomadic centaur warriors disdain this tactic. Such methods are used only by old females and the sick.

Nomadic centaurs find no shame in flight or retreat if the battle is going badly. They scorn the cowardice of warriors who flee before the battle, but falling back or retreating to lure the enemy into a trap are honorable tactics.

Habitat/Society: Nomadic centaurs are aloof, proud creatures. They are very tribal, each centaur belonging to a particular clan of a particular tribe. A clan averages 11 to 30 (1d20 + 10) individuals. A tribe is made up of 2 to 12 clans. Each clan travels and hunts as a separate group. Sometimes two or more clans will band together to make a raid or defend against raiders, but such unions last only as long as there is a need.

The tribe exists more in name than practice. It represents a group of related clans and is important for determining the bloodline of a centaur. In daily life, the centaurs almost never do anything as a united tribe. There are two rare exceptions to this. One is when they gather to mourn the death of a Learned One. The other is to avenge the destruction of a clan.

The ratio of females to males is two to one. Only males go on raids or hunt, yet females are equally skilled in combat and will fight to defend the clan. The young (1-2 hit dice) are fiercely protected but will fight with hooves and bows if necessary (1-3 points of damage, no bonus to THAC0 when using the bow). There are 3 to 18 young per clan, but never more than 50% of the total clan. In addition, each clan keeps a small herd of horses.

Tribes and clans are central to the centaurs. Indeed, the clan and tribal names are used as surnames, placed before the given name. For example, Ulanchab e'Beshbalig e'Yasagh literally translates as “Ulan tribe is Besh clan is Yasagh” or “Yasagh of the clan of Besh of the tribe of Ulan”. Such names and titles are important to the centaurs. Only older family members, children, and the closest friends use shorter nicknames.

Unlike their sylvan cousins, nomadic centaurs are formal in their relationships and behavior. Great importance is attached to keeping the traditional customs and etiquette. The rules of conduct are much different, however, from those of men. To civilized visitors, the nomadic centaurs seem crude and barbaric. They abhor bathing, and they are not picky about the foods they eat. They will spit in the middle of a conversation. They have no regard for the personal property of visitors who must either patiently defend their property at all times or resign themselves to having their goods prodded, examined, and possibly taken. The centaurs have no shame about demanding gifts of noncentaur visitors.

Furthermore, life on the steppe has made them indifferent to the hardships and suffering of others. In battle they seldom take prisoners, executing the injured instead. Crimes of theft, adultery, and murder are swiftly punished by cruel deaths. Although the sick and infirm are never abandoned, the best food and treatment are always given to the strong. Fit warriors are more important than weak, old men.

These customs disguise the intricate formality of their lives. Every member of the clan has an understood position in the clan. Each position has its own customs and allowances. For example, the head of the clan is always treated with respect. However, those older than he are allowed to address him by his nickname. The clan head divides all kills, first claiming a portion for himself, then the hunter who made the kill, and then the other members of the clan, according to their status. Should the clan head divide the kill in a different order, it can be seen as either a great honor or a serious insult.

Although they make some allowances for the ignorance of strangers, the centaurs expect all visitors to adhere to their customs. Centaurs of other clans are usually honored guests. Noncentaurs are considered at the bottom of the social ladder. All centaurs have precedence over them.

Unlike their sylvan cousins, the nomadic centaurs do not defend a particular territory. They are nomads and as such do not recognize the ownership of territory. The land belongs to everyone. However, each clan has a hunting range with a radius of 10 to 20 miles from its camp. Wherever the clan is, that is where its territory is. Interlopers into this range are carefully watched strangers are left undisturbed, as long as they do not drive away the game or threaten the clan. If they are clearly more powerful than the clan, the centaurs will simply move to a new area. If they are weaker but are foolishly threatening, the centaurs will attack to wipe them out.

The clans live a simple lifestyle. Since there is little shelter on the steppe, the clans build settlements of leantos for protection. These are simple wooden frames with leather roof and sides, providing relief from intense heat, rain, and snow. They eat mostly meat, while children are given mare's milk. Most of their other possessions are similar to those used by human nomads.

In their relations with other races, the centaurs are very elitist. They do not consider any other race to be their equal, and they see little reason to form alliances or trade agreements with outsiders. This attitude has slowed their cultural advancement, since human merchants are reluctant to deal with them. Indeed, most of the goods used by the centaurs are taken in on raids.

Treasures taken by the clan are communally held. They recognize and understand the value of magical items. Those they can use, particularly weapons, are distributed among the warriors.

Ecology: Although the centaurs have no particular love of nature, they have learned how to manage it. Wells are carefully maintained, and little water is wasted. Before an area is over-hunted, centaurs will move their hunting ground. They do not hunt for sport, and little of their kills go to waste. They make few demands on the land, thus ensuring there will be adequate resources for the future.

Learned Ones

The title Learned One is a great honor bestowed by the nomadic centaurs on one who has performed great deeds and shown exceptional skill and wisdom. Learned Ones often rise to become great leaders, advisors, or heroes of the race.

The title of Learned One cannot be claimed, but can only be earned. There is no set method by which a person is named Learned One. However, most were tutored by a previous centaur with the title.

Two other customs make the title of Learned One unique. First is that the recipient is no longer considered to be a member of a particular clan and tribe. He is above such petty rivalries and is welcome as an honored guest in all the clans. Normally the Learned One keeps close ties to his family clan, but some abandon their clan and live by wandering from tribe to tribe. Clans visited by a Learned One have received a great honor.

The other custom is even more far-reaching. While most Learned Ones are centaurs, there is no prohibition against members of other races. Thus, in centaur history, there have been human, elven, spirit folk, hengeyokai, and even a few dwarven and halfling Learned Ones. For an outside race to qualify for the title, their skills and services to the centaurs must be considerable, but once so named, the person is treated with every bit of respect and honor that the title is due.

It is possible for player characters to be named as Learned Ones, although this is far from easy. To qualify for the honor, the character must patiently develop friendships among the centaurs (no easy thing). Furthermore, he must have performed one or several important services for the race. These actions must be of truly heroic proportions and, ideally, against impossible odds.

Learned Ones bear no sign or seal of their title. It is just known to the centaurs as the fame of the person spreads throughout their lands. Of course the titled one must maintain his reputation if he hopes to keep the respect of the centaurs. Should he abuse his position, he will find himself stripped of the honor he has earned.