Atheria: Marriage Edition!
Love and Marriage throughout the world of Atheria
This little post mentions a few ideas about the Atheria campaign setting. It’s not officially approved yet, but hopefully some players may find it interesting enough to comment on. I definitely took more liberties with settings we weren’t familiar with than the areas we’ve visited repeatedly.
The nature of Dernmarik’s attunement means they have a tendency to get the spouses they want. Reality warping is a subtle but powerful art. Of course, this also makes life remarkably interesting. Getting what you want, for the young, usually means adventure, drama, and excitement – none of which are very conducive to sensible relationships of any form. And no amount of wish fulfillment can forever stop reality from intruding.
Fortunately, most sane ladies and gentlemen settle down as they approach age thirty, and begin having families and raising them, voluntarily subjecting themselves to children who somehow keep finding hidden candy, manage to escape the most heavily locked bedrooms, and generally repay the parents for their own childhoods. Familial bliss, or at least as much as people can attain, tends to follow.
All in all, married life in Dernarik isn’t bad at all, but divorce can happen. A nation of reality shapers is going to have some things go wrong. The trouble is that it’s not necessarily a legal process. If, in a fit of anger, you declare that you, “Never want to see” someone again – you might get your wish. They might suffer a fatal accident, or simply be dragged by circumstance away forever if you keep on wanting that. Perhaps worse is what occurs when both spouses want to leave. The marriage itself can literally be written out of history, as everyone slowly forgets. Hopefully at least one of the parents remembers the children, but at least half the time a new lost orphan, with vague memories of the past, wanders the land, forever searching for something that should never have been lost – at least until they get collected by a new family who suits them.
Don’t forget that the sons and daughters of Dernmarik can’t entirely control their reality shaping. A few of the wiser ones might – but most will shape themselves into trouble at some point. Their power is all the more dangerous because it’s impossible to say how it works. Most people simply think of Dernarik as a land where people are supremely lucky, not realizing how that luck comes about. Dermarik’s own don’t think of it at all, simply considering it the natural order. Remember than a Dernmarik character can have a happy accident once a day, or a major stroke of luck every week, starting almost from birth.
Alaran Imperium (Order)
The great thing about living in a land of supreme order is that everything – every part of life, is just as orderly. While love may not come into pubic matters very much, the Alarians do enjoy very clear expectations in life, including marriage and child-rearing.
Courtship is a legal and semi-public process, involving negotiation and contracts for anyone of some class. Since its your assets and social station which matter, this applies to merchants, nobles, and well-off soldiers or farmers. The poorer classes, though well-off by the standards of most races, have much simpler if no less straightforward marriages.
Marital life is quite simple in any case. Marriage is a contractual obligation, and strong social standards apply. While discretion exists, the Imperium isn’t a very secretive society, and it’s hard for couples to really hide messy private lives or cheating. Further, with such obvious public standards, offenders face social disapproval which can matter more than legal sanction. Of course, given the aforementioned contractual nature of marriage, legal sanctions may exist too!
It’s worth noting that – in a world where disease is essentially non-existent and where contraceptive amulets are available and effective, “cheating” usually refers to producing a child with someone, not to casual flings – especially with slaves. -Thoth
Divorce is quite uncommon among most classes (the exception being higher nobles, who often use marriages to establish social ties). Like marriage, it is a legal process, and as embarrassing and problematic as bankruptcy – not fatal, and the repercussions may years, but ultimately recuperable.
Of all the attunements, Chelm has the most “normal” marriage, being a tribalistic people. Marriage processes vary from tribe to tribe, but they rarely have overly-complex traditions. However, some commonalities do exist in most of the tribes there. First, marriages and most courtship take place in secret, or at least discretely. The people of Chelm consider it extremely dangerous to allow anyone to know about a new relationship. Only once the marriage has been safely enacted is it publicly revealed. To do otherwise invites curses and wicked spirits, although why this might be so or whether this is actually true is another question entirely.
Divorce can be problematic for the tribe as well as the unlucky couple. Most tribes believe that breaking such a bond invites dangerous spiritual enemies, and therefore it must be done with considerable care. Divorcing couples enact a complicated set of rituals and separate slowly and surely. Of course, since tribes are small and close-knit, divorce isn’t terribly common anyway.
Innate to the totem attunement is the concept of public demonstrations of self-worth. Any barbarian, of any variety, from any tribe, has an internal need to prove themselves worthy. Yes, individuals vary in the way and degree, and tribes and breeds have their customs, but everyone must pay some attention to their public persona. In a way, barbarian tribe have even more developed concern of reputation and public image than the high cultures of the Empire.
The consequences for love lives comes in because marriage tends to occur between people of similar social prestige and ambition. Passion may not have anything to do with it; and it creates some… unpleasant social tensions when manifestly incompatible people end up together solely because they have similar fame. Secret love affairs and adultery are common ways to get around this for those who can manage to swing them. Unfortunately, the consequences of that has included blood feuds, war, or in lesser cases long-standing grudges and violence.
Divorce is unknown – but murder isn’t. it’s not so much that they can’t understand the concept, but that breaking a marriage by “legal” means would be a massive insult and spark a terrible blood feud. As a result, it’s much more socially acceptable to kill your spouse, or arrange such an end, than to end things legally. While Barbarians would never talk about matters like that, they would all agree this is a more respectable and honorable solution. Of course, murder still gets punished if caught – there’s no change there.
HuSung Empire (Elemental)
As with most aspects of life in HuSung, marriage is a product of the seasons and spirits. Even the poorest village boasts a part-time diviner, whose work involves using the elements to predict what the coming year holds. Many families also use ancient calenders or rituals to determine the proper days for planting or markets.
Marriage is no different. People marry certain individuals to balance out family bloodlines, gain favor with the mystical forces, or please the spirits. The criteria for these matches include native attunements (as everyone has a pair of elemental specialties), place of origin, birthmarks or physical features, ancestry, and much more. That, of course, doesn’t exclude the more mundane elements of status, character, and wealth. Indeed, it’s hardly uncommon for families to reject local prospects and seek far and wide for suitable suitors. Family connections are vital in choosing the right spouse, and marriages tend to be arranged several years before it is consider the “proper” time for marriage.
HuSung marriage is a world of even clearer expectations than Order marriages. Everything is known and harmonious. Everything must be done properly, as ancient tradition commands. This does make it quite obvious what everyone involved must do in their lives. Even the flaws of the marriage must be dealt with graciously – but this need not pleasant. The husband who knows about his cheating wife must act in accordance with the land and the spirit world, and if that means he suffers through life in silence, so be it. Or another might be driven to murder his wife and desecrate her body for the exact same offense, simply because the Harmony demanded it.
The Harmony, a living, powerful force, has no human scruples. And though it may demand that people do terrible deeds, it has no compunction about equally terrible punishment for those same deeds. Some do ignore the Harmony, and this carries its own risks; freedom carries an awful price itself. most don’t even notice the Harmony, though they may invoke it as a philosophical or religious concept. This does not mean the Harmony fails to notice them in return, though fortunately most have fairly dull destinies.
Divorce, like everything else, is a matter of family connections, and has little to do with personal reasons. In fact, personal dissatisfaction rarely comes into play, unless the problem becomes so huge as to cause an inter-family insult. Rather, changing family ties or allegiances within the larger social system might tear a family apart, if the heads of the clan decide on it. This rarely happens among commoners, but is all-too common among wealthy and powerful families.
Dain Peninsula (Divination)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, divination specialists rarely find themselves surprised, by marriage or anything else. The ability to peer into the future, however limited, smooths over a great many of the troubles of life.
Most Divination attuned people know pretty who they’ll wed long before it happens, along with a great deal of what else will happen in their lives. They might not know all the details (like names and faces), but they can make a pretty good educated guess by combining the results of their inquiries with personal experience.
After all, it doesn’t take much in a small, isolated land to guess whom you may live with when you see your best possible match is a red-headed girl with a love of romance novels. There simply aren’t that many possible mistakes to make. Furthermore, even if one individual did get confused (“Wait, both of you love romance novels!? I never would have guessed.”), the others wouldn’t and things will rapidly sort themselves out. As such, marriage is more of a formality, simply describing what everyone knew beforehand.
For better or for worse, life is equally dull in the same way. Couples decide in advance when children would be most convenient and simply have them at those times. They know what the children will likely break or when they could get in trouble, and take steps to prevent anything unpleasant. Since they have a good idea of the results of any course of action, they don’t commonly face any drama or excitement.
Exceptions exist. Some individuals simply refuse to follow their visions, and deliberately or accidentally screw things up. Even Divination specialists get things wrong from time to time. Numerous tales and stories reflect the often-uncomfortable relationship they have with the future, seeing one thing, wanting another, and find themselves living in a third reality neither here nor there. Marriage follows this, too. People make stupid choices, and sometimes even the wisest ones aren’t conflict-free.
- Atheria – a Smorsgasbord of Darklord from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)