The hakima are the guardians of magical lore in the Freeborn tribes. They trace their role back to Erigo, Guerra, and Riqueza - the three founders of the BrassCoast - who were each powerful ritualists with their own style and emphasis. A group of hakima recruits the most promising individuals from Freeborn families and give their loyalty to the nation as a whole, rather than any individual family. By drawing together ritualists from different backgrounds, the hakima ensure they have sufficient ability to cast powerful rituals, something that would be difficult for a single family to achieve by itself.
The hakima play an important political role in Freeborn life, acting as neutral arbiters and serving as the glue that holds Freeborn society together. The traditional role of the hakima is to provide advice and direction to individuals and families, and to help the nation as a whole prosper. While there are fools in any position, the position of hakima is well respected by most Freeborn who appreciate that they represent something of a higher calling. The best hakima use this respect to direct the Freeborn families in the best interests of all; the worst try to browbeat families into doing as they say.
The hakima have no formal power, but their neutrality gives them an important social role in helping to settle disputes and their magical skills mean that their support for individual families is invaluable, something they can translate into additional political influence. Members of hakima groups should try to make sure they are present when all important business is being decided by the Freeborn, to ensure that the right decisions are made.
While they see their first loyalty as being to the nation, they also recognise that tribal and familial identity are vital parts of that national identity. They vehemently oppose anything that might threaten the tribes, or compromise what it means to be Freeborn. While a group of hakima may represent all the tribes, the individual preserves their link to the founder. They keep the tribal element of their name, and never stop thinking of themselves as a Riqueza, Guerra or Erigo - not least to remind everyone else of the importance of tribal identity to the Freeborn.
If life was just about manipulating magic it would be easier by far.Freeborn Proverb
The political power and influence of the hakima inevitably ebbs and flows depending on their numbers. The hakima were numerous In the run up to Britta's death, but many lost their life in the battle that claimed the last Empress. With their numbers significantly reduced since then, the hakima have struggled to muster the strength needed to cast the most powerful rituals and have seen their influence wane as a result.
Opinions on how to fix this problem remain divided. Traditional hakima groups favour covens formed along strict tribal lines, but in recent years many hakima have advocated that hakima of different tribes should try to work together to help the Freeborn of the Brass Coast prosper. Increasingly progressive groups of Riqueza, Guerra, and Erigo are seen working together on political and magical matters. These groups claim it is impossible for them to effectively help the families if they insist on sticking to narrow tribal lines. The conservatives warn that this new approach risks diluting the tribal legacy of the Brass Coast.
More than being just magicians, the hakima exemplify a connection to the founders of the tribes and the history of the Freeborn. They are traditionally held to be wise, able to perceive the larger picture more effectively than most Freeborn who are anchored in more mundane activities. They may be consulted when important decisions need to be made within a family, or when magical assistance is sought. They rarely wait to be consulted, however – a hakima is likely to be poking around any important business ready to offer a suggestion as to what to do next.
They are especially cautious about preserving the links to the founders that form the underpinning of tribal identity. They have little time for dabblers and charlatans who debase the legacy of the Founders and offer advice that claims to be based on divination but is as often as not made up on the spot.
Traditional hakima groups draw specifically on the original approach to magic used by their tribe's founder. Progressive covens prefer to combine the key elements of all three tribal traditions to include drumming, fire and poetry. As with all Freeborn ritualists, it is common for a ritual to be accompanied by a number of non-ritualists whose role is to create the proper atmosphere by joining in the singing and dancing. Whereas a "dabbler" will perform a ritual with and for the benefit of a single family, a hakima group is likely to invite any and all Freeborn to participate in their magical workings.
Creating a hakima
The hakima are intended to allow players to play a group of Freeborn ritualists who also have a significant role in the politics of the Freeborn nation, if they choose to do so. Players can choose to create a hakima group rather that play a traditional Freeborn family.
Individual hakima characters are recruited from Freeborn families, so you can still define your Freeborn family as part of your background. If you want to be from an existing Freeborn family, one played by current players, then it's worth contacting the group just to check they are happy with you doing that. Balancing the loyalties to your tribe with old ties to a family can be part of the fun of playing a hakima. Otherwise, you can define a small NPC family that your character is from.
It's perfectly acceptable to have characters in the group who aren't playing hakima. Members who want to play warriors should take a look at the kohan character role, who are often found with the hakima. There is no reason why a group of hakima wouldn't associate with a sutannir or a merchant, but if your group doesn't include these sorts of characters you are likely to be dependent on the other Freeborn family groups for help, a situation which will make the events much more enjoyable for everyone in your group. You will have to roleplay with the Freeborn families to obtain what you need, which is a lot more fun than just being able to sort it out without any roleplaying required.
Focusing your group on magic will make it more enjoyable for everyone in the group but it will also bolster your group's reputation and ability to perform powerful rituals. The hakima's position is derived from the magical support they render to the other families, the more focused on magic your group is, the more important you will be to all the other family groups.
It is possible to play a hakima character who is part of a Freeborn family group. Most hakima try to separate their duties to the nation from their ties to their family, but this is not always possible. Your character might be associating with a family to help give them direct guidance; working with them to achieve some long term goals, or simply belong to a group of hakima who maintain closer ties with their blood relatives than normal. Ultimately though, the respect the families are supposed to have for the hakima is based on their neutrality, on the fact that the hakima are loyal to the Freeborn people rather than any individual family. You can't expect other players to treat you as a hakima if you are very obviously just a ritualist who is part of a Freeborn family group. If you want to play a ritualist who is part of a family group, it may be better to play that idea to the hilt, perhaps even a character who has rejected the role of the hakima in favour of remaining loyal to their family.
You can create and play a lone hakima; it's hard to be powerful as an individual ritualist but your character may be able to make themselves essential by performing weak but important rituals. If you playing a hakima who is part of a group or coven of traditionalists, then you will need to ensure you are a member of the same tribe as the others. If you are joining a progressive coven then you are free to pick your own tribe.
Playing a hakima
The political role of the hakima is meant to be a subtle one. Part of their influence comes from the way they place the good of the nation above that of the family, so the more unbiased you can be, the more power you are likely to wield. The magic rituals you can offer are valuable to other groups, so don't be afraid to use that to get what you want from them, but the more subtle you can be about it, the better. If you try to throw your weight around and expect other players to do what you say because "the brief says the Freeborn respect the hakima" you are going to get nowhere. The hakima are supposed to be shrewd and wise in their dealings with the families; you have to play that part of the Freeborn brief to get other players to play theirs! Still, some hakima such as the Red Hills Coven of Kahraman make careful use of curses when dealing with those who transgress the traditions of Freeborn society - such magic represents the "stick" that accompanies the "carrot" offered by the enchantments of an organised hakima coven.
Most hakima consider the welfare of the Freeborn more important than that of the other nations that make up the Empire. In a dispute between a Freeborn family and a League guild, for example, they will almost certainly be staunch supporters of their fellow Freeborn. This can be a great excuse to be stubborn, and help other Freeborn players resist the temptation to compromise with outsiders.
Please don't be intimidated by the magical traditions set out for the three tribes. It's great if you are able to make effective use of your tribe's magical tradition, but it's not required. You're better off picking an approach that you're confident you can do well and enjoy than trying something you are hesitant about.
The hakima are written with a degree of hostility towards those ritualists and spell casters who are not hakima but have remained part of a Freeborn family group. These characters directly undermine the power and influence of the hakima by offering the families a way to perform rituals without being dependent on the hakima. Traditionally the hakima have derided them as charlatans, which for a group who view themselves as wise and learned guides is meant to convey a degree of scorn and contempt for these dabblers, but how you react to their presence will depend on their numbers and power.
Whatever approach you take it is critical to appreciate that the family magicians represent an existential threat to Brass Coast society. The more family magicians there are - the less the families need the hakima. But the hakima are the glue that binds the three tribes together - without them the nation risks splintering and ultimately that would seem them destroyed. So the existence of family magicians ultimately threatens the entire existence of the Brass Coast.
A degree of hostility and contempt towards family magicians can help to remind everyone that these partisan dabblers are a break from the traditions of Freeborn society. If the hakima are numerous and able to perform powerful rituals than they can use that influence to encourage a degree of disdain for family magicians. But whatever the political situation on the ground, by far the most effective way to neutralise the threat of the family magicians is to recruit them into the hakima ranks. Most hakima are drawn from the families, if you can make this happen in play then it will be a significant boost to the power of the hakima and help to preserve the Brass Coast way of life for future generations.
If your hakima coven is small in number then disdainful superiority over the families will be difficult to pull off. You might need to take a more proactive approach, using items like Hakima's Mantles to work with family magicians to help them perform more powerful rituals. The key point to remember if you do that is that the role of the hakima is a higher calling than that of a family magician who is at the beck and call of their dhomiro. One uses magic as a political tool to gain influence to better serve the entire Freeborn nation - the other is a lackey who uses his magic at the behest of his group to earn them a few extra coins. But anyone can become a hakima, you just have to show them the way.