The kohan are Freeborn warriors whose name means "without family". The first bands of kohan were brought together centuries ago, long before the founding of the Empire, by the hakima. Composed of Freeborn who had been disowned, or who had chosen to leave their families, these bands became a fighting force dedicate to the protection of the Brass Coast, rather than to individual families. They found their roots in the teachings of Riqueza, especially the stories of the courageous warriors she inspired during the founding of the nation, although there are representatives of all three tribes among them.
Their defining feature is their literal love of battle. The kohan are drawn to the battlefield, reveling in armed conflict and the clash of steel. Although they still accept those who have been cast out or are left without family, most kohan in recent years are volunteers - people who find such joy in battle that they cannot give it up. They fight for the pure enjoyment of it, flinging themselves into combat with a blood-thirsty relish that can easily terrify an enemy. Kohan often adopt extravagant costume and grotesque body paint, the better to unnerve their enemies. When they are not fighting they are usually found celebrating their continued survival with the same intensity they bring to every fight.
Groups of kohan usually form loose bands of soldiers who live and fight together, the group serving as a surrogate for the family they have left behind. While traditional kohan bands offer their service directly to a group of hakima, the movement has spread somewhat beyond its initial roots. Modern kohan groups may be more independent, seeking their own battles and guiding their own destiny, while others swear to protect the Coast and its interests and look to the hakima as a whole for inspiration rather than to a specific coven. Regardless, the kohan are devoted to their cause and view this devotion as a higher calling. What sets many kohan apart is that they see their path as a spiritual one that revolves around protecting the people of the Brass Coast through joyous battle.
Like the hakima, even those kohan who have not been cast out renounce their ties to their family, using only their given name and their tribal name.
When the kohan were formed, most of the fighting strength of the Brass Coast lay with the soldiers trained and employed by the families. By recruiting the dispossessed, and forging the kohan to serve the nation directly, the hakima created a counterweight to the power of the families and helped to reinforce their own authority.
Although Jimena i Riqueza was not the first kohan, she is often regarded as the founder due to her pivotal influence on them. According to legend she was cast out for breaching a marriage contract that nearly ruined her family. Jimena was unrepentant and eagerly embraced the life of the kohan. Historians credit Jimena with inspiring her fellow kohan to take joy in war; she claimed that in surrendering themselves to their passions in battle they would become truly free and draw closer to the divine. Her life was short, but her influence persisted long after her death, as many other kohan adopted the flamboyant costume and body-paint that she wore to battle.
The army of the Burning Falcon was composed almost entirely of kohan. Founded in 185YE following the liberation of Segura, they were slaughtered by a Jotun force three times their own size during the invasion of Kallavesa in 247YE. They fell during a glorious final stand defending the academy at Ishal. In some ways their story is iconic of the fate of many kohan; burning brightly and dying young. Some Freeborn historians still resent Guntherm's decision to send the Falcons to defend the academy, believing that that he squandered the lives of the kohan in a foolish defence. This view is not universal though; many kohan regard it a mark of Pride that they share a heritage with such a glorious force who fought with passion and absolute commitment to their goals. Whatever the view, the Coast has not been able to field such a large force of kohan on the battlefield since.
In battle the kohan are a vibrant and passionate force that aim to impress their allies and enemies alike. Screams, cries and violent shrieks often accompany the maelstrom of colour and violence that is a kohan assault drawing attention far beyond what their numbers might warrant. Many kohan favour heavy armour over the lighter protection preferred by other Freeborn because their enthusiasm for battle usually means they seek out the most dangerous melees. Unlike corsairs, kohan rarely use missile weapons, most prefer the excitement of meeting their opponents in close combat. It is not uncommon however to see fierce battlemages within the ranks of the kohan, using brutal spells to blow holes in enemy formations or shatter their weapons.
Kohan expect to fight, to take part in the most exciting parts of any skirmish or battle, to be in the thick of things. Many kohan are deeply concerned with the planning of any battle or skirmish to they are to participate in - primarily so they can ensure their own part in the plan is appropriate to their calling. Freeborn generals who are aware of the strength of the kohan's passion will try to ensure that the kohan are deployed where the fighting is fiercest to benefit from the Freeborn warriors' absolute commitment to engaging the foe.
However there are plenty of cautionary tales of Imperial generals who have thought to use kohan to protect safe targets, or to remain in reserve, only to have their plans thrown into disarray when the kohan simply abandoned the role they had been designated in pursuit of their calling. They are not stupid, or reckless to the point of madness, but it is a foolish commander who assumes that mere order will overwhelm the kohan hunger for danger, and the exultation of fighting an enemy toe-to-toe.
Creating a Kohan
The kohan are intended to allow players to create Freeborn characters focused around the love of fighting. Kohan crave the excitement and thrill of battle more than any other pursuit, seeing it as the best way to prevent their lives being dull. They also provide an opportunity to explore what it means to be without a family in the Brass Coast whether that be a story of disgrace and disavowal or a tale of tragedy and loss at the hands of the barbarians. How you became a kohan should be an important part of your character's history whatever reason you choose.
The kohan delight in battle, but that doesn't mean that they focus exclusively on combat and heroic skills. A battle mage is just as effective a way to design a kohan as a warrior who focuses on mundane combat skills. It's also possible to create a kohan who doesn't take any fighting skills - a kohan priest can easily focus on religious skills while taking the battlefield alongside the more martially focused members of the band.
Kohan of all lineages can be found across the Coast but there are some that lend themselves most naturally to it. Briars, naga, and changelings feel the most comfortable by far with such bold, emotional, physical attitudes whilst the more calm or calculating natures of draughir, cambion, and merrow can make it challenging to thrive in this lifestyle.
The most common personal resource for a kohan is, unsurprisingly, a military unit. While there is nothing to stop you taking any other resource, it is common for an individual kohan character to represent a larger group of kohan who fight under their orders. Having a military unit will also help you to engage in downtime actions that support military roleplaying - whether supporting an army or engaging in paid work.
If you are creating a character as part of a group then it makes sense to create a dedicated kohan band if most of you are interested in fighting and battles. While most of the members will probably want to be warriors, kohan groups can also include hakima, sutannir, scriveners, and other Freeborn archetypes as long as they understand the calling of the kohan.
A kohan can also be a good choice for an individual character, allowing for game-play revolving around discovering your place in the Coast and finding a kohan group to join in play or hakima to pledge their service to.
Your relationship with the hakima is another important part of your character's identity. Traditional kohan are sworn to fight for the nation in service to a hakima, but this is by no means the only way the kohan serve. Some bands operate independently, occasionally taking advice from the hakima but forging their own path and looking to their own leaders for inspiration. Your character might have a close relationship with a single hakima whose instructions you follow to the letter; you might pledge yourself to supporting a group of hakima, or tribe of hakima provided their advice seems wise. Or you might simply treat the hakima with respect and listen to their counsel carefully before making your own decisions. The most important element of the kohan archetype is that you place the good of the Brass Coast as a whole above the good of any individual part of it, and that you take joy in fighting your enemies.
Playing a Kohan
Kohan bands are explicitly removed from the Freeborn senator elections. As they are not families, they do not have a dhomiro so cannot participate directly in the election. This does not mean you are entirely unable to participate in Freeborn politics however. You can lend your support to the hakima as they meddle in national politics - and nothing prevents you from standing for any Imperial title. The kohan are most naturally geared towards military roles but if you are able to secure the support of enough dhomiros there is nothing stopping you becoming senator. You may even be able to parlay your neutrality in family rivalries and dedication to your nation into political advantage if you are careful.
The hakima will usually be your closest connection to the politics and business of the Brass Coast due to their role as original creators of the kohan and their unique position in the nation. As other characters without families, you are perfectly placed to provide them with assistance, muscle or other more physical support and they are your key to ritual magic and enchantments, a valuable tool for any character that seeks the thrill of battle.
The kohan aren’t the only people who fight in the Coast by any stretch but they are the only ones to focus their life around battle and violence. Because of the joy they take in it some kohan are reluctant to indulge in anything that numbs or nulls emotions like the Tonics of the Deep Forest, preferring those of the Open Sky instead. The Tonic of Surging Flame is particularly popular - the heady recklessness it can inspire is seen as being just as much a benefit as the bodily strength it provides.
Most kohan enjoy the stories and tales that their life gives them, even more so because of the opportunity it gives to tell exciting boasts about those that fought beside you. Your love of battle can extend beyond the field and endow you with a passionate and enthusiastic attitudes to life. However you fill your time, you should remember the Freeborn motto that “Life is short, let it never be dull” and try to embrace that, especially in battle.
As with any Freeborn, kohan usually dress as extravagantly as possible. What really sets them apart from other Brass Coast warriors however is their use of facepaint. Vivid colours are used, often in threatening designs, the better to unnerve their enemies. There is a wide variety of designs across the faces of the Coast, some kohan groups keeping their masks of war the same over decades of battle with others changing it day by day as their feelings take them.
A kohan band may cultivate a uniform look - a large group of similar-looking warriors is significantly more threatening than a mismatched group of fighters after all. Unlike the livery of the Marches, the complex heraldry of Dawn, or the symbols of the Highborn chapters, kohan groups tend to achieve uniformity through the use of colour. A given kohan band is likely to pick one or two shades and encourage its members to wear clothing in these colours while leaving individuals to determine the cut and style.
Kohan with a particular antagonism for specific enemy might enjoy taking valuable trinkets from particularly impressive fallen enemies. They have no interest in barbaric trophies, severed ear necklaces or the like, but it is not unusual for a Grendel-hating kohan to collect some impressive bracelets to show-off the victories they have had. Even better if the items provide an opportunity to tell heroic tales of those that fought beside them.