Thoughts on Navarri attitude
Ian wrote this as an explanatory document for Navarri players on Facebook, and it has been added here to reach the rest of the player base.
There's been a lot of discussion about the Navarri outlook, and what it is and what it isn't. I thought I'd try and expand on some of the outlook that we were going for when we wrote the brief. This, of course, doesn't restrict how you can play it -- it's entirely up to you. However, this'll hopefully give you an idea of where we were coming from.
There're two things I'll cover:
- Navarri attitude
- Reconciling the savage with the civilised
The shortest way I can think of to sum this up is 'pragmatic realism'.
Let the Dawnish have their romantic notions about laying a lover down on a bed of roses - the Navarri know that such a bed would be rather spiky, and probably have more than a few spiders, wasps, and other crawly things in it.
The Navarr are straightforward, and see things for what they are. They are rarely superstitious.
They are not threatened by nature, nor do they try to preserve it. A tree is a tree. It's useful for wood and for making things, or for getting fruit from. A tree isn't a spirit. It doesn't need to be nailed with iron to make it dead.
There is no war with nature. Equally, there is no eco-friendly movement in Empire, for we are not in an industrialised society - humanity has barely scratched the surface of the world the Navarr live in. Nature, if it was a war, is winning hands down.
The Spring Realm, the Spring eternals and the Vallorn are a different matter. In Vallorn-infested areas, nature grows out of control, like a cancer. It's not nature's fault - it's the wild out-of-control infusion of Spring power. That is what the Navarr must keep under control at all costs, and they'll do their utmost to destroy that threat, one which they feel more than a little responsible for causing. And they need the Empire to be strong to do that.
In the wild, life's a bitch. Decisions need to be quick. No great debates on philosophy and morality - that threat needs dealing with right now. Honour's all very well, but this is about survival - use the poison, dig a pit, attack them while they sleep.
Yes, Navarr are friendly and welcoming to those of other nations - of course they are. It's nice to interact with someone who isn't trying to stab or eat you. And they might have some decent food and soft toilet paper to trade...
They are not inherently nasty or cruel. They're generally a cheerful nation, happy to celebrate with others. It's only their enemies who get the sharp edge. And the Navarri are totally supportive of the rest of the Empire. But if the rest of the Empire is being stupid (=leading the Empire into danger), the Navarr will not be reticent in calling them on it.
The best exponent of Navarri philosophy I can think of is Granny Weatherwax in Pratchett's Discworld series. Totally practical. Cut right to the heart of the matter. When you have two knives, one of which is decorated with runes and one of which is a breadknife, the only thing that matters is which is sharper. No flim-flam - or rather, no believing your own flim-flam. Which leads on to my next point…
Savagery and Civilisation
The Navarr are not savages. They may be brutally pragmatic, and may kill a captive as a matter of pragmatism where others might be merciful (*stab*, and then if questioned:"Well, I wasn't carrying that guy back to camp past those Orcs, and there's no way we could leave him alive to report to the enemy. And if we took him prisoner, we'd have to feed him.") But that's an attitude which comes from in-the-field necessity.
The Navarr are not uncivilised. They may not have the latest in forge-smelting technology or carry around a printing press, but that's because they are forced by their duty to travel. They have no choice. They'll happily take the latest greatest Imperial tech with them - particularly if it's a decent form of waterproofing for a cloak! - but only as long as its portable.
But how does that reconcile with the savagery of the barbed spear, the leather-clad tattooed creatures painted with blood exploding from the trees to rip into the enemy? Surely those are savage primitives?
The Navarri started as a resistance force to fight as much against the barbarian incursions as against the Vallorn. They were a small, weak force. So they could not face the enemy on open battlefields, but needed to strike quickly and get away, and in the process of doing so strike such terror into the hearts of the enemies that the enemy would be loath to travel that way again.
They needed to fight as much with fear as with weapons.
So they began to cultivate their image, an image which the Imperial nations often believe as much as the barbarians do. It came originally from the oaths they took and the brands which were a part of that, but was built up into a picture of savage, brutal primitives who are a part of the wild and who use the wild to their advantage. Think of the moment in Brotherhood of the Wolf where the white French aristocrat puts on the Native American makeup and attitude - how much more terrifying does he suddenly become?
What's more effective at stopping barbarians going through a territory - a contingent of orcs being met at the edge of a forest by a force of skirmishers and destroyed, or a contingent of orcs marching into that forest - carefully marked with bones hung from trees - and never coming out again?
The image of the Navarr as these demons-of-the-wild is critical to their effectiveness in battle against the barbarians. So they maintain it carefully, knowing a well-placed skull on a spike is far more effective than a sign saying 'no trespassing'.
Some Navarr adopt this look a lot more strongly than others. These are the 'isolated' Navarr from the costume brief, which essentially means they spend more time out in the wilds potentially facing barbarians. It's a way of life for them to look as terrifying as possible. The so-called 'integrated' Navarr are those who spend more time around the other nations, and less time on the frontier, so need to dress like that less. But there's no clear-cut divide - it's a spectrum.
And, in most cases, all Navarr will dress up and paint themselves up for war: 'putting a game face on,' if you like.
Additional Notes (from Damian)
The Navarr aren't apologists and find sloughing blame unpalatable. When judgement comes, look it in the eyes and go down smiling. This is how you write your life large on the Great Dance.
"Actions have consequences", "You cannot betray your enemies". Imagine these as the leading man/woman of the movie epic 'Navarr Are a Metric Mega F'ton of Awesome. Part 1' and everything else we add are the extras.
Oh and 'enemy' is not just the one poking you with a sharp stick.