The Moa Ruaki
The Moa-Ruaki are sea-going nomads who travel amongst the islands of the Southern and Eastern Seas, rarely setting foot on land. Their name means "People of Ruaki", after their most famous folk hero.
The Moa-Ruaki are humans, typically slightly shorter and more slender than average with nut-brown skin. Hair is black and curly, and eye colour is predominantly green, with some grey or blue. Their faces tend to be broad and round. Scarring is a common form of body adornment. Women and high-ranking men may wear elaborate clasps in their hair, usually carved from bone or coral. Traditionally the Moa Ruaki wear little clothing, living as they do in the warmer areas of the world. A loin-cloth or sarong is the normal practice for either sex, sarongs being the more formal garment. Children often go naked and it is acceptable even in adults. Moa Ruaki who have integrated more with other cultures tend to adopt the local fashions but keep the Moa Ruaki style of adornment.
Image of a kanu-ri, carved by Nari Kamuda tribe-fleet.
The basic cultural unit for the Moa-Ruaki is the kamuda or 'tribe-fleet', comprised of many families travelling together on a variety of ships (see sidebar). The largest Moa-Ruaki travelling ships are vast catamarans called pahu, capable of holding up to eighty people plus provisions for several months. Smaller outrigger canoes accompany the pahu as support ships, landing craft and as war canoes.
The Moa-Ruaki are sea nomads, moving from island to island. Some kamuda follow a set pattern, others go where the winds (and prophetic dreams) take them. Most come ashore at some point but there are a few kamuda, considered holy by the other Moa-Ruaki, whose members never set foot on land. Land is often considered polluting and dangerous. Chieftans, navigators and shamans tend not to step ashore and many Moa-Ruaki traditionalists wear rope-soled shoes as a protective measure on land.
The most important member of the kamuda is the chief, who is seen as the centre of the fleet. The method of choosing a chief varies from tribe to tribe - election, contests of skill or inheritance are all used. Almost as important as the chief, and more vital to the fleet-tribe's survival, are the navigators and the shamans (rawunas). Methods of navigation include reading the stars, currents, colour of the water, wave patterns, wind direction and underwater lights (said to be the work of spirits, but may be caused by submarine vulcanism). Most Moa-Ruaki have some skill at interpreting these phenomena, but navigators have an almost supernatural feel for them. Rawunas placate the spirits of the sea and the various gods of the Moa-Ruaki belief system.
Families are quite loosely defined, since the Moa-Ruaki have few sexual taboos. Marriages are informal affairs and sexual contact is often treated as the same level as a handshake. Homosexuality is accepted, and even encouraged amongst groups of young men or women who for some reason work together a lot, such as a warrior's circle. Sometimes the Moa-Ruaki use sex as a means to seal a deal, but rarely with outsiders. The worst sexual taboo is that against having intercourse with a woman during menstruation. This act can be punishable by death, since in the eyes of the Moa-Ruaki the person responsible has come into contact with dangerous energy - the life giving potency of the woman is discharged and thus becomes death-bringing energy instead.
Traditionally, Moa-Ruaki use virtually no metal - their boats are remarkably made almost entirely from wood and hide. Sails are made from woven rushes. Certain types of kelp are rendered down to produce adhesive. Trade with the Merchant's League, however, has led to a rise in metal use amongst all but the most isolated or conservative fleet-tribes.
The diet of the Moa-Ruaki can be pretty monotonous, but provides an acceptable level of nutrition. Fish and sea-birds provide the main source of meat. In addition, fleet-tribes carry dogs for eating. The dogs are fed solely on a diet of fruit to make their flesh succulent and sweet. Wild pigs are hunted when on land, but the moa-ruaki consider domesticated pigs to be "wrong".
Fruit, vegetables and grain are grown in ceramic pots on 'garden rafts' (papa-ri, see sidebar). Staples are provided by breadfruit, taro, sorghum and lemoko beans, a dark green pulse. These staples are supplemented by coconuts, tree fruits and kelp. The growing and harvesting of those goods are up to individuals or families more than the tribe as a whole. Recycled waste is used as fertiliser. During harsh weather, the crops are broken up into individual crates and pots, then spread among the other ships. The travels of the Moa-Ruaki have propagated many of these species throughout the world.
Relations to Others
The Moa-Ruaki are friendly to all outsiders who treat them with respect (even land dwellers), and will trade coral, pearls or sponges in exchange for metal goods and other items that they can't manufacture. Moa-Ruaki divers are renowned for being able to hold their breath for several minutes.
They prefer to trade and talk rather than fight to settle disagreements, but sometimes prophetic dreams sent to the rawuna mean that a war is required by the gods. Generally fights last until the objectives are achieved and then everyone is friends again (not everyone is always happy with this, of course).
The weapons used are mainly wood and stone, with deadly hardwood clubs, bolas and spears. Some obsidian is used, and metal and seabone are becoming common due to trade with other species. Seabone is a strange substance traded by the aquatic Ti-Kop people, a pearlescent substance that can be made as hard as steel or as plexible as hemp, but degrades if it is not immersed in sea water on a daily basis. Shark's teeth are sometimes set into wooden clubs to increase their efficiency. The Moa-Ruaki do not traditionally use armour, but protective enchantments are not unknown.
Hostage-taking is a common (and expected) feature of Moa-Ruaki battles. Rawunas and navigators are supposed to be exempt from hostage-taking as they are too essential to the tribe. They can be identified by their tattoos. Anyone else, even the chief, is allowed to be taken. The idea is to collect as many hostages as possible for use in bargaining once hostilities have ended - no-one is expected to remain a hostage for long and it is considered honourable to treat hostages well. Sometimes, however, rogue kamuda steal young men and women to boost their tribal numbers. Gift-giving after the fight is also a common practise, with the winner expected to give up more. In fights against outsiders, the rules of war are ignored. Fortunately these clashes are rare, but the violation of a sacred island always calls for a violent response.
The rawunas keep the stories of Moa-Ruaki gods and spirit heroes alive. Foremost figures in Moa-Ruaki folklore are Ko, who is the creator of all things but a fairly aloof god; Panua the gull, a trickster and cunning magician; and of course Ruaki, folk hero, whose actions created the Moa-Ruaki way of life. Common spirit creatures are the Moa-Kikiri, secretive island dwellers with ashen gray skin, cat-like eyes, ugly faces and beautiful voices; Manu, shark-like spirits of the sea; Pokoro-Pokoro, giant horned whales and Onokawi, living severed heads that float on the waves and feed on the souls of drowning mortals. The Moa-Ruaki see the world as a hostile place with dangerous spirits who must be appeased or outwitted, but they also fully believe in their own ability to overcome these dangers with ingenuity and courage. Their philosophy overall could be summed up as 'Life is short, so you may as well enjoy it'.
The moa-ruaki can provide an alternate background for a player character, or may serve as the basis for a campaign where all player characters are moa-ruaki, travelling the seas in a Polynesian-themed campaign. Alternatively, interactions (peaceful or otherwise) with moa-ruaki can provide some interesting role-playing opportunities.
Some feats are available to moa-ruai characters, and may also be available to other cultures, at the gamesmaster's approval.
Expert Diver [Moa-Ruaki]
You are a skilled diver-gatherer of the moa-ruaki, able to survive a surprisingly long time underwater.
Benefit: You can hold your breath for a number of rounds equal to 5x Constitution score. In addition, you gain a +2 bonus to Swim checks.
Normal: A human can normally hold their breath for a number of rounds equal to 2x their Constitution score.
Sacred Navigator [Moa-Ruaki]
You are one of the moa-ruaki's sacred navigators, wise in the ways of the ocean.
Benefit: When at sea, you can never become lost. Some factor, whether it be ocean currents, weather, the taste of the water or the wisdom of spirits, always lets you know where you are.
Tapu Spell [General]
You possess the ability to cast a spell, even if you do not belong to spell-casting class. In order to maintain this ability you need to obey certain restrictions on your behaviour.
Benefit: You gain the ability to use one spell (from any list, but see below). The maximum spell level is half your character level, and it is cast at a caster level equal to your character level. You may activate this spell a numer of times per day equal to your Wisdom bonus, or 1/day, whichever is the greater. Activating the spell is a standard action that provokes an attack of oportunity, since it requires concentration. Each time you take this feat you must also select a taboo to obey in order to continue to use the spell. Failure to obey the taboo results in the loss of the ability to use the spell until such time as you make amends and an atonement spell is cast on you.
For 1st to 3rd level spells, a simple taboo is usually applied, for example a prohibition on eating a particular foodstuff, speaking at certain times of day or cutting hair, or a requirement to make observances to the spirits or gods at certain times of the day.
For 4th to 6th level spells the taboos are harder to maintain, for example a prohibition on talking to any members of a certain race or culture, touching a dead body, telling a lie or using a certain material. Observances to the spirits or gods become more complex.
For 7th to 9th level spells the taboos are harder still - for example the caster may never speak (verbal spell components are usually exempt from this), may never set foot on land or may never refuse a call for aid.
The GM and players may come up with taboos between them, based on these examples.
(c) 2007 The Creative Conclave.
City of Llaza
Empire of Fon
Necklace of Plenty
The Tale of Ruaki
Tara-Ki, Moa-Ruaki adventurer
The Moa-Ruaki tribe-fleets are comprised of many different shapes and sizes of vessel. Many kamuda have adopted the ships of other nations, so it is not unusual to find Merchants League argosies crewed by Moa-Ruaki. There are, however, several traditional vessels defined as much by use as by shape:
Pahu-Ri: 'Travelling Boat'. These are the central unit of a fleet, giant catamarans able to carry up to eighty people. They are used for meetings and ceremonies requiring large numbers of tribal members.
Kawa-Ri: 'Family Boat'. These are the basic units of a kamuda. They are medium catamarans capable of carrying ten to twenty people. More or less a family home, each kawa-ri also partially plays the roles of the papa-ri, kanaha-ri and morongo-ri (see below).
Kanu-Ri: 'War Boat'. These are outrigger canoes, mainly used for war but also as smaller transport. Pao-kanu-ri carry ten people and are commonly used as landing craft, not necessarily with military intent. Karu-Kanu-Ri carry twenty people and are often fitted with a hardwood ram.
Papa-Ri: 'Garden Boat'. These are commonly a converted pahu-ri. They are used to carry containers of growing plants, and often the food dogs.
Kanaha-Ri: 'Fire Boat'. These are converted kawa-ri using hardwoods that are more resistant to fire. They are used for anything that requires a sustained high temperature, including baking, firing pots and metal-working. These tend to be kept at the edge of the fleet when in use.
Morongo-Ri: 'Water Boat'. This is rarely a custom-built vessel but refers to any vessel bearing a water still. Sometimes barrel-like boats are made for use as storage silos.
Ri-Waki-Ri-Nahuo: 'Floating Dock'. This is a system of booms and jetties set up when repairs need to be made to vessels.
Most kamuda make periodic stops at certain islands for purposes that cannot be fulfilled at sea. These lands are known by generic, rather than specific names.
Koa-No-Panaga: 'Islands of Timber'. Stops are made to this type of island every two years to harvest timber with which to construct new boats. Within that time, new trees have reached the required maturity. Emergency journeys may be made if disaster has destroyed more ships than usual.
Koa-No-Kama: 'Islands of Bounty'. These are islands where the kamuda can be sure of a supply of fresh fruit, vegetables and land meat all year round.
Koa-No-Kono: 'Island of Ko'. These are island with a religious significance. Stops are made to make offerings to the god Ko as atonement for the actions of ancestors.
Koa-No-Rakiki: 'Dead Islands'. These are former koa-no-panaga and koa-no-kama that no longer provide adequate produce, either through natural action, spirit curse or the systematic action of the Merchant's League.
Koa-No-Kikiri: 'Islands of Earth's Blood'. These are volcanic islands that offer up obsidian, known as earth's blood.
Koa-No-Tapu: 'Cursed Islands'. These are lands that the Moa-Ruaki avoid. They may be inhabited by fearsome monsters, hostile natives or they may simply be inimical to life. Some lands considered 'civilised' by Imperial citizens are koa-no-tapu to the Moa-Ruaki, such as the island of Or and the 'Empire' of Fon.