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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Mappae Solis: Copses of the Halflings


Monocultures are rare on Earth, and usually occur due to some form of extremism or isolation. Humans do not have a single authority or culture, but it is a common failing of much speculative fiction to assume that other races do. This often ties in with the idea of “single-biome planets”, worlds of only ice, or forest, or ocean. 

Places might be hotter or drier than Earth, but they should still have variance. Cultures might have species-based traits and similarities, but they should be varied. In this next series of Mappae Solis posts, I will try to give an impression of different species’ cultures, especially given the broken and varied worlds they live in. Don't take any of this as immutable canon, as strange and bizarre subcultures are to be expected.

The Copses of the Halflings

The massive forests of the halflings are not united. Although they share common ideas and views, each Copse is a separate entity, aligned but not always allied with the others.

Copses are not group-minds either. They simply speak a lot faster than most visitors. Each Copse has a different internal structure, but these differences are organisational. From the outside, one looks very much like the other. The difference comes from both their aims and methods, and the way each treeling relates to its neighbours.

There's a roof above the fog.

The shared goal of all halflings and all Copses appears to be the preservation and collection of other lifeforms. Whether remnant code imperatives or shared mutation, each halfling has this drive, in much the same way humans have drives to procreate or seek social company. The halflings themselves do not truly understand this, though they wouldn’t let that show. Each Copse has an explanation, taught to their quickling children and spread by their halflings juveniles, and each Copse organises itself accordingly. While some Copses may be very similar, each stands unique in its views, though some are branches of older Copses.

The key way this drive manifests is through the groves. Each Copse maintains a variety of internal gardens, farms, or entire biomes. Some are small nooks of arranged plants, others are entire valleys, their sky a greenhouse of living treelings grown massive for just this purpose.

Some do accept visitors.

Copses can be broken into two main attributes: governing style and philosophy. Being immobile near-immortal gossips, these both take slightly different forms than are familiar. Military coups are hard to do when you can’t move, but quicklings have been known to wage proxy wars, if rarely.

Type of governance (roll d6 if you want):

  1. Gerontocracy. Only the oldest treelings in the central groves can decide policy and make decisions. Younger and more distant treelings can advise their elders through this tiered hierarchy. Not very efficient, and tend towards conservative views, but have stability and very long memories.

  2. Meritocracy. Exactly what defines merit may change, but the whispering leaves of these Copses are structured by a shifting web of intrigue and alliance. A treeling might recruit an adventurous quickling, giving them the resources to become a halfling in exchange for favours or future loyalty. Another may rely on their own intellect or wisdom, making suggestions that are valuable to the Copse. This system is also not very efficient, as the shifting changes are not very stable, but they adapt quickly to new problems.

  3. Democracy. These Copses have a system. One tree, one vote. Parties form, candidates are put forwards, and tenets established. The leadership is not always the best, but in the end it's considered the Copses fault for voting them in.

  4. Anarchy. No gods, no masters, no rules, apart from “Don’t be a dick”. Anything that can be discussed is, anything you want to take is yours if you ask nicely first, and the Copse as a whole is considered to belong to every individual member. Often unusual in that they allow and encourage quicklings and halflings to participate in governance.

  5. Theocracy. There is an order to the universe. It is known to the members of this Copse, and truly understood only by the higher ranks. Service brings rewards, and in time, you too may learn the Truth. Can be spiritualistic, pantheistic, or even atheist if the Truth in question is a secular but complex belief. A secular theocracy is basically a University with a very complicated and ossified academic structure.

  6. Communal. All serve. None lead. The system elevates those whose talent is leadership, but they are no greater than the others. These Copses have a purpose, and it will be served, for the Greater Good. Often very nice places, though vulnerable to internal strife.

Type of philosophy (d6):

  1. Wardens. These Copses believe that the natural world should be protected, but not interfered with. Their internal biomes are provided with what is needed for healthy life, and left alone. Their halflings are known to tend and explore the natural places of other worlds, and to react negatively to attempts at disrupting it.

  2. Cultivators. These Copses hold that the purpose of life is to be made useful. Their biomes are horticultural, with great greenhouses and even aquaculture setups. Their halflings collect crop samples and wild cultivars, and under that careful guidance of their treeling parents, quicklings graft and cross species into ones with new traits.

  3. Taxonomers. A thing is not real unless it is known, and ideally given a hexcode and archived. Adventurous halflings retrieve rare flora and fauna to be returned to the Copse, and treelings struggle with the dual weight of keeping their strange biomes alive and ensuring everything is neatly filed.

  4. Caretakers. Closely related to Wardens, Caretaker Copses want the natural world to flourish, but take a more active role. Threats to nature are pre-emptively dealt with, and internal biomes structured for maximum health and biodiversity.

  5. Preservers. The world ended once. Everything burned in the Fall, and who’s to say it won’t happen again. In the carefully maintained groves of the Preserver Copses, parts of the world outside are kept in case it is needed to start again. Closely allied with Taxonomers.

  6. Green Priest. Life is a struggle against entropy, and the struggle will never end. The slow workings of evolution, the countless generations of life before us, had a Purpose. Preserving life, spreading life, is the duty of all things, and it is the duty of the strong to shield the weak against the harshness of the universe. The Copses are strong, able to withstand environments that would destroy anything else, and so it is their Purpose to shield those less fortunate. Their halflings are paladin-druids, their quicklings gardener-acolytes, and all are ruled over by the Green Priests.

As an example, 6:2 gives us Communal Cultivators, a Copse that might be similar to a farming collective. Any leadership would only be given a short reprieve from working alongside the others, and the idea of work might be held as essential for well-being. Close community and social bonds would be common, and very little that does not serve the group would be present. Compassion is prevalent, and trade with other races would be common, as the Copse could only use a small portion of their organic produce. The Copse might also undertake charitable endeavours, sending relief supplies to famine-stricken villages. After all, work is what is important, and it is best when it serves.

Is there anything as beautiful as an ordered field ready for harvest?

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