The Cahokian League is a massive trade empire that stretches from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Heaven-Touching Mountains in the west to the Green Mountains in the east. The tribes of the Great Plains, the Mississippi, and the woodlands of the southeast owe allegiance to the great city of Cahokia, the center of the league.
Cahokia itself is a hereditary oligarchy with a mostly-rigid political caste structure. The city is ruled by a number of wealthy, powerful Mound Families, each with one appointed Mound Lord (though the position is not always held by a male) who sits on a council with the other Mound Lords. The families control the city’s trade by partially owning almost all the businesses in the city, collecting a cut of the profits from each. They also hold a great deal of the magic in the city, each boasting a large number of powerful wizards, priests, druids, and shamans. Each family competes with the others, but the council has authority over all, settling disputes between families and making decisions for the city as a whole, such as acts of war and major alliances. Below the mound families are city dwellers, skilled craftsmen, merchants, and spellcasters who are usually beholden to one mound family or another. And below them, there are the mound builders, commoners who live in small farming communities. Each such village has a small mound where a mound family keeps their troops and their tax-collector. These mounds trade hands through agreements or through violence, though the exact name of the people collecting their crops is of little importance to the mound builders. There’s little mobility through the castes, though sometimes a mound family will adopt a promising city-dweller, or a mound builder will catch the eye of a city dweller and become an apprentice.
Outside the city, the politics are much simpler, decided on a tribal level, though each leader must give thorough consideration to the orders of the council, and the consequences for disobedience. Each client tribe swears to an agreement with Cahokia, trading their obedience to the city for highly beneficial trade arrangements and periodic gifts of supplies, horses, or weapons. The agreement is different for each tribe, but there are a few common points. The tribe must come to the defense of Cahokia or other client tribes when called upon, they cannot make war on other client tribes, and they cannot interfere with trade, though they can enforce the rules of it. Each tribe looks out for their own people and their own interests first, but many owe their livelihood to the city and will gladly follow their guidance. The strength of these bonds may be put to the test as the other four empires look toward the center of the continent for expansion.
The Cahokian League is composed of many different tribes, many distinct cultures and groups coming together for a common goal.
Most human characters from the Cahokian League will fall into one of five cultures. Native (Cahokia), Native (Great Plains), Native (Northeastern), Native (Southeastern), and Native (Southwestern). The cultures each encompass many distinct tribes and groups, allowing for a great deal of variation between two characters, even if they both have the same culture.
The Cahokian League’s connection to tradition and strong natural-oriented lifestyle has made them the natural ally of the Little People, many of whom feel the invaders are upsetting the delicate balances they protect. Some remain independent of the humans entirely, and it’s important not to assume that all of them will be friendly. Though they’re still a very small minority, the Spirit-born are most common here, and are often regarded highly and viewed as a valuable part of the tribe. Many are venerated as links between humans and the spirits of the animals. Some are still outcasts, particularly ones born of a spirit whose animal is regarded as evil, or a bad omen by their tribe. Sasquatch can be found here and there through the Cahokian League. Most are highly isolationist, resisting any attempts to contact them, either by fleeing or by killing anyone who gets too close to their homes. A small number, however, have come out of their self-imposed isolation enough to make friendly contact with some of the local tribes and perhaps even help out from time to time.
Adventurers in the Cahokian League come in every description and every class, with many variations of each. But the most common classes are Hunter, Shaman, Druid, and Medicine Man. Hunters perform a vital role in ensuring the survival of a tribe, and many skilled hunters turn those skills to more aggressive ends to great effect. Shamans are rather common as well, with most sizable tribal groups having a shaman on hand, perhaps even one elder and a handful of apprentices. Druids and medicine men are more rare, the devotion required for either requiring much more study and learning.
The Cahokian League started at a dramatically less complicated level of technology than their foreign invaders, but they are rapidly closing the gap. Cahokia’s mound families tirelessly manufacture ironwood goods to fill the needs of the people, everything from simple tools and knives to the Cahokian signature item, the ironwood musket. They also trade heavily with foreign groups like the French for firearms, gunpowder, and other advanced technology. They use their massive trade networks to disseminate this technology, at the right price, to their client tribes. Though some native technology is less advanced, that doesn’t make it any less effective. A bow and arrow is still a highly lethal weapon, and many hunters are amazingly skilled with them.
- 600 CE: Cahokia is founded as a simple settlement
- 900 CE: Mound-building begins at Cahokia and the city expands the reach of it’s trade.
- 1200 CE: The city is a huge mound-building center, with thriving trade
- 1300 CE: There is a large flood that ruins a sizable portion of the year’s maize crop, but quick action by the druids, shamans, and priests manages to save enough that the people can still be fed. Afterward, the city begins to take a more active spiritual role in replanting trees and maintaining good relations with the river and forest spirits.
- 1400 CE: A skillful deal with a forest spirit develops into the first ironwood spell, which quickly makes cahokia an extremely popular trading partner. However, rather than allow the secret to get out freely, cahokia enters arrangements with customer tribes to keep the ironwood in friendly hands. This agreement is the precursor to the modern client tribe system.
- 1541 CE: Hernando De Soto arrives at the walls of Cahokia with an army of disloyal natives and a battalion of Spaniards, including mounted lancers. The battle initially goes the way of the Spaniards, but when they try to light the palisade on fire, the native spellcasters cut loose and decimate the attacking force. The forces rally and the battle once again looks like it’s going to end poorly for Cahokia, but one of the plains tribes arrives and the Spaniards are crushed against the wall with magic pouring down on them.
- 1542 CE: The rebuilding begins, and the traditional wooden palisade is replaced with an ironwood palisade. Client tribe relations are strengthened, formalizing into the form they’re currently known as, and the Cahokians promise swift and brutal destruction of any foreign force that lands on their shorelines.
- 1682 CE: Louisiana is founded by the French. The local Mississippian tribes assault french landing parties, but the huge ships make them too big a threat to take down entirely. Stalemate is established.
- 1714 CE: A permanent settlement has arisen on the mouth of the Mississippi, and the Cahokians are forced to respond. They sail down the Mississippi in force, with gunships of their own and ironwood cannons as a show of force. The french don’t want to leave, but the Cahokians don’t want a major war (it cuts into profits) so they enter negotiations with the governor of the area at the time.
- 1718 CE: The city at the river’s mouth officially establishes a joint-ownership government. The Governor is married to the cousin of a Mound Lord and the two start to lead the city together, falling in love of the coming years. The two cultures begin to mix, until in the modern day the city’s main language is a creole of French and Cahokian.
Plot Hooks ===
- One of the Mound-Dweller families has a druid son, who is almost strong enough to start producing ironwood muskets. The family doesn't want to risk him by sending him on a dangerous spirit quest, so they hire local talent to go to the spirit world and negotiate with a powerful nature spirit to grant him the power he needs.
- The buffalo jump near Chimney Rock was used by the tribes of the Great Plains for thousands of years, before the introduction of horses allowed for more efficient hunting methods. The site is now used only for rituals in times of great need, to placate the Buffalo-Spirits when hunting is poor. Recently, a new Link has opened up on the site, but no one can find out where the Link leads, because a militant young Buffalo spirit-born warrior has gathered up a band of buffalo spirits with grievances against humans and camped out on the site to prevent humans from using it, either for buffalo spirit rituals or to utilize the Link. No one knows how long the Link will remain open, but with the warrior and his war-band guarding it, it seems unlikely that anyone will find out before it closes.
- The patriarch of a prominent Mound-Dweller family is outraged: someone broke into his storage mound, and stole thousands of wampum worth of black powder. What's worse, the patriarch is pinning it on his greatest enemy, the head of another major Mound Lord family. Both sides are willing to pay handsomely to prove that the other party is responsible for the theft. But a thief who can carve through enchanted mounds with ease and steal many heavy barrels of powder without alerting the guards or tripping an alarm is certainly a force to be reckoned-with.
- The local Algonquin lodge is in an uproar: a senior medicine man was smoking his peace pipe by himself, when an unknown spirit came down from the sky and destroyed him. Which spirit killed him? Why? And how can the tribe regain the blessing of the spirits?
- A previously weak plains-tribe has suddenly acquired powerful weaponry, courtesy of a runaway Master Gunsmith from Fúsāng, who managed to escape across the Heaven-Touching Mountains with a cartload of enchanted firearms, crafted especially for the Imperial Guard. When he learned that his brother was to be executed for treason, he fled Fúsāng, taking his stock of enchanted weapons with him. One of the Mound Lords is willing to pay handsomely to have him retrieved and brought him safely to Cahokia. However, the Gunsmith is being pursued by Qing agents, and also by a group of British spellcasters with an unknown agenda.
- The party passes through a village terrorized by a horde of skunks, which have come to the dangerous realization that humans fear them.
- The titanic mother-bear of Sleeping Bear Dunes has been reawakened, and is ravaging the land in a frantic search for her long-dead cubs. Who can end her reign of terror, and send her safely back to sleep?
Lord Many-Earrings, senior Mound Lord Standing Bird, his manservant/bodyguard Alligator Robe, pole-barge captain