2020-04 Jeff on Facebook

Jeff Richard is one of the regular posters in the RuneQuest Facebook Group. here’s some of his recent RuneQuest posts, only Jeff’s replies are included where relevant. Facebook membership is required to access the originals.

As an aside, I often post notes or things that I am working on that I think people will find interesting or useful. But I am posting this material without edits or revisions – they are all notes or works in progress. If people really expect me to edit or revise such ephemera before I post it, I am probably not going to post such things.

Jeff Richard, 2021

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Orlanthi ownership

Here’s a little snippet from a forthcoming players-oriented book I am working on:

The Orlanthi divide ownership into two types of property, called earth and chattel.

The Orlanthi view the Earth as belonging to (or even part of) Ernalda or the local Grain Goddess. It is part of the goddess. Very little land is “owned” by individuals. Instead, land is owned by the Earth temples and assigned to tribes, clans, temples, and other groups to use, develop, or protect, or to delegate to others to do such things with.

In Earth-dominated lands such as Esrolia, Ernalda’s representatives directly administer the land. In Orlanthi societies such as Sartar, Ernalda has entrusted care of the land to her husband Orlanth, but still retains residual (if rarely exercised) authority. In most of Dragon Pass, Ernalda has given authority over the land to tribal or clan leaders, who in turn delegate responsibility for parcels or fields to smaller groups such as clans, temples, or households. This land is collectively owned by the group, though it is typically administered by a title-holder, such as a chieftain or chief priestess.

Land cannot be permanently alienated without the approval of the appropriate tribal or clan leaders, and the asset of the Earth temple. However, authority over specific pieces of land can be delegated to others. These assignments often include payment of silver, service, rent, or livestock from the assignee to the assignor. As long as the terms of the agreement are met and the assignee’s use of the property does not offend the gods, the property remains under the care of the assignee.

This can result in very complex land arrangements. For example, the ultimate authority for the land around Clearwine Fort is the Clearwine Earth Temple. However, the tribal ring exercises authority over most of the land, distributing land to the clans, temples, and even individuals, The Sacred Fields near the Earth temple is land that Ernalda has reserved to herself. Clearwine Fort itself has land under the title of the tribal king, the tribal council, temples, and the clans (principally to the Ernaldoring clan). These groups in turn may delegate land to households, individuals, – even to strangers and foreigners – although “title” to the land remains with the Earth temple or the tribe. Much of the legal disputes the tribal king hears involves disputes over land.

Earth properties may also include herds, a type of seed or plant, a breed or color of animal, or other such public gift as may have been granted by or to the Earth.

Clans traditionally mark the boundaries of their land with marker stones blessed by the local Earth priestess. Moving or otherwise damaging these stones without the approval of the Earth temple can result in retribution from members of the Babeester Gor cult.

Private or “chattel” property is different. This property may be freely inherited, given away, invested, traded, loaned, squandered, or lost. The existence of chattel property is what makes a difference in the wealth of different families (hearths) even within a single household.

The word chattel is the old word for cattle. This is a throwback to the ancient practice when the Orlanthi measured wealth, rank, and privilege in the number of cows and bulls which they owned, and reflects the turbulent mythology of the storm gods. Transfer of chattel property is easy, and at whatever terms the owner desires.

There are many overlapping boundaries between earth and chattel property. For example, a household’s lands are earth, but the plows and teams, arms and armor are chattel property. Then they may be farming some lands of the clan temporarily granted by the chieftain, while tending a herd of sheep and plot of farmland for an absentee landlord.

Here’s how this appears in the Ernalda cult writeup:
In Theyalan regions, the physical earth is owned by the local Ernalda or Grain Goddess temple. The right to use the land is delegated by the temples to the representatives of the husband-deity, typically local tribal or clan leaders, although some land is always reserved for the temple.

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