So what does an Orlanthi tribal king actually do?
We know that the Orlanthi clans tend to be organized into tribes – confederations of kinship groups, led by the Orlanth cult and supported by the other Lightbringer and Earth cults. The tribe makes it possible to support specialists that the individual kinship groups could not. The tribe protects its members, provides a means by which kinship groups within the tribe can peacefully resolve disputes, and also provides for an elite of warriors and priests supported by the whole tribe.
This tribal structure is tightly tied into the Orlanth cult and Orlanth is the patron god of most tribes. Since the time of Sartar, the Orlanth Rex cult is the “tribal god”.
The tribal king is initiated into Orlanth Rex and serves as the priest of Orlanth Rex for that tribe. Everyone else in the cult are either “temporary initiates” or lay members. So one of the primary jobs of the tribal king is to lead the Orlanth Rex cult.
The tribal king is also a warleader. He leads the tribal militia into battle. Most kings maintain a number of professional warriors as bodyguards, but the king is expected to be there in battle.
The tribal king must marry an Earth priestess (although the Orlanth Rex may have other wives) and be able to prove their worthiness, often through contests of martial and magical prowess. The marriage can be largely ceremonial, and the king may have other wives. This requirement applies regardless of whether the Orlanth Rex is male or female.
The king is expected to lead his tribe fairly and wisely. Remember most of these tribes number between 4,500 and 13,000 people. That is not a huge number and most every tribal member has met and spoken to their king (at least briefly). In Sartar, the tribal king is an important player in city affairs and works to make sure the city respects the interests of the tribal members. The city is also dependent on the support of the tribes, so this works both ways.
As a point of RW comparison, a Sartarite tribe is comparable in size to a medieval Irish Tuath, an Athenian tribe, or one of the member tribes of the Iroquois Confederation. These are relatively small groups, with the notable exception of the Colymar (who are 50% bigger than the next largest tribe).
Note that the Iroquois tribes are comparable in size. That’s all. They are about as similar to an Irish Tuath as they are to an Iroquois Tribe in terms of what the leader is – which is to say, they aren’t similar.
The substitute to tribal Kingship and Orlanth Rex is to just go with a “Big Man” position (which is something the Sartarites stopped doing about 120+ years ago). Where someone was strong enough and had enough Lunar support to be the Big Man they could (assuming they could have the old Orlanth Rex killed, dismissed, or exiled). But that system was also very fragile – the Big Man didn’t have the magical tools an Orlanth Rex had that could keep the tribal members (and priests) in line.
After the Dragonrise, those Lunar Big Men either all died in the Dragonrise or were toppled very soon after (as there were no Lunar forces to keep them in power).
Now words like “tribe” and “king” are often laden with associations. In Ancient Greece these would be “phylai”(literally “to descend, to originate” and led by a “basileus”.
It is worth remember contra King of Dragon Pass that in most cases, the clans did not form first and then later negotiate a tribe with other tribes. In most cases the tribe came at the same time or formed out of the clans. So the Colymar Tribe formed out of the Colymar Clan – the clan became the tribe. Other kinship groups joined the tribe (sometimes with coercion) or existing group spun out new groups which were part of the tribe.
We know some Sartarite tribes have non-Orlanth kings (the Malani IIRC are led by Humakti). How does their arrangement work? In those cases, it is still Orlanth Rex.
So don’t make the mistake that the tribe is somehow peripheral to the clan – in RQG Sartarite characters start with the same loyalty to the tribe as to the clan.
Another thing to keep in mind – although tribes claim control over land, they are not administrative subdivisions of Sartar, or a mere league of allied clans. The tribe is thought of as a kinship group, descended from a particular founder or hero. They shift around a bit, and a tribe can gain or lose members (especially clans with a weaker claim to kinship) based on its success or failures.
And although in many cases tribes claim exclusive rights over land, in the cities they share control with other tribes.
Note that we have only one published account of what various Gloranthan accents might sound like, and here’s Greg’s suggestions:
- Sartarite: honest, forthright, and clear. Obviously an American West accent.
- Troll: deep, gruff voice and crude ways.
- Ingilli representative: elegant, refined, and educated, maybe even British.
There you are. British are rich Riverside folk. Sartarites are West Americans. Trolls are Northern English. Pavis don’t lie.