Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's Not a Skirt!

It's a Zkoot!

By Eli


My background in gaming starts as an RPG guy and this has stuck with me all along. I usually end up on the GM side of things and as such world building, character developing and background fluff are sort of second nature to me. This comes out in my miniatures projects as well whether it is my own gaming or designing stuff for release by LNG.

When developing the Ikwen, it was important form to manifest some sort of cultural elements in their designs. One of the easiest ways to do this in miniatures is through distinctive articles of clothing. In the Ikwen this came out as a sort of ceremonial cloth worn around the waist called a "Zkoot". 


Every Ikwen receives a Zkoot at birth. It is the first and last thing they will ever wear. The Zkoot is tied into their belief system and the Ikwen believe that they record the events of their life to be proclaimed when they enter the afterlife and join their ancestors. To die without a Zkoot is to be denied the afterlife. 

Zkoot are worn tied around the waist in a way that allows a wide panel to hang between the legs. This panel displays patterns and symbols that identify the family ties, community and even nationality of the Ikwen wearing it. The Zkoot is worn at all times except when being washed or repaired and even then certain rituals must be upheld in the way it is maintained including restrictions on materials, folding and storage. Holy men among the Ikwen do not wear the Zkoot around their waist. Instead they wear their sacred cloth draped over their head and shoulders, shrouding their faces. In this way, interaction with the holy men is not with them but directly with the lineage displayed on the Zkoot and thus the ancestral line of the Ikwen.

Because of the connection with the afterlife, the absence or loss of a Zkoot is a serious crisis for Ikwen. Those born outside of traditional family bonds or who are orphaned often have no Zkoot and live marginalized lives. Those without Zkoot or "Hadzakoot" are often looked on as untrustworthy, false, even corrupted as they are seen to have no accountability. It is no surprise that Hadzakoot are often involved in criminal dealings and other undesirable lines of work. It is possible for a Hadzakoot to acquire a Zkoot in some cases such as adoption, special religious rituals and high-level political decree. It is considered an incredibly solemn and selfless act to bequeath one's own Zkoot to another Ikwen and thus surrender ones chances at an afterlife.

Ki-Ki-Zkoot
There are few instances where the Zkoot plays directly into the actions of Ikwen as in the case of the Ki-Ki-Zkoot, a sect of fanatic warriors. Ki-Ki-Zkoot have always existed among the Ikwen but have always risen in numbers during times of great conflict when there is a need for those who are willing to do the things that would shame their lineage.

Ki-Ki-Zkoot surrender their sacred cloths in a ceremony in which they pass them on to an unfortunate soul, bringing them into their families to replace them. While this frees the fanatic of his obligations to his ancestors, it also indentures the recipient of the Zkoot to the great responsibility of not only fulfilling his obligation to his new family but also honoring the warrior who's place he has taken. The recipients known as Yotzkoot often go on to be civic leaders, frequently rising as priests, teachers, or other mentors to their communities. 

Once they have shed their Zkoot, these fanatics are unfettered by societies rules and expectations. They are now ready to fight an unrestricted battle and it is expected that they will do anything and everything to win short of suicide. While sacrifice and extremes are the stock and trade of these fanatics, to waste their lives and the opportunity needlessly is still looked on as taboo. Ki-Ki-Zkoot are often scarred and marked, showing their savagery in open displays. They often carry multiple weapons, including melee weapons.

Mugoda
Every society has it's rebels and those who buck convention. Among the Ikwen, these are the Mugoda or "Shadowy Ones". These Ikwen live by a different set of rules within  proper Ikwen society. They are a sort of under-society that exists to function where a society needs them to - breaking rules, while adhering to their own. In many ways the Mugoda are the organized crime syndicates of this alien culture. 

Like the Ki-Ki-Zkoot they exist to do things that polite Ikwen society does not look fondly upon. Unlike the warrior fanatics, these Ikwen have not surrendered their Zkoot but instead wear theirs proudly and garishly, attaching charms and trinkets, trophies and other embellishment to what is normally a very modest attire. They also pierce their skin with obvious signs of wealth and wear jewelry. To the Mougoda, it's best to live life well because the afterlife is not going to be pleasant. Mugoda afterlife is an eternity of low service and drudgery. It is also worth noting that dealing with Mugoda is allowed by common Ikwen belief as the layer of detachment absolves one of any real guilt. 

The Mugoda figure prominently in the Ikwen's fight as their underworld enterprise allows them access to materials and resources not available to those among regular society. This has allowed them to stockpile weapons and armor, fighting with gear that is often far more sophisticated than the rest of the Ikwen militias. In this way, these criminal syndicates provide a much needed backbone to regular militia, though often at a cost.

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