The Wilderfolk are not a single culture, or even a single people. No one is entirely certain how many clans exist in the Wildlands. The clans range in size from clan Draak of Darodelf, which rivals some countries in size and scope, down to clans of only a few dozen individuals. As they also tend to be rugged individualists, it is hard to pin down exactly what their culture is. They kill each other as readily as they do non-Wilders.
There are some constants. A child is not named until they have drawn breath for ten days. The rite of passage into adulthood occurs at age twelve, when the child must prove themselves worthy to their leader in order to gain the right to own property. Raids are a common means to undertake this rite, with the child gathering some friends together to go prove themselves as warriors. It’s considered less glorious, but they can also accomplish the rite by proving their skill at a craft. There are some that never do actually achieve adulthood, but these usually end up becoming slaves at some point. Once a leader approves an act or offering, the newly minted adult gains their sigil and can use it to mark what is their’s. Sigils are usually, but not always, passed along family lines, with families identifying with particular symbols for generations.
Wilders keep slaves. They have no compunction about taking members of rival clans as slaves. The rights a slave has in Wilder society depends heavily on the status of their master. ‘Untended’ slaves are often at the mercy of those around them. As long as they aren’t damaged, anyway. If a slave is damaged their master has the right to seek recourse. If a slave ‘provokes’, they can be punished with up to a hundred lashes. A slave can earn or purchase their freedom, though the price to do so varies. Ultimately, the price is set by the master, though a slave can bring a case to a clan leader that a price is unjustifiably high, in which case the master must produce someone actually willing and able to pay that price for the slave or lower the price.
Wilders that cannot take care of themselves often have little recourse other than to sell themselves into slavery. There are no beggars in the Wildlands not because there is no poverty, but because the Wilders find such a notion to be utterly absurd. Anyone begging them for anything would likely just find themselves taken as a slave if they are useful, and killed or abandoned if they are not. It is expected that a master keep their slaves tended, and a master that does not could find themselves enslaved. There are no ‘orphans’, an orphaned child is usually claimed by another within the clan. A person cannot be enslaved until they reach the age of twelve. However, sickly or otherwise weak children are often simply abandoned to die of exposure.
Otherwise, they are a rather egalitarian society. There are no real gender roles, and a woman can lead a raid as easily as a man can. Wilders tend not to care who sleeps with who. They don’t really have a concept of ‘legitimacy’. If a parent claims a child, that child is theirs, and even adoption is relatively informal. While they do practice marriage, the monogamy of a marriage is entirely the business of those involved. Marriage is a means of cementing ties, not a dictation of who sleeps with who and there are a married individuals in the Wildlands who’ve never slept beneath the same roof. Homosexuality and bisexuality are not remarked upon, and a person is treated as whatever gender they claim to be. Wilders tend to take other Wilders as individuals, though they do tend to lump outsiders together.
As they are not unified, they have no standing army. However, anyone actually trying to invade runs the risk of bringing the entire horde down on themselves, as the Wilders love nothing more than a good brawl. The Wildlands themselves get their name for a reason, as a good portion of the land is harsh and dangerous. A fact of which the Wilders are rather proud. They have a certain level of contempt for the soft folk that dwell in the soft lands.
Wilders fight for glory, and have little military discipline. They raid in surprise attacks, fighting as individuals rather than as cohesive units. Few can stand against Wilders in small skirmishes, but against larger, disciplined troops, Wilders tend to break easily and retreat. They wear light armor, preferring to stay mobile.
While they do have gods, they are as lax about religious practices as they are about virtually everything else. Their gods are more ancestral heroes than actual deities, and they don’t really have much in the way of temples or even religious practices. There are household shines, but those are more a matter of respect than prayer. The idea of begging favor from the gods is something Wilders have trouble grasping. Gods are more something you show off too rather than something you expect aid from. And the more showing off you do, the more you please the gods, and the better chance you have of joining them.
Wilders tend to be dark haired and dark eyed, and are prone to being fairly large and strong. The average height for a Wilder man is over six feet, and the average woman is only an inch or two shorter. There are variations among their dress, but most wear leather vests that show their clan markings and the accomplishments of an individual. Few Wilders are literate, and most make do with a form of pictographs when knowledge must be conveyed in a visual format.
Clan Draak – Clan Draak is a nation unto itself, and some confuse this clan with Wilder society as a whole. This is in part because the leader of Clan Draak, the dragon king/queen, claims to be the ruler of the Wilders and there is rarely another individual powerful enough to put lie to that claim. Clan Draak has it’s own nobility and chiefs within the clan itself, and is possibly the oldest of the clans. It was Clan Draak that united the Wilders and once conquered the world, though that was a thousand years ago. Those that see only Darodelf might even mistake the Wilders for a civilized people.