Redux: Bedouin Lifepaths for Burning Wheel

Originally workshopped on Google+ in November 2016, inspired by reading No god but God:

I’m looking for something to represent nomadic Bedouin clans where everybody would know how to Ride or handle horses and camels and otherwise work lots of pastoral/bodyguarding/mercenary/escort jobs, wherein “wealth” (resources, goods, etc) would be handled communally, and the closest thing to a hierarchy was the division of responsibilities between the Shayhk, the war-leader, the dispute-moderator, and the spiritual-leader (all of whom were appointed by community consent). I’m feeling tripped up because they are so very much unlike the implied medieval France of the Lifepaths/Settings in the book.


So, I did some preliminary work going through all of the Settings and marking those that stuck out as relevant to a Badiyah Setting. Then I went through and I nixed the ones that, though I might consider them apt, were more likely to come from a Badiyah-born leaving the tribe aka taking a Lead. When I did my paring down, I also added a couple that I felt I had previously overlooked. So, it looked more like:

Peasant: B. Peasant, Farmer, Shepherd, Head of House, Midwife, P. Pilgrim, Hunter, Elder, Peddler, Augur, C. Wife

Village: Idiot, Groom, Tailor, Butcher

City: Advocate

Noble: Minstrel, Falconer, Chronicler, Master of Hounds

Outcast: Pillager, Cripple, Leper, Bandit, Freebooter

So, I wound up cutting about 7 Lifepaths.

My thought process: The Peasant Lifepaths are, for the most part, the best choices for emulating traditional Bedouin roles. Certain ones I am omitting… the Conscript doesn’t fit with this nomadic set-up, nor does the Miller, nor the Fisherman, nor the Woodcutter. Priests aren’t really a thing except for specifically the Kahin who often served as spiritual adviser to the tribe, but the Kahin was primarily a soothsayer which feels covered by the Augur — which I may just open up beyond female PCs.

I am including Village lifepaths to represent things that I consider important to my understanding of the Bedouin “economic model,” if you will: specifically, a Lifepath with an emphasis on caring for camels/horses, a Lifepath that focuses on their use of goats/sheep for fabrics, and a Lifepath that focuses on their butchering of game and (if necessary) camels for food. Idiot is included, like Cripple and Leper, to fulfill a historical aesthetic: that is, Bedouin tribes in pre-Islamic Arabia made it common practice to care for those among them who just weren’t very good at things or able to work; as such, I wanted to include Idiot, and it made no sense to make Cripple and Leper Lifepaths that one had to change settings to access.

Advocate is there to be the Tribe’s dispute-settler, a very important role, historically. But I may actually do a riff on the Justiciar? Or Judge? None of the Lifepaths are really right for “respected member of the community who hears both sides of the argument and mediates the dispute before rendering judgment, that might involve invoking Hammurabi’s code.” Some fiddling will be going down, but I’m sorting out what exactly that will look like.

Minstrel and Chronicler are going to see some blurring together to represent the role of Hakawati, the very important Arabian storyteller.

Falconer and Master of Hounds are very important, as unlike Western Europe, the use of dogs and falcons in hunting was not for the wealthy and powerful. I might use these with minor tweaks to some numbers, or I may just blend them with the Hunter for a single, broadly applicable picture of the Bedouin hunting tradition.

Pillager and Bandit, come from the historical record of Bedouin tribes raiding one another for whatever goods they had bought from villages or the city, and doing so on the regular. It was very common, so it is — again — not really a Lead. Freebooter is for the tradition of Bedouin men getting work as mercenaries and caravan guards, but not in such an itinerant manner that it doesn’t sound like taking a Lead or any of the more typical martial Lifepath options.

As I refined my list and did more reading, its clear to me that I am focusing on the more classically known, wide-ranging, desert-dwelling Bedouin tribes. Because of that, I might just cut the Shepherd entirely, as it is more appropriate for the Bedouin tribes who dealt primarily in sheep and goats and did not range quite so far from water sources. I would similarly nix Farmer, but I would use a small tweak of Farmer I’ve already written up that focuses on Foraging to represent a broad nomadic skillset.

I’ve used the Head of Household as a basis for a “Head of Clan,” intending it to represent the Bedouin extended family unit of siblings, spouses, children and unrelated associates. Head of Clan is more about persuasion and smoothing ruffled feathers than carpentry and hunting, but I will likely also include a Head of Household (it would be a Req. for Head of Clan), but minus the Carpentry.

Peasant Pilgrim is meant mostly for those who go above and beyond the call for performing the Pilgrimage to Mecca or the desert shrines, and make it something they do with regularity. I will probably bump up the Years and the Resources to represent their piety.

Elder is probably just going to become “Shayhk.” I think I need to pick one of the more martial Lifepaths and plug it in for the role of war-leader that someone in the tribe would be fulfilling.

And that is more or less where my notes and my head are at. I’m not looking at any deep dramatic changes. Just bundling together some Lifepaths, swapping a skill or two on a couple of them, flipping or nudging some RPs or Time, a little renaming.

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