Monday, November 5, 2018

Greyhawk: Rhennee Population

Greeting Greyhawk fanatics. Today I'm going to take a wild stab at an esoteric topic I bet no one except perhaps Gary Gygax, Anne Brown and Lance Hawvermale have ever pondered: how many Rhennee are there in the Flanaess? Before I get into my boring research, a few caveats, one, I'm no expert on demographics. There is many D&D fans who have done way more in this department than me. Two, I'm only going to count the barge-folk Rhennee, not their land-born cousins, the ill-named Attloi. Lastly, I'm pulling together sources from a few disparate editions here, to arrive at an interesting conclusion. None of this fantastical population crunching should diminish your love of the Rhennee, instead I hope it enhances by making DMs and players take notice of this human ethnicity and give them a try in the future. Enjoy!

According to Gygax, in the Glossography, the Rhennee resemble Oeridians except they have darker, curlier hair and are shorter on average. They are wiry and strong and claim to have come to the Flanaess accidentally from a legendary homeland called Rhop. While their ancestors rode horses and lived in wagons, modern Rhennee culturally took to living in barges on the waters of the Nyr Dyv and its surrounding rivers by necessity of being immigrants in a hostile world.

Each Rhennee barge is home to a family averaging 33 people. The break down in the Glossography is as such: 1 chief, 2-4 guard, 13-24 "folk", 1-2 "advisors", 7-12 children and 1 "wise woman" (called Veth in 3rd Edition). Accordingly a barge inhabited by a Rhennee noble has a maximum compliment on his home barge, or 45 people.

In the Living Greyhawk Journal #2 article, The Way of the Lake by Lance Hawvermale, (buy it on DMsGuild) he writes that there are about 100 Rhennee nobles and roughly 5000 Rhennee total population. I postulate that this amount is low given what information is available from prior sources. 100 Nobles consisting of a family of 45 would already arrive our number of Rhenn-folk at 4500. Since there are clearly "common" Rhennee people who rally around these nobles in groups of 12-16 barges, the number must be higher!

Again taking averages, each Rhennee lord has about 13 common barges in his fleet. If each has an average family size of 33 as per Gygax's lists, then one noble family totals 574 Rhennee. And if we max out the over-all nobility of Rhennee at 100, then that easily gives us 57,400 Rhennee on the waters, or eleven times Hawvermale's initial estimate. Even with just 50 Rhennee nobles, the totals are impressive enough at 28,700. Take your pick of how many nobles there may be in the Flanaess.

Now of course, things happen on the Lake of Unknown Depths. Life is harsh in the World of Greyhawk. Perhaps the Rhennee have catastrophic deaths per year? Fine, but Gygax accounted for this, and later sources on the Rhennee omit this quite unfortunate fact: 

"When needed, Rhennee steal young children to fill their ranks. Stolen children are raised as and become "natural" Rhennee. Similarly, outsiders who do some great service for the Rhennee are taken into the folk and sometimes accorded great status."

So yes, Rhennee are a culture, not a human bloodline necessarily. Players looking for an exotic background for their characters could theoretically make a Rhennee raised or adopted from virtually any playable race from tieflings to halflings.

According to Anne Brown in the Players Guide to Greyhawk (2E) the legendary Rhopans came in wagons to the Adri Forest and migrated west in CY 150. So, if we use the base timeline of Living Greyhawk CY 591, the Rhennee have been on Oerth for only about 440 years. That means depending on your source, 5000 to 57,000+ Rhennee exist after four and a half centuries of roaming the Flanaess (not counting Attloi). Now I'm no expert on Middle Ages style demographics, but either a small band of Rhennee accidentally rode into this world and prospered, or much like the Suel fleeing the Rain of Colorless Fire, they came en masse possibly through a magic gate or across a Fading Land as they are often found in this setting. 

Despite my argument for more Rhennee, the inclination that there are 5000 or fewer is a good one. After all, why would 57,000 Rhennee need to stick to the waters, when they could just overwhelm and settle a place like the City of Greyhawk (that does have a Rhennee population) with nearly the same population. They could just as easily take over a lesser coastal town in the Bandit Kingdoms or anywhere with that kind of numbers. So, either the Rhennee don't have the numbers to establish their own domain, or their nobles choose to stay on the waters and hide their numbers to seem neither too weak nor too powerful. Well DMs, the decision is yours, I've made the case for both population levels. In summary, use Rhennee! They make helpful guides, traders, bards, fortune-tellers, villains and even heroes.  


Charles said...

If the average family is about 35 people, and there are about 145 families, that means ~7 nobles per family. Maybe "noble" isn't so much a separate aloof class for the Rhenee as it is the chief, his family, and his advisors. (If you take out the "folk" and children from the typical barge, about 7 others remain.)

So rather than having 29 noble family barges with 380 "folk" family barges hanging around, it might just be that each family barge has a noble minority in charge.

Mike Bridges said...

Charles: Yeah I can imagine this could be worked multiple ways. I was afraid to get too math heavy on this but not bad for a nights work. Rhennee of course are the type to ALL claim they are nobility, at least to outsiders! ;)

Icarus said...

I really gotta say, Mort, I love this article.
I hadn't read it yet, 'til you mentioned it on the "Legends & Lore" show on the Greyhawk Channel on Twitch. Glad that it became a topic of discussion!

The Rhenfolk are a favorite topic of mine, and I've occasionally written articles that've been posted on Canonfire!, and I love reading others' thoughts on them!
This one is interesting to me, because there's certainly different thoughts on this. There were a couple of details that Hawvermale got … we'll say "less than accurate", and there's differing opinions on how the article should be taken, since there's inaccuracies.

Personally, I simply go thee route that my players aren't likely to actually ever need to consult someone about a census result, counting the Rhenfolk. Therefore, they're only as common as I need them to be.
Of course, as I said, I absolutely adore the Rhennee, so IMC, they're often there.
I thought it interesting that you said , "Rhennee are a culture, not a human bloodline necessarily". The key to that, obviously, is the "necessarily" at the end. If, let's say, an Oeridian child were abducted and raised as Rhennee, they'd marry presumably, and have children with a Rhen woman, and yes, that would introduce other genes into the Rhennee gene pool. It's not unlike modern day when people go to to chase down their bloodlines and find out that there's a bit of Scandanavian in their ancestry, when they thought they were entirely Welsh, or something.
But, that doesn't mean that the bloodline isn't Rhennee … it just means that Rhennee bloodlines may occasionally have genes that originate somewhere else. But, Rhennee is definitely, absolutely, both a culture, and a human subrace of its own. There are definite phenotypes that define who they are genetically. But, as you said … it's not "necessarily" always the case. There's always that human who has a half-elf parent five generations back. :P

Mike Bridges said...

Icarus my friend I knew you'd be passionate about that part of the article, its why I tried to put it delicately and all what you say is 100% true. My main inference was not about procreation at all, but rather giving modern D&D players an "in" for having characters from nonhuman races adopted into Rhennee culture. Tiefling Rhennee, Gnome Rhennee, Halfling Rhennee. The odds are astronomical and make no cultural sense to a rather insulated group like the Rhenn, sure, but in a fantasy world anything might happen. Ideally of course I'd encourage someone to play an ACTUAL Rhennee character. In the event a DM wanted to do a Rhennee campaign, this however would allow some variety.