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.

Ace of Shadows said...

The "ill-named Attloi", Rhop, Rhenn, darker hair and stolen children indeed. Quite telling details, I think, given Gary's approach of populating Oerth with human 'sub-races' that resembled real and 'fictional' human ethnicities from Earth's historical, legendary and mythological record.

The Attloi and Rhenn appear to be loosely modelled on the mysterious 'Irish' and 'Romany' travellers whose respective origins themselves are equally perplexing and have led to ethnic labelling that may have little or nothing to do with their true origins such as Gypsies, when some were thought to come from Egypt.

The Rhenn are said to look similar to the Oeridians but with darker curlier hair. Oeridians are based on the Milesians or Celtic peoples who once settled Europe extensively including as far as the Middle East and eventually displaced the Tuatha de Dannann or Sidhe in Ireland. It is these last people displaced by the Celtic peoples with the history of stealing children when driven 'underground' or the brink of extinction, that may be the origin of the Irish branch of the modern travellers.

There are also very interesting similarities between the history of the Israelite tribe of Dan, and the the Sea People alliance of the Denyen, Tjeker, Weshesh, and Peleset who the Egyptians, they raided, refer to as having "made a conspiracy in their islands" and look suspiciously like an alliance of northern sea-faring/travelling ethnicities possibly from the British Isles comprising the Dannann, Celtic Britons and Welsh and the Picts.

It is also interesting that Israelite tribe of Dan was governed by a collection of autonomous leaders called 'judges' [very much like the autonomous Rhenn nobles who judge their peoples], were likened to snakes, ambushers and schemers and have an outcast reputation because the Antichrist was traditionally expected to come from that tribe. The extent of the holdings of the tribes of Israel in biblical times is is often said to extend "even to Dan" said to be far to the north much like Ireland was a northern extremity of the reach of the Celtic peoples. And Gary knew all this because he had a voracious appetite for this kind of stuff.

We then throw in the mix the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantis, Attloi, Oerth origin myths of these travellers, the sinking of Atlantis, references The Black Moon Chronicles to one of Wismerhill's brides being an Atlantean, Gary's own statements he envisaged Oerth having an Atlantean-like continent and that Gary was fond of the works of Robert E. Howard, particularly Conan, which is based on a creation myth that the Celtic or Cimmerian peoples were originally Atlanteans and things then get very interesting. Even more so when you read Gary's Sagard the Barbarian series and realise the roving darker-haired Ratikkan barbarians don't exactly get on with their Oeridian Aerdian [Celt] and Painted Fruztii [Pict] neighbours, and just happen to occupy an area not far from where the Attloi and Rhenn are said to have appeared. Then you discover in the Sagard books references to an ancient technologically-advance culture called the Gondurians having outposts near these lands, and references to a diluvial cataclysm.

My theory is Rhop or Rhopa is a Atlantean-like continent lost to some great calamity that caused its flooding or sinking, not another world. Its probably sitting under the Agitoric Ocean, comprising the Sea of Storms and Sea of Thunder: I've looked closely at the map in Dragon Annual 1 and there seems to be a very large 'reef system' beneath those seas. And the ATTLOI and Rhenn's origins start to become clearer. The odd thing about the Oeridians is they also just seem to appear out of nowhere but near the Suel. Go figure. Maybe some advanced gate system linking the Atlantean-like continent with Oerik got used when calamity struck.

A great mystery to ponder and write your own way into your campaign.