Dorwinion south of Rhovanion along the River Running is a country most famous for its wine (even the court of the Elvenking of Mirkwood are known to enjoy it) and exotic airs to which is generally referred to as ‘east of everything else’. Dorwinion is a vast country flowing north and south, west and east of the Rhun, composed of rolling hills, vast fields and vineyards though deeper to the east arid lands and sand takes over. Like in other kingdoms of Men, the power and prosperity in Dorwinion is concentrated in the hands of the few. Though they do not have a titled nobility in the same sense as lands filled by the Dunedain are prone to, great and powerful Merchant House Families essentially fill the same role, spreading wealth and prosperity amongst the Dorwinion peoples as well as politics, drama, and the occasional spat, the greatest of which was known as the War of the Vine. In Dorwinion, land is power and power is wealth.

Dorwinions are made up of four social classes or castes: lower, middle, upper, and high. The extremes with rare exception tend to be inherited positions of birth. While growth between the levels is hard, failure is far easier because of heavy importance on reputation and standing in Dorwinion. They are famous for being the most difficult and most ruthless of hagglers who aren’t above utilizing knowledge of a rival’s failures or foibles to succeed. Given the pinnacle place of the wine trade of Dorwinion within the commerce of Laketown brings many citizens of Rhovanion into the wider web of Dorwinion trade, even if unknowingly or tangentially.

Playing a Dorwinion

Quick Tips

-Dorwinion accents can be found here: Dorwinion Accents.

-Dorwinions are predominantly of a darker complexion than Rhovanions, with tones ranging from caramel to olive to swarthy with brunette or black hair. Blond and red are exceedingly rare if non-existent in a pure blooded Dorwinion. Such people when found are generally native to what Dorwinions refer to as - Khilriad - the borderland between Rhovannion and Dorwinion and it’s a rather obvious note of a mixed-blood heritage. Dorwinion eye color is most commonly brown, hazel, or green. Blue is exceedingly rare if non-existent and grey is wholly non-existent in Dorwinion. Builds are 60-68 inches for women and 65-72 inches for men. The higher ranges tend to be found among the upper classes, and though frames vary, Dorwinions tend towards the lithe side in comparison to the more hardy builds of their Rhovanion counterparts.

- Dorwinion law and practice holds steadfast to the idea of inheritance by primogeniture - that a first born son inherits all of a family's physical holdings or land, while other children might receive stipends of money or other tangible valuables. To legally bypass a first born son as one’s heir, they must be legally disinherited and disowned. The goal is to keep all of the land a family manages to acquire intact, to break up the holdings is to lose power and influence. This is especially vital among those that own and operate vineyards as to break up land is to risk a competitor inheriting valuable rootstock or access to unique breeds or vintages of grapes. 

Even amongst the common-born and lower stations, inheritance always falls to the first born male child. If a male heir is not produced, the earnings and property of a man, married or not, will fall to the next male within his line - his oldest living brother first. If he has no surviving brothers, it will fall to a nephew, and then a cousin. In the shocking event that no other legitimate living male relatives can be found, it will fall to the hands of whichever Merchant Family he serves and owns the property or the business. In the event that he is wholly independent, it may fall to a legitimate husband of a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, mother or aunt in that order. In the event there is still yet no one to inherit, it falls to the Emir or Emirah and therein the Merchant Council of Vincaer.

- Dorwinion society tends to be rather static with people rarely making large jumps up the rankings as wealth and in turn privilege is strongly tied with land ownership which is difficult to obtain, the majority of holdings held with an ironfist by the wealthiest of Merchant Families. There is no shame in being middle-caste (generally made up of merchants and small-claim landowners and farmers). The shame is in lacking ambition to grow or achieve something “greater” (unless you are already of the highest caste and your task is to maintain your position.) Hence why pirates and gypsies are seen as shameful, because they are the lives of men who were born, lived, and died without ever accomplishing anything more “respectable.”

The irony of course, is that some of the more successful plagia (pirate) Captains amass wealth and power in their holdings along the Inland Sea that rival some of the higher classes. And while it’s not often openly discussed, it’s a fairly known and accepted fact that the Merchant Families are known to hire plagia Captains to attack and raid the trading ships of rivals.

- How you dress is who you are in Dorwinion. There’s no need for formalized sumptuary laws because it is simply understood to every man, woman, and child how to see and understand who someone is through their manner of dressing. You don’t dress above your station even if somehow you’ve acquired the money to do so because it is crass and speaks that you are ashamed of who you are. (Which would be unwise beyond social stigma because it is an obvious sign you acquired it through less than legal means.)

- A common-born (lower or middle class) male Dorwinion keeps no beard, though may keep a mustache or a goatee and generally keeps their hair somewhat of a short to middling nature, no longer than the jawline. Earrings, noserings, and tattoos* are common, though only a plagia would sport one (particularly a visible one) that is crude in design.

- A common-born (lower or middle class) female Dorwinion keeps her hair relatively shorter than is common amongst the Men of Middle-Earth, rarely below the shoulder for the cost of keeping it tamed and clean. Earrings and noserings are common but tattoos* tend to be less common in women. Headscarves (tichel) are common amongst the lower and middle classes.

Notes to players about tattoos: Remember Middle-Earth is functioning at roughly a 14th century technological level. There is no electricity or modern tattoo equipment. Tattoos are done by traditional hand-techniques like irezumi. They are time consuming, painful (it’s slow hand needles and woodcarving-based chisels), and require the hand of a very skilled artist. They are thus something made with purpose - symbols based on family and belief, remembering fallen loved ones or shipmates. They aren’t done on a whim or a wine-binge. Only a plagia, a pirate of the Inland Sea, would get tattoo work done on their face, as it’s seen as a definitive and permanent mark as a member of that lifestyle and thus shunned by respectable people.

In wider Middle-Earth, the reactions to tattoos vary. They are rejected strongly by Rohirrim and most people of Gondor, and particularly the Dunedain. Though it is known that like plagia, they are often embraced by men of the Sea - Corsairs and pirates from Umbar and from those who fight them - the common born sailors of Pelagrir. In Laketown, they have a similar reputation as they do in Dorwinion - they are associated with the Underdocks and the criminal element known as the Crows, and no self-respecting person would have one, especially not one easily seen when clothed because it highly indicates they are or have been part of that brotherhood.

- A high-born Dorwinion, both man and woman, generally keeps their hair rather long and rarely braid it. Braiding is tradition of Rhovanion and Rohan. Headdresses and veils of varying styles are popular with the women of some Dorwinion Merchant Families, while others work their hair into shapes and designs which change with the seasons and trends.

- Dorwinions keep a cat at all times in one’s home (or camp if one is a Gypsy) to ward off whatever lurks in the shadow and thus would never offer harm to a cat of any nature or kind.

- Song, story, and dance are favorites of the Dorwinion, excelling in these arts above many others of Middle-Earth. Their main rivals are the famed harp-players of Dol Amroth.

- With their love of bargaining, bartering, and the general arts of speech and the mercantile, Dorwinions tend to have a unique view on cheating, lying, or thieving - seeing them as an acceptable if not an inevitable part of business and life - provided of course that one is not caught. It is perfectly acceptable in society to accuse someone of being a cheat, a liar or a thief and is rarely taken as offense to be called such. Being accused is not the same thing as being caught.

Being well-spoken and quick-handed is an artform and one must excel at it to survive, for to be caught, they’re treated as harshly (if not more so) as in any other Middle Earth culture. If one is well-swindled, it can be appreciated even by those who have been cheated, lied to, or stolen from. However one should be assured that some form of comeuppance or retaliation will likely occur. And the more powerful the person you swindled or stole from is, the worse it will likely be.

There are exceptions of course, one being that the emphasis on family lines and family resources in Dorwinion makes the idea of cheating or stealing from one’s own family anathema with culprits often cast out (among the Gypsies who call such a shunning a prastlo) or amongst the upper classes, where the crueler fate is to be written out of wills and inheritance and legally disowned. To cheat, lie or steal with the guise of romance and love are never appreciated and a common-born culprit will likely suffer greatly for the abuse of one’s heart. Whether from the woman herself or her kin remains to be seen. For upper and high class men, their punishments for dalliances usually come from their wives or her family, though often that scorn and venom is directly towards the frequently common-born lovers and the baseborn children of the union. Some of whom tend to simply get paid to disappear or just simply … disappear.

Dorwinion Culture Reference

- Dorwinions speak their own language that seems when heard it is clearly a blended tongue with many mothers. Their naming conventions borrow from both Dalish (like Vincaer) and the tongue of the Woodland Realm (in things like gwinsigil), they seem to choose such things based on meaning as much as liking the way something sounds. As such, it’s a language that can be written in either the Cirth runes (the preference of those from Khilriad and the lower classes) or the flowing script of the Tengwar (the preference of the upper classes) each choice lending a slightly different accent and pronunciation.

- If you are low-born and are introduced to an upper-caste Dorwinion, you bow your head slightly or gently to them. This is commonly done to the upper-caste when the lower-caste when the upper-caste individual is speaking to the lower-caste individual, though only at the initial beginning of the conversation and every conversation's beginning after that.

- To bow too deeply to an upper-caste Dorwinion is deemed an insult and that you are being sarcastic or questioning their position. To not bow your head is much the same, it suggests you see equal frankness in rank with them which is either over-reaching yourself or trying to bring them to your own level. Gypsies are rather noted for being overzealous in their bowing which furthers ideals about their being countrified and unaware of proper social orders.

- If you are low-born and are introduced or being addressed by a high-caste Dorwinion, such as one of the Merchant House Families, you bow at the waist at a slight, 45 degree angle and at the same time touch between your eyebrows with your left hand only using the tips of your fingers. To use the right hand suggests you question their position above you which questions their blood. To bow too light an angle is to assume familiarity with the noble, which in some cases is acceptable depending on the noble. To bow too deeply an angle is to insult the noble, it is a silent suggestion that you mock their noble position. To not bow at all is a silent suggestion that they are as low as you are. Many an affair or attachment between a noble and their lover or would-be lover is first outed in public through an overly familiar display of bowing.

- In the presence of the Emir or the Emirah everyone bows at a slight, 45 degree angle and touches their skin between either eyebrow with the tips of their left hand's three central fingers. You do not straighten until given leave by the Emir or the Emirah.

- When speaking to a lower caste than yourself it is customary to not make eye contact, looking instead at their forehead or mouth or elsewhere as a silent way of saying 'We are not the same.'

- Dorwinion members of the Armata bow to their superiors as if they are high-caste.

There are four Castes in Dorwinion

- Low-Caste: - Gypsies, Pirates, low-station Shiphands, and those paying off the terms of a debt or loan defaulted on through labor.
- Middle-Caste: Tenant Farmers (those who rent their lands rather than owning them), Petty Merchants, and lower rank Military/Navy, Bards and performers of renown.
- Upper-Caste: Small Landowners, Ship Captains, High-End Merchants, Army Officers, Members of the Merchant Council
- High-Caste: Nobility – the blood-born members of the Merchant Families

The five noble-born Merchant House Families which are the ultimate powers in Dorwinion. These families vary greatly in many aspects from one another in look and traditions within their ilk. They greatly differ from the noble houses of the West in many respects, and most substantially that their power comes from their landowning and their powers of commerce - they are not Dunedain with an innate accepted nobility. They thus maintain their positions fiercely, because they are not guaranteed in homage to a bloodline or an ancestry.

One can only truly be loyalty to one of the Families - and in one way or another every person of a lower caste in Dorwinion is - save the Gypsies and Pirates who reject association, and thus the benefits of social acceptance by the Families. Association brings benefits and responsibilities and expectations, there is no give without a take.

Each Caste has a marker to which signifies who they are and what they do.
The low-caste of Gypsies, Laborers, and Shiphands/Pirates are all very fond of headscarves, sandals, and the use of kohl. Fine wares are very uncommon for these castes and if they’re wearing such, they are most assuredly going to be publicly ridiculed by their own because they are an obvious sign of breaking some sort of law or social taboo. A lower-caste woman wearing clothes above her station is assumed to be the lover of a richer man. A lower-caste man wearing clothes above his stationed is assumed to be wayward with the law in some capacity. Who actually gets punished by the powers that be for such an offense, of course, depends on one’s connections.

The materials of the low-caste are goatskin and coarse wool (and by connection bone/horn jewelry.) brigandine is only permitted on the military caste.

The middle-caste is made up larger of Tenant Farmers, Petty Merchants and Military. Tenant farmers are those that rent a farm from land one of the Merchant Families and commonly wear a special type of scarf-styled belt to signify whom they farm for. Petty Merchants, likewise, wear a special type of scarf-style belt to which signifies what they deal in. Merchants and city-dwellers in Vincaer are fond of wearing nose-chains and jewelry and wearing their hair free to make show that they are not manual laborers.

The materials of the middle-caste are goatskin, lambskin, felted wool, and linen. brigandine is only permitted on the military caste.

The upper-caste is made up of Ship Captains, High-End Merchants, and Officers of the Military. Ship Captains, like Tenant Farmers, do not own their ship but maintain it for one of the Families, working it for trade across the Inland Sea. They often wear scarf-style belts that display which Family they work for. High-End Merchants wear scarf-styled belts which signify both what they deal in and which Family they work for.

The materials of the upper-caste are chamois, lambskin, brocade, velvet, silk and linen. brigandine is only permitted on the military caste.

High-Caste – Noble Merchant Families
The Dorwinion nobility as they imagine it is made up of House Kandavan, House Godgrim, House Marwa, House Calaer and House Amrun. Their fashions and preferred signifiers vary with age, House and region as well as the trends of the day.

The materials of the high-caste are sealskin, chamois, brocade, velvet and silk.

All male members of the High-Caste are trained with the gwinsigil, a delicate, curved type of longsword, from the time of their youth in case they must actively serve to protect their family and as a study in grace and body control. It is worn on them at nearly all terms and serves as a silent but obvious reminder of the potential punishment for attempting to swindle or harm them.

The Military of Dorwinion

The military of Dorwinion is a two part force. One part is that each of the Merchant House Families maintain their own personal forces that enforce the law and the Family’s interest within the lands under their control. Meanwhile, the greater part of the military is called the Armata and is controlled by the Merchant Council in Vincaer. They maintain law in the city, which is neutral ground for the Merchant House Families and maintain a naval force to combat the pirates of the Inland Sea.

The Merchant Council is made up of a single representative from each of the Merchant House Families and therein led by an appointed Emir (if male) or Emira (if female). The Emir or Emira is the impartial, supposedly unbiased and otherwise neutral mediator and final judge in all things argued, bickered, brought forth, etc, to the Council in terms of trade, taxes, movement of army, laws, etc.

The Armata bears an insignia of cupping hands about a goblet overflowing with wine and is made up of the following ranks:

Recruit Rank – Otsoya
Private Rank – Enkeya
Corporal Rank – Lepenya
Sergeant Rank – Kantaya
Lieutenant Rank – Neila
Captain Rank – Dede
Commander Rank – Emir or Emira

What Would an average Rhovanion, Rohirim or Gondor PC Know About Dorwinions?

- Dorwinion is east of Gondor and Rhovanion and is, by size alone, the largest country in all of Middle-Earth. There are few charts of it’s exact borders and so exactly where Dorwinion ends and the principality of Rhûn begins is the source of mystery and debate. Dorwinion is a very versatile land, sand to pastoral fields, vineyards, arid deserts and a Sea all its own.
Vincaer, the Great Wine Market, is the capital and largest city of Dorwnion, and is known to sit somewhere roughly in the middle of its commonly accepted borders.

- Dorwinions speak their own language that is obviously foreign and strange compared to Old Dalish or the Common tongue known as Westron.

- The best wines come out of Dorwinion, no matter what the Gondorians of Pelargir say. Subtle or bold, sweet or spicy, there is a wine for every occasion and every budget (the latter is true if you don’t mind that it might be watered down.)

- The wine trade with Dorwinion is a large portion of the economy of Laketown where the Master and his Council work as intermediaries and middlemen to trade between Dorwinion and wider Rhovanion and the Elves of the Woodland Realm. There are a number of Dorwinion interests involved in the trade, but the strongest known to those in Rhovanion and Laketown is the Kandavan, who have a number of shops run and overseen by their people in Laketown.

- The major exports coming out of Dorwinion to Rhovanion and wider Middle Earth are first and foremost their renowned fine wines and other grape related products. They also trade in goat products - including fine sumac-dyed leathers and cheeses, figs, olives, vetiver - a perfume producing grass, and amaranth, a curious wild grain now domesticated akin to buckwheat.
Dorwinion merchants are known to act as middlemen for dyes, spices, and other exotic wares brought from further into the forbidding land of Rhûn.

- Blond and red hair or blue and grey eyes are unheard of amongst Dorwinions, they are a swarthy people with dark hair and brown, hazel, and green eyes.

- Easterlings come (or came?) from somewhere in Rhûn south of Dorwinion. It times of legend and story, the most fearsome of their raiders were the so-called Wainriders, expert horsemen with Wains, chariots of War who found their equals only in the Riders of the Mark, the Rohirrim.

- Dorwinion is the birthplace of some of the finest bards, poets, minstrels and luthiers in all of Middle-Earth. Their greatest competitors are the famed harpers of Dol Amroth.

Suggested Backgrounds and Roles

Petty Merchant
Requires 2 RPP.
Strongly Suggested Skills: Common, Dalish
Other Useful Skills: Crafting Skills
Background: You hale from the common-born of Dorwinion. You would be of middle-caste and likely grew up or lived in Vincaer, the capital city.. Either you make your livelihood as a wandering merchant or at least your skill lies in making and selling of something. Whether by fortune or misfortune, you find yourself in Utterby, seeking your future in a shop or market, plying the coins from those that pass you by with the fruit of your arts.
Free Racial language - Dorwinian and Haggle, +5 to a Skill of Choice

Displaced Tenant Farmer
Requires 2 RPP.
Strongly Suggested Skills: Dalish
Other Useful Skills: Farming, Gardening, Handle, Forage
Background: You hale from the common-born of Dorwinion. You would be of middle-caste. You once made your livelihood as a tenant farmer; managing a small, mediocre farm, vineyard or garden that you or your parents rented from one of the Merchant Families. Whether by fortune or misfortune, you find yourself in Utterby, seeking your future in serving in a farm or garden or working your way towards managing another of your own.
Free Racial language - Dorwinian and Haggle, +5 to a Skill of Choice

Retired or Discharged Dorwinion Military
Requires 3 RPP.
Strongly Suggested Skills: Dalish
Other Useful Skills: Long-Blade, Small-Blade, Handle
Background: You hale from the common-born of Dorwinion. You would be of middle-caste and have had a rank no higher than Lepanya and would have served the Merchant Council and not any particular Merchant House Family. Whether retired due to age or crippling disability, or due to a dishonorable discharge in insubordination or criminal activity – you have been removed from the ranks of this military force. Whether by fortune or misfortune, you find yourself in Utterby, seeking your future.
Free Racial language - Dorwinian and Haggle, +5 to Long-blade, +5 to combat skill of choice

Wayward Bard
Requires 2 RPP.
Required Skills: Music
Strongly Suggested Skills: Dalish
Other Useful Skills: Foraging, Hiding, Sneak,
Background: You hale from the common-born of Dorwinion. You would be of low or middle-caste. Either you make your livelihood as a wandering minstrel and your passion is music, stories or poetry and have the itch to travel, see new things, and fit in somewhere but like the rest of your kind – fitting in is hard and making roots is nearly impossible. Whether by fortune or misfortune, you find yourself in Utterby, seeking your future in a tavern or on a street-corner, plying the coins from those that pass you by with the fruit of your arts.
Free Racial language - Dorwinian and Haggle, +5 to Music

Displaced Ship Captain
Requires 3 RPP.
Required Skill: Seamanship
Strongly Suggested Skills: Dalish, Combat Skills, Fishing
Other Useful Skills:
Background: You hale from the common-born of Dorwinion. You would be of the upper-caste. Either you made or make your livelihood as a merchant Ship Captain and frequented the river and tides of the Sea of Rhun. Whether born into the profession or having worked your way up from a shiphand, you know your boats and ships, their ins and outs and common repairs. Whether by fortune or misfortune, you find yourself in Utterby, seeking your future there amongst the longboats and barges that frequent the River Running and the Long Lake.
Free Racial language - Dorwinian and Haggle, +5 to Seamanship

High-End Merchant
Requires 3 RPP.
Strongly Suggested Skills: Dalish, Education
Other Useful Skills: Crafting Skills, Artistry
Background: You hale from the common-born of Dorwinion. You would be of upper-caste. You have made your livelihood thus far as a merchant of some note making and selling a handicraft in Vincaer, the capital of Dorwinion. Whether by fortune or misfortune, you find yourself in Laketown, seeking your future in a shop or market, plying the coins from those that pass you by with the fruit of your arts.
Free Racial language - Dorwinian and Haggle, +5 to a Crafting Skill

Stories and Songs

Players are encouraged to submit songs and stories for Dorwinions as they’re playing. Please respect all Copyright Laws. If it is someone’s work, heavily or loosely based on someone else’s work, or even that of work too old to maintain a maker’s name – give the source, when submitted, due credit.

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