Tartars and Tartary

These two terms are not used by Asian peoples; however, since they often appear in European writings about North Asia, today's post is devoted to them.

Under the Yuán 元 and the Míng 明, a group of Islamicised and Turkicised Mongols called the Tatars ruled much of Central Asia. The Tatars exerted their rule either under the suzerainty of the Mongol Empire, or through their own khanates called hordes. By analogy with Tartaros (the underworld of classical mythology), and because of the great massacres brought on Central and Eastern Europe by the Tatars, most European peoples changed the name "Tatar" into "Tartar". This name was later applied to all Muslim and Turkic-speaking nomads of Central and Inner Asia, and then, under the Qīng 清, even to the non-Muslim and non-Turkic peoples, e.g., the Mongols, and the Manchus in China.

The name then obviously spread from the peoples to the land they inhabited.

  • Little Tartary referred to the land inhabited by the (original) Tatars, in what is now southern Ukraine/southern Russia.
  • Great Tartary referred to the provinces indicates as 'Western Siberia', 'Central Siberia', 'Buryatia', 'Inner Manchuria', 'Outer Manchuria', 'Inner Mongolia', and 'Outer Mongolia' on the map on p28 of The Celestial Empire.
  • Within Great Tartary, East Tartary or Maritime Tartary referred to Outer Manchuria and the northern half of Inner Manchuria.

East Tartary was the focus of much Chinese-Japanese-Russian rivalry under the Qīng (see my earlier post about Russian 'foreign devils').


Creatures of the Cold Wastes (3)

Today, Hobgoblins are under the cold spotlight of the 'Cold Wastes' series of posts, even though they are not featured in the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser tales. Rather, they are a reminiscence of my early gaming days. As most gamers my age (I'm 43), I started with 1st ed AD&D. For some unfathomable reason, Hobgoblins in that game were invariably portrayed in Japanese armour and helmet. At the time, I was already fascinated with all things East Asian, hence the hobgoblin was a particularly beloved monster of mine.

Many years later, the Monstrous Compendium of 2nd ed AD&D had its 'hobgoblin' entry illustrated by the talented DiTerlizzi, who portrayed the hobgoblin with an Inner Asian rather than East Asian demeanour. Again, this illustration struck me as very evocative of an imaginary Inner Asian cold wilderness inhabited by dangerous humanoids.

I've borrowed the illustration for today's post. For a Celestial Empire game, and given its vaguely Mongolian outfit, I will consider this creature as an Inner Asian variant of the more civilised Chīmèi (魑魅 – see p113 of the rule book), and call it a Dímèi (狄魅 – 狄 means 'Northern barbarian', and 魅 is short for 魑魅).

Differences with the Chīmèi as described on p113 of the rule book:
  • Lamellar armour 6 AP, and round shield
  • spells: only INT/4 spells are known
The above modifications are to convey the idea that the Dímèi rely more on brute force and less on sorcery than their Southern brethren...


Creatures of the Cold Wastes (2)

Despite Ice Gnomes being featured several times in the adventures of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser when they are in the Cold Wastes, detailed information about them is scant. For a Celestial Empire game, I would treat them as a peculiar subspecies of Tǔxíng (土行 – Earth Travellers, see p120 of the rule book) who are able to travel under snow and ice rather than underground. Their name should hence be changed to Xuěxíng (雪行 – Snow Travellers), to reflect their change in nature.

The Xuěxíng's appetite for beautiful girls is just as strong as the Tǔxíng's.

The Xuěxíng use ice pellets as missiles for their slings.

STR 2D6+6 (13)
CON 2D6+9 (16)
SIZ 1D6+4 (7-8)
INT 2D6+6 (13)
POW 3D6 (10-11)
DEX 3D6 (10-11)
APP 2D6+1 (8)

Move : 6
Hit Points: 12
Qì: 10
Damage Bonus: None
Armour: Hair shirt 1 point
Allegiance: Roll 1D100: 1-30: Daoism 5D6+20, 31-100: Heterodoxy 5D6+20
Morale: Average.

Dodge 40%, Knowledge (Region [own]) 35%, Knowledge (Religion: Daoism) 40%, Listen 45%, Literacy (Classical Chinese) 90%, Spot 45%, Swim 05%.

(Battle Magic) – Travel under ice/snow (each Qì point spent allows the Xuěxíng to travel 2 under ice/snow) 90%.
(Daoist Magic) – As per the rules.

Axe 40%, damage:1D6+1+db (bleeding)
Sling 30%, damage: 1D6+½db (crushing)

Hit Location Table: Use Humanoid.


Creatures of the Cold Wastes (1)

I am currently re-reading the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber. I am particularly fond of the ones set in the Cold Wastes of Nehwon. Many creatures of the Cold Wastes would obviously be at home on the high plateaux of Tibet or in the cold mountains of Western Siberia.

The Snow Serpent is exactly such a creature. Despite its name, it is really a mammal that preys upon unwary travellers and their beasts of burden.

Particularly primitive or superstitious tribes consider the Snow Serpent as a divine animal and avoid killing it. Some others hunt it actively because of the quality and the beauty of its snow-white fur.

The following stats are partially inspired from the Lankhmar supplement for MRQ.

However, after having read the relevant novel, I cannot quite understand why the poison of the Snow Serpent was described as a cloud breathed by the animal or as spat poison. In the novel, Fafhrd is clearly victim to the poison because he's been bitten.

STR 4D6+12 (26)
CON 4D6+6 (20)
SIZ 4D6+12 (26)
INT 7 (7)
POW 3D6 (10-11)
DEX 3D6 (10-11)

Damage bonus: +2D6
Hit Points 23
Move 8

Climb 75%
Dodge 25%
Hide 80% on a white background, 40% otherwise
Sense 50%
Stealth 90% on a white background, 45% otherwise
Tracking 30%

Bite 50%, damage 1D8+½db (bleeding) + poison (see below).

The poison of the snow serpent has a numbing effect. Its POT is equal to the SIZ of the serpent. If it rolls successfully on the Resistance Table vs the CON of the victim, the affected hit location is useless for 1D6 hours.

Armour: Thick fur 2 points

Hit Location table: Use Snake



Because of the great distance and of the impossibly high Pamir Mountains, with passes at 4,900+ metres, Bactria (大夏 Dàxià) has had less of a history of contact with China than neighbouring Sogdiana. However, despite these difficulties, relationships have always existed, with a low under the isolationsit Míng dynasty.

Bactria has been mentioned for the first time in records dating from the 3rd century BC. According to these first documents, goods traded between Bactria and China were available all over China (probably through the Silk Road).
The land has been continuously inhabited by various Iranian peoples, including the rather mysterious Yuèzhī and the famous Tokharians, both extinct, followed by the Pashtuns and the Tajiks. Politically, these peoples have rarely governed themselves, being subject to outside invaders: in the 7th century AD, Bactria was conquered by the Arabs, then by the Mongols (the Ilkhanate), then it was controlled by various Muslim successor states (Persian, Mughal, Afghan) until it became the area where the Russian and British spheres of influence met, at the time of the Great Game in the 19th century.

See p28 of The Celestial Empire for the location of Bactria.