I originally presented the idea of Ragabonds, a form of fantasy migrant culture not built directly off any real-world society or group, in a series of Twitter posts. But some people asked if I had compiled them, so here they are. 🙂
No one knows the Ragabond Rules’ origin, which state that Ragabond kithpacts must be allowed to travel freely. While many kingdoms that follow the rules allow nearly anyone to travel freely if they didn’t otherwise cause trouble, the Ragabond Rules are respected by numerous tyrannies, totalitarian theocracies, even dragons and devils.
The Ragabond Rules predate the elven empire of Te Astra, the Pact of Akkesh, and even the Tarsian Palatinate, but are not as old as the Jotunlaw or Drakkenjar. Further, while no divination can reveal any reason why, rulers who violate them tend to come to bad ends.
Thus for centuries, Ragabond Kithpacts have wondered freely through lands blessed and cursed, rich and poor, bright and dark. If they interfere in local matters individual Ragabonds lose their protection, but are still excellent sources of trade and news. Of course the Ragabond Kithpacts also have restrictions imposed by the Rules. None may band themselves in armors, gather in numbers more than 120, or be in sight of the same drop of water, green of plant or pinch of earth for more than 90 days or each year. Freedom costs stability.
Each Kithpact addresses these needs in their own way. Some form caravans of pachyderm-carried houdahs, or horse-drawn carriages, or well-laden mules and horses. Others travel in small fleets of nimble boats, or exist as walking nomads, carrying all that they own on their own backs or in travois.
Most Kithpacts have a route they travel over 2-3 years, ensuring they never risk overstaying their time in one place. Even so, these often take them through many different lands, leading each Kithpact to pick up some notes of multiple societies and cultures. A Kithpact is likely to have drawn music, art, language, mysticism, religion, stories, crafts, lore, and traditions from many lands–some from their current route, others from lands traveled centuries ago. Only adherence to the Rules themselves unite all Ragabonds.
Every few years, numerous Kithpacts will gather in a land that allows such things, sometimes called a Pactdom. this is a time of great celebration, but also a risk. As soon as more than 120 Ragabonds are in one place, the Ragabond Rules no longer protect them.While each Kithpact is unique, those of one Pactdom are often similar, and may answer to a single Ragabond Matron, or a Council of Caravan Masters, or the Bishop of Rags. These governments are separate from the Ragabond Rules, but no less rulers of their citizens than any landed nobility.
Most Kithpacts are made up of the same peoples as the lands they travel, and recruit new Ragabonds when their numbers are low. Multiple ancestries and ethnicities are often found within one Kithpact, and their bloodlines are as intermingled as all their culture. Freedom is crucial to all Ragabonds, and the willingness to give up nearly everything to be free is the one thing that is common to all of them. A Ragabond that lacks that drive eventually leaves their Kithpact, and settles down in one place.
Ragabonds are often misunderstood by the cultures they interact with, but not more or less than other foreign lands. They may be seen as flighty for not setting down, or shameless for having little room for modesty, or evil for mixing multiple traditions and religions together. For some Pactkiths, these things are largely true. For others, they aren’t. For many, it depends on the Rangabond. But Ragabonds all have advantages in wide perspective and eclectic training, because they move freely through lands where others dare not, or cannot.
The Ragabond Rules state that Ragabonds must be free to travel, trade, talk, sing, craft, perform, and be free of harm or harassment.
These protections last only as long as the Ragabonds themselves do not violate the Rules, requiring them to wear no armor, gather in no number greater than 120, and to take to action to harm the bodily person, wit, or livelihood or any they encounter unless the Ragabond believes doing so is mandatory to keep their own body, wit, or livelihood secure, and even then only in even and minimal measure. This doesn’t mean Ragabonds are all pacifist or vegetarian (though some are). A hungry Ragabond is free to hunt if needful to nourish themselves, and free to study fighting and use it whenever threatened if they fear there is no hope for peaceful safety.
The Ragabond Rules also require Ragabonds to shun for a year and a day any of their own they find to have broken the Rules willfully or foolishly. Those shunned spend that time unprotected by the Rules, though they may (or may not) still travel with their Kithpact.
Ragabonds are treated with suspicion in major towns and cities in Merothia, but seen as trade and news lifelines in smaller towns and villages–though if local youth choose to become Ragabonds themselves rather than aid in their parent’s farms and shops, that can breed ill-will with the abandoned families. Older empires tend to see them as annoyances–not a danger, and not worth struggling against, but not a group you are happy to see walk down the road. Less established groups and marginalized people often welcome Ragabonds as kindred in their lack of towns and walls, though this feeling isn’t always reciprocal.
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