If you’re travelling in the wilderness and you hear howling in the distance, you’d better hope that it is wolves you are listening to. Even a werewolf would be more preferable to come across that a pack of Lupines on the road. They care little for the civilised life, living only to hunt and raid and to them you are just another meal. Never go venturing in lands where Lupines are known to dwell without a stout escort who can hold a shield wall, or a fast horse, and preferably go with both. That way you can take your chances and try to outrun the beasts whilst your mercenary guard get shredded to pieces….Extract from Maximilian Hoherberg von Zottehal’s History of the Known World. Stalking the temperate regions of Ulskandar, Lupines are wolf-like humanoids that move in packs and live to hunt, kill and raid. They have little regard for civilisation or technology, except to take what they can use to effectively continue their activities. The most interaction with Lupines that the other sapient species of Ulskandar tend to be able to tolerate is to hire them as mercenary raiders, but even then the most die-hard and desperate of despots would think twice about contracting a pack of Lupines.
Lupines are humanoid creatures that at first glance look like bestial/wolf form of someone afflicted with lycanthropy. Lupines stand and move as bipedal creatures, are covered from head to foot in fur that tends to range in colour from blacks to greys in adults, or dark brown for juveniles. Their heads are exactly like those of a wolf, though proportional to their size, with long snouts and pointed ears on the tops of their heads. They are well equipped with long talons on their feet and hands, and they have long pointed teeth that are both perfectly adaptable as tools or weapons. Lupines have long, almost gangly limbs and tend to stand on average at around the 6ft mark in height.
Growth Rate & Stages
When a litter of Lupine pups is born they are less than 20cm in length, weigh less than a few hundred grams and are practically blind and deaf. Lupine litters can be as large as 10 pups at a time, and for the first four weeks of their lives they are defenceless and must rely on their mothers to keep them safe and nourished. After their initial month, Lupines will grow and mature very quickly and will be in the position to see, hear and begin straying away from their mothers by the time they are four months old. They will have grown their first full coat of fur by this point as well, which tends to be a dark brown in colour, to help blend in with the forest environments most Lupines are born into. Lupines will be considered adults, and old enough, to hunt and defend their pack by their tenth year, at which point they should be completely independent of their parents, have reached their adult height and weight and have lost their dark-brown pup fur in favour of fur of a different colour.
Lupines will predominantly reside in packs, led by a Chief who is the strongest, most cunning male or female individual in the pack. A Chief will gather a small group of other strong Lupines around them, who are referred to as Bloodclaws, and they will often be Lupines that have distinguished themselves in raids, or are known for being particularly strong or ferocious. Bloodclaws will act as the Chief’s bodyguard and will also be tasked with leading raids that the Chief themselves is not going on, or will be tasked with leading separate parts of the Pack during larger coordinated raids. All other Lupines simply exist as Pack members, rather than having a particular role or trade in lupine society and are expected to partake in raiding activity, hunts and other necessary tasks as directed by the Chief or Bloodclaws.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Lupines can be found throughout Ulskandar in areas that are temperate to artic in climate, with populations of Lupines often being focused around areas of forest or woodland, though this is not exclusively the case. Lupines can seldom be found in particularly hot or arid environments, which tend to be the preserve of their sister species, Gnolls. On the continent of Turoza, Lupines can be found predominantly in the Kingdom of Kjörnsholm, Mountain Principalities, Kingdom of Dazscor and Aramore and Kingdom of Sharisar.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
Just as Lupines physically resemble wolves in their facial features, they also share many of their sensory capabilities. For example, they have an impeccable sense of smell and hearing, which is incredibly useful during a hunt or raid. They also have incredibly good vision in the dark, much better than most other sapient and non-sapient species, but in exchange their vision during daylight is much weaker than their other senses, and they cannot see in colour. Lupines are not renowned for their intelligence, but they do retain a strong sense of bestial cunning, which they deploy to great effect in their hunting and raiding activities. They may not be able to engage you in a deeply intellectual debate, but they will certainly be able to lay an intricate ambush to kill you on your way out of the debate hall. Few Lupines are susceptible to magic, but those that are tend to be incredibly powerful, with a strong leaning towards being Sorcerers. It has been known for Lupines to make a pact with foul denizens in exchange for the powers of a Warlock, but this is a rare occurrence.
Civilization and Culture
For the first month of their lives, Lupine pups remain nameless. This is because they are at their most vulnerable during this period and it is the most likely time for infant mortality to occur. After the initial month the prospects for survival into adulthood for Lupines increases drastically, and mother will commit to naming their offspring. In some cases, Lupine pups will not be named, even after surviving their initial month, because they are deemed to be too weak either mentally or physically. These Lupines may well remain nameless for the rest of their lives, even if they survive into adulthood.
Average Technological Level
In terms of the technology, Lupines create almost nothing themselves, which is part of the reason why they are continually viewed as being savage creatures by other sapient species. This does not mean that Lupines do not make use of technology, they are almost always seen clad in scraps of armour and festooned with various bits of weaponry, all of which they have scavenged from the corpses of their victims, instead it appears that they do not see the value in putting in the effort to make things themselves. Lupines are well aware that their natural weapons, their claws and teeth can be deployed just as effectively as any weapon that they pick off the ground, so instead they are happy to save themselves the painstaking effort and time involved in metallurgy and pick up weapons from the ground. When the weapons that they have claimed break or become too dull or rusted, Lupines will abandon them without a second’s thought and replace them from the next unfortunate that they kill. Other forms of technology that do not have military applications are universally rejected by Lupines. They do not see the point in organised agriculture, as they get all of the sustenance they need from hunting, nor do they see the point in creating cities, towns or villages, which they view as sitting targets. Anything else that other species and cultures would hold up as the flower of their cultural or technological achievements, Lupines will tend to view as an unnecessary and frivolous distraction from the main task of life, hunting and raiding. This also means that Lupines will rarely accept anything as a form of payment other than livestock (or suitable sacrifices) that they can kill and eat, or weaponry to replace broken or rusted blades.
Common Dress Code
On the whole Lupines very rarely wear clothes. The thick fur that covers their bodies provides ample coverage to satisfy the little modesty that Lupines have, and provides them with enough natural insulation to keep them alive, if not exactly warm during the harsh winters that regularly ravage the north, and occasionally stray down into the middle kingdoms of Kingdom of Dazscor and Aramore and the Kingdom of Sharisar. Lupines that live in the Mountain Principalities or the Kingdom of Kjörnsholm have naturally thicker coats during the winter months to cope with the cold, ice and snow, coats which they shed for a lighter covering of fur during the warmer part of the year. Any items of actual clothing that Lupines are seen wearing will almost certainly be items that have been looted from other species, and that are not worn for comfort or protection, but as a victory trophy, and a sign that the Lupine has slain a foe in battle or in a hunt. Generally the articles that Lupines wear will be scraps of armour, or clothing that are not chosen for their value or properties, but because the Lupine wearing them took a particular fancy to the items. Lupines that live amongst other sapient species have adopted the practice of wearing clothes, primarily to try to integrate themselves into the society they have chosen to live in. The clothes that these Lupines choose to wear will tend to be large flowing garments such as cloaks or robes, that provide a lot of coverage with which they can mask their origins, but loose enough that they do not overheat, or have to endure the discomfort of truly wearing clothes.
Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals
It has been hard for scholars to come up with an even partially complete list of the different traditions, customs and attitudes that Lupines observe, mostly because it is so dangerous to actually approach them to study, or have a conversation with most Lupines without risking one’s life. In addition, different Lupine tribes may well observe different practices. However a small number of consistent practices have been observed such as: Despise the Weak: Perhaps the most savage aspects of Lupine society is their hatred of those that they deem to be weak. It is this collective stance that has resulted in customs such as the refusal to name pups until they have survived a whole month of life, and to continue refusing to name them if they are deemed to be weak after that time. It also means that Lupines will rarely decline a direct challenge or contest of their skills, prowess or leadership. Refusal to accept a challenge, which in Lupine society will mostly revolve around combat, can often lead to an erstwhile participant being torn apart on the spot by the fights onlookers for cowardice. Only the most eloquent or cunning of Lupines can successfully refuse to take up a challenge that they do not want to fight, but such a refusal will almost certainly sow doubts amongst the pack as to their worth. This outlook also flows into their interactions with other species. When encountering a Lupine, they will almost always move straight in as if to attack, which is partly an act of aggression and partly an act of sizing up their opposition. If you run from the Lupine they will mercilessly pursue and kill you, if you stand and fight they may well believe you are brave enough to warrant dealing with. Always Honour Deals. The aggressive nature of Lupine society is curbed and somewhat regulated by the fact that Lupines are intensely committed to any deals that they make with one of their own, or an external party. Living in a society surrounded by ferocious and blood thirsty beasts means that mutual trust and a Lupine’s word of honour is highly valued, and the perceived breaking of any agreement or deal will have deadly consequences. It does also mean that Lupines will be very reticent to enter a deal unless they know for sure that it is likely to be mutually beneficial, as they are not altruistic in any sense of the word. Pack Chiefs, for example will have made formal deals with each of their Bloodclaws, gaining their services in exchange for more a more privileged position within the Pack, and greater responsibility, as well as having the Chief’s blessing to lead their own raids. Those able to enter a formal deal with Lupines, however should be wary of attempting to renege on the deal, or double cross their Lupine allies. In the Mountain Principalities in particular, micro-nations have come a cropper through making a deal with a Lupine Pack to raid one of their neighbour’s land, only to try and avoid paying them for their services, a move which always results in an angry Pack of Lupines ravaging their land and killing their people until they are driven out at a significant cost by force of arms. Give Birth in Exile: A Lupine’s universal detestation of creatures they deem to be weak or defenceless means that Lupine mothers who are expecting will leave their Packs to give birth in a secret location where they feel that they are safe from discovery, and will not return to the Pack until their pups have survived their initial month, where they will be named in front of the whole Pack. Fear of Magic: Lupines have an ingrained fear of magic that leads them not just to distrust magic users but to actively avoid them. The reason for this fear is not known, though it has been theorised that the ability of certain magic users to dominate Lupines and magically bend them to their will is the root cause of their fear.
Interspecies Relations and Assumptions
At best, Lupines are universally treated with suspicion by the other Sapient Species of Ulskandar, at worst they are killed on sight. Their reputation for being cold blooded killers, who will often eat those who they come across in raids or in specific hunts. However, some species and even nations of Ulskandar have been known to interact with Lupines in a more mutually beneficial way. This universally revolves around hiring Lupine Packs as mercenary raiders or warbands, drawing on their natural ferocity to add some extra punch to their military campaigns. These deals are always brokered in very tense environments, as it is never sure whether the Pack of Lupines will turn on their potential allies until they have sworn to honour the deal. Every now and again Lupine Packs can be found moving with Gnoll Packs, who seem to be the only species with which they can co-exist. Very occasionally individual Lupines can be found living amongst non-Lupines, but these individuals will almost always be treated as objects of suspicion and fear. Often it is the Lupines that were deemed to be too weak to even be named, but have made it to adulthood that will find refuge amongst other Sapient species. Away from their fellows they will often take up pseudo-mystical positions as seers or soothsayers in these communities, occupations that allow them to keep themselves to themselves and naturally only bring visitors when they really want to see them. In addition, Lupines that live away from their native Packs can find employment amongst thieves guilds or bandit groups, where they act as ferocious, merciless muscle.
No more than 50 years on average.