The Fifth World


Some of the Gardeners like to call themselves farmers, just like their ancestors, even though their ancestors would certainly not recognize what they do as farming. Others deny any connection whatsoever, and take great offense if someone accuses them of farming like their ancestors. Every family does at least some gardening, just as they all do some hunting.

When an outsider visits a Gardener village, she often has a hard time distinguishing it from the untamed land around it. It takes the instruction of a local to help her see that they have carefully crafted the whole forest to produce edible or at least useful items for the tribe.

Not all Gardeners deal strictly in plants. Some cultivate mushrooms, using them for food and medicine, and making a deep study of their hidden magic. These tribes often plumb the mysteries of their hallucinogenic properties more than any others. Others follow herds of semi-feral animals descended from once-domesticated livestock, cultivating relationships with them so intimate that they will even allow humans to milk them.

All of these tribes rely on a rich and complex oral tradition to remember all of the relationships between their local plants and animals. Because of this Gardeners produce some of the most prolific and experienced storytellers in the Fifth World, well-respected and desired for their ability to remember the old sagas and weave new ones.

Gardener villages may provide homes to 150 people at once. Even with all of their knowledge and their careful study of the flow of life through their territory, though, the Gardeners often deplete their land over time. Many have accepted a regular cycle to deal with this, moving their village once every ten years or so. Those Gardeners often refer to “Old Village” and “New Village,” leaving buildings in place that they can reoccupy ten years later, when the villages switch places again. Gardeners often have more elaborate homes than Hunters, with things like wooden-rigged towers and leather sails to create windmills, watermills built into wooden log jams, hanging settlements lashed to cliff faces, and floating villages fed by hydroponic gardens and fishing. With larger populations and both gardens and villages to defend, Gardeners frequently face raids and counter-raids from neighbors. While often settled through ritualized exchanges, most of the low-level warfare in the world involves them.

The Gardeners sometimes even have chiefs, presidents, mayors, or other figures of authority among them. Such leaders generally lack any means of enforcing their will, though, so they often become a focus and voice of the community’s consensus, rather than supplanting it. More often every family member has some sort of say in all of the major decisions, even the children. This system of consensus takes a long time but in the end makes better decisions and forms a bond which few people can easily break.

That does not mean that all voices carry equal weight, of course. Experience, skill, and wisdom counts more among the people than common dialogue. By default, if people of equal or equivalent experience, skill, or wisdom speak, they respect elders first, then women, men, teens, and finally children. Every voice has a say, though; everyone receives respect and a chance to speak. Fools who keep wagging their tongues find peer pressure can have great power when used properly. Elders don’t always get their way, either. We all know what uncanny wisdom children can introduce. Consensus means that they work out the problem until they find a solution everyone can at least feel comfortable with, and ultimately, the wisdom of one’s words on the subject at hand carries more weight than history or “station.” It can take a long time, but the Gardeners rarely find themselves in any particular hurry.

While you will not find full-time specialists among Gardeners, their love of complex stories leads to a rich social structure. Secret societies, clubs, guilds, sodalities and lodges abound, which might restrict membership by gender, age, skills, experience, political stance, or even love of a hobby, though for each one that might exclude you, you will surely find two eager to have you. Nothing requires anyone to join one of these groups, or you can join more than one, but you should remember that these societies might have some jealousy about their secrets and how their initiates spend their time. They might even harbor a vendetta against another society.

Anthropologists refer to societies like these as horticultural, though permaculture may have a much larger impact on the Fifth World. Every family practices some amount of horticulture, and combine it with at least some degree of hunting and gathering. At the most extreme end, horticulturalists live in villages of 75-150 people and claim territories that usually cover approximately 40 square miles. Territory sizes become larger in poorer environments or when families rely more heavily on hunting and gathering. Families that rely on horticulture lead more sedentary lives, though environmental degradation will often force them to move between two or more village sites on a decades-long cycle. They rely more heavily on fixed sites, meaning that they cannot move as easily away from threats, and they have more fixed points to defend or to raid, meaning that they must face warfare much more often.

Horticultural villages often develop more complex social structures than hunter-gatherers, but these structures remain ultimately based in consensus and voluntary association. Sometimes horticultural villages develop Big Men, but this often creates a volatile situation and rarely survives the Big Man himself.