#AtoZ: K is for Kraal

This post belongs to the #AtoZchallenge 2024, where I attempt to turn a word a day into something that can be used in Role Playing Games.

A Kraal can be a lot of things, as the word was coined by foreigners to describe somewhat similar looking concepts in Southern Africa first and had its meaning change later on top of it. This probably causes ethnographers and historians headaches, but makes the concept more easily creatively abused.

In the most specific definition, a kraal is simply an animal pound in the middle of a settlement. It can also describe the whole settlement, as well as the society within. It could also mean a royal residence. In any case, it consisted of a palisade of thorny bushes on a hill, similar to how hamlets were defended in the North European Plain (The Hague, capital of the Netherlands, got its name from this tradition). Placement within a Kraal was usually strictly determined according to social status, the nearer to the entrance, the lower your status.

To confuse matters completely, a Kraal can also be a kind of fish trap, where fish can easily enter, but not leave (quite the opposite for what the other Kraals do).

How to integrate it into your typical fantasy RPG?

  • Thorny hedges would fit well as defenses for gnomish or elvish settlements, as they can be easily blended in with the environment.
  • It could be a one way tunnel in a dungeon, that can be easily passed in, but is really difficult to get out of – perhaps a drow or duergar uses it to trap adventurers in his arena.
  • The concept of social stratification translates well to typical dungeons, where the most powerful inhabitants also live the furthest from any entrance, while the weakest inhabitants live closer to the entrance.
  • To turn the idea of an animal compound on its head, it could very well be a place which an animal spirit built to defend its kin from humans.

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