The Rhennee firmly believe they are from another world known as “Rhop.” Some more skeptical scholars believe Rhop was a large island continent, far removed from the Flanaess. The distance is so great that it could easily lead anyone to believe that Rhop was another world.
Natural talents possessed by the Rhennee strongly suggest to scholars that the Rhennee have lived on, or near, large bodies of water for the race’s entire existence. Some sages believe that Rhop was – in reality – some type of “Elder Being” possessed of supernatural powers and quite possibly resembled some type of turtle-like creature. Such a Being would, of necessity, have been quite large, possibly measuring some five miles in radius. Sages believed that either some external “force” removed the Rhennee from their living island paradise, or else this “Island Being,” itself, sent them away.
While there is some debate upon the subject, the Rhennee are not native to Oerth; rather, they are accidental travelers from another plane or world, citizens of a lost homeland they call Rhop. Their legends say that they appeared first in the Great Kingdom, in or near the Adri Forest. Pursued by monsters and hostile Aerdi, they fled west to the shores of the Lake of Unknown Depths, where they took to life on the water. Now Rhennee Bargefolk expertly ply the great rivers that cross the Flanaess and migrate between the three great lakes (though Whyestil Lake is lately unsafe for travel). Rhennee are fairly common on the waterways of the central Flanaess and near inland shores and banks. A few secret, inland encampments are said to exist, and here may also be encountered their rare, land-dwelling cousins, whom they derogatorily refer to as the_ Attloi_. The mutual distrust and antagonism between the Rhenn-folk and other peoples of the Flanaess have kept the Rhennee relatively unmixed with other races, though the Rhennee do bring children of other human races into their families. One of the few links the bargefolk have to their lost homeland is their language, Rhopan, a tongue which has been expanded over the decades to include bits of Common and the argot of several thieves’ organizations. Through the years, Rhopan has evolved into a musical if often monosyllabic language and the bargemen consider it one of their cultural secrets. They never teach Rhopan to landfolk and consider it an insult whenever they hear non-Rhennee attempting to converse in it. Now written form of Rhopan Exists. Most Rhennee are illiterate and those few bargewrights inclined to read and write Common have learned to do so as a necessity to trading in ports such as Greyhawk and Radigast City.
On the whole, the Rhennee are still a young race. Having finally found their own niche within the societies of the Flanaess seems to have caused their civilization to flourish; especially upon the Selitan river and the Nyr Dyv. What happens to the race next remains to be seen.
The Rhennee themselves have taken a generally neutral approach to their neighbors, refusing to involve themselves, or take sides, in any wars. Many of the nations surrounding the Nyr Dyv – especially the less respectable powers – have used them for a variety of transportation services, including the delivery legal and illegal goods.
Whether or not the legend of Rhop being some other world is true or not, one thing is certain, the Rhennee people are not leaving the Flanaess anytime soon.
Appearance: The Rhennee are often tan or olive skinned humans. They are not an imposing people, generally short but strong and wiry, with men averaging 5 ft. 6 in. tall of lean muscle and wiry build. Both men and women tend to have heads of thick dark curls, with swarthy and oftentimes unkempt complexions that are seen as either dirty or alluring, depending upon the viewer.
Male Rhennee average between 5’ to 5’ 6” tall and weigh between 140-175 lbs., while female Rhennee average between 4’ 8” to 5’ tall and weigh between 100-140 lbs. Their eye colors are most often blue, gray, or hazel, although green eyes are not unknown. Their hair color is often black or dark brown. Curly hair is most common, but wavy hair is not unknown.
They are hard workers to the point at which toil and enterprise have taken the place of religion. Indeed, the Rhennee long ago snubbed their noses at the gods, preferring to follow the path of self-will and rugged individualism. However, while they may have parted ways with the gods, they maintain dozens of ancient superstitions. They see omens in the color of the sky and the flight of particular gulls. One such ritual is known in Rhopan as gruth. When someone is “gruthing,” he’s emptying a wooden pail of pelican entrails over the rudder to ward off lightning strokes from an approaching storm.
Little is known of the original culture of the Rhennee, as they were absent from the Flanaess before 450 years ago and entered their current lifestyle to escape persecution. The Rhenn-folk are masters of inland sailing and navigation, and they love their nomadic and adventurous life. Music and gambling are beloved amusements. Certain Rhennee say they are nobles and have great authority among their kind. Men nearly always become warriors; some women become sorcerers, “wise women” whose skills and knowledge make them the subtle masters of Rhennee society. Rhennee men can be quite chauvinistic, and their women manipulative.
The bargemen are fond of sports and games of chance. They have invented their own dice game called turoos. They often challenge each other to feats of swimming, boxing and falthi, or “deck tumbling.” One of their more dramatic rites is their coming-of-age ceremony, in which a boy must swim gar-infested waters in order to be named a man. Other Rhennee holidays are purely spontaneous. If several families find themselves occupying the same lagoon one evening, odds are that revelry will shortly ensue. Rhennee are fond of song and drink. Though they are accomplished musicians – favoring small stringed instruments and tambourines – their nomadic lifestyle prevents them from brewing their own alcohol. A certain portion of their bartering goods are always earmarked for the ale trade.
Rhennee rarely marry. Most females are seen as little more than chattel. With no formal marriage system, men may keep as many such “helpmates” as they can financially support. Nonetheless, more than one bargewright has grown especially fond of a certain helpmate treating her with respect and dignity of a wife and partner, rather than a servant.
Rhennee have a wide reputation as thieves, and most do learn roguish skills as children, practicing them primarily upon outsiders. Their secrecy and bad reputation cause most people to dislike the Rhennee, and the feeling is mutual. They survive by ferrying goods and passengers, fishing, hunting, selling their crafts, and illegal means (theft and smuggling), although they put forth the least amount of work needed to accomplish their goals. They follow a code of conduct that has different restrictions for dealing with others of their kind versus non-Rhennee outsiders, who may be lied to and cheated.
These people dress in muted colors, and each adult male has a set of homemade leather armor of good quality. The cut and style of their clothing is simple and functional, eschewing the fashion-minded concerns of other races. Their leatherwork is exceptional.
Of the Rhennee, only the female students of “wise women” or Vetha become spellcasters. (Clerics are unknown among them.) Wise women prefer charms and illusions, practicing divination as well. They like spells that deceive or confuse people, especially enchantments like love potions or (very) minor protective charms that can be sold to the foolish, unwary, or greedy.