Except in the most primitive societies, furs rarely compose the entirty of one's wardrobe. Rather, they are accessories, sometimes practical, usually to provide warmth, but more often luxuries. Among the rich and powerful, furs are an affectation, a way to demonstrate wealth. This article will discuss furs in the World of Greyhawk fantasy setting, which is not to be confused with the real world and issues surrounding the taking and wearing of fur.
Fashion in the Flanaess - Furs
by Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung with the able assistance of S. Katherine Dammerung, aka SKDammerung
Posted with permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
Introduction - Fantasy and Reality
The subject of furs is simultaneously simple and complicated. It is a historic fact that humans have clothed themselves in animal furs for thousands upon thousands of years. In fact, it is hard to imagine how human beings would have survived in some periods if they had not done so. Historically, furs have also been a sign of wealth and status, particularly in the middle and modern ages. Some types of furs have been reserved exclusively for the nobility, or even royalty, through sumptuary laws.
In the recent past, however, animal rights groups have come forward to protest the continued use of animal furs for clothing or fashion accessories, given that the use of such furs is no longer strictly necessary and that many fur bearing species are close to extinction due to over hunting, loss of habitat, pollution or some combination. With so called "ranch" furs, where the fur bearing animal is raised in controlled conditions so that it may eventually be killed and its fur harvested, animal rights groups have raised ethical questions about "cruelty to animals."
This article discusses furs as a clothing item and fashion accessory within the context of the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game, specifically within the World of Greyhawk fantasy setting. Both the game and the World of Greyhawk suppose a quasi-medieval fantasy world where swords and bows are the principle weapons, magic flourishes and fantastic creatures abound. Human denizens of the World of Greyhawk exist in a pre-modern, pseudo-medieval state. Within the World of Greyhawk, then, the use of animal furs is logical and consistent with an analogy to the real world prior to the year 1600.
There remains, however, the question of whether players living in the modern world should depict in a game the taking of animals for their fur. Some may see this as tacitly condoning the modern taking of furs or trivializing a serious issue of extinction or animal rights. It is not the intent of this article to do either. The extinction of animals is a serious issue; it speaks not only to the condition of the planet generally but aesthetically. Cruelty to animals is an issue of immediate relevance to anyone who has ever had a pet for which they cared and which they would not see caused to suffer.
Recognizing these issues and accepting them as wholly legitimate topics for serious, real world, consideration and discussion, this article will not apply a modern sensibility to a fantasy game premised on a pre-modern model. Whether this is appropriate or a copout or cheap evasion is ultimately a personal determination. Certainly by proceeding in this manner, the question is left open, because in the alternative one could simply dismiss any use of fur. The author, however, does not see these issues as an ideological zero-sum proposition in the context of a fantasy game.
While it is not possible to avoid offending people with particularly strong viewpoints, no offense is intended. Neither is any real world commentary or sanction intended, one way or the other. On with the show.
Furs in the Flanaess
Animal furs are distinguished by two types of hair. Underfur is the dense short hair that lies close to the skin. Underfur chiefly provides warmth. Guard hairs are the long, often silky, outer hairs that are immediately visible as an animal’s coat. Guard hairs provide any protection from the elements and are essential for appearance. The object in taking animals for fur is to obtain prime pelts. Prime pelts are those furs taken when the guard hairs of an animal are at their thickest and most luxuriant. For most animals, this means just prior to or during winter. Very few furs are usefully taken in spring or summer. To obtain a valuable fur, then, most animals must be taken in the fall or winter.
Taking an animal is not necessarily the same as hunting. Many of the finest furs come from animals far too small to hunt in any meaningful way. Trekking through the wilderness to shoot an animal with a bow (or spearing it) is simply not efficient when the animal is smaller than a large rat. Most of the best furs are obtained by trapping the animal. The trapper will set out his or her traps and depart, returning periodically to check the traps for any animals that may have been caught.
In either case, the adventuring possibilities that can be associated with taking furs should be obvious. Any adventure offered by the animal itself is incidental to the character trekking through the wilderness where any type of encounter may occur or discoveries may be made.
What follows is a listing of furs frequently used in the Flanaess. The format of the presentation is taken from the article "Treasures of the Wild" in Dragon Issue 137 by author David Howery. As long time Greyhawker’s will know, David Howery is the old man of Greyhawk fandom, having published a number of articles in the Dragon and the Dungeon specifically set in the World of Greyhawk or thinly disguised to appear generic. Howery’s articles remain among the best and most creatively inspiring ever published in either magazine and the authors express their great appreciation to Mr. Howery for his outstanding work.
The Noble Furs
Five furs are held in an esteem greater than any others. These are the Sable, Ermine, Miniver, Chinchilla and Mink. All of these furs are typically the province of only the most wealthy or the nobility. Each of these animals is relatively small and is usually trapped.
Sable is black in color. Ermine is white and black. Miniver is white. Chinchilla is brown. Mink comes in a variety of colors, each with a specialized designation. These are -
Aeolian - Taupe (light brown).
Argenta - Gray
Autumn - Brown
Jasmine - White
Blackglamma - Dark brown/black
Azurene - Blue-gray
Arcturus - Lavender-beige
Cerulean - Blue
Rovalia - Rose
Brown, gray, white and black mink are the most common and desired.
All of the animals from which the Noble Furs are taken are found in northern climes, forests or plains, not mountains. None are found in southern, warm weather areas.
After the Noble Furs, fox furs tend to be the most sought after, if not necessarily the most expensive. Fox may be hunted or trapped. The fur is universally attractive and with a range of values is the most commonly encountered general type of fur. Foxes also have the broadest range of any fur bearing animal. They are found throughout the Flanaess.
Furs from large cats are not particularly popular, largely because their patterning is not considered particularly attractive. At best, they are a seasonal wear.
Of the big cats, only the Panther has a broad range. Panthers of various types may be found throughout the Flanaess. All of the remaining big cats are found in northern climes or in the case of the Snow Leopard, high mountains.
Bears and Wolves
Bears and wolves are common throughout the Flanaess. Their fur is not particularly sought after but is an option for the lower or rural classes.
Chamois and Seals
Chamois is a type of gazelle. Its hide makes a particularly soft leather. They are found in mountainous areas.
Seals are fur bearing animals found in the northern seas. Their fur is particularly soft. Seal fur is not, however, particularly sought after as other furs are preferred.
The two greatest areas for trapping and hunting for fur are Blackmoor and the lands of Iuz.
Blackmoor, to include the Burneal Forest and its verges, is so vast and remote that wildlife thrives in an almost primeval setting. Every type of fur bearing animal may be found here in rich abundance but the journey is long and the safety of civilized lands is almost entirely absent.
The lands of Iuz, to include the territory of the former Horned Society, are much closer to civilization and offer almost as good hunting and trapping as Blackmoor. Iuz is concerned with conquest. The populations of his lands are similarly obsessed, beaten down or oppressed. Little attention is paid to hunting animals not immediately identifiable as food. This allows the Noble Fur animals, the foxes and even the big cats to thrive almost entirely unmolested. Iuz’ lands offer rich rewards to those who would brave the obvious, and not so obvious, dangers. These hazards are very real and usually fatal. Few attempt to take bounty from these lands but those who successfully do so become very wealthy, very quickly.
Furs and Fashion
The article Fashion in the Flanaess - Silks, Satins and Textiles presents a system for valuing fashions. The furs presented in this article are not part of that system but are supplemental to it. Furs do not usually compose someone’s complete attire. They are added as a flourish or accessory. The cost of this flourish or accessory is calculated separately from the underlying garments themselves. The same is true of jewelry.