Thai Influences in Gamandria

by Brendan Davies

Sertorius is set in the world of Gamandria, a place that draws on many historical cultures familiar to fantasy fans. Most notably the ancient Mediterranean cultures. But there are other influences as well and some of the strongest are the early Thai kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.

The earliest civilization in Gamandria, Nong Sai, draws from Thai history and myth. It is a fusion of the early kingdoms and the Thai version of the Ramayana, called Ramakien. This is the basis of Gamandrian history. Nong Sai was a powerful cluster of Ogre kingdoms, occasionally united by a single ruler and always at war with Anumar, a rival power in the west. The two would clash in brutal conflicts fighting alongside their respective gods, Senga and Lorgo. Nong Sai was assisted by elven slaves, who were specifically created to serve the kingdoms. However the elves were released by the benevolence of Senga and this spread the culture further to the southwest. In the end, Nong Sai was destroyed when its last king stole Senga's power, killing the god and creating Sertori. This unleashed the wrath of the other gods who pulverized Nong Sai and cursed the Ogres.

Most of the present day cultures in Gamandria are surrounded by Nong Sai ruins. Many build their cities on top of them, incorporating the ancient architecture into their own designs. The language of Nong Sai, Singh, remains influential and most people speak it in bits and pieces. The elves carry on and in some cases deliberately resurrect elements of Nong Sai culture. The Ogres who are cursed to wander, also continue the traditions of their great civilization.

Chambar for example is a place where the original settlers tried to restore old Nong Sai customs. The entry for Chambar goes into some detail about government structure and society, while the specific titles are somewhat different due to the unique history of the elves, much of it was inspired by the kingdom of Lan Na and the city of Chiang Mai.

But even Elven places and cultures that are less specifically based on historical Thai states were influenced by aspects of Thai history. Khata, Mandaru and Phu Kao, because they were formed through the Elven diaspora from Nong Sai, all have qualities based on early Thai history. This isn’t all that defines them of course. There are other elements as well. But the Thai is clearly discernable.

And it isn't only the Ogres or elves who continue Nong Sai Traditions. The humans living in elven influenced regions have adopted the ways of Nong Sai. This is most notable in Khata and the surrounding areas. Below the image of the Ogre chieftain is a human being crowned queen in a city within the sphere of Khata's influence.

Perhaps most importantly though, because Nong Sai was such a widespread influence, its language became our common tongue. So all characters in Gamandria have a single rank in the language Singh (which is really just our fantasy version of Thai).

When designing the Gamandrian setting I was inspired by many different Thai sources. For the myth, I mainly took inspiration from temple art and from oral retellings of Ramakien that I encountered when I worked at a Thai restaurant. But I also used translations of epic poems that inspired me. One that I quite enjoyed is the Isan folk tale Phadaeng Nang Ai translated by Wajuppa Tossa. For history I found both Chris Baker's A History of Thailand and David K. Wyatt's Thailand: A Short History to be useful.

Another helpful resource was a book called South-East Asia: Languages and Literatures, a select guide (Herbert and Milner). Thai movies, music and television shows also provided some inspiration. I have a particular fondness for Tony Jaa films, but movies like Kingdom of War were also an influence.

Visually Sertorius owes a lot to Thai artwork. If you look at the images of Ogres in the Sertorius rule book, the Thai influence is pretty apparent. In the above illustration of the Ogre King killing Senga, the backdrop is based on Sukhothai temples. The clothing is based on Thai design and the magic symbols floating around Senga were inspired by Thai gold leaf images. Present-day Ogre chieftains in Gamandria wear crowns based on the Thai chada (see the illustration below).

So ultimately the Thai inspiration didn’t just serve as ornament to the setting, it was very much the base and foundation.

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