Welcome to my new blog topic: “Can It” or “Canon” where we explore some elements of Shadow World that might not quite fit Terry’s vision and be dumped, or alternatively should be fully embraced as official SW material. Today we are going to discuss Krals, humanoids that were first introduced in Vog Mur and then appeared once again in Quellbourne, the first official module of the Shadow World series.
First, let’s gather the various descriptions of Krals from various sources and see if we can come to some consensus:
Krals Per wiki:
Krals are described as semi-human or ape–like creatures. Both, the Krals and their close kin the Garks are considered two distinct subraces of the Karku, a race believed to be related to both Men and Trolls. The Krals resemble the Garks but they are taller and more intelligent.There were two different subraces of Krals, Sea-Krals and Ice-Krals.
So I found this wiki entry interesting. I know that Quellbourne featured “Ice-Krals” and Vog Mur had “Sea-Krals” but for the life of me I have never heard of “Karku”??? A quick search of the Master Atlas finds no reference to Karku. However, based on this wiki source we know that Krals are ape-like, related to Garks and have the 2 sub-races: Ice & Sea.
Sea Krals Per Vog Mur:
Krals are an ancient nocturnal race of cloudy origin. They may be distantly related to Men, but show no pity or charity toward Mankind. A typical Kral is vaguely humanoid, and stands 4 to 5 ½ feet tall and has lengthy arms. Their arm is marked by an additional bone which connects the wrist to their four fingered hand, making the hand appear unusually long. Each of their fingers stretches 5-6 inches and is capped by a claw like nail. They have opposing digits, and are dexterous enough to be accomplished craftsmen and bowmen. Kral skin is normally dark grey or bluish in palor, and has a leathery character. Their hair is uniformly thick and white, and grows primarily on their head, neck, and shoulders. This gives them the appearance of having a mane of sorts. Random protrusions of hair can be seen in other body areas, however. Perhaps strangely, female Krals have considerably more body hair, for they have a long expanse which grows down the bony spine of their backs. The females rarely exceed 4 ½ feet in height, but are formidable foes, for they are generally much quicker. Since they are exceedingly long-lived, they rarely bear children. Krals wear leather armor and carry scimitar-like swords. These creatures all sleep communally and carry or wear their few possessions. Home is a mobile mat of hair.
Besides their physical description, the Sea Krals were a military force and seemed organized, intelligent and militaristic.
Ice Krals From Quellbourne:
Appearance: Shorter than men and vaguely ape-like. Ice Kral
stand 5’6″ tall, with broad shoulders and long arms. They have
long dexterous fingers capped by long nails. Their skin is a
grayish-blue and their heads sprout thick white hair, which spreads
across their shoulders and down their backs. They have piercing
green eyes, deep-set under beetled brows.
Again, the Krals are seen as violent, with a society built around the “Law of Battle” and the “Law of Duels”. The Krals are pirates and raiders, but live in a fortified town and seem to be societal to some degree.
Sea Krals from Creatures & Treasures:
Sea-krals are ape-like creatures with dark grey or blue skin and a pelt of thick, white hair growing on the head, neck, and shoulders. Females possess an additional thicket that grows down the bony spine of their backs. Both genders have long arms and an extra bone connecting the wrist to the hand. Long, dextrous fingers capped by a claw-like nail aid them in becoming accomplished craftsmen and bowman. They stand 4’6″ tall. Sea-krals fear the hungry waves, but derive too much pleasure from their violent way of life to abandon the ocean. They build longships in which to ply the seas, raiding and plundering other vessels as pirates. Their boats serve as their only home in spite of the fact that most can not swim. Their average life span is 55 years. They sleep during the day and are active during the night. Leather armor and curved swords are their usual battle garb.
Initial conclusions. Based on the publishing timeline, I would assume that the Sea Kral from Vog Mur was the first appearance of the Kral. After Vog Mur, the Kral were included in Creatures & Treasures and then picked up by the third party author for Quelbourne. Given the Quelbourne was the first of the official SW series, there wasn’t a lot of established SW content to draw from–I don’t believe that the Sea Kral were included in the original Shadow World boxed atlas set. Can anyone verify that?
My second thought is that the Kral are very similar to Garks–although Garks seem less intelligent and have a prehensile tail. Here is the Gark description below and keep in mind that Garks are featured in many of Terry’s books.
Garks from Master Atlas:
Garks: Mottled grey fur covers covers all of the ape-like Gark, except
the palms and soles of his feet. Long arms hang to his knees, and
a powerful, prehensile tail grows from the base of his spine. Most
Garks possess only limited intelligence, and they use crude weapons such as clubs, hatchets, and spears. They wear simple, decorative clothing and organize themselves by family groups. Each group shares a large nest suspended high above the ground in the trees or a cliff-face. Occasionally, males band together to raid the homes of nearby Mannish peoples. Garks are omnivorous, but some groups relish the taste of raw human flesh.Garks have been trained by some dark sorcerers and lords to act as a crude military force, and though they are powerful fighters, they are not as easily disciplined as the more disciplined Lugrôki. Three basic types of Gark are known to exist: Snow Garks, Jungle Garks, and Cliff Garks, each inhabiting the type of environment they are named for.
“Can It” or “Canon”?
Kras are an interesting race, perhaps more unique and interesting than the renamed “Orcs” and “Goblins” that are featured in SW: but Terry didn’t use Krals. Anywhere. Garks seem like a proximate type and could certainly be expanded into other terrain types (I used them in Priest-King) in place of Krals. Additionally, Garks can have other off-shoots that are more organized, more intelligent or more societal.
In the end, Krals were never embraced by Terry. My opinion: Can them! What do you think?
7 thoughts on ““Can It” or “Canon”: Krals.”
I started a campaign (halted by the pandemic and never resumed) that was moving through the content of Quellbourne.
I was having trouble deciding how to put the Kralls in my game since something seemed off, like they didn’t really belong in Kulthea, and how was it that they were almost never mentioned anywhere else?
On the other hand, my players love Garks, and their different sub-types, and have learned no to dismiss them as violent or non-intelligent right away (one of the players even used one in a different campaign).
So your idea of replacing Kralls with (Ice?)-Garks makes much more sense, and the ones in Quellbourne can easily be made to be more violent, more seafaring, and whatever else the story requires.
Sea Kralls exist in the 1989 edition of the Master Atlas, but they’re the only one listed (no Ice Kralls or anything else). The description is almost identical to the one in C&T, but the height range is different.
Although the Bladelands are somewhat distinct from the Shadow World, the higher-level classification of ‘Karku’ for the subraces ‘Garku’ and’Kralu’ is mentioned in the Bladestorm sourcebook (p. 10) which extensively uses the ‘-u’ classifications in general. There the Gark tribes forming realms are denoted as ‘River Garks’. However, I never introduced Krals but include some Garks in adventures and thus, looking back, it might be that I had also issues adopting Krals.
That’s helpful–so some of this was tied into the Bladelands setting? I was going to address Bladelands/Folenn material in one of the “Can It” or “Canon”. Thanks.
Interestingly, in the Bladestorm Sourcebook Krals are directly related to Garks (“Krals resemble Garks.”) but while Garks occupy located realms such as Garkamun (‘Green Garks’), Cula (‘River Garks’), and Gragolon (‘River Garks’?), the taller, more intelligent Krals “concentrate in only a few areas, notably in the off-shore islands” which are not further detailed. It seems that (even) in the Bladelands there is no real place for Krals. Apart from that, I would love to hear your opinion about the Bladelands and to what extend (do you think) they relate to Terry’s Shadow World.
Their appearance in some of the earliest modules (Vog Mur), the first edition of the Master Atlas, and subsequent modules (Quellbourne) are enough for me to keep them canon. Terry might not have used them (not sure about that, but I’ll assume so), but Peter Fenlon and other authors did.
Note that RMU has Sea Krals as a core race as well.
Same. Being in Vog Mur and the atlas is enough for me.
What I immediately noticed were the differences in terrain and society between kral and garks.
Ice & sea vs snow, jungle & cliff. Except for snow, it appears that garks like warmer climes and are more comfortable inland. Kral have boats, garks are more animalistic.
It is a bit like the ranges of neanderthal vs erectus. Where erectus were found everywhere, even out onto some of the indonesian islands, but neanderthals we’re very limited in what parts of Europe and their ranges fluctuated with the glaciers. Despite neanderthals being closer to us in physiology.
I like having both. There’s a modern tendency to name everything and give everything a unique type. But for a lot of history many people would lump rather than separate. So two things that can be mistaken for each other but are clearly different have great value to me in making the world feel like it is not modern. My players know that scared villagers might call a zombie or a shard or a lizard man a demon because they don’t know better. And might think a demon is a ghost or evil faerie depending on how it acts.
So I like them both.