The actual nation of Rowen is fairly large if sparsely populated. The country can be divided into two unique cultural groups: Rowen Proper, found in the Rowen Valley, and Provincial Rowen, a series of satellite regions that identify as ethnically Rowen but have more varied cultural practices.
Rowen controls a large valley and the surrounding mountains north of the Lowland Hills region. In the early centuries of the Mage Wars while Rowen was still its own nation and the conflict had not yet reached the region, the Rowens were friends of the Lowland Hills Flight, with the term "dragonfriend" still commanding deep reverence within the modern civilization.
Rowen's exact northern and eastern borders are indistinct, as the Ebetan and Oncar Empires no longer exist, and the extremly mountainous regions are very difficult to traverse. By the Sixth Age Rowens have likely settled deep inside the Oncar Highlands.
The Lowland Hills Region and the Lowland Plains Region are sparsely populated and considered autonomous by the Alliance, and many Rowens also live in that area.
Rowen's western boarder is the Yenisei River. Its south-western border with Sindal is indistinct, but the region has never been disputed. Official Alliance maps have held various points over the years, but the locals generally regard themselves as Sindalies or Rowen according to their own lineage. Neither country collects taxes on the region.
Also known as Provincial Rowen, is a province to the northwest where Rowen boarders the desert and Korrinth. This area is much flatter than the rugged mountains that dominate Rowen proper, and has a very different cultural style. Provincial Rowen is home to much of the aristorcacy, with many large estates. This is also where the bulk of Rowen's organized mineral exploration happens, with numerous copper and iron mines. Coal must be imported from Cartesia.
Rowen is infamous throughout the verse for its perpetual dark age, having seen little-to-no technological or social advancement in the 6,000 years since the Mage Wars. Religion, economics, and zero population growth play a key role in this, but Rowen is held an example of the dangers of magic; it is held that the use of magic has stopped their development their development.
While magic definitely plays a role, there are many factors involved in Rowen's low level of technology usage, the key being a simple fact of their belief-system. The Rowens value individual self-reliance above all else. A handful of Rowens could build a horse-drawn cart out of trees they cut down easily; a single Rowen could capture and domesticate a wild horse to pull it. Every single Rowen knows how to make a longbow. Using something that cannot be made from raw materials is considered apocryphal; the Rowens would far and away rather sit in the dark than have to rely on someone else to build light bulbs and electricity for them.
Most Rowens live on subsistence farms, and there is a heavy emphasis on self-reliance and self-built structures. The most common type of Rowen home is the "pit house": made from stacked, undressed stones (shale the most popular, for its tendency to break off into large, flat pieces), with an earthen mound on the outside walls. The floor is usually sunk a few feet into the ground. The roof is made from tree trunks patched closely together, with clay and thatching over it for water-proofing.
Milled lumber is uncommon for homes outside of towns. Buying wood would mean not being self-reliant, though barns are usually made from milled wood. If a farm can afford a saw mill of their own, they will have more milled structures.
While ugly on the outside, the pit homes can actually be quite elaborate, multi-room and sometimes even multi-floor constructions, complete with central heating. In colder regions building underground is preferred. Some older family homes have even added running water and sewage.
Rowens have an odd view of romantic relationships. While not frowned upon (indeed, romance literature and poetry are very popular), marriage is considered to be more about partnership than love. You choose a mate based on complimentary abilities. This is because most Rowens live as subsistence farmers and self-reliance is heavily prized. Most marriages are based on matchmaking and focus on complimentary personalities and skill-sets. So while most Rowen couples are close friends who work well with each other, love is somewhat less common.
Due in large part to this system, divorce is also very common, but not stigmatized. In fact, having been divorced is often viewed as a sign of strength for the party who left; since they had to rebuild their life after ending the relationship. The division of assets can be complicated, as in any divorce it is understood that one member will be leaving the farm; but since one cannot exactly take half of a house away, the leaving party will usually get 70% of the family's cattle.
Rowens are known as a hearty and strong people, and the joke is they have to be to keep their food down. As a nation, Rowen is not known for culinary excellence, but 'eat to live'. With growing space in short suply due to the dense forests and generally poor soil, Rowens subsist primarily as subsistence hunters, and only grow food to supplement this lifestyle. Simple roasted meat, possibly flavored with wild herbs, make up the bulk of a typical Rowen's diet.
For the older generation and family groups, there's a heavy reliance on vegetables that can be stored easily. Potaotes, onions, and carrots are common, as well as an indigenous vegetable called the tassa. An evergreen bean is their main protein staple when not enough meat can be raised from cattle or hunting. In winter, elm and pine bark make up a sizable portion of the diet.
The most common dish in Rowen is a sort of stew made from bark, vegetables, and a little meat. The ingredients are ground into a paste and simmered endlessly. In winter, it is not uncommon to use an "ever-full pot", wherein one batch is made at the beginning of the cold season, and new ingredients added while the old is being eaten. The material is kept simmering continously, which helps prevent spoilage. The soup is usually heavily salted.
The same material, with additional salt and flour, is baked into a hard-wearing travel biscuit for use as travel rations.
The Rowens are polytheists, with a pantheon of seven gods and a variety of minor deities and demigods. The pantheon, in its present form, solidified sometime around the end of the Mage Wars. Like many aspects of Rowen life, the religion is centered heavily around archery, with tournaments held as part of every festival and feast. The teachers of the Rowen religion are called Fletcher Priests and are typically unusually skilled archers themselves.
Most Rowens also practice various forms of ancestor-worship, believing that their ancestors are all-seeing and can help them in times of need. The "Archer's Prayer" (Eeh seh nea), a few words in the ancient tongue, is essentially an appeal to one's ancestors to help one know when to release the arrow.
Most Rowens are not particularly observant, and few dedicated temples exist. There are several festivals celebrated throughout the year, but these are organized by the local town governance and carried more out of tradition than religious reverence.
The printing press was very slow to reach Rowen, so even by the Fifth Age the bulk of Rowen religious beliefs were still handed down orally. Every child had a version of "the songs" taught to them by their parents: a series of songs and stories that tell of the gods and their great works.
Archery is central to Rowen religion, and all Rowens practice it fiercely. The Rowens describe two forms of archery, called 'Geset' and 'Heset'. The origins of the names are unknown.
The first, Geset, is about accuracy, specifically hitting small targets over considerable distances. This is done to give honor to the ancestors, with the arc of the shot symbolic of the journey through life, and striking the target seen as proof that the honored dead reached the afterlife.
Heset refers to the use of the bow in battle, and is a collection of tactics and shooting styles. Archery is mixed with rigorous physical discipline and movements, allowing a Rowen archer to be agile in combat. Heset deals with total mastery of both the weapon, one's self, and the terrain.
An archer who masters both is said to achieve true enlightenment.
“Geset archery is about accuracy, which is how we give honor to our ancestors. Heset Archery is about the use or the bow in battle".
Like many cultures throughout the verse, Rowens do not believe in a separate heaven or hell, but rather hold to the notion of an Underworld divided into various sections according to deeds. By living a right and honest life, a Rowen would go to a sort of Elision. The songs told of the various iterations of hell according to the bad-deeds performed and the severity of them, and the equivalent blessings of the righteous.
Rowen is an absolute monarchy with a tripartite power structure. Effectively, power is split between the king(or queen), the Earl Marshal, and the Fletcher Priests. In practice, the government need exert little power as most of daily life in Rowen is governed by rital and tradition. The Fletcher Priests maintain order and settle disputes(acting as a sort of police force in addition to their religious duties). The King dictates policy and acts as a military leader in war time(by right, the king(or queen) is the only one with the authority to issue a call to arms, thus raising the militia). The Earl Marshal controls the succession of titles, determines inheritance, and generally acts as a third party to check the power of the king.
The primary concerns of the Rowen government are ensuring the continued Rowen way of life. As a people, the Rowens are deeply traditional and hold their values strongly. The secondary concern of the government is ensuring the continued sovereignty of Rowen(which is itself heavily tied to the first concern).
The Rowen Crown is not strictly patrilineal. With each successive generation, the heir is chosen based around who would be the strongest leader. This is not always the first son or even the eldest child. The reigning king or queen selects from among their offspring the prince or princess they believe is the strongest candidate, then the Earl Marshal confirms.
Exactly which clan the Rowens descend from is a matter of very heated discussion. Even noted historian Herbet Patric Galactis refused to offer a difinitive viewpoint, stating only that "the amount of vitriol generated by this subject is sufficient that, were I to take a side, I would alienate far too many colleagues in far to profound a way as to be healthy for the study of history". Essentially, the argument was so strong that Galactis felt he could divide historians by rendering an opinion.
Rowen culture has always had a tendency to stagnate, with the average Rowen favoring sustainability and long-term yields over short-term gains. For that reasion, perhaps, they were able to remain a cohesive people-group and carry out organized guerrilla warfare for over three millenia.
Throughout the Mage Wars, Rowen would fall in and out of control by both the Oncar Empire and the Ebetan Empire, eventually outlasting both of them. Rowen finally gained its permanent independence in around 500 B.G.A.. Rowen also helped Sindall and Blieef gain their independence (though Blieef would again be briefly conquered by the Marcon Alliance and then put down quite badly by Eieber and his troops).
Rowens generally speak Common but have a unique dialect that can be very difficult for outsiders. The key difference is that Rowens tend to use people and places as short-hand for ideas. This requires an intimate knowledge of Rowen culture and geography to really make much sense of it.
For example, a Rowen might say a particular road "is very Hewrot", meaning remote, dry, and at a high elevation. If an individual is particularly well-known for a specific trait, others might use his name as a comparison, saying for example a bow was very strong by substituting the name of the local blacksmith.
In wider parlance, it's common to use gods from the Rowen Pantheon in the same way, often as a clarification if talking to someone who doesn't know the village blacksmith. Over time, many of these names come into the local lexicon, and replace more common words all together. In some of the more remote regions, the local dialect can be virtually incomprehensible.
Rowens commonly have Kahdayho Emblem tattoos.
During the New Day, a carriage ride through Rowen became a very popular vacation for adventurous sight-seers.