War is Coming
"The Dothraki do things in their own time, for their own reasons."
―Jorah Mormont to Daenerys Targaryen
The Dothraki are a race of nomadic horse-mounted warriors in Essos, the continent to the east of Westeros across the Narrow Sea. They inhabit the vast central plains of Essos, known as the Dothraki sea. Their bond with horses is such that Dothraki are said to be born, fight, and die in the saddle.
Dothraki warriors are commonly referred to as "horselords". They are also often (and half-derisively) called "Dothraki screamers", because of their fierce war cries as they charge into battle and raids.
The Dothraki are nomadic horse-mounted warriors, who sweep across the vast central plains of Essos in search of plunder. Most of their society is centered around their horses: even their name for themselves in their own language, "Dothraki", literally means "riders". Dothraki boys learn to shoot bows from horseback when they are only four years old. The Dothraki will abandon a sick or injured leader who can no longer ride a horse.
The Dothraki are divided into several nameless clans known as khalasars, led by a single leader, the khal . The khalasars roam the Dothraki Sea, always on the move looking for new pasture lands and new targets for plundering. The Dothraki frequently raid neighboring regions, such as Lhazar to the southeast or the Free Cities to the west. The Dothraki live by taking what they need including supplies, valuables, and new captives to serve them as slaves. The Dothraki respect force, and thus only respect those who are able to successfully resist them, while conquered slaves deserve only contempt. The Dothraki are usually dismissive of infantry (with the notable exception of the elite Unsullied warrior-eunuch legions).
The Dothraki traditionally fight with curved swords known as arakhs, and also employ bolas, daggers, and whips, or huge, recurved bows with impressive range and striking power that can be fired from horseback. They also shun armor, considering speed and freedom of movement to be more important in battle. Dothraki warriors wear their hair in a long braid and only cut it when defeated, so the world may see their shame. Very capable warriors therefore often have a very long braid. As light cavalry, their attacks are extremely fast and deadly, but they are vulnerable to archers and on the ground they are less effective against armored infantry despite their speed. However, they seldom attack on foot except for individual combat, so they usually retain the advantage.
The only Dothraki city is Vaes Dothrak, located to the far north-east of the Dothraki sea. It is ruled by the Dosh khaleen, crones and wise women who were once the wives of now dead khals. All Dothraki commerce (with fellow Dothraki and other Essosi peoples) is done in the marketplaces of the city, and all sacred rituals are conducted there. Drawing weapons or shedding blood is forbidden inside Vaes Dothrak – although there are loopholes around this if an execution absolutely must take place. Provided that the target is killed in a method that does not shed blood (such as strangling or burning), it is permissible.
Dothraki do not trust salt water, because their horses cannot drink it. The literal term for "ocean" in the Dothraki language is "poison water". They refuse to sail in ships over the oceans. Thus they are not considered a threat by the Westerosi because they will not cross the Narrow Sea.
It is said that the Dothraki "don't believe in money", instead taking what they want through raiding (which includes enslaving defeated peoples). The two resources they actually have on the plains of the Dothraki Sea are miles upon miles of grass, and horses. As people can't eat grass, the main staples of the Dothraki diet are horse meat and fermented mare's milk.
What material wealth or precious objects they do possess have been acquired through raiding surrounding nations such as the Free Cities, Slaver's Bay, or Lhazar, or from raiding other Dothraki hordes to take their plunder secondhand. The Dothraki do not so much function on the barter system, as they use the honor system: they frown upon "trade" but honor the exchange of gifts, such as tribute. Long ago the Free Cities decided that it was often less destructive to just give the Dothraki massive tributes in gold, finished products, and slaves, than to try to fight them off (though a Dothraki horde might still attack if they find the gift insufficient, or if they just haven't had a good fight in a while). The Dothraki will not reciprocate these "gifts" on an immediate quid pro quo trade system. However, they will as a rule keep their word to eventually give a gift which they have promised, though they will do it in their own time.
In practice, however, if a Dothraki horde has a particular need for a resource that it cannot obtain through direct raiding, i.e. new armor and weapons, they will resort to actual "barter" by "gifting" slaves they have captured in return for finished products from the Free Cities or Slaver's Bay.
Mirroring the importance of the horse in their culture, the Dothraki religion worships a deity known as the Great Stallion. The Dosh khaleen crones are the leaders of the religion.
Dothraki religion also rejects the employment of blood magic. For this reason, maegi are distrusted and hated by Dothraki.
Horse Lords: You are proficient in Animal Handling, and begin with a riding horse.