Looking for cool cultural stuff. I'm building a world and my group loves role-playing and talking with the NPCs and stuff, so I'm planning on adding a lot of interesting cultural beliefs to help flesh out etiquette and superstitions, objects of good/bad luck, religious sermons, and the customs of the nobility and wealthy. Any ideas or good sources for inspiration?
>44593956 If you want my two cents, start with a map. You can create a culture and design a map to fit it, which can work well for many people, but you lose out on the surprises you can find when you're forced to make allowances, cut corners, and so on. By creating a region (including areas it borders), specifically in climate, topography, ecology, and natural resources, and only THEN populating it with people you design their culture from the ground up. Clothing especially with depend on climate. Mesoamericans didn't wear much in the way of anything because they lived in tropical conditions. For centuries, people in the middle east and other desert regions have worn layers of fine cloth (when they can get it) because layers create pockets of air which act as insulation against hot days and cold nights. Try not to think too top-down about culture designing. Instead of recreating existing cultures to fit into your world, create a world and put people in it. When you come across something a real world culture has an answer for, borrow from it on a case-by-case basis.
Doing this will help you create necessity-based cultural quirks.
For example: Region is temperate and has several large rivers, but is far away from both the sea and major mountains. Much of the area is forested, but a major fire burned down several thousand acres on one side of a large river about three generations back and, seizing the opportunity, locals now farm on a larger scale than ever before. (1/?)
>>44595463 The area has one large town and about 20 villages of various sizes along the river and dotted in the "newly" open territory. Small clashes between rival hunting tribes, who recently settled the area, and latent agoraphobia (since they've lived in the woods all their lives and are now on what amounts to an open plain) resulted in villages being designed somewhat defensively. The first buildings were laid out in a circle pattern, tightly packed, and tended to be built on hills. Instead of living on farmsteads, everyone lives in the village and has to make the long walk to the fields every morning. Due to this, they started building small, strong cabins (partially buried in the ground) to store tools so they don't have to carry them every day. This is a holdover from their hunters leaving supply caches along favored game trails. As more and more people retired from hunting and joined villages, they had to expand. Still suspicious of outsiders, most villages started by building a palisade and erecting buildings in between it and the original buildings.
The earliest settlers have now formed a nascent landowner caste. They allowed new people in, but required concessions. New settlers work the fields of the first families, who, being more experienced with building, tend to work crafts at home or, if they're more successful, carry weapons openly and "patrol" the village and its lands.
>>44595487 Aspects of this culture: -Most field workers are forbidden weapons and visitors are required to hand over weapons before entering the village. >New settlers, mostly hunters, weren't allowed inside if they were armed. The same applies to guests. -Stealing tools from a storage dugout is punishable by death. >a fieldworker who finds his tools missing is devastated as they probably have to go into debt to get new tools, and can't work for the days required to get them. >Traveling alone is therefore dangerous because locals react violently to anyone even suspected of being a tool thief. Bows are the most noble weapons. >holdover from hunting days. New people were forced to give up their bows, while those with power still have theirs. Also practical as there is a lot of open terrain, but no horses. Ranged weapons are necessary for adequate defense -Officially recognized quests are protected by law. >If guests are ill treated, or worse, harmed, then no one else in the region will have anything to do with the perpetrators. >When foreign merchants started trading with river villages and towns, this became even more important. Locals have little access to metals or fine worked tools/cloths, and have come to rely on these visiting merchants. To harm one may cause the rest to leave forever. A person who harms a guest without very good just cause (and permission from the village elders) will be killed by the rest of the village. A village that fails to punish such a crime will likely be attacked by the other villages who are trying to prove -they- don't condone such rudeness. -Merchants and visitors are typically banned from the inner circle of the village. >local "nobles" recognize the need for merchants, but resent that need bitterly. Out of spite and pettiness, they remain aloof from foreigners. Some villages even have specifically designated huts where they will meet with foreigners, and only when they have to.
>>44595517 Local hunters occupy a unique niche in society. They are not part of the village, but aren't truly foreigners. They also maintain their weapons and are proud to not be farmers. Many villages now have pacts with local hunting tribes. They trade with eachother exclusively and will fight for mutual defense of territory with their bonded village. Some villages may bond with multiple tribes. Tribes serve as scouts and secondary army, but are treated delicately. A new tradition has emerged in which tribes will live out the winter in villages; villages that take part in this tradition will build large longhouses which remain empty during the rest of the year. As a sign of trust and solidarity, tribal leaders are usually housed as guests in inner-circle homes.
Religious beliefs can develop these laws/traditions: Gods of the Four Seasons >Lord Winter is the god of Law and Bonds. He forces people together with storms and snow so they must prove their ability to maintain his laws. >The Lovers of Spring (as in, they're a couple) are the twin gods of youth, magic, and trickery. While everyone has a fond spot for the Lovers, they are so enamored with eachother than everyone agrees they must be kept separate. And so they are the god and goddess of goodbyes (as the tribes leave for the woods at this time). >The Archer is god of Summer and War and Tests. He makes the land harsh as a test of worthiness. He causes droughts to see who can survive and which villages are the "best." Archery competitions, both at village and regional levels, are common. >Jolly Autumn is god of Harvest/Feasting/Festivals. 'Nuff said.
Other major gods would include deities of Travel, Toil, and Luck. While the seasonal gods are considered most important, second to them (basically their main minions) are Vengeance and Justice. Justice is worshiped in the villages, where consent by the village leaders is necessary for punishment; Vengeance in the woods, where a man must make his own justice.
>>44595553 Each village has a superiority complex and a patron (often for a craft, food/crop, or act they are well known for). The original settlers also engage in ancestor worship, largely as a way of maintaining their own self importance. Most religious acts involve descendants of the original settlers asking their ancestors to intercede with the true gods.
Final notes: Most of this was off the top of my head, but you can see I borrowed the hospitality laws from Ancient Greece and... most other old cultures. It works in almost any context. Also, when I realized I created a people who have to walk very far to get to work I borrowed something Sicilian culture (which I first read about in The Godfather). The caches of tools, and the harsh punishments of thieves, came from that real world inspiration, but I did not set out to create a scenario in which that would be necessary.
You'll also notice there is a shift. At first I said the original settlers form the "warrior" caste, but then later say the bonded tribes do that. In truth, both would be like this. The "ruling caste" would indeed be warriors and would probably dedicate considerable effort to being the bets possible fighters they can be. This would largely be due to their need to show their tribal allies that the villages aren't worth fighting over. Too many would die in the fight. Retired members of the warrior caste would become religious heads, though a true religious sect, probably based on a family known to get "good results" with their ancestors, may develop later.
In retrospect, I did something like this in one of my real settings, which might work here as well. Over time, tribal and village leaders started to intermarry to strengthen their alliances. Eventually, they are now effectively the same thing. Youths from the village rulership caste are raised as hunters in the woods (helping them develop archery/fighting skills). Middle aged members are town guards/soldiers, and they retire as priests.
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