Fantasy World Cultures Questions Thread:

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This is going to sound really odd; but one thing that I've noticed that really helps me with designing fantasy worlds is having people ask me questions about it that I have to answer. In this thread you will answer the question of the person above you in a maximum of 2 or so paragraphs then ask a question for the person below you.

Note: I'm not sure if this is in the right place of the forums; but it is connected to world building*

Question for person below me:

What is the staple food item in your fantasy world, and how is produced?

edited 15th Apr '12 5:57:26 PM by SilverSlippers

Try to make life fun.
[up]For the continent where all the action takes place, ordinary corn, mostly farmed on large farms owned by wealthy families, with — in a perverse irony for a nation founded by a slave rebellion — "indentured servants" doing much of the work. The farming is inefficient and wasteful, which combined with a natural lack of arable land and overpopulation, means much of the food is ends up being imported bread and grain, which deeply humiliates the xenophobic nation in question.

And the question: how quickly is technology progressing, and what factors inhibit and/or accelerate this progress?
3 lordGacek16th Apr 2012 03:52:15 AM from Kansas of Europe
The technological progress is stimulated by the occasional university set up by an enlightened ruler, but much of the development lies in theoretical mathematics. While research into applied science has resulted in a number of (mostly academic spin-off) manufactures, they work for the state's benefit, not its people. Most people can't afford the products anyway.

Dominant types of government. Any peculiarities? How did they come to exist in your world?
"Atheism is the religion whose followers are easiest to troll"
Oligarchies consisting of a single immediate family are the standard form of government in the major empire of this half of Aetherion and its former colony, where most of the action takes place. The culture of the Aurorissian Empire and subsequently its former colony, Divinis, place equal status on men and women, stemming from the ultimately practical conclusion that both sexes need each other for general survival. This evolved into men and women keeping each other mentally, emotionally, and spiritually balanced, which extended to the expectation that they keep each other balanced by ruling together. This might even include their children once they reach a certain age.

An average modern-day human being from whichever culture/country you're most familiar with gets the opportunity to visit your world. Name one source of culture clash between the two. You may disregard language barriers... or choose not to.

edited 16th Apr '12 3:41:57 PM by CrystalGlacia

"Whenever I feel like I know how computers work, I go to class and leave feeling like I'm wearing my pants on my head, eating paste."
5 EnemyMayan16th Apr 2012 03:58:12 PM from A van down by the river
Assuming that they find their way to an Elven commune (instead of towns or villages, Elf settlements are called communes) eventually, there'd likely be some culture shock when the Elves first greet them. The traditional Elven greeting is a passionate, open-mouthed kiss, and they usually expect things to go further than that as both parties get carried away.

What is the predominant religion, if any, in your world/universe?
Jesus saves. Gretzky steals, he scores!
Montifex Minimus
The two dominant religions of my immediate setting (a continent based on Eurasia+Africa) are an Islam/Protestantism-like religion which evolved out of the culling of all other gods 'cept an Odin-analogue from a Norse-inspired culturally Germanic pantheon. Basically, it imagines what institutionalized monotheism might've been like if it'd evolved organically from Teutonic sources rather than arising out of syncretism. This, at least, is how the High Church of the Hanged God presents matters. In truth, the early Church founders were heavily influenced by the religion of Paynim, which represents their primary antagonist. This is a religion based primarily on Hellenistic syncretic religion (think the cult of Serapis in Alexandria), Greek mystery religions, the cult of Mithras, Ancient Egyptian religion and a dab of Zoroastrianism for flavour. Basically, it's a mélange of all the elements of religious practice that were considered 'Oriental' and 'other' by Germanic-speaking Protestants in RL. In my world, the Hanged God people are generally the protagonists, although I tend to portray Paynim as a far more sympathetic religion, mostly because I can't stand monotheism.

Okay, so, question, question, question...what is the state of astronomy and cosmology in your world? What do people know/believe about the shape of the world, the nature of the heavens and the size and scope of the universe?

edited 17th Apr '12 1:04:06 AM by EtherealGears

From Lovecraft to Wodehouse via Darwin and Dalí
In general, they haven't gotten much further than just the stars and their two moons. About half the world can't tell the difference between stars and planets, while the other half can. Then again, word gets around slowly in a world where the only method of long-distance communication is the courier on foot. Though at the very least, everyone knows that aliens live under the ice caps on the larger of their moons because they made contact about a hundred years before the start of the story.

Pick a random holiday widely celebrated in your world, and summarize how people celebrate it and what it means to them.
"Whenever I feel like I know how computers work, I go to class and leave feeling like I'm wearing my pants on my head, eating paste."

I really had to think about which one to mention. ..

The biggest, most widely celebrated holiday is in the middle of summer and is the moonfall festival. It goes hundreds of years, and is set on the day when a comet struck one of the planet's moons. *

This is a celebration of life and happiness, and is celebrated in much the same way that we celebrate the New Year's - fireworks and other pyrotechnics aplenty with parties and all-around celebrations.

... So, my question.

Pick a town or city in your world. What would an outsider see as they walked into it? What would be the normal, every-day things they'd see going on?


That's funny, that's exactly what I was trying to avert. [lol]

edited 17th Apr '12 4:58:53 PM by Vehudur

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
[up][up]One of the major countries celebrates a two day New Years festival in mid-spring. This festival coincides with the returning of the river water that they use to irrigate crops; thus re-starting their growing year. The river is fueled by melting glacier water in the mountains to the northwest; the glaciers do not fuel the river in the winter due to not melting. The river is the sole source of water in a very dry desert. The first day of the festival is a very serious day of cleansing the spirit of sins. People typically clean their house and visit the bathhouse on this day. The second day is less serious; filled with feasting, partying, drinking, dancing, and other excitements. Some of the more religiously devout do not celebrate the second part. Their reasoning is that if you just cleansed all of your sins the day before; why go out of your way the very next day to start sinning again. Most people, including most of the priests and priestesses, ignore them. Sometimes people in other countries celebrate this as well for an excuse to party; they usually omit the first day of seriousness though.

[up]Sorry; I didn't see your post when I started typing my reply. I'll think of an answer to yours as well soon.

What is the climate of your world like?

edited 17th Apr '12 4:53:49 PM by SilverSlippers

Try to make life fun.
It varies, and has an Earthlike range of temperatures. The main continent where much of the action goes down is located in the southern hemisphere, and the capital is located in a tropical region; the rest consists of grassy steppes and a cold, blustery desert down south.

I'll repost the question that never got answered.

Pick a town or city in your world. What would an outsider see as they walked into it? What would be the normal, every-day things they'd see going on?
"Whenever I feel like I know how computers work, I go to class and leave feeling like I'm wearing my pants on my head, eating paste."
Valmoth is at first very merry-looking to the Western eye, and its people likewise dressed in vibrant hues. The houses, white stucco vibrantly painted with patterns and colors according to the neighborhood, have a whimsical design: though at their core, practical for the desert heat, their rounded shapes, large doors, and vibrant appearances give the feel of Dr. Seuss, with a bit of Salvador Dalí mixed in.

But a walk along the street reveals how rarely the people meet one another's eyes, each little group within their own private world, eying one another with mistrust and whispers. Merchants and customers do business briskly and without small talk, and the visitor — especially if they were clearly foreign — would find an icy welcome. Old friends speak at great length, but otherwise, the people say only what they must, and choose their words carefully. And all but the wealthy watch the guards with as much fear as the thugs they are supposed to be stopping. Except the guards who wear the starry blue cloaks, and escort the men carrying the lanterns of blue fire: the streets rapidly become vacant of thug and patrician alike when they walk.

And now: when an ordinary person in your world wants to get sociably drunk, how do they go about this?
Oookay... right, I keep forgetting much of this forum isn't legally allowed to drink. (You poor bastards.) So... new question. (Though you can skip it and answer my previous if you really want.)

What industry is the biggest source of money for the city/region/nation/planet your story takes place in?

edited 25th Apr '12 5:12:39 PM by KillerClowns

[up] I thought the drinking question was more the kind that's hard to come up with a unique answer for. Most people's cultures just have bars/saloons/taverns/whatever- that was going to be my answer, anyways.


I know this. A single district of the major city-state of Udareth was originally taken over by the Anakalis because of their rich iron deposits and expert blacksmiths and swordsmiths. The Anakalis needed the metal to make more implements for war, so that they could keep on conquering. Across the pond in Divinis, the place is so backwards their only claim to fame is farming quinoa.

Describe the preparation and ingredients of an iconic meal from your conland.

edited 25th Apr '12 5:25:24 PM by CrystalGlacia

"Whenever I feel like I know how computers work, I go to class and leave feeling like I'm wearing my pants on my head, eating paste."
I can’t really answer the above question so instead I’ll answer the unanswered one and leave the current one for the next poster.

[up][up][up]Commoners pretty much everywhere - drink at tavern Nobility and rich people clockwise around the Middle Sea (more or less – some aren’t actually anywhere close to the sea):

7:00-9:30 – the Kingdoms of Almohad, Zariho, Kalin and smaller states – at home – one would have to plan and send invitations few days ahead to give everyone time to arrive;

10:00 – the Land of the Grey - while drinking is OK, the Grey expect better of their peers than to get drunk. A good way to end up in the marches without a guide;

10:30-11:00 – Quachli Empire – preferably in another country as one would need to be able to maintain enough self-control not to break any of the customs that govern social interactions – a skill few people posses;

11:30 – the Kingdom of Balim - at home at a lavish feast for all friends (real and official);

12:00-3:00 – the lands of the Old Kingdom - wherever there’s alcohol and shelter;

3:30-4:00 – Marnah - being slightly drunk is quite common due to beer being drunk more often than water;

4:30 – Mguoli - drink anywhere where there’s alcohol;

5:00-6:00 – the League - wasting money is quite frown upon so at someone else’s home and at their expense – a rich foreigner preferably;

6:30 – the Triangular Island – depends on whether it’s northern or southern part of the island same as Almohad, Balim (north) or the League (south).

edited 26th Apr '12 10:21:31 AM by johnthebarbarian

15 ZigtarXamos1st May 2012 06:23:56 PM from Desele's House of Earthly Deligths , Relationship Status: In Lesbians with you
Qualified to Kill Macbeth and the Witch King
[up][up] To the food question...

The main country where moust of the action takes place, Mythinaan, is culturally and geographically diverse, so each of its provinces has its own iconic dishes. Kur-bal is a dish that is associated with the capitol, Deus Khamen, and its neighboring towns in the Mythan Desert. It is prepared by cooking chicken in spices and coating it in a thick sauce made from a combination of ground peppers and the fruit of a certain type of cactus (because All Deserts Have Cacti). It is usually served with a side of green vegetables and an appropriate wine.

What major issues are in the spotlight for your world's politicians? Wars? Natural disasters? Human rights issues? And who is taking what side?
The more rules there are to magic, the more ways the author will inevitably have to break them.
The Uelane Magocracy's fascist government is at an unprecedented level of instability, and an organized revolutionary movement could easily overthrow them. But the revolutionary movements the Uelane have are fragmented, frequently local separatists who view Uelane from elsewhere in the nation as enemies, and occasionally even worse than the government they're trying to overthrow.

So, whether their consideration is personal gain or genuine care for their people, Uelane politicians are primarily concerned with one question. Should they support the current government, which tortures dissidents and sacrifices innocents to sate an Eldritch Abomination, but averts 0% Approval Rating by means of Bread and Circuses, protects the Uelane from the legitimate threat of foreign invaders, and keeps the nation united? Or choose a revolutionary movement to side with and hope they can either keep the nation from collapsing into civil war, or win it?

And now the question: what effects did the the biomes your civilization(s) originated in have on their culture?
[up] In the plains region of Terarga, wood is very expensive, as most of it has to be imported. They make houses out of sod and burn animal dung rather than wood.

What folklore does your world have? What are some common heroes or characters that people tell stories about?
18 Matues6th May 2012 04:58:19 PM from eye on the horizon , Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
(The world is a collaborative project that's still in progress)

The people (No good name for them currently) are essentially a underwater-living race of humanoids.

They're still in a nomadic hunter-gatherer stage, and most of their folk-stories are framed around marine animals. Various animals are viewed in different ways. Octopi are considered clever tricksters; Sharks are powerful hunters to be admired from a safe distance; Dolphins are playful, yet capricious and unreliable; Whales are dignified and very, very loud. Stories usually focus on the interactions of various animals, or how-this-came-to-be type stories. Why The Whale Sings, and such.

Other stories are mostly ones that encourage younger people to avoid dangerous things. Such as stories about the Demon Below and the Demon Above to explain the demons that crush you if you swim into the dark deeps, or the ones that steal your breath and blind your sight if you swim to far up. Or the rogue heat spirits that are lost from their homes near the coral reefs. Lost and distressed, They lurk in cracks and spew heat and clouds of poison into the nearby water.

They usually migrate with the seasons, moving to warmer places in the winter and returning to the colder climates when the warmth becomes to extreme. They explain this with stories of wandering spirits that bring warmth and coldness with them.

Question: What kind of weapons are traditionally employed in your world? What associations are there with each?

edited 6th May '12 4:59:21 PM by Matues

19 ZigtarXamos9th May 2012 05:25:01 PM from Desele's House of Earthly Deligths , Relationship Status: In Lesbians with you
Qualified to Kill Macbeth and the Witch King
Most superpower nations of Terra Prime have access to technology on par with that of Earth during World War I. However, the use of magic in combat has preserved melee weapons such as swords, lances, and axes. Front-line soldiers prefer bladed weapons for confirmed kills, since healing spells can easily treat bullet wounds, but severed limbs and deep lacerations are usually lethal. In fact, combat enchantments are most effective when placed on melee weapons, since ranged weapons would require a constant supply of enchanted ammunition. That said, firearms and artillery are highly valued on the battlefield, but are used primarily as the first line of defense or as siege weapons.

Each culture has its own favored weapons and combat styles, which vary throughout the world. The Winged Elves of Fironia and Dulindor, for example, use long blades and lances, which can slice and pierce quickly while in flight. Swords and axes are typically associated with strength and the courage required to stand on the front lines, while polearms are seen as protective and stationary. Firearms are seen as symbols of imperialism, mostly due to the Dorian Empire's continued use of them in wars of expansion. Depending on where you're from, bows are either seen as the primitive tools of savages, or signs of skill and honor.

Question Time: What religions in your world just can't get along, and where do their beliefs differ? Do they tolerate each other, or are they openly hostile? Most importantly, which of these beliefs, if any, are actually true?

edited 2nd Dec '13 8:36:02 PM by ZigtarXamos

The more rules there are to magic, the more ways the author will inevitably have to break them.
There’s only one religion (except some fringe cults of no importance), which is by way of it being the true one. There are still quite a few variations based on the patron deities of various communities. The most prominent animosity is between the worshippers of the God of Day and the Goddess of Night. The root of this conflict goes all the way back to the Godswar and over the centuries has included any actions from stealth insults to genocide. Their beliefs differ chiefly in the status of the main God of the pantheon, as both Day and Night claimed superiority over other Gods at the beginning of the Godswar. It does not help that the two nations that house the majority of respective groups are long time political enemies striving for dominance in the region west of the Middle Sea.

Another notable clash of religions is the status of the Demon Worshippers (the Demon is not a God but a leftover from the Godswar like all other supernatural creatures). They are prosecuted by pretty much everyone else. They acknowledge the existence of Gods but refuse to worship them, seeing them as a force no less destructive than creative (a bit of a hypocrisy on their part given the nature of the Demon – the creature with at least third if not second or even first kill count in all of creation).

Question: What major violent political changes happened in a country of Your choice in the past? What measures were taken to prevent the victors and/or neighbours from becoming subject to the same problem in the future?

The Spicy One
Both Cavilar and Eluciade were originally Elven (My elves are more like Pratchett's elves than Tolkien's, so this is a bad thing) oligarchies. Roughly 250 years ago, Eluciade had a semi-peaceful revolution, driving the elves over the Isthmus of Quicara into Cavilar. To prevent future occupations, a group of Eluciadi mages burned a twenty-mile wide stretch of land across Quicara, then built a wall on their side.

Cavilar took another fifty years to begin a revolution. First, a small independent nation was established near the Ethraedos dwarven lands through a fair bit of butt-kissing and cunning manipulation, as well as a few sympathetic higher-ups in the oligarchy. The nation established a pact with both the dwarves and Eluciade, allowing them to declare war on the elves and take back most of the country. After Cavilar was formally founded, there was a rapid coup'd etat that put a more humanocentric government in charge than was originally intended. To prevent another attack, the new government embarked on a brutal, genocidal hunt for the elves, which killed all but a few who managed to escape to the mountains at the edge of the world, where they managed to curb their violent natures. So yeah. Both countries were kinda jerks about the whole thing.

Alrighty, how much trade (and by extension, communication and the spread of ideas) is currently going on in your world? Are there any embargoes (fairly certain there's an 'e') or naturally created no-go zones that prevent cultural diffusion?
The nearest nation bordering Terarga, Livasid, is separated from them by a mountain range, which keeps the two cultures relatively separate. However, Terargan merchants maintain a spice trade through Livasid, and the Terargan army has a presence in Livasid in order to keep the trade routes open. The largest influence that Livasid has in Terarga is through the presence of the slaves that some merchants deal in, especially seeing as one such former slave became a revolutionary leader and used the Livasid government as inspiration for a new, more democratic Terargan government.

What styles of music are popular in your world? What instruments are most commonly used? Who plays music, and where?
23 Conumbra11th May 2012 06:49:10 PM , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
The Fool
Since the Lowborn and Highborn tend to be separated, they have evolved two different styles of music. The highborn tend to prefer softer, gentler flowing music, using harps, bells, softer wind instruments and various string instruments.

Lowborn on the other hand tend to prefer music with more percussion and with a faster beat, so loud percussion instruments and loud wind instruments are mostly used. Most of them tend to be improvised due to their general poverty.

Lowborn music tends to be mostly a community affair and more free form, so there aren't exactly professionals when it comes to music and it can be done anywhere, but mostly out in the street or in other communal gathering. Highborn music is the exact opposite. It has a strict form to its music and only people with great skill are allowed to play for others. In fact, among the highborn expert musicians are so valued that their blood is sold for higher prices than that of a warrior's at times.

Question: What sorts of races are in your world? Are there only humans or are there some other races mixed in? Or are there no humans at all? What are their general characteristics?
They're locking up the sun,
the light of reason's gone,
and hope has been succesfully undone
24 lordGacek12th May 2012 11:16:42 AM from Kansas of Europe
There are your standard humans, and there are the dwarves. The dwarves, simply speaking, are short, hardy humanoids. They live in mountains, preferably underground in caverns or mines. They also respect knowledge and tradition.

The deviations from Our Dwarves Are All the Same come in here: they are short because of their habitat (lack of light and poor nourishment are not the best conditions to live in), and also they're thin and badly groomed. Their respect for tradition stems from the fact that they're descendants of a refugee population (of an unusual, well-educated demographic — think of those old post-Apo stories about a group of survivor scientists) that hid from a cataclysm in the a mountainous region — it's the cultural remnant of desperate, and mostly unsuccessful, attempts to preserve the knowledge of pre-cataclysm times. As that was a population of humans, they're actually humans themselves, and it would be more correct to regard the moniker "dwarf" as a name of a people rather than a species.

Question: what are the major centres of learning? Where are they located — do they exist in major cities, or rather the cities they're in are known because of them? How are they organised? Who runs them — governments, religions, are they private institutions?

edited 12th May '12 11:24:00 AM by lordGacek

"Atheism is the religion whose followers are easiest to troll"
25 ZigtarXamos14th May 2012 03:29:13 PM from Desele's House of Earthly Deligths , Relationship Status: In Lesbians with you
Qualified to Kill Macbeth and the Witch King
There are hundreds of universities and colleges around Terra Prime where research and learning can be found. Most are privately-funded, such as the Academy of Heroes, in the Wyvern Peaks region of Mythinaan, which teaches essential skills to keep would-be adventurers from succumbing to the many dangers of the world. One of its ongoing projects is the creation of an in-universe "monster manual" to act as a field guide for travelers. Other schools include the Kaoran University of Magicks, also in Mythinaan, and the Kudoba Academy of Higher Learning, in Tokai. The Kaoran University is fortunate enough to be located near the High Temple of Daeric Faith, where an oracle resides whose consciousness exists in all times at once. She will answer any question you ask, for a price...

There are a few government-funded, public universities, but they mostly appear in major cities of superpower nations, like Doria, Mythinaan, The U.R.U. (United Republics of the Underlands; a supposedly-democratic puppet-state ruled by the K'thiri dark elves and their Dorian allies), and Brennia. These schools are often devoted to research into military technology and if tuition is suspiciously low, you can bet you'll be drafted before your studies are over. A few examples are the Hall of Arcane Warfare in Deus Khamen (Mythinaan's capitol) and the Crusader Academy in Regulus, where knights train. The top students in each graduating class are permitted to become Battlemagi, the Emperor's personal legion of supersoldiers.

edited 7th Jul '14 10:15:59 PM by ZigtarXamos

The more rules there are to magic, the more ways the author will inevitably have to break them.

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