19 November, 2014

Worldbuilding 101 - Part 11: Defining the Cultures

Based on the ideas put forward in the last post, here are the specific cultural charts.

El Imperio del Sol (The Empire of the Sun)
A Language most commonly spoken: High Speech (Spanish)
2 Valued Possession: Family Coat of Arms
3 Type of Clothing Worn: Elaborate and Brightly Coloured, or Military Uniforms
4 Valued Concept: Honour
5 Common Pastime: Feasting and Theatre
6 Housing Arrangements: Lives in a private dwelling with close family
7 Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Justice
8 Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Hope
9 Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Envy
J Religious Beliefs: Holy Order of the Prophet
Q Acknowledged Authority Structure: The Nobility (Aristocracy)  
K Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Afternoon Siesta

La Santa Orden del Profeta (The Holy Order of the Prophet)
A Language most commonly spoken: High Speech (Spanish)
2 Valued Possession: Holy Symbol or Holy Text
3 Type of Clothing Worn: Plain Robes
4 Valued Concept: Piety
5 Common Pastimes: Prayer and Helping Others
6 Housing Arrangements: Communal Housing with the Order
7 Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Faith
8 Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Charity
9 Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Lust
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Sloth
J Religious Beliefs: Holy Order of the Prophet
Q Acknowledged Authority Structure: The Ecclesiastic Hierarchy (Theocracy)
K Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Always wears a head covering

Los Corsarios (The Privateers)
A Language most commonly spoken: Low Speech (English)
2 Valued Possession: Letter of Marque
3 Type of Clothing Worn: Functional Leathers or Military Uniform
4 Valued Concept: Loyalty
5 Common Pastimes: Gambling and Woodcarving
6 Housing Arrangements: Tight Quarters (on ship or in dock)
7 Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Diligence
8 Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Courage
9 Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Greed
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
J Religious Beliefs: Blend of superstitions
Q Acknowledged Authority Structure: The Captain, the Patron Nation, and then The Crew (Military)
K Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Polyglot, sometimes drifting into other languages when excited

Los Lobos del Mar (The Wolves of the Sea)
A Language most commonly spoken: Low Speech (English)
2 Valued Possession: Weapon (often a cutlass)
3 Type of Clothing Worn: Functional or Flamboyant Leathers
4 Valued Concept: Glory
5 Common Pastimes: Drunken Brawls and Feasting
6 Housing Arrangements: Tight Quarters (on ship or in dock)
7 Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Courage
8 Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Chivalry
9 Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Wrath
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Gluttony (particularly Rum)
J Religious Beliefs: The Old Elemental Gods
Q Acknowledged Authority Structure: Elected Captain, then the Crew (Democracy)
K Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Tattooes

La Colonia (The Colony)
A Language most commonly spoken: Creole of High and Low Speech
2 Valued Possession: Family Heirloom
3 Type of Clothing Worn: Functional Cloth and Linen
4 Valued Concept: Love
5 Common Pastimes: Singing and Dancing, and Handicrafts
6 Housing Arrangements: Shared room in a house with widely extended family
7 Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Patience
8 Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Love
9 Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Sloth
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Envy
J Religious Beliefs: Blend of superstitious folklore and the Holy Order’s teachings
Q Acknowledged Authority Structure: Deference to Age and Experience (Meritocracy)
K Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Always tries to greet everyone they meet (close acquaintances with a kiss on each cheek).

Los Salvajes de la Isla (The Island Savages)
A Language most commonly spoken: Native (Maori)
2 Valued Possession: Greenstone Charm
3 Type of Clothing Worn: Dyed Skins and loosely woven fabric
4 Valued Concept: Harmony
5 Common Pastimes: Fishing and Woodcarving
6 Housing Arrangements: Communal quarters with extended family
7 Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Wisdom
8 Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Bravery
9 Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Wrath
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Lust
J Religious Beliefs: Shamanism revering the many spirits of the natural world
Q Acknowledged Authority Structure: Chief, then elders, then tribe. (Tribal Aristocracy)
K Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Tribal Tattoos

La Orden de la Luna (The Order of the Moon)
A Language most commonly spoken: Pidgin of Low Speech and Native
2 Valued Possession: Jewellery depicting a Crescent Moon
3 Type of Clothing Worn: Dark leather armour, typically masked
4 Valued Concept: Secrecy
5 Common Pastimes: Parkour and Arcane Research
6 Housing Arrangements: Alone in hidden lodgings
7 Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Wisdom
8 Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Diligence
9 Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Envy
J Religious Beliefs: Hybrid esoteric blend of Shamanism and the Holy Order’s teachings 
Q Acknowledged Authority Structure: Defer to those with the most experience (meritocracy)
K Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Always uses a false name

You’ll note in a few cases I’ve blended elements from different cultures to give each group a bit of a twist (especially with regard to the “Unusual Cultural Character Traits”). I’ve also provided a pair of options for many of the types of clothing and common pastimes, this was to add a bit more diversity to the cultures. This isn’t just a case of cultural appropriation, picking the elements we like and discarding the ones we don’t. It’s more about cultural competency, understanding the cultures being drawn from, seeing how they might work under slightly different circumstances, and more importantly accepting that these are shorthands to describe stereotypical members of the culture (no single character should ever possess all of the traits from their culture).

For the virtues and vices it was tempting to go with the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues evenly distributed across the seven cultures, but this felt a bit trite, so I made sure to double up a few of the virtues and vices, and added in a few other ideas from non-Christian sources. If we have groups that share certain virtues or vices, they might share a (I’m also thinking that in most cases, characters won’t be afflicted by all four virtues and vices, instead the primary virtues and vices will be most commonly associated with the culture, a sizable minority would have character traits derived from the secondary ones…more to think about here, but that’s more about game mechanisms rather than world development).

The task of filling out these charts leads us into the next things that will require development. First we’ll need a bit more information about the religions of the setting, then we’ll need some information about the various authority structures.

We’ll also need some illustrations of the various clothing styles, but that will come later.
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