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Someone linked these to a roleplay group I'm in, so I'll be answering them for the culture of a fan character of mine. Just so you know, the fancharacter is for Homestuck roleplays. Whenever the answer is because of a certain aspect of Alternian troll physiology or something like that, I'll say so.

I should probably also mention that this fan character is from a pre-Empire, very pre-industrial period of Alternian history. Thus, the culture has no mention of the Empire, or space travel, or conquering things to death. It's rather medieval-ish, actually.

Copyright © 1996, Patricia C. Wrede

  1. General

    • Do average people believe old tales, or do they dismiss some that have a basis in fact (e.g., Troy)?
    •         Yes. People tend to believe in old stories, or at least that something similar to them happened. A few dismiss certain ones as being unreasonable, but there aren't any that are universally disbelieved.
    • Do wild and rebellious young people dress any differently from anyone else? Are they allowed to?
    •         In the villages, the young aren't allowed to be rebellious. You shut up and do your part or you and your lusus can find another village to live in. It is, however common for them to make simple grass or stalk bracelets in order to stand apart from the younger children. After all, only adults can afford decorations. In Snaplock's horde, the wild and rebellious go in for tattoos and scarification, which will turn into wasted money once they start metamorphosis. They're generally snickered at because of the latter and occasionally dinged around the ear if they start talking big.
    • How do most people make a living here?
    •         Farming. The vast majority of the villages are farming ones, with a few mining towns. This can be supplemented by woodcutting closer to the coast and beekeeping inland, but farming is where most people end up. The horde, on the other hand, makes a living by raiding.
  2. Customs

    • Does the weather or climate contribute any habits or customs, such as the mid-afternoon siesta in hot countries?
    •         Not on a day to day basis, but the seasonal changes have a big influence. Winter is cold and icy, and generally spent burning through the firewood that was gathered the rest of the year. "Seasonal craftsmen" make things to sell in spring, generally cheaply because the rest of the year is spent farming instead of keeping whittling or other skills up. Summer is split between work and sleep, because it is just too hot to do anything but sleep (even in the night).
    •         The horde migrates as the seasons pass, going in a loop through their territory. They start and end in winter at Whispering Harbor, where they sell whatever they plundered and buy what they'll need for the next loop. The city-state is big enough to let them stay for the entire season, though the low-rankers are often shuffled around and housed outside of the walls in the farms.
    • What is considered a normal family unit? How extended is an extended family? How important are family connections and responsibilities?
    •         These are Alternian trolls, so "family" is you, your quadrants, and your collective lusii. In this particular region, it's centered around the most prestigious member of the set. Someone who owns their own hoofbeast is more likely to end up with all their quadrants in the same household than someone who owns a family of oinkbeasts and not much else. Family is very important. You do not wrong your quadrants or quadrant-corners, or even former ones. In the horde, this is extended to comrades as well. There is a very clear "us vs them" mentality, and you had darned well better take care of your "us."
    • What are the rites of passage in this culture? Are they formalized rituals, such as being dubbed a knight, or are they informal? Are they different for men and women? For nobility and peasants?
    •         Metamorphosis. In this particular headcanon for trolls, they cocoon up between the juvenile and adult stages (others occur in old stories, but there are no confirmed cases). In the villages, there is a special room of every hive that you are expected to keep clean and clear of any obstructions, that you cocoon in. There is always a lock on the door. Afterward, iIn some villages, the cocoon silk is used to make the first set of adult clothing. In all, you're expected to hang on to some of it for luck and as proof. In Snaplock's horde, they cocoon in the back of a wagon so they're not just left in the wilds for a month. Either their lusus pulls the wagon or they get to pay for the care of the hoofbeast that does it. In either case, they are expected to make a necklace or a horn ornament out of the silk and wear it until it falls apart. The longer it lasts, the better your luck will be.
    • What customs surround a birth and the introduction of a new child to the family? Is the mother sequestered for some period? Is the child? Is there a formal presentation of the new child to parents, grandparents, overlord, priest? Is a feast and celebration declared, or does everyone keep a low profile to keep from attracting demons or bad luck?
    •         More troll stuff, yay! The brooding caverns have tunnels that reach all over the land, and the villages that are near the exits are generally wriggler-friendly. The lusus gets to do hard labor in exchange for a space in someone's home, and when they get old enough they're expected to help build a childhood home for themself. These are tiny and will generally turn into a storage shed once they quadrant up and move into a proper household. There aren't any celebrations, really. The horde doesn't recruit grubs and thus doesn't have anything cultural about them. Ones from well-known lineages may be kidnapped and sold into slavery though.
    • Who is normally present for births? Is it strictly a matter for women, or are men involved, or is the only woman present the expectant mother?
    •         Again, troll stuff. They hatch in the caverns and the Mother Grub's caretakers assign symbols, and then they're left to their own devices.
    • Who raises the children? At what age do they begin to be educated or trained? By whom? Are they considered mini-adults? Do they dress differently from adults? If so, when do they change to adult dress?
    •         General village raising is common. They do whatever work they can for the village, and pick things up as they go. A few lucky ones may be scouted by a craftsman and become an apprentice. The horde may recruit older children (which is a fancy way of saying kidnap but not sell) and set them to simple jobs like hauling stuff or watching over the hoofbeasts. Education is informal.
    • What customs surround death and burial? Is there a special class of people (doctors, priests, funeral directors, untouchables) who deal with dead bodies? What things must be done and why (burn hair to free spirit, burn body to prevent necromancy, coins on eyes for ferryman, etc.)? Are the dead feared, revered, or ignored?
    •         The dead are burned so their spirit can leave and they don't turn undead. In the villages, the senior members take care of it. In the horde, the mid rankers do. Their bones are then left out for wild animals. Letting a body rot naturally is an insult, and burying them in sand so they naturally mummify is an even bigger one. The dead are generally both feared and respected, the former because undead are dangerous and the latter because spirits are thought to give advice if you treat them well.
    • What personal weapons are available to anyone who can afford them? Are some considered “for nobles only” either by custom or by law? Are there laws forbidding certain classes from being armed at all?
    •       Weapons are common and expected. No horde member can be without a dagger and still be respected, and no villager would dare go out without at least a knife for protection. The city-states regulate the size of swords, not the actual carrying of one. Claymores are considered barbaric in the walled cities and nicely intimidating in the horde. Hidden knives are treated the same way.
  3. Eating

    • Do men and women, parents and children, servants and master, eat separately, or does everyone eat together? How is status displayed at the table (seating above or below the salt, near or far from the head, etc.)?
    •        If possible, meals are all taken together, but it's not a requirement. When this does happen, the central member eats first and then his or her moiral and then everyone else. Status is displayed by the size of your chair and the quality of your cutlery. In the horde, meals are taken roughly whenever someone is hungry. If there is a shortage of a particular food product, only the warlord can eat it. Otherwise, the high ranks tend to have more meat in their diet than the low ranks.
    • What dishes are considered holiday food? What foods/drinks are associated with particular holidays, events (e.g., funerals, weddings) or times of the year?
    •       Honey-based candies are made exclusively for festivals, and generally have something inside them that varies depending on which festival. The autumn harvest candies will generally have raw grain in the center, for instance, and summer solstice will have mealgrubs.
    • What distinguishes a formal, high-court dinner from an ordinary meal, besides quantity and variety of food? How do high-court manners differ from everyday ones?
    •       Formal dinners are a minefield. Little things like how they sit, how they hold their cutlery, or even what order they raise their food to their mouth can all be cause for scorn if done improperly. Not that anyone would be so rude as to be openly scornful at the table, but afterwards you bet there will be gossip. It is rare for a court dinner to end without at least one person wilting in shame.
    • What eating utensils are used, if any? Forks, eating knife, spoons, chopsticks?
    •       In the villages and the horde, a knife and fork. In the walled cities, spoons are used.
    • What is the order of a typical upper-class meal — do they start with wine, then a sweet, then a stew, then a salad, or do they bring everything in at once?
    •       First, light refreshments such as tiny little skewers with a single chunk of meat or vegetable on them (all expertly spiced or marinated, of course) in order to entice conversation. Then plant matter, then meat, and then bread to sop up the juices with. Spirits and soups are served at all times.
    • Are special arrangements necessary for entertaining guests of different races/species — taller chairs for dwarves, raw meat for werewolves, perches for harpies, etc.? How do the eating customs of different races reflect their cultures and biology? How difficult does this make social interaction among the races?
    •       There is only one actual species, but it is considered polite to serve at least one dish lacking meat in case a forest spirit were to come visit.
    • Is sanitation good enough for untreated water to be safe to drink? If not, what do people drink instead?
    •       Nope. Weak beer is the common fare, with teas being considered medicinal only or for the nobles. Mead is also common. Hard spirits are less so, but still present. Wine and brandy are generally only in the city states.
    • What shapes are tables/eating areas (round, oblong, square, rectangular, etc.)? Where is the “place of honor” for a guest? Where do the important members of the household sit/recline/whatever?
    •       Tables are generally rectangular. Guests sit next to the central household member, but rank is shown by chair size instead of chair location. The horde frequently takes meals standing. The warlord always has his or her own chair, though, and it is large, spacious, and fancy.
    • What things, while edible, are never eaten (what’s not kosher)? Why? Are some common human foods poisonous to dwarves or elves (or vice versa)?
    •        Cannibalism is not acceptable except in cases of famine, mostly because of the whole spirit needing to leave the body thing. Eating someone runs the risk that their spirit will possess you, according to folklore. Note: in this time and territory, seadwellers are not considered trolls and do not count for this. If one is killed so medicine can be made from their gills, the rest of them might be sold off as cheap meat. Be careful when buying street food in the walled cities.
    • What types of food or seasoning are characteristic of different races? Different cultures? Different countries?
    •       Seadwellers frequently eat raw foods, because oceans are not conductive to cooking fires. Spices are rare and high-class inside Broken Empire region but are more common in some places outside it. The Jadeblood Emperors and Empresses enforce a strict ban on eating lusii, claiming that they share part of the Mother Grub's divinity and that they should be given a proper raised pyre like royalty does instead of being skinned and eaten like in the Broken Empire region.
  4. Greeting and Meeting

    • When meeting someone, how are they greeted — wave, handshake, bow, some other gesture? How did the greeting gesture originate (example: shaking hands to prove one’s weapon hand was empty)? Is there a special I-am-not-armed gesture for wizards?
    •        Put a fist on your chest and bow for the villages and the city-states, just the fist on your chest for the horde.
    • Is there a difference between the greeting offered to an equal and that offered to a superior or inferior? Is there a difference between the greeting offered a man or a woman? Human/non-human?
    •        The depth of your bow depends on the differences in status. Village lords only nod their head slightly to the villagers. Children and peasants bow deeply to superiors and take a knee to the village lord. Slaves either do nothing, being considered on the same level as animals, or go down on both knees with their hands resting on the floor. Equals perform a short bow. There is no difference in greetings between different sexes and there are no different species. Seadwellers are usually sold into slavery if found free, so it is considered wise to act as if they are already taken.
    • Is there a way of changing a greeting gesture to make it insulting?
    •       Either don't bow deeply enough or exaggerate it to the point of being comical. Alternately, make the fist a loose one.
    • How are two people who have never met normally introduced to each other? What is the order of precedence when there are several people of differing sex or social status present, all of whom need to be introduced to each other?
    •       In villages and horde, there is no formal system. Generally your closer aquaintence is introduced first, then the other, and then they greet each other. In mixed company, the highest status person is introduced to everyone first, and then it works down to the lower classes.
    • Are there classes of people/beings who are never introduced to other classes of people/beings? Are “true names” significant, and if so, under what circumstances would someone be given another person/being’s true name?
    •       Slaves are not introduced unless a guest asks for their name. They generally only give their names to each other without a formal introduction, and when not in the presence of guests or their owner. There are no "true names" but chosen titles take over wriggler names after metamorphosis and thereafter it is only intimates that call each other by their wriggler names.
    • Are there customs involving the way in which someone is named when being introduced (for example: giving all of a person’s names and titles at the first meeting, but never repeating them afterward, so that he’s always referred to as “George” even though he’s introduced as the Duke George Edward Canterbury Gorden de la Suis-Foule, Marquis of Horsham, Whitewater and Framingham, Earl of St. Peter’s Close, and Vicount of Abernathy)?
    •       There is a pattern for the high classes. It goes: Chosen Title or Name, Position and Rank, List of more typical titles. For instance, Eminence Glasseye, Lord of Whispering Harbor, The Silver-Tongued Collector of Wonders. Thereafter he would be referred to as any one of these but typically Eminence Glasseye or just Glasseye to be informal.
    •       Villages and the horde just use names or the chosen title, though.
    • Is there any difference in the way you greet someone you already know, compared to greeting a stranger (or does everybody just always hug or shake hands or whatever)? How does someone acknowledge seeing an acquaintance at a distance (passing on the other side of the street) — by a nod, tipping the hat, wave, smile, or not at all?
    •       Greeting someone you already know is informal. You don't even need to bow your head, though it's polite to do so anyway. At a distance, you either just put your fist on your chest or don't do anything.
  5. Gestures

    • When meeting someone, how are they greeted — wave, handshake, bow, some other gesture? How did the greeting gesture originate (example: shaking hands to prove one’s weapon hand was empty)?
    •       The fist-on-chest-and-bow explained earlier.
    • Are gestures and body language in this society generally subtle or not? Do people talk with their hands, or is that considered vulgar?
    •       In the villages and Snaplock's horde, body language is generally very animated. In walled city-states, it is subtle when in public but animated in private. Nobleman meetings have dozens of rules about what gestures are permited and which aren't.
    • Is there a way of changing a greeting gesture to make it insulting?
    •       Mentioned in section D.
    • What is a comfortable and polite speaking distance for people in this culture? Other cultures/countries/races? How aware are people of these differences?
    •       Farther apart the less familiar you are with each other. Kin and comrade are generally spoken to within arms distance, others outside it. Again, noblemen in the city-states have lots of rules about it.
    • What gestures are insulting? What do they mean? Do some gestures differ in meaning depending on the culture, race, or time (example: the American “V”-for-victory sign, which became the peace sign, and which is/was highly insulting in Europe)?
    •       Pointing at someone with index and middle finger is rude, because archers point out their targets with it before drawing their bow. It started as an implied threat and turned rude over time. Tucking your chin in and lowering your head (not a bow) is another threat because it brings horns into play and is generally defensive. Going for a weapon is always rude and will likely start a fight.
    • How do gestures and body language differ between countries? Between species? Are there things that don’t matter in one area that are mortal insults in another (eating with the left hand, etc.)?
    •       In other lands, having just your pinky finger extended is an insult because it implies they're as weak as that superfluous digit. Seadwellers cover their necks and sides when defensive because their gills are sensitive. Oh, and never wave a fishhook at a seadweller. Freemen will take it as a threat and attack and slaves will panic.
    • What are the ways of showing respect (bowing, saluting, etc.)? To whom is one expected to show such respect — one’s elders, superiors in rank, teachers, priests, etc.?
    •       Bowing and genuflecting to superiors is expected, to what extreme being based on the difference in rank. Children bow to adults, apprentices to masters, everyone to priests.
  6. Visits

    • Are there questions that must be asked or avoided (how’s the family, how’s the business, never talk politics or religion, etc.)? Are there topics that can only be raised by the host? The guest?
    •       In the villages and horde, anything goes unless it is to a superior about a mistake of that superior's. In the cities, don't talk politics in public because walls have ears. Only hosts can raise the topic of politics or economics.
    • How seriously does the culture take the responsibilities of host and guest? What rules define when someone becomes a host or guest (e.g., in mid-eastern countries, giving bread and salt to someone makes the person your guest; giving a 5-course meal without bread or salt doesn’t)?
    •       If a ranking horde member promises a nonmember safety, nothing bad is allowed to happen to that nonmember while they are present unless overturned by the warlord him or herself. Villages don't have any host or guest customs. City-states do, among noblemen, and it is as much of a minefield as everything else about them.
    • What things are considered courteous to offer a guest: food, reading material, personal guards or attendants, music/entertainment, a person of the opposite sex to sleep with?
    •       In the horde, not killing or stealing from them is considered enough but other offers happen anyway. In the city-states, it varies by status. Glasseye of Whispering Harbor, for instance always offers food and luxuries. VIPs are provided with an attendant from his collection of seadwellers while others have to make do with normal servants. Sleeping with the attendants is only allowable by VIPs or if his permission is asked. Other nobles may only provide food and entertainment.
    • What is considered a courteous response to a host’s offer? Are there things it is considered rude to accept? Rude to turn down? Rude to ask for? Rude not to ask for?
    •       In horde and city-state, always accept offers. In the horde, ask only from the one who invited you in and only for basic goods. In the city-states, you are expected to ask for favors and it is equally expected for you to be turned down. You are also expected to ask for small treats such as candies and wine and in only the most unusual circumstances will you be denied.
    • When a guest arrives, is food or drink offered immediately, after an interval, or only on request? Is there a particular food or drink that is customary to offer a newly arrived guest?
    •       The horde will invariably try to see how much mead or beer a guest can hold down after it is confirmed that this is indeed a guest. Dice games generally start up after the guest is good and drunk. Again, villages have no such customs.
    • How do different eating customs of the various cultures and races interact and conflict? Example: a person from a culture that considers it impolite to refuse an offer of food being the guest of someone whose culture considers it impolite to stop offering food until the guest says “when.”
    •       They generally end with everyone feeling either insulted or superior about those silly uncivilized folk. There isn't really any way to deal with it other than having the diplomats educated about other cultures. There is a permanent schism between the city-states, with all their rules, and the villages because of this, and the horde just worries everyone.
  7. Language

    • Is there a “trade language” that facilitates commerce between countries that don’t speak the same tongue? Is there a “universal language” spoken by educated or noble persons, as Latin was in the Middle Ages?
    •       Nope. You have to keep your diplomats trained well instead.
    • Are some or all people bilingual? Is there a common second language many people know?
    •       Only diplomats learn other languages. It is considered below them for nobles to and civilians never get the chance. Glasseye is bilingual, but only listens with the second language and never speaks it. He likes knowing what people might be saying about his city.
    • Are there “secret” languages or codes known only by priests, soldiers, wizards, guild members, etc.? Why were they developed?
    •       Slaves have a coded language for telling each other who to avoid and who is sympathetic, what not to do in front of who, and when it's safe to act like a troll and not a beast of burden. Any sign of plotting, imagined or not, is reason enough for either a harsh beating, being sold elsewhere, or a swift execution depending on the owner. It's wise not to appear like you're capable of plotting things.
    • What are the variations in speech patterns, syntax, and slang from one social class to another? One occupation to another? One region to another? One race to another?
    •       Proper sentence structure is mostly nonexistent in the villages and horde, word shortenings and occasionally tenses are dropped in randomly, and in general there's no sign of what the city nobles consider "proper" speech. (Snaplock will use "we be there by fall," "we'll been there by fall," and "W'be there in fall" to mean "We will be there by fall," for example.) City nobles tend to use large words and flowery descriptions, partially to set them apart from the rest of the people.
    • What areas do local slang phrases come out of? (Example: in a fishing town, referring to good luck as “a good catch,” while people in a farming town refer to it as “an unexpected harvest”.) What kinds of colorful turns of phrase do people use?
    •       Old stories, mostly. Old legends are an important part of their life. Things like "Sleipnir's hooves!" or "Sleipnir's horseshoes!" are used after being surprised by an event. "Shapeshifting seductress of hoofbeasts" generally indicates disbelief. Snake oil salesmen are a thing and their concoctions are referred to disparagingly as "piss potions" in some places, too.
    • What things in this culture would their language have many specific words for (e.g., Inuit languages that have 14+ words for different kinds of snow)? What do the people in this culture consider important enough to name? What does this say about the way they look at the world?
    •       The shapes that horns grow in. It's an easy way to describe someone, and you can't just say "squiggly, but not as squiggly as that guy over there." Some have words and some have phrases ("stalk and sickle" means one points straight up while the other is curved into a semicircle, while "cloak and dagger" means they're "daggered" [Long, ridged, and triangular] but small enough to be easily covered by a hat).
    • What things would the people of this culture not have a name for, or have one word that covers numerous variations? What do they consider too unimportant to name? How does this affect the way they see the world?
    •       Sunlight. The sun is death to trolls, so they don't think of sunlight as being good enough to have fancy names for. Just the one word covers the light in morning, noon, and evening.
    • Are there words that must never be spoken except at particular times, in ceremonies, or under particular circumstances? Are there words that must not be spoken in polite company? Do these words differ from culture to culture or race to race?
    •       Some words and phrases are considered rude or crude, like in every civilization. Pails are one of them, because of how troll reproduction works. Some phrases are parts of curses, and shouldn't be said unless you want someone to suffer a nasty ill. Cursing by sunlight is especially bad, because an evil god lives in the sun and might take you up on it.
    • What will people swear a binding oath by? What do people use as curse words?
    •       In the villages, people swear by harvest day or by the moons. In the horde, they swear by kin and comrade or by reputation. In the city-states, they swear by their chosen name. Sexual things are common swear words, as are things relating to gods and the nasty things that can come about by messing with the spirit world.
    • How many languages are there? Which ones are related (e.g., the Romance languages) and why? Which languages borrow words or phrases from other languages? Which is likely to be most widely spoken?
    •       In this region, there is only one language. Others exist and are related, because the closest countries were all part of the Broken Empire at one time and it had a singular language.
    • Are there different languages for different races (dwarves, elves, etc.), or is language based more on geography than race/species? Is there a special language you need to learn in order to talk to dragons or other magical beasts?
    •       It's based on geography, mostly. There is a witch language that supposedly lets you talk with spirits and other beings without falling to their traps, but it's mostly for show.
    • Do wizards have a special language that is used for magic? If so, where do they learn it? Is it safe to chat in this language, or is everything said in it automatically a spell? If so, how can it safely be taught to new students?
    •       There is no actual magic. Folklore says there is and that witches are a thing, but the described spells rely on actions rather than words. The witch language is just to stay safe from the malicious spirits, not to actually cast anything.
  8. Ethics and Values

    • What will people swear a binding oath by? What do people use as curse words?
    •       Was mentioned above.
    • What is the most desired/most valuable stuff in this society — gold, jewels, drugs, money, furs, reindeer, etc.? Why is it desired/valued? Do different races value different things? Is there a race/culture for whom non-material things (information, time) are the most valuable things? How did they get that way?
    •       Gold, shiny metals and gems, and rarities such as spices and dyes are the most valuable things. Fine furs are also worth taking, but rough furs are easy enough for any hunter to get. Money is valued in the city-states, but villages rely more on barter. Salt is a valuable preservative. Seadweller societies value things that don't rust or rot in seawater. The Jadeblood Emperors and Empresses to the east value spiritual purity, and have a list of materials that can be purified the most easily and thoroughly.
    • What things are considered normal and acceptable in this society that would not be considered normal or acceptable in yours? (Examples: dueling, drugs, open homosexuality, polygamy, infanticide.)
    •       Slavery is the big one, and happens through out the entire region. The whole quadrant system that Alternian trolls have is another. In addition, children are treated as disposable until they're old enough to make their own way. In Snaplock's horde, there is the casual rape, torture and/or murder of anyone not in the horde. This is very much not acceptable according to the villages, who are the usual victims of this. The city-states have regulated court duels in the upper levels.
    • What things are considered shocking in this society that are not considered shocking in yours — e.g., showing a woman’s ankles, eating left-handed, reading in public? What would be the reaction of an ordinary person who sees someone doing one of these things — to turn away, call the cops, draw a sword and challenge the offender to a duel, etc.?
    •       The cleaning supply aisle of stores. All those rows and rows of pails, my goodness! The reaction of the villagers would be to label the store as a perversion and shun it or try to get it shut down, horde members would laugh and harass the workers, and the city-state members would be the same as the villagers.
    •       More seriously, the behavior of youths. They're expected to act like little adults, and the idea of a subculture based on rebellion would be shocking. Ignoring for a moment that I am a human and I am describing a world of Alternian trolls and there would be questions raised if one was transplanted in another, if there was a mix of our cultures there would be trouble. There would be an attempt to bring the rebellious youth under control by beating the rebellion out of them. It would not end well.
    • What are the acceptable limits to honor and/or honesty in this society? Are “white lies” acceptable socially, or is lying in any form considered beyond the pall? Is thievery an accepted, if disreputable, occupation, or is it a crime?
    •       If you swear by the moon or harvest (villages), kin or comrade (horde), or name or status (city-states), you had better darn well keep that swear. Breaking something that serious is grounds for expulsion from the community. Those are important swears. White lies are fine, as are bigger ones if you make it obvious. In the city-states, there's etiquette about when and how you can lie to someone. It's complicated. Theft is a crime unless you're in Snaplock's horde and you plunder stuff during a raid. According to the horde, that doesn't count. According to the villagers, it does but they can't do anything about it.
    • Is a binding oath unbreakable no matter what, or can you get out of it if the other party turns out to be evil scum or if you weren’t fully informed? What is considered the right thing to do if two oaths come into conflict — do you have to decide as best you can, hold to the most recent oath, hold to the oath to the most/least powerful person, commit suicide?
    •       Binding oaths are unbreakable unless the other party outright lied to you about something. It is your responsibility to get all the information about it. In case of a conflict, you do what you can, argue it out to the two parties, and try to make reparations for the wronged one.
    • What are attitudes toward ownership? What constitutes “theft” and what can be stolen — gems, gold, someone’s good name or reputation? Are thieves independent criminals, members of an illegal guild, business people licensed by law, or what?
    •       Theft is the deliberate taking of anything that is not yours without permission of the owner. Thieves are independent, and any attempts at forming a guild within city walls have been met with ruthless force from the authorities. Villages tend to punish thieves with lashings, city-states with stocks, and the horde with beatings and a massive drop in reputation. Cross-culture theft is where it gets complicated, but it tends to end with the punishment being based on the area. The exception to that, as always, lies with the horde. If you steal from a horde member and you aren't one, they will kill you without hesitation. If a horde member steals from you, good luck getting them punished for that. Snaplock and Glasseye have an understanding regarding horde/city dweller interactions (namely, that when she's wintering over the city takes priority), but that's it.
    • Who is considered a citizen, with the rights and privileges thereof? What are those rights and privileges (voting, protection from thieves, the right to a hearing in Rome) and what responsibilities go along with them (jury duty, providing funds or knights for the lord’s army?
    •       Theoretically, any landowner (and only landowners) can call upon the authorities (usually the noble with jurisdiction over the land) to assist in legal issues. In actuality, good luck with that. The villages are mostly reliant on their village lord and no one else. The city-states have more definite benefits, namely the safety of walls and a vastly increased likelihood of a petition being answered. The noble-in-charge can demand conscripts for their armies, but the warlords are very set on not letting any noble get away with building one of any decent size. Attempt at conscription sometimes end up with all of the conscripts either dead or sold into slavery by said warlords. They'll let the nobles tax their people, though.
    •       In addition, only landowners are allowed to own slaves.
    • Are there certain classes of people (wizards, foreigners, children, peasants, women) who have fewer legal rights or less recourse than full citizens? Why? Are they considered mentally or morally deficient, a danger to the state, or is there some other rationale?
    •       If someone doesn't own land, they cannot petition their noble or own slaves. In addition, they can be turned out of their home at any time without warning. This tends to happen when a village lord thinks someone with opposing ideals is getting wealthy enough to buy a small plot of his or her own. Landowners are considered more responsible than peasants and therefore smarter.
    •       Slaves have no rights at all. If someone kills a slave, the most that can happen is that their owner can demand repayment to the tune of their estimated value, and slaves cannot legally even own the clothes on their back. Seadwellers are often either assumed to already be slaves or are promptly captured, branded, and sold as one. They're considered freaks and not true trolls because of their gills, fins, and rarity.
    •       Blood color is not as much of a deal as it is in modern Alternia. If there is social status based on it, it's because people like being close to the color of the current leader. Thus, you can be considered high up there by being greenblooded in Glasseye's city, travel north for a bit, and suddenly be of lower status because they have a redblood ruling.
    •       As always, the horde treats non-horde trolls as entertainment at best.
    • Is there a group of people who do not have full rights in this culture? Why not? Are they considered mentally or morally deficient, a danger to the state, or is there some other rational?
    •       Seadwellers, because of the aforementioned thoughts of freakishness.
    • What are the controversial subjects in this culture? What things can you start a friendly argument about in any bar? What things will automatically start an unfriendly argument?
    •       Politics are dangerous whenever someone friendly to the current ruler may be listening in. You can start a friendly argument about what games or drinks are best or an unfriendly argument about religion.
    • What are the social taboos — what things are “not done,” like wearing a bathing suit to the office? What things are not talked about? What would happen if someone did? How do these taboos vary among the different races?
    •       It is not done to take off shoes or sandals inside any house other than your own or to touch any object at a stranger's place without making polite conversation about it first. At best you would be told you leave, with a high chance that they're turn you out physically instead. You cannot talk to someone about their profession or situation unless the subject comes up naturally: start with something neutral.
    • What are the biggest social faux pas — burping loudly at a formal banquet, drawing steel in the presence of a queen/noble, asking a dwarf whether it’s male or female? What subjects or actions cause embarrassment or discomfort?
    •       The biggest faux pas would be to proposition someone who already has quadrants (whether you know that or not), especially if said quadrants are present. Putting your feet on the table indicates disrespect for everyone present, especially if food is being prepared to be served. Horn touching in public is a definite no, unless you're the highest ranking person there and don't care how crude and perverse they think you are.
    • What are the society’s mores regarding courtship, marriage and family? Is marriage primarily a civil or a religious institution?
    •       Courting and marriage is a private matter with little legal bearing. Generally, you will  have a personal ceremony with all of your quadrants present and from then on you can start referring to each other as whatever quadrant you fill.
    • Who are the persons or groups to which one automatically has a duty simply by being born — one’s family, one’s town/city, one’s country, one’s ruler/president, the gods? What is the hierarchy of duty among them — is it considered more noble to follow your mother’s teaching or to follow your emperor’s orders?
    •       No one. Trolls can't track whose parents are who, not this far in the past without DNA testing.
    • What are the standards of beauty for people? Paintings and sculpture? Clothes and furniture? How do they differ from the standards in your culture (example: a country which considers fatness a highly desirable beauty trait)? How do standard of beauty reflect the physical traits of the various races (examples: dwarves might consider excessive height unattractive; werewolves might be attracted by long teeth or a particular scent)?
    •       Size is important. The bigger you are, the stronger and more appealing you are. Large horns are considered more attractive than small ones, sharp ones to nubby ones. Sharp teeth are also considered attractive. Being slightly plump means you can support yourself and more, and is also considered good.
    • Who are this culture’s historic heroes and villains (e.g., Washington and Lincoln in the U.S.; Henry V in England, etc.)? Why are they admired as heroes/villains and what does this say about the people who admire them?
    •       Folk heroes are common, and are generally considered to have really existed. God-king Sunforge has a large number of stories about him, starting with how he conquered the country of the soldier that cut him in two as a child (the legend says he survived by cocooning on the spot) and ending with him dueling the god of Death for his place in the pantheon (he won). A popular villain to talk about is the witch Arkhound, who mastered the spell to trigger metamorphosis and would use it to add lusii to the number of forms she could take.
    • What is the ideal life that people aspire to? Do people mostly want to retire to a little house in the country, buy the most “toys,” serve in the army/navy?
    •       Most want to make safety for themselves and their quadrants, whether by saving up for potential emergencies or by helping keep the raider warning system working.
    • What kinds of people are the rebels and outcasts of this society? How does society deal with them? What actions or ideas will get you made an official outcast/exile? What happens to people who don’t fit the accepted social order — do they have their own sections of town, or are they invisible (“in the closet”), or do they get kicked out of the country altogether?
    •       Exile is a punishment for some crimes such as kidnapping, grand theft, or even just by not fitting in. They either try another village or settle in the wilds (which often leads to death by raider). Occasionally outlaws try to band together to raid on their own, but Snaplock deals very harshly with freelance raiders. People who don't fit in have to either hide what they are or get kicked out of the village. The cities are slightly more lenient.
    •       The horde is more lenient of differences, though the ones that are really different will get the occasional ding across the ear. Exile is technically a thing, but immediately after they declare you outcast they will kill you for being a freelance raider.
    •       Some things that will get you exiled from villages and cities that are not actually illegal: desecrating bodies by taking horns, angering an authority figure badly enough, acting above your status, acting below your status enough that it makes the nobles look bad, bestiality.
    • Who are the arbiters of ethics (as opposed to law)? How did they get to be arbiters? Who are the social arbiters? Ditto, ditto.
    •       Generally your neighbors. It's a mob decision.
    • Which ethical/moral decisions are considered the province of religion, and which are not?
    •       Whether such and such is considered witchcraft, whether this and that counts as heresy, what is and isn't allowed to be sworn by...
  9. Religion and the Gods

    • How do various religions, if any, view magic? Do any forbid it? Why or why not? Do any require priests/priestesses to be magicians? Do any forbid it?
    •       In this region, if the priests and priestesses do it it is magic. If a commoner does it, they are either god-touched or a witch. Witches are technically not illegal but people are jumpy about them. Someone god-touched is destined for greatness and there will usually be a fight over which temple gets to claim them.
    • Are there actual gods/godlike beings? If so, do they take an active role in a) the temples, churches, and religions that worship them, or b) the lives of everyday people? Why or why not? How many gods are there, and is there a hierarchy among them? Which ones are good or evil, or is this meaningless when speaking of gods?
    •       Nope. It's a mishmash of Norse mythology, other European mythology, and folk stories, and varies depending on who you talk to. The region isn't particularly organized, and one temple may view one god as proper and another not, while both serve the same goddess or other god.
    • How do various religions view non-believers? Foreigners? Non-humans? Which support the state/ruler/government, and which are interested mainly in ordinary people?
    •       In this region, you'll just be considered a little strange and possibly unlucky no matter the religion. The Jadeblood Emperors and Empresses, on the other hand, are very intolerant of anything other than Mother Grub worship.
    • What customs surround a birth and the introduction of a new child to the family? Is the mother sequestered for some period? Is the child? Is there a formal presentation of the new child to parents, grandparents, overlord, priest, the gods? Is a feast and celebration declared, or does everyone keep a low profile to keep from attracting demons or bad luck?
    •       Nothing religious.
    • What customs surround death and burial? Is there a special class of people (doctors, priests, funeral directors, untouchables) who deal with dead bodies? What things must be done and why (burn hair to free spirit, burn body to prevent necromancy, coins on eyes for ferryman, etc.)? Are the dead feared, revered, or ignored?
    •       The bodies have to be burned or their spirits will be trapped in them and they'll become undead. Free spirits can give advice, both good and bad. The dead are feared and respected because of this.
    • Is there a difference between miracles and magic? If so, how are they distinguished?
    •       Miracles are god-magic, magic is mortal-magic. That's about it.
    • Is there tension, rivalry, or outright hostility between any of the actual gods? How does this affect church politics? People’s everyday lives?
    •       Plenty of it, especially because they have Loki. This doesn't affect everyday lives much, though.
    • Where does religion fit into this society? Is there a state church? Is freedom of religion the norm? Do people generally think of the temples/churches as parasites or as a useful part of society?
    •       There are temples scattered around that people consider good to live near, but there isn't anything more formal than that, not in the Broken Empire territory. You can believe what you want and the worst you'll get is considered unlucky (which, admittedly, can be bad for you if the crops fail). The Jade Empire, though, is an outright theocracy.
    • Which ethical/moral decisions are considered the province of religion, and which are not? Do the gods care how people behave? Why or why not?
    •       Curses, swearing by things, and witchery are religious issues. Everything else is not. The gods mostly do their own thing and occasionally play around with mortals for their own amusement.
    • If there are actual, demonstrable gods, what part does faith play in their worship? What are their various rites like, and why? What offerings are considered good, better, best? Are people supposed to pick one or more gods to worship and ignore the others, or does everybody officially worship everyone? How do people decide whom to worship? How do they decide which temple to be affiliated with?
    •       There are no actual, demonstrable gods.
    • How much of a part do various religions and philosophies play in public and private life? Are philosophers and theologians considered ivory-tower academics, or do they debate in the marketplace, like Socrates? How much influence do their theories have on the way people actually behave?
    •       Pretty much the only time people see philosophers and theologians in public is when something goes wrong and the debates spill out into the street. Generally the reaction of the public is to start betting on them.
    • Are priests and philosophers full-time workers, or do they need day jobs? If they are full-time, who supports them — the congregation, a wealthy patron, the temple’s investment fund, the god they serve?
    •       They have day jobs. Philosophers are uncommon, mind, but they do exist and generally in scholarly job. Priests have a day job of peddling luck magic and keeping the temple garden going for in case donations aren't enough.
    • Why are the gods interested in people? Are they like the Greek pantheon (quarrelsome, larger-than-life humans), or are they transcendent and incomprehensible? Do the gods have limits to what they can do? To what they will do? Can the gods make mistakes?
    •       They're like the Greek pantheon. They have lives of their own, they have limits, they make mistakes, and when they fight the mortals suffer.
    • How do the various temples and philosophies explain the classic “problem of evil”? Do they think bad things are always a just punishment for some transgression, a character-building exercise, the result of an evil antagonist (Satan, Loki) or just something the gods can’t prevent?
    •       A combination of the last two. Bad things just happen, but occasionally they're helped along by a trickster or a god that's just in a bad mood.
  10. Population

    • How many people are there in this country? How does this compare with world population? What is considered a small town/large town/city in terms of number of people?
    •       It's not a country so much as a territory. Villages average about 300 people a piece, but vary greatly. Small towns have ~700, large towns ~4000, and the few cities tend to average about 12,000 people apiece. One city-state, Whispering Harbor, has 30,000 people living in or around it. In addition, there is are warlords dividing up the land who have their own hordes adding to and occasionally subtracting from the population.
    • How diverse is the population of this country — how many different races (human or non-human), creeds, etc. normally live in various cities and towns in this country? In what percentages?
    •       Thre are only trolls, in the usual percentages of blood colors.
    • Is population shifting from rural to urban, south to north, mountains to coast, etc.? Why — invasion, plague, gold rush, job opportunities, etc.? What effects has this had on the places being left? The places gaining people?
    •       Snaplock's territory ranges from plains on her northern border to coastal forests. The population is mostly stagnant. The Broken Empire region itself is much larger and has a vast range of geographic regions, with the population very slowly growing and urbanizing.
    • Given the magical/technological level of this society, what is an appropriate ration of farmers or food producers to urban residents? If farm production is based on magic, how many urban residents are going to starve if the spells supporting farming (weather, land fertility, etc.) fail suddenly?
    •       No magic, low technology, a few useful psionics. There are a lot more farmers than urban residents, since there simply isn't enough tech to support a lower ratio. Things are gradually getting better, though.
    • Is there much immigration into or out of various countries? Why? To or from what other areas?
    •       The population of the Broken Empire has been slowly growing ever since the Greyfield Empire's collapse left a lot of land unclaimed. It's been slowly because competing warlords are bad for business.
    • Which geographical areas are most heavily populated? Least? Are certain areas or terrains more popular with certain races that with others? Why?
    •     The plains areas are flatter and have less work to make good farmland, so they have the most villages. Urban areas tend to be along the coastlines and rivers, but some spring up on inland trade routes. There's once in Ironhand's territory, for instance, on a mountain pass that picks up a lot of the metal trade from the local mines.


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