1. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Fantasy Cultures

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Protar, Oct 25, 2011.

    So I don't know if anyone plays World Of Warcraft but recently the 4th expansion: Mists Of Pandaria was announced. That has very little to do with this thread but watching some of the videos about all the backstory for the Pandaren ( A Chinese themed race.) got me thinking about my own Chinese themed nation for my book. By extension I then began musing over making fantasy cultures in general. For example I've been fleshing out my Dwarves which currently appear to be a mishmash of Norse culture (Architecture, language and mythology.), Jewish culture (Parts of the history like being pushed out of their homeland and some religious ceremonies.), and Chinese culture (Religion, which is based on Buddhism and technology.). So I was just wondering how you guys like to design fantasy cultures. Do you make up entirely original cultures? Base them on one from the real world or maybe mix several real cultures together?
     
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  2. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I fly by the seat of my pants, I make it up as I go. And honestly, I try not base anything off real cultures, if there happens to be some similarity of a real culture, than it was accidental.

    I am not saying there is anything wrong with basing it off real cultures, I just have fun making things up from scratch.
     
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  3. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    I think there are benefits to either path. Obviously an entirely new culture is more original but it's hard to do and can seem strange and wacky. Do you have any examples of cultures you've made in that way just out of interest.
     
  4. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Sorry, I mean no offense by this at all. But I do not want to reveal my ideas to the internet, or someone I do not know in person, or at least well.

    But you do not have to look far to see a nicely crafted original culture, The Undead in World of Warcraft is a good example, in every aspect. In fact, even the lesser original cultures in World of Warcraft are great examples. Which is awesome, since you can run around their world virtually.
     
  5. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Understandable of course, no offense meant by asking. I wasn't looking for a detailed account. But yeah I agree a lot of warcraft races are very original. However they're also quite wacky in many respects. It was actually one of reasons I quit recently because I thought things were getting a tad silly with all the ridiculous magitech especially with the goblins. My books are planned to be a bit more down to earth than that (though still very magical.).
     
  6. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Although for other reasons, I have not played in over a year myself. But I can see what you are saying about the game getting a little wonky in its old age.
     
  7. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    I find it easier to look at history. What cultures have existed in similar economic political situations, and how did they react/evolve.
     
  8. Timothy Giant
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    Timothy Giant Member

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    I often make things up from scratch, but I sometimes get influenced by real-world cultures. For example (I'm not planning on using this anyway, so feel free...), I once made a world where three different cultures resided. They were all, to very minimal degree, based on Amerindian, Japanese, and Chinese culture, but most of it I made up. It also helped that I had figured out their habitats and physique before I made their cultures. I had one race that could teleport, and used that for mining. Apart from that, they were a proud race of warriors and lived in tree-huts in their forests. The warrior-shamans are the most worshiped among them. Another race had colossal cities of stone and wood, and was centered around poison and nature magic. Due to their religion, they travelled and explored a lot. The last consisted only of small groups of pilgrims, travelling around to worship their deity.

    Japanese culture is strong in the first; Amerindian in the last two. Chinese was mainly visible in how their buildings and stuff looked. But still, I tried to make the influence as obscure as possible. :p
     
  9. VarriedRomance88
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    VarriedRomance88 Member

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    I feel I am inspired by real life events, culture, societies...and I'm inspired by other authors. I mean to my knowledge there is NO werewolves in real life, and yet mythology and authors often place them into their stories. I'm inspired by it all. Its difficult though, because as I read through threads here I notice people keep emphasizing wanting to be original. It is difficult to be original when your inspired by another work.

    So I guess as I develop a new race of creatures, or an new ethnicity of people I take what I am inspired by and start to tweak it. First what things do I love but the story did not emphasis, how can I make those features bigger or more prominent? What flaws do I feel important to keep with my characters that may be influenced or related even barely by a culture they live in? What works for my story's time, knowledge, religious views, ect? And because I'm a biggie for romance...what physical traits or cultural personality traits am I attracted to that can be viewed as ideal for a representative from that culture?
     
  10. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes I make stuff up, sometimes I'm inspired by other stuff. For example, one of my countries is inspired by New Orleans. Another is inspired by Morocco, and another by Native Americans. But other countries are completely my own, like the snowy mountain region and the country built on rivers.

    I don't think there's any set way to do anything. Just make sure if you're basing your world on a real place that you do it justice and not accidentally insult anyone.
     
  11. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Mostly B and C. What I did for my world was come up with a "cultural archetype" for each area - Oriental, European, Mediterranean, Indian, Arabic/Persian, etc. After that, I do research on the individual cultures for that region to get a general idea of things, then adapt it to my own setting. I like to mix and match cultures and names - the Vargrim, for example, have a Japanese culture, but the city names are dwarven and the people's names are from Destiny (Cabal race). Random name gens are awesome in this regard, because you can look around to get ideas and use names that fit your race/culture that you would never have thought of otherwise. I'm using several sci-fi gens for my fantasy nations, because they just work.
     
  12. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Damn! Lost another one. :P Contributor

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    Well I have an entire species that are like omnivorous Reptilian people that have a high sense of honor, and a varied
    amount of perspectives ranging from their old ways of clans to more modern thinking. Somewhere in the area of the
    mentality of Medieval and modern human. Prefer melee to ranged weapons, favoring swords over coil guns (but will
    happily let loose a volley of exotic alloy bolts into a soft Terran soldiers flesh, piercing body armor with great ease).
    One rule that they hold in high regard to combat and is apart of their religious belief in their goddess the Mother of
    Life, is to end a combatant swiftly and as painlessly as possible. To have them suffer is to allow the one doing it to
    be cast into an eternal void of nothingness in the afterlife for their corruption of their soul. To avoid this fate they
    must beg for forgiveness from their goddess, as well as not repeat offend on such acts. It seems a little contradictory
    that they have such rules and concepts considering they are very good fighters, but have adapted to a much more
    civilized society as a whole. (200 yrs more advanced than Terrans) Centurians are not all that dissimilar to Terrans
    in some ways. Despite being 7+ft reptiles, they give birth like Terrans, and nurture their young in similar fashion.
    They do not hate the Terrans, despite the propaganda spewed from both sides. Though they will not back down from
    a threat regardless of where and who dares to challenge them. They favor peace in and amongst all species, but won't
    hesitate to cut down those that try to exert their influence or aggression on them. Be it foreign or domestic.

    A silicon based variant and cousin to Greys. The Uldivarions are tall logical creatures with 2 pair of arms and 8ft tall. What makes
    them unique is the fact that they are highly intelligent with superior technology (1000 yrs advanced than Terrans). And
    yet have an open free Empyre of 6 planets, ruled under the democratically elected monarch (Empress at the present) that
    holds the position for their lifespan. This elected monarch deals with any and all matter and affairs of the people to the
    best of their abilities, in the interest of the people as a whole. They tend to be very emotionally flat beings, but get one
    intoxicated and they can be quite the odd clown and also comical. Though they have been considered cold or creepy by
    other known species for their demeanor and their taught skinned appearance. They are well intention-ed in what they
    do, even if that means they must sacrifice themselves in the process. Though they do not wish to die they will gladly
    lay down themselves when it is necessary or unavoidable. They truly shine in tech and sciences. They can hit a target from
    orbit within a few micrometers, making them one hell of an ally in combat. Though they hide their emotions quite well,
    they do have them. Under certain circumstances, they bleed through their cold large onyx black eyes and taught skinned
    facial features. They would rather be educators than warriors, but they know that a standing military is something that
    keeps them from being conquered by other species.

    The Greys being the much shorter (4-5ft) cousins of the Uldivarions, with only one pair of arms, have meshed culture
    with the Terrans. Sharing in culture and society with them at all levels. It is not uncommon to see them adorning wigs
    to attract Terran mates. While they can have sexual congress with Terrans (most species in the galaxy can have emotional
    and physical connections), there is slim to none chance of Hybridization between species (With one extremely rare exception).
    They tend to fit in on Terra in all aspects as civilians and Military alike. They are instrumental in the formation of the Confederation.
    While being similar to the average Terran, they too have similar faults to them (such as quests for power and political influence
    for personal gains). Though for the most part just want to coexist with Terrans, and live their 200-250 yr life spans in similar
    fashion as average citizens with normal careers and relations. While being ancestral cousins that are despised by their superior
    Uldivarions, they do not hate them as they are hated. They simply wish to find a way to stop the evolutionary feud, and in some
    ways reunite the two species into one. Despite their intellectual/technological superiority to their Terran hosts on Terra, they do
    like their simplistic carbon based counterparts (both on Terra and Mars, despite the Martian Colonials and Confederation being
    at odds after the War of Separation in the early 2400s). Though not unlike the old racism factions of old Terra, there are small
    pockets of racism on both the Terran and Grey sides.

    May not be Fantasy creatures, but Fictional non the less. :D
     
  13. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Damn! Lost another one. :P Contributor

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    Well I have an entire species that are like omnivorous Reptilian people that have a high sense of honor, and a varied
    amount of perspectives ranging from their old ways of clans to more modern thinking. Somewhere in the area of the
    mentality of Medieval and modern human. Prefer melee to ranged weapons, favoring swords over coil guns (but will
    happily let loose a volley of exotic alloy bolts into a soft Terran soldiers flesh, piercing body armor with great ease).
    One rule that they hold in high regard to combat and is apart of their religious belief in their goddess the Mother of
    Life, is to end a combatant swiftly and as painlessly as possible. To have them suffer is to allow the one doing it to
    be cast into an eternal void of nothingness in the afterlife for their corruption of their soul. To avoid this fate they
    must beg for forgiveness from their goddess, as well as not repeat offend on such acts. It seems a little contradictory
    that they have such rules and concepts considering they are very good fighters, but have adapted to a much more
    civilized society as a whole. (200 yrs more advanced than Terrans) Centurians are not all that dissimilar to Terrans
    in some ways. Despite being 7+ft reptiles, they give birth like Terrans, and nurture their young in similar fashion.
    They do not hate the Terrans, despite the propaganda spewed from both sides. Though they will not back down from
    a threat regardless of where and who dares to challenge them. They favor peace in and amongst all species, but won't
    hesitate to cut down those that try to exert their influence or aggression on them. Be it foreign or domestic.

    A silicon based variant and cousin to Greys. The Uldivarions are tall logical creatures with 2 pair of arms and 8ft tall. What makes
    them unique is the fact that they are highly intelligent with superior technology (1000 yrs advanced than Terrans). And
    yet have an open free Empyre of 6 planets, ruled under the democratically elected monarch (Empress at the present) that
    holds the position for their lifespan. This elected monarch deals with any and all matter and affairs of the people to the
    best of their abilities, in the interest of the people as a whole. They tend to be very emotionally flat beings, but get one
    intoxicated and they can be quite the odd clown and also comical. Though they have been considered cold or creepy by
    other known species for their demeanor and their taught skinned appearance. They are well intention-ed in what they
    do, even if that means they must sacrifice themselves in the process. Though they do not wish to die they will gladly
    lay down themselves when it is necessary or unavoidable. They truly shine in tech and sciences. They can hit a target from
    orbit within a few micrometers, making them one hell of an ally in combat. Though they hide their emotions quite well,
    they do have them. Under certain circumstances, they bleed through their cold large onyx black eyes and taught skinned
    facial features. They would rather be educators than warriors, but they know that a standing military is something that
    keeps them from being conquered by other species.

    The Greys being the much shorter (4-5ft) cousins of the Uldivarions, with only one pair of arms, have meshed culture
    with the Terrans. Sharing in culture and society with them at all levels. It is not uncommon to see them adorning wigs
    to attract Terran mates. While they can have sexual congress with Terrans (most species in the galaxy can have emotional
    and physical connections), there is slim to none chance of Hybridization between species (With one extremely rare exception).
    They tend to fit in on Terra in all aspects as civilians and Military alike. They are instrumental in the formation of the Confederation.
    While being similar to the average Terran, they too have similar faults to them (such as quests for power and political influence
    for personal gains). Though for the most part just want to coexist with Terrans, and live their 200-250 yr life spans in similar
    fashion as average citizens with normal careers and relations. While being ancestral cousins that are despised by their superior
    Uldivarions, they do not hate them as they are hated. They simply wish to find a way to stop the evolutionary feud, and in some
    ways reunite the two species into one. Despite their intellectual/technological superiority to their Terran hosts on Terra, they do
    like their simplistic carbon based counterparts (both on Terra and Mars, despite the Martian Colonials and Confederation being
    at odds after the War of Separation in the early 2400s). Though not unlike the old racism factions of old Terra, there are small
    pockets of racism on both the Terran and Grey sides.

    May not be Fantasy creatures, but Fictional non the less. :D
     
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  14. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    I find things I love and incorporate into the cultures I create/mesh. Simple things from the color red and how it is a sacred color to the black and white views of oaths and keeping them reaching all the way towards a rune based language. For me, by meshing and creating I am finding a culture that is original in the creation part but is grounded by what I have used from various cultures.
     
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  15. Bolu Kai
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    Bolu Kai Member

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    I tend to do a mix of various methods. I use real cultures (i.e. because real sources are invaluable) and usually alter them. I make up cultural details based on the story world (e.g. the land, the magic, the technology, etc). If you have already fleshed out what a race, nation, or alien species looks like then assigning cultural attributes may be easier. Referring back to the story world as a source for culture, you may find it easier knowing X nation lives in Y desert region. What type of things would a desert culture have? How would they dress? What would they worship? When it comes to knowing your story world and what cultures exist, I find it helpful to know what the world looks lap (i.e. draw a map) and know what each region is like (e.g. tundra, desert, jungle, prairie).


    In addition, I recently have been reading through a website called "tvtropes." As the name indicates, the site mainly covers tropes used in tv, video games, literature and so on. What I find useful about this site it that it actually offers insight on genres. For instance, the site explains that most high fantasy races from worlds such as The Elder Scrolls (video game), World of Warcraft, and Lord of the Rings can be described as stout, mundane, fairy, high men, or cute. I'm not saying you should use this concept but it's definitely a source that could help you in the long run. Whether you want a typical world, or a world totally different, tvtropes might be able to help. There is a ton more on this site. They delve into different shows and games and explain tropes used. I find it helpful in understanding source material.

    If you want to do some more research on fantasy cultures I also recommend visiting YouTube and searching for videos on The Elder Scrolls lore. That game has some pretty cool stories. Videos I watched delve into the main playable races but also other races that are mentioned or never seen.
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The few times I have done this, I really didn't think too hard on it. I'm not a gamer, so the gaming references you mention in the OP pull up a "file not found" reference for me. I also don't/won't use the typical high fantasy races/cultures. I try to make the cultures organic to what's going on, where they are, how they came to be.*

    One thing I will say that I find jarring in the presentation of fantasy cultures, especially when they aren't tied to being a different race (just standard humans) is in the actual greeting/presentation of these people. I'm re-watching Stargate Atlantis at the moment (coincidentally) where we get a new culture pretty much every episode and one thing that constantly grates on me is when someone says "Greetings. I am Blarg of the Farflafla."

    Who talks like that?

    When I meet someone in real life, I would never say, "Hello. I am Wrey of the Puerto Ricans." I mean, seriously, if I said that to you, how strange and affected would that be?

    Anywho, sorry for the tangent, but yeah... that bugs.

    *ETA: Marion Zimmer Bradley does a beautiful job of this with the cultures to be found on Darkover. She takes the cultures of the original settlers of the planet (Lost Colony Trope) and extrapolates their future cultural progression.
     
  17. Bolu Kai
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    Bolu Kai Member

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    Great show, I love Jason Momoa! :)

    In regards to Stargate, yeah, it could be viewed as awful or awkward. I haven't seen the show in some time so I cant tell if "Flarflafla" is a faction, settlement, nation, or planet. I would dare say that in the past there had to have been cultures that used greetings such as this. I know I have seen it before, somewhere. I wouldn't say it is always farfetched or awkward to use it (i.e. there is a time and place for everything).

    Today, we still do that to an extent. We see this in business settings. There are instances where I am required to greet someone. They are either visiting or new hires. I use my name and my title so they understand my role in the company and to what extent I can help them. If you say, "Hi, I am bill the Maintenance Coordinator," compared to "Hi, I'm Bill the CEO [of Pristineglade Estates]." Awful examples and greetings, but it shows that one title holds different knowledge and experience than the other. A maintenance guy won't know the same stuff as a CEO and vice versa. In my example it's more of an informational greeting.

    When looking at fantasy cultures, I think it is extremely important to understand why a person would greet someone with their name accompanied by a title or location. Does this culture hold titles or locations as supremely important? Why? Does title or location determine social status/rank within a specific culture? Of course, this is just my perspective.

    In short, I would hope Stargate would at least mention something like this to justify the greeting. Otherwise it's just a lazy way to show viewers the location is different than the last.
     
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  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Nope, never justified that I can remember. It is the latter of the two options, laziness in exposition. Mostly I think because when they present these cultures in Stargate, they are pretty monolithic. One planet, one culture, which is another bad sci-fi flaw-in-writing. And while, yes, I agree that there is a time and a place for everything, this train of excuse often leads to the overuse I see in this otherwise great show. We're too quick to excuse without really trying for something a little more organic.

    In the same vein, I am also a little burned out on cultural names of the (The) + (Collective Noun) variety. The Wraith. The Genii. Ugh. Again, this is not really the norm in English, and at least as regards the discussions in this forum, English is the language in which these stories are going to be presented. I'm American, not "of The Americans". I'm also Puerto Rican, not "of The Puerto Ricans". I know it's a pretty standardized bit of Fantasy / Sci-Fi substructure, but as a linguist, again, it always jars against me ear when I know that this is not the normal way we say these things. Are there people in the real world who refer to themselves like this? Yes, I'm sure there are. But again, not often enough as we engage this in English for a completely unusual syntax structure to be used as a normative. Even old-school Star Trek at least got this right.

    Spock is a Vulcan (n.), or just Vulcan (adj.).
    Worf is a Klingon (n.), or just Klingon (adj).

    This fits with the normal demonym syntax we use in English.

    Probably not the kind of thing that will bug most people; just the little bĂȘte noires of my own that plague the genres I love. :whistle:
     
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  19. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    My method is to basically fling enough details at an idea until I have something to start with, and then I take out the shears and start pruning. Removing a trait here, adding a piece of artwork/history there. The process is pretty long, as culture is a complicated matter. Culture covers their stories, their history, the hymns they sing to their children, their artwork, weapons, way of speaking, and so on.
     
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  20. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    I steal borrow stuff from different cultures and mash them together clumsily in as many ways as possible till I get something I like, then I start to develop something further off it as well as tie it to the local environment and the other cultural groups around it.
     
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