Where to draw inspiration for a very unique race's culture

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Hello again! I'm designing a race to be used in a gaming system which I, myself, am developing. But first, some background. In the setting of the game, there are five great nations in the default "world," and there are multiple such "worlds," which are all on the same planet, but for all of the recorded history in the game, these "worlds" were separated by a nigh-impenetrable barrier of force. The barrier will basically be destroyed at the beginning of the overall "modern era," thus allowing for interaction between the "worlds." This will be represented by a supplement book containing additional cultures and races, to be released some time after the Core books are released. The race described below will be in this supplemental book.

And now, on to the race which this thread will (hopefully) help me flavor with your input and advice. Basically, the race is "different" for multiple reasons. First of all, it's one of only a handful of races in the game that have kept a culture distinctly their own (most cultures are very racially diverse, whereas only a few cultures are dominated by one race). Second of all, the race had been shut off from most of the world because, according to legend, long ago they had to take refuge in a network of caves to hide from a "great enemy," and about a century ago in-game, the caves were entered by explorers from the outside world, who then informed the race inside the caves that no creatures matching the description of this "great enemy" had ever been seen. Finally, the race is different because, well, all of the members of the race are two-headed. They're basically two-headed panther people.

So now that the race is described, here's my problem: Given the unique nature of this race, I'm having a hard time trying to figure out exactly how I should flavor their customs. The first problem is that their culture was develped underground. As of now, I know of absolutely no real-life cultures which existed solely underground, so I can't take inspiration from what's been tried and true in reality. I'm most definitely NOT basing their culture off the Drow, since that would be lazy and far too predictable.

The second problem would be the implications of their biology. All fantasy races that I know of which are two-headed by default don't really have much societal development. In fact, all I can really think of right now is the Ettins, and if I recall correctly, their culture has always been too primitive to call a society. All the flavor-type implications I have of their two-headedness is that, in order to survive, the two heads would have to instinctively be friendly with each other.

Finally, to make sure there's no cultural redundancy in my game's setting, here's a description of the cultures I have so far, which I'm listing so we all know what's already in my game so far.

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-Calmekkani Factions: Steampunk technology (used instead of magic); pretty much overall steampunk/old west cosmetically; ruled by various gangs that took control after the "official" government's downfall

-Gondrogar: Early Medieval Technology with emphasis on melee weaponry; heavily based on certain depictions of vikings; clan confederacy-style government united under a ruler chosen through contests of strength

-Milandria: Medieval technology, decent amount of magical knowledge; cosmetically similar to a mash-up of ancient Rome and feudal England; decidedly a populist monarchy with heavy emphasis on the "populist" aspect

-Parodesh: Medieval Technology, lots and lots of divine interventions; cosmetically based on a combination of the pre- and early-Islamic middle east; theocratic rule by a council of god-rulers

-Remiel Merchant League: Technology inconsistent due to heavy reliance on trade; carribean-pirate-era-style look and feel; ruled by a council of merchant guild heads


Currently, I have NO ideas whatsoever on how to flavor their society, so I at least need somewhere to start; any help is appreciated.

CIVILIZATION PART 1: HOW TO TWEAK YOUR TYRANT


 


Madesawa grovelled on the ground before his enthroned Monarch until his master spoke. The old voice of the Lord knelt beside him with the aid of his staff.


“You have displeased me greatly, Madesawa.” The voice of the Lord echoed in his ear.


“When I instructed you to slay the Queen-Mother, I thought I had made myself clear.” The old man leaning on the staff coughed, and Masedawa could feel the wet spray of blood against his ear.


 “No more Insults Madesawa. Your failure makes me look foolish in the eyes of my Ministers.” The Voice of the Lord withdrew and Madesawa was grappled by the Kings Guards.


“No! Wait! Please!” Madesawa screamed. The boy on the throne could only stare blankly as they dragged Madesawa away.


 


If you are looking for something to tweak your local cookie cutter Monarch into a realistic authority figure that Players will fear angering then add a few of the following points to your Monarch’s Profile. Pretty soon, you will have them prostrating themselves before the King.


 


MONARCHICAL ABSOLUTISM. The King or independent Chief enjoys absolute power.


EMINENT DOMAIN. All land, Livestock, and Game are the property of the monarch providing a right to income.


DIVINE AUTHORITY. The Ruler is a divine power or has access to divine Power.


RITUAL ISOLATION. The Monarch resides in physical isolation with a few attendants to do the Monarchs Bidding. Meetings involve acts of isolation by curtains, designated speakers,


INSIGNIA OF OFFICE. Royal status is displayed through symbolic regalia,


CAPITAL TOWNS. The Monarch resides in a capital and new rulers establish a new capital or residence.


ROYAL COURTS. The Monarch maintains a Court with assorted specialized staff. Pages, guards, chamberlains, etc.


PROTOCOL. Behaviour in the presence almost universally requires conformity to a process of behaviour. Indirect Interaction, Gifts, Abject Prostration, etc.


HAREMS. The ruler has a great many wives and or concubines.


QUEENS. At most royal courts a queen mother, a queen consort, a Queen Sister enjoy prestige sometimes outranking the Monarch. They will likely have their own estates and enjoy some political authority.


TERRITORIAL BUREACRACY. For Administrative purposes, the state is divided into administrative provinces with their own officials tasked with taxation and labour management. Such provinces will be subordinate to a central authority.


MINISTERS. Located in the Capital they work as assistants to the Monarch in the central Bureaucracy.


DUALITY OF ROLES. Ministers function in an assortment of areas of the bureaucracy.


TITLES. Hereditary or Term of Service.


SECURITY. Rivals for the throne are killed, imprisoned, or deported to maintain stability.


ELECTORAL SUCCESSION. Though the Monarch designates an Heir, the final say is in the hands of ministers.


PERIOD OF MOURNING. After the death of the Monarch. A period of social disorder occurs when candidates vie for power.


HECATOMB. Funerary Rites for a Monarch include acts of sacrifice, sometimes large scale slaughter.


 


Example – A Kobold Chief named Topek suddenly has a style all his own: Topek the Cunning expects a gift of blue stones when visitors come before him.  His Advisors wear wooden Masks at court, and he had to hand-carve his own throne from a block of sandstone as a rite of Passage. Topek is all about courtly ceremony and ritual.


- Covered with a leather hide is an open stone box of blue stones next to a large piece of Sandstone carved with scratches and what could be a skull. When Topek the Cunning is present, his advisors stand behind him wearing wooden masks.


 


Want to learn more? [G. E. Lenski, ‘Power and Privilege’, 1966] discusses the progress of Society from Hunter-Gatherer to the Industrial Age.









CIVILIZATION PART 2: THE MARK OF CIVILIZATION


 


Estegons bruised and bloody form was dragged before the throne of Harman the Tyrant and his head pulled back that he might look upon the furious countenance of his benefactor.


“Estegon! It has come to my attention that thou dost sowest discord amongst the Commoners. Apparently…” Harman indicated to one of his lackeys who stepped forward to whisper in his ear. He growled at what he was hearing.


“…you have described mine rule as having the semblance of the social order of the Apemen of Thundu!” Estegon smiled through smashed in teeth and lobbed a wad of bloody sputum in the direction of his lord.


“I call it how I see it.” Harman snarled at Estegons unrepentant response and descended from his throne to the broken form at his feet. The Tyrant of Dewomar pushed his thumbs under the eyes of Estegon and the man screamed.


With two fresh eyeballs Harman stuffed them in his mouth and swallowed them. Estegon laughed back the pain of the Tyrants embrace.


Harman looked at one of his guardsmen and indicated his thumb-down judgement.


“The largest of the Thundu frequently enjoy eating the ey …” The Axeman ended Estegons tirade in a stroke.


 


So you are building a civilization for your campaign and you want to give it a depth that goes beyond the superficial ideas you have thus far come up with. The problem is how do you distinguish its fine qualities from the Cave dwelling Kobolt tribes of the nearby mountains or the distant Vine people of Shogonu?


The transition to civilization is marked by certain commonalities consisting of changes in Social Behaviour and some basic technological advances.


 


Technological Advances


1. The development of many new artistic forms and designs to express symbols of the earthly and supernatural power of urban centres.


2. The building of increasingly larger and more complex structures in the form of Store Houses, Palaces, Temples, Monuments to heroes and gods, and large scale public irrigation, water supply and drainage systems.


3. The invention and development arithmetic and geometry for complex record keeping, making estimations of the value of food and tools, and for building, making precise calendars, and measuring the passage of time.


4. The Development of Writing as a means of expressing rules for the new forms of social organization in growing urban centres and as a way to keep records of supernatural and political justifications for the new rules and their associated ruling elites.


 


Sociological improvements


1. A growing specialization of work combined with a developing local system within a town for the exchange and distribution of special objects and products.


2. Growth of Social integration amongst a rapidly expanding population in urban centres.


3. The development of trade networks for the exchange of goods and services with nearby urban centres.


4. The invention of rules for the collection and transport to a central urban centre of the surpluses of food produced by farmers and herders.


5. The Growth of political and religious leadership and membership in special organizations, as continuous residence in an urban centre began to replace social relations based on family and kinship – that is, the growth and differentiation of a “citizenship” in an urban centre began to replace personal identification through kinship.


6. The growth of a small ruling elite or class with privileges of access to material goods and to travel, special education and social deference from other ‘citizens’ of an urban centre, or group of centres.


 


Adding more to your Campaign culture


So what of your would-be civilization? Your Kobolt King might live in a cave and demand blue shiny rocks as a gift from prostrate guests who come before his hand carved Siege Perilous while advisors hide in his shadow behind wooden masks, but does that make it a civilization? Perhaps it is just a matter of growth. With the expansion of Caves to include temples, store houses, water courses, and waste shafts; record keeping through written words and numbers, and the establishment of laws governing the collection of produce by his minions, then trade with other Kobolt communities as his cave network becomes a centre of Power over a region is all it will take. Perhaps this is sufficient to distinguish it from a village of nomadic humans who live in family clusters, and know not the foul representations of Religion and Monarch.


Want to learn more? Read Thomas Rhys Williams ‘Cultural Anthropology’ published by Prentice Hall for what it takes to be a civilization.


 

The Citadel Megadungeon: http://yellowdingosappendix.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/the-citadel-mega-dungeon-now-with-room.html
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