From my ancient archive of junk: Culture Shock

This was written back many years ago for a previous campaign set in Home. It gives a pretty solid overview of the ways you shouldn’t assume things work in Home the same way they do in other RPG settings. This adventure was set in Lyric so there’s some stuff specific to it that won’t be really relevant.

I’ll come back through at some point in the future and clean up the line breaks and formatting.

—–

Culture Shock

Values

Progress is not a virtue. Neither is it a sin. Technology, things in

general, are less valuable than skills. Any development that promises more,

or increases productivity is seen as wasteful, society already provides more

than anyone needs. So the assembly line would be seen as farsical rather

than useful. Now, developments that provide things of greater quality and or

more attractive appearance, those are valuable. Fame and skill are the two

most important units of currency to the common folk, because they are the

only things they possess.

Family is irrelevant. There is a greater sense of community attachment than

family attachment. When a criminal appears, the whole settlement is punished

for their wrong doings. When a hero appears, the whole settlement shares in

their fame. Anything that impresses royalty brings great fame and rewards on

the whole settlement, so those who have served a royal are treated with

great respect.

Age is irrelevant. Elders are sometimes senile, sometimes wise, sometimes

cynical, their age is not a virtue in and of itself. The young are sometimes

inept, sometimes talented, sometimes confused, their youth is not a

hindrance in and of itself. After the ritual of adulthood a person’s age is

never a factor used as an insult or for gain. Their skills and behavior are

more important and treated thus.

Agriculture and Metallurgy are known to be of Demonic origin, but by and

large, people don’t care. They avoid developing these techniques further

because of this origin, but to give them up would involve a tremendous loss

of life, one they feel would be wasteful and unacceptable. Curtailing the

right to reproduce is the one sin too evil for even The Demon to commit, so

letting the population fall below supportable levels is not an option.

I thought that I had invented this society, it turns out I was late by half

a century, Claude Levi-Strauss and Ursula LeGuinn both beat me to the punch.

Here’s a great essay that describes much of what I had in mind for Home. My

version is slightly off theirs, but they’re still amazingly close.

Economy

Hieratic. It’s based on the reputed economy of the Fey from folklore. In

origin, The Demon reduced all people to the rank of slave. Everything they

produced was Its. It then passed out goods and food as It saw fit using this

as a means to control people and remind them of their position. With the

coming of the royal family and the Empire of Man, this system has changed

slightly. Now it is much more localized and possessions are treated as gifts

from the royals. Luxury items are given out at feasts and on holidays and in

return for service, so in one sense nothing has changed, but those in charge

are benevolent and use the system to help their people, not to control them,

except in cases of rebellion.

In general, if you want something you go to the artisan who makes such a

thing and request it, you will then be given what you asked for. Some things

are in short supply, and they are only available as a gift from those in

authority. Similarly, if anyone needs something you have, you give it to

them expecting nothing in return and without regret. No one is capable of

understanding the concept of personal ownership. Many people speculate on

what it must be like to be royal and actually OWN something. Most conclude

they’d feel too guilty. Even the most vile and evil feel this way, just as

all Americans feel embarassed to talk about sexuality in public, and feel

that there is something not quite moral about enjoying sex

freely–especially when it comes to their children, for those who feel it’s

alright for themselves. Same idea, same method, same effect, different

subject.

Time

The sun moves from West to East and it moves around the land, not the other

way around. This isn’t belief, it actually works this way. The day is

divided into five blocks named after the five daily prayers of a priest.

There is no shorter unit of time commonly used. The next largest is the

ten-day.

Beyond that there is the Holly. This is a corruption of the word holiday. It

refers to the Adulthood ceremony performed once every 35 ten-days. Each of

the ten-days in a Holly have a name. One is named after each of the 19

kingdoms. The other names are thought by scholars to refer to kingdoms

controlled by The Demon now cut off except, perhaps, to those of The Empire.

A Holly is not a stand-in for a year, it is not used to make calendars or

for marking dates (except for the edification of player curiosity by the

GM). By and large, scholars see timekeeping as obscuring the important

lessons of history, specifically the relationships between events. So

chronology is important, but not specific dates. I’ll get back to you with

the full list of names if anyone cares.

The next largest period of time is the Generation. Generations do not refer

to a set period of time, nor to a reliably consistent unit of time. One

Generation is the lifetime of one Empress.

Beyond that is an Epoch. Home is on its third Epoch. The first was before

the coming of The Demon. The second was from the time of The Demon’s rule

until its end. The third will end with the fall of The Empire of Man. Note

that this means that there were no Generations in the first Epoch, and only

one in the entirety of the second. Vaguely, a Generation can be called 60

Hollys.

Only three kingdoms have seasons, or anything resembling regular weather

cycles. Lyric is not one of those kingdoms. For game purposes, pretend that

it is eternally spring in Lyric.

Hierarchy

The Royal Family is descended from the woman who killed The Werewolf. The

human race at that time swore The Oath of Fealty, giving them the same

authority over all mankind that the Demon enjoyed. Thus all people are

technically slaves of the royals. Nobles are those who have been given

responsibility over a piece of land or a settlement. Not only is there no

inheritance, but having a noble parent virtually exempts you from ever

holding a noble title yourself, though in cases of truly deserving

individuals exemptions have been made. This usually involves moving the

child off to a distant province where the locals don’t know that s/he had a

noble parent.

As far as the common folk go, once they reach the age of adulthood, their

noble decides where they will live, unless the parents have made

arrangements earlier. A farm, for example, will stay in the hands of a given

farmer until his/her death, at which time responsibility for the farm will

go to a deserving adult at the next adulthood ceremony. The survivors will

stay on until they become adults themselves or die. In the case of very

young orphans, they will go to a capable foster parent in the same village

if at all possible. This scattering of immediate family is a large part of

the reason for strong community ties rather than strong family ties.

Mayors oversee a town and direct the flow of goods to their province

leaders. Provinces are ruled by Barons or Counts based on population. The

title of Duke is reserved for relatives of the ruling King and each Duke

controls a sub-division of the kingdom. In many cases, the Dukes are also

the generals, but not always. In Lyric, the Dukes each appoint one general

who protects their Duchy.

World Geography

The world is not a globe, nor a planet. It is a collection of pie-slices of

reality, each of unique size and nature. Each of the largest slices are

called kingdoms. If you were to fly upward forever, you would either become

disoriented and fall, or you would pass through the layers of reality and

experience the worlds of the Devas and other Celestial beings. The same

occurs when digging downward.

Dragons do not perceive the barriers between the kingdoms. They refer to the

world as an island floating on a sea, and that sea suspended in a great egg.

This confuses most human scholars who know that there is earth beneath the

ocean and that earth connects directly to the land, so it seems the water

floats on the earth, not the other way around. Dragons laugh and make

comments about humanity’s blindness when confronted with this. Scholars

theorize they aren’t talking about the same sort of an ocean.

History

Humans are the oldest of all living beings. There are no ancient societies

or lost powerful civilizations. Ancient artifacts are less powerful than

modern ones. Ancient magic is less potent and less subtle than modern magic.

The exceptions are the weapons, called the 20 Swords even though many are

not swords, made to kill the 19 Monster Lords and The Werewolf. These remain

the most powerful items ever made by humans and they date back to the end of

the second Epoch.

The timeline of the third Epoch lasts about 140 Generations. In that time,

over a dozen kingdoms have been liberated from their Monster Lords, though

only one has been slain. It is now common knowledge that as potent as the 20

Swords are, they just are not powerful enough for the job before them. They

are great against the lesser Monsters, if one can use such an ill-fitting

term.

As far as Lyric is concerned, there have been 14 dynasties in that time. The

current one, The Macaregs, are on their third king. They have been in power

for about 1-1/3 Generations. Lyric spends a great deal of time with no

population or without a central government. Gaio Macareg is the first King

(not counting Discord) who was not a Bard.

In Lyric’s recent history the capital was moved two times. Choral was

destroyed by Discord about 20 Generations ago and Song has been abandoned

ever since. The new capital was Bassoon in the center of Prose. Discord sank

it and formed the only substantial inland lake in Lyric doing so about 15

Generations ago. There was a long period without a central government

following this. Discord went into two periods of activity before a group of

knights attacked him with Anthem. The knights were basically all slain, and

the few survivors chased him to the country’s original capital of Requiem.

None have returned but that includes Discord. This was about seven

Generations ago. After several bloody wars a capital was erected and named

Encore. It has lasted ever since and is now ruled by Gaio Macareg, the great

grandson of Valin Macareg a pirate lord, and distant descendant of a bastard

royal. The Macareg’s have done well by Lyric and the population is actually

rising.

Locally, the Island of Prose has been colonized seven times in the last few

Generations. Each time the colony has been wiped out. Once by an

unfortuitous earthquake early on in the colony’s history. Once by the

appearance of the dirges. A third was sacked by pirates. The other four

failures remain unsolved mysteries. It is rumored that at least two others

suffered from a rise in Demon worship shortly after arriving on Prose. Also,

scholars know of at least 20 “lesser” Monsters who served Discord, of which

only 8 have been slain, and only 5 more are currently accounted for. The

missing Monsters are thought to be responsible for both the destroyed

colonies and the rise in Demon worship.

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About GavinRuneblade

I'm a gamer. Currently in Star Trek Online. RIP City of Heroes, I'll never forget you. Check out www.thecaperadio.com they rock.
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