Friday, February 02, 2007

Culture-making checklist

I'm in the middle of a project that involves sketching out various cultures for use in D&D campaigns. I'll provide more details on this as the project progresses, but I thought it might be worthwhile to go through a bit of the process here.

The following list was drafted as a set of guidelines. It is not complete, but it is probably more detailed than I'll need in many cases. What I tried to do was touch on different elements that might be relevant to the description of a society. When I think about the society, I make sure that I consider each of the bullet points. There's plenty of overlap between categories here. That isn't the issue. I consider this a brainstorming tool and thought others might find it helpful.



  • Agriculture (crops, farming methods, harvest)
  • Architecture (aesthetic styles, buildings, materials, streets, waste disposal, walls or defensive structures)
  • Art, visual (common art forms practiced, styles, how are artists supported, how important is art/what is its societal role?, religious art)
  • Art, performing, non-musical (dance, theater, street performers)
  • Calendar/Holidays (harvest, solstice/equinox, other)
  • Climate (average rainfall and temperature, noteworthy adverse weather conditions)
  • Crafts (local materials, level of technology, relative worth of materials, styles, kilns, forges, and furnaces)
  • Crime (criminal underground, common crimes, contraband, illegal magic)
  • Cuisine (beverages, dietary restrictions, methods of preparation, range of foods, spices used, typical meals)
  • Dangers (native beasties, likely pitfalls of visitors, diseases)
  • Economy (coinage, employment_
  • Education (schools, apprenticeships, higher education/sages)
  • Entertainment (gambling, festivals, sports, games, what do they do for fun?)
  • Environment (flora, fauna, geology, water, biome)
  • Etiquette (dining, grooming, group functions, formal vs casual, taboos, bodily functions, behavior around offspring)
  • Humor (satire)
  • Industry
  • Family Structure (extended family, living situation, marriage, child rearing)
  • Fashion (clothing styles, materials, different social groups, body modification, cosmetics)
  • Foreign Relations
  • Government (selection, church & state, important ruling figures/offices)
  • History
  • Languages (writing, accents, dialects)
  • Law Enforcement (watch/guard details, honest or corrupt, punishment)
  • Laws (how formed, how codified? how consistently applied?, criminal laws, civil laws, religious laws)
  • Literature (poetry)
  • Livestock (mounts, pets, hunting animals, food production)
  • Magical Traditions
  • Medicine/Health (who is it available to?, magic or science?)
  • Military (special units, army, navy, air force, siege weapons)
  • Music (instruments, styles)
  • Naming Conventions (surnames, nicknames)
  • Religious Traditions (rites of passage, death rites, daily/weekly practices, mythology, marriage)
  • Romance (casual sex, courtship/dating, what is considered attractive?)
  • Secret Societies/Mystery cults
  • Social Classes
  • Subcultures
  • Superstitions (lucky charms, ill omens)
  • Technology
  • Transportation
  • Trade

2 comments:

Jack of Tales said...

I have to say, I absolutely love your blog. This post is very helpful to creating campaign cultures and I have been using it to develop various parts of a city for my 4E d&d game.

szilard said...

I'm glad you find it useful.