Generating "Culturally Rich" NPCs.

This is a little idea I had for a way to evoke the kind of rich cultural texture I enjoy from fantasy and sci-fi games, without pages and pages of notes, histories, and pre-prepared NPCs. Here's the idea:

First, you need to come up with 13 "rules" for your culture. They should range from really broad, general, and non-intrusive, through to very specific, all-encompassing laws. You can crib them from existing cultures if you like. Depending on the game, maybe everyone can help come up with these. Number them 2-10, then Jack, Queen, King. For example:

2: People wear blue for mourning.
3: Women always get first choice of food, and the eldest choose first.
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8: There is a tribe called the "Gazzir" who provide guards to aristocratic families. The tribe is reknowned for honour unto death, and fanatical loyalty to employers.
9: Swords are forbidden to be carried by anyone not of noble liniage. For this reason, pole arms are common.
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Queen: Those who are sentanced to death, or contemplating suicide, can opt to join a sect of monks called "the Nameless". They give up their old identities, and live ascetic lives of servitude.
King: The Emperor's word is law, and none may question it and live.

Now, in game, when you need an off-the-cuff NPC, or if you're preparing NPCs for a game, draw a card. Referencing the number on the card, check the suit:

Hearts: The character embodies, enacts, or enforces the rule.
Diamonds: The character twists, alters, or avoids the rule.
Spades: The character's life is altered (for good or bad) by the rule.
Clubs: The character breaks the rule.

So, drawing from the above list:

2 of Diamonds: Alaric the Mason wears blue every day, and has done for years. No one knows if he's mourning a long-dead wife, or if he's just weird. Though he seems perfectly normal in other respects, it makes people suspicious.

3 of Spades: Gwen is the mother of five hungry children, and poor. She lives with her mother-in-law, who always chooses the most food for herself, leaving very little for Gwen and the children. Gwen is forced to eat almost nothing, so her children can survive.

8 of Clubs: Numun the Betrayer was a Gazzir guard who betrayed his employer, a cruel and merciless man. Numun and a few of his friends slew the man. Now Numun's tribe is hunting him down to restor their honour.

9 of Hearts: Darran of Everwood is a young nobleman, and an expert swordsman. He itches for a chance to test his skill against the best in the land.

Queen of Diamonds: Aliea is an advisor to the Emperor. Though she wears the garb of the Nameless, and claims none of her former identity, forgoing even her name, she is often present at high-level meetings, and has a strong voice in the Emperor's war-council.

King of Spades: Beatrice, a serving-woman at the palace, is sentanced to death for refusing to go to the Emperor's bed.

Aces: Aces are a special case. Come up with a previously unknown rule, and then refer to the suit to find the character's relationship to the rule.

So the idea is that you get a whole lot of characters with kind of intertwined fates, different stakes in the culture. I think it's an interesting way of doing "show, don't tell" in a fantasy game, where the culture, and how it works day-to-day, is revealed by the characters the players meet, rather than dictated from on-high. If nothing else, it's a great prompt for imagination. These characters were all thought up on the fly as I was typing this, but I'd be happy to have any of them in my games. I like how they really act as plot-hooks, but they're plots that are firmly rooted in the culture. So often I think fantasy cultures are treated as this monolithic thing, where all members of the culture adhere to a set of guidelines unerringly. What I like about this idea is that it introduces the complexity and moral ambiguity of real cultures, without endless complications to the game.
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Comments

  • That's a great generator, Simon. And a great creative trick.
  • edited October 2008
    Simon,

    This is why I will have your babies.

    Seriously, I like this. It gives a culture with color and NPCs who interact with, rather than slavishly embody, cultural standards. That it does so while acting as an idea generator, rather than making me wrack my brain to make cultural complexity, is ice cream.
  • This also makes me want to make a wiki, like the abufawhatever ones for the Wicked Oracles, full of sets of rules for cultures from different fantasy worlds.

    Head off each one with a paragraph about the tone and setting the culture comes from, thoughts about what genres it might or might not fit, maybe a note or two about the game it came out of (if it did). Then have the list.

    When you're GMing and stuck for ideas, and have PCs who wander from area to area like oh so many fantasy heroes, you go to the wiki and hit up a culture that sounds like it fits the tone of your world, draw some cards, and wham... you've got that night's shit set up.
  • This is one of the best ideas I've come across in a while.

    Damn.
  • We totally need some wiki or the like going for this (since it's obviously the best idea since orgasms), like Brand says. I want a list of military culture, to get interesting NPCs for my 3:16 game. And a couple of good scifi lists to choose from for when I play Shock: on Sunday. Fortunately, this sounds like it's both easy and fun to make, so I can probably whip them up myself.

    (Though, if aces are special, wouldn't you just need 12 items on the list, not 13?)

    Does anyone have thoughts on what makes good and interesting cultural rules for this purpose, and what makes bad ones? Or is just about anything good?
  • Posted By: Simon_Pettersson
    (Though, if aces are special, wouldn't you just need 12 items on the list, not 13?
    You're absolutely right. My mistake.
    Posted By: Simon_Pettersson
    Does anyone have thoughts on what makes good and interesting cultural rules for this purpose, and what makes bad ones? Or is just about anything good?
    That's a really good question. I think there are definitely some rules that are easier to turn into interesting NPCs than others. It's something to do with how absolute the rule is. I found the "Tribe of professional guards, known for absolute loyalty" really easy to use, because it's easy to find the place where it's twisted or broken by an NPC, and easy to see how it can affect someone. I found the "Women always get first pick of food" really hard, because it's harder to see the places on which that rule can revolve, if you know what I mean.

    That said, I don't know that the more difficult rules produce less interesting characters. I guess it's something that takes a little use to find what kind of rules work for you?
  • edited October 2008
    Here's a quickie I put together for 3:16:

    2. Officers insult their subordinates.
    3. Troopers treat their superiors with respect (to their faces).
    4. Squads follow orders, and don't improvise.
    5. You don't waste the Force's resources.
    6. You never show fear.
    7. Nobody tries to communicate with the aliens. You shoot them.
    8. People honour and respect Mother Terra.
    9. Personell always wear armour and carry weapons whilst on planet, and never whilst on ship.
    10. The 23rd division habitually use "friendly fire" as a means of settling an argument.
    J. Troopers are an expendable resource.
    Q. Everyone brags about their exploits, and explain away their mistakes.
    K. Many carry around a personal effect of some kind, usually old and worn, for good luck.
  • Simon, awesome idea! I'm gonna try it right now as prep for this weekend's game.

    As for the wiki, it's not a problem if there are people who want to, you know, also put stuff in it (as opposed to just expecting it to be there when you need it). I can easily help by requesting a Wikia or setting up a Wikidot.
  • Here's one I came up with off the cuff for a swords-and-sorcery culture with a central asian warrior-culture flair.

    2. When a parent dies all the children of the same sex split that parent's inheritance
    3. Green is the sacred color, and is not to be worn lightly
    4. On death the body is unclean and not to be touched, but left exposed to the open air
    5. Women warriors can lead only other women in battle
    6. If you share a cup of coffee with a guest, you are their brother until the next new moon
    7. Warriors can have any number of spouses, of any gender, but non-warriors may only have one
    8. The mace and the bow are the weapons of those who rule, lesser weapons are for lesser warriors
    9. Those who become ritually unclean (by touching dead bodies, those of lower castes, or filth) must fast every day (during daylight) for a month to regain purity
    10. A meal without meat and milk is an incomplete meal
    J. Horses are the noble dead's lower soul reborn to ride with their tribe again
    Q. Proper humans live in tents of felt and leather, to live in a house of stone is a sign of weakness or degeneracy
    K. No one is above the law of the clan, no one may speak as though their word is law
  • I want to see one for generating Marr'd PCs.
  • You know, I've just started thinking about how to really put some cultural richness in my game, even wrote some about it on my design blog, and then came here and saw this.

    Pure awesome.

    I can't really use cards, but I think something very like this may make its way into the Fifth World soon....
  • Simon,

    May I snag this and put it in the Wanderer books I am working on? And if so may I add you to the credits?

    Ara
  • Posted By: akooserSimon,

    May I snag this and put it in the Wanderer books I am working on? And if so may I add you to the credits?

    Ara
    By all means. I can't promise not to do something else with it myself, but you're welcome to use it.
  • Characters from Brand's list above (cards courtesy of Abulafia):

    Seven of Diamonds: Enkili, the sub-chief, has a single spouse, to whom he is completely devoted. The two are rarely apart, and fight back-to-back on the battlefield.

    Five of Hearts: Ara is the war-priestess of the fearless four hundred, an all-woman battle group that raids the border settlements.

    Five of Spades: Liana is the Warrior-King of the tribe. She is the first woman to hold such a position, and due to her sex, must submit command of half the hosts to her cousin, Ikin

    Jack of Clubs: The Devil Horse is said to be a soul reborn entire, with full memories of its life. Rather than help the tribe, however, it is a curse, causing stampedes, and luring warriors to their deaths.

    Four of Hearts: Urrak is a warrior tasked with guarding the dead from witches, who use dead bodies in their rituals. He stands over the bodies for days, unsleeping, until the soul has departed.

    Ten of Hearts: Sheesha is a farmer who brings milk and meat to the tribe when they are at war. She drives her herd of horses for miles, sometimes through enemy territory, to make sure the tribe is properly fed.
  • I'm seeing some common patterns here. It might be helpful to have a matrix of some sort to come up with these things for a culture quickly, like this:

    2: Women and liberty
    3: Food customs (scarce/abundant, ritualized/emotional)
    4: Death and inheritance ...
    etc...

    I wonder if it might be a problem if half the people you meet break the rules, though? I guess you have to be real clear to present how they are seen *because* they break those rules.
  • edited October 2008
    When making my list, which I did pretty quick and without consulting any reference or anything, I thought about the following issues (without sticking to them slavishly);

    1) How do people eat? What? Where do they get it from? What is good food? What rituals do they have around eating?
    2) How do they deal with sex, children, and the family?
    3) What do they believe about the nature of the world, gods, or life after death?
    4) How do they deal with the basic changes of life (birth, death, adulthood vs childhood, etc)?
    5) What nifty little external signifiers do they have? Like lucky colors or numbers?
    6) How do they socially stratify and deal with power in structure?
    7) What is their relation to their physical environment and situation?
    8) What real world cultures am I thinking of, and how close should I stick to them?

    As you can see, some of those got pretty direct answers. Others got indirect or partial answers. Some I didn't really answer at all, but poked around the edges of. If I was writing a novel, I'd fill that shit out a lot. But because its for a game, I figure the parts that are important will get filled in through play. All I need for now is some tags that stick out for players to grab and yank on as we get going.

    Anyway, that was my basic thought process.

    As for how many people break rules... it might be tricky in a Sim game where you want NPCs to match proportions of folks in the world. However, in a story game, where you're going to focus on characters rather than people in the world, I don't think it needs to be a problem. Like, in the Wire (our world) how many of the characters followed all the rules of their culture? (Off hand, I can't think of a single one.)
  • With the probabilities thing, I wasn't concerned that people wouldn't be representing "the majority". Rather, I was concerned that the players interacting with the NPCs might never be able to learn what the culture is about, if half of it seems to lean one way, and half the other.

    However, this is simple to fix:

    When you introduce a character with a cultural stance or whatever, make sure you show (through their words or actions, or through the words or actions of others) how they feel about that particular "rule". For instance, someone who breaks a rule might try to defend their actions to others, for no good reason. Or maybe they're always shunned by others. Or maybe their behaviour confuses others. Show that!
  • Posted By: Paul T.When you introduce a character with a cultural stance or whatever, make sure you show (through their words or actions, or through the words or actions of others) how they feel about that particular "rule". For instance, someone who breaks a rule might try to defend their actions to others, for no good reason. Or maybe they're always shunned by others. Or maybe their behaviour confuses others. Show that!
    Absolutely! What this technique grew out of is my belief (founded on an academic background in anthropology) that culture is not a hard and fast set of rules and beliefs - it's the collection of opinions and practices and excuses and stories that surrounds those rules and beliefs. In other words, the "culture" is not the set of twelve rules - it's the characters you generate out of those rules.

    Think of our own world. We have a "rule" that says "marriage is forever", and yet for a large number of people, that's not true. The rules are not about what the majority of people do in the setting, they're about how people feel about what people do.

    Brand, I really like your list of things to think about when making a list. I think there is a bit of a trick to making rules that feel "real", or at least that feel like real people could follow them. I'm really interested in what goes into creating that feeling, and I think your list is a good place to start.
  • Very nice! And so useful (especially the list for 3:16, which I am running today).
  • Paul,

    Oh, I see now. Yea, totally. Of course, I think you've got to do the same thing with characters that do follow the rules. Especially characters that follow the rules too much. Because we all know that guy, right? The guy that will never speed, never go shopping on Sunday, never miss mass, never leave the bathroom without washing his hands without soap and water, never cheat on his wife, never fail to salute the flag.... that guy, oh that guy is annoying as fuck. Cause culture is about how much we break the rules, just as much as about how much we follow them.

    I also think how the culture relates to rule breakers or twisters is going to depend on the rule and the culture in a way that isn't necessarily going to come from the generators as they stand. In any culture there are some rules that can be broken fairly easily and without consequence other than people thinking you're odd. But there will be other rules the breaking of which may get you killed, stoned to death, buried alive, shot in the back of the head.

    Like, say the culture has a rule that people should be virgins until marriage. And someone you generate is a rake, and s/he sleeps around. Do others think s/he's a sexy rebel? A disgusting slut? Want to get with that? Want to kill 'em? Chances are all of those reactions will be felt by different members of society -- but which ones get acted out most? In the early 90's highschool the sexually active cheerleader is loved by some, hated by others, wanted by many, respected by few. In 2000 Afghanistan a girl half so outspoken and sexually free may well get stoned to death.

    So, when GMing this stuff I think you also have to have a sense of the ways in which individuals in a culture react to violations of the rules, and how serious any given rule's violation is likely to be.
  • Yeah, exactly. The important thing, I guess, is just that you show a reaction. Because that's where we really get to know the culture: how do people feel about this behaviour? Why is it important to them? Why do they care about it? (In a different culture, the virginity thing might be a complete non-issue, in contrast.)
  • Paul,

    Yep. Also, the very reaction itself is an element of the culture. Like, is the culture forgiving of trespasses around sexual rules but not around trespasses around rules about food? ("You can fuck my son, but let me tell you, if you ever dare to touch my haggis again, I'll gut you!") Does it deal with violations of norms with confusion, isolation, removal of resources, or violence? ("She's a woman that wants to be in the guard? Well... let her, I guess, but pay her half as much.")

    So once you start getting into that level of things, you have a real chance of getting into the guts of the culture -- especially the parts where the culture is divided against itself.
  • Posted By: Simon_PetterssonHere's a quickie I put together for 3:16:

    2. Officers insult their subordinates.
    3. Troopers treat their superiors with respect (to their faces).
    4. Squads follow orders, and don't improvise.
    5. You don't waste the Force's resources.
    6. You never show fear.
    7. Nobody tries to communicate with the aliens. You shoot them.
    8. People honour and respect Mother Terra.
    9. Personell always wear armour and carry weapons whilst on planet, and never whilst on ship.
    10. The 23rd division habitually use "friendly fire" as a means of settling an argument.
    J. Troopers are an expendable resource.
    Q. Everyone brags about their exploits, and explain away their mistakes.
    K. Many carry around a personal effect of some kind, usually old and worn, for good luck.
    Used a variant of this for my 10 hours Three sixteen -session last saturday. I worked very well! Thank you!
  • Very nifty and clever system.

    Can we set up someplace to gather these up for future use?
  • Put them on Abulafia.

    This is fascinating, Simon.

    Graham
  • Jonathan and Fred have made this into a D&D 4th book -- Hard Boiled Cultures.
  • It's 10 days into 2009, why is this not on Best of Story-Games yet? OH SHI
  • Posted By: Simon_PetterssonTomas, do tell me more!
    Beklager! jeg så ikke dette før nå. Min variant var en oversettelse og bearbeidelse av den lista du lagde. Her:

    Ess - Offiserer tar vare på sine underordnede
    2 - Offiserer fornærmer sine underordnede
    3 - Menige viser respekt for offiserene
    4 - Tropper følger ordre, og improviserer ikke
    5 - Soldater sløser ikke med flåtens ressurser
    6 - Soldater viser ikke frykt
    7 - Vi kommuniserer ikke med aliens! Vi skyter dem!
    8 - Folk hedrer og respekterer Terra
    9 - Grønn kode i moderskip! Gul i ferje! Rød kode på planeten!
    10 - Flåte 15 løser alltid krangler med "vennlig ildgivning"
    Knekt - Troppene er romfartskontrollens eiendom
    Dronning - Kvinner skyter like bra som menn!
    Konge - En maskot fra Terra betyr hell og lykke

    Hjerter: Rollen lever etter eller håndhever regelen
    Ruter: Rollen vrir, endrer eller unngår regelen
    Spar: Rollens liv er endret (bra eller dårlig) av regelen
    Kløver: Rollen bryter regelen


    Opplegget med fargene utdyper birollens forhold til "regelen", og skapte noen svært interessante biroller å improvisere utfra.
  • One of the most useful threads I've read here.
  • Posted By: Brand_RobinsJonathan and Fred have made this into a D&D 4th book --Hard Boiled Cultures.
    Actually, I find OBE's "Hardboiled Cultures" to be quite different than this thread.

    I was hoping for something that would have lists of things to cue on such as this and combine it with ways to riff off the racial traits and powers of 4e. It's more about how to create variant races with differing racial traits and powers and cue off those - more 4e tinkerish than culture building in my view. For $4.00 fine purchase, but overall I find the thread more useful.

    Rob
  • edited January 2009
    Rob, part of Fred's purpose with the product was to make it maximally useful to the largest number of folks. As such, it's a bit different from what I would use in my own home campaign (whether 4E or whatever) or in a much more specific product, rather than the very general one that HBC is, laying out the overall principles. I'm hoping, at some point, to be able to put together something (maybe even as a OBE product) that really pushes harder on Simon's original concept, which is much more about how a single culture is composed of heterogeneous individuals, rather than various subcultures and factions and whatnot. But you're right that HBC, right now, is basically a kind of halfway compromise between 4E and this thread. In my mind, that's still a serious improvement as far as 4E is concerned and, considering where D&D is coming from in regards to culture, it's not surprising, I don't think, that it may take us a few steps to get from monolithic cultural entities to something that looks more like real life.

    In any case, I don't mean to be defensive about HBC, just to clarify what our intent was and what we may still do in the future with it. Honestly, if HBC is leading people to this thread (which got a flash of attention and then disappeared off the radar), that's a strong success in my book.
  • So... I forgot to ask, what do you see as the major differences between HBC and this thread? I'm interested because they might not be the same differences that I see, which would be both fascinating and helpful.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyIt's 10 days into 2009, why is this not on Best of Story-Games yet? OH SHI
    Yep, already there. I've only got a handful of booked threads, this is one of the ones I keep returning to.

    Really, really awesome.

    -Andy
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonSo... I forgot to ask, what do you see as the major differences between HBC and this thread? I'm interested because they might not be the same differences that I see, which would be both fascinating and helpful.
    Thread/HBC

    Thread is centered on generating a cultural profile to then generate characters as expressions of embodiment of/reaction to culture.

    HBC is centred on mechanical game suggestions centered on breaking down 4e traits/ability bonuses/powers etc. associated with races, and how that might relate to culture and revised traits etc. to different cultures.

    Thread proposes a specific # of cultural traits to use and has suggestions on topics of those traits; HBC does not.

    Thread proposes a randomizer system (12 entries + Ace) to translate culture to individual characters; HBC proposes a system to create different cultures (randomizing cultures from the norm for race). - though the text on page 12 varies (title is randomizing cultures and most text reflects that, but then last paragraph of section talks about character instead).

    The highest point of similarity is the 4 different relations to norm concept.
    (part of what I find useful)

    The largest ultimate difference I see is that the thread supports a model of "you create different characters riffing off culture", HBC's text supports a model of "you create different cultures with different mechanical features to embody PCs". You play a different dwarf not by having a different relationship to dwarven culture but by having a different dwarven culture.

    (I admit I was not so interested in how to hack 4e to create different bundles of racial traits as how to intepret racial traits into cultural profiles and what different choices there are - e.g., at the point of exampe of how Wisdom bonus could = wariness for elves noting a different spin would be Wisdom bonus = oneness with surroundings [both fitting better Perception] and thus different possible cultures for elves. Wary elves suspicous of surroundings vs easy-going elves at one with surroundings - but all still mechanically same elves.)

    Rob
  • edited January 2009
    Cool, Rob. That helps a lot, actually, thanks! Many of the perspective differences you point out are things that were evident to me in the editing process, some of which I tried to stick back in, but, definitely, there's a difference in focus between them that I currently see as a challenge. Simon's insight opens up a lot of different possibilities and I'm excited to continue exploring further down this road.

    As Andy says, I've bookmarked this thread for life.
  • The nice thing about this generator is that it sets up a very HeroQuest kind of social issues- you put together the parts of the culture and stress them.

    Easy topics:
    - Sex/Gender roles
    - Class roles (who's in power? who's holy? who's shit?)
    - The biggest virtues/who do we look up to?
    - The biggest flaws/who do we condemn?
    - Duties (by choice, duties by birth, etc.)

    Drop 13 of those in and you have a nice brew waiting to happen. The biggest trip up for sim games I'd see is people putting in elements which, according to the sim goal being adhered to, shouldn't be tested ("Yoda is evil? Wha?" Etc.)
  • This is wonderful, Simon. I completely missed it the first time around, but was pulled in by JWalt's fantastic Shang oracle.

    Time to start writing...
  • I just got around to buying Hard-Boiled Cultures and OH HOLKY FUCK it is good, a major expansion to these ideas, clearly a lot of thought and work went into it. Kudos to both Simon for originating it and the authors for expanding on it so thoroughly.
  • Thanks, Jason. The writing was mostly Fred, but I pointed him at Simon C's oracles and we definitely had a fun time with it. Just wait until you see what Brennan's doing with HBC... :)
  • I haven't said anything, finally following my mother's advice that "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," but the basic idea of this really sticks in my craw. It reinforces the view that a culture is just a grab-bag of random elements, which is certainly a view that some have held, but I really take issue with. Then again, I also really agree with Tim Ingold and the issues he raises about our whole notion of "culture," so I might not be the right one to ask. A culture isn't just a random collection of beliefs, customs and artifacts, it's a set of traditions that adapt a particular people to a particular ecology. I think there could be a good little game you could play out to create a rich culture that started from that premise--I'm trying to work out something like that for my own game--but I don't think this is it. I don't think this creates culturally rich NPC's--I think it creates a random set of beliefs, customs and artifacts. The gap between that and culture is the part I feel so uncomfortable about.
  • Jason,

    Just because some have suggested Abulafia and other such ideas, it doesn't mean that the intent here is to have random traits. Simon never said anything about random. He just said pick 13 rules for your culture.

    Also, it's not intended as a way to create a culture. It's a way to demonstrate a culture, to showcase it.

    Finally, there's something to be said for random. Come up with 13 rules for a culture completely at random, then play with this, and see what kind of culture emerges in play. Everything you say about culture being a set of traditions to adapt people to an ecology is still valid. In this case, some of the fun will be seeing how these randomly determined rules fit into the culture, how they've adapted the culture, and how they've developed from the ecology.

    Sure, a fully planned out dungeon with each twist and turn planned for maximum effect, tactically and thematically, is a beautiful thing. But Diablo has its merits, too.

  • The OP is entirely made of win.
  • Sorry, I had something a little deeper in mind, Wolfe. I probably didn't do a very good job of explaining that. For instance, Simon uses the rule in his OP, "People wear blue for mourning." Why? What is it about blue that makes it something people wear for mourning? In real cultures, these things have reasons behind them, reasons that come from the way people dwell in a given ecology. That's really critical to creating a realistic culture.

    I can see this method producing the illusion of culturally-rich NPC's, and that illusion may be all you need, so long as you don't press the matter too much. But my first reaction when I read this all the way back when Simon posted it was, "There's a better way to do this." I don't have that better way nailed down, so I kept quiet--like I said, I finally listened to my mom--but it's something that's bugged me about this thread, and Hard-Boiled Cultures, every time it's come up.

    You made the comparison to dungeons, and I think that's apt. I think this is kind of like your typical random dungeon creator. Compare that to How to Host a Dungeon, which would be something more along the lines of what I'm envisioning here. Yes, a random dungeon creator could create the illusion of a complex dungeon, but if you think about it too much, you'll start to see all the holes and the dungeon won't make any sense to you. Whereas "How to Host" ages a dungeon bit by bit, to create something that can hold up to some scrutiny. Likewise, I don't think the "culturally-rich" effect this method creates goes very deep. I think there's probably a much better way to do this, by creating a game that starts from the ecology, and begins modeling different phases of adaptation, to build up something more coherent.
  • So okay.. You create your "How to Host a Culture" method, then we use Simon's technique to showcase it. Fair?

    Flip answer aside, I totally get you. An effective, non-drudging method to create a rich culture is kind of a holy grail of mine, too. You come up with that, and I'll be one of the first people to buy it.

    I don't know if you're missing the showcasing aspect of Simon's idea, or if you're just not addressing it, though. Take your rich, deeply involved and thoroughly ripened culture. Then what? How do you present that culture to the players without giving them a history book? That's where the beauty of Simon's technique comes in. You find 13 cultural rules and mores that you'd like to showcase over the course of your campaign, and go with it. Maybe later on, you can migrate some of the rules out to be replaced with new ones.

    The technique is more about generation of personalities that reflect the culture than about generating culture.

    So, you create How to Host a Culture, and let me know when you do, cool?

    (disclosure: I know nothing about HBC that wasn't posted here; I am speaking purely about Simon's original idea.)

  • Jason G, I completely agree with you that you can put thoroughly thought-out cultures into this thing, or a superficial grab bag, but to me, that is a feature, and not a bug.

    As Wolfe says, go on and make me a culture creation strategy/flowchart/procedure/whatever and I'll yell for that to be on Best of Story Games too!
  • edited March 2009
    Wolfe,

    Not to mention its about creating NPCs who interact with the rules of a culture, rather than creating the culture itself. The showcase isn't "a culture" (which is a thing which some anthropologists might argue doesn't exist) -- its characters who interact with a set of relative cultural norms. The way those characters will interact with each other will then bring out deeper cultural mores, and possibly get players looking into how and why the rules work.

    I'ts great cause it's more or less natural for folks who aren't anthropologists. I mean, I've never interacted with a culture in a direct fashion. But I have interacted with people who are part of a culture. (Or two.)

    Which isn't against anything you're saying, its just pointing out how it goes about showcasing the culture.

    Jason,

    As some of us had talked about up-thread, coming up with good ways to make cultures and the rules of cultures is awesome. Please, when you get a way down in which to do that, let me know. I'd love to see it.
  • You know, I'm pretty uncomfortable with the whole 'put up or shut up' threatment that Jason's getting here. What if, like, we explored the question he's raising and brainstormed solutions instead?
  • I'm completely cool with that too, and I agree with you that I, at least, may have unintentionally come off that way. It's not what I meant to imply. I'm all for brainstorming, working together and what not! But I'll just add in: I am so completely ignorant about stuff like anthropology and cultural analysis, I am the worst. So I don't really have a decent starting place and most of what I say will be terrible.
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