Thursday, April 22, 2021

Cultural Paradigm


Ok, this blog post is going to be a "workshop area" for a while.  I'm going to be tinkering around with ideas involving Conan-esque sword & sorcery cultures.  This awesome blog post was brought to my attention recently, and I'm inspired to incorporate it into my own D&D.  

What Thulsa has done is terrific, so do check out his Xoth blog and show him some love.  FYI, his blog post is meant for Pathfinder.  This right here is meant for 5e.

However, I also want to make it my own.  So, it'll be a process taking it from rip-off to homage.  Check back for alteration updates!

Cultural Backgrounds of Cha’alt

Cha’alt has hundreds of isolated settlements.  Due to technology, magic, and the cultural contamination of both off-worlders and those steeped in the ancient ways, the cultural development varies greatly.

Players should choose one cultural background for their character.  Roll on the following random table to determine where an NPC falls on the scale…

  • 1     Savage – They live in the wild, untamed... their culture is barbaric and uncompromising.  Feats of strength, agility, and sheer survival are prized above all else.  This cultural paradigm is wary of technology and the false promises of civilization.  Drug use can dull certain senses, and is therefore rarely seen in savage cultures.  However, weird sexual fetishes are encouraged, believed to benefit the individual or entire tribe, as superstition dictates.  Humanoids from conquered tribes are sometimes taken as slaves, but are generally freed after years of proving themselves through hard work.
  • 2.       Nomadic – Outsiders in regards to cities, they are always moving across S'kbah.  Nomadic tribes are insular and self-contained, preferring their own company, keeping tribal knowledge secret and the oral history of the tribe in living memory - especially since it involves blood oaths to tentacled monstrosities who dwell beyond the outer dark.  Drugs are only used to commune with ultra-telluric entities... with whom they occasionally copulate.  Retaining one's own cultural identity in the face of new experiences and adversaries is paramount.
  • 3.       Civilized – Such humanoids generally live in cities.  They generally have an appreciation for, or may be wholly dependent upon, technology.  Civilized cultures understand the value of diversity of backgrounds and views.  Tolerance, compromise, and moderation are highly regarded traits.  Drugs, deviant sex, and slavery are frowned upon, but can still be had where the dregs of society congregate.
  • 4.       Enlightened – Cultures that have withstood the test of time, neither seeking to build empires nor scatter themselves to the desert wastes.  Humanoids belonging to an enlightened culture have evolved further than those around them via self-mastery.  Their ways seem strange, respecting the Old Gods from a distance while resisting the temptations of demons and pleasure for its own sake.  Drug use is reserved for achieving altered states of consciousness.  Enlightened cultures are detached from the world, priding themselves on sacrificing oneself in favor of higher pursuits of esoteric understanding.
  • 5.       Decadent – When cultures have it too easy for too long, they go soft, indulgent; corruption invariably sets in.  Such humanoids are more interested in aesthetics and individual appetites than the foundations of civilization, such as truth, law and order, or morality.  Decadent humanoids may indulge in recreational drug use as a means of temporary escapism.  For decadents, serving oneself is better than lofty, high-minded ideals.
  • 6.       Degenerate – Cultures that have fallen past the point of decadence seize the fruits of wickedness and degradation.  Subjugation of the weak has turned into a thriving slave trade.  Civilization has declined to the point where the malign, unnatural influence of demons has taken hold.  Cultists worshiping the Dark Gods keep their power by abusing worshipers and demanding daily human sacrifice.  Degenerate cultures use hallucinogens and narcotics to lose themselves entirely, making it easier for them to live with the horrific choices they've made.  The motto of degenerates is "Take what you can, when you can... leaving remorse for those who still retain a conscience."

At this point, and I could very well change my mind, I want to keep the mechanics super rules-light.  One thing I liked about 5e was inspiration (or my interpretation of it).  

Roleplaying choices are made by and incumbent upon the player.  When the GM recognizes player efforts, they are rewarded with a sort of "universal gift card" such as a re-roll that can be used anytime the player chooses.  In my own games (Crimson Dragon Slayer D20, for instance) I call this "Divine Favor".  

There should be a limitation to prevent accidental or purposeful abuse.  So, I'll say no more than 3 points of Divine Favor per session, for each PC.

So, when the decadent thief indulgences in some vermilion-lotus to pass the time (decadent), the fighter shoves court intrigue aside in favor of slicing the demon's head off (savage), the cleric sells humanoids into slavery in exchange for forbidden secrets (degenerate), or the sorcerer reads his scrolls in a tent outside the city while his companions sleep in comfortable beds (nomadic)... each should receive Divine Favor.  

Feel free to comment below!


p.s. I still have Cha'alt and Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise hardcover books for sale.  Ordering details here.


  1. I'd not want it to a random roll, but a character choice based on place of origin.

    Combining the six levels of culture with the four basic character classes (Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief) yields 24 different combinations--I can imagine working those all out. A Savage Fighter and a Decadent Fighter, for example, would have very different fighting styles.

    1. Yeah, for PCs I'd probably have them choose, rather than make it random. Good call.

      Also, if you throw race in there, as well, the possibilities are nearly infinite!

  2. Now add the previous occupations, you can take the d100 table from DCC.

    Also, you need to limit some class choices due to the cultural origin of the character.

    A savage might be a Shaman but will not be a Wizard for instance.

    1. I personally only use the 4 basic classes... fighter, wizard, thief, and cleric. But if players want to customize their class, that's usually fine (within limits).

  3. Oh, and I will steal two entries for my totally not Conan game.

    1. Savage
    2. Barbarian
    3. Civilized
    4. Enlightened
    5. Decadent
    6. Degenerate

  4. And Degenerate leads to Savage, completing the wheel of history. Nice.

  5. DnD 5e is nice .but have any of you tried Conan or John Carter of Mars 2d20.rules light great roleplay source.

    1. Nope. Don't know why, but I assume I won't jibe with the system.

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