For you players and DMs looking to flesh out characters, NPCs and locations, here’s a list of 30 possible cultural quirks in Spirits of Eden. They are mostly coming off of my documents in which I have many of these scattered around, so they’re not exactly organized in topics and such. This means they’re pretty random but should cover a good spectrum of culture.
You can use as many or as few as you like, wherever you feel they are appropriate. Some of these might serve as minor event ideas, or just conversational quirks or passing character traits. Some might be good sayings you character may live life by. (Note that many of these assume good or unaligned alignments. There are no “how to be an awesome bad guy” sayings here.)
1. Karma cannot be calculated with an abacus, but everyone knows a few taboos and their consequences – or at least, they think they know a few taboos and their consequences.
2. Holy men and women frown upon using edged weapons unless they are Paladins. Paladins can use an edged weapon to protect others, while Clerics are not meant to spill blood and should use magic, staves or maces. They aren’t banned from it, however.
3. Praying for another’s death is bad karma. Coincidentally, begging for a person’s return to life, and casting the Raise Dead ritual, is also bad karma, but is done nonetheless (though not lightly). Kaehma may visit you if you perform these acts.
4. Dead bodies contain no essence – if they show no signs of intelligent undeath, they are objects and hold no value.
5. On new year’s day, a meal must be consumed with fish and grains, cooked over firewood and served on ceremonial metal plates. This provides all of the venerated elements – fire, water, earth, steel and wood. The person’s breath serves as the sixth element. For some people, this might be the one time of the year they get to eat fish and they look forward to it.
6. The significance of a grave is in the monument, not the body stored within. Graverobbing disturbs the monument.
7. Throwing away good milk is taboo. Before throwing it away, you must drink some and pray for forgiveness.
8. Casting stones into a pond is considered a mischievous game (a water spirit could be struck by one).
9. Night animals are believed to be able to see the auras of spirits and people. You cannot hide from or lie to a night animal.
10. Einotbe, thieving spirits spirits that look like youthful humans with bronze skin and wheat stalks mingling with their hair, are repelled by placing a drum full of alcohol near whatever they are believed to be stealing. They will steal the alcohol and become very drunk, and get terrible headaches. They become unwilling to steal from the village for fear of getting that drunk again.
11. Tea is always an acceptable gift to a village’s guardian spirit, especially if you offer to pour it for the spirit yourself.
12. Spirits do not hunt animals weaker than they are, as it would be unsporting and would also kill far too many animals. Even the most evil spirits tend to ignore animals as a meal unless they become very desperate. This is part of the natural balance.
13. An animal that is killed is only good for eating if cooked in an element closely aligned to its temperament. Wild boar meat is roasted in fires. Fish are cooked in stews or in oil. Bird meat is steam-cooked. In desperation, you can cook it with whatever is at hand, but you must pray so that the meal becomes proper again. Plants can be cooked however one wants.
14. Intelligent undead are victims of a great crime and should be treated mercifully, as though they had an incurable disease.
15. If a man takes a spirit as his wife, she becomes mortal, and it is his duty to protect her. A male spirit rarely takes a mortal woman as a wife, but if it does, it is said the woman becomes immortal and is swept away to that spirit’s home land.
16. A person’s gender preference is never taboo even if it is its own gender – particularly if its partner is an Athirua.
17. It is the duty of the village spirit to teach the children how to read and write common and do basic arithmetic, as well as the local folk tales and religious stories. It can try to teach them Supernal as well, but this is often too difficult to learn.
18. In large towns and cities, the Local Spirit is often lazy and its title means very little as it does not have to take care of anything or anybody except handling the occasional ritual. It can also refuse to do these things nonetheless.
19. The National Spirit of a nation is a more important symbol than its flag or other iconography. The National Spirit resides in the nation’s capital and can be approached by people. When it dies, its ashes are empowered by the prayers of the nation in a day of mourning, and a child spirit is born from them to take its place. It is raised to be the new National Spirit.
20. The year’s end is not considered a happy time – it is a transitional period, at worst feared, at best taken cautiously. Festivals at this time are about keeping people’s spirits high and hoping for the best, rather than taking a new year for granted.
21. There are two traditional days where gifts are exchanged, one more oriented to lovers and spouses, another more about elders giving gifts to the children and young.
22. If someone steals food from you and you can spare it, and let the person take it without reprisal, it is good karma for you. If that person steals from you again, it is bad karma for them.
23. You should allow a spirit to live after you have defeated it in battle. It will more than likely surrender and not strike back at you if you do so. If it is a very evil spirit it may return later to take revenge, but for now, it is defeated. This is good karma for you.
24. Do not kill another person if you can help it. Its essence will linger on you, and when you raise your sword to defeat an enemy that truly deserves death, the person you killed will hold back your hand and you will falter.
25. Every person should take at least one pilgrimage to a holy site outside of his or her own land before he or she dies.
26. Do not surrender a friend to the law, but do not help that person either, unless you truly agree with what he or she did. You will share bad karma, but each of you will have less if you are in such accordance.
27. Food should be blessed with a prayer before being consumed. It is considered gluttonous and improper to have a big meal all to yourself, because you could not pray enough for all the food you have served.
28. If someone who has done much battle or killed another (such as an adventurer or solider) is entering a civilian’s home, he or she should lay all of his or her weapons inside the home but at the door. A Wizard’s or Cleric’s implements count as weapons. If staying to eat a meal or sleep, armor should also be removed, and another outfit should be prepared to take its place. The latter is also good etiquette for festivals and ceremonies.
29. Pray to and venerate as many spirits as you feel have helped you in your life. Do not lavish undue praise upon just one, and do not half-heartedly worship all of them. Do not feel forced to worship as you have been taught, but not betray the spirits you have been worshiping.
30. A Spirit, especially your local Spirit, is not just an object of worship. It can be a friend, and a warm creature when you need one to be besides. Consequently, it might also need you the same way.
There you have it.
If you would like to suggest topics for the next 30 quirks, please tell me what sorts of things you’d like to read about!