Friday, August 1, 2008

World Building; Grasslands and Deserts by Sabrina Klein

World building: Grasslands (a.k.a. prairies, savannahs, steppe, veld, & pampa)

Grasslands like lakes and rivers can be inside other biomes, and create ecological crossovers. Other biomes have crossovers but not as commonly as grasslands, rivers, and lakes. They can exist inside temperate forests, in deserts, around lakes or rivers, near shorelines, and they can be vast enough to exist on their own as well. Therefore for the sake of world building we will use them as a vast prairie or grassland with only an influence of water because it is needed for survival.

*note on using grasslands in amidst other biomes. They may have a small grouping among a forest, rivers and lakes are found frequently in combination with grasslands. The surrounding biome and its ecology will influence how a group will interact with the grassland as it would with lakes and rivers. When trying to survive the life-form will use everything at its disposal. Nature doesn’t have boundaries unless they are physical. They won’t stay out of a place unless there is an ecological reason. Think about the mouse that comes into your house, to the mouse it’s just part of the woods. It doesn’t care that it’s yours. These are human concepts. Ecology doesn’t acknowledge these higher human concepts because it doesn’t care. Territory is established differently, a border is a line on a map.

Economics: In a grassland hunter gatherer or agrigarian culture would thrive. Agrigarian cultures would also thrive because of the abundant sunshine, provided they had a source of water. Agrigarian might be a hub for trade for surrounding hunter-gatherers, and vice versa. Hunter-gatherer groups may also

trade amongst themselves. These groups are not constant movers, and most will have places that they migrate to annually or seasonally because of food and water sources. Surrounding groups will know that the area is theirs and know where to find them approximately.

Language: Each group would tend to keep a language as theirs. Language is a huge part of a group’s identity. However, those members who were constant traders with other groups would be bi or tri-lingual. These people would be extremely useful. Historically in our own world grassland hunter-gatherers do not have a written component to the language, and they pass their traditions down orally. Agrigarian grasslanders may have a written tradition, but most likely came from oral tradition if their ancestors were hunter gatherers in the grassland. They may not take to written language for everything. Particularly that thing held dear or sacred.

Kinship and descent: With roving groups there is only some opportunity to marry outside the group. There must be contact with others for this to happen, and some groups may have laws concerning who may marry outside the group. For instance only daughters may be able to marry outside the group. The restriction could be that whoever is the inheritor of the line may not be able to marry outside and live outside the group. Marriage of an outsider would be permissible, but they may have to live with the group so the line of heirs doesn’t leave the original groups and take the wealth with them.

Leadership & stratification: The leadership of such groups is usually elected in some manner by deed, and or could be by age. Then often times there is a larger governing body that is used for crisis, and/or as a way to hold a larger groups that is broken into smaller groups together such as a clan with family lines broken over a large geographical area.

Religion & magick: Religion of the grasslands would depend on the surrounding biome. If the grassland is in a cold area that would affect it just as well as if it’s in a constantly warm area. The agrigarian nature of groups would create a new set of issues for religion as well as possibly an agrigarian form of magic that works with harvests and weather. A hunter-gatherer group may see things differently. They may have god for different issues, or some of the same. In environments like this magickal components are often nature based.

World-building in Grasslands: A culture from this type of ecology may be hunter gatherer and agrigarian. In the spring they migrate to an area the closer to a water source to water the crops with, and in the winter they move further inland where the hunting is better, and more shelter is available from more diverse terrain. They would trade with other groups, in the resources abundant to them, but most likely within a barter system. Likely resources may include furs, meat, or migrating livestock.

     Religious practitioners may be a specialized grouped with a linage definition that is not by blood buy by spirit. Therefore practitioners may be male or female. This aspect of the specialists would accommodate for the balance demand of nature. Pat lives would be within the supernatural possibilities of the religion. Marriage of the body and spirit would have a whole new seriousness. This would make kinship extremely important. Matrilineal descent is more likely than patrilineal because of the connection to life energy of birth. That fact may also influence the tendency for female shaman. The channeling of spirits would be common place within the spiritual nature of the groups.

    The language of the spirits may only be interpretable with a shaman/priest. The groups would have a secular and a sacred language. The secular language would be verbal while the sacred language would be made of pictographs. Pictographs are usually tied to the ecological relationship of the life-forms. Perhaps something of a set of curved lines arranged for different meanings.

Other influences of culture may come from a river or bordering woodland. They may also come from a tundra or taiga if the grassland is based from a steppe. Each type of grassland alters the ideas in a variable way. Grasslands are very susceptible to the ecologies that surround them or that they themselves infiltrate. This gives them a diversity that some ecology does not have.


World Building: Deserts

Kinship & Descent: The matrilineal or patrilineal organization of descent would go either way. Most likely it would probably be patrilineal. A matrilineal pattern for descent would be less feasible because of the patrilineal tendency of organization. This creates a need to track relationships based upon male lineage rather than female because of the higher worth of males to females. Males are the heads of the communities, and they are less likely to be sent out or willing to go to a foreign group of people to marry. Marriage would definitely be dependent on the specific culture that was within the desert. There could be multiple types of cultures within the desert because of variable types of desert areas. Groups that reside in an oasis or delta area may be more inclined to have arranged marriages than the roaming tribes or clans. Those living in the desert that isn’t an oasis may be either way. Those with cities within the desert that depend on a well system may also be more inclined to arrange marriage based on social class/ caste.

The orientation of one’s’ self in relationship to the importance of family has always culturally been one of great importance in the desert. The desert is a very dependent on multiple people working together to survive. Survival in the desert alone is not likely due to environmental stresses. Therefore those that are likely to be the most reliable are those of blood or marital relation.

Religion & Magick: The harshness of an environment will have a great deal of affect on the degree of belief in the supernatural. Technology creates a gap of understanding between what is perceived as supernatural (sacred) and natural (profane). The higher the level of technology the more things appear as explainable through science. Therefore, a belief in the supernatural is less likely to happen in an advanced society and it likely to be refined. If it does exist there is most definitely a substantial reason based in evidence or faith. Therefore, in a biome like a desert belief in the supernatural is more likely to occur with the absence of technology.

Magick is something that is dependent on the belief of the supernatural in some form, or is a belief or the science of magick. Therefore the presence of magick is not dependent upon the presence of strong belief in the supernatural. Rather it is dependent upon the belief in magick itself.

In an environment where life or death is mostly and seemingly out of the hands of the life forms inside of it; a culture that has a low level of technology would therefore have a greater belief in the supernatural, and this would create a larger group within the culture where the supernatural was a large part of their everyday life.

Organization & Stratification: This is usually connected to the kinship and descent system of the group in question. This can be a strict or an unrestricted hierarchy of power. Where power resides will almost always take the same priority as the pattern of descent. However, the ability to change one’s station in life may most definitely not depend upon the priority of the descent of the organization. Whichever type of organization the culture takes whether it is matriarchal, patriarchal, or some kind of “…cracy”; i.e. democracy, mageocracy, is going to correlate to the stratification. Historically the desert tends to have a very strict stratification system. This is due to the harshness of the environment. People of power tend to use the environment to enforce behavior.

Economics: Value in the desert would very much be defined by need. Not just the need of the person looking for goods but also what they were trading in reference to what they were getting. Therefore, a bartering system is more likely to come out of a desert culture than a monetary exchange system. An oasis may create the potential for a small monetary exchange system. However it would almost defiantly be linked to the caste system of culture using it. Goods and services would have priority in a culture where pomp and circumstance may not have a place if the group in question is nomadic. If the group in question isn’t nomadic and they have for instance taken residence in an oasis or cave system where an artesian spring resides. Then goods and services held in demand would definitely alter due to the physical stability of the group, and the lessened need for ease of transportation of personal possession. Ease of transportation of personal possession in a place where transporting large quantities of physical goods could place undue risk to the group’s survival. This would be in reference to the limited supply of water and food for beasts of burden and the people populating the group. Lack of desire to risk the group may curb the demand for unnecessary goods but possibly not services. Especially those services which do not require physical labor to transport the goods acquired.

Language: The language of the desert may change from group to group depending on the isolated conditions. Stability of a group could also bring varying degrees of changes due to influence of nomadic tribes coming and going. Influence can change language by leaving behind bits and pieces of a nomad’s; nomad: in this instance being used in reference to someone who doesn’t reside in the same immediate geographic area, language influencing the language of the stable group. There may also be a group of nomads that share the same language or a common language developed and used by the nomadic for trade purposes. This common trade language may also extend into stable cities.

World building in the Desert: People of the desert that are not attached to an oasis would value herd animals as a commodity. Wood would also be valuable, but the most valuable thing would be water, water equals life. Perhaps they have a special type of horse that lives in their world. The horse can go for weeks without water, and stores water in an internal layer between the muscle and the skin. So these creatures are essential to their survival outside the oasis. They are a band of hunter gatherers that Believe that to open their mouths uncovered invites demons to posses them. In fact it is so ingrained in their culture that even in death these horses serve them.

The horses when they do die are taken and eaten in ceremonial rituals to absorb their surviving powers. They make magic charms from bones and hair. Their skins are used as blankets to keep evil away and fertility. Mane hare is used to weave the most desired facial covers.

Almost all tribes are patriarchies, and all daughters are married off for the best match to create alliances or to settle debts. They cannot own more property than they can carry themselves. There for women have come up with very creative carrying devices for their belongings, and their clothing is full of pockets.

Religious specialists are hereditary by the paternal grandfather. It is passed to the second grandson of the first son. Thereby insuring that the first sons are always available for marriage and the family line is insured continuation. So they only come along every other generation. These males are taught desert magick from the time that they can speak, and cease to live with their mothers at this point. They learn the art of breeding horses, are considered the wise men of the group, and are the negotiators for any trade involving beasts with another clan or tribe. There may be many of these specialist and they have their own ranking system within their subculture.

The economics of trade within the desert people are based on need. Everything is completely subjective to the value of the people making the trade. Monetary systems are of no use to them, but they do keep a certain amount that is from the oasis kingdoms. Each tribe has crafts or services that are for sale. There are competing clans for the same trades or services. Once a year there is a festival at the great oasis, all major trade and competitions for service to determine who is believed to be the best for the year is decided here.

Languages of these tribes are from three language families. There is the Language of the oasis, the language of the horse, and the language of sand. Normally there are many people of one tribe that speak two languages. Trade necessitates a common language be found. There is a dialect of the language of sane that is ancient that serves and the holy and magical language.

1 comment:

elizaw said...

These world-building articles are really great resources. Right now I'm running a World Building Month event for writers on my own journal; I'll give these a link and a mention. :)