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= Your conculture Ethnographical Questionnaire =

Dr. Zahar’s Ethnographical Questionnaire was compiled by David Zahir to help in the description of concultures, and can be found in the files section of the Conculture group at Yahoo.


Questions of Place

Describe the geography of where your society calls home.

On the island of Meradion, to the north of the continent of Nyeltore. The island is approximately 70,000 square miles in size, covered by mountains, forests of firs, and glaciers.

Describe the climate your society deals with. How severe are their seasons?

Cold. In the summers it raises to a lovely 15 F where in winters it can drop as low as -70 F. Average temperatures are between -30 and -10 F. It snows year-round on the southern half, while the northern edge is actually too dry for snow to occur.

What kinds of natural disasters has this society gotten used to?

Blizzards, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes. The regular earthquakes and eruptions often reach their nearest neighbors, the Coarghydh. Thus they call the island of Meradion "Dreoghendr" - The Door to Hell.

What are the most commonly-grown foods?

A fruit called Burode. It's soft like a peach but it grows to the size of your head. It only grows natively in the tropics (native name Bhoqa). The Agyon grow it by incubation, though not for their own consumption.

What are the most commonly-eaten meats?

The Agyon are obligate carnivores, so the plants grown and harvested are not for their own consumption. Instead they are used to feed the Rondetsunda (Coarghydh: Ygmakl) which is a giant polar-bear like creature that terrorizes human settlements on the main continent, but the variant kept by the Agyon has been bred into more of a giant digestion machine. Sea food is also common, as well as the occasional whale or seal.

What foods are considered exotic or expensive?

Peppers used for seasoning. The Agyon's incubation methods do not grow them well so the good ones have to be imported.

What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?

Agyon do not generally drink alcohol. More common are teas. The most popular is Damodhen, rich with an earthy, fiery flavor. Sugary cocoa from the south is rarer but also generally enjoyed, while the most expensive drink available is called Somen, similar to Absinthe.

Is there usually enough food and water for the population?

Yes. The Agyon's food industry is the most sophisticated and capital-rich on Dinyoran.

What is this place's most abundant resource?

Gold, Silver, and Iron. The crust is also especially aluminum-rich however there are problems with extracting it.

What is its most valuable resource?

A black, lustrous metal they call Zande. It is popular for decorative uses and it also is important catalyst in the incubation process.

What resource is it most lacking?

Usable land. The Agyon's population is very small but even so it is pretty crowded. The majority of their homeland is covered in ice sheets. They also have problems with regulating their body temperature as their internal metabolisms produce too much heat: They need to be in a cold environment to cool off. This makes it a problem to expand southward.

How do people travel from one place to another?

Flying. Average Agyon can fly at a top speed of 150 mph. Strong fliers can reach 180.

Are the borders secure? In what way?

Cold climate + Treacherous waters separating it from the mainland = Natural defenses. There's also the fact that the Agyon are huge (but quite peaceful and gentle unless provoked) "beasts" who could rip you in half quite easily, To top it all off, the neighbors believe the place is the entrance to the underworld so they're scared shitless of it. To sum it all up, you'd have to be completely insane, if not outright suicidal, to try to invade this place.

Not to say nobody has ever tried: General Dozenuioc Imacthua Gareth, having accomplished no major military victories and on the eve of being rotated out of office, decided that launching a successful attack on hell itself would win him a favorable spot in the history books. After (understandably) having problems with getting troops on board with this, he managed to fill up 5 ships and set off. One hit an iceberg. One went down in a storm. The remaining 3 all wrecked upon the rocks of the southern coast (Meradion has no suitable harbors) and were stranded. Two days later the wreckage was found by a small group of 3 Agyon. Gareth and a small group of men decided to attack the "demons." They were slaughtered within minutes. Some others fled for their lives and dove into the water (where they presumably froze to death). The rest surrendered and expected the worst. They were forgiven and taken home.

About 20 years later, one of Gareth's successors and subordinates (who was smart enough not to come along the first time), General Zuantych Moacteang Reaost, decided he'd try again. (Where his previous good judgment went I guess we'll never know!) This time he brought 20 ships and lost not a single one in the journey over. Unfortunately due to a navigation problem they landed on the North side of the island and all froze to death. *sigh*

How many people live here?

'Bout 60,000.

Where in this place to they congregate?

Several population centers (though they aren't quite "cities") are on the southern coast.

What part of this place do they avoid? Why?

The northern ice sheets for obvious reasons as there's really nothing out there. The volcanoes and hot earthquake zones are rarely built on but are popularly traveled to for the hot springs.

What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?

Rondetsunda for food, as well as small penguins and snow leopards (Tsandaion and Tyosone) as pets.

What are the most common wild animals?

Not many animals out there on the tundra. You see elk, wild horses, as well as wild variants of the Rondetsunda, penguins, snow leopards, and arctic foxes kept as pets. You also see walruses come up onto the beaches from time to time. There are also wild Drakes out and about though not as many as there are on the mainland. The Agyon consider drakes pests.

(Drakes are basically smaller dragons, though aside from the basic shape their physical forms hold a lot of differences between the Agyon, such as frills and odd colors and designs the Agyon lack. Drakes are also non-sentient and lack the ability to transform.)

Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won't be?

Penguins, Snow Leopards, and occasionally Arctic Foxes. Also, once in a great while an Agyon may keep a "pet" human. The designation of "pet" isn't how the human or the "owner" view it but it is how the relationship is viewed by the other Agyon.

Questions of Time

How far back does this society's written history go?

Approximately 150,000 years but this is really stretching the definition: Almost all of the writings still around are from the past 11,000 years. Only a few written fragments from that ancient past are still around, and it wouldn't be completely wrong to consider the authors of another civilization entirely. However the Agyon consider Meradion to still be this ancient civilization.

How far back do its people believe it goes?

Back to the beginning of time itself.

What is the worst disaster they believe they've faced?

They were created by the goddess Gyorozi, and for a long time lived with her and inhabited the whole planet. But everything changed when another god, Eamina, came around and took the planet for himself, changing it into its (mostly) current state. Meradion was the only place left untouched. Eamina ruled over the world for a long time until he was eventually defeated by the heroine Deomaia.

What was the best thing that every happened to them?

They've been doing pretty well since then.

What in their past makes them feel ashamed?

It's important to note the Agyon do not really have a collective mentality. Agyon have done some nasty things in the past. One example is Silaion's infamous raid of Zenithar. But the shame of this act is on Silaion, not on the rest of the species.

(Zenithar is the Agyon name for a human-populated city with relatively close proximity to Meradion. Silaion and a few of her friends decided to raid the merchant ships there and make off with the loot. This was one of the big events that cemented the human mentality of Agyons as being demonic monsters.)

What in their past makes them proud?

Just as bad acts bring no shame upon the species, good acts bring no glory. Every person should be judged by their own merits, not by the merits of their associates.

What are they afraid of happening again?

Nothing that all of them are afraid of in particular,

What are they hoping will happen? Do they think it likely?

They all have different plans for the future.

What do they assume the future will hold?

Like I said. All of them have different conceptions. Listing them all would take all day.

How has this society changed? Do its current members realize this?

Thanks to farming and cattle-raising methods the population now is actually larger than it's ever been. None of them would believe that though. They have the unfortunate idea stuck in their heads that the "creation age" was some unreachable glory.

What are the most popular stories about the past?

The story of Lyetomane, who invented steam power but only after dealing with a lot of her contemporaries trying to shut her down, never gets old.

Who in the past is the greatest hero? The worst villain?

Already said.

Do people think the present better or worse than the past?

Worse. Like I said, weird "Golden Age" fetish going on here.

Do people believe the future will be better or worse than the present or past?


Questions of Sex and Family

How many spouses may a man or woman have?

A female may have as many males as she likes, but a man cannot have a second mate unless his first one agrees with the arrangement, which is very rare.

Who decides on a marriage?

Whoever wants to be together. There really isn't a concept of "marriage." Relationships freely are made and broken apart, but only lasting ones are desired.

Can a marriage end in divorce? How?

Two mates can simply break up whenever they want, though this is considered a negative thing. If they don't like each other enough to stay together they showed poor judgment in being together in the first place.

Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?

The mother.

How is adultery defined? What (if any) is the punishment? Who decides?

Sex with someone who is not your mate. The mate may choose to end the relationship if they wish but other than that there is no punishment.

How are families named?(g) What happens to orphans?

An Agyon has their own name (given by their mother) as well as the name of their mother, and their mother's mother, for as far back as the genealogies can trace. For practical reasons usually the given name is the only one used, with possibly the mother's name for disambiguation, and not even having the full name memorized is a normal thing.

Orphans basically never happen, but I guess if it did happen the child would be expected to take care of themselves.

How are boy and girl children treated differently?

Girls are the ones who are invested in. The boys are kinda just there.

Are premarital relations allowed?

All relations are premarital.

How does your society define incest? Rape? How do people react to these?

Incest is generally defined as anyone who shares 2 mothers up the chain (that is, siblings and first cousins, as well as parents and children), but 3 is a little iffy. Practicing incest gets you funny looks but it won't get you stoned or anything. Male on female rape just doesn't happen for physiological reasons, as females grow to be up to 6 times the size of the males. If an Agyon woman claimed it happened nobody would probably believe her. Female on male rape does happen, and the male is expected to appreciate it.

What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?

No marriage.

What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced?

None. A Lady doesn't do such things!

What secret vice actually is practiced?

Agyon women have insane expectations of modesty and behavior for each other. As such these feelings get kindof... repressed. I'll just leave it at that.

What sexual habits are widely believed common among foreigners?

A Lady doesn't make assumptions about other people's personal lives.

How do people react to homosexuality?

F<->F? Acceptable. M<->M? Depends on what their mates think about it. If the males don't have mates then they're seen as worthless. A woman can be judged by her own merits, men don't have that luxury. Quite hypocritical.

How do the genders dress?

As previously stated, the women have very odd standards. It's not acceptable for a woman to show any part of her skin other than her head to anyone other than one of her mates. Even her neck and hands. Leathers and furs are standard attire, but those more well-to-do may have silks for formal occasions as well. But nothing revealing.

Men's attire is more relaxed, as long as they don't embarrass their mate.

Is prostitution legal? How are prostitutes viewed? Is this accurate?

A Lady doesn't do such things. Male prostitution however is just fine.

What professions or activities are considered masculine?

Anything the females don't want to do.

What professions or activities are viewed as feminine?

Pretty much anything fun, desirable, or intensive like building construction, architecture, and art. Leave the necessary but menial tasks to the men.

What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?

Inanimate things are generally female.

What is the biggest sexual taboo?

A Lady doesn't think about such things.

Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?


What does this society mean by the word "virgin" and how important it it?

A female who cannot yet produce eggs.

Questions of Manners

Who speaks first at a formal gathering?

The host.

What kinds of gifts are considered in extremely bad taste?

Pretty much the only acceptable gifts are extravagant clothes and jewelry. Giving someone something more practical implies you don't think they're capable of taking care of themselves. The only exception is if the practical item is also something extravagantly made, like an artfully-crafted clock.

How do younger adults address their elders?

The same as they would address someone of their own age and position.

What colors are associated with power? With virtue? With death?

Black is associated with love and feeling; White with power and strength.

If two men get into a fight, how is this supposed to be resolved?

A female steps in to break them up.

If two women get into a fight, how should that be resolved?

Ladies don't do such things. If it does happen then everyone else around tries to break them up. To resort to brute force to solve your problems makes you no better than an animal.

When is it rude to laugh at something funny?

Whenever the speaker wasn't trying to be funny. The Agyon love a good joke so sometimes this can be really hard to tell. If everyone else laughs though it is okay.

What kinds of questions cannot be asked in public? In private? At all?

Personal questions are frowned upon in all cases, but sometimes it is understood that the person asking just needs to know for whatever reason. In public it is considered rude to discuss business matters.

How do people demonstrate grief?

They all react in different ways. Agyon have an average lifespan of about 3000 years, and can potentially live much longer. For an Agyon to die at all is an incredibly rare event. So when it happens nobody really knows what to do. Some go into a deep sadness and refuse to leave their home for months. Others are overcome with anger. And others still just deny it happened at all.

What does this society do with their corpses?


What kinds of jewelry do people wear? And when?

Gold and silver rings and earrings are an everyday thing. For a more formal occasion pendants and other pieces of jewelry made of Zande and gemstones may be worn. A Lady never wearing any jewelry is a sign of not being able to take care of herself; A Lady wearing too much is desperate for attention.

Who inherits property? Titles? Position?

Agyon do not normally plan to die. The previous holder may choose to designate a person to leave their things with, but most of the time when it happens it is unexpected and no such plans were made.

What happens to those suffering from extreme mental illness?

So long as they aren't a burden on anyone else they're left alone. Those who cause trouble are treated no differently from any other.

What are the most popular games? How important are they?

Anything involving logic. Arathen (similar to Go) is the most popular. A skilled Arathen player is highly respected.

What parts of the body are routinely covered?

In females, all of them except the face.

How private are bodily functions like bathing or defecating?

Extremely private.

How do people react to physical deformity?

They most often treat them as diseased.

When and how does someone go from child to adult?

Children leave their mother's care at a very young age compared to humans, at around the age of 40 to 60. (Remember, Agyon live for thousands of years.)

Questions of Faith

Is there a formal clergy? How are they organized?

What do people believe happens to them after death? How, if at all, can they influence this?

What happens to those who disagree with the majority on questions of religion?

Are there any particular places considered special or holy? What are they like?

What are the most popular rituals or festivals?

What do people want from the god or gods? How do they try and get it?

How do their religious practices differ from their neighbours?

What is the most commonly broken religious rule?(i) What is the least-violated religious rule?

What factions exist within the dominant religious institutions? How do they compete?

Are there monastic groups? What do they do and how are they organized? How do you join one?

How are those who follow different faiths treated?

What relationship do religious and political leaders have?

What superstitions are common? What kinds of supernatural

events/beings do people fear?

Questions of Government

Who decides whether someone has broken a law? How?

What kinds of punishments are meted out? By whom? Why?

How are new laws created or old ones changed?

Is there some form of clemency or pardon? What is involved?

Who has the right to give orders, and why?

What titles do various officials have?

How are the rules different for officials as opposed to the common person?

How do government officials dress?

Is the law written down? Who interprets it?

Once accused, what recourse does someone have?

Is torture allowed? What kinds?

How are people executed?

Who cannot rise to positions of leadership?

Is bribery allowed? Under what circumstances?

What makes someone a bad ruler in this society? What can be done about it?

What are the most common or dangerous forms of criminal?

Questions of War

Who declares war?

Who has the power to declare conditions of peace?

What happens to prisoners taken in battle?

What form of warfare does this society use?

Who are the Elite warriors? What distinguishes them?

How does someone get command of troops?

Where do the loyalties of military units lie?

Are there professional soldiers? Do they make up the bulk of the military?

Has this society ever attacked another? Do they want to? What would make them do so?

Who are their enemies? Who's winning?

What do soldiers do when there's no war?

Questions of Education

Does this society have its own language? Its own writing?

How common is literacy? How is literacy viewed?

What form and value are books?

Who teaches others? How do they teach?

Who decides who learns to read or write?(f) Who teaches professions, like carpenter or scribe?

Are foreigners ever brought in to teach new skills? Who does that?

How do this society's doctors try to treat wounds and sickness?

Which medical assumtions of this society are wrong?

Questions of Art

What are the favorite artforms?

Paint and drawing are popular, but the most popular form of artwork is intricately designed machinery, with all the cogs, springs, and gears exposed. Many devices have uses things on the outside just for show, but if the elegantly-designed machine does something practical that's all the better.

What are the least-favorite?

Music. Especially lyrical music. The delicate, smooth sounds woodwinds and strings are more acceptable but anything like a drum or a guitar is out of the question. They'd absolutely hate rock music.

How respected are artists?

No more and no less than any other profession. They provide a valuable service and those who value their work pay for it.

Do artists require official or unofficial protection?

Nope. Copyright is unheard of among the Agyon.

What kinds of trouble are artists in particular likely to find themselves in?

None in particular. (This isn't really a very good question anyway. Did whoever made this expect every conculture to hate artists like the ancient chinese did?)

How might a very successful artist live?

Same as any other successful person.

What forms of theatre does your society have?

How naturalistic or stylized is your society's art?

What shapes are most common in your society's arts, like embroidery or architecture?

Which artforms get the most and least respect?

What form does censorship take?

Who may not be an artist?

What qualities equal "beauty" in this society?

What makes a man or woman especially beautiful?

How do people react to tattoos? Piercings? Facial hair? Make-up?

Questions of sex and marriage

Is sex confined to marriage?

Or, is it supposed to be? What constitutes aberrant behavior?

Is there anything about this culture or religion in that culture that specifically addresses sexual conduct?

Are there laws about it? What about prostitution?

How old should someone be in your culture to be having sex?

What is considered too great a difference in age for a couple?

Do relationships allow multiple partners?

Should sex be a one-to-one experience? Or are groups allowed?

And, of course, what about homosexuality? Is it frowned on? Encouraged?

Questions of death and burial

What is their understanding of death and dying?

Do they cremate their dead? Or, how are dead bodies disposed of?

Is the family responsible for the body?

What part do the priests play?

Are there cemeteries at all?

Or, does everyone have a crypt in back with all the relatives in it?

Do people visit the dead? If so, how often and why?

Questions of suicide

What do people in this culture think about suicide?

Is it the greatest sin one can commit? Or is it a sin at all?

Is it the great and last comfort of a tormented soul?

Is it worse than murder?

Questions of Law, Justice and Police

Is there a civilian police force, or is law enforcement the province of the military?

Is the police force a nationalised one, or are there multiple regional forces?

How "military" are they? Are they usually/ever armed?

What is the extent of their authority? Can they shoot you? Can they use magic? Can they torture or otherwise force a confession? Can they use telepathy?

Are there individuals or groups who are above the law?

Is there a secret police?

What is the role of police informants, if any?