Poswob Ethnographical Questionnaire

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copied from KneeQuickie, itself originally from FrathWiki

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.

The Poswob Empire (known as Pusapom in the Poswa language) is very large for its time period, about the size of the continental USA. There are 26 states and over 100 "districts" of very uneven sizes (also much like the USA). However, Poswobs live mostly along rivers and lakes, with vast interior areas remaining essentially wilderness. Furthermore, the expansion to its present size was quite recent; previously the empire was mostly just the south coast of Rilola.

It should be noted that this is a multispecies planet, but the term Poswob refers only to humans. The different animals have overlapping empires of their own, some of which follow the humans' borders and some of which do not. Among the sapient species which Poswobs will encounter on a regular basis are: monkeys, firebirds, dolphins, hippos, elephants, hedgehogs, lions, tigers, and bears. Some of these names are only approximations of what the Teppalan animal looks like; for example, the Teppalan hedgehog is actually far larger than the Earthan one. In fact, in general, most of the sentient animals the humans meet up with are larger than humans. For their own protection, humans generally live with other humans (even if there are other animals living right nearby), and for the most part their life is not much different than it would be in an all-human empire.

Because humans are so small, they have been able to reach much higher populations than that of any other animal. For example, there are only 12000 elephants on the planet, and that is not due to hunting, but due to the fact that it takes a lot of land to feed one family of elephants, even without human agriculture crowding them out. This is one of the reasons for the success of humans, and also of the firebirds before them, firebirds being one of the few sapient animals with a smaller body size than humans.

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

The orbit of planet Teppala is considerably more eccentric than Earth's, which means that pronounced temperature differentials in seasons exist even at the Equator. To some extent, the precipitation also slows down during "winter". Also, the atmosphere has a five cell engine rather than the three cell model of Earth, which means that deserts tend to be thinner and in general less severe than those on Earth, enabling people to live almost anywhere. Nevertheless, there are some deserts, the largest and most inhospitable of which that is known to the Poswobs being found at the place where their continent (Rilola) is at its thickest, and is surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides, blocking out any moisture that would otherwise manage to survive the winds from the oceans.

The Poswob Empire stretches from subtropical climates at about 25N (where the population density is highest) all the way to the glaciers of the Arctic. Also, there are settlements in high mountain ranges. Some of the islands along the south coast have maritime climates with little seasonal variation in rainfall or temperature, and thus would be considered "tropical" by most, though technically the correct classification even here is subtropical. Sarapom, a major city, has an average annual temperature of 64F (about the same as Savannah, Georgia). Yet, it is located near a high mountain range, so winter temperatures can drop very low, as low as -13F, even though the normal climate even in winter is quite warm. Further east, the average temperature does not change much, but the distance from the cold mountains increases, so cold waves tend to be much less potent. This southeastern plains region is where most of the "tropical" fruits such as pineapples and coconuts are grown.

The national capital, Blop, is located in a "temperate rainforest" at about 35N and near sea level, yet the average annual temperature is only about 55F and snowfall is frequent during the winter. Surprisingly cool temperatures, often 10F or more below those at similar latitudes along the west coast, dominate much of the Poswob Empire, due in large part to the presence of a perpetually cold ocean to the north, in which icebergs can often be found at the height of summer at the same latitudes that further west experience temperatures of 100F or above. Meanwhile, during winter, it becomes the only ocean in the world that is colder than the land to the west of it. The reason for the persistence of cold in this ocean is that it is connected to arctic waters at both ends and there is no other outlet; it is similar to the Hudson Bay in Canada, which is similarly responsible for creating tundra along the coasts of Ontario and Quebec at the same latitudes which produce choice farmland only a few hundred miles to the west. Unlike the Hudson Bay, though, the people of Pusapom love the cold weather because it brings to them more supple fish supplies and better protection from tropical diseases.

Meanwhile, the position of the capital is ideal for attracting heavy storms, and indeed nearly every storm that forms in the western ocean is pushed right towards Blop by the jet stream since it has a permanent trough in the center of the continent. The result of this is that Blop has over 100 inches of rainfall per year and a lot of days with gale force winds. These are cold storms, though, even in the height of summer, and tall "anvil" clouds with thunder and lightning are not particularly common.

Some of the coldest permanent settlements are along trade routes in the northeast. Average annual temperatures here are right around 32F, with winter temperatures dropping to -50F or below. However, summers are surprisingly warm, with temperatures that even southerners would call hot being a common occurrence. The coldest city in the Poswob Empire is Bwemmis, located right at the toe of a glacier at 43°N (its name means "under the glacier"). It is only slightly warmer than the north coast of Alaska. Glaciers extend as far south as 37N in the highest mountains. Teppala, in general, has a sharper temperature differential than Earth because the summers are weak and that is what controls the melting rate of sea ice.

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

Not much. As said before, the empire is quite large, so it has experience with volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, floods, and droughts, .... but for the most part the humans have not settled in the areas that are most prone to these types of disasters. Even the hurricanes are not really much of a problem because the subtropical south coast is sheltered from the open ocean by other coastal areas that extend further south (granted, this didnt save Louisiana from Katrina), and the ocean water is not warm enough to allow the formation of a serious hurricane in the immediately adjacent sea of Laba. Thus, any hurricane to hit the south coast would have to form much further east and then zoom directly westward for over 1000 milse before making landfall. In the far northeast, every day is a natural disaster, since it hardly ever goes above freezing and the wind is constantly gale force, but the only reason anyone even lives there is because it's the easiest route to the east coast of Rilola.

Asteroid strikes are relatively common on Teppala, and indeed the national calendar is based on an asteroid strike which smacked into the equator and killed thousands of humans and millions of animals, and caused an extinction wave which both forced humans out of their old homeland and made the continent of Rilola less dangerous for them (previously, the number of large man-eating predators on the mainland was even higher). But even so, there has not been an impact of considerable damage in over 8000 years.

It should be noted that the continent of Rilola is much wider (east-west) than it is tall (north-south), which turns out to be a particularly mean curse for the firebirds, which are migratory. Thus the firebirds have to fly for thousands of miles along a twisty coastline just to get a few degrees closer to the equator each winter. (They cannot fly directly over the land without risking death from lack of food). Some firebirds choose to stay in the same place all year even if it gets very cold or very hot. These places are where few humans live, since firebirds eat humans.

What are the most commonly-grown foods?

Although Blop has decidedly a temperate climate, subtropical climates are only a few days' journey away, and many tropical fruits are boated in every day from the south coast to supplement the native crops such as carrots and apples. There are no domesticated grains, however, so a huge part of the diet of modern Earth is missing here. Nevertheless the "paleo" diet of modern Earth is not much different from what Poswobs expect to eat every day.

The south coast is just warm enough to grow the Poswobs' favorite foods, the pineapple (supfwob) and coconut (blumbia). Transportation to the national capital is easy although it does make the cost of the fruits significantly higher than where they are native. A pineapple sells for about 50 bullaedža in Blop, which can be converted (using a simplified cost-of-living index that just assumes 1 bullaedža = 10 cents) to $5 in modern US dollars. However the average adult in Blop only makes about 300 bullaedža a day, so generally these fruits are only seen at parties.

What are the most commonly-eaten meats?

Fish. The Poswobs (in every part of the empire) live near bodies of water which are heavily populated with large fish that never seem to die off. Anyone can go and grab a 200 pound trout and feed the whole village. Land animals, generally speaking, are both taboo and more difficult to kill.

What foods are considered exotic or expensive?

For most of history, the Poswobs have been trying to get into the tropics, but have found a lot of difficulty since almost every other nation was trying to do the same thing and most of them were stronger than Pusapom. Even their own allies, the Pabaps, refused to let Poswobs settle on the south coast for thousands of years. They didnt want to fight a war against their ally, and knew that the Pabaps would be given weapons by their otehr allies to make the war harder for Pusapom. But eventually they tempted the people of the south coast into becoming Poswobs peacefully and so Pusapom now has about 800 miles of tropical coastline to themselves, and the transportation network is fast enough to get tropical fruits into the north in an edible condition, so tropical fruits are no longer considered exotic in Blop and the major nearby population centers. Neverthless, much of the empire is still too far away to benefit from this trade, even areas that are further south than Blop (because of teh curvature of the land.) On the other hand, surprisingly large settlements have developed in the far north, where the climate provides natural refrigeration or even freezing all year long and therefore any foods acquired can be stored for very long periods of time. Even some areas with climates bordering on temperate have glaciers nearby which can be used as an essentially unlimited supply of ice, not to mention the idea of storing food inside the glacier itself.

Meat, of any land animal, is expensive. In the capital city of Blop, it is common to see the same vendor selling cooked fish meat for 1/10 the price per pound of meats such as beef and chicken. This is due to the cultural taboo/prohibition against killing animals, so that all meat has to come from animals that died of natural causes (though there are some quasi-domesticated "farms" the animals there are not raised in enormous groups the way they are in modern Earth societies). On the rare occasions when Poswobs do eat meat, it's always the muscles of an animal, never organs, eggs, dairy, or anything else. The same applies to the fish.

That said, the price of food in general is quite low; all adult humans are given a guaranteed minimum income of 135 bullaedža per day, which will buy a month's worth of even a relatively expensive meat such as pork, so purchasing food is not a problem for even the poorest humans. (In fact, I have to wonder if I've made a mistake somewhere, since it seems it would be impossible for meat to be produced and cooked and sold so cheaply. e.g. a single banana costs as much as 3 lbs of lamb meat, and something like 50 pounds of fish. More later.) NOTE: More realistic figures I've been cooking up (LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!)lately show that the price of a pound of pork would be around 1400 bullaedža, almost 100 times higher than I had calculated previously, and thus unaffordable for nearly everyone. Note that these pigs, like most animals, are wild, so the animal must be tracked down, killed, rushed into the city at the maximum possible speed before the meat spoils, and then whaterver is unsold thrown out safely. Whereas before I was essentially just looking at transportation cost. So this is much more realistic.

Meanwhile, even with the new calculations, heavy fruits such as pineapples and coconuts still cost about 40 apiece, so they are expensive enough that people in Blop would eat them only rarely, but not unaffordable.

What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?

At least one wine (towi) is known, but the alcohol content is very low, and is oftne further diluted by mixing it with fruit juice, especially for children. Thus wine comes in "flavors", one for each of the fruits it is mixed with, along with combinations of fruits, and diluted wine is the Poswob's primary drink, even for children, second only to water. Pusapom has most of the world's wine-growing territory, so it is a major export into other areas with climates either too cold or too warm to grow wine grapes. Thousands of years ago, only the Pabaps had a warm enough climate for wine, such that the grape became the emblem of the state of Lapel where Paba is located, but although some vineyards do remain there, the climate is now warm enough that other plants keep creeping in and most wine is grown in the north. It helps that cold climate grapes were cultivated early on, such that they grow even further north than staple crops such as apples do.

Is there usually enough food and water for the population?

Yes, despite the very low level of technology, there has never been a famine in Blop or any other northern settlement, and famines in the more heavily populated southern states really just mean that people can't get the foods they want, not that they can't get food at all.

The available biomass of fish in the Rum Ocean to the north of Blop is approximately 300 times the food requirements of the human population there, even factoring in all the other animals that also need fish to survive; so if a "famine" were ever to occur, all they'd have to do is sail a mile or so further out to sea each week to get the fish they need.

What is this place's most abundant resource?

What is its most valuable resource?

What resource is it most lacking?

How do people travel from one place to another?

Mostly by boat, sometimes horses or camels can be used to travel over land. Although camels were originally taken from the deserts, like horses, they actually do better in wet climates than dry climates.

There are some birds that are large enough to carry humans in their claws and bring them up to high places such as mountains, but even on this planet this kind of transportation exists mostly in fantasy stories because in reality most birds are either hostile or just not interested in humans. Even those birds that can do it can only fly for short distances. Also it's dangerous for the human since the birds' talons will cut them and/or lose their grasp on the human and thus cause them to die on impact with the ground. Note that firebirds are too weak to carry humans for even a short distance; the type of birds that can do that have longer limbs and are only distantly related to firebirds.

Are the borders secure? In what way?

The Poswob Empire is pretty much undefended, because the population believes in a strongly pacifistic religion and political philosophy, but they don't have many enemies either. Most foreigners would rather enslave Poswobs than conquer them and disrupt their government. The Poswobs live to the east of another empire called Khulls. They have signed a treaty which allows the Khulls people to more or less slap them around and enslave them, because 4000 years ago the Khulls warriors saved them in a war that would have brought them to extinction. This means the Khulls people are a legally established permanent ruling class in the Poswob Empire, but on the other hand, the Khulls people are responsible for protecting the Poswobs from other empires who would also want to enslave them. There are also limits on the powers of the Khulls; for example, they cannot order an entire village of Poswobs to commit mass suicide or to leave their homes and give them to the Khulls. Even slavery, in this context, has rules.

How many people live here?

The city of Blop has about 50,000 people; the whole empire is close to 1 million. Similar (I think?) to medieval Europe. Paba is 250000.

Where in this place to they congregate?

Pusapom contains many different cultures, each with different lifestyles. Pabaps are almost entirely urban, so in their territory there are large tracts of land with nearly no human population, or at least no Pabap population. They are entirely vegetarian, though, so they need to get their food from gardens. Thus the population density of the cities is surprisingly low. "Aboriginal" tribes such as the Manibians (actually two completely different tribes) are entirely rural, and even nomadic in most cases. Poswobs will live anywhere as long as there is water nearby.

What part of this place do they avoid? Why?

Weapons are illegal in most parts of the empire, so it is dangerous to go out into the wilderness since there are plenty of animals that prey on humans. After all, humans are the perfect replacement for the animals that died in the asteroid strike. But in the extreme north and east, it would be impossible to survive without hunting land animals, and so the people are allowed to have weapons. This is because these territories were not part of the empire when the United Pacifist Treaty was signed, and are exempt from it.

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

One could argue that all animals are domesticated, or that none are, because as said above the animals in this world have a level of sentience that is confined on Earth to just a few animals (humans, elephants, dolphins, arguably cats, dogs, etc)

What are the most common wild animals?

Wolves, bears, badgers, firebirds, hippos, hedgehogs, crabs, horses, cats, rats, rabbits, cows, lungfish, tetrapods, and dolphins. This excludes trivial answers like nematode worms, which of course outnumber cats by 923504576762395 to 1, and even middle size insects like ants that humans don't interact much with.


Rabbits are, in many areas of the empire, the most dangerous animal humans will encounter. It is not because the rabbits are particularly powerful, but that they live in large settlements much like human towns and compete with humans for natural resources. Rabbit attacks are often highly organized. Although rabbits on Teppala can not generally handle weapons, and therefore must rely on brute force attacks using their sharp claws and teeth, this is okay because the Poswobs have essentially made weapons illegal and made themselves the ideal victim for just about any animal anywhere, Rabbits love attacking large groups of delicate humans, usually preferring female victims and those who are sleeping. Their intent is not necessarily to destroy the entire human population of a city but merely to send humans a message that they are in danger and should seek a new homeland if they want to be safe. Humans don't generally retaliate by attacking rabbits as they don't want to risk more human deaths when they know the rabbit population would quickly recover, but there are some examples of wars where humans launched the first attack when the rabbit population was perceived to be small enough to defeat in one battle. In a perverse way, Poswob humans consider the fact that rabbits can kill humans and humans cant protect themselves a good thing, because rabbits have "Womb Power" because they have a higher birthrate and "deserve" to cut up humans.

The recent increase in teh rabbit population is linked to other events including the strengthening of the military power of the human population. Since rabbits and humans are the ideal prey of many of the same animals, humans' victories over wolves, cougars, etc. has helped the rabbit population grow. For the most part, rabbits and humans are each other's enemies, but there are some examples of them making peace and either living together or agreeing to divide up land and resources in a way that keeps them both healthy. About 7400 rabbits currently live in the imperial capital of Blop, about one for every seven humans. On the outskirts, though, rabbits outnumber humans and the ratio gets stronger the further from Blop they go. Humans and rabbits in Blop have agreed to live in peace, but nevertheless in Blop about 270 humans are killed by rabbits each year, versus about 370 humans killed by monkeys and 120 humans killed by squirrels. Other deaths caused by animals are minor by comparison. These are considered to be crimes the way any murder would be a crime, rather than "war".

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

Really, the concept of pets doesnt even exist, not even small animals like hamsters would be "owned" by humans. They would instead be considered friends.

Questions of Time

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

At least 8000 years, which isn't to say that they actually have access to any of the original historical documents, since they were living thousands of miles to the east at the time, and much of the land has flooded over. The year 0 is the date of an asteroid impact that crushed the tropical rainforest and destroyed food chains even far away. Since the Poswobs' ancestors were living in colder areas even then, they didnt know exactly when the crash occurred, but their calendar is of foreign origin.

How far back do its people believe it goes?

They have a calendar, so they know the exact dates of various historical events, but as I said, only if they've remembered them. Still, they know it is the year 8200 (roughly) and that the year 0 is when a gigantic asteroid smacked into the islands of Laba.

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

The day that they went to war against their own gods is the worst disaster they've faced, since hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians were killed, and when they won, they still didn't kill the gods and they had made a lot of enemies among other humans, since other tribes worshipped the same gods.

The asteroid impact has been mostly forgotten by now.

What was the best thing that ever happened to them?

Poswobs mostly believe in a religion (Tarwataf) which states that dead people are still alive in spirit, and the spirits of a defeated nation will live in torment forever. Thus, the best thing that happened to them was when they were saved from a war in which they were about to be exterminated forever, and they have been grateful for this for 4000 years to the point of giving those other nations the right to rule over them forever.

What in their past makes them feel ashamed?

People drinking water from lakes and such when they couldn't afford to build wells.

What in their past makes them proud?

The fact that they've never started a war, despite almost every other nation in the world attacking them unprovoked, and that yet they're still around and are one of the largest empires ever. However, the history is exaggerated somewhat, as Poswobs have in some cases started wars ... they just have a tendency of only fighting wars that are so lopsided that they overwhelm the enemy and make them all Poswobs, so that the war is forgotten after a few hundred years. Still, some could claim that since they never enslave or exterminate their enemies the way some other nations do, Poswob "wars" are not really wars.

What are they afraid of happening again?

They are afraid the empire of Khul will revert to its original hostility to Pusapom and invade them and make them all slaves. As it is now, most of them are already slaves, but their owners are too weak and disorganized to make their lives unbearably painful.

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

What do they assume the future will hold?

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

What are the most popular stories about the past?

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

Probably Mappamensam, a woman who came from what was at the time a different empire to help them realize their religion was destroying their lives. They decided she must be a god. The worst villain would be Pespweb (Khulls: ), the name of a Satan-like bird character who was a reborn human.

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

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

The progression of technology is very slow, like the Middle Ages on Earth, and the world is small, so it's likely that many people would not even accept the idea that the world can change. Individual personal opinions would determine the answer here, not a general cultural attitude.

Questions of Sex and Family

How many spouses may a man or woman have?

Infinity, though in practice most men are monogamous because the woman is the head of the household and it doesn't usually work out to have two of them in the same house. Women are not prohibited from having multiple husbands, but this is even rarer than the opposite. If a woman did have two husbands, and they had children, she would have to choose one to be the "father" and she would live with him, whereas the other man would have to just live somewhere else.

Who decides on a marriage?

The parents of the bride can object but have no formal legal authority to prevent a marriage, particularly since the bride is likely not to see them much after she moves out. The parents of the groom may not even be in regular contact with him since he has been living in a cabin since he turned 10.

Can a marriage end in divorce? How?

A woman can divorce her husband at any time for any reason and keep all of the property. The husband has no say in the matter, nor can he divorce her willingly. But again, because women cannot earn money, a divorce almost always hurts the wife more than the husband, at least financially, since most people have few possessions and the woman will never be able to buy anything unless she remarries. This leads to a better balance of power between the sexes than in Moonshine, where the wife has full control over how much of her husband's property she will take during a divorce, even if she had never worked, and most often choose to simply take everything. The difference between the two systems is that in the Poswob system, an abusive wife who works her husband like a slave and gives nothing back, should she choose to divorce him and keep all of his property, will find herself wealthy but with no possible source of income, since Pusapom retains the ancient economic setup where women cannot on their own earn money. Therefore even a truly malicious woman has a strong incentive to remain married to her husband, since he pays her. Whereas in Moonshine, a woman who works her husband like a slave and then divorces him and keeps all the property can in fact still earn more money on top of all that, and therefore a truly malicious woman has no barrier whatsoever stopping her from divorcing him at any time and keeping all the money and property.

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

A religious court known as ????? decides this. There is a general distrust of single parent families, so younger children will usually be given to an existing childless couple, but older children are more likely to be able to stay with the mother. If the husband is given any custody it isn't considered a divorce.

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

The woman in the relationship gets to set the rules for the man, and a religious court will handle the woman. There is no native word in Poswa that translates "adultery"; they had to loan it from Khulls. As above, the power balance is heavily based in favor of the wife, but still less extreme than in Moonshine culture where there are no limits at all on what a wife can do to her husband: even if he catches her commiting adultery she can still divorce him on the spot and keep all the property. Whereas in Pusapom, although she may diovorc him, he can recourse to a court of law to get his property back.

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

Officially Poswobs have six names, but one of the six has fallen out of use since almost the whole nation was named Pusa. (That's where the name Poswob comes from; it was originally just a group of families who crowded out the others.)

baslum perpup: A name given at birth, similar to a first name. Some teenagers will change their name if they dislike their birth name. This is called a pappi perpup.
pelop perpup: A name copied from the baslum perpup of the father of the child. Essentially a patronymic. (Note that the Poswobs, despite being ultra-feminists, are still patrilineal if not patriarchal.) Uses "child" case (not really a case, just an ending that behabes like one.)
lifa perpup: A previously existing name that marked out genities of the people, and everyone had to marry outside their genity. Exceptions for the ruling class and the ultra-poor existed; the Poswobs are descended from the ultra-poor. The names were traditionally based on colors, and everyone had to wear only that color (though, to make it more practical, the colors were mostly confined to underwear, since it was cheaper to make small garments. This meant that people could not tell on sight what genity another person belonged to unless they made it obvious.) Often uses instrumental case, but not always (pusa is just the -us- infix of pwa). Almost all Poswobs have the name "Pusa" unless they are immigrants. Immigrants from other lifa-based societies generally do not translate their names when they move in, though, so there is a different set of lifa names for every lanuggae.
bampa perpup: Birth month. Simialr to the zodiac signs on the West. Uses essive case.
pwampom perpup: Place of birth. Can be as simple as "in the woods" rather than a specific town.
pamma perpup: Occupation (a mobile name).

So for example, a girl might be named Natuwepa Plasum Pusa Bombžaembi Pworšum Api, which translated means "Money Means Nothing To Me", daughter of Plasa, who wears green underwear, was born in the month of Bombžaemba in the town of Pworše, and works as a hairdresser. In practice though most people just go bu their first name, or their dfirst and last name.

How are boy and girl children treated differently?

Poswobs are feminists, so they prefer girls and generally girls have more rights than boys. Arguably, this is a result of the pacifist philosophy which makes military occupations essentially redundant and causes males to be seen as "less than" females since women can do anything men can do plus they can bear children. However it should be noted that women are often not paid for their work; husbands must pay for them. Generally, a woman in a house will work as an assistant to her husband, and may work only a few hours per week, on an as-needed basis. Thus a man with two wives will have an easier time getting work done. However, even if the husband works for someone else, his wife is not paid at all, so he must pay for their food, cltothing, etc.

Teppalan humans in general have lower sexual size dimorphism than Earthan humans, and in some northern areas women are actually taller than men on average. This is in part because the males stop growing earlier and in part because females grow faster throughout their childhood. Tall females are associated with cold climates, mostly among the Poswobs, although the genes that cause this actually originated from the aboriginal Moonshine population and also help them retain heat during cold weather (which is why they are not as common in the tropics). Thus, sporting events in the northern areas of Pusapom generally feature men and women competing against each other with no handicaps. Even though men are better athletes on average, there are enough women who can compete at the top level to make "co-ed" competitions possible, and even the small advantage that men do have is largely attributable to their getting more exercise.

Since the genes that promote tall women are from the Moonshine population, and Moonshines are in general taller than Poswobs anyway, there is a general association between physical strength and tall-female popuilatons (called feminism in Poswa). THus the ideal in Poswa is for a team consisting mostly of women, even if they exclude tall strong men who are better adapted to contact sports.

Are premarital relations allowed?

Yes, subject to the same rules as "adultery". Marriage is a big ceremony, and even though both sexes marry young, it is considered OK for couples to have sex before they're married if they are expecting to marry eventually.

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

Rape is defined by the victim. Incest is any sex between close family members. The Poswobs are widely believed to be innumerable descendants of a clan of incestuous poor, rural Pabaps who had so many children they needed to find more land to live in. The definition of incest here is that they married within their own genity line, but this is a very wide definition of incest and the ruling class of Paba would be guilty as well.

One might think that rape would be common in Pusapom, particularly in the western part of the empire where slavery rules the entire society. But actually, the incidence of rape is low everywehere, although it is nonetheless more common in areas of the empire with extreme power differences than in more rural egalitarian areas, or in major cities such as Blop.

Northern Pusapom is very different from much of southern Pusapom sexually. Wherever women are taller than men, the rate of forcible rape is very low, because it is fdifficult physically for a man to actually attempt the act. However, men raping children or other men is commonplace. Wherever men are taller than women, the rate of male vs female rape is fairly high, because the men of those territories have mostly absorbed the culture of the feminist northerners who consider men attacking women to be socially acceptable since to them, men are much weaker than women and cant do any damage. Howveer, in defiance, serveral microcultures have set up rules applying only to them which state that men hitting women is still a taboo, whether the woman is taller or not, and therefore have to some extent reduced the incidence of man-vs-woman rape. Paba is one culture that is now primarily tall-femaled but still behaves mostly as if it were a tall-male society, meaning that men are prohibited from physically attacking women even if they can't see over their girlfriend's shoulders. On the other hand, these societies tend to exist in areas where ethe population is so pacifistic that all violence is taboo anywya, and people cry and quiver whenever a bat enters their city as they are afraid that they will get bitten and be helpless to fight back because they are not allowed to hurt animals.

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

Probably there are no marriage gifts, other than to have each other. One could say that the husband is giving himself to his wife, since without him, she has no money and few possessions. One could also say the bride is giving herself to her husband because without her he cannot own a house or really be seen as a respectable person.

What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced?

What secret vice actually is practiced?

What sexual habits are widely believed common among foriegners?

Anything violent. Pedophilia, rape, kidnapping, prostitution, and violent relationships are stereotypically associated with hot climates, because "things are meaner there" and people can survive on their own and think little of hurting someone else. This includes the Poswobs that live in these climates, but even so Poswobs tend to blame foreigners and deliberately avoid native terms for some of these things, preferring to use loans even though the Poswa language as a whole is only 2% loanwords. E.g. sytšy, "to rape", is a loan from Sakhi, as though Sakhi people introduced rape to the Poswob culture the way they introduced vegetable gardens and body perfumes.

Similarly, it is also widely believed that foreigners of most nationalities (anyone except the Moonshines, who are culturally similar to Poswobs and live mostly in cold climates) tend to expect men to abuse and control their women. It's mostly about culture; the Poswobs are strong feminists and everyone around them isn't. Although genetics does play a small role: among Moonshines and most Poswobs, women are taller than men, and one-on-one rape is physically difficult for the man.

How do people react to homosexuality?

Male homosexuality is forbidden, since it makes women redundant. Homosexuals who rfuse to get married will usually be enslaved or exiled from the cities. However if a man is already married, and his wife is OK with it, he is allowed to have sex with other men so that he will not be constantly in a state of lust. It is the homosexual lifestyle, not the sex itself, which is seen as sinful.

Homosexual-only men are actually more common in the northern states even though attitudes are more conservative there; this is due in part to the greater rate of polygamy there. Homosexuals can often be found in "nightclubs" (paefap mwabwa). Note that among Moonshines , male homoexualty is OK.

Among Pabaps gay men are divided into tops, bottoms, and "others". This is with monnshine influence. Bottoms are called pappi .

How do the genders dress?

Poswob men very often have hairstyles that would in the modern West be considered girlish (Mary Tyler Moore, etc.). It is considered a compliment to say that a man is beautiful or "pretty" ... that is, the same words are used for both genders. However, Poswob men rarely grow their hair beyond their shoulders. Likewise, women would never have short hair unless they have a disease that is keeping them from growing long hair.

Nudism is legal everywhere but is seen as analogous to being underdressed in Western culture, so generally you won't see many naked people in public even if it's 110°F with an 80° dew point. But it is common to see people in public wearing only "underwear", that is, a form-fitting loincloth garment that doesn't cover much more than the genitals. The shape of the garment is much like that in the modern West on Earth; that is, for men, a bowl shape, and for women more of a saddle shape. The amount of the hips and buttocks that are covered depends on the style. However, some people prefer to do without underwear and instead wear just a single robe-like garment covering the torso and much of the legs but held in place only at the arms and sometimes by a tie around the waist. This is for both sexes.

If accidentally caught naked in an inappropriate place, it is normal to turn around exposing only the buttocks to the other people. Thus rear nudity is acceptable if is it to avoid frontal nudity. If this happens outdoors it is expected for the person who is naked to walk slowly away from the other person until they find a safe hiding place, rather than expect the other person to be embarrassed and walk away.

The Poswobs' clothes are mostly made of linen and animal furs, so when they get wet, they itch and smell bad. Thus when they want to go swimming they are likely to be naked even if it is an otherwise family-friendly setting.

Clothing material is very delicate and people will buy new clothes every six months if they can afford to do so. The clothes they throw away will go to the poor who will wear them until they fall apart and then they will be eaten by small animals. This keeps the textile industry very busy and in fact the people who make clothes for others are some of the best off in the nation. In the northern states, there is a prejudice against fancy clothing, but there are a lot of hypocrites as well. Since the technology level is similar to medieval Europe, clothes are often the only way someone can show their wealth.

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

Most adults are married, and so while there are no laws directly forbidding prostitution, if a man were to have sex with any other woman, it would throw him into violation of his marriage unless his wife were specifically okay with it. The prostitute herself is likely to be married, and although Poswob marriages don't give the husband the same type of power in the relationship, if he were to find out there would likely be some kind of fight between them.

What professions or activities are considered masculine?

War and anything involving extreme physical exertion. But as said before, the Poswobs are such pacifists that they don't even allow hunting, and animals take care of most of the extreme physical jobs, so most men are working right alongside women. The economy of the city of Blop is almost entirely centered around animal breeding, which means that most humans are employed in feeding, sheltering, and cleaning up after various animals. But this doesn't apply to the other 90% of the empire.

What professions or activities are viewed as feminine?

Only a few things are exclusively female, mostly things to do with cooking or cleaning. "Lesbians' associations" (sammamas bembum or sammembum for short), consisting of women who refuse to live with men, exist in every city and nearly every small town. They are capitalist, and thus are allowed to go against the rule that women are not paid for their work (that is why they need to exist; since they aren't married, there is no other way for them to get money). It should be noted that not all of the women in a Sammamas Bembum are actually lesbians; it's just that the Poswob term for lesbians includes women who are unmarried for other reasons.

Although these organizations are legal, much of what they do is not; but the government has been reluctant to crack down on them even after hundreds of years of their existence in part because they are embarrassed to admit that an organization consisting entirely of women is capable of causing such a problem and in part because the general citizenry is sympathetic to them and not convinced that they represent a real problem in society.

Sammembums often set up land at the edge of town, with every house right next to the others (or even sometimes there is only one house for all of them). THis is because they prefer to not be surrounded by all the other people.

What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?

Poswa has no grammatical gender, but the influence of Khulls languages has caused most Poswobs to understand basic phonetic associations in the same way a modern English speaker would likely perceive a name like Alpa to be more feminine than Alpo. The Khulls gender system is based entirely on consonants. Most objects would fall into a "baby" or "neuter" gender if classified according to the Khulls system, with a moderately large amount of feminine nouns and very few masculine.

What is the biggest sexual taboo?

Pedophilia and incest, I'm sure. The many sentient animals around give humans ample opprtunities for bestiality, but very few humans are interested, nor are other animals generally interested in humans. They are familiar with the concept, though, and it features in their religion (one of their greatest national heroes is a woman named Mappamensam who tempted a bird named Pespweb and made Pespweb wish he had human anatomy so he could have sex with her.)

Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?

Getting married is important for both sexes, and the people are poor, so being married to someone you don't get along with is usually better than being single simply because a single man or woman is likely to be living on the edge of starvation at all times. most people marry very young by Western standards, usually around the age of 15 for the groom and 12 or 13 for the bride, and anyone not married by the age of 20 is likely to never marry at all, which means that there is a surplus of females looking for men and few men that can't find a woman. (It also means, paradoxically, that there are more unmarried men than unmarried women.) COMMENT: THis doesnt make sense and is probably wrong mathematically

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

Virgins and homosexuals are considered almost the same thing, since homosexual sex to the Poswobs isn't really sex. They are both considered sins since a man's role in life is to marry a woman, and vice versa, although if someone is disabled they are not obliged to raise a family. Male homosexuals and virgins are liable to be enslaved or exiled from society, whereas lesbians and female virgins generally join the aforementioned Lesbians' Society and are allowed to live in the city, albeit in a low-paid marginal existence in which they are dependent on being hired by the others for work (whereas married adults get a guaranteed minimum income from the government, at least in large cities). However, if the reason a person is a virgin is due to an obvious physical disability they are not considered sinners and will not be exiled. This happens rarely enough, though, that there is no standard solution for dealing with it.

Questions of Manners

Who speaks first at a formal gathering?

What kinds of gifts are considered in extremely bad taste?

How do younger adults address their elders?

Poswobs are anti-politeness to an extent that is rare even on their planet. They will blurt out Bub! (a one-syllable sentence meaning "I have to go the bathroom") at the height of an intimate conversation and think nothing of it, or start an argument with their spouse when all the children and other friends are watching. Children are given the same vocabularies as adults, there's no "safe for children" word replacements like "poop" etc., although there is a double standard to some extent in which males are given a back seat to females at all ages, a "ladies first" privilege that applies in all areas of life. But this does not mean that they have to use special polite vocabularies.

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

In general dark colors are associated with dangerous things and light colors with nice things. Poswobs understand how colors work and how to mix pigments to make other colors. Pink is associated with girls, blue with boys, and so on. Much like modern Earth.

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

There are too many different situations to give this a clear answer. However, fighting is not illegal, even if it causes permanent injury, and if the loser of the fight tries to get a court case going against the winner he'll just be laughed at. Men are supposed to be at all times "ready to fight" unless they are physically disabled. This is not seen as a contradiction to their commitment to pacifism because people fight without weapons and generally without weapons cannot cause lasting harm to another person. This is true even in the northern parts of the empire where women are much taller than men and generally more physically fit.

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

This is rare, but the same solutions given above apply here. It should be noted that if a man attacks a woman and wins, he is a criminal. If a man attacks a woman and loses, he's still a criminal and also will be embarrassed for the rest of his life. This is true even in the northern areas of the Empire where women are often much taller and stronger than men. However, amongst the neighboring Moonshine culture, from whom the tall-female trait originated, it is specifically not true that women are viewed as the weaker sex, and this equality has begun to filter in to the northern Poswob states.

When is it rude to laugh at something funny?

If someone is in a medical emergency such as being unable to digest food or bleeding to death, it's inappropriate to make fun of them. Anything less than that is fair game, including things that would in the modern West be considered suable offences. Making fun of a person's appearance, speech impediment, or anything else that they can't get rid of is considered everyday conversation in Pusapom and if you can't take it it'll only make you twice as much a target for jokes as before.

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

How do people demonstrate grief?

When a close family member dies, it is up to the head of the household to respond. Some people will handle it privately, visibly doing nothing at all, and this is not considered to be insensitive. Others will call for a funeral ceremony similar to those of the modern West, usually held in the local temple. Generally these are very upbeat and the speakers will talk about how the person is in Heaven even if they were known to be a very evil person.

What does this society do with their corpses?

Most are buried in graveyards, but it is not considered a taboo to cremate them. The Poswobs believe that, after death, the human soul escapes its body and is not even human anymore. As mentioned above, although most humans live amongst other humans, this is a multispecies planet, and there are some humans who deal with sentient animals on a daily basis. To the west of the Poswob Empire is an even larger empire dominated by firebirds, which is a predatory bird that in the past made a living from raising and eating humans. Nowadays their society is too weak to do that, but they still will pay to eat humans the way they'd pay to eat any other animal, and the going price of a human body can be as much as 500,000 bullaedža, enough to feed the relatives of that person for many years. It is illegal for humans in the Poswob Empire to sell their dead relatives as food (to say nothing of killing them on purpose or even worse, killing others), but many Poswobs feel no guilt in doing this when it is safe to do so. Note this law was created to stop eager humans from selling their relatives as food, not to stop those other animals from hunting them down.

What kinds of jewelry do people wear? And when?

None, the Poswobs are very plain when it comes to dress, and so are msot of the peoples on the planet. The only nation where bodily decoration other than clothing is considered normal is Bé, a breakaway tribe of the Sakhi that developed a culture seemingly as opposite as possible from their ancestors.

Who inheirits property? Titles? Position?

What happens to those suffering from extreme mental illness?

There are too many possibilities here to consider, though it's true that the Poswobs are more likely than modern Westerners to believe that demons (of which they have several distinct classes) are responsible for both physical and mental illness.

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

Both sexes are socialized to favor physical sports rather than things such as board games and card games. For men, the most popular sports are those with heavy physical combat, such as pupab, where men fight each other amidst a forest full of thorn bushes to see who can get to the top of a pole first. There are also human vs animal wrestling matches, usually with both sides consisting of many "wrestlers" rather than just 1 vs 1. Women are more likely to favor "beauty" sports such as dancing and gymnastics.

What parts of the body are routinely covered?

Nudity is allowed but generally confined to private gatherings at which most others are also nude, or at places like the beach where clothes getting wet would be uncomfortable (they do not have modern swimwear; their lightest garments are essentially just underwear). On hot days, it is common to see adults wearing only underwear, that is to say, the same clothes that in wintertime they put other clothes on top of. Since the Poswob empire extends to the Arctic, winter wear is very well developed, and can be very warm. A general rule is that one should dress the same way as others dress. So at a beach, everyone will be naked, in public they'll be in "underwear" , in a school or place of work they will be wearing moderate clothes, and at a formal ceremony people will be all dressed up even if it's 112 degrees Fahrenheit.

Female breasts are considered obscene, and will usually be covered even in hot weather outside of private areas such as the beach.

How private are bodily functions like bathing or defecating?

Defecation is considered much more embarrassing than urination. Poswobs simply urinate in the streets, and it does not bother people to imagine that they are walking over someone else's urine. But defecation requires total isolation. In the cities there are public bathrooms all over the place, but nearly everyone prefers the privacy of their own home (though the technology is not well developed; e.g. they don't have flush toilets or hot water or anything). Some public "bathrooms" are just areas of woodlands where each person gets visual privacy (no one can see them) but not auditory privacy, because the technology to make bathroom stalls with thick walls, etc., is not feasible.

How do people react to physical deformity?

When and how does someone go from child to adult?

Generally when someone is married they're considered an adult, but many of the responsibilities which on Earth are associated with adulthood are in Poswob society given at the beginning of puberty, even if the child is only 11 or 12 years old. Most children do not attend school beyond the age of 10. No household can have more than one adult male, so young boys are expected to move out when they graduate school (even if they're only 10). Girls stay until they marry, but in this society, they are likely to be not much older than 13 when they get married.

At the edge of each city is usually a colony of young boys who have moved out but haven't yet found a spouse or a stable career. It is similar in some extents to "student ghettos" on Earth, except the children are much younger and there is no school. Instead it's more like a summer camp or an idealized version of the Boy Scouts. A few adults, almost always female, hang around to keep them in line and protect them from each other but all in all these boys are much less violent than one would expect because they are raised from birth as total pacifists.

Questions of Faith

Is there a formal clergy? How are they organized?

Yes, religion is very important to the Poswobs, and their religion (Tarwataf) is the most organized in the world. (And probably more so than anything on Earth too.) That said, because the population is small and primarily rural, the size of the organized religion is small too, and though one might expect it, there is no one Pope-like figure in charge of it all.

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

Tarwataf is similar to Abrahamic religions, in that it believes in a firm dual distinction between Heaven and Hell, and that Heaven and Hell are eternal. (see http://kneequickie.com/kq/Tarwataf)

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

This is mostly done privately, since the religion is so integrated into daily life that even an atheist would still have to attend all of the religious rituals, etc, since there is no secular social gathering that could replace them. (Note that atheists in the strict sense are almost nonexistent, since many of the gods are physically present in the temples, and their existence is undeniable, but there are people who don't believe that these gods are deserving of worship, and more importantly, there are people who don't believe in the eternality of the afterlife, from which gods derive their power, or in an original creator god with the ability to defy even the rules of logic.)

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

In the early days of the Tarwataf religion, temples were built on islands in lakes so that there would be a lot of wind. Wind was seen as a sign of God, and the walls of the temple were built in such a way that the wind was able to reach every room inside. Many temples are still built this way, but as the empire has expanded into ever colder climates, people have come to realize that artifically heated indoor temples can be just as holy.

What are the most popular rituals or festivals?

Every day is a holiday of some sort, the way Catholics have a Saint's Day on every day. Those born on that day celebrate their own birthday and also whatever happened on that day in history. Only a few days in the year are special holidays celebrated by all. Also there are leftover days in each year to keep the calendar aligned with the seasons.

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

Salvation and protection from earthly misfortunes such as disease. Most Poswobs believe that these things are earned through abstinence from sin, but there are many fine details which provide for the salvation of some extremely sinful people, and the damnation of some that are virtuous. Most Poswobs believe that at least some magic powers have been granted to humans by the gods, and are afraid of these magic powers because Poswob magic can harm the soul and not just the body.

How do their religious practices differ from their neighbours?

To the west of the Poswobs, there is a large Khulls empire, which believes in various religions which are nevertheless closely related. The Khulls people are simultaneously more materialistic and more ascetic than the Poswobs, in a way that is difficult to explain. They see the Poswobs as immoral for worshipping gods that take the forms of beautiful human women, yet they think that the Poswobs are foolish for believing that they have to abstain from all manner of sins in order to be saved whereas the Khulls believers merely have to be loyal to their natio. On the east side of the Poswobs are the Sakhi/Thaoa people, who believe in religions that are closely related to Tarwataf but culturally different.

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

There is no firm list of sins in Tarwataf, as they believe that humans are given the power to define what is and is not sinful. Nevertheless, the Poswobs grew from a society with sincere pacifist beliefs, and now they have mostly become "lapsed pacifists" with more exceptions to the rules than one can count, in order that they be able to live in a cold climate and defend themselves from animals and humans.

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

Different cities have different sects of Tarwataf, and this is done on purpose, but within each city they are given a monopoly. When someone moves from one city to another it is common for them to object to the new rules and try to explain why theirs is better, but they cannot legally retain their previous form of the religion because there would be nowhere to worship.

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

Most adults spend one month each year away from their families, in the temple, to receive religious instruction, but there are no people who live this way permanently.

How are those who follow different faiths treated?

There are not many examples of this; even immigrants from outside the empire are made to live essentially as Tarwatobs, and it's socially acceptable for them to explain that they don't really believe in the religion, as long as they don't try to disrupt anything.

What relationship do religious and political leaders have?

They are generally the same people, at least if they truly are leaders and not merely advisors.

What superstitions are common? What kinds of supernatural events/beings do people fear?

See the KQ article on Tarwataf; too much to explain here.

Questions of Government

Who decides whether someone has broken a law? How?

The police force is the only person a criminal deals with in most cases. Courts exist, but they are only for matters of "social strife" rather than obvious crimes like theft, rape, assault, etc. It is common, though not mandatory, that the police force consists entirely of Khulls overseers with no representation of ethnic Poswobs or other groups such as Tans, Sakhis, Andanese, etc since those peoples are not generally allowed to have weapons or even to be violent without weapons. But if there are not enough Khulls people or if a given city is outside their jurisdiction then the Poswobs will generally be the ones in control. Minorities are very rarely trusted with authority of any kind.

Since the states east of Blop never signed the UPL treaty giving Khulls overseers extra privileges to enforce the law, this situation does not apply to them. Instead the police force is drawn from the native Poswob population, and is otherwise much like the western system. These areas tend to be mostly rural, however, and rural areas may have police whose only duty is to catch criminals on the move rather than to prevent crimes.

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

The rich can buy their way out of any punishment, even murder, although it should be noted that if someone is exiled from a city, they lose all their possessions anyway. There are people who are subsidized by the government and they are in danger of losing this privilege if they commit a crime.

How are new laws created or old ones changed?

The governor of a city can change the laws at any time (there is no "checks and balances", the governors are everything). This does not happen very often, however.

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?

Small towns only have a single mimmita (governor/mayor), and for larger towns this is the highest level of authority. There are some old nations which have been integrated into the empire and still have kings, even though those kings govern very small kingdoms which are analogous to counties.

There is a class of people of the Pusa genity who are subsidized by the government and do not face the problems of financial difficulties that the rest of the population endures. These people, called pwubososam, have no special political power, but the rulers are obliged to protect their earnings, and so in some respects they are better off than slaveowners and governors.

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

Governors make the laws, and can freely exempt themselves and their families if they desire.

How do government officials dress?

It depends. If a city or town is poor enough that even the governors are just barely getting by, they will skimp on clothing and wear the cheapest things they can buy. However, sometimes people are proud of what they wear and will buy expensive clothing even if it means other things in their life fall apart. But there is no uniforms.

Is the law written down? Who interprets it?

Yes. The common people are generally literate and have access to all the laws that the governors write.

Once accused, what recourse does someone have?

Poswobs do not have lawyers or juries; any legal conflict is played out directly in the religious courts with a judge presiding over it all. Most Poswob settlements are rural areas where most people know each other; in the cities there are still usually enough people who know each other to establish a system of trust.

Is torture allowed? What kinds?

Generally not. A criminal who poses an immediate danger will be killed, if not, they can't even be hurt, much less tortured. "Social disputes" can only result in exile and taking away possessions, there is no chance for even a jail sentence. However, there is a sort of extralegal public punishment, which could be thought of as a sissy version of stoning, where criminals are tied to a tree and other people throw acorns at them. In the past, sharpened rocks were used, but the pacifists forced the older version of the practice into obsolescence. This is usually decided outside of a court system, though.

How are people executed?

This doesnt really happen, although being banished from a city can be a death sentence for someone who is handicapped or otherwise unable to survive on their own, and even if not they are likely to be caught and enslaved by outlaws.

Who cannot rise to positions of leadership?

Pretty much everyone can. In some cities, government is controlled by the Khulls families, with the Poswobs having no real power, but even here there is a parallel system in which they can at least govern "Poswob affairs" that do not cut into the authority of the Khulls. It should be noted, however, that there is no democracy anywhere, and new leaders are simply appointed by the existing leaders. Some settlements use a 100% hereditary system, in which the rulers have titles like king and queen, whereas others promote new leaders from the citizenry on the basis of merit. Still others use a mixed system. In cities where there is a sizable minority of Khulls families, the real power generally stays with the Khulls, but figurehead leaders may be appointed from the Poswob population. Where the Khulls minority is tiny, it is common to see power monpolized by just one family, though the whole Khulls population may define itself as one extended family. This is because they are fearful of the Poswobs gaining power and displacing them. If the Khulls minority is already too small to govern the population, they're the ones who are figureheads, since they depend on Poswobs to enforce any laws.

Is bribery allowed? Under what circumstances?

Generally no. In the western Khulls empire, bribery is essentially legal, and a criminal can buy his way out of jail, even for murder, if he has enough money. The Poswobs are appalled at this practice and are constantly on the watch to make sure it is not creeping its way into their empire as well.

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

Because the royal families have absolute power, the citizenry often blames them for everything that happens, including natural disasters. This makes life very difficult for the royals and they sometimes have temper tantrums that can cost many lives. Occasionally a royal house will be overthrown, but in general, they are impressively stable. Kingdoms in the state of Nama have been untouched for 6000 years, and are actually older than the empire itself. Despite being part of a state, the kings in Nama have absolute power; the state government merely controls trade from the rest of the empire and some aspects of military defense.

What are the most common or dangerous forms of criminal?

Murderers, of course, and renegade wild animals that are smart enough to know how to kill humans and get away with it. Cities are dangerous places, but they're dangerous for potential criminals as well. At least some types of criminals prefer to lurk outside the cities and wait for a defenseless woman or child (or even a man) to wander outside where he can be captured and/or killed, rather than try it in the city where everyone would be after him within minutes. But this refers only to violent crimes such as murder and kidnapping. Robbery is of course best executed in a city where there are lots of rich people to pick on, and it is easy to blend in in a crowd.

Questions of War

Who declares war?

War is rare enough that there is no established governmental organization responsibel for military affairs. In most cases when the empire is invaded the cities respond individually just as if the problem were a natural disaster or a legion of criminals. Howwever, as mentioned before, the Khulls people who rule over the Poswobs are more alert to dangers and sometimes will send their own soldiers out to defend the Poswobs from an invasion before it happens. The Poswobs themselves are not obligated to help, but in most cases there will be at least some Poswob soldiers involved. Although Poswobs tend to be of moderate stature (9 vwub is the average height for a man, which is about 5'6" in Imperial), the Khulls are giants averaging almost twice the body weight of the Poswobs, and see the idea of Poswobs fighting in a war as absurd and cruel, as Poswob men are much smaller even than the women of the Khulls tribes (though Poswob women are often taller than stronger than Poswob men).

Who has the power to declare conditions of peace?

What happens to prisoners taken in battle?

The capturing army will entertain prisoners of war (called taffo) and generally keep them happy in the hopes that the enemy soldiers can make friends among the Poswobs and eventually be safely released into mainstream Poswob society, with no punishment for fighting against Pusapom other than being part of the vast underclass instead of the small ruling class. Even then, taffo are promised the ability to become governors or other privileged positions if they have the right kind of talent. Such people are called taffi once assimilated, and this can be a surname. And if the captured soldier just can't get along with the Poswobs, they have the right to be released back into their home society after the war, though few take this opportunity, since almost every other country would punish a soldier who was given direct access to the heart of Poswob society and didn't take advantage of it.

Once released, most Taffi choose to settle in ordinary Poswob towns to live among the regular people, but there are some towns that have attracted more Taffi than average. Some parts of the empire, such as western Nama (?), are over 50% Taffi and their descendants.

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?

Generally, Pusapom will only participate in wars as a victim rather than an aggressor. Most Poswobs would tell you that their empire has gone 4500 years without invading any other nation, that they have peacefully absorbed many invading armies, and that they have survived and prospered even so. However, they have gone to war against rebellious groups within the empire, and some settlements that are presently part of the empire in fact began with Poswobs illegally immigrating to foreign nations and slowly crowding out the native population. (Though even here, none of these events were actually wars.)

Who are their enemies? Who's winning?

There are no nations anywhere who actually hate the Poswobs enough to consider them enemies. There are smaller groups within nations however. There is a loose organization of tribes called the Sakhi, who refuse to embrace pacifism and routinely make trouble in various parts of Pusapom, mostly states close to the Sakhi homeland. However, the Sakhi don't get along even with each other, and have never been able to unite into a team and realize their goal of subduing the Poswob empire. If they were to try, they'd have to face off against the Khulls and other allies of the Poswobs.

Strong arguments could be made that the Poswobs generally win every conflict, and strong arguments could be made that they lose every conflict. The Poswobs are so shy of war that if a foreign troops enters Pusapom and starts killing Poswobs, they will risk many more Poswobs to send out an army to capture them, and try their hardest to pamper them so much that the invaders promise to stay in Pusapom and make friends with Poswobs. When this works, they consider it a victory even if 300 Poswobs were killed and none of the invaders were even injured. The extreme softness of the Poswobs is also why they have no true organized enemies, however. Even a completely malicious nation desiring to control the world would see the Poswobs as being better to use as slaves that are nominal allies than as enemies, particularly since if they did actually invade Pusapom, Pusapom's other allies would counterattack even if Pusapom was still trying to win them over with love.

What do soldiers do when there's no war?

The Poswob Empire is ruled by the United Pacifist League, and does not have a military. When a foreign army attacks, Poswobs will send out a group of people with the intent to capture the foreigners and assimilate them into Poswob society. However, some minorities within the Poswob Empire are allowed to keep their own military forces, which could in theory ride out and capture large areas of undefended Poswob land.

Questions of Education

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

Poswa developed from an archaic form of the Pabappa language, and uses the Pabappa alphabet, but with different letters adapted to the Poswa language. There used to be many other languages, but the Poswobs smothered them all in an effort to assimilate all non-Pabap people into becoming Poswobs. Sometimes foreign alphabets are used since they look more ornate and majestic than the Poswob alphabet. Even though these other alphabets are closely related to Poswa's, they have more letters because they have more phonemes. (Think of India where some alphbabets have 80 letters, or modern hierogrlpyhic stamp sets where redundant glyphs are thrown in because they look nicer in some sentences than the standard ones.)

How common is literacy? How is literacy viewed?

The literacy rate is very good, considering the low level of education given to people, because some forms of communication are done only in written form.

What form and value are books?

Who teaches others? How do they teach?

School resembles that of the modern Earth except that most children don't go beyond age 10 and after that they go into the workforce alongside adults. Those few who do go beyond age 10 are considered to still be children until they graduate, so they can't get married, no matter how long that takes, and if they are in "school" forever (like a researcher) then they are a "scholar".

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

Carpenters teach carpentry directly when they hire someone as an apprentice (which is why they start hiring at age 10), instead of having a school do it. When they hire a kid they expect him to be there all his life, even though people can legally change occupations at any time. Anyone who does change occupations may find himself ordered by a court to pay money to his old employer (if he wasn't self employed), and would have to be self taught unless the new employer had a very quick training process.

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

Not really. This is actually the responsibility of the Khulls overseers, not the Poswobs. THe Khiulls tribes do not want foreigners entering the Empire because they know that those people would not willingly become slaves, and having a middle class of foreigners would destabilize their slavery system and likely lead the Poswobs to revolt.

However, the Khulls tribes can only project their power strongly near the center of the Empire, excluding all of the states east of the Pobumpam River, south of the Popoppos Mountains, or west of the Pwempy Mountains (even though west is where the Khulls tribes came from originally, occupying mountainous areas is difficult). They also have no effective power in the imperial capital of Blop or its surrounding state, Papsosa. Thus about half of the Poswobs in the Empire are living in states which are free to determine their own immigration policies.

Thus, in these areas, foreigners will often be tempted to move into an area to do heavy physically demanding jobs such as shipbuilding and metalworking, based on the Poswobs' stereotype that all foreigners are very strong and rugged, and thus suited for heavy manual labor, even though some foreigners are shorter and thinner than the average Poswobs. The salary in these kinds of jobs is generally high because labor is scarce, so the workers are not generally angry at the Poswobs for pushing them into jobs like this, and will pass the occupation down to their children when possible. If, for example, a mine stops producing, the people will lose their jobs, and can choose to assimilate into normal Poswob society if they choose to, but generally cannot immediately switch to another high-paying manual labor job such as shipbuilding. Two things determine whether a family is likely to stay: Whether they were born in Pusapom or not, and whether they speak the language or not.

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

Medicine is surprisingly well developed, but Poswobs will almost always want to have a religious element to their healing, involving prayer and in some cases the casting out of demons (there are four kinds of demons in the Poswob religion, each assigned to a different kind of ailment, though only two of them are seen as the cause of visible medical symptoms and one of those is very weak).

Which medical assumptions of this society are wrong?

Well this is a medieval society so pretty much everything is technically wrong on some level, but they do a pretty good job relatively speaking, since they've been careful to catalog every death that has ever occurred and try to see patterns in the deaths so they know what works and what doesn't.

Questions of Art

What are the favorite artforms?

What are the least-favorite?

How respected are artists?

Do artists require official or unofficial protection?

A Communist-like system exists in some Poswob cities, borrowed from the Khulls, where the government pays the artists directly so that they don't have to sell any of their work. But the salary they receive is very low, even relative to the general poverty the rest of the people endure, so someone who wants to become an artist certainly isn't doing it for the money.

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

How might a very successful artist live?

What forms of theatre does your society have?

In some northern Khulls societies, only children are allowed to act, so all theatre is amateur by definition and the people who go to see performances are expecting it to be "cute"[1]. The Poswobs have theatre for all ages, but the Khulls ideas have bled into some of their cities, especially in the west, and they have begun shutting down their theaters because they don't really appreciate the kids-only outfits as much as the Khulls do.

How naturalistic or stylized is your society's art?

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

"Soft" shapes, like circles and hands and "D" shapes. They dislike sharp points and even squares, though obviously it's hard to avoid squares when designing pretty much anything.

Which artforms get the most and least respect?

What form does censorship take?

It would be difficult to get away with anything blasphemous in the Poswob Empire. They would not only censor it, it would be a crime. Blasphemy can be as simple as one person saying in public "Natuwepa died because the gods couldn't heal her!"

Obscenity is more tolerable. Most humans just wear underwear-type clothing for most of the year, and nudism is acceptable in limited circumstances, though public nudity is considered somewhat disgraceful, comparable to being underdressed in a modern Western nation.

Poswobs have government sponsored posters that are somewhere between propaganda and advertisements, telling people gently what to do. Anyone is free to put up their own such poster, but those disagreeing with the majority are quickly removed.

Who may not be an artist?

What qualities equal "beauty" in this society?

What makes a man or woman especially beautiful?

People's tastes differ, but hair is an object of attention for both sexes. While some people simply wear their hair naturally, most men and women have advanced hairstyles. It is rare for men to have very short hair, or for women to have hair that doesn't extend beyond the shoulders. Headbands are worn by both sexes. Both sexes tend to shave off their body hair other than pubic hair and (for men) ocassionally the facial hair. Men with dark hair are more likely to wear beards than those with lighter colors. The technology is surprisingly advanced for such a primitive society.

In areas where women are shorter than men, women often wear high heels to bring them up to the same height as men; some short men will do the same. In areas where women are taller than men or about the same height, generally both sexes dress very much alike and, in winter when people are heavily clothed, it can be difficult to tell from a distance whether someone is a man or a woman unless they have their hair visible.

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

Poswobs are generally against all bodily modifications other than hairstyles and wearing accessories like headbands. Lipstick, eyeliner, and rouge exist as technologies but are difficult to find for sale anywhere.

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?

Prostitution isn't actually illegal, but if someone is already married it would be taken as evidence of adultery.

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

"Adolescent" (e.g. no firm age, but someone should be at least done with school and ready to live on their own).

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

Do relationships allow multiple partners?

yes but it's rare to see an actual polygamous marriage. If a man wants two wives, he'll have to pay for them both because women don't usually get paid for any work they do. If a woman wants two men she'll have to choose only one of them to live with and name her children after since there can't be two men in any household.

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

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

Since male homosexuals are treated badly in the Poswob religion (Tarwataf), some of them go outside the cities and start colonies. They cannot have children with each other, of course, but there are often ways for them to find women if they really want to. Nevertheless many Poswobs beleive that the male homosexuals are lined up outside the cities waiting for innocent Poswobs (often assumed to be young boys who've just recently moved out) to wander out into the woods so they can kidnap them.

For lesbians, the situation is somewhat milder, as they are permitted to live in the settlements, but their existence is marginal since they have no husbands to feed them and must constantly be trying to earn money through capitalist business.

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 Law, Justice and Police

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

The Pabap states have a police force known as Pasapta, literally "People of the Night".[2] This is because they are the only ones allowed to be outside at night without special permission from other Pasapta. The Pasapta are a separate moiety from the others, and are allowed to marry inside their own group. Indeed, they usually do, and so are seen as a separate race as well. However, out-marriage is common enough that one can't simply judge by looks whether someone is Pasapta or not. However, they are largely descended from Khul people, and are thus tall and muscular compared to the rest of the Pabaps. The average Pabap adult is only about the height of an average 8-year-old Pasapta child, and they weigh about 1/3 of the weight of the average Pasapta adult. This makes Pasaptas physically intimidating even without weapons. But the Pasaptas carry weapons as well, which means that even a crowd of fifty Pabap men is not likely to win a fight with a single Pasapta policeman. Even women are enrolled, though they tend to take "gentler" jobs such as dealing with children and disabled people.

In Pupompom (the non-Pabap area of the empire), each state has its own police system, and it is impossible to generalize. Often, animals have important roles. An eagle-like bird called the nappo (distinct from firebirds), watches over the cities and reports incidents of distress to human police officers as well as other animals. To a limited extent they may carry humans from one place to another as well.

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

Generally a state will have its own independent police force, and the police force enforces the laws of that state. Sometimes, particularly difficult criminals who are too dangerous to exile normally will be sent to Pirpis Island Penitentiary (Pirpi Pisia Bavbi or PPB) or some other such place, which is within the borders of the state of Papsosa. There they can live essentially in freedom, but cannot escape the island because they would be eaten by fish. Thus PPB is this world's closest parallel to Alcatraz.

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?

Every now and then, an army of rogues from the Khulls empire will ride deep into Poswob territory and locate an independent village and to enslave everybody. Because they choose to focus on just one village, and because they are legally able to enslave the Poswobs simply because they're Khulls, they usually get away with it and face no resistance. However, more often than not, within one generation the children of the Khulls invaders will be too numerous to make the occupation viable, and either the village will convert to a Khulls-majority with both Poswobs and Khulls working in labor (even though the Poswobs usually work the least desirable jobs), or most of the Khulls people will seek out somewhere else to rule.

It should also be noted that not all of these Khulls troublemakers are immigrants or invaders; some parts of the Poswob Empire were originally Khulls territory, but the Poswobs moved in (peacefully) and tended to have more babies than the Khulls people, so over time they slowly became the majority. Poswob women feel less pain during childbirth than Khulls women, and tend to be slightly more fertile, which has over time built up into an enormous population ratio. However, even in areas where the Poswobs outnumber the Khulls 85 to 1, the Khulls are legally in control and can enslave the Poswobs with no limits imposed on them by the Poswob court system.

In fact, the areas where Khulls tribes have been overwhelmingly smothered by the Poswobs are the most agitated, whereas in areas with gentler ratios the Khulls people enjoy their privileged status and wouldnt even think of attacking the Poswobs. Also, there are a few Khulls nations scattered throughout Poswob territory which have essentially said "no thanks" to the Poswobs, and chose to declare independence and not enslave anyone. This is because one of the privileges given to Khulls people is the power to expel any preexisting Poswob population, although this is rarely done.

The biggest example of this is the Moonshine Crown (bad name), which declared independence even though it was surrounded on 3 sides by Poswob states, and expelled its entire Poswob population, denying Poswobs even the right to travel through the territory unless accompanied by a Moonshine army. However, Poswobs had always been a minority here.

Is there a secret police?

What is the role of police informants, if any?


  1. I forget what the rationale behind this law was
  2. One could just say "Night people", however.