Cultures (Optional Rules for 5E)

Not every dwarf is from the Deeplands, and not all cheebats live in warrens. A cheebat raised by drothmal might not care about the rules of trade, or a dwarf brought up in a cheebat warren might have some distinctly un-dwarfish ideas about honesty and loyalty.

The Common Room at the Green Briar Tavern in Thornwall (Art by Ari Targownik)

In most RPGs race and culture are conflated into a single description. Elements that are more properly attributed to culture end up as part of the race description. This is fine for streamlining content, but it also means lost opportunities for creating rich characters.

Aetaltis introduces cultures as an option you can use during character creation. By choosing a character's culture separately from their race, it opens up a world of creative possibilities. With cultures, the stereotypical racial traits (stubborn dwarves for example) are given a story you can weave into your character background. On the other hand, if you decide to play a trait counter to the cultural norm (a Deeplander dwarf that doesn't like ale) it adds depth to your character story. Finally, you can break out of the mold completely by selecting a starkly different culture from the norm; like creating an elf that grows up in a human village where the primary industry is logging.

Cultures also have game effects. In addition to the social reaction1 consequences and benefits, other game related effects include starting conctacts, tool proficiencies, special abilities, and culture specific equipment. All of these add color and depth to both your characters and NPCs, and help to immerse you in the Aetaltis setting.

Secondary Cultures

You can choose to trade one of a culture's positive game effects for a secondary culture. This represents situations like spending one's childhood immersed in one culture but embracing a different culture during adulthood, or having parents from two different cultures.

You must still choose one of the cultures as your primary. Social reaction modifiers from both cultures apply, but only the primary culture's other game effects apply.

Adding Cultures Later

You may add additional cultures to your character by taking the Extra Culture2 feat. Cultures added in this way (as opposed to a secondary culture) provide the normal game effects as described in the culture description. You may select this feat as many times as you like.

Culture Descriptions

The following describes the attributes of cultures in Aetaltis.

Geographic Origin: This is where most people of this culture are found. It's possible to be raised with a different culture than the dominant culture you live in.

Dominant and Secondary Races: Most members of this culture are from these races.

Preferred Government: The form of government members of this culture tend to perceive as the best choice.3

Language (Dialect): The predominant language and (if appropriate) dialect.4

Patron and Secondary Enaros: The most commonly worshiped Enaros.

Values and Aversions: The traits that are perceived as virtues or vices.

Favored/Unacceptable Races and Cultures: Races and cultures that are favored or disfavored. These have an impact on Social Reactons1.

Public Opinion: A broad, generalized description of how members of other cultures perceive members of this culture.

Summary: A brief summary description of the culture.

Manner: Common behaviors and mannerism.

Appearance: Clothing, hairstyles, and other fashion trends common to this culture.

Art: The culture's preferred mediums and styles of visual arts.

Music: Favored musical styles and instruments.

Food and Drink: Preferred food and drink.

Homes: The style and appearance of the common home in this culture.

Values and Aversions: An expanded description of the culture's values and aversions

Customs: Traditions use to mark key milestone events in a person's life.

Magic: The way that arcane magic and spellcasting is viewed by members of this culture.

Religion: How the members of this culture worship the Enaros.

Unusual Customs, Traditions, and Taboos: Significant traits and practices that are unique to members of this culture.

Cultural Attributes: The game effect of choosing this culture for your character.

List of Cultures

The following are the Aetaltan cultures we've published to date:


Particularly as we get started posting new material, there will be topics we haven't covered yet. In most cases you an easily read between the lines to understand the meaning, but we wanted to note some areas where we have expanded material that we'll be sharing.

(1) Expanded Aetaltis rules for social reactions will be shared in an upcoming article.
(2) The Extra Culture feat will be detailed in an upcoming Feats article.
(3) A future article will expand on the topic of government types on Aetaltis.
(4) A description of the different languages and dialects of Aetaltis is forthcoming.

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