Wastelander (Culture)

Wastelanders are nomads from the Scythaan Wastes, a blazing desert that lies south of the Scythaan Wall. What is best for the tribe is the only law they loyally follow, whether among their own kind or in foreign lands.

The holy symbol of Grethken, patron Enaros of Wastelanders. (Art by Ashley MacKenzie)


  • Geographic Origin Scythaan Wastes
  • Dominant Race Scythaa
  • Secondary Race Atlan
  • Preferred Government Tribal republics
  • Language (Dialect) Scythaan (Pure)
  • Patron Enaros Grethken
  • Secondary Enaros Vale
  • Values Honor, freedom, privacy
  • Favored Races Scythaa
  • Favored Cultures None
  • Unacceptable Races None
  • Unaccptable Cultures Valenar
  • Public Opinion Incomprehensible foreigners


Wastelanders are nomads from the Scythaan Wastes, a blazing desert that lies south of the Scythaan Wall. They are a tribal people bound by honor, and they are highly religious. What is best for the tribe is the only law they loyally follow, whether among their own kind or in foreign lands.


When in the company of strangers, wastelanders are quiet and secretive. Among their own kind and trusted friends, however, they are open and effusive. They use dramatic body language when speaking, saying as much with the bob of the head or a flick of the tail as with the words that accompany the motion.


Wastelander dress is loose fitting and made from light colors that reflect the desert heat. Their tunics have large hoods that protect their faces and heads from both wind and sun. Elaborately wrapped linen bindings protect the legs, lower torso, and feet. There is no differentiation between male clothing and female clothing, although the current style for females not engaged in combat is to wear dangling gold jewelry.


Wastelanders produce exquisite blown glass objects. Some items are functional, others are decorative, but all are works of beauty. They are also excellent gold and silver smiths, working the precious metals into jewelry of the finest grade.


Wastelanders prefer percussion instruments but play wind instruments as well. The combination of hide drums, bone xylophones, and the haunting drone of sandpipes, creates music unlike anything in the Amethyst Sea basin.


Wastelanders are honor-bound to prepare elaborate multi-course meals of roast mutton, rare nuts, exotic dried fruits, and other desert delicacies for visitors, but their normal meals are quite plain. On special occasions, wild game is thrown on the fire and roasted whole as a supplement to the wastelander’s usual diet.


Wastelanders live in square tents that are designed to go up or down at a moment’s notice. The tents have no furnishings although carpets and cushions abound. A few precious bits of glassware are the only non-functional art objects the home is likely to have.


Honor is vitally important to wastelanders. Violence can rage between tribes for decades over seemingly minor infractions of honor. Questioning a wastelander’s ability to protect his or her family and belongings is the gravest offense, although any insult may constitute a threat worthy of combat.


Wastelanders detest the practice of slavery. They react violently to slavers and see those who partake in slavery as the basest of individuals. They also react harshly to invasions of their privacy.



Wastelander births require an elaborate naming ceremony whereby the spirit of the child is contacted to determine its true name.


When a child reaches majority, the entire tribe joins them in a ritual where he or she is presented a ceremonial dagger. This blade remains with them their entire life and is only used to resolve matters of honor.


In wastelander marriages the parents take one quarter of everything they own and give it to the wedded couple. Birth order becomes very important in traditional wastelander families.


The bodies of deceased wastelanders are interred in caves. Whenever the family passes the cave they stop and leave offerings of food and water in case the spirit hasn’t reached Numos yet.


Wastelanders worship Grethken and Vale by presenting them with offerings of food. These are left at the highest point in the local area and prayers are intoned over the offering.


Arcane magical talent is uncommon among wastelanders and spellcasters are respected for both their power and wisdom. Enchanted items are rare and greatly valued.

Unusual Customs, Traditions, and Taboos

Wastelanders refuse to eat the meat of the keeska, a large, reptilian beast they use for transport and as pack animals. Tradition has it that the keeska were the pets of Vale, and after Endroren turned the scythaan homeland into the wastes, she gave the keeska to the wastelanders to aid them.


Wastelander Traits for 5E

Wastelanders receive the following benefits and disadvantages.

  • Language Scythaan (Pure)
  • Social Reaction1 Advantage Icewalker, Scythaa
  • Social Reaction1 Disadvantage None

Cultural Features

You may also select two of the cultural features described below.

Feature: Sand Pipes and Kyssysk Drum

The character is in posession of a traditional wastelander sand pipe and kyssysk drum. The pipe is a simple wind instrument carved from a strong ceramic material that requires two hands to play. The drum is of a lightweight hide and sinew construction. It is cylindrical, two feet tall, and has an 8 inch diameter head. When played, it is held between the knees. Scythaa typically play the drum with their tail at the same time that they play the flute, but non-scythaan musicians must settle for playing one or the other.

  • Equipment Sand Pipes and Kyssysk Drum
  • Tool Proficiency Wastelander Instruments

Features: Yyssiniss

The character owns a full yyssiniss, the elaborate formal atire worn by wastelanders as a show of both respect and status. Normally the yyssiniss is reserved for special cultural milestone events (births, weddings, funerals), and attending an event of this sort in normal garb is considered looked down upon by wastelanders. In addition, one may wear their yyssiniss to show particular respect to an individual of whom they wish to win favor. Over use of the yyssiniss or wearing the yyssiniss for trivial reasons is seen as an insult to wastelander culture.

The garment is a long, flowing affair made from diaphonous cloth that includes a veil and hood. Sewn into the garment are thousands of tiny bits of thin glass. When the wearer moves, the bits of glass tap against one another creating a soft, musical chiming. In addition, the bits of glass catch the light, especially fire light, creating an effect that makes the wearer appear as if they are cloaked in multi-colored starlight. The quality of the cloth, music, and sparkle of an yyssiniss are in direct proportion to the lifestyle of the person who owns it.

Feature: Sand Drake's Cry

Some wastelanders learn to mimic the cry of the sand drake2, a fearsome draconic predator native to the Scythaan Wastes. This call triggers an instinctive fear response in animals that hear it. Animals not under the command of a humanoid master or an alpha leader are frightened until the end of their next turn. Animals under the command of a humanoid master or an alpha leader may make a Wisdom saving throw (DC 10 + your Charisma modifier) to resist the effects. The ability may only be used once per encounter with a particular target or targets.

Suggested Characteristics

d6 Personality Trait
1 I believe that music is the secret language of the soul.
2 Spicing food to perfection is an art that I intend to master.
3 I think that clothing is a form of physical bondage and prefer to live as Vale intended.
4 Always listen. If you are talking, you cannot hear.
5 I love snakes and reptiles. They're fascinating—like little people.
6 To honor another person's culture by treating it with respect is the greatest gift.


d6 Ideal
1 Honor: I hold myself to the highest standards of honor so as never to shame myself or my tribe (Lawful)
2 Freedom: Every thinking being deserves their freedom and no one should try to take it from them (Good)
3 Privacy: Personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences aren't meant to be shared (Any)
4 Loyalty: Loyalty to my tribe (natural or chosen) is my greatest responsibility (Lawful)
5 Pride: Failure to address a slight against oneself or one's tribe is to accept that it is true (Any)
6 Nature: Nature is precious and should be protected and revered. (Any)


d6 Bond
1 My homeland always calls to me, and I dearly wish to return.
2 I seek vengance against the endrorii for their devastation of my homeland.
3 I carry an amulet that bears a carving showing the Wastes before they were destroyed.
4 My parents couldn't discover my spirit name, and I'm still searching for it.
5 I believe there exists a secret to restoring our homeland, and I plan to find it.
6 My bond to my adopted tribe (the party) is stronger than any I felt among my own people.


d6 Flaw
1 Large bodies of water are terrifying.
2 I mutter quietly to myself rather than sharing how I feel.
3 Whenever I become agitated I rapidly tap my tail (or foot if not a scythaa).
4 I struggle to forgive others, even for unintentional slights.
5 I think most foods from other cultures taste awful.
6 I constantly complain about any environment that isn't a desert.



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 sand drake will appear in a future monster post here on the Aetaltis site.

Discover Aetaltis...

To learn more about the World of Aetaltis, check out a full index of our past content posts here!

All game rules published under Open Game License v 1.0a.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.