by Max Barry

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by Skeibuvania. . 289 reads.

An excessive World-building questionnaire.

I. Questions of Place.

Describe the geography of where your society calls home.
Describe the climate your society deals with. How severe are their seasons?
What kinds of natural disasters has this society gotten used to?
What importance (spiritual or cultural) do people ascribe to the geography?
How do people feel about local landscapes being altered or used for a purpose other than what is traditional?
What are the most commonly-grown foods?
What are the most commonly-eaten meats?
What foods are considered exotic or expensive?
What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?
Is there usually enough food and water for the population?
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?
Are the borders secure? In what way?
How many people live here?
Where in this place do they congregate?
What part of this place do they avoid? Why?
What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?
What are the most common wild animals? How are wild animals treated?
Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won't be?
What are the most common domesticated plants here? And what are they used for?
What are the most common wild plants here? What are they used for?

II. Questions of Time.

How far back does this society’s written history go?
How far back do its people believe it goes?
How was this society founded? Who founded it and under what circumstances?
What were the chief powers in the time when this society was founded?
If it originated far away from here, how did it get here?
What is the worst disaster they believe they've faced?
What are the major events in this culture's past?
What was the best thing that ever happened to them?
What in their past makes them feel ashamed?
What in their past makes them proud?
What are they afraid of happening again?
What are they hoping will happen? Do they think it likely?
How strongly are people attached or connected to their heritage?
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?
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?

III. Questions of Race and Ethnicity.

What are the chief races in the region?
What are the chief ethnic groups of each race in the region? How are they distributed in place?
How do they differ by language, appearance or ancestry?
What jobs do the chief ethnicities primarily occupy? Are any groups denied work because of racial or ethnic heritage?
What are typical attitudes of the native (or majority) ethnos to immigrants and other ethnicities?
How has any variety of ethnicity in the region changed the society’s culture?

IV. Questions of Family.

How many spouses may a man or woman have?
Who decides on a marriage?
Can a marriage end in divorce? How?
Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?
How are families named?
What happens to orphans?
How are boy and girl children treated differently?
What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?
What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?
Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?
How big are families, typically?
What constitutes a household? How many people live in one household? How many generations?
Are girls or boys preferred and why?
How common is domestic violence? Is it understood to be a problem, or a normal aspect of family life?
If it is seen as problematic, what is being done about it?

V. Questions of Customs and Social Life.

What colors are associated with power? With virtue? With death?
If two men get into a fight, how is this supposed to be resolved?
If two women get into a fight, how should that be resolved?
How do people demonstrate grief?
Who inherits property? Titles? Position?
What are the most popular games? How important are they?
When and how does someone go from child to adult?
How much free time do people usually get?
What do they spend this time doing?
Is society segregated in any way?
What social classes or divisions exist in this society?
If so, can people move from one class to another? Are there any benefits to being of one class over another?
Is there any discrimination against minority groups (racial, ethnic, religious) in this society?
How independent or codependent are individuals?
What are the typical roles of women and men? What are the expectations of children?
Does the government play a large part in people’s lives?
Does religion play a large part in people’s lives?

Describe how daily food is obtained.
What type of foods are most popular?
What are typical dishes and specialties of the region?
What type of food is the locality or region famous for?
What cutlery, if any, do people use for cooking and eating?
How is the table arranged?
How do people sit when eating? Is there any arrangement by age or dignity of diners?
How many and when are the main mealtimes?
Are there restaurants, popinas, street vendors or other places where food may be bought in public?
Is there a significant risk of food poisoning? How many cases lead to death? Is there understood to be a link between food and poisoning or illness?
How much does a typical meal cost, if bought and not grown at home?
Clothing and Fashion What kind of clothes do people wear? How does this vary by season, ethnicity, age, profession, etc?
How do the genders dress: what differences are there between mens and womens clothing and accessories?
How is clothing made, in small shops or larger factories?
How much does typical clothing cost?
How important is fashion to people? How does this vary by individual?
What kinds of jewelry do people wear? And when?

Does the culture have outlets for dramatic arts (theater, puppetry, cinematography)?
What other major forms of entertainment are there?
Is the populace literate and numerate?
Do people read for pleasure? If so, what do they read?
How much do books, magazines, broadsheets and the like cost?
Is there a public library system? Who uses it?
Who are popular authors and poets?
Who are some of the more famous characters from literature?
How has this changed over time?

VI. Questions of Manners.

Who speaks first at a formal gathering?
What kinds of gifts are considered appropriate or in extremely bad taste?
How do younger adults address their elders?
When is it rude to laugh at something funny?
What kinds of questions cannot be asked in public? In private? At all?
What parts of the body are routinely covered?
How private are bodily functions like bathing or defecating?

VII. Questions of Faith.

Is the culture religious or nonreligious?
What are the major religious groups in the region?
What are some of their core doctrines, dogmas, beliefs and practices?
What is the overall cosmology and eschatology in religious terms?
Is religion a cause of dissatisfaction, dissention or hostility in the region?
Are religious traditions and any scriptures oral or written in nature or a combination?
Is there a set canon of what consitutes officially sanctioned scripture?
How are scriptural / traditional exegesis accomplished and by what hermeneutics?
What is the role of myth within the religion?
Is there a formal creed or set of credal statements that define the faith?
What are typical symbols used in the religion and their meanings?
What ritual objects are used in the religion (relics, talismans, medals, charms, etc)?
What religious officials are there? Is there a formal clergy? How are they organised?
Are there monks, saints, faqirs, nuns, prophets, apostles, disciples, preachers, friars, shamans, martyrs, mystics, seers, vates, sages, ascetics, religious heroes, saviours, redeemers, etc?
What do people believe happens to them after death? How, if at all, can they influence this?
What happens to those who disagree with the majority on questions of religion?
Are there any particular places considered special or holy? What are they like?
Is there a set religious calendar? What are the most popular rituals or festivals?
Are there liturgical, meditative, and contemplative aspects to the religion?
What is the basic structure of the religion (unitary, dualistic, etc)?
What is the basic theology of the religion (i.e., monotheistic, polytheistic, henotheistc etc)?
What do people have to offer to their Deity or deities?
What do people want from their Deity or deities? How do they try and get it?
Are there differing denominations or sects of the religion?
How do their religious practices differ from their neighbours?
Are issues such as orthodoxy, heterodoxy, heresy and apostasy keys in the religious life?
What gender, ethnic, national or racial issues exist within the religion?
Is ecumenism engaged in, or are other traditions treated as adversaries or enemies?
What is the most commonly broken religious rule?
What is the least-violated religious rule?
How are such infractions punished? Is it possible to expel a community member?
How can an outsider join the religious community?
Does the religion send out missionaries? What role(s) do they play?
What factions exist within the dominant religious institutions? How do they compete?
Are the differing groups a result of schismatism or mutual and cooperative separation?
Are there monastic groups? What do they do and how are they organized? How do you join one?
Are there cult groups within the religious community?
How are those who follow different faiths treated?
What relationship do religious and political leaders have?
What superstitions are common? What kinds of supernatural events or beings do people fear?
What kinds of supernatural or other-natural beings exist in this religion (angels, demons, devi, asuras, spirits, ghosts, sprites, etc)?
How are dreams and visions encompassed by the religion?
How is religious action expressed (spontaneous or ritual liturgy, song, dance, music, ritual action, sex, miracle plays, etc)?

How is magic integrated into society?
Who can work magic? Is anyone disallowed from working magic?
How are works of magic accomplished?
What kind of preparation or study is required before undertaking a magical work?

VIII. Questions of Labour.

Describe any kind of division of labour, such as into physical versus mental versus spiritual.
Is there any especial prestige attached to some category of labour or a particular job?
What jobs are considered mucky or are particularly depreciated?
What professions or activities are considered masculine?
What professions or activities are viewed as feminine?
What are usual working hours? Are there days of rest or holidays?
How does this differ between different jobs?
What jobs have few workers and why?
What are typical wages for various jobs?
How does work affect lifestyle and health?
What sorts of jobs are preferred by which people? Are some jobs denied to certain groups?
What are the ethical oaths or codes that govern various jobs? Is there a difference in ethics between manual and mental or spiritual work?

IX. Questions of Art.

What are the favorite art forms?
What are the least-favorite?
How respected are artists?
Do artists require official or unofficial protection or patronage?
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?
How naturalistic or stylized is your society's art?
What shapes are most common in your society's arts, like embroidery or architecture?
Which artforms get the most and least respect?
What form does censorship take?
Who may not be an artist?
What qualities equal "beauty" in this society?
What makes a man or woman especially beautiful?
How do people react to tattoos? Piercings? Facial hair? Cosmetics?

Do people enjoy looking at art? Does this vary among communities?
Do people enjoy doing art? Does this vary?
Is there any calligraphy? Who does it?
Does your culture have a distinct (or not so) musical style? What is it like?
How do people listen to music (in a theater, at home, on the street, mechanical)?
Does music influence people's behaviour?
Does this culture have a typical dance form? What is it like?
Who goes to see such entertainments?

X. Questions of Marriage.

How is a marriage defined? How is a marriage contracted?
What is the term of a marriage contract?
What gifts are considered appropriate or inappropriate for a wedding?
How are marriages celebrated?
What is considered too great a difference in age for a couple?
Do relationships allow multiple partners?
In what ways is a marriage considered broken?
How can a marriage be terminated?

XI. Questions of Health.

What is the average life expectancy? How does this differ between different regions, races or ethnicities?
What access do people have to clean drinking water (at home or in public)?
What access do people have to proper sanitation (at home or in public)?
Do houses or public buildings have plumbing? Cold and warm water?
Describe any public or private bathing or latrine facilities.
How is healthcare delivered in this society; what are its foundations?
Are there hospitals or sanitaria where many forms of health care are concentrated; or are practitioners more diffuse within the community?
Do people have access to any form of medical aid for emergencies or for less urgent problems?
What kinds of ailments or injuries are treatable in the locality using available supplies and expertise?
What does typical healthcare cost?
How do this societys doctors try to treat wounds and sickness?
Which medical assumtions of this society are wrong?
Do people seek care on an as-needed or emergency basis; or is health care seen as a preventative endeavour.
How often do people see their doctor, dentist or other healthcare provider?
Is a distinction made between physical and nonphysical ailments?
What happens to those suffering from extreme mental illness? Spiritual illness? Other?
How do people react to physical deformity (both congenital and acquired)?

XII. Questions of Sex.

How does your society define incest? Rape? How do people react to these?
What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced?
What secret vice actually is practiced?
What sexual habits are widely believed common among foreigners?
How do people react to homosexuality? Is it frowned on? Encouraged?
Are premarital sexual relations allowed? Extramarital?
How is adultery defined? What (if any) is the punishment? Who decides?
Is prostitution legal? How are prostitutes viewed? Is this accurate?
What is the greatest sexual taboo?
What does this society mean by the word "virgin" and how important is it?
Is sex confined to marriage? Or, is it supposed to be?
What constitutes aberrant sexual behavior?
Are there any cultural or religious strictures, norms or taboos that specifically address sexual conduct?
Are there secular laws that control or restrict sexual behaviour?
At what age is it considered normal to engage in sex? Are there taboos against sex with children?
Should sex be a one-to-one experience? Or are groups allowed?

XIII. Questions of Education.

Describe the education of the society’s people: formal schooling, apprenticeship, etc.
If education is mainly by apprenticeship, how is this accomplished?
Is education compulsory / offered to everyone? What is the cost of education?
Between which ages does education happen?
How are year groups and academic years arranged?
How are curricula arranged? What courses are typically offered?
What degrees or diplomas are offered by schools?
What do schools / colleges / universities look like?
What are the classrooms like? What is a typical class size
Who is in charge of education in the country, and in each individual school?
Does this society have its own language? Its own writing system?
How common is literacy? How is literacy viewed?
What form and value are books?
Who teaches others? How do they teach?
Who decides who learns to read or write?
Who teaches professions, like carpenter or scribe?
Are foreigners ever brought in to teach new skills? Who does that?

XIV. Questions of Technology.

Are philosophy and science unified, or do they exist as separate and independent disciplines?
What devices and technologies are available for people?
Are such devices taken for granted? If not, how many are appreciated?
How do people envision a difficult or impossible task that could be made easier by using some kind of device or futuristic technology?
How is knowledge distributed? Is it kept unknown to the common people, or is available for all?

What major architectural styles are present? What do they look like?
How does this vary over time and between places in the region?
What major elements are present? How are they pieced together?
What are houses like inside and out?
What are palaces and castles like?
How tall is the tallest building? How big is the biggest building?
What materials are used in typical construction? Do any materials have to be imported?
How are buildings constructed? Are there machines or is work done by hand?
What are some famous landmarks in the region? Why are they famous? Are they famous internationally?

XV. Questions of Transportation and Communications.

How do people get from place to place? Does this vary at all in different places?
Do people make long journeys? If so, what are they like?
Is there a public transport system? Who uses it? How much does it cost?
What are the roads like? How do they vary from place to place?
Do individuals or families own and use their own vehicles?
How safe and clean is the typical transport system?
What major fuels are used?
Apart from face to face, how do people communicate with each other?
Is there a postal service? How fast is it? How much does it cost to use? What restrictions are there on packet delivery? Does the post operate internationally? How likely is it that an article sent in the post will reach its intended destination?
What technical or mechanical means of communications exist?

XVI. Questions of Economics.

What is the local economy based on?
How is commerce engaged in?
If levied, how are taxes collected? What are such revenues used for? How does taxation affect the people?
What do people expect from their government in return for the taxes paid?

What is the local currency like? How is it subdivided? What is it based on (metal, labour, fiat)?
Is currency issued by a central authority or by some decentralised means?
How does it compare to other neighbouring currencies?
How has the value of the currency changed or fluctuated recently?
How are coins and notes produced? How common are forgeries?
How is wealth distributed?
Is there a public banking system?
Who uses it? What benefits does it bring? At what cost?
Is there a large gap between the wealth of the rich and poor? What expectations do each group have from the other?
What constitutes "poverty" in this society?

XVII. Questions of Death and Burial.

What is their understanding of death and dying?
What does this society do with their corpses?
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?

What do people in this culture think about suicide?
Is it the greatest sin one can commit? Or is it a sin at all?
Is it the great and last comfort of a tormented soul?
Is it worse than murder?

XVIII. Questions of Government.

What is the form of government? How is it structured?
What are some of the most fundamental policies of the government?
What is the political status of minority communities?
How is government chosen?
What is the country’s general foreign policy?
Who decides whether someone has broken a law? How?
What kinds of punishments are meted out? By whom? Why?
How are new laws created or old ones changed?
Is there some form of clemency or pardon? What is involved?
Who has the right to give orders, and why?
What titles do various officials have?
How are the rules different for officials as opposed to the common person?
How do government officials dress?
Is the law written down? Who interprets it?
Once accused, what recourse does someone have?
Is torture allowed? What kinds? Is capital punishment allowed?
How are criminals executed?
Who cannot rise to positions of leadership?
Is bribery allowed? Under what circumstances?
What makes someone a bad ruler in this society? What can be done about it?
What are the most common or dangerous forms of criminal?

City Watch & Sheriffs
Is there a civilian police force, or is law enforcement the province of the military?
Is the police force a nationalised one, or are there multiple regional forces?
How militant or vigilante are they? Are they usually or ever armed?
What is the extent of their authority? Can they shoot you? Can they use magic? Can they torture or otherwise force a confession? Can they use telepathy?
Are there individuals or groups who are above the law?
Is there a secret police?
What is the role of police informants, if any?

XIX. Questions of Warfare.

Does the country have an armed force? What types? What size?
How do the armed forces compare with others in the region or world?
Who declares war?
Who has the power to declare conditions of peace?
How are treaties negotiated?
What happens to prisoners taken in battle?
What weapons are favoured by the various armed forces?
What form of warfare does this society use?
How do battles in the airs or waters or underworlds differ from surface warfare?
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?
What is campaign or camp life like?
What ethical or moral codes do warriors adhere to?
How are battle injuries treated?
How long do wars typically last?
Has this society ever attacked another? What was the nature of that war? What would make this society go to war?
Has there ever been a civil war or a revolution?
What do soldiers do when there's no war?
Are there any current tensions / wars / embargoes etc with any other nations?
Who are the country’s enemies? Whos winning the war?
What defences are available to cities?