Dr. Zahir's Ethnographical Questionnaire - Shahdom of El-Ami

Dintin Feb 14th, 2016 (edited) 419 Never
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  1. I. Questions of Place
  2. (a) Describe the geography of where your society calls home.
  3.     Largely desert. In the northeast and in the foothills of the northern mountain range this is 'fertile desert' akin to the Senoran, but outside of these strips of land it's sand dunes akin to the Sahara.
  5. (b) Describe the climate your society deals with. How severe are their seasons?
  6.     The summers are awful, with temperatures frequently rising above a hundred and twenty degrees. Death due to heat stroke is not uncommon, and life essentially ceases during the afternoon. People retreat indoors to sleep through the worst of the heat, or to otherwise keep themselves cool.
  8. (c) What kinds of natural disasters has this society gotten used to?
  9.     Sandstorms are fairly routine and rarely interfere with daily life to any large degree. They're a hazard for travelers without an Earth Vatis acting as a guide, but in the cities there are often Vatis employed in keeping the streets clear and preventing sand accumulation on rooftops in the nicer parts of town. Smaller villages have a tougher time of it, but thanks in large part to the cheapness of glass, allowing windows which don't permit vast quantities of sand or dust inside, the solution is typically just to retreat indoors.
  11.     Earthquakes aren't uncommon in the north, but they typically still cause significant damage. Buildings in the nicer parts of town are usually constructed with earthquakes in mind, their supports sturdy and abundant, but outside of the Noble and Vatis districts this isn't the case. Commoners, and the poor especially, can expect their homes to suffer at least some damage during a quake.
  13. (d) What are the most commonly-grown foods?
  14.     Around the oases which dot the desert grains (sorghum, barely, and wheat), fruits (dates, figs, apricots, grapes, pomegranates, well flower, et cetera), and vegetables (mostly celery, carrots, okra, and a variety of beans) are all grown in no small abundance due in large part to the assistance of Nature Vatis, who make a habit of journeying from farming village to farming village and spending some time meditating in their fields.
  16. (e) What are the most commonly-eaten meats?
  17.     Fish is the most common and least expensive. The Shahdom has an abundance of coastline. Goats, sheep, chickens, and camels also make fine livestock.
  19. (f) What foods are considered exotic or expensive?
  20.     Beef is very rare, and very expensive. Typically only nobles can afford to eat beef on a regular basis.
  22. (g) What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?
  23.     Wine is most common. Everyone drinks wine, with the commoners typically drinking watered down wine or cheap wine made from grape skins left over after the mashing process. Most often wine is flavored in some way with spices, and particularly good wines are sometimes scented with things like rosemary or thyme. Besides wine there are a variety of fruit-based liquors, mostly viewed as 'dessert drinks', things you drink at the end of a meal with guest and in only small quantities.
  25.     Beer would probably be the least common drink in the Shahdom, though not for lack of abundance. It would likely be reserved for the poorest subset of the population, with those of the higher classes who drink it either seen as making a political statement or being particularly classless.
  27. (h) Is there usually enough food and water for the population?
  28.     Usually, but only just barely. Wasting water is a very serious offense in the Shahdom and famine is constantly but one bad harvest away.
  30. (i) What is this place's most abundant resource?
  31.     Probably ores or fish. Their entire northern border is taken up by an immense mountain range, which is rich in mineral wealth. Then of course their western border is all coastline, and they vigorously reap the wealth of the sea.
  33. (j) What is its most valuable resource?
  34.     Spices or incense. Sandalwood, cinnamon, cumin, pepper, cardamom, coriander, mustard. You name it, it grows somewhere in the Shahdom.
  36. (k) What resource is it most lacking?
  37.     Wood. The Shahdom has always been a net importer of wood, even with their access to the vast rainforest of Elaudia along their eastern border.
  39. (l) How do people travel from one place to another?
  40.     Primarily via camels. To traverse the desert it's often expedient to employ a flavor of wind-powered sleds called Sandships, which are typically faster than a camel train but unable to carry nearly as much cargo. Carriages don't see much use but they do see some.
  42. (m) Are the borders secure? In what way?
  43.     Their northern border is secured by a vast mountain range, through which there is only one frequented pass. Their southern border isn't exactly secured but invasion from the south would be extremely unlikely. To the south of the Shahdom is a region so polluted with corrupted magic that the land itself has been twisted and the creatures dwelling there turned to monsters of immense proportions.
  45.     This leaves their eastern border, which host their greatest rivals: The Samrajya of Kulkarni. These two powers have been at war nearly since their inception, during the collapse of the Hiacian Empire.
  47. (n) How many people live here?
  48.     One million alone live in El-Amin, a vast metropolis possible only via the assistance of magic. The two greatest cities after El-Amin are Marqash, with approximately seven hundred thousand denizens, and Apejo with a population of four hundred thousand. Scattered throughout the deserts are perhaps another six million living sedentary lifestyles in oasis villages and smaller cities built up around trading centers, and finally that leaves perhaps a million people living in nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes.
  50.     Throughout the Shahdom there are perhaps two million people enslaved, many of which were originally foreigners. Of these slaves, perhaps one million, eight hundred thousand are farming slaves. The remaining two hundred thousand belong to the nobility or wealthy commoners, such as merchants.
  52.     So the total population of the Shahdom would be roughly 11.1 million people, with around 25.3% living in cities. This is a much higher urban population than one might typically expect for the time period this is based upon, made possible due to the ready availability of magic and the concentration of Vatis within cities.
  54. (o) Where in this place to they congregate?
  55.     Primarily along the coast or in the foothills of the mountains.
  57. (p) What part of this place do they avoid? Why?
  58.     Most of the central deserts are avoided unless it's necessary to cross them for the transport of goods, due in large part to the hostility of the deserts and the difficulty of erecting any lasting structures there.
  60. (q) What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?
  61.     Camels are the most common for transport of both people and cargo, while goats are probably the most commonly kept as livestock. Cats and dogs are domesticated and abundant in cities, but they're mostly kept as mousers or guards. Hawks are also kept, though how domesticated they truly are is up for some debate.
  63. (r) What are the most common wild animals?
  64.     Lions were once extremely common, but are now endangered due to being encroached upon by a warped species known as "Pidjatan Lions". Originally these creatures were unleashed upon the world as a weapon of war, a hive-mind which was meant to rampage across the desert and soften the Hiacian Empire for invasion. This plan backfired, and instead made the already hostile deserts yet more hostile for the invaders. The Shahdom has been trying to exterminate Pidjatan lions for nearly a thousand years but they still exist in abundance.
  66.     Other than that, reptiles of all sorts are common, as are wild camels and crocodiles in what few rivers cut through the desert.
  68. (s) Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won't be?
  69.     Hawks, cats, dogs, and lizards are all commonly kept as pets. Nobles often keep hawks for hunting or own a few racing dogs, but commoners can rarely afford to keep a pet that doesn't serve some sort of practical purpose. Thus, cats are frequently kept to keep pest away.
  71. II. Questions of Time
  72. (a) How far back does this society's written history go?
  73.     Roughly 7,000 years, with there being some debate whether older pictographs constitute a system of writing or a form of art.
  75. (b) How far back do its people believe it goes?
  76.     Fifteen to twenty thousand years, there's some debate about when the Samjan split fully from the Elves.
  78. (c) What is the worst disaster they believe they've faced?
  79.     Without a doubt, the Collapse of Hiacia. The average person knows little of the period, but universally it's held as the darkest moment in their collective history.
  81. (d) What was the best thing that every happened to them?
  82.     The earliest accounts of Samjan history are shrouded in myth, but the wisest among them claim that the Gods deigned to bless the Samjan with the boons of life unending and nearly universal magical talent.
  84. (e) What in their past makes them feel ashamed?
  85.     They don't like to talk about the Rape of Azash, perhaps the worst military defeat in Samjan history. Indeed, the entire period of the Rhynian occupation of the North is considered a dark time in history.
  87. (f) What in their past makes them proud?
  88.     That the Hiacian Empire outlived Rhynia, and was the only nation in all the world to not only put up significant resistance to their conquest, but to actually push them back.
  90. (g) What are they afraid of happening again?
  91.     There is a great fear of Vatis, despite the vital role they play in the society of the Shahdom. Magocracy has been perhaps their society's most consistent bogeyman. This is largely due to the role Vatis played in the collapse of Hiacia, and there is a great fear that Vatis left unsupervised would bring about another event similar to the one which caused the collapse.
  93. (h) What are they hoping will happen? Do they think it likely?
  94.     There is a hope that they'll one day conquer their rivals, the Samrajya of Kulkarni, and reunite the Samjan people under a new Hiacian Empire. Most commoners would likely think it's inevitable that it's going to happen one day, if not necessarily in their (rather long) lifespan.
  96. (i) What do they assume the future will hold?
  97.     The conquest of Selepp is seen as being only a few decades away. Many are likewise optimistic regarding the idea of expanding into Elaudia, the largely depopulated rainforest along their eastern border. Lately, many also fear that a draconic invasion is imminent.
  99. (j) How has this society changed? Do its current members realize this?
  100.     There is a growing trend towards liberalism, and many are beginning to chafe under the unrestricted power of the monarch. However, this movement is only in its infancy and few realize this change is underway.
  102. (k) What are the most popular stories about the past?
  103.     The life and times of the Thousand Year Emperor, who reigned through Hiacia's most trying period of war and through it's resplendent resurgence afterwards before abdicating upon the beginning of his one thousand and first year as monarch.
  105. (l) Who in the past is the greatest hero? The worst villain?
  106.     The Thousand Year Emperor is without a doubt their greatest hero, with myths telling of his triumphant ascent into the heavens to reign at Pani's side (though these have been repeatedly dismissed as heretical by the Cult of Pani).
  108.     Their greatest villains would likely be the cabal of Vatis many in academic circles hold responsible for the collapse of Hiacia, due to their attempt to revive the dead god Prthvi.
  110. (m) Do people think the present better or worse than the past?
  111.     Universally, they believe it to be worse. They look to the glories and triumphs of the past and can only yearn to achieve such great heights.
  113. (n) Do people believe the future will be better or worse than the present or past?
  114.     The average citizen of the Shahdom is optimistic for the future. Things seem to be going well for the Shahdom as of late, and despite upheaval and a new monarch there have not been any great catastrophes as of yet. The dragons remain a fairly distant threat, despite their close proximity there have been no major attacks, and the Samrajya is seen as growing weaker with each passing decade.
  116. III. Questions of Sex and Family
  117. (a) How many spouses may a man or woman have?
  118.     A man may have up to four wives, but a woman may have no more than one husband.
  120. (b) Who decides on a marriage?
  121.     Typically a woman's marriage and a man's first marriage are arranged by their parents when both are very young. After that, any of the man's further marriages are technically up to him to decide, but practically these are often decided by the family patriarch as a way of securing alliances. Commoners can rarely afford more than one wife.
  123. (c) Can a marriage end in divorce? How?
  124.     No, divorce is illegal in the Shahdom. Annulment is possible, but only in the event that the wife or husband is branded an Aghtaki.
  126. (d) Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?
  127.     In the event of death, the surviving parent. In the event that the husband or wife becomes an Aghtaki, it goes to the non-banished partner. If both parents die or become aghtaki, then children are surrendered to the head of their family. If no head exist, they're branded Clanless and left to fend for themselves.
  129. (e) How is adultery defined? What (if any) is the punishment? Who decides?
  130.     Adultery is defined as a woman having sex with any man other than her husband, or as a man spending too much time with women other than his wives (too much time being defined as any amount of time which causes his wife to issue formal complaint). The complaint is typically made before a functionary of the local lord, and the offending party is brought before a judge for their fate to be decided. Punishment is entirely up to the judge's discretion, but public lashing would be considered normal and appropriate.
  132. (f) How are families named?(g) What happens to orphans?
  133.     Family names are determined according to the clan an individual belongs to. Clans typically include both common and noble lineages, with Abdul-Hakim being unique in that the members of the Abdul-Hakim clan are not necessarily related to any degree, merely being slaves freed by the Shah.
  135.     The largest clans are the Al-Dawasir, the Al-Hawajir, and the Al-Jibour.
  137. (h) How are boy and girl children treated differently?
  138.     Boys and girls are treated with remarkable similarity. Both are typically given, when the family can afford it of course, an education consisting of reading, writing, mathematics, philosophy, and rhetoric. Boys are typically also tutored in politics and trade, while girls are taught how to manage a household and more leisurely fields like painting or music.
  140.     However, girls are typically more closely guarded than boys. There is a very real sense that "boys will be boys", that mischief is to be expected and that trying to stop a boy from running about and causing trouble would be like trying to stop the wind from blowing or the surf from rising. Girls are creatures to be protected.
  142. (i) Are premarital relations allowed?
  143.     Yes and no. People typically turn a blind eye to betrothed having sex before the marriage is finalized, but outside the context of a betrothal it's deeply frowned upon. If for whatever reason a child escapes adolescence unmarried, either because they joined the military, became a Vatis, or simply because their parents couldn't find them an advantageous marriage, then society is somewhat more lenient.
  145. (j) How does your society define incest? Rape? How do people react to these?
  146.     Incest is defined as sex between any male-line descendants of the same great grandfather. So it's not okay to have sex with a sibling or with the children of your father's brother, but it is okay to have sex with the children of your father's sister.
  148.     Rape is defined as forcing one's self upon an unmarried woman or the spouse of another, and is considered one of the greatest of offenses in the Shahdom. The punishment is universally the branding as Aghtaki. However, an important exception is that one cannot rape their spouse. This goes both ways, both husbands and wives can be forced to pay a fine or face the lash if they fail to perform their marital duties.
  150. (k) What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?
  151.     Any number of things really. Among the nobility something like a fine camel, a suit of armor, a particularly well crafted weapon, crates of spices, a significant amount of gold, any and all of these things would be acceptable.
  153.     For commoners gifts are typically simpler. Offering to provide all the food, a bolt of silk, a weapon, or a small sum of gold would all be acceptable.
  155.     It's important to note that gifts to the bride's family and to the groom's family are expected to be of more or less equal value. Also, for a first marriage both families are expected to chip in and buy the couple a home suitable for young men and women of their station.
  157.     An important ritual is the hanging of the lantern. Once a date is set in stone for the wedding, a colored lantern will be hung outside the houses of the bridge and groom. Red indicates they wish for marital bliss and companionship. Blue would indicate the family wishes for strong children. Yellow would mean they wish for prosperity. This is done to roughly indicate what they want in terms of wedding gifts.
  159. (l) What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced?
  160.     Lust. Many believe that too many young men spend their wages at whore houses and that too many young people in general are having sex before marriage. The military in particular is seen as hedonistic and debauched, since both men and women are allowed to join and one must be unmarried to join the military. Naturally when you put men and women in close confines with one another for extended periods, sex happens.
  162. (m) What secret vice actually is practiced?
  163.     Opium addiction is widespread, though few talk about it. It's not really considered a problem, so deeply ingrained is opium use in Samjan culture.
  165. (n) What sexual habits are widely believed common among foreigners?
  166.     Many believe that humans commit sodomy, sex between two men or two women, on a regular basis. This is largely because in some human cultures this holds true. However, Samjan hold the elves to be the most degenerate race of all, due to their proclivities for interbreeding with humans.
  168.     The people of the Shahdom in particular hold that the people of the Samrajya have an undue fondness for overweight women, something which runs quite contrary to their own ideals of beauty.
  170. (o) How do people react to homosexuality?
  171.     Homosexuality is seen as deviant to the extreme between men, but as a harmless phase between women. Regardless, men and women are expected to marry at some point in their lives, and to not do so is considered very odd.
  173. (p) How do the genders dress?
  174.     Universally, clothing is loose and light. Women will typically wear dresses, with veils being worn on formal occasions. Men's clothing typically consist of pants and a shirt, with nobles and Vatis wearing robes of varying degrees of ornamentation. Vatis Robes in particularly are considered important, and only Grandmaster Vatis may wear purple robes trimmed with gold.
  176.     All that being said, clothing is not typically strictly gendered. Though most men would never wear a dress or a veil, it is not considered particularly odd for a woman to wear pants or robes.
  178. (q) Is prostitution legal? How are prostitutes viewed? Is this accurate?
  179.     Prostitution is legal so long as it is regulated. Street whores are considered the lowest of scum. However, prostitutes can achieve some degree of prestige and respect in Samjan society. They're not viewed with any particularly grave stigma, and it isn't uncommon for nobles or even the Shah himself to have a wife whom was previously a prostitute.
  181. (r) What professions or activities are considered masculine?
  182.     Politics, trade, and manual labor are all considered almost exclusively the realm of men.
  184. (s) What professions or activities are viewed as feminine?
  185.     Anything to do with the arts; so writing, painting, poetry, music, et cetera. Managing a household is typically seen as a woman's role. Many priest are also female.
  187. (t) What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?
  188.     Weapons are typically considered masculine while any sort of structure is typically considered feminine. Fruits are feminine while vegetables are masculine. Clothes are usually referred to as feminine though there are exceptions. Trees are usually masculine. Ships of any sort, and indeed any instrument of war, is usually considered masculine.
  190. (u) What is the biggest sexual taboo?
  191.     Sex outside of one's race is considered among the highest of crimes, and universally leads to banishment if the offender is caught.
  193. (v) Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?
  194.     It usually does, yes. However, the mainstream culture of the Shahdom holds that love should grow out of marriage, and that marrying for love is doing things ass backwards.
  196. (w) What does this society mean by the word "virgin" and how important it it?
  197.     Virgin means, quite simply, "has never had sex". Sex in this case referring to oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse. It's considered necessary that a girl is a virgin upon her betrothal, typically because children are betrothed at a very young age. If a girl isn't a virgin when she's betrothed some sort of crime has clearly been committed.
  199.     However, beyond a girl's betrothal her virginity is no longer considered all that important, after that point it's who she loses it to that matters. Samjan society holds that a woman's only partner should be her husband or betrothed, and that sex with any other men is a sign of lacking discipline and poor parenting. Again, these standards are relaxed if a woman makes it through adolescence unmarried.
  201.     For men, virginity doesn't matter at all. In fact, it's considered beneficial for a man's first time to be with someone other than their first wife. It isn't uncommon for fathers to take their sons to a whore house to get them some degree of experience upon their coming of age, even though it's technically illegal for any person not of marriageable age (under sixteen, essentially) to have sex.
  203. IV. Questions of Manners
  204. (a) Who speaks first at a formal gathering?
  205.     The host, unless the Shah is in attendance.
  207. (b) What kinds of gifts are considered in extremely bad taste?
  208.     Among nobles, it's considered extremely insulting to give a cheap gift. A single bottle of wine, unless it is of the finest and most prestigious of vintages, would be a grave insult to the host of any sort of function. It's considered better to bring no gift at all than to bring a gift that's not worth anything.
  210.     There's a story of a Hiacian Emperor who arrived to a banquet being held in his honor, and as a gift for the host he brought only an elderly slave, a human on the cusp of death. So insulted was the host that he drew his blade and killed the Emperor on his doorstep. Of course, the man himself was killed shortly thereafter by the Emperor's guards, but public opinion was on the side of the host.
  212.     This holds true as well in broader society, but to a lesser degree. Commoners tend to be more understanding of one's inability to afford expensive gifts.
  214. (c) How do younger adults address their elders?
  215.     It depends upon whether there is any sort of familial relationship. If there is, they'll refer to them by the appropriate title (father, grandfather, et cetera). If there isn't, then it depends upon status. Nobles will refer to other nobles older than they by their noble title (Satrap, Emir, Shah/Padishah, so on and so forth). Nobles typically won't refer to commoners as anything other than "you". Commoners would refer to other commoners simply as "elder" or "honored elder".
  217. (d) What colors are associated with power? With virtue? With death?
  218.     Purple, gold, and red all colors typically associated with power. White, red, and blue are all often associated with virtue. Black is associated with death, as are any particularly dark colors.
  220. (e) If two men get into a fight, how is this supposed to be resolved?
  221.     It's considered incredibly crass for two men to come to blows over a disagreement of a political or academic nature. The proper course is to argue in a logical manner the merits of the side of your choosing, and to politely bow out if you are outmatched. However, if a man slights another man's honor to a significant but non-criminal degree than the only recourse is a duel, most often to first blood though occasionally to the death. Officiated by a judge.
  223. (f) If two women get into a fight, how should that be resolved?
  224.     Two women should never trade blows, unless they're both soldiers, vatis, or otherwise a member of a profession which involves itself in combat. They are to talk out their differences, argue their points logically, or if all else fails bring their grievances to their husbands.
  226. (g) When is it rude to laugh at something funny?
  227.     During formal occasions or if someone has died/been seriously injured.
  229. (h) What kinds of questions cannot be asked in public? In private? At all?
  230.     One should discuss neither sex nor finances in public. Finances are discussed in private, and sex is discussed among friends. The only topics that one should generally never discuss are shitting, pissing, and legal troubles. It's considered extremely shameful for any member of one's family to be punished for a crime, and banishment is a stain which can often ruin a family for generations to come. Shitting and pissing are just considered private matters, not something one talks about unless they're forced to for whatever reason.
  232. (i) How do people demonstrate grief?
  233.     Mourning is a long process. For the wife (or wives) of a dead man, it is expected to last the rest of their lives. A woman is never supposed to lay with more than one man, their husband, and to remarry after that man's death is considered pissing on his memory. Now, for some there are exceptions. Especially if the man was executed by order of the Shah or otherwise dishonored. The wives of men who are Banished may also remarry without fearing judgment. However, for most women the death of a husband means they will live the rest of their lives as widows, raising their former husband's household. Children are expected to show proper pain and loss for a period of several months, up to a year. Parents are expected to mourn far longer, especially if the deceased died young. For friends, acquaintances, and others not directly related to the deceased a month of grieving is considered acceptable.
  235. (j) What does this society do with their corpses?
  236.     Samjan are cremated, but social classes are burnt to varying levels of a crisp. The poor are usually reduced entirely to a fine black powder of charred flesh and bone before being stuffed in a pot and placed on the mantle.
  238. The middle class usually have a plaster cast taken of their face after death and then have their skulls left intact, either only burning off the flesh or stripping the flesh and cleaning the skull. The skull then plays a key role in the creation of a bust shaped in the likeness of the deceased, usually of plaster as it's the easiest to work with. The plaster bust may then be cast in metal or emulated in stone. Usually a small vase containing their ashes will placed on the mantle and then the bust of their head placed directly in front.
  240. Nobles and the rich will typically get a full body cast made, rather than just the head. Vatis will be present at the funeral to control the flames, and the bones will only be burnt until either blackened or the flesh is removed. Typically these vatis will be Priest of Surya, rather than run of the mill magic users. There are certain rites that must be carried out, various blessings and the priest must entreat Surya not to consume the disembodied spirit of the departed. The skeleton will then be used in conjunction with the full body cast to make a metal effigy of the departed, usually in the style of a relief, as in there is a flat back of metal and the image of the departed seems to rise out of it. The especially wealthy will hang this effigy from the wall in a tomb alongside other dead ancestors.
  242. (k) What kinds of jewelry do people where? And when?
  243.     Necklaces, rings, bracelets, arm bands, chokers, crowns, and other various bangles are considered acceptable, while piercings are considered somewhat 'slutty'. Typically only prostitutes will have any great number of piercings. Jewelry for women should be worn whenever one expects to go out, and can be worn at home though this isn't necessary. Men are never expected to wear any amount of jewelry, though they're free to do so as they wish and often use jewelry as an outward display of their wealth.
  245. (l) Who inheirits property? Titles? Position?
  246.     Within the royal family, the oldest child always inherits regardless of gender. Among nobility, the oldest son inherits. Commoners are free to choose any of their children to inherit, but typically this ends up being the oldest son. An important exception is that anyone chosen to be a Vatis is disinherited, and stripped of all titles.
  248. (m) What happens to those suffering from extreme mental illness?
  249.     They're most often killed. Insanity is extremely common among Vatis, and they're expected to kill themselves when they begin to well and truly lose their grip on their sanity. If they don't, their colleagues will be gathered into a posse to find the mad vatis and put an end to them.
  251.     Children born with any sort of physical deformity are most frequently left in the desert to die of exposure, while children who fail to develop mentally to a sufficient degree are either abandoned in the desert, or killed outright depending upon their age and social class. It's typically the young or poor that are abandoned and the old or wealthy that are killed.
  253.     If insanity develops later on in a non-vatis, it's not really considered an issue unless they become a threat to themselves or others, in which case they're executed.
  255. (n) What are the most popular games? How important are they?
  256.     They play an early form of chess called Shatranj, very popular among the upper and middle class. Cards are likewise popular, the cards in question are typically made of stone. Only nobles can afford paper cards.
  258.     One particularly popular type of cards are Ganjifa cards, usually circular disk. There are ninety-six cards in eight distinctly colored suits of twelve cards each. Cards one through ten are marked with pips, be they diamonds, circles, or blocks. The eleventh and twelfth cards are court cards, and typically are labeled with an image of the Shah and his chief advisor appropriate for the time period in which the cards were made. This makes them quite useful for dating purposes, and quite valuable as historical relics or collector's items.
  260.     The suits are slaves, crowns, swords, coins, scrolls, harps, fish, and flowers. Slave cards are white with black markings, crowns are yellow with red marking, swords are black with red markings, scrolls are purple with yellow markings, harps are yellow with blue markings, fish are blue with white markings, and flowers are yellow with purple markings.
  262.     There are a range of games played with these cards, including a game similar to our blackjack and another more akin to our "Go Fish". However, the most popular card game is their namesake, Ganjifa. The goal in Ganjifa is to win the most cards by taking 'tricks', and it can be played in pairs or in groups of three to four. The highest cards are kings, viziers, and then the pip cards starting with one and ending with ten. Meaning ten is the weakest card in a suit. During the day, the most valuable suit is crowns, but at night the most valuable suit is swords.
  264. (o) What parts of the body are routinely covered?
  265.     Women must keep their breast covered in public, the exception to this rule being bathing and swimming, and both sexes must keep their genitals covered, again the exception being bathing or swimming. Other than that there are not strict guidelines, but usually everything from the neck down is kept covered except for the hands.
  267. (p) How private are bodily functions like bathing or defecating?
  268.     Bathing isn't considered at all private. In fact, private baths are considered a largely unnecessary luxury. Mixed bathing isn't uncommon, but baths divided by sex are just as frequent.
  270.     The same is not true of one's bodily functions. They're not to be discussed unless for whatever reason it is of vital importance. Nobles and Vatis typically have private bathrooms with what we would understand as squat toilets, and sewers run throughout the city. Public facilities are available but they're not exactly the sort of place you'd like to spend any amount of time, as one might imagine. Wiping is typically handled either via Water magic, since magical talent is fairly ubiquitous among Samjan, or with a sponge made available in public facilities. However, the sponge is communal. Thus, most people endeavor to learn at least a bare minimum of water magic.
  272. (q) How do people react to physical deformity?
  273.     It depends. If it's an inborn physical deformity, then typically horror or disgust. It's so rare for a child born deformed to survive more than a few days that most people will leave their entire lives without ever meeting someone who was born deformed.
  275.     However, if it's something like a lost arm, or eye, or just extensive scaring than it's usually with curiosity. The existence of water magic means that many people survive what should be clearly fatal injuries, with the wealthy or powerful typically being able to make it to their end of their lives scar free even if they routinely put their lives at risk. Thus, someone who's lost an arm and hasn't had it regrown has either made the choice not to do so, or cannot afford to do so.
  277.     Simple scars, of the sort one might expect to get from sparing with sharpened weapons or over the course of childhood, are seen as normal or even as badges of honor. Marks of previous accomplishment.
  279. (r) When and how does someone go from child to adult?
  280.     Either when they get married or join the military, usually. Vatis are the exception, they're only considered adults once they've earned their robes.
  282. V. Questions of Faith
  283. (a) Is there a formal clergy? How are they organized?
  284.     There is a formal clergy dedicated to Pani, but not currently a formal clergy dedicated to Surya. The structure of the Cult of Pani is hierarchical with the Amatya at the top, he advises the king and acts in certain important religious ceremonies. The Amatya also has the final say in any sort of doctrinal disagreement.
  286.     Underneath the Amatya are the Varisthas, they're the heads of any individual temple complex. A Varistha is elected by the monks living in the temple, and the Varisthas in turn elect the Amatya from among their number. Below the Varistha are various ranks of monks sorted by seniority, but the difference between them is largely superfluous. The lowest ranking monks are the initiates, who have yet to finish their studies and be judged worthy of joining the clergy by their Varistha. Lay members often act as volunteers during ceremonies or around the temple.
  288.     The Varistha has the right to levy taxes from any village built up around their temple, and a portion of these taxes is then in turn paid forward to the Amatya and to the local lord. The Amatya then pays a portion of this tax to the Shah.
  290. (b) What do people believe happens to them after death? How, if at all, can they influence this?
  291.     Samjan believe in reincarnation, but there is some debate regarding whether they can affect how they will be reincarnated. The general view is that good behavior in this life will mean you'll be reincarnated as a Samjan again in the next life. Bad behavior means you'll be reincarnated as an animal, or worse yet one of the lesser races. However, some priest profess that people have no control over how they're reincarnated, claiming that reincarnation is an entirely arbitrary process.
  293. (c) What happens to those who disagree with the majority on questions of religion?
  294.     It depends on the degree to which they disagree with the majority and how loudly they profess this disagreement. Social class is also an important factor, with nobles being able to get away with a lot more eccentricity than commoners. Nobles, for instance, may freely declare their disbelief in the Gods without expecting serious punishment, though they may be shunned socially. A commoner might try the same and be accused of blasphemy, the punishment being the lash.
  296.     That being said, for the most part people are tolerant of religious difference. There is a long tradition of debate and argument in the Shahdom, and religious doctrine is a point of debate just as often as politics or any other matter of personal opinion. So long as one avoids obviously ridiculous claims, such as being the child of a god or a god incarnate, they will likely be spared punishment.
  298. (d) Are there any particular places considered special or holy? What are they like?
  299.     Not particularly. Any oasis is considered a gift of Pani, and often temples will be built up around an oasis, but the perception of the gods is that they rarely interact with the world. Pani is seen as more likely to interact with mortals than Surya, who since he is the slave of Pani will almost never interfere unless it's a matter of great import.
  301. (e) What are the most popular rituals or festivals?
  302.     Come back to this later.
  304. (f) What do people want from the god or gods? How do they try and get it?
  305.     People pray to Surya to avoid punishment, to prevent bad things from happening to them essentially, or to rain down punishment upon a rival. Surya is seen as the source of all things undesirable, the embodiment of death and war. Yet he is also seen as the defender of the Shahdom, and so soldiers often pray to him for protection in battle or to smite their enemies.
  307.     Pani is prayed to for nearly any other purpose. For a healthy child and a safe pregnancy, for a pleasant rebirth in the next life, for wealth, for a long life, for success in love and business, so on and so forth. Pani is conceived of as the Empress of the Gods, and thus all aspects of existence fall under her realm.
  309. (g) How do their religious practices differ from their neighbours?
  310.     Their religious practices differ significantly in that they worship only the two 'true' gods. They believe that the gods worshiped by the Elves and the Humans are not gods at all, merely spirits unworthy of their worship.
  312. (h) What is the most commonly broken religious rule?(i) What is the least-violated religious rule?
  313.     The most commonly broken religious rule is likely the sanctity of water. A certain amount of water is always to be kept in reserve in any area, be it in rural farmland or in the most heavily populated cities. However, often the powers that be will use this water in the fields or in fountains, gardens, and other decorations. This is considered a grave abuse of power, but many get away with it.
  315. (j) What factions exist within the dominant religious institutions? How do they compete?
  316.     The two primary factions disagree on the nature of morality in reincarnation. One faction holds that the individual's actions have no influence over how they're reincarnated, while the other holds that by being moral you can insure that your next life is pleasant. There is also some debate about the exact nature of the relationship between Pani and Surya, and a few priest who argue that Pani and Surya are not the only gods, but that there are more simply lost in the destruction wrought by the Fall.
  318. (k) Are there monastic groups? What do they do and how are they organized? How do you join one?
  319.     There are a plethora of monastic groups, each Temple plays host to one. Their organization is simple enough. Initiates lie at the bottom of the hierarchy, beneath even temporary guest, and all true monks are more or less equal. They're usually divided into groups based upon their seniority and the opinions of the older monks are usually more widely respected, but none are officially ranked above any other. The Varistha is the elected leader of any temple, and by extension the monastic group dwelling within. It's the Varistha who lays out the doctrine they preach.
  321. (l) How are those who follow different faiths treated?
  322.     With suspicion at best and outright hostility at worst. If someone worships a different set of gods, it means they're either not Samjan or they're from the Samrajya. Either is a good reason to be wary of them.
  324. (m) What relationship do religious and political leaders have?
  325.     An extremely close relationship. In many parts of the Shahdom the Varistha of the local temple is the closest thing to a political leader around, and the head of the church acts as one of the Shah's advisors.
  327. (n) What superstitions are common? What kinds of supernatural events/beings do people fear?
  328.     Almost any sort of misfortune is attributed to the baleful gaze of Surya. If you fall ill, it's due to the fact that you've drawn Surya's ire. If you take a grave wound in battle, it's because you didn't acknowledge the might of Surya. If your slaves revolt and burn your harvest, it's because you haven't been properly supplicating yourself to Surya.
  330.     If a woman spills her coffee, it's thought to mean that her lover is thinking of her. If a man spills his coffee, it's thought to mean he'll soon come into some amount of wealth. However, if someone of either gender spills their wine, it's a sign of grave things to come.
  332.     Seeing one's reflection in a broken mirror is a sign either that you're fated for an early and rather painful death, or that you will experiencing a time of chaos and upheaval in your personal life. It depends on who you ask and where you are.
  334.     In terms of supernatural events and beings, there is a legend that during the new moon a corpse left abandoned in the desert might end up possessed by a vengeful spirit, and that it will seek out the deceased's former loved ones to feed its hunger for souls. Thus, one ought to always burn any corpse they come across in the desert, regardless of whether they knew the person.
  336. VI. Questions of Government
  337. (a) Who decides whether someone has broken a law? How?
  338.     If someone is accused of having committed a crime a judge, typically a Vatis, will be brought in to determine the validity of the accusation. There is no formalized notion that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, but the more general notion that the burden of proof lies upon the person making a claim is fairly well defined in academic circles.
  340.     Law is often a point of study of Metal Vatis, as they're considered the most naturally impartial. Thus, typically it will be Metal Vatis called to act as judges in a court of law. However, any Vatis may serve with equal validity, as can the Shah or any other member of the nobility, or a monk in the service of Pani if no others are available. For the most severe of accusations, only the Shah can pass the final sentence.
  342.     As for how one is decided innocent or guilty, the accuser or their representative ought to make arguments based upon either logic or precedence, and the defendant ought to make similar arguments against their claims.
  344. (b) What kinds of punishments are meted out? By whom? Why?
  345.     The mildest punishment is typically a fine, with a more moderate punishment being a variable number of whips from the lash. Death is a severe punishment, rarely handed down. However, the most severe punishment a Samjan can receive is to be labeled an Aghtaki. They are banished from the Shahdom, never permitted to return, and branded upon the right cheek with the name of the crime they've been found guilty of.
  347.     Not only is banishment usually a death sentence, since the Shah will pay good money for the severed heads of Aghtaki, but it means placing a social stigma upon your entire family, even your entire clan. Anyone connected to you is punished by extension for your crimes.
  349.     Only the Shah can hand down a banishment, though he may appoint a member of the royal family to act in his stead if he is otherwise occupied. Any other punishment can be freely handed down by a judge at their discretion, though if a judge is repeatedly either too harsh or too lenient they may be brought to trial themselves for incompetence.
  351. (c) How are new laws created or old ones changed?
  352.     The laws of the realm are reexamined every fifty years on average, with those considered unnecessary being discarded and laws being added or tweaked as needed. This is typically a collective effort carried out by the Vatis community, with the final changes being put to the Shah for approval. The Shah may then freely veto any proposed change.
  354.     Outside of these fifty year intervals, the power to pass laws lies solely with the Shah.
  356. (d) Is there some form of clemency or pardon? What is involved?
  357.     Not typically, no. Judgements are usually final, though there have been cases where a defendant found guilty has sued the judge for wrongdoing, if some damning evidence can be found to prove their innocence. Likewise, an accusation can be brought forward a second time if a palace/court functionary deems new evidence sufficient cause to reexamine the issue.
  359. (e) Who has the right to give orders, and why?
  360.     The Shah can give orders to anyone for any reason, because he's the Shah. He has absolute power within his domain, though he does have to bow to the military might of his vassals and if he greatly offends them may find himself overthrown in favor of a relative.
  362.     The Clan Head may put request before the clan council, but can rarely give any direct orders and expect them to be followed. Rather, it is the father of the individual families (or grandfather, or great-grandfather depending) who determines the course of family life. The patriarch, essentially. Clan heads are elected, and are almost always members of the clan's noble branch. The exception being clans that lack a noble branch.
  364.     It's ultimately the father who has final say in all family matters, determining how children are educated and who they marry, and having dominion over his wives and property. However, if he fails in his duties as a husband by failing to provide for his wives and children, he may be brought before a judge and punished. The favored wife, who practically speaking is usually the first wife, may also exert a significant amount of influence over the children and the other wives, as well as the household in general.
  366.     The military is of course strictly hierarchical, with the nobles raising the levies being able to hand down orders to both their vassals and the officers with impunity. A general also has the right to order any man in his army executed, and has the right to perform weddings in the absence of a priest. Both are also true for ship captains.
  368. (f) What titles do various officials have?
  369.     High Nobility:
  370.         Shah
  371.             -Vizier (Chief Advisor)
  372.             -Amatya (High Priest of Pani)
  373.             -Daftardar (Financial Minister)
  374.             -Shahbanu (Shah's Wife)
  375.             -Andarzbad (Councilor without specific duties)
  376.         Emir (Prince, designated legitimate successor of the Shah should his line die out.)
  377.         Satrap (Hereditary ruler of a large region. Duke.)
  378.         Bay (Hereditary ruler of a small region. Count.)
  379.         Marzban (Border Lord, more of a general than a noble. Margrave)
  380.         Istandar (Minor landed nobility. A knight.)
  382.     Military Officers:
  383.         Spahbad (General)
  384.         Aspbad (Colonel)
  385.         Framandar (Lieutenant)
  387.     Minor Nobility:
  388.         Haznadar (Bureaucrats)
  389.         Kadi (Tax Officials)
  390.         Rasnan (Minor nobility without lands or official duties)
  392.     Officials:
  393.         Grandmaster Vatis
  394.         Master Vatis
  395.         Vatis
  396.         Apprentice
  398. (g) How are the rules different for officials as opposed to the common person?
  399.     There are few laws on the books relating specifically to officials, but typically officials are Vatis. Vatis are fairly heavily restricted in what they can and can't do. All Vatis are employed by the state, though they're allowed to freelance so long as it doesn't interfere with their duties. All Vatis are required to live in state-provided housing. Vatis are not allowed to marry, and are required by law to be celibate. This is perhaps the most frequently broken and widely disdained law in all the Shahdom, at least within the Vatis community.
  401.     Children with exceptional magical potential are often identified either due to their ability to cast a spell without any prior training, or due to some immense outburst of Vys which typically results in small-scale destruction. These children are then shuffled off to go through a number of trials, before ultimately being assigned to a Master for training. When the Master feels that they are ready, an apprentice Vatis will test for their robes.
  403.     One of the trials that prospective youths go through is the Trial of the Door. A prospective Vatis is asked to walk through a rather unassuming door in the Shah's palace. They will wake up several hours later lying on the floor outside, usually unaware of anything which happened within. Those who do have some memory of what occurred all recount the same story, they encountered between one and three strange figures with their heads smashed open leaking golden liquid onto the floor. None are certain what the trial determines, but it is as old as the Shahdom itself. There are similar doorways in the palace at Marqash, and at the palace in Apejo.
  405. (h) How do government officials dress?
  406.     Vatis wear robes of varying colors. Grandmasters wear purple robes with gold trim, while Masters wear gold robes with red trim. Vatis wear red robes with gold trim, and apprentices typically wear whatever is available to them, there's no set color scheme they're required to wear.
  408.     As for nobles, they may wear whatever they like. However, it's usually prudent to advertise one's wealth, or the amount of wealth one wishes to be perceived to have. Being wealthy is considered a sign that one is wise and spends their money prudently.
  410. (i) Is the law written down? Who interprets it?
  411.     The law is written down, the law code of the Shahdom constituting twelve books of just the letter of the law themselves, while at the beginning of every fifty year period there are fifty books of errata clarifying what each law means. Often over the course of this fifty year period, the number of books relating to the interpretation of the law will swell to hundreds, if not thousands of tomes. However, every fifty years this is cut back down to fifty books.
  413.     The interpretation of the law ultimately is up to the judge, but they'll be expected to abide by common precedents. Judges which regularly mete out punishments more sever than are commonly considered necessary are often brought to trial for incompetence.
  415. (j) Once accused, what recourse does someone have?
  416.     If someone is accused, that means a functionary has already judged their case worthy of being brought before a judge. Thus, they have no chance of having the charges dismissed unless they're proven innocent. Lawyers are typically nobles or Vatis who chose to focus their studies upon law, and they can be hired to represent either the accuser or the defendant. They might petition the Shah to have the charges dropped, but this would be extremely unlikely unless they were a member of the royal family.
  418. (k) Is torture allowed? What kinds?
  419.     There are no laws forbidding the torture of prisoners, nor any laws regulating it. Any torture is acceptable so long as it does not result in death. If torture does result in death, they may be brought to court by the family of the deceased. Murder is a banishable offense.
  421. (l) How are people executed?
  422.     Typically either by having their throats slit or through beheading.
  424. (m) Who cannot rise to positions of leadership?
  425.     One must be a noble to hold land as the Shah's vassal and the levy either soldiers or taxes.
  427. (n) Is bribery allowed? Under what circumstances?
  428.     Bribery is considered a sign of incompetence, and it can see an official brought to trial. Typical punishments would be a fine accompanied by a severe beating.
  430. (o) What makes someone a bad ruler in this society? What can be done about it?
  431.     A bad ruler is one who does not fulfill the paternalistic ideals that the Shah's role is built upon. The Shah should act as a father to the nation, protecting them both from themselves and others, as well as guiding them along the right path. A ruler who is cruel, indulgent, lazy, or dimwitted are considered unsuitable for the task of ruling.
  433.     This paternalistic ideal can often lead to interesting implications when a woman succeeds the Shah, a fairly common occurrence throughout the Shahdom's history. The Shahbanu is expected to take on a male role, and to conduct herself in many ways as a man might. However, she is also expected to embody Pani, and to provide heirs for the throne. Any woman sitting the throne of the Shahdom is thus forced to perform a balancing act.
  435.     As for what can be done about a bad ruler, seldom little unfortunately. A ruler might be convinced to abdicate in favor of their heir, and there is certainly precedence for this. Often a bad ruler will leave the actual running of the country in the hands of their vizier, and if they're unwilling to do so may find themselves with a knife through their chest. Assassinations are a tool frequently employed in the politics of the Shahdom.
  437. (p) What are the most common or dangerous forms of criminal?
  438.     Slavers often prey upon orphans and poor youths in general, and muggers are fairly common in the poorer parts of the cities. Thieves and pickpockets are of course common wherever there is scarcity.
  440. VII. Questions of War
  441. (a) Who declares war?
  442.     The Shah is solely invested with the power to determine foreign policy, but if he is wise he will not act without first consulting his council.
  444. (b) Who has the power to declare conditions of peace?
  445.     Once again it is the Shah who decides when a war may be concluded, and whether or not to accept offered peace terms. However, as it is for declaring war so is it also for declaring peace. A wise Shah will consult with his council first.
  447. (c) What happens to prisoners taken in battle?
  448.     They're typically taken as slaves, with any important nobles held for ransom. If an enemy has extracted particularly grievous casualties the survivors may be executed rather than enslaved, as clearly they're too dangerous to leave alive.
  450. (d) What form of warfare does this society use?
  451.     They mostly rely upon a combination of guerrilla warfare and shock tactics. The element of surprise is highly prized, and generals will often go to great lengths to infiltrate a portion of their forces behind the enemy's lines either to disrupt their supply trains or to flank them once battle begins in earnest. Camel cavalry plays only a small role in Samjan warfare, though a valuable one. The role of mounted soldiers is to act as a mobile force capable of quickly reinforcing a faltering line or to flank the enemy.
  453. (e) Who are the Elite warriors? What distinguishes them?
  454.     Vatis are the most highly prized soldiers, largely due to the sheer amount of training they have to go through in order to earn their robes, and due to their versatility as both combatants and healers.
  456. (f) How does someone get command of troops?
  457.     Typically through either merit or birth. Nobles are of course expected to lead troops, but a common man may quickly elevate himself in the military if he shows talent. The quickest way to earn a noble title is to gather a band of mercenaries, bandits, and your clan members and then march on off to conquer a village or a stretch of land. You'll either be rewarded with monetary compensation or with the stretch of land you conquered.
  459. (g) Where do the loyalties of military units lie?
  460.     Nominally to the Shah, but in practice to whatever local lord has levied them.
  462. (h) Are there professional soldiers? Do they make up the bulk of the military?
  463.     Yes, loyal absolutely to the Shah, but their numbers pale in comparison to the number of troops which can be raised from the populace.
  465. (i) Has this society ever attacked another? Do they want to? What would make them do so?
  466.     They've been warring with their rivals, the Samrajya, on and off for the last thousand years. Political scholars on both sides of the border anticipate another war in the next few years, now that the Samrajya has gathered its strength and stepped up raids across the border. Typically these wars are driven by a belief that both sides are the legitimate heir to the Empire of Hiacia, and that the other side is simply an impostor.
  468. (j) Who are their enemies? Who's winning?
  469.     At the moment their only true enemy is the Samrajya, and in the last several wars the Shahdom has undoubtedly had the upper hand. However, the dragons loom large on the horizon.
  471. (k) What do soldiers do when there's no war?
  472.     Turn swords into plowshares for the most part. Victorious generals are typically granted land and a title of nobility of they don't already have one. Levied troops will return home to attend to their farms and their families. What few soldiers serve in a professional capacity return to El-Amin, and are folded back into the city guard.
  474. VIII. Questions of Education
  475. (a) Does this society have its own language? Its own writing?
  476.     Yes to both, the Samjan language is shared by both the Shahdom and the Samrajya, though there are some significant differences in pronunciation and spelling, as well as some slight differences in grammar.
  478. (b) How common is literacy? How is literacy viewed?
  479.     Literacy is fairly common. Any man or woman may learn their letters and numbers at the local temple if they so choose, and many do so. The vast majority of people can perform some simple arithmetic, sign their name, and read in some limited extent. However, the average commoner has only a basic grasp of grammar and often has a very limited vocabulary.
  481. (c) What form and value are books?
  482.     Books come in two forms: Scrolls and codices. Scrolls are favored if only a limited amount of information is being conveyed, but if something would spill out beyond two scrolls the codex is the preferred format. Books are extremely valuable, with books written on paper more so than those written on animal hide. A single book can often cost a fisherman a significant chunk of what they make every year.
  484. (d) Who teaches others? How do they teach?
  485.     Education is left largely the realm of monks as far as commoners are concerned, but nobles will typically hire on Vatis as tutors for their children. Teaching methods vary from person to person, but typically an approach employing a combination of lectures and practical application is favored. Discipline is held up as a virtue, and any educated man ought to have a significant degree of self-discipline.
  487. (e) Who decides who learns to read or write?
  488.     Typically it's up to the mother to handle her child's education, making sure that tutors are hired or taking them to the temple for lessons with a monk. However, once out from under their parent's roof anyone is able to freely choose to get an education.
  490. (f) Who teaches professions, like carpenter or scribe?
  491.     Members of that profession. The tradition of apprenticeship to a master is alive and well, and there are seldom few skilled laborers who didn't spend some time as an apprentice.
  493. (g) Are foreigners ever brought in to teach new skills? Who does that?
  494.     Never, the commonly held belief is that anything a foreigner can do, Samjan can do better. Hiring a foreigner on to tutor one's child would be ridiculous. The exception to this rule is warfare, in which humans and elves are considered at least equals to Samjan. Having a large force of hired human or elven mercenaries can often convey a significant amount of prestige.
  496. (h) How do this society's doctors try to treat wounds and sickness?
  497.     Magic is the first choice, and if that doesn't work the next step would be to visit an alchemist. If neither a Vatis nor an Alchemist can heal you, then you're pretty much shit out of luck. Fortunately there's seldom little that can't be healed via magic and alchemy.
  499. (i) Which medical assumptions of this society are wrong?
  500.     Samjan hold that the vast majority of illnesses are the result of imbalances in your vys. Thus, Vatis are naturally the ones most suited to act as healers, since they can put your vys back into balance.
  502. IX. Questions of Art
  503. (a) What are the favorite artforms?
  504.     Without a doubt music, literature, and sculpture.
  506. (b) What are the least-favorite?
  507.     There isn't a very well developed tradition of either painting or ceramic art, though both are respected to some degree.
  509. (c) How respected are artists?
  510.     Extremely so, artist are thought to perform a necessary function in society. Through art mortals can come to understand a portion of the divine.
  512. (d) Do artists require official or unofficial protection?
  513.     No, anyone may be an artist. However, they'll need to sell what they produce to the noble classes if they want to make any sort of living. Thus, it's often advantageous to seek a patron.
  515. (e) What kinds of trouble are artists in particular likely to find themselves in?
  516.     Depicting the Shah in an unflattering light can get one banished for slander, and indeed this applies to depicting any contemporary scene regarding the Shahdom's triumph or important figures of the Shahdom negatively.
  518. (f) How might a very successful artist live?
  519.     Most often a successful artist, if they live in El-Amin (which most do), will have an expansive house near the Vatis district and the Grand Library, though not actually in the Vatis district. This places them in an area central to the city's marketplace, religious district, and noble district.
  521. (g) What forms of theatre does your society have?
  522.     Street theater is popular entertainment for the masses and typically involves elaborate costumes. Street performers are typically organized into companies who perform a set number of plays every day, on a route traveling around the Shahdom. Often performers are Bhataki, or otherwise from a poor background.
  524.     Another popular form of theater is puppet theater, which features prominently at any sort of fair or wherever children might be in attendance. Puppet theater is popular among youths of all social strata, but is seen as somewhat 'rustic'. Typically it's seen as odd to be an avid fan of puppet theater past the age of twelve or so.
  526.     The oldest form of Samjan theater is known as "Pandhara Khelata", which literally translates to "Playing White". These performances are typically a form of improve comedy usually featuring two male performers, though women may participate as well. One of the men wears a blue turban and paints his face white, he is called the Jester. The other wears a red turban and no make-up, he is called the Master. The basic premise is that the Jester will try to get a rise out of the Master, who at first glance appears respectable but is actually extremely immoral. It's thought to poke fun at the behavior of Vatis during the Hiacian Empire.
  528.     Finally, the most popular form of theater among the nobility, considered 'high theater', is called Kamagiri. Kamagiri is typically performed by only a single actor, and translates to simply "Performance". The most common subject matter is famous historical myths, with the life of the Thousand Year Emperor featuring prominently in many works. Costumes are simple, but usually feature at least one artifact from the time of Hiacia. Those who can secure enchanted artifacts are particularly prized in Kamagiri.
  530.     In a typical Kamagiri performance the actor will recite his lines in prose accompanied by music, dance, and painted scrolls depicting the scenes he describes. Either men or women can be Kamagiri performers, with some roles being more suited for men and others for women. Kamagiri has a role in almost any sufficiently large gathering of nobles, and traveling performers will often find lodgings in local theaters where they pay for their rooms via their performance.
  532. (h) How naturalistic or stylized is your society's art?
  533.     Art tends towards being stylized, though an artist who is able to portray the world with the utmost realism is seen as worthy of universal praise. The predominant movement at the moment in the world of painting is called Prektikali, and it focuses primarily on portraying the complex interplay of light, shadow, and color with movement.
  535. (j) What shapes are most common in your society's arts, like embroidery or architecture?
  536.     Floral motifs are common, as are geometric patterns. There's been some talk in the Vatis community of designs which one is able to replicate infinitely, and how these might have practical applications or provide some insight into the workings of the universe.
  538. (k) Which artforms get the most and least respect?
  539.     Sculpture would likely be seen as the pinnacle of artistic expression, while painting is considered a poor man's version of sculpture.
  541. (l) What form does censorship take?
  542.     If one depicts figures of significant authority or otherwise depicts the Shahdom in any sort of negative light, they may find themselves banished for slander. However, this is fairly rare. Unless a depiction of the Shah as some beer swilling fat ass shitting in the bushes becomes widespread, nobody is likely to dictate what an artist can or can't draw. It would also be difficult to prosecute an artist for slander, as they could well plead that depiction does not equate to advocacy. Several famous satirist have used this defense and avoided punishment.
  544. (m) Who may not be an artist?
  545.     Any may be an artist, though it's harder for those who don't have the initial cash on hand to afford materials. There are not academies of art, nor art schools of any kind. Rather, prospective artist would apprentice to a master in their chosen field (theater, sculpture, et cetera) and learn the trade that way.
  547.     The exception to this is literature. Writing is an important part of any noble's education, and many women will turn to writing as a way to pass the time. Some of the greatest works of literature and the raunchiest forms of smut have been written by bored noblewomen with little else better to do.
  549. (n) What qualities equal "beauty" in this society?
  550.     Complexity is considered beautiful. The more sprawling and mesmerizing something is, the more skill it takes to create, the more it's valued. There is also a notion that what has been broken and put back together is beautiful. A shattered pot repaired with silver and gold veins of lacquer is more beautiful for having been broken. There is also a deep appreciation for color and the interplay of light and dark.
  552. (o) What makes a man or woman especially beautiful?
  553.     Fitness is prized in both men and women. The ideal body type would likely be something akin to a runner's or swimmer's body. This is more prevalent for men, for whom well defined musculature is a must if they wish to be considered attractive. For women there is some lenience, and it's desirable that women remain 'soft' even if they are in extremely good shape.
  555. (p) How do people react to tattoos? Piercings? Facial hair? Make-up?
  556.     Tattoos are considered a normal part of Samjan society. Soldiers and sailors are expected to have at least a few, and slaves are frequently tattooed to mark them as such. Because of their connection with slavery, tattoos are seen as somewhat classless by many nobles. However, the exception to this is the sort of tattoos one might find among nomads. These are seen as representative of the Samjan cultural identity, and exotic besides.
  558.     Piercings are closely connected with prostitutes. Prostitutes will often have a wide range of piercings, both on and around their face as well as below the neck. Thus, piercings are seen as somewhat trashy. That being said there has been a trend lately among the youth relating to pierced ears. A few studs in the ear or a ring probably wouldn't raise any eyebrows, though anything more than that may draw the disdain of higher class and older Samjan.
  560. X. Questions of sex and marriage
  561. (a) Is sex confined to marriage?
  562.     For women, yes. The general view is that sex should only take place within the context of marriage. There is leniency here for unmarried women over the age of sixteen.
  564.     For men, not at all. They can freely visit prostitutes and sleep with any woman they please, so long as they're willing.
  566. (b) Or, is it supposed to be? What constitutes aberrant behavior?
  567.     For a woman, any sort of sex with anyone who isn't her husband is considered aberrant, and can see her whipped publicly for adultery. For unmarried women, they can legally have sex with anyone and everyone they like, though they'll likely be shunned if they're seen as a 'street walker', that is if they spread their legs too willingly or too frequently.
  569.     Unmarried women who get pregnant are either expected to terminate the pregnancy via consulting a Water Vatis and paying for their services, or by drinking a natural abortifacent. If they insist upon carrying the child to term, they ought to marry the father. The exception to this is Vatis, whom are unable to marry. Female Vatis who get pregnant generally simply ignore it. Nobody comments on it and no punishments are handed down, even though it's blatantly obvious they've violated the law. Often they'll seclude themselves until the child is born and then 'adopt' the child into the household as a 'servant'.
  571.     It's severely frowned upon if a man already has more than two wives and may get him brought to court for neglecting his marital duties if he doesn't spend just as much time with his wives as he does other women.
  573. (c) Is there anything about this culture or religion in that culture that specifically addresses sexual conduct?
  574.     Cultural defines the roles of men and women in a relationship as the provider and the caretaker, and this can be more broadly applied to relations between men and women in general. Men are expected to primarily concern themselves with external matters. Matters of politics, of war, and of trade. Women are expected to primarily concern themselves with internal matters. Things like culture, child rearing, and household management.
  576.     Thus a man's duty to his wife is to provide her with children, and a woman's duty to her husband is to raise those children. This is the general cultural view, but people typically don't concern themselves with what a man and a woman do in private. If it's a man and a man, then that's disgusting. If it's a woman and a woman, then that's a naive phase they'll grow out of. However, so long as everything is consensual a man and a woman of age can do pretty much whatever they want to one another.
  578.     It's important to note that consent is hazily defined in Samjan society, at least within marriage. A woman is assumed to consent to her husband, thus the idea of marital rape would seem ridiculous to many Samjan from a legal perspective. Now, that doesn't mean that a woman can't refuse her husband. It does mean that if she makes a habit of it she might get brought to court and punished for failing in her marital duties. The inverse is also true, a man who fails to provide for his wives, or treats them unequally, or cannot adequately supply them with the comforts of a home can be brought to court and either fined or lashed for his failure as a husband.
  580.     As for religion, many consider Pani a fertility goddess. She is the mother of all the world, and the font from which all new life flows. In fact, sex itself is seen as a ritual to summon Pani's presence. If a couple manages to attract her attention she will decide whether they are worthy of a child. If they are, she will make the woman pregnant. If they aren't she will not. This is commonly used as an explanation for why it's so rare for Samjan women to have more than four children, with most having only one or two. Most women are not worthy of more than four children. Women who do end up having five are often held up as favored by the Empress of the Gods, a significant honor.
  582.     Since Samjan have no concept of sperm cells or egg cells, or cells in general, one widely held superstition regarding pregnancy is that ejaculation involves the sacrifice of a small portion of one's soul. Thus, it's the man who makes the sacrifice which draws Pani's attention and it's the woman who acts as the receptacle of the sacrifice and the embodiment of Pani on Earth.
  584.     This same superstition is also used to explain why it is that children often look like their parents. The essence sacrificed by the man to attract Pani is not simply lost when she calls forth a soul to be reincarnated as the couple's child. Rather, it mingles with the implanted soul, conveying some of the father's appearance onto the child. Any deviation from the father in appearance is explained as a sign of what the child looked like in their previous life.
  586. (d) Are there laws about it? What about prostitution?
  587.     There are few laws regarding the acts themselves, though homosexual activity between two men is illegal and punishable by either lashing or a hefty fine. Primarily laws focus on what a father's duty is to his wives and what a wife's duty is to her husband.
  589.     As far as prostitution is concerned, it's perfectly legal so long as prostitutes only operate within the confines of licensed brothels. Street walkers are held to be the lowest of scum, due in large part to the belief that street walkers mingle with humans and elves just as willingly as they do other Samjan.
  591. (e) How old should someone be in your culture to be having sex?
  592.     At least sixteen, although this is flexible if the two people in question are betrothed to one another.
  594. (f) What is considered too great a difference in age for a couple?
  595.     There isn't really any difference in age that is considered 'too great', since by nature Samjan are extremely long lived.
  597. (g) Do relationships allow multiple partners?
  598.     For men, yes. In fact it's expected among the nobility.
  600.     For women, no. It would be considered not only extremely odd, but morally reprehensible for a woman to maintain more than one partner while married. For unmarried women, it's still considered rather 'trashy'.
  602. (h) Should sex be a one-to-one experience? Or are groups allowed?
  603.     Generally speaking, one-to-one. However, if all participants are willing it's not seen as wrong to include several of one's wives. It is also permissible for two men to share the same whore, though this is considered somewhat odd.
  605. (i) And, of course, what about homosexuality? Is it frowned on? Encouraged?
  606.     Homosexuality is extremely frowned upon between two men, but tolerated between women.
  608. XI. Questions of death and burial
  609. (a) What is their understanding of death and dying?
  610.     Death is an inevitable, but distant fate. Samjan have been known to live past a thousand years, and many believe that if they maintain a proper diet and good health, they'll never die of old age. Even after one dies, they'll merely be reborn again in the next life.
  612. (b) Do they cremate their dead? Or, how are dead bodies disposed of?
  613.     They cremate their dead to varying degrees based upon rank in society. Nobles are often reduced to skeletons, while wealthy commoners may have their heads preserved and peasants are typically burned to a crisp.
  615. (c) Is the family responsible for the body?
  616.     Indeed it is, typically they'll clean the body before a funeral and assemble any grave goods to be placed upon the pyre along with them, as a sacrifice to Pani.
  618. (d) What part do the priests play?
  619.     Priest commit the soul to Pani's warm embrace and dedicate any offerings to the Empress of the Gods as well. Vatis are often employed by nobles for the funeral service as well, acting to control the flames to spare any part of the body the family wants preserved.
  621. (e) Are there cemeteries at all?
  622.     In the sense of a communal burial place, not in the modern era. When burial was popular there were vast repositories carved from rock to house the bones of the dead, but these weren't really 'burial' places either. More like communal tombs.
  624. (f) Or, does everyone have a crypt in back with all the relatives in it?
  625.     This is closer to the state of things today. Nobles will often have a crypt of some sort housing their ancestors while most families will have a shelf for the remains of their forefathers.
  627. (g) Do people visit the dead? If so, how often and why?
  628.     A Samjan's ancestors may occasionally be sought out for advice or guidance, and offerings are made to the dead twice yearly. Once at the end of the growing season and once at the beginning. The Samjan believe in reincarnation, so they are not necessarily asking the spirits of the dead for guidance. Rather it is a common belief that a dead relative will reincarnate as someone or something else close to their former family. A baby animal is often bought, to act as a receptacle for the deceased's spirit.
  630. XII. Questions of suicide
  631. (a) What do people in this culture think about suicide?
  632.     Depending on context, suicide can be either a noble act or an act of extreme cowardice. It's considered shameful to kill yourself simply because you're sad or because you're scared. However, to kill yourself in defiance of an enemy, or to kill yourself to save others is to be enshrined among the noblest of men and women. Vatis in particular are encouraged to kill themselves in their old age.
  634. (b) Is it the greatest sin one can commit? Or is it a sin at all?
  635.     Whether it's good or bad depends on context, with a noble suicide having beneficial implications for your next life and a bad suicide detrimental effects according to some priest. According to others, it makes no difference.
  637. (c) Is it the great and last comfort of a tormented soul?
  638.     Killing oneself simply because they're tormented by the past is considered a sign of weakness, the mark of a coward. Unless of course they're a Vatis, and these past torments have compromised their sanity. Then they're encouraged to kill themselves, and executed if they refuse.
  640. (d) Is it worse than murder?
  641.     Absolutely not, murder is an act universally reviled, if there was no just cause of course. Suicide may be good or bad, it just depends. Even when it's bad, it's not as bad as murder.
  643. XIII. Questions of Law, Justice and Police
  644. (a) Is there a civilian police force, or is law enforcement the province of the military?
  645.     Law enforcement is the province of the military, though there is a notion of a 'city guard' for the larger cities.
  647. (b) Is the police force a nationalised one, or are there multiple regional forces?
  648.     There are multiple regional forces, each city has its own and generally each village has its own militia.
  650. (c) How "military" are they? Are they usually/ever armed?
  651.     They're universally armed and depending upon the size of the force and the size of the city which they guard, are often employed full time. That is, they live in a barracks with the other guards.
  653. (d) 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?
  654.     The City Guard may use any reasonable force to apprehend someone they believe to have broken the law, though they're not supposed to kill unless they absolutely must. Nor can they hold captured criminals for questioning, rather they're carted off to a court functionary who issues the order to detain them until such a time as they can be tried.
  656. (e) Are there individuals or groups who are above the law?
  657.     The Shah cannot technically be punished for any wrongdoing, though the royal family can. So too can nobles, although they can get away with far more than commoners can.
  659.     If the Shah oversteps his bounds on a regular basis, he'll likely be either assassinated or overthrown.
  661. (f) Is there a secret police?
  662.     There used to be, but supposedly it was disbanded with the fall of the Hiacian Empire.
  664. (g) What is the role of police informants, if any?
  665.     The notion of a police informant is shaky at best, but if someone delivers information to the city guard which leads to arrest, trial, and sentencing then they may get a reward depending on the severity of the crime the accused were found guilty of.
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