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    May 2016
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    This is going to get big, and it's kinda a giant subthread, so I'm putting it in a spoiler. I do need to stop wracking my brain about it for a while and get back to what I was intending to work on, too.

    One thing I think might be happening is that we're going past each other. I've been concentrating on how the Zath are not human and thus unintentionally exaggerating some things and skipping over some others; and some of your responses seem to be based on how many humans might react if living in the Zath culture.

    Keep in mind that I’m also speaking of the standard, the “middle majority” here. Of course there’s variation, but it’s different plot on the graph than the plot for most human cultures would be.

    I hope you don't mind if I answer a bit out of order so that I can bring paragraphs touching on the same ideas together.


    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    The reason I point it out is their culture will produced people who are likely to be highly successful in a non-homogeneous culture. Also their focus on alchemy, strange science etc means that they will need are great variety of resources. Zath Individuals and small groups will find it highly advantageous over the course of their very long lives to come to dominate the means of production of these resources rather than unstable human domination. And since over time all human lands will have unstable periods there many opportunities for those Zath looking for advancement in really any way (as money is moderately convertible into other forms). They have the ability to do so which mean it is likely that some will have tried it....adding a cultural norm BLOCKING the idea may be good idea if you don't want people to ask why they haven't done so when they are so set up to be able to.
    In part, the border cities/towns along the eastern coast, up in the mountains to the west a couple of places, etc, are where these sorts of things go on -- Zath in defacto control, and making sure that dangerous (from their POV) cults and sects don't take hold, but mainly concerned with trading and controlling resources and running businesses. In those "client states" along the southern shore, there are human rulers in nominal control, but behind each throne or council chamber there's a group of Zath who've been around the place for generations with "concerns"... who generally want the place run in a fair and orderly manner because it's good for their "interests".

    In part, the wider world is a dangerous place, where the Zath are already untrusted, and would be targets, across much of "the west" and "the south". They're as much myth as reality out there; rumor has it that they're all necromancers or the walking dead or animated constructs; that they spread curses and poison; that they're to blame for the death of the gods; etc. The Zath who venture to those parts of the world are either insanely competent, or just a bit insane (by their standards at least) -- the Zath protagonist in the fiction side of this project is one or both of those...

    Because too many humans are strange, and tribal, and short-sighted, and superstitious, and reactionary.

    Because from their PoV every human is suffering from a terminal disease called “being mortal”, and after losing enough friends and colleagues even the really adventurous and/or outgoing Zath just want to go back to the homeland and be around people who won’t die on them in a few decades.

    Because by human standards quite a few Zaths are kinda homebodies who find what they like and then stick with it, they try new things, but once they find something they like they want it to be there, not disappear when they aren’t looking (what do you mean, the owner died and his son didn’t want to continue the business?).

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    I would expect TONS. You have described them as individualistic, with a low link to tradition, and raised without large amounts of social normalizing via their own age group because they are all effectively only children raised in a child poor environment. You have described them as having very long to reinforce their own ideas slowly growing more arcane and extreme. A keeping you nose out of others business will lead to being able to block debate if they don't want it allowing them to isolate further. A core "humanness" has not stopped us from producing a huge variety of idea, ideals, etc. Plus they don't have one system "GIVEN" to them young and rather have to develop their own. And just having the ancient historical figures still around doesn't help if they are not traditionalists (then that really would help them). But even if an average Zath female had 1 child every 150-200 years and we are an eon after the Barrenlands war (so what 1K? 2K year ago?) most of the Zaths alive would be several generations removed from the first post war generation. So there is plenty of time and room to drift.
    At least 1000 years... enough time for human civilizations to develop to the level we've been describing the Choumin at, or the Raassena's "Rome without the terminal rot", from the rubble of the fallen "solar empire".

    You’re probably looking at 200 years minimum gap… the parents are expected to be able to pay for everything themselves or to have the expressed voluntary support of family/friends, as it’s their choice to have the child and imposing the costs of one’s life choices on others is considered aggressively irresponsible. And they’re not the most fertile of species, it’s not like “these things just happen” after a few months, it generally has to be somewhat deliberate even without alchemical birth control.

    The way I was looking at it, there's no "youth culture", slang, or style, no counter-counter-counter-culture swings, no huge generational conflicts, developing... most kids don't have peers around, just adults ranging from considerably to extremely older... so all the ideas and thoughts they get come from those who've been around for a long time.

    There are things Zath parents are expected to make sure their kids know (and that the kids are expected to learn), because the child would function poorly -- and be a burden on others -- without that knowledge, and because raising a child is seen as a responsibility and certain things are owed to this new person that the parents have brought into the world without the child having any say in the matter. It would be awkward on a regular basis for a Zath to not know history, or mathematics, or the basics of the "sciences", or some political concepts. Plus the flip side of being a burden on others is that one is also dependent on them, and thus sacrificing one’s own freedoms, not a situation that the culture considers laudable.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    waiiit you know how you want to build world where hanging your suspension of disbelief to death is bad thing? This conflicts with it.

    Ideally that is true of a bunch of human societies too....Never works that way. You just said it does for the Zath... and gave no mechanism it make it so. That would be great and all if it did work that way and may be what happens they say the right thing but then it just becomes a performative aspect of the job for those "unusual" Zath who do want power, or the respect of their fellows etc. It would act as a sorting system for those who are such “unusual" Zath. The system is also easily abused by those who want to use such a position to further their own interests rather than that of the wider society in part because you have those who would hold them in check not being interested and not having a method for doing so outside of immediate social circles. Because wanting power isn't just about acclaim and having things happen because you say. It is also the power to get other wants done. Want to make sure the body politic is better defended than it currently is something that would drive one to serve in such an electoral body and try to drive more of the national budget to the military...that is a form of power. If you want anything you want to power to do or get that thing.
    First thing to note, if humans tend to be concerned with obtaining power, Zath tend to be concerned with avoiding being under the power of others. This is one of those areas where looking at this as “how would a human behave in this culture” is going to be less than helpful.

    They do have laws, and a system of enforcement, and a civil court system as well, and a standard of individual rights, which look especially harshly on those who violate another’s rights – and the notion that one could sign one’s inherent rights away is somewhat foreign to them. But that’s in tension with their dislike of what they see as collective punishment – the apocryphal quote “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak because a baby can’t chew it” would fit right in.

    Those laws are just focused along a different axis than ours typically are, and are more about limiting the ways in which individuals (or “the state”) can violate the negative rights of other individuals, and enforcing recompense and justice when violations actually occur – they lean quite a bit towards negative rights, and the principle of “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose”, with the disputes being over exactly where noses actually start.


    In general they are loath to impose inherent or automatic obligations on any individual toward any other individual without a strong case to do so. Using an earlier example, parents aren’t obligated by a notion of inherent positive rights to fully provide for their child, rather they considered to have entered into an agreement with the child in which they bear all of the burden by reason that the child was not in a position to negotiate before it even existed.

    Or to use the awning example, building the awning over the street creates the expectation to make sure that it is within a reasonable standard well-built and safe for those who pass under or near it, because if it falls on someone their right to not be injured would be violated.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    It is not about a "belief system" at all I striped that out but it doesn't effect a lot of things often associated with religion.

    Because "where I came From", "What do the Gods want", "what happens after I die" etc are mostly just stand ins for a few big questions "How should I live my life", "What am I", "What will make me happy", "In a world that is much larger than me where do I fit", and "why is the world this way"

    And while the last question the Zath have pretty well covered the others are not about the past (something for them a fact) but about the future (what should I do when faced with X mortal quandary, what goals should I have in my life etc) and there a lot of different ways to take the latter. Faced with an immortal lifespan exploring how a Zath feels or things about an idea could take a long time but so I how they experience the world. In fact I would think that such personal discovery of what ideas and views the world has to offer and decisions of what to incorporate into one’s own views would be a major part of a Zaths life.
    This is really getting outside what I’d consider religion – there’s no faith element, no ritual element, no dogmatic element, no divine or cosmic element, no devotional or worship element.

    As for philosophy, that’s hard for me… when asked if the chair is real, my response is “Yes, of course – it’s keeping me off the floor”.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    For example. Questions about who in society should pay for the protection of a road linking the city to a resource production centre. Those making immediate use of the road and the though passed on cost the buyers of that resource...but what if that resource is useful to the society as a whole over and above its immediate economic value. That control of that resource is useful in diplomatic relations with another group, would be heavily used by the state if war was declared etc. Then who pays for it? Or how much social, economic, and martial support is proper to other Zath in various situation. These answers would both vary and come down to questions of relative value of individualism vs collectivism, the value of inter Zath bonds vs Zath-non Zath bonds, the relative value of Zath and non Zath life, deterrence and punishment of improper actions vs making a victims situation right via restitution. Spending more on defense or state sponsored alchemy research. All of these are essentially value judgments. And collections of values and the ideas from which those values are drawn are philosophies.

    Various political parties have philosophies in the RW. From everything you've described it would seem like each Zath would have/be encouraged to develop their own such system because the society does not give them one in a box and punish them if they step outside it.

    Also exploring identity in such a context can go VERY wide. Sure you know the way you think growing up...but exploring other ideas and testing those is a big part of growing (and if you value empiricism even more). Thus engaging philosophers would be a social virtue-those who explain things well, offer interesting arguments, or who even just write really well would earn respect from their fellows, and this would lead to influence. And those who find themselves agreeing with A may well find themselves regularly disagreeing with those Zath who found the philosopher B's arguments about the relative values of some subject that is relevant to political decisions and would thus ally to see that one of their own is in such a position to make that decision.

    Also a very basic concept that the is open to the Zath as much as any sentient is pursuing Growth and being more/better than I am now. How to do that and what that even means would be a huge opportunity to debate.

    I'm not suggesting that many of these thing have a Zath position. But if they don't then I would expect that the lack of a wider one will make the individualistic choice of what to support a rather lively and varied matter within Zath society. Heck even chats about such things between acquaintances and friends could even be the closest thing to a traditional touchstone.
    Whoever decided to build the road would typically be responsible for maintaining and protecting the road. If a private interest wanted “the state” to be involved in a road, but it was mainly to that private interest’s benefit, then they would have to subsidize “the state’s” expenditure.

    There’s a tension between two ideals. On one hand, every Zath adult is expected to be self-supporting and as self-reliant as possible. No one can know everything, but if you dropped the Zath into our modern world a lot of them would end up as do-it-yourself types who fix their own plumbing and build their own computers and otherwise do everything they can manage for themselves… there’s a sense that relying on someone else is both making yourself dependent on them, and imposing a burden on them. On the other hand, there’s the sense that much of the world, including many deities, are out to get them, and that “we’re all in this together, us against the world”… Zath will help each other not out of obligation or imposed requirement, but because they genuinely feel that they’re in the middle of a hostile landscape with only themselves to count on, and because they look at the person they help today as the person that could help them 20 years in the future.

    To some degree, it might help to think of them less as “a society” and more as “a lot of individuals who make an ongoing moral and utilitarian choice to cooperate”.

    When it comes to “seeking identity”, or deliberately seeking “growth”, we’re getting into territory where I’m faking it, honestly, because I’ve never had that experience on a personal level, it’s all just observation of others.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Spoiler: Fraud

    So two Zaths could have very different views toward fraud for example. One says that society getting into another Zath's business is bad and if they want to lie about their goods or services that's fine they will just have to live with the consequences. Their bad behavior will mean a lack of repeat customers and those customers who got hurt will warn their friends and soon the bad actor will be unable to perpetuate his fraud anymore. Furthermore allocating gold from the treasury and man hours of the Zaths set to enforce such things could be better used elsewhere and the whole thing will simply create a mass of disputes that need resolution taking up even more man hours and gold. Especially since there are many shades of truth and implication etc.

    Another Zath would say that since any one Zath cannot be expected to know all the Merchants in the larger towns such law is necessary. Furthermore in order to be comfortable in dealing with a new merchant anyone has to either risk being ripped off or basically do a background check which because it has to be run by so many would eat up even more man hours and also would create lost opportunities and further humans who came to trade would really catch it in the neck and the general Zath community is harmed if Zath merchants are considered unreliable. Then again some established merchants may heartily espouse the former view since it just happens to mean that customers are less likely to use unknown merchants and they can thus raise their prices with less worry about new competitors undercutting them.

    These two positions are holding different values. The Former places individual freedom and individual responsibility as higher priorities than social trust and collective image to outsiders (which effects individual security and economic prospects) which are prioritized by the latter.
    Fraud is widely considered a form of theft, because what the other party didn’t get what they were lead to believe they were getting. Even haggling past a certain point – grossly misrepresenting the price you’re willing to take or willing to give – is considered dishonest (even if not actively criminal); this has been a point of tension with those in other cultures that look at haggling as a natural part of the sale and see anyone who takes the first offer as a fool.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Spoiler: Vendetta

    So if two Zaths (actually is it Zaths or is Zath both singular and plural?) (or Groups of Zath) Have a beef...If they are not involving others how much of a field of action should they be granted? If someone chooses to get even rather than have the dispute resolved by whatever passes for Zath court is it anyone's business? The first one would know it is a possibility and chose to act so you could say they had consented. Would destruction of property be too much? Libel? Assault? Duels to the death? At what point does the risk of collateral damage mean that other nearby Zath have a stake? I could be rather interesting if they had a social norm of vendetta but extremely focused on not having any collateral damage because it open both parties up to legal repercussions
    “Zath” would work as the singular and the plural, it’s short for something quite a bit longer… their language is quite prone to compound words.

    There are laws against theft, and murder, and so on, but self-defense is a big deal. If you know someone stole from you and you take back what they stole, the other party has no real case in the Zath courts as long as you weren’t mistaken. If someone tries to kill you and you kill them in self-defense, case closed. If you kill someone but can prove beyond reasonable doubt that they had tried or were trying to kill you, that’s an acceptable defense in court. Collateral damage, anything injurious to innocent bystanders or their property, is frowned upon. So yes, there’s a tradition of vendetta but do not screw it up, know for certain and don’t drag others into it. Many choose to let the courts deal with it instead because of the risks.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Spoiler: Drug/Alchemical Boosters

    So since the twilight people are the experts in alchemy and weird science I'll propose an idea. Either use it or just as a thought experiment. Let’s say they have found/created various drugs that are mind expanding, or help you learn and remeber everything while you are on it but makes it harder to create new memories when you don't have it in your system, grant long term physical and or mental bonuses but is associated with mental instability and those who do have problems tend to create problems for others (roid rage/PCP type events). . . Various Zath could come to a variety of ideas.

    That trying to use drugs to augment ones physiology has shown a bevy of risks and problems for those who take them and those who live nearby and it thus best to limit or ban them because those nearby are not getting the choice but to deal with consequences of the drug/alchemical boosting using Zath. Who they would see as selfishly putting their neighbors at risk.

    Others would see that short term ones used as teaching aides (using a strength boost or emotional manipulation during a philosophy discussion so point out the difference that emotions make on thinking) should be allowed but only short term ones and only under supervision.

    Other say that a Zath's personal body is their own and if they want to take the risk of long term damage or instability that is their issue.

    A fourth could say that each Zath should try to maximize their own potential and that not using all the tools available including drugs is actually waste and should be discouraged.

    Yet another says that in order to be the best they can be the Zath should grow beyond their original state and thus alchemical transformation is the future of both individual Zaths and the collective Zath race and that those who experiment on themselves and push the limits of the alchemical principles are taking risks on behalf of the greater community and should be honored and their research supported by the state for the good of all.

    Yet another says that those who cause problems with their addictions or mental instability do so because they are weak, unprepared to handle the mental/emotional changes, etc and that only those who pass certain tests should do so.

    Several of these have very different ideas of a Zath border of not disturbing others, several have ideas on what a Zath should be. These are very different value judgments.
    I suppose you’d find a minority who’d use those substances, but in general it would be another example of dependence being considered vulnerability. Plus the formulation and dosage necessary to get a Zath into an altered state would probably be enough to drop a charging rhino dead in its tracks.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Spoiler: Spirit Interaction

    So since you described the Storm People as partially animist I am going to assume that such spirits actually exist. And while the twilight folk may not be able to directly interact with them seeing they are not from the creator gods they may still have ideas on what kind of relationship they SHOULD have with them. In fact because they lack any divine proclamations about it they could pretty much claim any goal couldn't they.

    So some say that they should try to make a similar relationship with them as humans so. This may involve using human translators. Or attempting to create rituals that the spirit can recognize and interact with in a predictable manner.

    Some say Zath should have no interaction with the spirits, any source dealing with them is unreliable and may say it is an insult to all those who fought to not be destroyed by these foot soldiers of the creator gods.

    Some say it is just a fool errand and a sign of mental softness to try and deal with them.

    Some say Zath should try to shape their own "spirits" to find a place in the spiritual ecosystem in the world. This one could have various ideas about creating a new kind of spirit or saying they do have a spirit but a different kind, or they their "spirit" being different should become master of the spirit world and use it to shape the world around them.

    Some say that Zath's unique nature empower them to each make their own spirit something unique. and that the goal of a Zath's life should include this journey of spirit shaping.

    Others say that it is the Zath's 'spirit' is related to the shadow world creatures that inhabit the created labor class (in the same way a human is spiritually related to a dog or cow) and exploring and mastering this connection is a key to understanding oneself and potentially a kind of power (in terms of psionics or tome of magic shadow caster class for example).

    Others say that the spiritual world is a threat to the Zath race and also a weakness in the empirical study of the world and should be eliminated wherever practicable.

    These views all have different ideas of how Zath should fit into the wider world and what traits of the wider spiritual world are most important? Treats? Tools? Internal focus?
    Communication with most spirits takes place as a sort of “soul to soul” interaction, only a few spirits can just directly communicate with anyone in a physical sense. The Zath “shade” is a thing of shadow and void, a totally autonomous bit of the infinite formless nothing, spawned from other bits (the parents) – distinct from the “luminous” soul of most living things.

    It takes artifice or unusual skill for a Zath to even communicate with most spirits. Quite often they’ll call on a human “medium” or Moon People “shaman” if there’s a pressing issue with spirits.

    As a tool, spirits aren’t really useful for Zath; there's nothing there to emulate or seek, either.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    And Empiricism is not really related, by the by.
    Empiricism can tell you how risky something is (may even put a number on it) but cannot tell you if it TOO risky (that is value judgment).
    Empiricism can tell you the likely outcome of a given event but cannot tell you if that result is good or bad.
    It can, however, provide a more solid footing for those decisions. Most are making moral judgements about specific actions, based on the motivation, intent, and outcome. Why did you do it? What was the planned effect? What was the actual effect? Where your expectations justified given the facts you had at hand? Did you check your facts to the degree you had time to do so?

    And the empiricism thing also ties into the philosophers issue you mention above... most Zath aren't looking for the most eloquent or clever argument, they're looking for the best supported, most well founded argument.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    What you are looking for called legal standing in our civil court system. And that doesn't stop all kinds of issues needing resolution.

    And various, very reasonable Zaths will disagree about when the risk of that ramshackle awning is risky ENOUGH to overwhelm the right of the building owner. Because nothing is absolute. Every awning will have SOME risk...especially as measured over the course of centuries of Zath lifespan. So it is about balance. When does one Zath's love of music become them forcing their choices on their neighbors and when are their neighbors dictating what goes on that Zath's home?

    And if someone is doing something that will say be bad for the humans of nation X and give Zath traders a bad reputation in that area any Zath who trades with that area, may wish to trade with area in the future, or buys goods from those who trade there (by placing trading contacts at risk, and or pushing up prices in the future) would be said to have a stake in such behavior. It is less about the specific answers to these questions than about a general sense of what principles are at work and what mechanisms they use to determine the answers.
    Ramshackle awning wouldn't go over at all... it's a question of what's a reasonable level of build quality and maintenance such that the owner and/or builder aren't held responsible if a freak occurrence leads to injury or property damage, which to us might look like something quite overbuilt.

    Given the typical layout of roomy stone houses some distance apart and separated by stone walls between the lots, if their neighbors can really hear music coming from inside a neighboring house, it's probably too loud.

    Picture a culture where the idea of a seatbelt law would be greeted with almost universal vehement condemnation because it's not "the state's" business whether anyone wears a seatbelt... but where seatbelt use would be almost universal based purely on the efficacy of seatbelts.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Massive. One is about what the agent does and one is about what an agent expects others to do. And the ability to say that the likelihood that a person with whom you have no direct social connection will act in an honorable/expected way. It is about trusting the society to weed out bad actors and not have to do a full background check on every merchant you deal with for example. Because there will always be bad actors and the system you are describing has little ability to handle them beyond immediate social circle limits.
    Most business people in the real world aren't looking to screw over their customers, especially small business people who can't afford to tell their customers "go somewhere else if you don't like it". Now compound that by having far FAR less turnover in the population. Zath can't afford to screw each other over, even without the laws that are in place about fraud, etc -- too many customers who refuse to ever come back ends up being no customers at all. And because of the long lifespans, the entire country is a bit like a small town (which also ramps up the counter-pressure to protect their privacy). Reputations really stick.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    You have created a highly cohesive culture with minimal variation and no reason for them to be that way....I would say add variation or add reason.

    Okay bit more....as for example the baker or log workers who love doing that sort of thing...yes they exist, but do they exist in such numbers as to fulfill the need for the good/service for the society? Perhaps as some cultural quick some do. Perhaps their love of alchemy that most children are exposed to and a strong cohort of role models makes baking a favored thing and that the social rewards are enough to keep a Zath at it for centuries. But what about those things that need doing that such a social system doesn't hold up as great? Or at least great enough to attract the numbers who do it for the love of the thing.

    Because you have still given them a large competitive advantage over humans in general (if only because they can build experience and have patience if noting for advanced tech etc) they are greatly incentivized to switch from competing with other Zath's to competing with humans. Especially as you have given them little reason to be deeply bound to their society with their lack of binding philosophy traditions etc...

    You may have heard of the idea that you can either work at the thing you love or work so that you can do the thing you love. Zath society as so far described needs a stronger system to support the latter.

    I'd look the automatons that were powered by shadow magic that appeared in the DnD monster manual perhaps...they were mining machines basically, but you need labor support in some way.
    The idea of some sort of automation was always in the back of my mind, a way to fill that economic "bottom rung" that Zath just aren't going to fill, without having an underclass of humans or others. Given their overall loathing of servitude and slavery, I really doubt they'd create sentient/sapient laborers, so it's likely automatons at the bottom, and then intelligent constructs doing some of the supervising.

    The logger isn't doing all the hard, dangerous work, they have automatons and supervisor constructs doing most of that.

    The baker has machines that he can set up just so to make the bread perfect, "just like I'd make it", and customers appreciate the craft that goes into getting the bread just right regardless of the tools used. It still takes the baker's personal touch, but he doesn't have to repeat all the little steps over and over for each individual loaf or cake for days and weeks and years on end.

    Also would make their actual military, in a standup fight, kinda terrifying to face for what amounts to a peak Roman army (the Rasenna)... that entire front of enemy troops lined up across the field is an emotionless order-following killing machine that is going to march forward with no more concern than if it was advancing into a field to cut down the wheat as soon as the sun goes down. Every one of them can see in the dark, and has a body made of metal thicker and better than the armor you're wearing, too. And that's just the ones you can see, there are also the ones you can't see, lurking out there somewhere, waiting for the darkest hours... and those horrible shrieking rocket arrows...

    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-02-27 at 05:32 PM.
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