Tools to help populate the archipelago
Disclaimer: none of these images belong to me and I will not be using any of them in this product. They are purely for decorative purposes on this blog and nothing else.
Societal and Cultural traits
Choose or randomly determine who’s in charge, their predominant cultural features and, if you wish to bring on some remarkable fantasy or science fiction world-building, a unique physical trait or two. Please note that even the most traditionally “harsh” forms of leadership might take on a kind and gentle role, while some traditionally benign ruling types might be uncharacteristically cruel and oppressive in the eyes of visitors.
- Kratocracy: leadership is only taken by force, competition or cunning. Rulers are always watching their backs, sometimes wary of even their families.
- Monarchy: the people are ruled by a single or married couple (king or queen, chieftain, sovereign etc..)
- Patriarchy/Matriarchy: One Gender is more in charge: the other enjoys fewer liberties and positions of autonomy.
- Theocracy: Holy people (shamans, priestesses, medicine folk) enforce laws and taboos from a religious or spiritual angle.
- Democracy: There are no leaders; that role is shared equally amongst everyone. Major decisions are made by vote.
- Multiple rulers: leadership is always shared by two, three or even four people; each possibly representing a different group in society.
- Geniocracy: knowledge and learning are prized above all else: a erudite council holds political power.
- Feudalism: Certain bloodlines are born into supreme leadership.
- Despotism: a single leader rules by intimidation and brutality.
- Elders: they are governed by a council of the eldest people in the settlement.
- Mercantile: trade and commerce are valued above all else: those who are the most successful at trade are the rulers.
- Plutocracy: only the wealthiest families hold political power.
- Pacifist: they dislike and avoid violence. Peacemakers and diplomats lead by example.
- Meritocracy: those who excel in particular roles (e.g.: hunter, healer, warrior, navigator, artisan) are held in high esteem
- Slavers: owning and selling slaves is prestigious and common. The most prodigious slave masters rule.
- Xenocracy: their rulers are never human… Perhaps one of the unique races of Koru or one of the Old Ones.
- Anarchism: decisions are made at a democratic level about laws, rules and punishments; but there are no central rulers
- Stratocracy: leadership comes from the warrior class: the eldest or most accomplished soldiers are in charge.
- Commune: no central leadership and all accumulated wealth and/or resources are distributed evenly amongst every individual
- Demarchy: the ruler is selected randomly or through divination.
Cultural or Social Features
- Uncommon homes: they prefer to live: underground, in trees, on rafts above the sea, in a single group home, on the back of a giant animal or in strange floating ruins…
- Obsessive taboos: a particular rule is strictly adhered to: they cannot touch the earth with their bare feet, they cannot make eye contact with children, eating meat is a mortal sin, they cannot refuse to offer hospitality to anyone, they cannot use boats when during high tide or they mustn’t smile when any of the moons are full.
- Psychedelic visions: a precious local resource is tainted with a fungus or toxin that creates intense hallucinations when consumed. Special individuals routinely embark upon holy vision journeys for religious reasons.
- Great fame: They are renown everywhere for their great talents as: warriors, healers, artists, hunters, musicians, storytellers or sailors.
- Fervent worship of a particular person, animal or plant. They define their culture, appearance and mannerisms around it.
- Sacrifice: They routinely perform sacrificial ritual, usually involving animals, cherished crops, valuable resources or even humans…
- Masks: a group in society must always don masks when outside of their homes: unmarried adults, anyone who’s spilled blood through violence (their own or someone else’s), those who have entered a ruin of the Old Ones, anyone who’s spoken to a Tupua, anyone born on a moonless night…
- Nomadic: they never settle in one place for long, they’re always preparing to move, perhaps to follow the migration of an animal or the movement of celestial bodies…
- Strange leader(s): telepathic mummies, sacred infants, legendary animals, very old plants, semi-sentient fungus or the stars themselves…
- Monster Worship: They regularly offer sacrifices or offerings to a dangerous predator to keep it docile; perhaps because its presence is somehow beneficial to them…
- Tupua: They have been a strained relationship with the local Tupua for some reason: they are cursed for breaking a vow, they owe a harsh payment in exchange of a past favour, they were caught giving devotion to a rival, or perhaps they just hurt its feelings and it has gone missing.
- Hardship: a plague, pestilence or famine has recently devastated the population. They may or may not be recovering.
- Fractioned: ancient rivalries seething below the surface and causing civil unrest.
- Corrupt leadership: their ruler(s) is notoriously corrupt and distrusted: revolution is seething below the surface…
- Lucky: their island is uncommonly disease-free, bountiful and healthy. Almost too perfect…
- Symbiotic: they have made a mutually beneficial arrangement with another race and live alongside them: Deep Ones, Trilobite-people or the Moth folk.
- Superstitious: they have a great fear of magic and spirits. Any displays of supernatural power will draw their ire and terror.
- Ancestor Worship: They profoundly honour and trust their ancestors, whom they speak with often, either at festivals or as a regular ritual.
- Social Quirk: Always (or never) smiling, avoiding eye-contact except with family and spouse, an entire gender or social group never go out at night without a snake or other small animal, they never speak above a whisper, they are unable to lie (and always speak with brutal honesty), they believe that anyone from outside of their island is a spirit or demon (perhaps benevolent?).
- Caste Structure: they have a rigid social system of castes that, to outsiders, may seem completely arbitrary or unfair.
- Colouration: everyone coats themselves in vivid or intense colours: body paint, dyes, tattoos, clay or powder.
- Ancestor: the people have subtle features that hint at a non-simian ancestor: bird, reptile, invertebrate, plant, fungus or amphibian.
- Physique: compared with “regular” humans, these people are particularly tall, short, stocky, slender, muscular or gaunt.
- Extra–sensory organs: one or more extra eyes, long ears, antennae, head tendrils, a sixth sense or an awareness of an alien colour.
- Limbs: they have two sets of arms, double jointed, extra (of fewer) fingers, webbed extremities, wings or a tail instead of legs (see the Tails trait).
- Tails: they have long furry tails, spiny fish-like ones, smooth and snake-like, slimy slug-like or short and vestigial.
- Gendered: reversed gender dimorphism, everyone is androgynous, everyone is hermaphrodite, self replicating, there’s a third gender or they are genderless and cannot procreate biologically.
- Natural weaponry: venomous bite, sharp claws, horns or antlers, spiny ridges, acidic blood or powerful retractable inner mouth.
- Hair: instead they have feathers, quills, plants, living tendrils, scales or none at all.
- Clothing: they strictly wear only of a specific colour, a particular animal, metal, plant or none at all.
- Masks: they all don masks of animals, ancestors, Tupua, stars, writing or blank and faceless.
- Language: they primarily only communicate through song, sign language, shifting skin colours, stories, visual symbols or telepathically.
- Biology: they are amphibious, nocturnal, mature rapidly, born from eggs, have really short or long life spans or have a chrysalis stage.
- Body Modification: while tattoos are very common on Koru in all cultures, some tribes are distinct: they file their teeth into points, have many piercings, scarification, large plate or ring insertions into the ears or lips or even head-shaping.
- Animal featured: while they are humanoid and bipedal, they are not mammals: reptilian, insectoid, fish, amphibian octopoid or avian.
- Elemental: these people are physical humanoid manifestation of: fire, ice, water, wind, earth or stone.
- Remarkable stature: they are all especially tiny or gigantic.
- Frightening nature: they are vampires, cannibals, ogres, spirits, deep dwellers or skinless ones. Ironically, they might be kind, despite their appearances…
- Restless Dead: they are half in the spirit world: moonlight ghosts, bog skeletons, mournful shadows, drowned ones, cinder-wights or frost wraiths.
- Not wholly of this world: these people can only be perceived by outsiders through dreams, only at night (or during the day), during rainstorms, while wearing a mask, by those who leave offerings at a holy shrine or by people who have been touched by death in some way.