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How about a topic to brainstorm ideas for civilizations, clans, tribes and whatnot for your next campaign?
#1 The PCs stumble upon a hidden city (naturally or magically) where all citizens are celedons, who are all worshipping Brigh, The Whisper in the Bronze. They do not fear or shun mortals, but they are cautious to keep their society a secret. They practice construct crafting and it has become one of their primary (and most lucrative) trade. They have also discovered soul binding, and it is something that many celedons would like to get their hands on, as being transferred from one body into another (particularly a golem) is a sense of pride, accomplishment and prestige.
As a society, celedons aren't much in discord. They all worship the same deity and work on various tasks. Classes of any kind can be found, even non-construct-related like druids, as their studies in nature help them develop new things for their city. Of course, they do not need to harvest food, but they are aware that natural resources are needed for their work.
Rumors have it that many explorers who found the city didn't return. The story is that the celedons use soul binding to also condemn criminals and transfering their souls into machines with little to no control. Soul binding doesn't allow body restoration as long as the soul is traped in the soul stone. While celedons aren't afraid or xenophobic against mortals, they do punish outsiders as such if they cause trouble or jeopardize their existance.
The laws are as any standard society, but celedons themselves aren't much concerned as breaking the rules, as they know that they may lose their sentience. They were built to serve a deity and rare are the ones who diverge from that path. There have been pragmatic incidents in the past, such as celedons wanting to dominate mortals (mostly of evil alignment), but according to stories, Brigh herself intervene and supressed the opposers.
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#2 - The PCs stumble upon a remote city-state or large town where the citizens believe that they live in a post-scarcity society because all of their manual labor is done by mindless undead controlled by the community's public servant necromancer class. Farming, washing, mining, serving, guard duty, etc. are all done by skeletons, zombies, etc., directed by foremen who are either part of the necromancer class themselves, or who have some magic item bestowed to them to command the undead workers. Or maybe even the necromancers have figured out a way for the standing order for the undead to be to follow the orders of any living citizen of the town.
When a citizen dies for any reason, their remains are happily given over to be raised, and as such families may have some emotional attachment for certain undead that they knew before they died. Because the citizens have been conditioned to be around undead for generations, most citizens don't fear the undead and have no clue what being raised does to the once-living's souls. The necromancer caste -- if they're even aware -- keep this knowledge a secret because they've rationalized that their actions benefit the living community more than it hurts the non-living's souls. The necromancers don't rule the community, but their important role does afford their caste a certain level of power and prestige.
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I like to pay attention to ecology, and I like imposing ecological consequences on my players who act before they think. I have an idea about a town that has an infestation of Giant Ants. The town places a bounty on dead ants. The folk say that they would reward the bold adventurers if they would eradicate the ants.
A local Druid, a hippie chick who is also a drug-dealer, grimaces and shakes her head at the idea, but she is being strong-armed by the local organized crime groups and doesn't care that much.
If the party succeeds or starts being successful at eradicating the Ants, they will find out that the Ants have been using their pheromones to hold at bay an enormous Black Pudding that could devour the whole town.
I see Smaug the Golden as a symbol for an overly-conservative monetary policy. How about a dragon as an overly aggressive one? A Blue Dragon uses its hoard to invest in predatory mortgages, and pretty soon large areas of the kingdom are in debt and under the Dragon's absolute and oppressive rule. People who fail to pay can get visited by Clockwork Golems who evict them automatically, you know, a Robo-Forclosure.
If the party considers fighting the dragon, the nobility will be very concerned about what the loss of the Dragon will do to the economy. The Emperor, in the Dragon's Debt, will declare the Dragon "too big to fail," and dispatch soldiers to protect the Bank of the Dragon and enforce its will. Will the party risk plunging the economy into chaos by slaying the Dragon? Will the party be able to negotiate with the Dragon, saving a few homes legally? A Blue Dragon will be almost as powerful a litigant as a combatant. Perhaps the party will end up owing the Dragon money themselves and find themselves pressured to take unpleasant actions...
|Natan Linggod 327|
A group of 6 or 7 monarchies whose people's all share a common culture, language, and religion with minor regional variations. The people a strongly nationalistic towards their home monarchy but present an equally united stand against those outside their group of nations.
The heads of each nation take it in turns to rule over the grouped monarchies as a whole, with an over-king/queen being crowned every 7 years. The group of kingdoms have a set schedule deciding which nations ruler will be crowned overking going back dozens of generations.