Gnomish Culture Test

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Gnomish (Gahijo) Culture Test

A look at gnomish culture, based on the "culture test" format based on Mark Rosenfelder's American Culture Test, and its responses. These test are at their best when read en masse, in my opinion (follow the above link to read other test).

This test only applies to the "mainstream" gnome culture, not the gnomes of the Iravn backcountry.

Please note also, that this does not reflect my views. Gnomes are creations near and dear to my heart and mind, but they also go their own way, as is appropriate; and on many, perhaps most, issues, they have views totally unrelated to my own.


If you're a Gnome:

A sketch of a gnome
  • You believe deep down that the world is full of patterns, and that if you look hard enough you can figure out how anything works, and that knowledge is more important than muscle.
  • You aren't very religious. To you, understanding the world around you is a matter of discovering the natural laws and patterns, not the arbitrary whims of a god. You ask blessings and give thanks to the Iashan (Old Spirits) or the Trade Saints, but that's not religion, that's just common courtesy and good sense.
  • You are familiar with the stories and minor rituals surrounding a number of the Iashan like Kârda, Înirn the Gremlin, Ejol Stormcloud, and Kelasi the Sweet Breeze; and many of the Saints like Cevalin the Bargeman, Sadilîn, Rishel, and Old Nîcadimus.
  • You don't play "sports". Organized physical exertion involves dancing, not playing. And you do dance, or at very least did as an adolescent.
  • A serious game is played with the mind, not the body. So whenever your hands are free, you're probably playing a game: Whend, Haralv, Jep. If you have one (and if you don't others in your company do), your tile set is one of your prize possessions. If you're really sharp you might even play a decent game of Jehasîn or Effian, in which case you definitely have your own set of tile, maybe two: a general set, plus one customized for a specific game.
  • You are familiar with the top players of Jehasîn and Effian in your region. And of course you know the very best players: Luukês at Jehasîn, and Gânl and Tâsmar at Effian.

Tea and Honey: Life is Good.

  • You work everyday, but some days the work may not be hard or much. You don't distinguish between your "job" and "housework", it's all part of supporting the company. Outside contracts are their own class of work, though. As a child or adolescent you also pitch in every day, except during the fairs when you're let off chores for most of the day.
  • Comforts require hard work, which everyone is expected to help with. For heat, you need to chop firewood, and your dwelling is probably not very well insulated. Internal plumbing exists only in some public bath houses and the houses of the rich. You have to haul water from a stream or well.
  • Most of the company gathers to eat the two meals of the day, first thing in the morning and early evening. The bigger meal is in the morning. Through out the rest of the day you eat from your pouch: flat bread, nuts, dried meat, maybe some fruit (usually also dried).
  • Some insects are food in pinch, and others are delicacies. If you're in the Iravn you get your honey from ants, which you often eat ant and all. Wild dassies are good eating, but you wouldn't want to eat a city dassy. You don't consider monkeys, martens, or dogs food, the first are too gnome-looking, and the second two are pets and work animals. Though dogs are mostly other people's pets, they're a bit large and fierce for most gnomes to be totally comfortable with them.
  • Chances are you're not very fond of spicy food. Sweet, salty, or just bland are good by you. Especially sweet. You eat honey with your food, or bake your food with honey, as often as you can afford. Preferably from bees, though if you're in the Iravn bee-honey is pretty expensive, and you'll settle for honey ants.
  • Only infants drink milk, it makes an adult sick. A lot of dwarves drink Gadla milk, and some humans, too, but that's just weird. You drink tea though. Every day, if you can afford it. The saying goes, gnomes have been drinking tea since they learned to boil water, and before that, they just chewed tea leaves.
  • Bathing is nice, and you do it when you get a chance, either in a nearby stream or pool, or a public bath if you're in a city, but you're not as obsessive about it as most goblins or Heshan humans. Once or twice a week is a good goal to aim for.
  • Travel is mostly by wagon, you wish pulled by a tsami, but most likely you make do with gadlêt (which are small), or perhaps bekênêt (which are vile-tempered). There is also a good deal of barge traffic up and down the major rivers.
  • If you have to communicate with someone far away, you find someone going there and pay them to take a letter. If you're part of a traveling company, chances are that you're carrying a few letters most of the time. The gnome companies are probably the best way to get a letter somewhere at a reasonable cost.
  • Power in gnomish society is based in economics and prestige, not appointed positions, as there are no governments as such. What in other places might be "public works" are privately maintained (or communally, though the two concepts blur around the gnomish company). For example, the streets in a gnomish town are maintained by the companies who work in that area of town, particularly those operating shops or services, to make sure that they and their customers are unimpeded.
  • Other species sometimes get pretty strange, but that's what the Trade Culture exist for, to give you some guidelines in dealing with each other.
  • You think most problems could be solved if only people would put aside their prejudices and work together.
  • You are not used to a court system. Internal matters are decided by a company's elders. Disputes between companies, if they can't be solved, are generally mediated by a neutral company. If a company makes trouble, or harbors individual troublemakers, they will lose the trust, and business, of other companies, a fate to be feared and avoided.
  • You speak Trade Tongue. You sort of respect the gnomes from the Iravn backcountry for still speaking a purely gnomish language, but they also seem backward and sort of silly. Most other people you want to deal with speak Trade too, so chances are you know little of any other languages. Of course, everybody else speaks Trade with a funny accent, 'cause most of them do speak another language (a rather provincial one, you feel).
  • You think taxes are scandalous. You certainly don't expect to get everything for free: you may have to pay tariffs, or usage fees, or buy a business license in some cities, but you find the idea of income or property tax shocking. If you're in a (non-gnomish) city that expects to collect such taxes from you, you do your best to just move back on out before they get a chance.
  • Practically everyone gets a broad base of schooling from their company as they grow up: writing, arithmetic, geography, and also whatever trades and crafts the company practices.
  • Scholars are well respected and can bring prestige to their companies. Gnomish scholars vary on both sides of the boundary between abstract theory and practicalities. The best known scholars are generally the ones very close to that boundary, such as Theâdn who devised the coordinate system now considered definitive for maps.
  • There are two commonly used calendars, you probably prefer the Rennali calendar keeps closer to the seasonal year, but the Akalet keeps to the lunar month, and not far off the seasonal year. In many regions, some people use the Rennali and some use the Akalet, so you probably track both, so that you can talk to both kinds.
  • Numbers are important. You can reckon fluently in either decimal or duodecimal, and can convert easily between them, as long as the numbers don't have too many digits. Ten (ishen) thousands (aleshku) are a myriad (kâlad), and a myriad myriads are at great myriad (sakâld). A dozen (lelen) gross (huatl) are an oriîn.

You're going to marry who?

  • If you're a parent you might think arranged marriages, like dwarves and humans sometimes have, sound like they make things a lot simpler, but you know for gnomes (like elves) it's not really an option, the pair-bond comes on youngsters strong, and there's not much to be done, it's just how it works. And, obviously, a man gets only one wife and vice-versa, or else it wouldn't be much of a pair-bond, would it?
  • Parents always complain about the people their children go off and bond to, it's expected.
  • Sometimes they even bond to someone the same gender as them, which is exasperating, but what are you going to do? A same sex couple is much like any other childless couple, you feel sorry for them 'cause they'll never have any children, but you don't ostracize them or anything. Of course they'll never be as socially important as those who do have children, but some normal couples don't end up with children either.
  • There's usually three to five years between when youngsters start to pair off and when the pair-bond is fully developed and the couple marries. Since pair-bonds are usually outside of the company, among traveling companies this means the couple goes through a period of trying to get their companies going to as many of the same fairs as possible.
  • The fairs (especially the dances) are where youngsters meet each other in the first place, too. Adolescents spend much of their free time practicing and working on new dances for the next fair, and will meet up with their friends as soon as a fair convenes to plan for the dances.
  • Talking to a non-gnome, unless you know them well, you'll stick to formal address: title or profession plus iko (species-marker). To another gnome, you might be more casual.
  • Since you became an adult, you don't go out in public without your coat on, except for hard work on a hot day, or, of course, at a public bath. But in any situation where you're not wearing your coat, it's no big deal for a woman to show her chest. It's not like gnome women have those weird, hyperdeveloped chests like dwarf and human women.
  • If a woman is thinner than the average, it doesn't improve her looks. A good face, and nice, gray hair are the most important parts of beauty for both genders (colorful hair is a childish trait), other than being a good dancer. A man's shoulders can be another point of good looks, they should be nicely broad, but not overly muscled.
  • You don't expect an inn to have a bath. If you're in a city, you hope there are public baths (if it's a gnomish city, you know there are, though in Ghelth they're quite expensive, water isn't free, you know). Outside of cities, there're rivers and pools to bathe in.
  • In the various cities there are any number of different business practices. If a city has corrupt officials, well that's their lookout isn't it, you're perfectly willing to take advantage of it, though you have to be careful when doing things like that. You rely on your company elders to know when to pay up to demands, when to stand up to extortionists, and when to suggest that a little grease might move things along.
  • Infidelity isn't much of an issue, usually. A person is bonded to who they're bonded to, and not much interested in anyone else. Anyone who was going around having sex outside of a bond certainly shouldn't be given any power, they're obviously pretty messed up, who knows what they'd do next? Oh, you know some of the other species work differently, but that's to be expected and you don't inquire too closely. (A politician? What's that?)
  • In rural areas you do a fair amount of barter, but you keep a store of coins. In larger towns you'll probably pay in coin for most things, silver pennies, most like. If you're part of a particularly affluent or well-known company, you might give or accept letters of credit for certain types of purchases.
  • Unless you are thrown out of your company for being a troublemaker, you can always count on having work within the company. Of course, if your company is contracting a job it can always lose the contract (though if the contractor is a non-gnome, and you're unhappy with the result, you'll pass the word around). If you're going it companyless, there is no security.
  • You can count on your company taking care of you if you get sick, but you may or may not be able to afford any professional care, as such. You can reasonable expect to live to about 65, with a little bit of luck. On the other hand, even with best care, most families experience one or more infant mortalities. (See Dolicocephalinae)

What's a King when he's at Home?

  • Your civilization has never been under military or political domination by another. In the past few hundred years, you haven't even been persecuted much, and you expect to be more or less welcome most places.
  • Wars continually amaze you. You find wars to a be rather odd concept, as you regard the nations and states of others as rather strange fictions. Gnome companies sometimes feud over irreconcilable issues, but it often leads quickly to mutual avoidance. Changing your pattern of work to avoid another company might hurt business, and thus your standard of living, but not nearly as much as being crippled or killed would.
  • You know the stories about the Dark Years when war (even between species) was everywhere. But that was a long time ago, it could never happen now ... right? Or at least not on that scale ... right?
  • You don't think very highly of state military organizations. You're much more comfortable with the road-guards, and small-scale mercenaries, the kind of military that fights bandits, not wars.
  • You are used to having a variety of goods available, as long as you can wait. It might not be available today, but it probably will be next week, or maybe next month.
  • You're probably not a farmer. Not exactly, or not full-time anyway. You're probably some some combination of small-scale gardener or herder, craftsman, and merchant or caravaner.
  • In a gnomish city, most of the streets are for foot traffic and small carts only, anything larger gets parked in the outer reaches of the city, at the caravanserais.

The Weird, the Big, and the Ugly

  • You get along with the kobolds, at least as well as anyone does and better than most. You're very grateful for them teaching your ancestors to move beyond primitive subsistence and superstition. It's upsetting how much others persecute them. On the other hand, it's also exasperating how they don't seem to realize that they bring it on themselves by being so secretive.
  • Elves are very nice people generally, though often a bit snobbish and yet backward at the same time. They're even beautiful, in a too-tall, stretched-out sort of way. And their singing is very pretty, but also, veryweird.
  • Dwarves and humans are nice enough most of the time, you suppose. They do a fair amount of good work, crafting and farming, and what not. But they don't seem very well socially adjusted sometimes, you know? To you, their kinship to the trolls is obvious.
  • A lot of people make jokes about the trolls, and sometimes you do, too, because it's so easy. They never seem to be able to learn anything new (though if you've known a troll child you know they're impressively sharp around five, almost scarily so, but then seem to just stop learning after a while). But you might feel bad later, cause you know the trolls that are part of the Trade Culture (not those nasty tribes that go around raiding villages and caravans in the backcountry) have a hard time of it already. You're also a little uncomfortable with just how bloody big trolls are.
  • Goblins, well they can't make decent tea, though it doesn't stop them from trying; but for the rest they're not too bad. If you're a wagoneer, it's your dream to one day own a goblin-bred tsami, they're the very best draft animals there are.
  • Orcs are bit more exotic. You've probably seen one, but you may never have met one. As weird as goblins look, they seem like fairly normal people, but orcs take those same traits and combine them with a large, muscular body, and something of a violent streak, so they're a little scary. But they make incredible ships, transporting good all around the coast, an orcish ships is the only way to go (though some say they keep it that way by turning pirate when they come across other's ships). Also their lacquer-work is amazing. And expensive.
  • There are no police in gnomish towns, citizens have to protect themselves and each other in an emergency. In other towns and cities, there are a wide variety of police forces, often well-armed. Probably best to avoid them.
  • In a gnomish town, even one of the bigger ones, you should be fine at night, there are perhaps some places you don't want to chance, but you feel mostly safe. In other species' settlements you go around in groups, and possibly camp outside the town limits, if that's not too far away. And Tâl Katar, as wonderful a city as it is, definitely has places you don't want to go at night. Especially since most people are bigger than you.
  • Provincial currency goes through fluctuations of devaluation, inflation and recoinage, but you expect Trade kirhes to be more constant. They aren't always, but you expect it anyway.
  • It's not so much what family someone comes from that you care about, as what company they belong to. On the other hand, it's often the same thing: children generally spend at least sixteen or twenty years, and maybe their whole life, in the same company as their parents.
  • The normal thing when a couple dies is for their belongings to be divided among whichever of their children are part of the same company as they were. If none of their children are of the same company, the company gets a share of their belongings.
  • You like to see the Harlequinades and some puppet-shows, and of course you see the dances at the fairs. You like elven ballad-operas and kobold story-performances, but you think they're a fairly elite and exotic entertainment.
  • The major holidays are the fairs. Your company makes it to as many of your region's fairs as possible. And if you can keep track of other people's holidays, it's often a great time to do business with them.
  • You can name all the significant cities in your region and their major imports and exports. You can probably also name the most important cities in other regions as well. You can't name the political leaders of these cities.
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