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Building a Believable Civilisation: From the ground up

Stage 3: The seedling sprouts through

Ok, looking back at Finding the seed and Planting the seed, we now have a fairly well-defined race, whose manipulative restrictions are known, and whose society baseline has been created by their limitations, and the limitations and restrictions of their environment.

The case now, is to take this baseline pseudo-society, and fill in the details that'll turn it into a true society.

Developing the Technology Tree

The first aspect to look at is the technology tree -where has the race advanced to? How did it advance? To answer these questions, let's take another look at the area.

It should immediately be obvious where the majority of settlements will appear - on the edges of the flood-plain. There, the soil is fertile, there is plenty of food, and there are most likely even trees, from which wood can be harvested.

Away from the flood-plain, the best place to build is undoubtedly underground. However, early civilisations wouldn't have the technology to move sand.

Stonework is less of a problem. Right from the start, the people would have picked up on how to chip loose bits off of the boulders and scree of the rocky desert, either with a bone, or a rock.

Hunted animals would provide fur, of little interest for clothing, but, with the proper treatment, ideal for additional water-storage. Enough so that farming could eventually begin on the fertile land. Whilst metallic ores would most likely be available, locked in the rocks, the early civilisation wouldn't have access to them, or know what to do with them.

Before we can actually build the tree though, we need to know one small detail - what general level of advancement is the race going to be at, when player characters first find it?

Without knowing this, we could happily produce oodles of work, travelling right up the tech tree, and then find we have to throw most of it away, because it doesn't fit!

The ages can generally be classified into the following denominations:

Nomadic Nomads have no fixed settlement, and wander from place to place, taking everything they need with them. This society is the first one to evolve.
Early Stone Age The stone age starts when the wandering people begin to settle down: The basic resources of food, water, and their by-products are freely accessible; returning to the nomadic path would mean leaving all of this, so the people begin to set up homes.
Tool Age (Late Stone) Up till now, the beings have been existing on their own strengths, and abilities. The tool age starts when the creatures start using simple tools such as sticks and bones, intertwined reed rope, even rock, as tools to get the job done.
Bronze Age The bronze age really begins when the usefulness of those strange coloured ores begins to become apparent, when they are melted down, and the first metals appear. Basic (though crude) armour, and weaponry starts to appear, along with crude metal tools for all areas of work.

The driving will to grow, and to see how the status quo can be bettered likely really kicks in at about this point - the first dedicated research.

Iron Age Wrought iron has begun to replace bronze as the metal of choice. It's stronger, more durable, more pliable, and can reach a far keener edge. Thus weapons have keener points, their designed far more fanciful and wicked, and more precision tools appear.

Due to the preciseness of the tools, architecture and building dramatically improve. The greater efficiency in all spheres of work, allow for some jobs of pure contemplation, and the gathering of wealth.

Middle Ages Pottery skills have advanced to the point wherein 'wattle and daub' housing begins to spring up, finally eliminating the majority of drafts. Technology is advanced far enough, even in the early middle ages, to allow for large armies to be fed by the populace, and fortified towns to guard the land. Stoneworking is a craft, with steel tools, and the aristocracy is now fully-formed.

Ages later in time than this, are unlikely to occur without the influence of other civilisations. Therefore, this list comes to a close here.

Bearing that in mind, I believe our civilisation will have reached the 'tool age' era of development by the time they are discovered by the player-characters.
So, let's look at the basic discoveries they will have made, up till then:

As nomads, the civilisation would have criss-crossed the desert; seeking water, and the prey that would live nearby. The creatures they prey on, would provide skins which, when dried, scraped, and prepared, would have made half-decent moisture containers. Even better when they were tied with gut.

Likewise, prepared skins, stitched together with gut, would have made fine shelters from the sun, and the sand - crude tents.

They would have criss-crossed the desert, seeking their prey, which in turn, was seeking water holes, oasis in the desert, continually moving, as one hole dried up, and another collected, until, perhaps, they noticed that one oasis had no ending, and always contained water. They would have settled, pitched their tents, and had them washed away during floods, so would have reinforced them with sticks, and fallen (or cut) branches from riverside trees, such that the basic structure survived.

They would likely have learnt to make twine, and discovered it was much stronger than gut. From twine comes rope, and with rope, the ability to tie logs together, to make basic frames.

By this stage, they should be able to carve blocks from the stone, using repeated hammering techniques. Likewise, they would have discovered that river-mud, formed into blocks, made a fairly solid material they could build with. However, stone-block houses would be damaged by river-floods, snd they probably would not have learnt how to limit the river overflowing yet. Therefore, stone houses would only exist off of the flood-plain. Mud-brick structures on the flood-plain, would only be temporary structures, not built to last.

Tools would still be primitive, tending to be carved stone, wood, bone, and their bare hands.

This civilisation would be unlikely to invent the wheel early on. With the shifting desert sands around them, and the inhospitable rocky mountains to the east of them, hemmed in on all sides by water, a wheel would only be useful on the flood-plain itself. Thus, development would be slow.

Architecture, and style of housing

The architecture of this civilisation comes in two differing types: The structures off the flood plain, and those on it.

Stone Block Housing

Off of the flood plain, the buildings would be made of stone blocks, and, closer to the mountains, actually part-chiselled into them (why waste that space where you've just chiselled a block out of?) Since they're made of stone (and this is still a primitive society - no Egypt yet), they're crude, and relatively small - stone is hard to cut. The larger structures are therefore the ones made by chiselling stone blocks out of the cliff, and thereby leaving a hole, which to expand.

Construction of Stilt Homes

On the flood plain itself, life is a different matter. The trees, and tall fronds make excellent posts, and matting. The houses are raised up, on stilts to avoid the floodwater. A raft of posts and frond matting is then used for the floor -as these materials are readily available, and simply require basic weaving. Frond mats are also used for the ceilings, again held by criss-crossing twig frames - no-one wants a scraped skin above their heads for longer than they have to. Combined with hide working, for leather panels to make up the sides of the timber-frame tents, again lashed with reeds, the creatures have effectively created durable, water-resistant houses for themselves.

Construction of Stilt Villages

In fact, closer to the waterfront, where it makes more sense to, the whole settlement is raised above the water level on stilts. Extra partitions are built, and simply left without houses on top of them.

The greater need for wood, eventually leads to the first real farming - not just for food, but for the critically important wood which they need for their homes, after all, the flood plain may be large, but it's certainly not endless.

Primitive Beliefs

By primitive beliefs, I don't mean guttural phrases, and looks of terror at anything new. Primitive in this context simply means "before outside interference".

All that this culture has ever known includes a blisteringly hot, endless desert, an undrinkable, endless 'river', a fertile plain fed by another river, a glowing orb in the sky that adds heat, and a wall of impenetrable rock.

Therefore, it is likely that they fear the glowing orb - the last thing they need is heat, and worship the fertile river, whilst retaining vigilance against the shifting storms of sand.

The names of the deities themselves, are unimportant, but let's call them Sollinar (the glowing orb), Wetasday (the river), and santormison (The sand). At this point it does not matter that they are not actual gods; any deity approaching these people for the first time would most likely take the form of one of these three, so as to prove their utter power.

NEXT: Stage 4: The first branches diverge

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