22 August 2010

Arabic Mountain Dew and Other Cultural Factors

Ujiglo Glc: Drink of Champions
Lately, I've been missing Arabic mountain dew or, as we used to call it sometimes, "Hadji Dew". I really apologize if that's offensive, by the way.

Anyways, it was better than American mountain dew, not only because the art on the can was much cooler, featuring a gigantic swirl and what could possibly read "Ujiglo Glc", but it seemed to have a higher sugar content. And possibly, made with real sugar. It tasted more like the Mountain Dew Throwback, again made with real sugar, than the artificial crap that all of our fizzy drinks seem to be made out of.

I hate artificial sugar. It's too sweet, and too false. It doesn't satisfy like real sugar, and it just isn't the same. At all. I've had to try and make do with "Citrus Drop", a cheap knockoff brand from my friendly neighborhood Kroger, and it's just not the same. Anybody who's had this overseas soft drink can tell you that it's just that much better. Those and Rip-Its. Oh, good god. But we're not here to discuss what soft drinks kept me in a jittery state for nearly fifteen minutes when I was lucky. We're here to talk about the serious business of roleplaying games, right?

Hey, quit rushing. We're getting to it.

One man's preference to one kind of soft drink over another is a cultural thing, or even a personal thing. Some bigwig decided that Iraqis or possibly Afghanis prefer the taste of a different kind of sweetener than the thin, fake shit we've gotten used to over time. And they're probably right. And that's culture.

Similarly, one passage in Terry Pratchett's Diskworld series concerning one Rincewind, his fellow Twoflower, and one wandering idiot Creosote, the drunkard Creosote wonders why people from cold places drink mead and beer cold, and people from the desert drink liquor that makes your eyes burn and sets your throat on fire. While that is a really good question, it's just culture, I suppose. And it takes touches like that to make your world seem real.

The big strokes, they're important too. Whether your people live in blocky stone houses, or mud and thatch ones, or adobe with angular signs cut in a pattern on each wall, or in raised earthen mounds, or in Russian-esque monuments, or in open, airy communal buildings, these things matter. But nothing says culture more than the little things.
Like dancing with devils while picking your nose?

For example, men from the Aremorican city of Siculus will make a warding gesture when they mention the dead by name in hope of avoiding bad luck, and men from Thatica consider it rude to look another man in the eyes, preferring to speak to beards, feet, and hands. Gretican men are pious, invoking the name of their local god Siegdrythen in their greetings and leavings, and many other times besides.

It could even be smaller touches than that, to be honest, but you get my drift. I'm personally guilty of it myself, where the big picture details get relayed to players and then nothing of the people themselves, what they're wearing, how they smell, what they're carrying, how they sound when they talk, and unusual mannerisms. It can be hard to think on your feet, but it's almost always worth it when you can pull it off.


  1. The Mnt. Dew comments reminded me of a photoshop project I had in mind. I drink Mnt. Dew Voltage fairly often, it is pretty freakin' "sweet!"