100 Cultural Quirks

One hundred strange and interesting customs that players in an unfamiliar region might experience from the local townsfolk.

1Libraries have free slippers for guests to wear, and places for them to take off their boots. [Origin: There was a fungus that people were tracking in on their boots that ate paper. Libraries combatted this by asking people to wear slippers instead, which they provided.]
2A block or a bag of salt is called a stave. [Origin: There was a famine generations ago, and people would lick salt, which was still plentiful, to stave off hunger pains.]
3Deer-eye soup is served at weddings. [Origin: A charlatan convinced the locals that his dog was a minor deity. In reality his dog just liked to eat Deer eyes. It became all the rage to try and convince the dog to come to your social event, so the wealthy started serving Deer-eye soup. Weirdly, it became popular as a delicacy on its own. Eventually, it only got served at weddings due to it being tedious to make.]
4Most military uniforms are designed with little metal T-shaped toppers on their hats. [Origin: This is left over from a tradition where officers would keep birds on their heads as a means of showing off their poise and ability to command without needing to shout. This tradition ceased when the nation actually had to go to war, but the design is still typical]
5People say "'Til cheese" instead of goodbye, as it was a promise people made to each other that they'd survive through a long since past famine, and be able to get back to eating cheese.
6People keep a mirror near their main entrance and guests tap on the mirror when they first come into the house.
7Waiters always carry trays with their right hand. [Origin: A paranoid king long ago demanded this to make assassination more difficult, as the waiters would have their dominant hand occupied. He was eventually poisoned.]
8People have a little doll resembling them on their bedside table, or at their workplace. [Origin: It is told that the soul leaves the body when it dies, but it will not know where to go. In order to not get lost, it will search for a new host. Since the puppet resembles the deceased one, it will possess the puppet until proper burial rites have been carried out, and the soul is guided to the afterlife.]
9Women are encouraged to have beards, there are many crafters and alchemists specialized in creating potions and salves that help with hair growth [Origin: back in the day, this country was a patriarchy, and only the men with the bushiest beards were recognized as people of status and power. Once, a woman with a lot of testosterone showed up and had a bigger beard than any other person in the room, thus securing herself and her family a position of influence. Over the centuries, this status symbol changed into a sign of attractiveness, and nowadays, people genuinely prefer bearded ladies over beardless ones.]
10It's considered good luck to enter the forest with a tiny bag of shiny trinkets. [Origin: The fey creatures around the elven capital love shiny trinkets. To offer them some helps you stay on their good side.]
11At the opening ceremony of a library it is commonplace to invite the God of knowledge. [Origin: the God is known for being a vampire, and won't/can't enter unless invited.]
12There are little to no mirrors in libraries.
13Inhabitants of the empire never give roses/thorny flowers as a gift. [Origin: A plague called Thornblight wreaked havoc on the whole continent. To give something with thorns is considered to wish sickness upon the receiver.]
14It's a tradition for blacksmith apprentices to wear a tusk/big tooth upon their person. (Origin: This is because orcs are known for being great blacksmiths and the tusk/tooth should help to channel their knowledge.)
15To wear a cloak, hat or other head covering when passing the town's gates is considered too rude. (Origin: There was a "demon problem" some way back and to show your head helps the guards know you're not one of them.)
16Experienced miners in the northern mountains can be identified by an amulet of polished obsidian around their neck. They aren't used as a status symbol. no, the amulets are meant to protect against the Drow. If a miner goes too deep or his shaft collapses, he may find himself in the Underdark. A necklace of obsidian might not be valuable to a trader, but a Drow may spare your life if you offer it in exchange.
17The Cellarmasters of the City's Largest Winery, give their most exquisite wines ironic names like "Aged Drivel" and "Swig o' Bellyfire".
18All dishes are served with a garnish of yew leaf. [Origin: after a string of foodborne infections, the spell-savvy within the community began asking for yew leaf with their meals to cast Detect Poison and Disease. It was observed that these people never came down with the illness, and the practice became common among non-casters as well, even after the infections subsided.]
19If your crops are plagued by pests, try burning select herbs, or incense for those who can afford it, in a far-away location downwind from your field overnight. [Origin: A very observant farmer once noticed that the local noble’s court Wizard had an unusually strong connection with his pet rat (his Familiar). The Wizard also smelled strongly of herbs and incense (the components used to summon it). The farmer theorized that it was these scents that made the rat so friendly to the wizard, and that if he burned these scents downwind from his field, the rats plaguing his crops may be attracted to the smell and leave his field alone. After it (coincidentally, mostly) worked, others followed his advice.]
20In a mountaintop community, it is custom to have a small bowl of feathers near the front door. Guests are encouraged to take one on their way out for good luck. [Origin: Accidents happen on the mountain, and as such it’s always advantageous for casters to have a feather on them to cast Feather Fall in an emergency. The nobles of the region popularized this practice, with non-caster commoners soon adopting it to be in vogue, and eventually it became known as a good luck charm to keep a feather on you. Or, maybe everyone in this community is taught or innately knows Feather Fall.]
21In times of food scarcity, Mistletoe Soup is a common meal. [Origin: In the past, the community faced a great famine. At the famine’s height, a Druid on a pilgrimage happened to pass through the village, and took pity on its residents. The villagers watched in awe as the Druid collected mistletoe and miraculously created Goodberries using it, conjuring enough to keep them full until conditions improved. Now, when food is scarce, the villagers emulate the Druid and use mistletoe to feed themselves.]
22The hearts of the dead are pierced with golden pins before they are interred; an old superstition that is supposed to prevent them from becoming undead and disturbing the living.
23Most dinnerware is silver; the last vestige of a mostly forgotten anti- werewolf superstition.
24Hanged men are burned instead of buried- It is believed witches and hags will use them for spell components, in particular the hands, which civilization will try to deny them.
25Greetings in public are initially brusque and cold, until the greeted begin to act warmly. If an old friend continues to act like they don't know you, they're probably a doppelganger or shapeshifter. (This rarely happens, but it has resolved the odd blackmail or hostage type situation.)
26Walk into a tavern and order “the dragon”. In other lands, you might expect a themed drink or a quizzical look, but here, you’ll get the strongest drink on the menu, or even something stronger. Don’t expect it to be affordable, however. [Origin: “The dragon” is short for “the dragon’s drink”. Dragons shifted into humanoid form used to frequent bars in this region, and it took a stiff drink to give them a buzz. While disappointing them hardly carries a risk to your person, it does risk dissuading a very rich customer.]
27In an attempt to stymie dragon attacks on remote towns, elaborate systems of sod roofs and covered walkways were developed to conceal small settlements from the air. In addition to architectural trends, this has given rise to the phrase, "They've got a bright red roof." It means someone is stupid or shortsighted.
28When anyone stubs their toe against something, an observer reflexively says "that won't kill it!" (similar to saying "Gesundheit" when someone sneezes). [Origin: a parable of an adventurer's comic relief sidekick who attempted to kick a monster but only succeeded in breaking his own toe against it. The adventurer quipped "that won't kill it" and dispatched the monster with his weapon. The moral of the parable is about using the correct tools for the job at hand.]
29People tip when purchasing anything over a counter. This is because taxes are only based on the cost of the item and not the tip. Many started listing items for 1 copper, requiring the whole payment to be a "tip." Laws were put in place that the tip must not exceed 20% or else it is also taxed. Now there is an expected "tip" on all items sold in shops due to an overly complicated tax structure.
30One gender wears a brightly colored feather in their hat/hair if unmarried. Other than this the genders have no obvious differences that can be used to tell them apart. This culture worships an avian deity and will have many other bird-related themes.
31Candles are left burning every Friday to ward off evil spirits. Do they really need to do this? Is this just a scam upheld by a single family that makes these expensive "warding" candles?
32Everyone drops what they are doing at 3:28 to drink tea. Everyone seems to have a kettle that finishes brewing tea at exactly this time. This culture worships a fae.
33All significant life events warrant a tattoo. There are standard tattoos for those events. You could look at all the tattoos on a person and understand a lot about who they are. Some tattoos are earned through feats and life milestones, others are forcibly given as punishments for crimes. Criminal syndicates may choose to wear those "punishments" as badges of honor.
34Children always wear hats or caps, only their parents or grandparents may touch them. [Origins- people believe that a child's smell is an indicator of family fortune and shouldn't be changed by outsiders.] All doors open to the north swing open to the outside and there are no hallways inside. [While this was originally a security order, it since become building practice]
35People always have to greet others in descending order of age before they can engage in conversations.
36Savory foods shall not be touched by the pinky fingers.
37People will make a quick hand motion when speaking of the ill or dead. [Origin: a minor healer with hand motions as his spellcasting method taught them to do it as a good luck charm when in reality they had innate magical powers]
38Health potions aren't liquid, but hard-tack crackers [Origin: there is a lack of viable sand for glass making]
39You greet strangers and acquaintances by clasping their left shoulder, friends or family are clasped on their right arm.
40Rodeos use Giant Rabbits, instead of Steer [Origin: A wizard created a race of Giant rabbits, after the local steer all died from a plague]
41Some cultures treat flavored popcorn like bouquets of flowers, different flavors mean different things [Origin: Corn grows better in the region than flowers]
42Ossuaries aren't considered creepy, and are made up to be comfortable places for lunch and lounging.
43It's not considered rude to stare.
44Kobolds are often hired by bars to walk drunks home at night. [Origin: they don't steal from the patrons because the pay is reliable due to a strong Kobold union].
45Blue ink is unlucky, [Origin: There was once a lack of black ink due to war, thus the negative connotation.]
46Fully shaved heads are fashionable [Origin: only those with time and money can maintain them]
47Most women wear some sort of feathers in their hair.
48When waving hello the hands are kept low at the sides rather than raised up.
49The length of one's cloak indicates their social station. Long cloaks equals wealth or power.
50Beggars are not allowed to speak while begging. Oftentimes they will tap their cup or pat their thigh. This creates an oddly musical quality to some areas of the city.
51Killing a spider in the house is considered bad luck [Origin: they defend the house from plague bearing flies. Or, they did at one time].
52Buying anything at face value is being a show off. [Origin: haggling is the norm and thus the starting prices are always way too high, especially on jeweler and metalworks/equipment].
53Beer is never drunk alone. Instead, taverns and other public houses carry at least two different fruit syrups, made with local fruits. More expensive bars will carry up to a hundred syrups, made with fruits, spices and herbs from faraway lands.
54Saying no is very rude. Instead, inhabitants of this nation use "yes, once you take Tiamat for a dinner date," or similar impossible tasks.
55Farting after a meal gives compliments to the chef.
56Throwing a coin into any fountain is strictly frowned upon. Wasting perfectly good money when orphans need food.
57A small bell is kept near each bed and must be rung just before a person sleeps there. Not ringing the bell is thought to invite nightmares.
58Doors swing both directions and are exclusively opened via pull-cords.
59Trees are respected as elders, and many people pride in cultivating a grand variety of species. Different types (evergreen, deciduous, shrubs, etc.) are thought to have different effects, like healing, positivity, or unluckiness.
60Any gathering of 10 people is said to be "common" and may call a vote for anything that is disagreed on. In cases of a stalemate or disputed vote, the tallest person present has final say.
61There exists a platform in the public square where anyone may stand upon to praise their god. It is impolite to praise for long if there is a line for the platform. It is also impolite to insult other gods, or people who don't worship the same god. Some people will judge others who go up to praise too much, or not enough.
62Every town in the country has a variation on the same dish (like pizza, beef stew, apple pie, etc.). It is considered polite to tell the cook "this is the best [you've] ever had." Travelers make a hobby of trying each version and arguing about which is the best.
63Goats are sacred, allowed to wander freely in the village.
64In a town full of tieflings, almost all doors can only be opened with thaumaturgy. [Origin: In the past, this was a defense against hate groups who wanted to kill them. But now it's just a relic of their old culture that hasn't gotten replaced yet]
65There is a greater emphasis on singing than on musical instruments for music in taverns.
66Everybody greets and wishes farewell with the phrase "walk with the sun".
67The height of one's boots indicates their social station. Taller boots equals wealth or power.
68The word 'jixit' can be used as any part of a sentence within the right context.
69Peaceful folk wear long, loose sleeves that should extend at least a full handspan past the tips of their fingers. Short sleeves are a sign of violent purpose.
70Wealthy men and women shave their eyebrows.
71Touch not any vessel of language without first donning one's reading gloves.
72It is rude to wear purple in public as it is considered an intimate color.
73They have a vestigial monarchy... of goblins. While the royal clan of goblins lives comfortably in a mansion with many servants and act as hosts to distinguished guests they have no real political power, and only a small amount of command over their personal guards. They are considered more of a tourist attraction than part of the local government.
74It is considered disingenuous to wear hats while it is not raining.
75Upon entering the (larger) city it is recommended that you hire a guide. Guides are typically smaller monster races (like goblins and kobolds) or orphans and always wear bright red headbands. Visitors who hire guides for a small fee will find their visit nicer than those without. They will be given better prices at shops, they will be served better booze in taverns, and their pockets will remain unpicked.
76Songbirds are seen as a status symbol for a prosperous family. The more the merrier.
77Tipping your cap to someone who doesn't have a hat of their own is an insult.
78People with an intelligence less than 7 are considered ‘living angels’ and are cared for by the entire community.
79People around here use a lot of nonsensical countryisms, many of which involve rattlesnakes. "You're talking crazier than a rattlesnake in a spelling bee!" "Easier than line dancing with a rattlesnake." "What the coyote?" "Biscuits and gravy!" "More mixed up than a rattlesnake in a (washing machine/mixing bowl/whirlpool/etc)" "Gotta keep the rattlesnakes out of the hen house!" "You're being sneakier than a rattlesnake in a nursery." [Origin: Investigation of this phenomenon would reveal that no such snakes exist in this area and are the product of legend; snakes that would lull children away with their mesmerizing rattle, never to be seen again. Children should avoid being naughty or the rattlesnakes will return! But that's just a legend. ... Right?]
80When dining outside, at a picnic or outdoor cafe for example, it is customary to provide enough food to serve an extra person. The extra food is to feed the crows. For those who lack the money for extra food, or the time to feed the crows, it is customary to say, "I'm sorry friends, I have none today. There will be a plate for you at my funeral".
81As a sign of respect, you invite people to read your personal library. It’s a sign of respecting knowledge and showing you hold no secrets.
82It's considered polite to remove your hat, when talking to someone without a hat on.
83The wealthy wear beaded neck adornments, a hold over from when neck-slitting was not uncommon.
84Boots are polished frequently, as the local mud will damage them faster than normal.
85Being left handed is a sign of good breeding. The wealthy who care about such things will force their kids to switch hands, leading to a lot of bad handwriting.
86The animals used for public feasts are put on display a few days before, so that passers by may give thanks to the animal.
87Taverns don't serve food directly. Various tables are put up with plates of food, buffet style, that are filled over time. The different tables have different plates, both to encourage socializing, and for the practical benefit of the tavern.
88In upper class neighborhoods, libraries are considered the center of the house, and you invite people to join you to read, instead of lunch or dinner.
89It's a Faux pas to ask people 'how are they doing?' or other questions regarding the events of their life since you last saw them. [Origin: holdover from when inquisitors use to ask something similar]
90Gifts aren't handed over directly, but placed on tables or reasonable spots between the giver and recipient. The recipient then takes the gift once the giver pulls back their hands.
91People tap a dagger or a knife on wood instead of knocking on it for good luck. [Origin: from a mimic invasion, helped them to survive to randomly stabbing furniture.]
92Guests staying at the local inn may be perplexed to find a dead cricket under their pillows. The community believes this practice leads to sounder sleep, and may even ward off bad dreams. [Origin: The region’s nobles once struggled with harsh bouts of insomnia, going days without sleep. The court eventually called on a local Wizard to solve the noble’s problem. Every night, the Wizard would use a dead cricket as a spell component to cast sleep. Through word of mouth, it was spread that a dead cricket near the bed was a cure for insomnia. Somewhere down the line, this became a dead cricket under the pillow.]
93Snakes are not allowed to be kept as pets under any circumstance. [Origin: in the past, a nefarious warlock used Suggestion for nefarious purposes. When it was discovered that the warlock had used a snake’s tongue to cast the spell, snakes became banned]
94People have a little doll resembling them at home. [Origin: It is said that when the soul leaves the body upon death, it'll get lost. The puppet acts as a vessel to prevent that until proper burial rites have been carried out.]
95Local stores don't do tabs or credit [Origin: there once was an issue with shifters ripping people off.]
96Silverware, cups and plates are all made of Iron [Origin: it's protection against fey]
97During the day, you pay by leaving money on the table/counter. At night, you pay people directly.
98Axes aren't used as weapons in this region, only tools.
99Arrows are ONLY used for hunting, not combat.
100It's considered polite to walk your guests to the door, and wait until they're out of sight before going back in.