Last night I was helping Angela brainstorm about cultural variations for her D&D campaign world. She largely wants to get away from cliches. Here are some highlights:
Centaurs: Her criteria: They should be vegetarians, somewhat nomadic, and not particularly nice. My input: Base them loosely on the Mongols. They mostly graze on grasses, but need a certain percentage of more nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. They don’t farm, however, so they raid villages and steal their vegetables. Also, they should hunt some form of mobile plant-creature.
Goblins: Her criteria: She was undecided between isolationist/xenophobic goblins with a high technology level and viking goblins. She was also unsure of how to make hobgoblins interesting. My input: The goblins have an isolated, highly technologically advanced civilization, but almost no one knows it. This civilization is surrounded by a buffer zone of barbaric goblin tribes living in squalor. The advanced goblins regularly come and take the most intelligent of the barbarian goblin children into the center and leave the tribes with their rejects. At one point, the goblins had kept those on the outskirts far more organized and regimented fashion. In addition to a breeding pool, they were a standing army, always at the ready. While this made for a more efficient eugenics program (and allowed them to control for improved physical characteristics as well), it also allowed the ‘rejects’ to organize themselves. There was a bloody rebellion that eventually resulted in the hobgoblins leaving the goblin empire.