What do these people call themselves? What do others call them? What meaning do these names hold?
In Windsong (the Aarakocra language), their name for themselves translates as “People of the Encompassing Sky”. Other people call them Aarakocra (which is about as close as human speech can come to the birdsong-like sounds that Windsong has for themselves) or “sky folk”.
Quickly give a brief overview of these people.
The Aarakocra are a race of sentient raptors. Aarakocra inhabit high mountains.
Aarakocra typically live in small tribes of about 11–30 members, although some tribes are larger than that. Each tribe has a hunting territory of about 10,000 square miles (26,000 km2) with colorful banners and pennants marking the boundaries. Areas with richer hunting can support larger tribes.
Each tribe lives in a communal nest made of woven vines with a soft lining of dried grass. The eldest female serves as the tribe's leader. In tribes of more than 20 members, the oldest male serves as the shaman, leading simple religious ceremonies involving the whistling of melodic hymns at sunset on the first day of a new month. Many spend most of their waking hours hunting for food and occasionally for treasure, such as gems and other shiny objects. Others spend eight months of the year incubating their eggs, passing the time by fabricating javelins and other tools from wood and stone. While resting on their backs, aarakocra can use all four hands at the same time to weave boundary pennants, javelins sheaths, and other useful objects from vines and feathers.
Aarakocra have little to do with other species, including neighboring aarakocra tribes, and leave their home territory only in extreme circumstances. They rarely encounter humans except for an occasional foray into a rural community to snatch a stray farm animal; this is not an intentionally malicious act, as aarakocra are unable to distinguish between domestic and wild animals. A human venturing into aarakocra territory may be able to convince one to serve as a guide or a scout in exchange for a shiny jewel or coin.
Aarakocra are extremely claustrophobic and will not willingly enter a cave, building, or other enclosed area.
What do these people physically look like on average? What is the range of appearances?
Aarakocra resemble humanoid birds; they are basically a sentient version of argentavis magnificens. The average specimen stands about five feet tall and has a wingspan of twenty feet. Halfway along the edge of each wing is a hand with three human-sized fingers and an opposable thumb. An elongated fourth finger extends the length of the wing and locks in place during flight. The hands cannot grasp while flying, but are nearly as useful as human hands when an aarakocra is perched and its wings folded back. Their powerful legs end in four sharp talons that can unlock and fold back to reveal another pair of functional hands. These humanoids have hollow, fragile bones. Their faces combine the features of both parrots and eagles. They have gray-black beaks and black eyes. Plumage color varies, but males generally have red, orange, and yellow coloration, while females tend towards brown and gray.
Mating is done on the wing, and involves coupling in freefall, separating and gaining altitude, and repeating for several cycles. Kissing is touching tongue to tongue, and a primary intimate gesture is rubbing heads together, or rubbing beak to beak. On the ground, they also will enfold each other in their wings, in a 20’ wingspan hug. This is not necessarily sexual, so platonic friends will often show affection for each other in this way. They will also do this to non-Aarakocra that they feel comfortable with.
What unique abilities do these people posses? Are these things magical or physical in nature? How common are these abilities?
The first and most obvious ability is that of flight. They can glide around for days at a time. This ability is physical, not magical in nature, although it is hypothesized that magic may be involved in their muscle strength and/or bone strength, although they don’t appear (to mages) to be enchanted or magical in any way. Their average speed is around 48mph, so they can cover a lot of ground.
They can sleep “on the wing”, one brain hemisphere at a time, gliding on thermals. While one half of their brain is technically awake, it is really only able to process environmental cues with respect to flight. They won’t be noticing things on the ground, although sky borne dangers will alert them.
They also have relatively short lifespans, and mature by age three. As a result of this, their memories are very good, effectively having eidetic memory.
They are also very dextrous, able to use their winghands and prehensile feet to manipulate objects.
Their rates of magery (the ability to cast magic spells) are about the same as humans. Their small tribal sizes make it more difficult for them to utilize their mages, however, so while they can recognize that someone has magery, it often requires them to send their potential mages to other tribes for instruction, if they don’t have a member of their own tribe that is a mage.
This is slightly mitigated for the Northern Expanse tribes, who are a part of the Tondene Imperium. If the potential mage can manage to overcome their isolationism, they have the opportunity to learn from non-Aarakocra mages.
Where are these people found?
Aarakocra inhabit high mountains. On the continent of Endrica, they are primarily found in two locations: The Northern Expanse (a part of the Tondene Imperium), and the Southern Expanse. There is communication between the two, although they are in different polities.
There are also small enclaves of Sky Folk in some of the cities of the Imperium. Their skills and abilities are in great demand for the military, city watch, and rural watch, as scouts, couriers, and messengers, so they usually have no problem finding employment. These “City Birds” will often form what amounts to their own tribe (the Windsong translation is “Nesting of Orphans”, although they aren’t really orphaned from their home tribes). They will collectively buy or lease a building, then convert it into a nesting. They seem to prefer large open buildings, usually warehouses, which they then modify to have a large opening in the ceiling for egress.
What is the climate of these people’s native region?
Mountainous, and cold. They are resistant to cold (required when flying at high altitudes), and can handle temperatures down to freezing without difficulty. Below that, they start to feel chilly.
Are there mountains, plains, forests, ext. In these people’s home region?
As mentioned above, they live primarily in mountainous areas, usually in places that the groundbound find hard to get to.
What kind of hazards are found in these people’s home region? Are they seasonal, constant, or random? Are they environmental or political?
Weather is the primary hazard, especially wind. Downdrafts can be dangerous, but living in the sky gives the Aarakocra the knowledge and experience to be good at detecting and avoiding such things. They are pretty good at weather prediction. Storms can be a problem, but they usually see those coming from miles away.
There is a native predator that they need to avoid: the Roarers. Roarers are methane-burning magically evolved “jet planes” utilizing a pair of pulse jet engines, one at each wing root. They can fly over 250mph, and are the only real predator that the Aarakocra fear. There are others, such as dragons, but those are rarer, and aren’t as predatory towards the Aarakocra as the Roarers are.
What sort of farming do these people practice? What kind of crops are planted?
They don’t farm much at all. The ones in the Tondene Imperium have had a bit of exposure to herbs and spices, however, and many tribes will have herb gardens that are used when they decide to actually cook their food. But since they are almost exclusively carnivorous, most plants don’t have a lot of application. Besides, their body plan isn’t really suited for handling plows.
What sort of animals have these people domesticated? Do they herd animals?
Most tribes hunt. Some tribes have mountain pastures where they may have mountain goats. But, for the most part, it’s all about the hunting.
Do these people practice hunting or gathering? Is this their main source of food or is it done seasonally or secondary?
Their diet consists mainly of meat, occasionally cooked. Vegetable matter, mostly in the form of herbs to flavor their meat, are gathered seasonally, and dried for use year-round. They don’t farm, although some tribes keep herds of mountain goats. They make a fermented milk drink from the goats’ milk. Most ground bound won’t touch it.
What kind of industries exist among these people? Are they created for home or foreign markets?
Aarakocra have several industries, mainly weaving (knitting, and looms), tailoring, embroidery, lacemaking, dyecraft, leather working, and fletching. They make lousy blacksmiths, as their bones are fragile and pounding things with a hammer all day will destroy them. Carpentry and wood sculpting are also industries they are good at. Because they can’t work metals very well, they have to trade for those. They also need to trade for stone and cement, which they will often use when creating a nesting areas.
What other natural resources do these people harvest and use? How important are these? Are they harvested to be traded or for personal use?
Living in the mountains, they have access to stone (which they don’t use very often, and can’t really work sufficiently well), wood, water, vegetation, and various animals. Occasionally they will harvest the methane-bearing organs of roarers, when they can manage to take one down. The materials are harvested for the clan, as aarakocra are very communal. The clan comes first. So just about everything they do is couched in the idea that it has to benefit the clan somehow. That’s just the way they are wired. They are rarely selfish. Most of their items are cloth or woven goods, or wood/bone. Often they will trade for metal items like arrowheads or tools.
What goods do these people trade? Internal trade? External trade? How important is this to the country's economy? Is there a type of merchant class?
There is no merchant “class”, although there are merchant individuals. These are pretty rare, as aarakocra are isolationist. Mostly the trading takes place near the clanhome nesting, as most aarakocra don’t have wagons. Some of the larger clans may have a wagon to two and the animals to pull it, but it’s a rare thing. Eyrie Above the Rainbows, for example, with a population of over 120, has a wagon and two mules to pull it, plus a stable and carriage house to keep them in. They will use this to meet with traders at clearings. They usually don’t go into villages due to their demophobia.
What is used as currency among these people? How available is this currency?
The Northern Expanse is part of the Tondene Empire, so they use Tondene Royals like everyone else (basically $). Although sometimes their labor or products are bartered, without the use of coins. The Southern Expanse is mostly barter, although they will have local coinage to use depending upon which country they trade with. With other aarakocra tribes, they pretty much rely on barter, or the exchange of favors.
What sort of political structures do these people use? How entrenched are these structures in the everyday lives of common people? Who controls these structures?
Aarakocra are communal. They are led by a clan chieftain, and sometimes have a clan shaman as a sort of second in command. They have no concept of personal effects; everything is owned by the clan, and used by whomever needs it at the time. Nests are shared; members sleep in whichever nest is available that night, when they sleep in the nests. They are capable of sleeping on the wing, basically sleeping one brain hemisphere at a time while circling on thermals.
As their political structures are so simple, with a nearly flat organizational structure, most Aarakocra don’t really think about power structures. The Aarakocra of the Northern Expanse occasionally think about the structures of the Imperium, as they are members of it, but few truly understand how the ground-bound run things. It’s all too complex for them, and relies on concepts like “it’s mine” and “that’s yours” and “this is my land” that are very alien to them. They are simple, not stupid, however. Every now and again, Imperial methods intersect with Aarakocra lives (mostly just some tax collection), and the Aarakocra fulfill what is required of them.
This has, in the past, caused some trouble when the tax collectors have been corrupt, and asked for more than what was actually necessary. Eventually, the Aarakocra found out, and complained. They were told to basically “suck it up”, which they weren’t really willing to do. So they withdrew their services. The mail system came to a screeching halt; military forces lost their “eyes in the sky”; the Rural Watches everywhere lost their coordination as their teams were effectively cut off from each other. This lasted for about an eightday before the authorities bent under the pressure of the military and the watches and arrested the tax collectors who had cheated the Aarakocra. Fines were levied on those fraudsters: not only did they have to pay double what was stolen, but the judiciary also fined them double again for causing an interruption of service to the postal service, military, and the watches. The six men indicted were unable to pay the full amount, even after their assets were converted, so they were sent to prison. This kind of thing never happened again to the Aarakocra.
How has history helped shape the political landscape of these people?
In comparison to other races, Aarakocra are rather primitive. They haven’t needed complicated urban structures or infrastructure; their small tribes are too small to make those things worthwhile.
Being isolationist, and living in the higher altitudes, most of the beings they interact with are either their own tribe, or neighboring tribes, and even then that interaction is pretty minimal. Other interactions, such as with villages in the mountains inhabited by humans or other sentients, is few and far between, and usually involves the “theft” of livestock. Because they have little to no concept of personal property, they don’t think they are doing anything wrong, as “no one else was using it at the time”. If caught, they will offer an apology, and usually trade something for it as recompense. Sometimes they will give clan banners to herders or villagers if they are on good terms with them; this identifies their herds as being off limits to random theft, although it can also mean that the village usually allows some predation by the friendly clan. It all depends upon the villages and the agreement made with the clans.
Who runs the governments of these people? Priests, warlords, landowners, bureaucrats, elected officials? How are these people chosen for leadership? How do these leaders justify their continued rule?
The clan chief is chosen in part by bloodline, and in part by tribal consensus. Aarakocra tribes, usually less than 30 individuals, have little political intrigue, so consensus is fairly easy to accomplish. The bloodline comes in because often the ability to lead runs in families, although it is by no means a guarantee. It’s just that if your father was a chief, it makes it more likely that people will accept your bid for the job.
Clan shaman is chosen in much the same way, where applicable. Most tribes are too small to need a secondary leader, but they will sometimes choose a spiritual leader anyway.
As for bureaucracy, they don’t really have any. Their tribes are too small to require complicated infrastructures or policies.
How powerful and centralized are these people's governments? Through what means do these governments exist and impact the lives of everyday people?
Aarakocra are very communal. However, their chiefs and shamans have quite a lot of power, and due to the small size of each tribe, their power is near absolute, while they hold the office. Normally these positions are for life, but in certain circumstances they can be forced out if the tribe as a whole doesn’t think they were doing a good job.
Above the tribal level, there exists a loose council of tribal chiefs, but this is, at best, a loose confederation, which has limited power. Aarakocra are isolationist, even amongst themselves.
As their tribes are so tiny, the chief is in contact with just about every member of the tribe on a daily basis.
What kind of structures exist in these governments? Does power lay at the top of a hierarchy or do those on the ground wield the real power?
Again, they have very small tribes, usually with populations in the double digits. Given that, for the most part, power lays at the top, although that is only one or two steps above everyone else. Ultimately, the chief or shaman is beholden to the will of the tribe, so they can be ousted if necessary. In practice, however, their communal nature and traditions usually means that they fall into line behind the chief and shaman.
Religion in Politics:
What role does religion play in the governments of these people? Do priests hold more power than secular entities? Do they hold special responsibilities or positions?
The shaman is nominally the head of the religious practice, although for the most part, religion doesn’t really play a part in day to day government. Again, most of this is due to the very small tribal size. It does influence the day to day life of individuals, mostly with regards to moral judgements.
Magic in Politics:
What role does magic play in the governments of these people? Do mages play a different role in government than non-mages?
Magic is rare enough in Aarakocra that it really doesn’t have a lot to do with their government. Because they are so isolationist, even if one is born with Magery, there is little chance they will be recognized as a mage, or trained as one. There just isn’t a high enough population of Aarakocra for two skyfolk mages to get together and train. Although sometimes it does happen.
Every so often, an armsmage from the military will make a trip to the Northern Expanse and see if any Aarakocra have Magery, and offer to have them trained. This training is free, paid for by the Tondene Imperial Army and Navy. They see the value of their scouts (the typical MOS of most Aarakocra) having training as mages. The price paid by the sky folk being trained is military service for ten years. This isn’t really an issue, as their new job maps pretty well on what they call “skywardens”. They also get a pretty good stipend, most of which they send back to their tribe.
Aarakocra have about the same incidence of Magery as Humans, as a proportion of their population. It’s just that their population is so much lower than Humans that they have maybe 50 mages in the entire Empire.
Views on other Cultures:
What kind of sub or non mainstream cultures exist among these people? How are they seen by the mainstream culture? What kind of interactions are allowed with this subculture?
There really aren’t subcultures. Unless you consider that each tribe is a subculture. But even then, due to their mobility and even assuming they are primarily isolationist, their language doesn’t vary between tribes, and their traditions don’t vary much either. There is little cultural difference between the Northern Expanse and the Southern Expanse, despite the Northern Expanse being a part of the Tondene Empire.
What kind of minorities exist within these people’s society? How are they preserved? Are they treated as equals or as second class citizens? What kind of interactions are allowed with these people?
They don’t have minorities. They are all one people, and all the same species/race/ethnicity. The closest thing would be the Northern Expanse vs. Southern Expanse, and that is more akin to the Northern California/Southern California divide. In other words, not much of a difference at all. When you can cover as much distance as they can, they don’t speciate that much, even culturally. It’s just too easy to communicate with each other, even with their rather clannish behaviors.
How are foreign cultures seen by these people? In what way do these people interact with foreigners? What kind of relationships are acceptable with foreigners?
Foreign cultures are seen as being very different entities from Aarakocra tribes. In many ways, the Aarakocra are a very alien species; the only ones that come close to it are the Kler’naktha. Most humans seem to be able to relate to the exothermic reptiles, despite the near absence of facial expression, because a lot of the Kler’naktha behaviors are similar to humanity’s. While Aarakocra have more recognizable facial expressions (likely due to the ground-bounds’ experience with birds), their nearly hard-wired communal nature is very different from what Humans are used to.
Most ground-bound are seen as potentially dangerous, overly acquisitive, greedy, and selfish. And, for the most part, the Aarakocra are right. Generally, the other races are all those things, and their motivations include those traits. Often, an Aarakocra tribe member who has experience interacting with the ground-bound will be the person that visitors talk to. Strangers trigger their demophobia (although it’s more of a fear of strangers in this case, so xenophobia?). Most interactions are trade related.
There has been no known example of Aarakocra having romantic affairs with the ground-bound. The parts just don’t fit together, and even kissing is problematic, as Aarakocra “kiss” by touching tongue to tongue. Friendships are common, even deep and meaningful ones. The city Aarakocra are more prone to this, for obvious reasons.
What adornments do these people wear? Are they for special events or casual wear?
Clothing is limited to vests and pants; their boots are more like open toed sandals to allow them to use their feet like hands when in flight, and headgear is often worn. Clothing is either leather, or woven material. Jewelry is often worn, as are feathers. These feathers are often those of a dead loved one, worn as a memorial. In Iceglint Broadwing’s case, he wore the feathers of his dead friend Allbright, mounted on his leather helmet. Sleeves are not worn, because they interfere with use of the wings.
Their jewelry is often painted wooden or stone beads, on leather or woven strings, and take the form of necklaces, belts, or leg bands. When they can get them, metallic jewelry is highly prized, although since they make lousy metalsmiths, they are quite rare. Wirewrapping is popular, though, when they can trade for the metal wire.
The chief of a tribe wears a headdress, typically made with the shed feathers of past tribal members. If a new headdress is needed to be made, everyone in the tribe contributes shed feathers to be a part of it, symbolizing the communal nature of the tribe, and to remind the wearer that they speak for the whole tribe. In appearance, it looks like a fan of overlapping feathers arcing back over the head of the wearer.
The shaman has a similar headdress, although it looks very different. It looks like two bunches of feathers, one on each side of the head, symbolizing the material world, and the spiritual one.
Do these people permanently alter their skin in any way? Do they get tattoos? Do they scare or brand themselves? Do these hold ritual significance? Do these marks hold certain meanings?
No. Being feathered, and needing those feathers for flight, precludes this. On very rare occasions, for the most heinous crimes, the flight feathers will be shorn, making the criminal flightless for a while, until they molt and new feathers grow in. This can take months. And, given that many rookeries are caves in the side of cliffs, can result in being trapped in there, much like a cell/prison.
What Kind of makeup do these people use?
None. Painting their feathers would ruin their flight characteristics. Sometimes a fad of painting beaks crops up though, lasts for a while until it becomes unfashionable again, then fades.
What sort of clothing do these people wear?
See Adornment, above.
What do these people’s hair look like naturally? How do they style it? What is done with facial hair? What is different for men and women? Children, adults, and elders?
None. They have feathers. Body feathers range from cream to dark brown and very occasionally black; the breast feathers and head feathers of the males are brightly colored and range from yellows to reds. Often, the feathers are mottled.
What is considered beautiful by these people? What are the standards for men and women?
What is considered ugly? What is the difference between cute/handsome and hot/sexy?
Beauty is well-groomed feathers, a keen mind, a beautiful voice, a giving nature, and gracefulness. For males, intense color is considered beautiful, whatever color it may be. For females, harmonious colors in their plumage is considered beautiful.
Ugliness mostly comes from the inside, although disheveled or missing feathers on a consistent basis can elicit sidelong glances and mutterings behind one’s back. Mean-spiritedness, pettiness, selfishness, and cruelty are also considered “ugly”.
The difference between cute/handsome and hot/sexy isn’t one of appearance so much as actions and demeanor. It all comes down to attitude, really.
What styles of architecture is common among these people? What difference is there between informal commoner buildings and more large scale projects? Are these built to last or not?
Aarakocra are fairly primitive when it comes to architecture. They live in caves, some of which they dig out themselves, some they find and use. They build nests out of sticks similar to the types used for lath and plaster. They are very good at weaving them and lining them with soft materials, and they last for years.
They do build some structures: mostly posts set horizontally outside of cave mouths to act as perches, or free standing posts with cross beams used for similar purposes.
Aarakocra have simple needs when it comes to building. Most don’t learn how to do construction, despite many learning how to do woodworking or carving.
What sort of art do these people create?
Most of their art is textile based. They are spectacular weavers, and their nesting are festooned with banners, flags, and hangings. They like lots of color and patterns. They post banners around the edges of their territories as well, to mark boundaries and borders.
They also are accomplished woodcarvers, so many of their perch-posts will be carved not unlike totem poles. Stone carving is less common. Smithing is non-existent; and metal goods must be traded for. Their feathered bodies don’t do well with fires and sparks. And their draping wings, even folded, would just get in the way of any smithing they could try.
Some Aarakocra learn how to draw or paint; their keen eyes and fabulous memories making visual arts common among the sky folk.
What sort of physical artifacts do these people create? What kind of items are decorated and which ones are left plain?
Clothing, cloth or leather based armors, belts, pouches, and bags. Wall hangings, banners, drapes, flags, shade cloths. Wood, stone, and bone weapons, such as bows, arrows, javelins, and flechettes. Wood, stone, and ceramic bowls, cups, plates, pots, and other items. Nets, snares, ropes, and twine. Wood furniture.
What sort of symbols hold significance to these people?
Varies, based upon tribe. There are some religious symbols that are common to all tribes, however. Starbright Smoothfeather has symbology including white birds, clouds, and lightning. Antlercrown Leafwing has symbology including leaves, nests, and a razor-sharp beak. Stonebeak Earthback’s symbology includes owls, stone, stone circles, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Foamfeather Wavewing uses albatrosses, seaweed, waves, and sharks. Lightbeak Flamefeather has fire, hawks, candles, torches, and an eyed sun as his symbols. Silentflight Gloomwing uses ravens, dark clouds, a pool of darkness.
What sort of writing do these people create? Do they follow standard genres or archetypes?
Their writing style is strings of knot work, and is a visual representation of their musical warbling language, Windsong. Of course, there are some that learn ground bound writing styles as well, although they must be careful when using ink not to drag their wings over the page and smear it. Ideally, a right handed Aarakocra would like a writing system that wrote vertically down the page from left to right. For horizontal, left to right writing, they just have to make sure that the inkwell is on the right side of the work space, to avoid smearing the ink with their feathers.
Their literature follows many of the same styles as the ground bound: tales of heroes, history, biography, various kinds of fiction. Due to their good memories, most of their history was oral; writing wasn’t really a thing until they started interacting with other races, and found a need for written communications.
What sort of music do these people make? What kind of instruments?
Music is practiced, mostly drums, vocals, and occasionally stringed instruments. Woodwinds and brass are not used, due to Aarakocra having beaks, and not lips. Their musical compositions can be quite long: a song can be dozens of minutes long.
What sort of food do these people create?
They are carnivorous, and most of their food is eaten raw, although they like roasted meat quite a lot. Due to their flight-based lifestyle, they will have maybe a single meal a day that is cooked; any other meals eaten would be either raw or preserved (like jerky). This meal is served in the communal kitchen areas, usually in late afternoon.
How do these people record the passage of time?
They measure their time periods in seconds (about the same as a ground bound second), segment (not really the same thing as a ground bound hour, it’s more based on the position of the sun in the sky), of which there are 8 daylight segments (which are basically an Earth hour and a half). Night time is measured by star position, again broken up into 8 segments. The amount of seconds in a segment vary based on what time of year it is, and how far away from the equator they are. In a sense, they track time similarly to Elves. The number of seconds in an “hour” (segment) is variable, and they are sufficiently non-industrial to have it not matter all that much. When temporal precision is required, they just use seconds (as in “stir the alchemical solution for 650 seconds, then add in the eyes of newt”).
In the Tondene Empire, where the Aarakocra have increased interaction with other races, hourglasses, graduated in various time segments, are used when appropriate. Timing candles and water clocks are also used.
The formal calendar is an imported concept, taken from other races. Before that, they used “days”, “small moons” (Jypra’s period, 12 days), “large moons” (Kynett’s period, or two eight days), and “years” (based on star position, as seasons in the high mountains are tenuous at best). The Aarakocra of the Southern Expanse still use the older, less precise method (although due to the lack of a small moon, they just use "days" and "moons", using Kynett's period).
What do family structures look like among these people? How long do they last? At what point in their life do they form? Who are allowed to create a family?
Family bonding is strong. Females lay eggs and both parents share the task of incubating them for 8 months. However, due to the extreme communal nature of Aarakocra society, occasionally others will incubate the eggs for a time to give the parents a bit of a break.
Once hatched, the young are cared for and educated by the parents, with a lot of help from the rest of the tribe. Aarakocra are only young for a short time, and once they reach the age of three they are adults. Their eidetic memories make this possible, and without their excellent memory retention their training as full members of society would be nearly impossible.
Anyone is allowed to create a family; this involves courtship and pair bonding first, however. Single parents are possible, through the death of one parent. Very occasionally, same sex pairings happen, and sometimes they raise a child either from a previous pair bonding, or via adoption of an orphan.
What sort of marriage and courtships do these people practice? Who initiates? What steps are taken in order to get married? At what point in their lives do they get married? Who is allowed to marry whom?
Courtship happens much like human courtships. It often starts with mutual friendship, which isn’t surprising since Aarakocra tribes are typically small, and everyone knows each other. Small gifts or tokens are exchanged; these are usually of small or no economic value. They could be a pretty rock, or a beautiful feather or even a flower. Time is spent together, getting to know one another. Either gender can initiate the courtship, although in some cases the participants are encouraged to become mates for various sociopolitical reasons by others in the clan. There is often a sense of standard obligation to mate and have children for the good of the clan.
Pairbonding happens after a long length of time. This is necessary to ensure a proper, suitable match that fulfills both people’s lives. In most cases, the pair’s suitability as parents is assessed by their elders in the clan, and in those rare cases where the pair shouldn’t breed, they are discouraged from pairing. Most pairbondings are for the purpose of having fledglings, although that isn’t always the case. Aarakocra mate for life. When a partner dies, they typically won’t find another, but it has happened, it’s just very rare. Their lives are short enough where this isn’t usually a problem.
There are no formal steps to take to become pair bonded, except a mutual desire to do so, and the aforementioned “engagement period”. Then there is a simple ceremony involving the chief and, where there is one, the shaman, the parents and siblings of each participant, and anyone else they may have invited.
There is no specific location that the ceremony happens; it varies depending upon the clan. For example, Eyrie Above the Rainbows has a dedicated ceremonial cave that is shallow, but wide, and the clan has made rows of perches just outside of it, acting very much like bleachers. As such, all ten dozen or so members of the clan can take part, if they wish.
The ceremony itself involves lighting incense, singing, and giving small sacrifices to the gods for their favor. Ritualistic words are spoken by the Chief (well, sung, really, as the whole ceremony is sung), which act as the standard “Do you take this person to be your mate….” At the culmination of the ceremony, the two lovers rub beaks and enfold each other in their wings.
Aarakocra live to about 30, and typically are married by age 10. There are no hard and fast rules about who can marry whom; any restrictions would be on a case by case basis, and it would likely be personal. Feather color doesn’t matter, relative ages don’t really matter (although no one under the age of 6 is allowed to marry, despite being “adult” at age 3), and gender doesn’t usually matter (although the clan is expecting fledglings in most cases).
To what extent do these people intermingle with other cultures or races? What about different classes or castes?
They don’t, not in intimate ways. Their parts don’t fit. That isn’t to say that close, intimate relationships can’t happen. They have, especially in the Tondene Empire, where Aarakocra have had a chance to mingle with other races. But no official pair bonding with another race has been known.
Being egalitarian and communal, there aren’t any different classes or castes. Everyone is considered an equal, with all the same rights and privileges.
How is pregnancy seen by these people? What is biologically different/unique? What things must pregnant women do differently? What are they not allowed to do?
Pregnancy is considered a blessing. A female Aarakocra typically has maybe one to three fledglings during their entire life. They just don’t get pregnant very often, and barely have enough children to replace the dead. Their numbers grow very slowly, if at all. An egg is developed inside the female Aarakocra, and takes ten to fourteen days to form.
They lay the egg, and then incubate it for eight months. The male and female take turns sitting on the egg, keeping it warm, while the other takes care of whatever business they need to take care of. The clan will ensure that the incubator will be taken care of, if necessary (part of their communal nature). While sitting on the egg, the Aarakocra has the use of their wing-hands, and can at least do things requiring only the hands. Obviously, they can’t move about too much, otherwise the egg might get too cold.
How is birth seen? Who is involved in the process? What is seen as having an influence on birth?
The laying of the egg isn’t of any particular importance. The hatching, on the other hand, is, at least to the parents. But while it’s important, it isn’t as impactful as, say, the birth of your firstborn. There isn’t any trauma or risk to the mother; it’s just an egg hatching.
When the egg is about to hatch, the parents will sing, mentally encouraging the fledgeling to break out of the egg and join the world. For the first year, the fledgeling is unable to fly, and spends most of its time in the nest, being taken care of by the parents and the clan. Parenting duties are shared by the parents, and, to a lesser extent, by the rest of the communal tribe. Education starts within a few months of birth, and the young are able to communicate at about the same time. After about a year, they are able to fly, and the real education begins.
Are their non-parental figures who guard over children? Are they a blood relative? What obligations does the guardian have to the child? Visa versa?
Aarakocra are very social, communal creatures. The whole clan ends up acting as guardians, at least to a certain extent. In practice, friends of the family, or extended family, are more likely to take an active part in raising/protecting the fledglings.
What role do children play in society? Who raises them? What is expected of them?
Fledglings role is simply to learn and absorb everything they can in the short three years they have before they become adults. Their first three years are spent learning the basics of life as an Aarakocra: language, basic hand skills, hunting, flight, interpersonal relationships. Their next few years are spent learning and practicing their trade. Eidetic memory makes this possible; without their very good memory, there is no way they could learn and retain all of the things they need to know as quickly as they do.
During this time, they are expected to help with the procurement of food, as part of their duties to their clan. Under some circumstances, they have also helped defend the clan against enemies and predators.
When they are about a year and a half old (after hatching, not after laying), their flight feathers come in, and they are able to fly for the first time. This is celebrated, usually with lots of singing: joyous trilling when successful, and mournful on those occasions when it’s not. In the run up to the first flight, members of the clan give their best wishes and exhort the fledgling to fly fast and far; this is to build up confidence, as jumping off of a high cliff to what could be certain death can be quite frightening.
When is a child considered an adult? Is it a specific ritual or event? Does it require the taking of responsibility? Can a ‘child’ be considered an adult under unique circumstances?
A fledgling is considered an adult on its third birthday. There is a ritual, but it’s a private one, and corresponds most closely with high school graduation. By age three, the young Aarakocra has been taught the basics, and are ready to choose a career. The parents (and teacher, if there is one separate from the parents) have a quiet, solemn ceremony that symbolizes the opening of the doors to their future. (Although in this case, Aarakocra don’t really use doors in their nestings, so they don’t use that imagery.) The new adult chooses their career, and they then train for a few years at that, from relevant teachers.
Aarakocra don’t usually consider fledglings adults. Legally, they are children until their initial training period is over. Some take longer than others, however. A few take less time, although this is very, very rare. Smart Aarakocra who learn quickly usually just learn more; they don’t “graduate” early.
How are elders treated by these people? What roles do they fill? What is expected of them?
Elders are valued, especially since Aarakocra have such short lifespans. The clan has invested a lot of energy into making valuable members of its society, and they don’t squander that lightly. Besides, their communal, social nature means that fewer of their elderly are the type to yell at kids to “get off their lawn”. Since their wisdom is valued, and their knowledge built up over their entire lifetimes, they are looked to as advisors, regardless what their official profession was. Just like their accelerated lives, their degradation due to the effects of aging also happens rather quickly, compared to longer lived races. So their elderly are active and capable up to the last few years of their lives, and even then, most are able to still get around by flying. So even if they are no longer able to do their original job, they can still be useful performing what functions they can.
Death and Burial Practices:
How are the dead treated by these people? Are they buried? Cremated? How are they prepared for these rights?
Dead aarakocra are wrapped in a cloth shroud, and left on open platforms built at or near the tops of mountains. That way the enfolding wings of Starbright Smoothfeather can take their spirits. Loved ones will often take feathers from the dead body as remembrances, using them in items created to remember the dead. Iceglint took some feathers from his friend Allbright when he died, attaching them to his helmet as decoration. Respects are shown when the bodies are put on the open platforms; this can be a speech, poetry, a song, or whatever else those paying those respects wish.
They tend to try to recover the bodies of their dead, if they can, in order to both properly honor their loss, and to allow for remembrances for those that want or need them.
Advancement and Proliferation:
Generally speaking, how ‘advanced’ are these people technologically compared to the rest of the world? What are some major developments that have been made recently? How prolific is technology throughout their society?
In general, Aarakocra are at a lesser level of technological progress than the rest of the world. This is primarily due to their difficulty or inability to work metals, which limits them to the equivalent of the Stone Age, because their hollow bones can’t take the stresses of smithing and feathers tend to be susceptible to sparks. So they have to trade for metallic goods. But given the completed metal parts, they are fully capable of understanding them and putting them together. Some they can even modify or shape, if the shaping is something that they can do without damaging themselves.
On the other hand, their fingers and toes are very dextrous, and it’s not uncommon to see them under their hanging looms using all four of their limbs to weave cloth.
What kind of technology do common people make use of on a regular basis? What about the Upper Class?
They don’t really have an upper class; it’s very egalitarian. At least officially, and in the smaller clans. The larger clans, that is, ones with more than 40 or 50 members, have an informal class structure that is socially and interpersonal network based. Those with lots of close friends have de facto more power and influence than the more introverted members.
Technologically, everyone’s the same, as all property is communal, and even the nests change hands regularly. So does any technology that may be in the nest, such as looms, tools, etc. In many cases, most of the technology and tools are in “workshop” areas, where working space and storage of materials is at hand. They are skilled in any field that doesn’t require lots of impact stresses on their bones: Alchemy, biology, chemistry, naturalist, spinning, weaving, woodworking, some stone working.
Is magic used in conjunction with technology? How do they play off of each other? What is the source/fuel?
Not to a great extent. Aarakocra just don’t have enough mages to really build an enchantment industry. They do have spell casters, who may have spells that may interact with their tools (Apportation in conjunction with dropoons to create a “guided missile” comes to mind). Like anyone who uses magic, they tap the mana fields that suffuse the world.
What kind of farming technology do these people have access to? How important and widespread is it among farming communities?
Farming isn’t terribly important as a food source, as they are almost exclusively carnivorous. They will have herb gardens, and sometimes they will use vegetables as flavorings or side dishes. They also grow grains for alcohol production. The kitchen gardens are pretty easy for them, but tilling soil requires more effort for them to manage. First, they need plow horses or oxen, and plows, which they have to acquire from the ground-bound. They can then till the soil, although not all Aarakocra are mentally capable of guiding the plow in the dirt while their wing feathers drag in the dust for the hours on end every day it takes for them to finish the work.
It’s also non-trivial for them to transport the plows to the areas in the mountains that they can farm. Because they live in the mountains, their fields used for farming are typically on the smaller side, and scattered here and there in their territory. One avian can manage to fly the plow, if it’s not very far. Normally, they will use a two avian sling and share the load, while another guides the animals from one farming area to the next.
More commonly, they have pastures of mountain goats, or deer, or elk. Sometimes they will have a series of rabbit hutches or chicken coops.
What techniques and tools do these people's industries make use of? How automated are they?
Aarakocra have several industries, mainly weaving (knitting, and looms), tailoring, embroidery, lacemaking, dyecraft, leather working, and fletching. Carpentry and wood sculpting are also industries they are good at. They excel at mapmaking (and due to their keen eyes and sharp memories they are good at drawing and painting, too).
Like most medieval technologies, there isn’t a lot of automation. They are capable of using their wing hands and their foot manipulators simultaneously on the same project, however, so their looms are built for use with either two hands (slow) or four (much quicker). Their woodcutting saws are longer than a human saw, since their arms are longer and have a longer stroke.
What tools do these people make use of for mining, logging, and other form of resource extraction?
They don’t mine. They may find a coal deposit or peat moss and use an open pit for extraction, but there is no way any of them are going into a mine tunnel. Their psychology won’t allow it under most circumstances. They use shovels, picks, and other earth moving tools (acquired from the ground-bound).
They can harvest trees, and do so all the time for building materials and firewood. They scavenge for useful herbs and plants, and use animal resources as well. One avian or two avian saws are commonly used for this. Some clans with a stream nearby may have a sawmill to transform a log into boards, but getting the logs to the mill can be tricky, often requiring oxen or horses that need to be managed.
How do these people transform the land around them?
They farm (to a certain extent), they dig shallow caves for nests, they might make roads for traders to use to get to them with goods they cannot make themselves. They often will cement posts outside of the cave openings for perches and from which they hang pennants and flags. Aerie-Above-the-Rainbows has several wooden cranes to get materials from the base of the cliff up into the various caverns that make up their nesting.
What kind of roads, ships, carts, and so on do these people use?
They don’t. They can fly. Some nestings might have a cart or wagon for moving goods, but the roads they make are only “just sufficient” for traveling on. If a wagon can traverse it, it’s good enough. Some of the Aarakocra that are in the Tondene Imperial Navy might have a “bunk” on a ship, but their job is likely to be an advanced scout, much like a super-powered version of a crow’s nest lookout. Since they joined the Empire, the Imperial Navy has never been surprised if the weather was clear, because their Aarakocra sailors give them a scouting range of hundreds of miles.
How advanced are these people's buildings? How large are they able to build? What kind of defenses do they have against natural disasters?
Their buildings are at about the Stone Age, “in the wild”. They don’t need anything more than that. Those that live in the cities can generally modify their building into something more useful to them, usually involving removing any interior walls and ceilings to open up the space so they have room to fly around, and often creating a hole in the ceiling big enough for them to fly in and out of as their primary ingress/egress. Their construction techniques are often much better than a “stone age” level of technology would indicate. Their woodworking and building skills are quite adequate, and while they may need the help of an engineer or architect, they are fully capable of fine construction work.
They don’t really build “large”. They will buy large, and modify, but they have never needed to build a large structure from scratch. Because they live in nooks and caves in cliff sides, or in nests in trees, earthquakes aren’t a problem. Tornadoes and hurricanes don’t really exist in the Expanses; although wind storms are common enough. Sometimes a windstorm will blow down a tree with a nest in it, or blow the nest out of the tree, but it’s not too difficult for them to rebuild in that case. Especially since the nests are communal, so there is always plenty of help.
What is the structure of a person's names? When and by whom are these given?
Windsong is unpronounceable by most people, since they lack a syrinx. Aarakocra have thus translated their names into human-pronounceable names, usually descriptive, such as Iceglint Broadwing, Clearsky Sharpwind, etc.
Here is a sample template for the fantasy name generator here: http://www.rinkworks.com/namegen/ (use the Advanced Interface).
This will give a series of Aarakocra sounding names. Others along the same lines can be used as well. This template can be expanded using words that would be appropriate for the Skyfolk.
What names are common among these people? Are they meant for women (f), men (m), or is it neutral (n)? What family names are common?
Names involving the sky, colors, weather, light, and celestial objects are common. They usually fall into two pairs of concepts, such as Mooncloud Brightbeak, or Shadowgale Starclaw. In Windsong, there is a difference between male names and female names, but it’s a matter of pitch and inflection. The translated names, like the examples, remain the same, and are used for both male and female Aarakocra. Although some names are based upon the person’s appearance, so names with yellow, orange, or red in them typically denote the names of males, because only males typically have those colors. The clans are usually so small that family names aren’t used. Everyone knows who is referring to whom, so having family names isn’t that important (especially since there is little concept of property, which means little concept of inheritance). And since the two political positions (Chief and Shaman) aren’t inherited, but chosen by the clan, there is no need for an heir, or for tracking them throughout the family trees.
The family trees are followed, as part of the history of the clan, and usually takes the form of multi branching networks of knot work in twine. Knot sequences denote the names of individuals, and the twine segments between them denote the familial connections. The whole clan, going back generations, can be shown this way, and the Lineages are often displayed hanging on a wall. It is quite colorful, with different colors showing the interrelationships between families and generations. The dead are marked with light blue, symbolizing that they have become one with the sky and fly with Starbright Smoothfeather now.
What forms of education exist for these people? What groups receive what kind of education?
There is a lot of oral tradition, and “books” (knotted arrays of strings that act as a written form of Winding). They also have traditional books, written in a borrowed language of their neighbors (the Northern Expanse uses Imperial, the Southern Expanse uses a mishmash of languages).
Clans will typically have a few members designated as “Teachers to Fledgelings” who teach the young the basics of being Aarakocra and the basic skills needed to be a member of their society. The other members are usually skilled enough in their fields to act as trainers for their professions. Some individuals are, of course, better than others at teaching. These trainers take over once the young become adults and need a profession. They use a master/apprentice style of education.
Being egalitarian, where everyone is more or less equal, everyone gets the basic education. The professions are taught to those with the desire and aptitude to learn them.
How is inheritance handled when someone dies? How does different classes handle inheritance?
There really isn’t much concept of inheritance, just as there is little concept of property. Everything belongs to the clan, so when someone dies, the stuff they had on them when they died is returned to the clan storage rooms, or wherever they had gotten it.
Are these people separated by class or caste? Are these separations hard or soft? How do these different groups interact, if at all?
There are no real castes, or classes. There are informal interpersonal networks that can form cliques, which can have some social effects. But for the most part, everyone interacts with everyone else, especially in the smaller clans, where everyone knows everyone else.
Who are the destitute and down trout within this society? How are they seen? Are they helped or left on their own?
All members of the clan are equally rich and equally destitute, at least where material goods are concerned, because items are shared communally. Aarakocra don’t normally have a sense of property. They even share their nests; which nest one sleeps in can vary night by night, depending upon which ones are open at the time.
However, if someone appears to be having a bad day, other members will usually attempt to give whatever aid they can. This stems from their chummy nature and strong community ties.
Who do the down trout in this society turn to in times of need? Does support remain within a community? What kind of help is available? How much?
Help is usually available within the clan, if someone can spare the time. Materially, as mentioned above, they don’t have a sense of property, so under most circumstances, everyone shares whatever they have.
What is often in short supply is time, however. Most people are busy most of the time, whether it’s hunting, or defense, or making something. But if someone requests aid or help, there is likely someone who will be able to spare the time to help them, even if it’s not immediately. The community ties are very strong.
What sort of gender specific roles exist among these people? What is expected of men that is not expected of women? Vice versa?
What kind of sexual identity exists among these people? Is heterosexual relationships the only acceptable type of sexuality? What non traditional types of sexuality are allowed? How are non straight people viewed?
What aspects of a person are most important to their personal identity? Is it their family, clan, state, profession, religion, etc?
What is considered courteous or proper by these people? How does one treat a stranger? Family? Friend?
What is considered modest by these people? How important is modesty? What is modest for different classes and genders?
What is considered taboo for these people? Is the Taboo the same for Do they apply this only to themselves or do they judge other cultures?
What sort of laws and social rules exist among these people? Are these formal or informal? Enforced by a central authority or a traditional social order?
What kind of punishments do these people believe in? What punishments are given in response to what crimes?
What kind of drug use is acceptable or encouraged by these people? Under what circumstances are these drugs acceptable to use? Which drugs are not allowed?
What do these people’s language sound like? What relation does it have to other languages?
How are these people’s ancestors seen? Are they remembered or honored? What is it that they provide for those who live now?
Are there hero’s within the mythology of this society? How are they seen? How flawed are they? What makes them heroes?
How do these people view health and disease? What can individuals do to improve their health?
How do these people view mental health? How are people who suffer from it seen? What are the causes? Are there any treatments?
How are the various seasons seen? Different times of day?
What importance do the stars, moons, and sun play in these people’s worldview? What do they call the various astrological bodies? What do they represent?
What is the nature of the world? What is its future and how will it end?
How do these people see the past? What is important and what is left out? What does a common person know about history? An educated person?
The Natural World:
How is the natural world seen? What about wild or uninhabited places?
The Artificial World:
How is the artificial world, the one created by people, seen? What about villages and cities?
How is the Occult, the secret and nontraditional world, seen?
What mythical and unseen animals exist in this society's view? Do people believe in them? How real are they?
What monsters exist in these societies view? How much of a problem are they? How do people combat them?
How is magic seen by these people? Are all kinds viewed similarly or are distinctions made?
What sort of sports or other recreations do these people do? Is there a difference between professional and casual sports? Who plays what sports?
What sort of celebrations and festivals do these people have? Are they centered around the time of year? Certain events?
Rites of Passage:
What rituals and ceremonies do people go through as parts of their lives? A passage to adulthood? Absolution for past actions? Marriage?
What kind of villages, towns, and cities do these people have? How large are they? Who controls these population centers?
Urban vs Rural:
How urban or rural is this society? What are the cultural and economic differences between the two? Where does the society’s power truly lie?
How, and for what reasons, do these people move around? Are these short range or over long distances? Do they return to a set ‘home’ or is home always moving? Do the young move or does everyone? Do most people die where they are born or elsewhere?
What does the fringes of these people’s territory look like? Where is it? Who lives there? How do people see it? How strong is the government's influence?
Do these people explore new territory? How do they view exploration? What tools do they have at their disposal?
How do these people colonize new territories? How connected are these colonies to their homeland? What happens to the natives of these colonies?
What sort of military do these people have? Is it made of professionals or irregulars? How is gender or class important within these people’s military?
What kind of weapons and armor do these people use? Are they of the people’s own design or taken from another people? What level of quality are these weapons? Do they export or import weapons/armor?
What unique and somewhat independent warriors can be found among these people? Where do most of them come from? What do they specialize in? How does the society see them?
Magic in Warfare:
How is magic used as a component of the military? Do mages serve specific roles or are they treated like normal soldiers? What kinds of magic are used by these people in war?
Do these people wage war? How do they view war? How are conquered people treated? How expansionary are they?
What kind of dissent and resistance do these people practice? What groups are these targeted at?
Do these people raid? Is it acceptable to do so? Who is doing the raiding and who is being raided?
Is slavery allowed by these people? Who can be enslaved? Are children of slaves born free? What rights do slaves have? How can slaves be made free?
When do these people abandon their home? When everything they have is destroyed do they rebuild or move on?
What kind of natural disasters do these people deal with? How do they respond? From where do they believe these disasters come from?
What kind of disease do these people deal with? What is seen as the source? How do they deal with them?
Provide a general description of these people’s magical system.
Connection to Magic:
What kind of connection do these people have with magic? How does it influence them? How much control over it do they have?
Styles of Magic:
How do these people use magic? Are there distinct styles or methods of using magic? What schools of thought exist around magic?
Role of Mages:
What is the role of magic users in society? What professions do they fill? Where can they be found?
How do mages see the mundane? How staunch of a line is drawn between them?
Religion (RELIGION NAME):
What is the name of this religion? What meaning does it have?
Give a general overview of this religion. What are its major tenets? How does it exist in the daily lives of everyday people? What religious leaders exist?
How has this religion changed over the years? How long has it been around? What major events shaped it?
How are the formal institutions of this religion constructed? What levels of leadership positions exist? How do these leaders interact with everyday believers? What informal institutions exist?
Place of Worship:
Do these people have a place of worship or other structure of religious significance? Who is responsible for maintaining or running these temples? What does it look like?
What symbols hold significance to this religion?
Who, if any, are the gods of this religion? What characters exist in their myths? What powers do they hold?
What books or collections of tales does this religion teach? Are they equally important? Who tells these stories?
How do these people believe the world and its people came into existence? How recent was creation?
How is death view in this religion? What happens to a person after they die?
How do followers experience this religion in their everyday lives? How important is it to them? Are all followers created equal?
What sites or cities are considered sacred by this religion? How long have they been seen this way? Why?
What kind of religious orders exist within this religion? Are they militarily focused? Isolated or open to the public? Who is allowed to join these orders? What services do they provide?
What heretic groups exist within this religion? How are they treated by members of the mainstream religion?
Does magic play a part in this religion? Do mages play a different part in the religion than non-mages?
Historical Period or Era:
General overview of these people’s history in the named region.
Schools of Thought:
Name of Schools of Thought:
Text for this school of thought, either a brief description or a full write up.
Name of Legend/Story/Myth:
Text of this legend/story/myth, either a brief description or a full write up.
Name of Nations:
General write up of this nation and its significance.
Name of Settlement:
General write up of this city/town/village and its significance.
Name of Person:
General write up of this person and their significance?
Define any terms or names used in this write up.
Any minor notes go here.