Customs and Folklore of the Flanaess

I’m always fascinated by hearing about strange (to me) customs, habits, superstitions, and other bits of trivia about other countries. In my gaming, I’m also always looking for subtle ways to differentiate one land from another. I find these small, subtle clues as to where the characters might be are a lot more fun than just announcing “Okay, now you’ve crossed the border into Tenh”. Most of them probably don’t have much direct application in terms of game mechanics, but they could be used as hooks for discovering spies, accidentally insulting a host, etc.

  • Almor: Glass eyes are considered very rude in Almor. Those missing an eye should wear an eye patch.
  • Bandit Kingdoms: Natives of the Bandit Kingdoms are taught as children to swing a sling counter-clockwise, regardless of what hand the sling is in.
  • Bissel: Brides in Bissel traditionally wear gowns of red with a veil.
  • Blackmoor: Orange cats are considered bad luck in Blackmoor.
  • Bone March: Natives of the Bone March will say “white pine” upon waking, as a good luck charm.
  • Celene: When both moons are full, the entire country of Celene is given to revels and feasting.
  • Dyvers: The lord mayor of Dyvers wears three crowns on formal State occasions, hence the three crowns on the city’s arms.
  • Ekbir: In Ekbir, the letter “s” is pronounced as “sh”, and this habit can identify them unless great pains have been taken to correct it.
  • Frost Barbarians: It is considered unlucky to strike a new fire during the day with flint and tinder; one should either use a bow or take fire from an already-existing source.
  • Furyondy: It is customary for the inns and taverns in Furyondy to serve watercress with meals as a garnish or small salad.
  • Geoff: In Gorna, street food vendors must wear a green sash, which indicates that they have paid for a license. Patronizing a vendor without a sash is punishable by imprisonment.
  • Gran March: Those in the Gran March have an affinity for rats as pets, but only if they’re white.
  • Great Kingdom: Farmers in the Great Kingdom always yoke their oxen four abreast.
  • Greyhawk: Magic can not be used to solve capital crimes within the city limits.
  • Highfolk: Most of the homes in Highfolk are of timber-frame construction, with intricate patterns of dark brown beams against whitewashed walls of wattle and daub.
  • Horned Society: None of the houses in the Horned Society have access to their attic from the interior rooms; evil spirits would be able to enter the home.
  • Ice Barbarians: Wine is considered a delicacy amongst the Ice Barbarians, often worth ten times its value in warmer climes.
  • Idee: It is illegal for anyone to sell oranges in Idee; the fruit is considered an exclusive franchise of the Count.
  • Irongate: A handshake accompanying an agreement is considered legally binding in Irongate, but only if both parties spit into their palms prior.
  • Iuz: Saying the name of Saint Cuthbert in public is punishable by imprisonment within the lands of Iuz.
  • Keoland: Someone from Keoland will always enter a house on his left foot, and will always leave it on his right.
  • Ket: There are no barbers in Ket. One must go to a masseuse to get a haircut or a beard trim.
  • Lordship of the Isles: The cuisine of the Lordship of the Isles features hot and spicy food; especially that made with the hottest pepper known in the Flanaess, the morto chile.
  • Medegia: Long mustachios are currently in style in the See, amongst the upper classes and those of the middle class who seek to emulate them.
  • North Province: Clowns in North Province traditionally dress in shades of gray and green.
  • Nyrond: Bacon is never served in Nyrond without honey as a condiment.
  • Onnwal: Nodding one’s head up and down in Onnwal means “no”. Shaking it side-to-side means “yes”.
  • Theocracy of the Pale: If a man swears in front of a woman or child of the Pale, they will say “Light!” to expunge the transgression.
  • Perrenland: Dogs with eyes of different colors are considered extremely lucky in Perrenland.
  • Plains of the Paynims: Among the Paynims, only those directly descended from Al’Akbar may wear a red turban.
  • Pomarj: Throwing food at one’s host is a sign of gratitude and an indication that the food is appreciated and well-liked.
  • Ratik: It is illegal to put tomatoes into fish stew in Ratik; the national dish is a cream-based stew.
  • Rel Astra: Schools in Rel Astra follow a “trimester” schedule, rather than four semesters.
  • Rovers of the Barrens: Three is considered an unlucky number among the Rovers of the Barrens.
  • Sea Barons: Every ship of the Sea Barons has a small bag of silver pieces tied to the top of the tallest mast, as an offering to Procan, should the ship go down.
  • Sea Princes: The sailors of the Sea Princes believe that wearing an earring will prevent them from drowning.
  • Shield Lands: Peasants in the Shield Lands almost invariably wear a scally cap in colors representative of those of their liege lord.
  • Snow Barbarians: It is considered a grave insult to start eating amongst the Snow Barbarians before one’s host.
  • South Province: Someone from South Province will invariably try to decline a gift the first time it is offered. Normal etiquette is to offer it a second time, at which time the recipient will reluctantly accept.
  • Spindrift Isles: Punctuality is highly prized in the Spindrift Isles. Those who are habitually tardy are considered social misfits.
  • Sterich: Owls are considered omens of death in Sterich.
  • Stonefist: Refusing an offer of a drink (alcoholic) is considered to be very insulting in Stonefist.
  • Sunndi: Farmers in Sunndi will never stack their hay higher than eye level.
  • Tenh: You can always tell a horse that has been shod in Tenh; the shoe will have nine nails (six are most common elsewhere).
  • Tiger Nomads: The Tiger Nomads consider opals to be unlucky, except for those born in the month of the snake, for whom they are a lucky sign.
  • Tusmit: One should never give flowers as a gift in Tusmit. Flowers are reserved for funerals, the ill, and weddings.
  • Ulek, County of: Cow milk is not used within the county of Ulek. They drink goat’s milk instead.
  • Ulek, Duchy of: Fortifications in the Duchy of Urnst will almost always have seven sides; seven is a lucky number.
  • Ulek, Principality of: Green Man motifs are found on most pottery, cups, etc. made in the Principality of Ulek.
  • Ull: It is considered rude to kiss in public in Ull.
  • Urnst, County of: You can always tell someone from the County of Urnst; they put their forefinger along the dull side of the knife when cutting meat.
  • Urnst, Duchy of: No one in the Duchy of Urnst will use a broom after dark. It sweeps away the luck of the house.
  • Veluna: Hunting on Godsday is forbidden in Veluna.
  • Verbobonc: Giving a gift of anything sharp (including knives, swords, scissors, etc.) is considered a final good-bye gift, symbolic of cutting a relationship.
  • Wild Coast: In Hardby, the woman always leads when dancing.
  • Wolf Nomads: If a Wolf Nomad is killed, his or her relations going out to the 7th degree can claim monetary restitution, on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The Yeomanry: Men don’t shake hands in the Yeomanry; they hug.
  • Zeif: Those in Zeif have a distinctive method of wrapping a turban which is immediately identifiable by any other Bakluni.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

3 thoughts on “Customs and Folklore of the Flanaess

  1. I absolutely loved this post. Alot of them do seem tongue in cheek (like yes, I agree kissing in Ull is rude if not considered 'too girly' for the macho males there) but some are quite good. My favorite is Zeif's distinctive turban wrap. This is something I similarly employ for Uli warbands/tribes as foreigners never notice the difference but it soon becomes important that they do. Good stuff! I do wonder, was the owl omen in Sterich intentional? The Knights of the Watch use the owl symbol.

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