Warrior Cultures

From what I’ve seen, it’s practically a requirement in speculative fiction to have a warrior culture crop up somewhere or other. Noble or not-so-noble makes no difference—what matters is that there is a cultural emphasis on fighting, and more to the point on fighting in some way that sets them apart from other cultures. It’s like the whole society is trying to give all its members the skeleton of a narrative distinctive silhouette. Since they’re so common, that makes it important to figure out what sets them apart from all these other warrior races a world or two away, which in turn requires fleshing out the culture and the warrior’s place within it. That, in turn, mostly requires asking ourselves the right questions.

What’s the fighting for? Most warrior cultures have some rationalization for the fighting beyond “We enjoy it”, not that that prevents them from waxing eloquent about how truly enjoyable said fighting is. The fighting will have some sort of cultural context, which can take one or often both of two forms. First is the culture’s reason for needing warriors, often but not necessarily either an interest in expansion by conquest or an answer to a cultural trauma. Second is the culture’s internal context: why, within the norms of the culture, are these people fighting? Is this competition over resources, over social status, what?

What does it mean to be a warrior in such a culture? If fighting is that important to them, there’s probably an increase in status, one way or another. There’s likely to be a set of standards that they’re required to follow—things they know, weapons they use, circumstances under which they will and (more rarely) won’t fight, opponents they have to treat in certain ways, so on and so forth. Sometimes, if a warrior is symbolically associated with a weapon, the weapon will have its own code, both on its use and on what’s to be done with it outside of battle. Some cultures might try to restrict the company in which the warrior fights, requiring him to either fight alone or fight in teams. What all this boils down to is that rules, or at the very least strongly ingrained cultural expectations, are one of the foundations of a warrior culture. How else do you tell a true warrior from everyone else?

Are there kinds of conflict that the warrior culture specializes in, and if so, what does it do with the ones that it doesn’t treat as a specialty? One might work best in large-army clashes, with its warrior element mainly manifesting as requiring military service from everyone for at least some period of time; another may be more concerned with one-on-one clashes to demonstrate power, while still another may not care what the numbers are as long as its warriors show their skill against their ancient enemy. Similarly, some may favor different tactics, with some even considering some others’ favorite tactics to be “cheating”.

Keeping a warrior culture from being yet another crowd with weapons is all in the details. Think them over!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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