D&D 5E [Radiant Citadel] A chart of parallel Earth cultures and motifs across the D&D Multiverse

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Tharquish = Rome (Italy)
Ishtar (Ishtarland) = Babylon (Iraq)

But Ishtar sailors (Gulf of Ishtar) = Phoenicians (Lebanon)
 

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Tharquish is Rome.

The link between Babylon = "beast" = Pope is a different (unfortunate) archetype.
That’s irrelevant, Istar is very clearly meant to invoke medieval Catholicism complete with crusading orders, ominous Latin chanting, cathedrals and libraries of forbidden books.
 


Istar (≈ Babylonian goddess Ishtar) is mainly Iraq Mesopotamia. However, Istar (≈ related Canaanite goddess Ashtarte) is Lebanon fertile crescent.

In this sense, the Istar "mariners" are prominently the coastal Phoenicians, today Lebanon. The Phoenicians have sailor port towns all around the Mediterranean, even as far as Spain, and Carthage in Africa is a famous example, today Tunisia.
Yaarel, you have really cool ideas -- I love the maps of Oerik you sent me. And I aim to look at your suggestions closer to see what I can glean for my chart.

Yet, for the purposes of my chart, your suggestion that Istar (Krynn) and Ishtarland (Oerth) ought to also be listed under the "Canaanite" section doesn't fit with my purpose. That's like how another person (at the Piazza) was making the case that the kirin aren't just Japanese (and Chinese)...they're also found in Korean and Vietnamese mythology.

I was like: "True. But the purpose of my chart isn't to list all the real-world synonyms for every earthly mythological being. My chart is just focused on what the published TSR/WotC texts say, and making a close interpretation of what the designer's intent was, given the milieu in which the book was written. There's no evidence that, prior to the invention of Wikipedia, that the TSR designer of the kirin was thinking of the Korean or Vietnamese version of that creature."

I'd say the same thing about Istar (in Krynn) and Ishtarland (in Oerth). Ishtar is associated with Mesopotamia. The name is in the Akkadian language. Ishtar - Wiktionary
I believe you that there was a Canaanite synonym (Astarte), but surely Weiss and Hickman (for Istar) and Skip Williams or Gygax (for Ishtarland, or whoever coined the names for the Oerik map) was looking at the Babylonian name "Ishtar" and not the Canaanite version when they were naming and designing those lands.

That's why Istar (Krynn) and Ishtarland (Oerth) are in the Mesopotamian section on the chart.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
W

You keep asserting without evidence and what does Tharquish have to do with this at all?
The French comic, "Black Moon", has quasiofficial status, in that it had official permission from TSR to use Oerth as the setting of the comic. Meanwhile, the map confirms the names and cultures that the comic portrays.

Tarquish is explicitly Roman-esque (Roman architecture, Roman soldiers with Roman armor and weapons), albeit renaissance and medieval Italy infuses the culture too.
 

That’s irrelevant, Istar is very clearly meant to invoke medieval Catholicism complete with crusading orders, ominous Latin chanting, cathedrals and libraries of forbidden books.
It's not irrelevant. Both are relevant. It's relevant that the Hickman & Weiss chose to use a name from Akkadian mythology. The biblical theme of the "Fall of Babylon" is about, well, "Babylon" after all.

And yes, since Luther's time, that "Babylon" motif has been "applied" to the Catholic church institutions by various authors or polemicists.

And you have a point that the Akkadian "Istar" name, and the Hebrew biblical "Fall of Babylon" theme, are filled out with ~Medieval Catholic analogies. Would you be willing to type up a few quotes and sources for those good points you made?
 

The French comic, "Black Moon", has quasiofficial status, in that it had official permission from TSR to use Oerth as the setting of the comic. Meanwhile, the map confirms the names and cultures that the comic portrays.

Tarquish is explicitly Roman-esque (Roman architecture, Roman soldiers with Roman armor and weapons), albeit renaissance and medieval Italy infuses the culture too.
I saw a few pictures of Tarquish -- it looked more Classical Greek to me. Do you have any links to more images?
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Here is a wiki about the Black Moon comic.

French: Chroníques de la Lune Noíre.

Even tho this is in French, not English, it is part of the Oerth apocrypha.



(Note also, Tharquish is an "Empire", the Roman Empire, so Greece and other areas can be part of this Empire too, in addition to Italy. Many of the 1e and 2e designers were Classical historians. They know who the Phoenicians are, especially that they are sometimes rivals. Probably, one of the nearby islands near the main Tharquish island, is Greek-esque.)
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Here is the quasi-official map of planet Oerth, created by Skip William along with other D&D designers, with TSR traditions in mind.

Yaarel 2022 - Oerth - Ships.png


Now, the yellow and purple text is my own reconciling of various Oerth traditions, often from text descriptions without a map.

Of interest here are the decorations.

At the top right, is a Norse-esque ship, near where the winter "Barbarians" are.


But at bottom left is a full-on Greek warship, called (among other names) the trireme. This area of the continent is where "Classical" history happens, including Greece, Rome, Babylon, and other nearby cultures.
 

Sure, in the 2e book Tales of the Lance: World Book of Ansalon, pg 55-56. I just had another read, the sea barbarians are listed as descendants of mariners from Istar. I've copied the relevant sections below for the sea barbarians. Lifestyle looks like it has some info on where they maintain some more permanent settlements. I always thought of them as the archetype for the mariner warrior class, probably helped along by the art used in the book.

Appearance
Sea barbarians have richer skin tones than other barbarians. Their skin ranges from light brown to glowing black. They wear their tightly curled black hair closely cropped to their heads. Their eyes flash with emotion—joy one moment and wrath the next—much like the volatile sea. Sea barbarians enjoy flamboyant and gaudy garb of sailcloth, homespun, or burlap. Life among the roaring billows and pitching waves makes these folk boisterous and courageous. Even so, they are the most civilized of the barbaric races.

Personality
Sea barbarians differ greatly from their barbarian brothers. On the outside, these loud, friendly people brim with good cheer. Underneath, though, sea barbarians harbor a haughty pride that keeps them distant from other races. Even so, sea barbarians deal fairly with those they meet and, given time, develop friendships that can weather any storm.

History
The sea barbarians have an entirely different history. They arose as mariners of once-mighty Istar. The Cataclysm destroyed the heart-city of their shipping business and dispersed the mariners throughout the world. Since the Zero Hour, mariners have led a somewhat nomadic existence. They never settle permanently: the urge to travel fills their blood.

Lifestyle
The sea barbarians live differently. Although they spend most of their time at sea, they do dock occasionally. Descendants of city dwellers, these barbarians maintain port cities where they can rest and sell their cargos. The city of Sea Reach on the island of Saifhum is one such bedroom town for sea barbarians. They forbid foreign traffic into Sea Reach, wishing to keep the foul folk of Ansalon at arm's reach.
Here's the revised entry for Krynn, from the African section of the OP:

~African:
  • In Krynn: There are three Black human cultures in Ansalon:
    • The Empire of Ergoth and the Ackalites. Maquesta Kar-Thon, a black woman who is the most famous pirate in the Dragonlance Chronicles, is an Ergothian half-elf. As is usual with Krynnish motifs, the Ergothian culture does not appear to be especially based on Africa; only the physical appearance of the people. However, the Ackalite people within Ergoth have a more traditional / indigenous culture. Since the real-world cultural sources of the Ergothian Empire are not quite clear to us, the Ergothians are included in this African section (rather than the African Diaspora section) for a simplistic reason: the Ergothians aren't depicted as a "diaspora."
    • The Sea Barbarians. They are a distinct nation which has existed since before the Cataclysm. Their main haven which is known to us is the city of Sea Reach on the island of Saifhum. For source quotes, see this post. In earthly terms, their culture is somewhat evocative of the sailors of the ~Swahili Coast.
    • The Black Nordmen (home of Theros Ironfeld) (See the ~Norse section for their culture.)
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Note, the map of planet Oerth is fully official. The image of it appears in the 3e Gazetteer for the World of Greyhawk setting.

Oerth - 3e Gazetteer (2000).png


Unfortunately, this global map is tiny, and the dark areas of mountains are difficult to distinguish from the sea in places. Also the island of Fireland (top left) is famously way too far west.

Nevertheless, this map makes Oerth core for the Greyhawk setting.

Below, I overlay both the original Dragon Magazine Annual map with this later official map. It shows what Oerth looks like. I doubled the map to clarify what the ocean between East Oerik (Flanaess-Hepmonaland) and West Oerik (Gonduria-Aquaria) looks like. Note Australia-esque, actually all of Oceania, in this ocean.

Yaarel 2022 - Oerth (1996 Dragon Annual, 2000 Gazette).png
 

TwiceBorn2

Adventurer
Ah thanks, I was actually looking for ~Slavic references for Stonefist, because I was just going off of memory. I'd thought I'd read some DRAGON mag article in the 90s about using Slavic flavor for Stonefist Barbarians, but I wasn't sure if I was remembering right. I'll aim to include these in the Hold of Stonefist entry.
Your memory serves you well, young Jedi, though the articles date from the early eighties.

Gygax wrote the following in Dragon Mag #63 (p. 11):

Relating this to the WORLD OF GREYHAWK map, the lands of the Frost, Ice, and Snow Barbarians, as well as the Hold of Stonefist, would produce Scandinavian/Slavic-type barbarian fighters. These characters would employ broad swords and short bows as additional required initial weapons. Horsemanship would be nominal at best, but running would be normal, and in most cases the skill of making and manning rowed boats would exist.

In Dragon Mag #57 (pp. 13-14), he wrote:

While the Hold itself was relatively safe from invasion, the Master, Seuvord Redbeard, and his Atamen and chieftains were faced with a dilemma.

The Rovers of the Barrens were undoubtedly gaining in numbers once again, so no easy raiding prospects existed to the west. Likewise, both southern passes to the rich state of Tenh and the lands of the Fruztii were closed to all but a major effort. A major effort was impossible because of the near-revolt of the eastern (mainly Coltens-descendant) bands under Ataman Dyerg Keda (fighter, 12th level) and supported by over a dozen chieftains and subchiefs. Seuvord Redbeard, being both tough and intelligent, refused to be drawn into a civil war, for then the surrounding enemies of the Hold would surely take the opportunity offered and destroy the remnants of the state. As Seuvord also wished his own line to retain the Mastership of the Hold. as a hereditary right, he called a great council at Purmill, with safe conduct for all who attended.

Many observers were surprised that all of the principal leaders of the Hold took part in the convocation, but those aware of the cleverness of Seuvord knew that he was certainly responsible for the showing. What was put forth at the council by Seuvord Redbeard was that the Hold must adapt to the changes taking place and the new alliances against its people. He asked the assembled leaders to grant him the hereditary title of Rhelt; he asked that Atamen also be made hereditary leaders, and also that the chief men of each area be given the right to elect the warband leaders. The Rite of Battle Fitness was not to be done away with, however. Instead, it would qualify warriors for service in the standing army to be formed immediately, with those of exceptional capabilities to be made leaders, companions of the Rhelt, or even war chiefs whose right it would be to expand the realm through conquest and occupation.

There was considerable dissension, particularly from the direct descendants of Stonefist, but enough of them, as well as of the nomadic chieftains, agreed to Seuvord’s proposal to sway the entire assembly. In CY 578, shortly after Tenh had coronated its new Duke, the Master of the Hold became Rhelt Seuvord I of Stonehold. Several of his cousins took ill from a mysterious flux shortly after the coronation, and about a dozen others were reported fleeing into the Griff Mountains with a small band of loyal followers.

The former Hold of Stonefist is now divided into four Atamanships: Vlekstaad, Purmill, Kelten, and Bastro. Four Great Chieftains were also created: Reindeer, White Bear, Walrus, and Forest (Hraak) People. The word of these Great Chieftains is equal to that of an Ataman. Finally, war chiefs of the west, south, north, and east were appointed to raise bands of fists to keep the land safe until the Rhelt’s own army could be formed.



Although Russian and Ukrainian Cossacks were led by Atamans, I haven't found a real world equivalent for the title of "Rhelt." That one might be entirely fictitious?

As far as the Flan bloodline of many Stoneholders go, Gygax wrote the following in the Guide to the World of Greyhawk (1983, p. 36):

Stonefist, then Vlek Col Vlekzed, founded his chiefdom in approximately 430 CY. Vlek was cast out from the Rovers of the Barrens for banditry and lying, but a small number of warriors and their families followed him as leader [...] Riding unmolested through the lands of his former people, but not caring to test their fighting ability, Vlek moved beyond White Fanged Bay and established a fortified settlement as a permanent camp.

That same source indicates that the leader of the Rovers of the Barrens (one of the few "pure Flan" peoples remaining in the Flanaess, as per p. 10 of the 1983 Guide) also holds the title of "Ataman of the Standards." They "ply lance and javelin, although many also use bows," as well as "lariats to pull enemies down" (p. 33) Further, Gygax adds that "The wardogs are footmen able to run with cavalry and fight, hamstringing enemy mounts and disrupting their formations."

So Gygax's Rovers were a combination of Cossacks and "wild footmen" (wardogs), later revised as a blend of Great Plains Indians and other North American indigenous peoples in David Howery's adventure "Ghost Dance" in Dungeon no. 32 (1991). Here are a few excerpts:
Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 2.11.55 AM.png


Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 2.12.53 AM.png

Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 2.14.23 AM.png

Howery's depiction of the Rovers is a major departure from Gygax's vision, and it definitely muddied the waters where their cultural and linguistic identity are concerned. That in turn has consequences for how we envision the blended Flan/Suloise peoples of Stonehold. Erik Mona and the co-authors of the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer took a middle path with regards to the Rovers, incorporating aspects of both Gygax (Cossacks led by Atamans - but were they "Hamitic, as Gygax describes the Flan elsewhere???) and Howery (Native Americans).

Also, since the Rovers apparently roamed the Barrens before the arrival of the Suloise and Oeridians, does this mean that the "Slavic" elements of their culture (according to Gygax) arose in isolation as opposed to via contact with the northern Suloise barbarians? It's all so confusing. I guess we're back to having to accept the fantasy of it all without seeking out real world comparisons.

As an aside... even though I have no doubt that the work of all Greyhawk authors referred to above was done with a great deal of admiration for the cultures they were inspired by and borrowed from, I can't help but cringe now at the blatant cultural appropriation that they engaged in (especially in the Howery excerpts). Ouch.

Live and learn.
 
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Ripzerai

Explorer
The French comic, "Black Moon", has quasiofficial status, in that it had official permission from TSR to use Oerth as the setting of the comic.
This isn't true at all. The world of the comic is called (at least in the English translation I read) Earth, not Oerth. Oerth has two moons, while the Black Moon Chronicles has only a single moon. The creator didn't have, or need, any permission from TSR.

François Marcela-Froideval did work with TSR in the 1980s, creating the Known World map in the Master Set, the hero-deity Kelanen, and the original draft of Oriental Adventures, and he is probably the original creator of the Oerth map published in the 1996 Dragon Annual, which would explain why the Black Moon nations are on it (Skip Williams wrote the text in the article, he didn't design the map). But his comic is not set on Oerth. It's its own thing.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
This isn't true at all. The world of the comic is called (at least in the English translation I read) Earth, not Oerth. Oerth has two moons, while the Black Moon Chronicles has only a single moon. The creator didn't have, or need, any permission from TSR.

Hi. Im not exactly sure what you are objecting to.

When I say the comic is quasi-official, I mean this:
François Marcela-Froideval did work with TSR in the 1980s, creating the Known World map in the Master Set, the hero-deity Kelanen, and the original draft of Oriental Adventures, and he is probably the original creator of the Oerth map published in the 1996 Dragon Annual,

The point that is relevant in this thread is this.
which would explain why the Black Moon nations are on it (Skip Williams wrote the text in the article, he didn't design the map). But his comic is not set on Oerth. It's its own thing.

A number of nations, cultures, and placenames that are in the comic are also part of the 1996 map of Oerth. For example, Lynn/Lhynn corresponds to reallife France (and when an empire the Holy Roman Empire). When identifying points of contact between the D&D traditions, including this map, the comic is helpful.

While Greyhawk focuses on the subcontinent of Flanaess on the east side of the continent of Oerik, the comic focuses on the west side of the continent of Oerik.
 

My understanding that Marcela-Froideval as a good friend of Gygax and originally tapped for "Oriental Adventures" created the Black Moon setting as "Western Oerik" but after Gygax lost TSR and Black Moon was published independently he removed/changed many of the most obvious connections.
 

Still aiming to include and address the suggestions other posters have made in this thread.
But here's the latest update. I'm starting to add (named or illustrated) persons of color to the OP. I realize there's many to add, such as Black characters from Tomb of Annihilation, and the Ravenloft darklord which a previous poster mentioned. But here are some new entries so far:

~Black characters from non-African fantastic cultures (~African diaspora):
  • In Toril:
  • In Izmer (the setting of the first D&D film):
    • Snails the rogue, played by Marlon Wayans. [Editorial note: When I saw the film, as soon as Snails appeared, I said to myself: "If the Black man is the first to die, this film is sh*t." Well, the film was sh*t.]
  • In Eberron: (Since real-world motifs are so throughly blended in Eberron, we're listing Black characters in this Diaspora section.)
    • Dalin d'Vadalis, patriarch of House Vadalis.
    • An illustration of a Black female artificer in Keith Baker Presents "High Level Adventures" (here).
    • An illustration of a Black male member of House Cannith (here).
    • An illustration of a Black half-elf male member of House Medani (here).
~Asian-featured characters from non-Asian fantastic cultures (~Pan-Asian diaspora):
 

Starting to sort through the Ravenloft cultures. Progress so far:

~Eastern European:
  • In Ravenloft:
    • Barovia (~Transylvania). Their Balok language is ~Romanian (see the glossary here). Originating in Barovia, Balok is also spoken in Invidia, Borca, G'Henna, Markovia, and the former domain of Dorvinia.
    • Borca (~Russian with Borgian Italian politics). The ruler is Ivana Boritsi.
    • Dorvinia (~Russian). The ruler was Ivan Dilisnya, cousin of the ruler of Borca. During the Grand Conjunction event, Dorvinia was merged into Borca.
    • Invidia speaks the Balok language, but has ~Italian motifs.
    • Markovia (~Russian). The darklord of Markovia, Dr. Frantisek Markov, was born in Barovia. Markov is a real-world Russian (and Bulgarian) name.
    • G'Henna (~Russian). The darklord of G'Henna, High Priest Yagno Petrovna, was born in Barovia. Petrovna is a real-world surname of Russian nobles.
    • Vorostokov and their Vos language (~Russian). Note: the Vos people of the world of Aebrynis (Birthright) are also ~Russian.
    • The Gundars/Gundarakites of Gundarak. Their language is ~Hungarian (see the glossary here). It's said that the horsemen who settle in Gundarak were possibly kin to the (~Turko-Mongolian) Neureni Horde. The real-world Hungarians (Magyars) are descendants of steppe warriors who were allied with the Turko-Mongolian peoples.
    • Vlad Drakov, darklord of Falkovnia, is modeled on Vlad Dracula / Vlad the Impaler of Wallachia (~Romania). Vlad Drakov is from the nation of Thenol on the continent of Taladas, in the world of Krynn.
    • The Vistani (~Roma)
~Norse / Scandinavian:
  • In Ravenloft:
    • Nova Vaasa. The Vaasi language is modeled on Modern Danish (see the glossary here). For example Vaasi høj is Danish "high" (not Norwegian høy). This land is implied, but not definitely affirmed, to be spawned from the nation of Vaasa in the world of Toril.
    • Hazlan. The domain of Hazlan speaks the Vaasi language, and thus has ~Modern Danish placenames.
 


Voadam

Legend
Update: Reading a Dragonlance novel (Brothers Majere) while I’m on vacation in Alaska, I noticed this odd and rare Egyptian motif in Krynn:

Ancient Egyptian:
Reading that linked entry, there is also an allusion there to the Elric Animal Lord Meerclar the Mistress of Cats. Not a real world reference but still interesting. While Bast in Krynn is male, both Meerclar and Egyptian Bast are female.
 

Reading that linked entry, there is also an allusion there to the Elric Animal Lord Meerclar the Mistress of Cats. Not a real world reference but still interesting. While Bast in Krynn is male, both Meerclar and Egyptian Bast are female.
Not sure what you mean by “Elric Animal Lord”—could you clarify?

I had to look up Meeclar—you’re suggesting that the name of the Krynnish city of Mereklar is inspired by “Meerclar” the goddess of cats in Tad William’s Tailchaser’s Song fantasy novel? Nice find—though yeah, that’s beyond the scope of this chart.

However, I have considered adding a “Literary and Pop Culture” section to the chart. That Mereklar/Meerclar reference would go there, along with the many other D&D motifs which are clearly inspired by a particular book or pop culture source: e.g. the Magnum PI and Fantasy Island references in Mystara’s Ierendi gazetteer; Tolkienian hobniz, treants, and balors; and a gazillion others.

Would also be a place to mention the licensed worlds which temporarily appeared in the D&D multiverse, such as Elric, Cthulhu, Lankhmar, Conan, Diablo, Kalamar, Shannara, Rick & Moraty, Exandria, Stranger Things, etc.

I’m traveling now, but I’d like to get around to adding that section. Along with adding in the other cultural motifs others have made so far in this thread.
 

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