I'm trying to create a dystopia that takes place on Pangea Proxima, and I'm using Azgaars Pantasy Map Generator to do it. As you probably know, Azgaars has a feature where the map has different cultures that dictate the folk religions and city names and such. One of the presets is "All-world", which has 32 cultures from around the world. I want to use all of them, because, after all, supercontinents cover the whole world, but I think that would make it a bit complicated. How many cultures can be put in without becoming convoluted (as in, not overwhelming for readers)?

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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 7 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ pretty opinion based question if i'm interpreting it correctly. how complicated is "too complicated?" $\endgroup$
    – alkahest
    Commented Mar 7 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ Worldbuilding isn't a competitive sport where you can pin down something like "how many cultures is too many". This question doesn't make any sense, it's like asking someone, without context, "how many houseplants is too many?". Like sure, there's probably an upper limit somewhere where it becomes nonsensical, but there's just so much context missing and individual taste that flows into it that a generalized answer is impossible to give. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented Mar 7 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ How many cultures do you want it to have? Take that number, add one - then it's too many. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 7 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ What is a "culture"? You could do lots of generalizations and distinguish between "Western culture" and "East Asia culture". Or look closer and differentiate "American culture" from "Western European culture". Or "French culture" from "German culture". Or "Nortern French culture" and "Southern French culture". Or ... $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Commented Mar 7 at 18:06

1 Answer 1


Let's count how many distinct cultures were there on Earth in the late 1st to the early 2nd century of the common era, and not over the entire world but only in those parts which were directly or indirectly known to the Greek geographers and merchants:

  • Organized states:

    1. The Roman culture and the Romanized cultures in the western half of the Roman Empire.

    2. The Greek culture and the Hellenistic cultures in the eastern half of the Roman Empire.

    3. The cultures derived from the Ancient Egyptian cultures in the Kingdom of Kush.

    4. The Axumite culure in the (at that time) nascent Axumite Empire.

    5. The Persian culture in, well, Persia, specifically in that period the Parthian Empire.

    6. The pre-Islamic Arab culture in Arabia.

    7. The Kushan culture in the Kushan Empire; for those readers who don't known about the Kushans, its geographical extent covers mostly the modern {Tajiki, Uzbeki, Afghani, Paki}-stans.

    8. The Indian culture in northen India, in that historical period mostly the Andhra (also known as the Satavahana kingdom, empire, dynasty, whatever.

    9. The Tibetan culture in Tibet, specifically the Shangshung kingdom.

    10. The Chinese cultures in China, specifically the rather chaotic Later Han empire.

    11. Whatever they had going on in Yayoi period southern Japan at the beginning of the common era. Counted as an organized state because the Japanese assign emperors to those times, although most people believe that those emperors and empresses are fictitious.)

    12. The Ghana Empire in western Africa, south of the Sahara.

  • Unorganized barbarians:

    1. The Germanic cultures to the north-west of the Roman empire, which were making ready to become Really Important Really Soon.

    2. The proto-Slavic (or maybe still proto-Balto-Slavic) cultures east of the Germanic peoples.

    3. The Scythians and the Sarmatians to the north-east of the Roman Empire.

    4. Whatever were the Fenni who lived north of supposedly (Balto-)Slavic Aesti and Venedi.

    5. The Turkic peoples must have already begun meddling with the civilized world, and surely a large part of the unruly Xiongnu (or Hsiongnu in the Wade-Gilles transcription), who gave so much trouble to the Han Empire, spoke a Turkic language.

    6. The ancestors of the Touaregs must have roamed the Sahara as they still do.

    7. The multiple cultures of the Maritime Jade Road in south-east Asia, precursors of the medieval Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines and so on.

    8. Whatever the Ainus had going on in northern Japan. (We don't know much about them in this timeframe, except that they existed.)

And again, these are all cultures which existed in one specific time in that part of the Old World of which the Greek geographers and merchants knew (or at least, ought to have known) either directly or indirectly. There were people in central and southern Africa, and there were people in the Americas, and there were people in Siberia, and those people had their own very distinctive cultures. (For example, the Teotihuacan Empire and the Preclassic Maya had refined urbanised cultures, but they don't appear in the itemized list.)


The point is that for a world which has yet to develop a technological level leading to globalization, 32 cultures is not too many, but rather too few. Of course, for story writing purposes I would suggest avoiding overwhelming the reader and limiting the number of distinct cultures; for example, David Drake and Eric Flint's world-spanning Belisarius series, set in a completely fictional 6th century, limits itself to basically five cultures, namely Romans (that is, Eastern Roman Empire, that is, Greeks), Persians, Axumites, Arabs, and Indians (comprising the fictional Malwa, Rajasthan, Andhra and Chola, which are not really distinguishable culturally).

  • $\begingroup$ Archaeologically speaking, a "culture" could be as localized as several settlements in a region, just because the people that lived there were culturally distinct from their neighbors, up to (if successfully proven) inter-tribal wars down to extinction. This kind of cultures could easily get counted into thousands. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    Commented Mar 7 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry but... But if you go by "cultures known by Greece", you should go by Herodot. He described more distinct cultures than you just named, but none of the groups 13 to 20 as well as 11. Histories I describe or attributes at least 30 different culture groups or tribes. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Commented Mar 7 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ Even the 2nd book on Egypt mentions... about a dozen different groups aside from the Egyptians which are the focus of the book, half of them as invaders or other kingdoms neighboring. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Commented Mar 7 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Trish: What is unclear about late 1st century to early 2nd century of the common era? Herodotus lived in the 5th century before the common era, six hundred years before the timeframe specified in this answer. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 7 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ How come you included all those pipsqueak little cultures yet you left out Polynesian culture which covers more area than Europe $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented Mar 8 at 0:52

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