Three times in the last year I've been hired to work on games in which my responsibilities included creating human or alien groups, tribes, or species.
One project was for Microsoft. As often happens in the game world, the project was terminated after the prototype was complete. (It was decided that the gameplay wasn't quite unique enough.)
The game takes place on a post-Apocalyptic Earth, which has turned into a dumping ground for human and alien prisoners. These groups have divided into seven (what I called) "tribes."
Here is a small portion of what I created for Microsoft. However, unlike the document I gave them, here I'll point out the number of Traits in each tribe. Here is my description of three of the seven tribes.
Tribe 3: The Blades
"The Blades" is an ironic title for a group of humans that never uses swords or knives. They took their name from the Samurai of old, adopting the Samurai code of ethics and morals if, that is, you filtered those ethics and morals through a heavy dose of unmitigated self-interest.
The truth is that, like many groups in Badlands, they're not easy to peg with a word or two. They do believe in honor, and they have a Code of Honor to which they strictly adhere. Part of the code is that violence is never used except when necessary. On the other hand, it's amazing how often they find violence necessary. (Trait 1.)
The Blades live by an exact hierarchy. Each man knows who's above him and who's below him, all the way up the their leader, whom they call "The Point." Members of the tribe advance only by challenging the man above them. If the man above them ducks out of the challenge or loses the fight, then the challenger ascends. (Trait 2.)
The Point is always at the front of any battle, for he's always the bravest and best fighter in the tribe. (More about Trait 2.)
The Blades have ritualistic katas, or fighting patterns that they practice as a slow series of almost lyrical movements. The katas stem back to karate except in these moves, the warriors all hold guns. (Trait 3 shows an aesthetic side.)
Their group is marked by other rituals and customs as well. They talk to their weapons and give them names. (Quirk 1.)
Anyone who's been shamed can get redeemed in the eyes of the community by going on a "siege." They can invade another tribe to steal a piece of machinery, a vehicle, and so on. (Trait 4 shows concepts of shame and redemption.)
Unlike the Sidewinders, the Blades are monogamous and marry for life. They believe in family integrity, and there are numerous customs surrounding family roles. (Trait 5.)
Upon meeting this tough, fierce, and disciplined group, you wouldn't suspect that this tribe was originally composed of the outcasts and runaways from the other human tribes. They banded together, adopted a rigid but effective way of life, and grew strong and even feared. (Not a Trait, not a Quirk just backstory.)
Of course, being too rigid can also be a drag, and everyone needs to let off steam. It's not uncommon to hear loud, boisterous, drunken laughter echoing down the hills from a late-night Blades party. (Trait 6.)
Tribe 4: The Tabrene
The Tabrene are one of two alien groups on the planet. They're tough and they have to be. They're outsiders, and no one wants them here.
The Tabrene are not composed of one species. All alien species (except for the Korimutay) on the planet banded together into this one group, forced into unity for mutual self-protection. Despite their various origins, though, they've established a quite unique identity.
Others will often remark on the Tabrene's cruelty. The Tabrene would probably counter that they had to become this way out of necessity. In any case, they paint vicious faces on their vehicles, and no one has ever seen a Tabrene run from a battle. Their sheer determination to win at all costs has rewarded them with the admiration, fear, and hatred of other tribes. (Trait 1.)
For many of the species in the Tabrene, this world doesn't provide the right climate. They need to drink a lot, or they'll dehydrate. (Quirk 1.)
They're a people of many customs. The strangest is, by using a process that no outsider has ever witnessed, they're able to "sync up" their minds so that, when in proximity to each other, they can act with such coordination that they almost fight as one being. In fact, Tabrene, when near each other, will often complete each other's sentences. Once further apart, they again become full individuals. (Trait 2.)
While no one has ever witnessed the method by which they create this cross-penetration of minds, outsiders have certainly heard it. That's because the practice involves forming a drum circle that goes late into the night.
The Tabrene feel that death is inevitable, so why not live as intensely as you can while you're alive. They're a people who take everything to extremes; they're beings of great passion. (Trait 3.)
Once in a while a Tabrene will get it in his head to just go off and single-handedly take on another tribe or tribe's village. These impulsive acts of insane courage are called "crazy strikes." (Trait 4.)
The Tabrene also have a tradition of literature, poetry, and music. They protect their artists, who will paint, make music, weave tales, or coin phrases. It's common for them to quote from "Teeoch," the "Book of Insights." The Teeoch is a group of sayings and proverbs, written by Tee-nalo, one of their great writers. (Trait 5.)
While most of the human tribes look down on the Tabrene as being inferiors even a cancer to the planet the Tabrene, in turn, look down on humans. (Trait 6.)
They revere the species called the Korimutay and would protect them from harm even at the cost of their own lives. (Not a Trait, but sets up a mystery.)
Tribe 5: The Korimutay
The Korimutay is a small, alien tribe, and all its members are of the same species. No one sees much of them. They tend to hide. Little is known about them. Always on the move, they're hard to locate. They leave no evidence behind as to where they've been.
Human tribes keep their distance from the Korimutay, claiming that the group has voodoo and will turn you into a tree or a rodent. The few people who've seen the Korimutay say that each member of the species carries himself or herself with fearless, calm dignity, like the Indians in old Edward Curtis photographs. (Trait 1.)
In fighting, they use two types of weapons. One is a simple, though high-powered, rifle. They fire just one bullet at a time. Though these rifles seem modest, other tribes are terrified of them. This is because, in the entire history of this world, no one has ever seen a Korimutay miss a single shot. (Trait 2 shows their ability to focus and implies they can use this ability in other areas.)
Their other weapon is a wide-barreled, high-tech gun (of sorts) that definitely looks quite alien. When they blast someone with the beam from this weapon, the target turns into a boulder, a tree, a pond, or some other natural element. You can see why no one wants to mess with the Korimutay, including Govan (the ruthless warlord who aspires to rule this land) at least until he gets enough weaponry to overpower them. (Trait 3. It's a Trait because it implies an ability to alter the material world.)
The Korimutay are said to have strange rituals involving starlight. It's also said that they speak to the rocks and to the trees. All of these are rumors. (More about Trait 3.)
The Korimutay hide a secret of unimaginable proportions. Everyone assumes they're here as prisoners, like everyone else in Badlands. After all, no one would come to this wasted world voluntarily. And yet that's exactly what the Korimutay have done. (Not a Trait, but it sets up a mystery.)