Friday, November 27, 2009

Talamhlar - Overview and Demographics of Races

I've been mulling over a campaign idea in my head for a while, and I'm finally planning on actually implementing it. I've tentatively decided to name the campaign Talamhlar (derived from the Irish talamh [land] and lar [middle]), as a hidden reference to the Old Norse Midgard, Old English Middangeard, and of course Tolkien's Middle Earth. This fits well with the D&D cosmology of The World sitting between its two mirror planes, the Feywild and the Shadowfell.

I'm not sure how often I'll be able to organize sessions (nor how consistent player participation will be), but it's hard to organize D&D these days so I can either make an attempt at it or not play at all. The campaign world will be more free-form than I'm used to running, with just local areas being detailed at first and the world being expanded as the game progresses. Usually I map out an entire game world and choose a small corner of it for the PCs to start in. As I map I conjure up images of what certain places are like, and sometimes during play I find myself constrained by this (plus the fact that I don't use the majority of my ideas). Anyways, before I detail the starting region, I'll give an overview of the races in my campaign world.

The following is a list of races available for PC's. In general, only the races in the PHB and PHB2 can be chosen (I'll reserve judgment on PHB3 races after it's released, but regardless all will be placed in "Rare Races"). Races from the back of the Monster Manuals exist in the campaign world, but cannot be chosen by players. Genasi, Kalashtar, and Bladelings
do not exist.

I've tried to keep the "default" flavor of each race largely intact, so most of these descriptions shouldn't come as a surprise. I do, however, clarify their origins and social tendencies, including how a given race is viewed by others.

The Common Races
Members of these races can be found in most regions, and are always well-represented in large cities. All are natives to the World.

Humans - Culturally varied and highly adaptable, humans can be found virtually everywhere. Along with Dwarves, they are the race most likely to build large, permanent cities and are usually the dominant race in racially diverse cities. However, they are just as likely to be pastoral or hunter-gatherer.

Elves - The ancient ancestors of the Elves strayed from the Feywild when the World was young, and finding it to their liking they stayed permanently. Their love of Talamhlar is so great that as a whole, their race has a deeper connection to the World and the Primal Spirits than any other. They are largely nomadic to semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, though some pastoral Elven tribes (or Quenyar, as they call them) exist. They never build cities of their own, though they can be found in appreciable numbers in the cities of other races. Organization varies from Quenyar to Quenyar, and usually from season to season as well. They are adaptable, and commonly occupy virtually any environment.

Dwarves - Dwarven society revolves around Clans, which are extended family groups, but Dwarven cities comprised of multiple allied Clans are common. Clans tend to be sedentary, but Dwarves are skilled at the preservation of food and can exist comfortably even where food is only seasonally available. Often, they trade with agricultural or hunter-gatherer societies (their stone and metalwork being prized commodities). They are most common in mountainous regions, though they may settle in landscapes dominated by caverns, karst, or canyons. Dwarven merchants travel in large caravans, often staying in their host cities for extended periods of time.

Halflings - Halflings have adapted to their small size in the opposite way as Gnomes; instead of hiding and relying on secrecy, they are gregarious and often openly aggressive. Whereas a Gnome will often use stealth and illusion to disappear or protect himself, a Halfling will use stealth to catch opponents unawares and set up ambushes. They are ubiquitous in cities, often travelling in large groups, though they also commonly form large, nomadic bands. They are skilled with horses, which they'll use to pursue large game. In areas with tribes of savage or monstrous humanoids, their bands will, on average, be at least twice as large as their competitors and enemies. They will attack significantly smaller groups without provocation, to the point where creatures like Gnolls and Orcs have grown to fear them. They are exceptionally quick, and will rarely handicap themselves with large weapons and heavy armor.

Uncommon Races
These races are either migrants from other planes or variants of native common races. They can be found in large cities in appreciable numbers, and may be present in isolated communities/tribes in the World.

Eladrin - Common migrants from the Feywild, some Eladrin settle temporarily (or permanently on rare occasions) in the World. In places where they're not commonly seen, they're often feared, believed to be wild, unpredictable, and prone to sudden fits of wrath. In truth, most Eladrin are ambivalent to other races, with the exception of Elves and Gnomes.

Half Elves - Half Elves are the offspring of a Human and either an Elf or (more rarely) an Eladrin or Drow. They often have reduced fertility, and pairings between Half Elves and Humans or Elves almost always result in a Human or Elven child. Different cities and tribes vary in their treatment of Half Elves, though they're only very rarely outright ostracized.

Gnomes - Very common (though rarely encountered) migrants from the Feywild. They'll often form secluded colonies in forests, sometimes on the outskirts of civilized areas. They get along fairly well with some groups of Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings but most individuals avoid members of other races. They are exceedingly talented practitioners of Arcane magic, and thus they may settle in cities where such magic is prevalent and/or prized (and transients are common).

Tieflings - They are the descendants of a long-fallen empire, Bael Turath. The empire was originally ruled by a triumvirate which included a Human, an Elf, and a Dwarf whose names are long forgotten. The human and a small faction of his relatives made a deal with a mischievous devil who delights in watching mortals destroy each other. He gave the humans a vast amount of power, allowing them to achieve complete control of the empire while at the same time retaining a degree of popular support. Elven and Dwarven factions retreated beyond the bounds of the empire, but Bael Turath began to quickly expand. The Elves and Dwarves united, and a group of heroes were able to infiltrate the High Palace and held the devil captive. The human ruler, driven nearly insane by power, professed that he didn't need the devil anymore and if they wished they could kill him. The devil immediately placed a curse on the Turathi, stripping them of their power but leaving its scar with them and their descendants. For generations the Turathi were hunted down, easily recognized by their fiendish appearance, for the crimes that Bael Turath commited. The survivors retreated to secluded places, and once the furor subsided into the misty past most peoples began to take pity on the Turathi (most of which were ashamed of what their ancestors had done). There are still some areas where Turathi are largely disliked, contributing to the heterogeneity of their distribution.

Rare Races
A few individuals of these races may be present in large cities, and small communities/tribes may be encountered in isolated regions. Most commoners have either never come into contact with individuals of these races, and may not even know of their existence.

Deva - Deva are by far the rarest race in the World; they have no known settlements, and most individuals seen are merely passing through. To most common people they have the same eerie, unearthly quality as Eladrin, though their presence usually has a calming effect. They are said to be the surviving servitors of the gods, no longer needed after the Dawn War (the war between the Gods and Primordials). It is said that there are still Deva in the employ of many gods, but most that are seen in the World are independent, seeking to merely do as much good as they can without divine orders. Though they often go out of their way to help the mortal races (as Deva reincarnate, they are the only truly immortal race), they are rarely able to relate to them. Though each of their lives is about as long as a human's, they find most mortals to be too fleeting. Even the exceptionally long lived races (Eladrin, Gnomes, and Elves) find them odd, as each of their lives are as fleeting as a human's, and in their next life (though it still be theirs) they rarely remember anything from their pasts.

Dragonborn - The Dragonborn once commanded the great empire of Arkhosia. Though powerful, the empire was localized in the Arkhori Desert. The Arkhosians were an extremely advanced people (as a race, the Dragonborn are young; Bahamut sought to create a perfect mortal form, blending the strengths of dragons and humanoids), and wisely held no desire to conquer beyond the lands that they already controlled and spread their power too thin. This wisdom eventually turned to folly as the Arkhosians became more and more isolationist. They were unaware when the human emperor of Bael Turath made a deal with a devil, but the Turathi nevertheless feared Arkhosia. Allying with a demonic legion, a force of Turathi secretely marched to the Arkhori Desert and swiftly defeated the Arkhosians. Even after the fall of Bael Turath, the demons (pursuing their own agenda against Bahamut) continued to hunt down the surviving Dragonborn until very few were left. The once proud people mostly became refugees and slaves, scattered throughout the world. Few Dragonborn communities now exist, and their locations are unknown by most people.

Goliaths - Goliaths are alpine specialists, rarely leaving their mountainous homelands. Tribes tend to be small (sometimes consisting of just an immediate family group) and scattered because food is scarce, especially at the high elevations which they prefer. Some tribes have domesticated mountain sheep and graze them at the highest elevations that the season permits, whereas others simply follow their prey to the lowlands for the winter. Individuals sometimes come to cities for supplies, and they are usually held in very high regard by the citizens.

Half Orcs - Humans and Elves are capable of breeding freely with Orcs, though the exact origin of Half-Orcs as a breeding race is unknown (see the description of the race in PHB2 for some possible explanations). The few Orc tribes that have historically incorporated Half-Orcs became largely dominated by them through outbreeding, probably because Half-Orcs are more intelligent and often rise to the top of the tribe's heirarchy (which results in more breeding privelages). In wilder lands Half-Orc tribes may stay in good standing with tribes of the common races (and individual Half-Orcs will sometimes join them), but they're very rarely encountered in cities (where, like Shifters, they're typically shunned).

Shifters - They are the result of a hybridization between an isolated tribe of humans and lycanthropes that occurred generations ago. Though many hybrids were sterile, there were some that exhibited simultaneous morph expression (a form intermediate between humanoid and the bestial form of the lycanthropes) which were able to breed. Thus, a small population of what are commonly known as "shifters" came to be. They are often not welcome in civilized societies, as they are extremely predatory by nature and won't hesitate to take humanoid prey opportunistically. They're typically nomadic, occasionally living solitary but usually forming small packs, coalitions, or tribes. They'll occasionally join groups of mixed race when they're accepted, leading a disproportionate number of Shifters to become adventurers.

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