Thursday, June 2, 2011

7K - "Respect the man of noble races other than your own."

Race, of course, is one of the first places we see a significant intersection between system and setting. So, permit me to introduce you to just a bit of the setting.

There are, practically speaking, only four primary races. The first three are all actually very comparable in ability and talent. There is no mechanically significant differences between them. However, players are encouraged to use point buy to represent racial trends. The fourth, fey, are not available as PCs.

The most common race is human. This comprises roughly 80% of the world's population. (Some scholars actually maintain that there are more fey, but as they rarely answer census questions, that is mostly a matter of speculation.) Humans are bipedal, with heights typically ranging between five and six feet. I'm not actually going to describe any more than that, because you all actually know what humans are like. I hope. One note, though, is that there are no negroid or mongoloid races in the Seven Kingdoms. Humans range from the fair hair and skin of the Arran clans (Nordic in feature, for the most part) to the swarthy peoples of Davrakotia and Is-Ka'ander (Mediterranean and Middle Eastern features).

Feylin are the children of humans and fey. They also breed somewhat true, leading to entire tribes of "half breeds" or "halflings." Given the dizzying array of fey spirits, there is a wide range of possible appearances for feylin. However, they do have certain tendencies in common. They are generally shorter and slighter than humans, averaging closer to 5'3" and 100 lbs. Their features are more delicate and upswept in that typical "elfin" style. Almost every feylin bears some remarkable mark of her heritage. This is often a matter of coloration, such as violet eyes or silver hair. In certain extreme cases, this might go so far as feathers for hair, small horns, or even a tail.

There are three primary types of feylin, at least based on common knowledge:
  • Rover feylin are wandering merchants and entertainers. Their brightly colored caravans are a common sight on the roads of the Seven Kingdoms. Their appearance in a village is always a mixed blessing. They bring news, goods, and distraction to the locals. But, most people often believe that they are thieves and swindlers, who leave town with much more than they arrived with. Naturally, they are also believed to be wanton and free-spirited, fueling both fantasies and parents' fears. Many of these rumors are greatly exaggerated, but they are also not entirely untrue. (If you're thinking "gypsies" you have the right of it.)
  • Seafarer feylin are sailors par excellence. It is said that many of them never once set foot on land. It is also said that they sail in ships of living wood, make friends with the winds, and never founder. Of course, you should never trust a sailor's tales. But, merchants are willing to pay high prices to trust precious cargo to feylin ships. And, if a feylin sailor ever chooses to leave his family, he can be sure to command a high salary as a crewman on any other vessel. They are notoriously tight-lipped about their secrets, though. And it is a rare human that is allowed on a feylin ship even as a passenger, let alone a crewman.
  • Feral feylin are the closest to their inhuman cousins. They live free in the wild places of the world, especially the deep forests. They can vanish from your sight, put you to sleep for a thousand years, or kill you with one scratch of their venomed arrows. And, you must be very careful, because they are known to be cannibals, feasting on those they kill. More than the other two, the wildlings (as they are often called) tend to have inhuman features, including full antlers or the muzzle of a wolf.
The third race is actually a collection of a whole host of races. They are also one of the sadder stories of the Seven Kingdoms. As the undead armies of Acnev marched forth from Is-Ka'ander, the desperate Queen of Linnea turned to her universities for help. One group of specialists, known as merlanes, unveiled techniques to magically force creatures to cross-breed, and to change them as they developed in the womb. They were able to generate entire armies of creatures that were faster, stronger, and in many cases gifted with powers that humans simply could not match. These creatures are now known collectively as goblins.

After Linnea was crushed, armies of inhuman creatures were not welcome anywhere in the Seven Kingdoms. But, goblins were born, bred, and trained to fight. Fight they did, carving out areas from the wilderness where they could protect themselves from human armies. Not being farmers or craftsmen by nature, they naturally turned to banditry and raids to gather what resources they needed. Even the loyal among the Linnean rebels generally consider the goblins to be more of a plague to be eradicated than allies to be recruited.

There are a few common types of goblins, recognized by many:
  • Kobolds were humans crossed with rats. They are small, but quick, and surprisingly clever. Originally intended as sappers and tunnellers, kobolds are known for digging out huge warrens in which they live. Those would attempt to root out a nest of kobolds are warned, however. While they may be weak individually, they are clever trapsters and tinkerers, and are capable of making lethal traps out of common materials.
  • Orcs were the rank and file of the Linnean armies. Bred from humans and boars, they are strong, tough, and utterly fearless. Unfortunately, they also have the manners and temperament of pigs. They are filthy, angry, and ridiculously stubborn.
  • Gnolls are known as exceptional hunters, and have actually fared better in the wild than they ever did in the armies. The children of humans and dogs, they have combined the exceptional endurance of both into a tireless tracker that is capable of following prey over nearly any terrain. Unfortunately, they have also combined the competitiveness of both parents, and any tribe of gnolls is likely to tear itself apart as each member tries to assert dominance over his neighbors.
  • Bugbears are enormous, hairy, fearsomely strong creatures. As you might expect, their non-human parent was a bear. While they can generally dominate any group that they are a part of, they suffer from two problems that keep their numbers low. First, they do not seem to breed as rapidly as other goblins, and have much smaller litters when they do. Second, their enormous bulk requires vast amounts of food to keep going. As many goblins have to scrape and scrounge for every meal, they will often gang up on any bugbear that comes into their territory just to preserve the food supply.
  • Harpies were the aerial support of Linnea, but the only bird large enough and powerful enough to successfully cross with a human was a vulture. As you can imagine, this creates a personality among the harpies that is less than pleasant. Also, for reasons that are known only to the long-dead mage who created them, harpies are only ever hatched as females. They must still breed with a human male, however, and many stories are told around taverns of shipwrecked sailors unfortunate enough to be "rescued" by an aerie of harpies. Unlike many of the other goblins, harpies (along with other female-only goblins such as mermaids and medusae) have found a home in the kingdom of Amazza.
  • Centaurs, half man and half horse, were bred as cavalry. Despite the rampant prejudice against them, the centaurs actually try to settle in or near human villages and become a part of human society. While they often serve as hunters, and as protection against other goblins, a few centaurs will even swallow their pride enough to pull a plow. Centaurs have the advantage of being clean, reasonably handsome, and (with their fully human heads) capable of speaking clearly. Unfortunately, they have the disadvantage of having a strong liking for alcohol, and are barred from most taverns as drunken, brawling louts.
There are, of course, hundreds of possible goblins out there. Many types of goblins were created by the merlanes, but could not breed true, and have since died out. Other types have only ever existed in the fevered campfire tales of travelers. But, for every thousand orcs one may meet, one may also meet the walking mountain of an ogre, the hideous, unkillable troll, or even the snakelike masters of magic known as yuan-ti.

A player may choose any of these races for her character. None of them provide any mechanical benefits or drawbacks. Each race also has bloodline feats associated with it, which may help to reflect certain racial tendencies. (Note that some of the goblin options require a bloodline feat, such as a harpy's flight or a mermaid's ability to breathe water.)

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